AnnaMarie Dunn had surgery scheduled to stop the spread of her kidney cancer, but as the coronavirus pandemic spread, her doctor decided to push back the surgery. Dunn trusts her doctor, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t scared. Plus, Pa. reopens its liquor stores, online at least, and patrons were so excited, the website crashed.
NRG pledges $275,000 for Philly regional aid to deal with COVID-19
NRG, the electric utilties company headquartered in Princeton, N.J., on Wednesday announced a $275,000 pledge to the PHL COVID-19 Fund and local hospitals to deal with coronavirus pandemic.
NRG will give $125,000 to the PHL COVID-19 Fund that was created last month to provide money for nonprofits in the region that help vulnerable populations. The company will give the remaining $150,000 to local hospitals with designated COVID-19 assistance funds.
The donations are part of a $2 million national commitment to help charities and nonprofits support first responders, teachers, impacted employees and communities, the company said in a new release.
The PHL COVID-19 Fund has raised more than $8 million in pledges and gifts from regional businesses, foundations, and private donors. The fund launched with a total of $6.5 million committed, including $3 million from the William Penn Foundation and $500,000 from the City of Philadelphia.
Adam Schlesinger, of popular N.J.-inspired band Fountains of Wayne, dead after contracting coronavirus
Emmy and Grammy-winning musician and songwriter Adam Schlesinger, known for his work with his band Fountains of Wayne and on the TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, died Wednesday after contracting the coronavirus.
Schlesinger died at a hospital in upstate New York, his longtime lawyer Josh Grier told the Associated Press. It is not clear where or how Schlesinger, a 51-year-old father of two daughters, contracted the virus. He had been sedated and on a ventilator for several days.
Schlesinger was nominated for 10 Emmys for writing comical songs across several television shows, winning three. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for writing the title song for the 1997 movie That Thing You Do, written and directed by Tom Hanks. The snappy pop ditty was the fictional one hit for a Beatles-esque band called the One-ders, later changed to the Wonders, on a label called Playtone, a name Hanks adopted for his production company.
“There would be no Playtone without Adam Schlesinger, without his ‘That Thing You Do!’” Hanks, who is himself recovering from the coronavirus, said on Twitter. “He was a One-der. Lost him to Covid-19. Terribly sad today.”
Raised in New York and Montclair, N.J., Schlesinger formed Fountains of Wayne, named for a lawn ornament store in Wayne, N.J., in 1995 with his classmate from Williams College in Massachesetts, Chris Collingwood.
With Schlesinger playing bass and singing backup and Collingwood playing guitar and singing lead, and the two men cowriting songs, the band known for its sunny harmonies and synthesis of pop, rock, punk, and comedy would have hits in 1996 with “Radiation Vibe” and 2003 with “Stacy’s Mom." The latter was nominated for a Grammy.
The band was more New Jersey than New York. While most rock bands live for the city, Fountains of Wayne and Schlesinger’s writing embraced the suburbs with finely etched tales of lives like a floor installer who’s convinced his crush will come back looking for him and a commuter who’s sure about his “Bright Future in Sales.”
Trinity Health plans to furlough staff across four Philadelphia-area hospitals as coronavirus care depletes revenue
Trinity Health plans to furlough staff across five hospitals in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, including Wilmington, due to a decrease in revenue attributable to the coronavirus pandemic, the Catholic nonprofit hospital chain said Wednesday.
The hospitals impacted, which employ 125,000 people, include: Mercy Philadelphia Hospital in West Philly; Nazareth Hospital in Northeast Philadelphia; Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby; St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne; and St. Francis Healthcare in Wilmington, Del.
“While the majority of our colleagues will continue to work full-time in their current roles, we are preparing to temporarily furlough a portion of our colleagues, while some others may experience a reduction in hours or may be redeployed to different positions and locations in our region. These unfortunate but necessary actions will primarily impact nonclinical colleagues,” Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic spokesperson Ann D’Antonio said.
Similar measures will be carried out at Trinity Health’s 87 other hospitals across the country, D’Antonio said.
Based in Michigan, Trinity is one of the nation’s largest nonprofit hospital chains.
D’Antonio did not specify how many employees would be impacted, and said that those furloughed will retain several benefits, such as health, dental, and basic life insurance.
The loss of revenue is directly tied to state and federal government orders requiring hospitals to stop elective procedures and outpatient services, which subsequently cut off more than 50% of Trinity hospitals’ revenues, CEO Mike Slubowski said in a memo to employees.
“Before COVID-19, our health ministry was generating a modest 0.5% operating margin. But today, our expenditures are exceeding our revenues significantly — and we expect that we will lose millions of dollars throughout this pandemic,” Slubowski said.
“While we are providing more telehealth visits, our estimates are that, even with the increase in inpatient volumes anticipated with the COVID-19 surge, we will not generate enough revenue to cover our costs," Slubowski wrote.
In the age of the coronavirus pandemic, Camden County officials want the public to know that toilets are not trash cans.
In recent weeks, since most people began staying at home all day, the number of clogs, blockages, and other damage to critical infrastructure has gone up, the Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority said on Wednesday.
The officials asked for the public’s assistance to keep systems operating during the coronavirus pandemic by not flushing things down the toilet that are not flush-friendly.
That includes items such as napkins, latex gloves, paper towels, and wipes of any kind.
Toilet paper is still okay, they said.
“We understand that in response to the current crisis involving coronavirus, many of our residents stocked up on disinfectant wipes and other disposables, however we are asking everyone to be especially mindful of how to properly get rid of these items at this time,” said Freeholder Jeff Nash, liaison to the municipal utilities.
“Toilet paper is the only product safe to flush without risking a malfunction or other interruption to critical services. Please dispose of all other products properly to allow CCMUA and its dedicated personnel to continue protecting the health of our community during this crisis,” Nash said.
Camden, Burlington Counties report more coronavirus deaths
The Camden County Department of Health announced two new deaths caused by the coronavirus Wednesday, as well as 59 additional confirmed cases of the disease.
A man in his 80s from Camden City and a man in his 60s from Winslow Township are the latest victims, officials said.
The county now has 301 positive cases and eight deaths, officials said.
Two more people also died in Burlington County, bringing to seven the total number of victims in that South Jersey county, officials said.
“The devastating impact this insidious virus is having on our community is unprecedented and historic. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who have been met by the tragic consequences of this pandemic and we will not forget them as we double our efforts to flatten the curve,” Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr., said.
SEPTA leadership, union meet over coronavirus protection concerns
A conversation between SEPTA leadership and the union representing thousands of its employees concerned over coronavirus protections ended productively Wednesday, said SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards.
Richards and SEPTA Assistant General Manager of Operations Scott Sauer met with Transport Workers Union Local 234 President Willie Brown a day after he announced his intention to “take whatever steps are necessary” should SEPTA fail to meet its demands by Thursday morning.“
It was a good, productive conversation and so we understood where their concerns were,” Richards said. “Some was just miscommunication, some was we have to go back and research and figure it out, but we will.”
Richards and Sauer did not elaborate on details of the discussion.
TWU Local 234 called for SEPTA to provide employees with proper protective equipment and “reinstate workers who were fired for refusing to follow an unsafe work order.”
Philadelphia brings in tent hospitals and extra staff for the coming coronavirus surge
For the first time in a century — since the 1918 influenza that killed millions around the world — Philadelphia is facing the prospect of hastily putting up field hospitals, some in tents, to save victims of a pandemic.
The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, in preparation for a surge in COVID-19 patients, is consulting with federal officials about closing off part of Spruce Street and commandeering Penn’s historic Quadrangle for hospital tents, according to Jeremy W. Cannon, a trauma surgeon helping coordinate the planning effort.
While Franklin Field hasn’t been ruled out entirely, the university stadium is problematic because it’s under renovation. HUP is also working on setting up patient wards in the Perelman Center for Radiology and the Jordan Medical Education Center, which are both part of the larger hospital complex on Civic Center Boulevard.
HUP wants to set up field hospital tents on Spruce Street between 34th and 36th Streets, a busy stretch that forms the border between the Penn campus and the hospital complex. The arrangement would still allow cars coming from the South Street bridge to access the hospital complex.
Pennsylvania now allowing alcohol sales online, website unavailable due to ‘overwhelming demand’
Pennsylvania’s brick-and-mortar liquor stores may still be shuttered due to business restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, but the commonwealth’s online spirits shops are back open for business — and facing “overwhelming demand.”
In fact, demand was so great Wednesday that the Pennsylvania’s Fine Wine and Good Spirits website was unavailable to users almost as soon as the online delivery service had been restored, instead displaying an apology: “Due to overwhelming demand, the online store is not available at this time. Please try again tomorrow or in the coming days.”
Access to the website will be randomized throughout the day to avoid overwhelming the site, according to a release from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
Customers will be limited to purchasing up to six bottles per transaction from a reduced catalogue, the board said, and all orders must be shipped to home or non-store addresses. Only one order per address will be fulfilled per day.
“Our liquor stores are closed, and I think that’s going to be good for employees in the liquor stores,” Gov. Tom Wolf said at a Wednesday news briefing, adding that the shuttered shops make “one less place that disease can be spread.”
“But in the meantime, we have opened up online sales,” he said. “So you can use the online service and that is the way to buy liquor during this crisis. That’s the safe way to do it. And that’s how we’re doing it in Pennsylvania."
'Hopeful point in the pandemic:’ Bucks County officials welcome medical equipment from national stockpile
On Wednesday afternoon, Bucks County officials gleefully welcomed the arrival of personal protective equipment, cases of masks, gloves, surgical gowns and more.
Scott Forster, the director of emergency services for the county, said the arrival of the supplies was a “hopeful point in the pandemic.”
“These are materials that are very hard to get,” Forster said. “We have tried calling dozens of vendors, we worked with state government … and little by little, everyone has come through to provide us with the equipment our folks need to make sure they’re safe while they take care of our residents.”
The shipment on Wednesday contained more than 20,000 surgical masks, 20,000 N95 masks, 2,000 face shields and 1,500 surgical gowns, according to Forster. In the coming days, officials expect additional deliveries of 10,000 more N5 masks, and “hundreds of cases of gloves.”
Those supplies came from the federal government’s Strategic National Stockpile, as well as purchases directly made by the county, Forster said.
They arrived at a crucial point in the county’s fight against COVID-19: Forster said his office had nearly depleted its previous stores, distributing them to hospitals, police and fire departments, and ambulance crews.
Forster said the health networks in the Philadelphia suburb were preparing for an expected surge of coronavirus patients in the coming weeks. Officials were looking to supplement the county’s 109 intensive care beds and 706 medical surgical beds by converting two overflow facilities.
Both are former hospitals that are sitting vacant: One in Quakertown, the other in Middletown Township, Forster said.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen when we see that increase in patient numbers,” Forster said. “Are we going to have enough beds, are we going to have enough staff to treat these patients? So that’s why we are exploring these possibilities.”
They also called for the eviction and foreclosure moratorium, which was extended Wednesday to April 30 in Pennsylvania, to continue until at least two months past the end of the pandemic.
“We need state and federal officials to suspend rent and mortgage payments so we can assure people that we have time to figure out solutions that will help them recover from this crisis and to make people whole so they don’t face mountains of debt afterward,” Gym said in a news release.
New Jersey AG prosecuting six residents who have coughed, spit on police during coronavirus pandemic
New Jersey’s Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal has taken over the prosecution of six New Jerseyans who have allegedly spit or coughed at law enforcement and claimed to have the coronavirus.
“We take all assaults on police officers seriously, but it is especially heinous for someone to spit or cough at an officer in an attempt to infect or threaten to infect them with COVID-19,” Grewal said. “We have zero tolerance for anyone who uses the coronavirus as a weapon or instrument of terror against officers bravely performing their duties during this health crisis.”
The six individuals are facing charges that could carry anywhere between 18 months to 10 years in prison time, or $10,000 to $150,000 in fines.
Some are individuals like David Haley, 52, of Perth Amboy who allegedly spit on police officers while they responded to a domestic violence call, and then claimed he had the coronavirus.
The cases were originally in the hands of county prosecutors, but taken over by the Attorney General’s office to indicate the seriousness with which state law enforcement officials take the issue. They have increased the severity of charges in four of the cases.
When death from coronavirus is a matter of interpretation
Asked why Italy had a high rate of deaths due to the coronavirus, government officials said it was because they were using a broader definition for such deaths than other countries, counting any victims who had tested positive even if other illnesses were at fault.
In Illinois, officials announced last weekend that an infant died after testing positive for the virus, but said they were still determining the cause of death. And in Florida, two deaths were listed as virus-related in mid-March, then later removed from the official count.
Incomplete data and inconsistencies come as no surprise to medical examiners, coroners, and physicians who fill out death certificates for a living. Even under normal circumstances, determining the cause of death is an inexact science. With the surge in deaths from a cause no one had heard of three months ago, ironclad certainty may, for now, be even more elusive.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided preliminary guidance for how to record virus-related deaths in case of uncertainty, such as when test results are not available. The National Association of Medical Examiners is adapting as well.
“I think that across the country, you’re going to see different interpretations,” said Meredith J. Buck, the coroner in Bucks County. “People are trying to standardize something that has no precedent.”
Montgomery, Delaware Counties report more coronavirus-related deaths
Two more Montgomery County residents have died from COVID-19, county chair Valerie Arkoosh said on Wednesday. The county now has 595 confirmed cases of the virus, she said.
The latest fatalities, bringing the county death toll to 10 people, were an 86-year-old woman from Plymouth Township and an 83-year-old man from Rockledge Township.
Arkoosh said that an inmate in the county jail who had been isolated after he started showing symptoms has tested negative for the coronavirus. The inmate will remain quarantined for a full 14 days, she said.
Three employees of the correctional facility have tested positive but there are no known cases of infected inmates, she said.
In Delaware County, officials said Wednesday that an 87-year-old female from Marple Township and a 69-year-old male from Marple Township died due to COVID-19.
Philly prepares to open Holiday Inn quarantine site, as questions surface about how to help the mentally ill and addicted
Philadelphia has begun housing coronavirus patients at the Holiday Inn Express in Center City — as part of the “soft launch” of a facility for anyone who can’t shelter in place — but officials are still grappling with questions about how to treat, protect, and quarantine people who are homeless, mentally ill, or deep in addiction.
With the surge of COVID-19 cases expected to hit in the coming weeks, city officials expect the 13-floor hotel with 150 rooms to be just the first makeshift quarantine site in Philadelphia, said city Managing Director Brian Abernathy. He said the city hopes to be able to offer 1,000 beds to anyone who can’t quarantine at home — or doesn’t have a home. He said the city is in talks with other properties that may make about 800 beds available.
That includes people with mental health issues who prefer the streets to the confines of a hotel room. People in addiction who need to stave off painful withdrawal from drugs. And people in recovery who rely on medication-assisted treatment, which often requires them to visit clinics in person.
In a public health crisis where the aim is to over-prepare, city officials have been consulting with Philadelphia’s Law Department on the legalities of quarantine: how to keep people inside, how to offer the services that will make them want to stay, and how to protect patients and the community.
Fairmount balloon stylist fills her neighborhood with rainbows
Jace Florescio, founder of Florescio Events, installs rainbow balloon garlands on homes in Fairmount, Philadelphia.
After reading a story about rainbow hunts for kids, Jace Florescio, founder of Florescio Events, put a rainbow balloon garland on the front of her Fairmount home. Neighbors noticed and began putting in orders for their own. Since then, she’s installed more than 100 garlands at homes around her neighborhood.
Wolf extends Pennsylvania stay-at-home order statewide
Gov. Tom Wolf confirmed Wednesday he is expanding his stay-at-home order statewide, until at least April 30.
“Some might think a month is too long to go without seeing your friends or family,” Wolf said during a news briefing. But if residents do not stay home during the coronavirus outbreak, “there are some people you’ll never see again.”
Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Pennsylvania’s frontline workers — like doctors, nurses, law enforcement, and grocery store employees — need everyone to follow the order.
According to guidance from the Wolf administration, residents should only leave the house for necessary supplies like food or medicine or to care for children or seniors. Travel is allowed for limited reasons.
Wolf said the State Police are focused on enforcing his order to close all businesses that aren’t “life-sustaining.” He said everyone in the state has an interest in following the stay-at-home directive and that he expects compliance “because they know it’s the right thing to do.”
Volunteers with Jewish Family and Children’s Service are dropping off groceries for clients who are homebound or who have pre-existing medical conditions. At the organization’s Barbara and Harvey Brodsky Enrichment Center in Bala Cynwyd, volunteers drove into the parking lot on Wednesday afternoon to pick up bags containing produce, fish, milk, and matzos, before delivering them to 44 families in the greater Philadelphia region.
JFCS used monetary donations to purchase the food and it hopes to repeat the deliveries once a month, kitchen manager Drew Gold said.
The University of Pennsylvania is moving its summer sessions online, the provost and vice provost announced Wednesday.
“This decision, while not taken lightly, arises from the indefinite stay-at-home order in Philadelphia and the need to resume campus activities only when it is considered safe to do so,” they said. Penn previously moved instruction for the rest of the spring semester online and announced it would not hold an on-campus commencement.
As COVID-19 spreads, advocates ask Pa. Supreme Court to release vulnerable youth from detention centers, jails
For two weeks, the 16-year-old was locked in a cell at George W. Hill Correctional Facility, in what the staff called “quarantine," but looked and felt like solitary confinement.
Caleb Campbell, from Upper Chichester, was allowed out of the cell — where he was being held awaiting trial — just one hour each day. He could shower, and make a phone call. That’s how he told his mother that he had been exposed to a staff member who may have COVID-19.
There was not enough soap or sanitizer at the jail to keep safe, Caleb said, and there were no masks for him to use as he cleaned the juvenile unit for $10 a shift.
“And then I told my son to put a sock over the phone,” Pamela Campbell said, “because who knows how many people had used it that day?”
Legal organizations filed an emergency petition to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Wednesday to release juveniles held in county detention centers, residential programs and adult jails, as the coronavirus escalates from a threat to a grim reality for those packed into close quarters.
Photos: Camden County’s first public coronavirus drive-through testing site opens
Camden County’s first public coronavirus drive-through testing site opened Wednesday on the site of the former Riverfront State Prison in Camden. The long-planned site at Camden County College in Blackwood is still awaiting testing kits and has yet to open.
Cherry Hill Wawa closes after employee tests positive for coronavirus
A Cherry Hill Wawa is temporarily closed after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus.
The associate last worked at the Marlton Pike store on March 24, a company spokesperson said in a statement. As soon as Wawa learned of the person’s positive test result, they closed that location for professional deep cleaning and disinfection. Wawa said it is working to notify other store workers who may have had close contact with this person, and will reopen the store as soon as possible, perhaps with associates from nearby stores.
“As always, the health and safety of our customers and associates is a top priority,”the company said. “We will do everything we can to support our associate, including providing paid time off, and take all necessary steps to monitor, safeguard and protect all our associates and customers.”
How do you get tested for the coronavirus in Philly if you don’t have a car?
Philadelphia is known as one of the nation’s most walkable cities. While the number of cars and the percentage of households with cars has grown in recent years, about 30% of residences do not have a vehicle. That’s a much higher percentage than in other metro areas such as Houston, where only about 8% of households don’t have cars, and Los Angeles, where that number is around 12%.
For people without cars in Philadelphia, it can be an anxiety-ridden ordeal to figure out how to get tested, particularly at sites that primarily do drive-through testing by appointment.
Should I get on the subway or bus and risk infecting other passengers? Would an Uber or Lyft driver even take me to a testing site? How can I call a friend or relative or neighbor and ask to borrow their car, possibly exposing them to the virus?
City officials and medical professionals don’t have a clear answer.
12 Philadelphia inmates test positive for coronavirus
Twelve inmates in Philadelphia jails have tested positive for the coronavirus, the city’s Managing Director Brian Abernathy said Wednesday.
That number represents a sharp increase from Friday when officials reported the first inmate infection in the detention center and the quarantining of five others.
They said at the time that one guard had also tested positive for the virus, but Abernathy said at a Wednesday news briefing that they would not be releasing info on ill corrections officers moving forward, in line with their approach involving cases among other city employees.
Updated inmate infection totals will continue to be released, Abernathy said.
Public health advocates, defense lawyers and District Attorney Larry Krasner have warned for days of the risk of a widespread outbreak in the city’s detentions system, where close quarters and security measures make social distancing all but impossible.
But the city’s Department of Prisons maintains it is taking all possible precautions to keep those who live and work at their facilities safe.
At New York City’s Rikers Island, hundreds of inmates and staff have tested positive at a rate more than seven times the general population. The facility’s chief doctor described the situation as “a public health disaster unfolding before our eyes.”
Medical supplies, financial help on the way for coronavirus-ravaged New Jersey
As New Jersey continues to be ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy announced a host of steps Wednesday officials are taking to plug the state’s shortage of medical supplies and limit the economic impact of COVID-19 in the state.
State officials have purchased 10 million pieces of personal protective equipment that will arrive at warehouses in coming weeks. Hospitals with depleted supplies of equipment will receive the equipment first.
Murphy said the state will receive another 350 ventilators, bringing the state’s total stock to at least 2,500.
“There is no price too high to save a life,” he said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, another 3,649 people had tested positive for the virus, while another 91 have died, bringing the statewide death toll to 355.
Murphy also announced that he has struck a deal with state legislators to extend the fiscal year to October, allowing lawmakers to understand the economic impact the coronavirus will have on state finances before crafting a new yearly budget. Legislators will pass a temporary funding bill to keep the government funded from July 1 to September 30.
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli also noted that several hospitals in New Jersey have begun to see a surge of coronavirus patients that are taxing their systems. Some have requested to divert patients from their wards to others throughout the state, and at least two put in a request for ventilators, which the state will be sending them.
Murphy has loosened restrictions to allow medical practitioners from across the country and abroad to come to New Jersey and volunteer on the frontlines. He also said more than 5,200 retired health workers have answered his call to come back and serve the state. Persichilli noted that they will first send many of these volunteers to the state’s four temporary hospitals being set up across the state.
Pennsylvania extends eviction moratorium as coronavirus shutdowns lead to record unemployment
The state Supreme Court has extended a moratorium on evictions, providing much-needed temporary relief for tenants, many of whom owe rent Wednesday for the first time since the state reported its first coronavirus cases.
To stem the spread of the virus, Gov. Tom Wolf has issued a stay-at-home order until April 30 and shut down businesses that aren’t “life-sustaining,” creating an unprecedented surge in unemployment claims.
Philadelphia teen fires up his 3D printers to create face shields to donate to hospitals
Louie Beardell, 14, spent his spring break 3D printing and donating face shields to hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
“My goal is to make 1,000,” said Louie Beardell, 14, of face shields for area hospital workers he has been producing using 3D printers in the basement of his parents’ home in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia.
“It feels great to be able to do something good,” Beardell said. “So many people sit and watch the news and you feel like there’s nothing you can do about it. It feels really good to try to do something about it.”
Philadelphia announces new private coronavirus testing site as confirmed cases climb
Philadelphia officials announced a new testing location for the coronavirus in Center City on Wednesday.
Health Commissioner Thomas Farley did not indicate the exact location of the testing site, but said it is not a drive-through and appointments are required. The city will use the same criteria for the site at Citizens Bank Park, testing only people who are health care workers or over age 50 and have symptoms of the virus.
Farley said the city is keeping the location of the new testing site private to avoid people walking into it. “If it turns out it’s not oversubscribed then we’ll let people know and they can walk in,” he said.
Residents can make appointments by calling 267-491-5870.
Farley also announced 360 new cases of the coronavirus Wednesday, and one new death. The city now has a total of 1,675 cases and 15 deaths.
Of the city’s 15 deaths, 75% of them are residents over age 70, and eight of them lived in nursing homes, Farley said.
Farley also announced demographic data that accounts for 528 of the city’s confirmed cases, which are 45% black, 37% white, 10% hispanic, 3% Asian, and 4% other.
“This virus is affecting all populations in the city of Philadelphia," he said. "It doesn’t discriminate.”
Comcast execs to donate multimillion-dollar salaries to support coronavirus relief efforts
Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts and other top executives at the company will donate their salaries to charities supporting COVID-19 relief efforts, Roberts said in an email to employees on Wednesday.
The Philadelphia media giant also committed $500 million in continued pay and benefits for its employees where operations have stalled or been harmed by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the memo.
Roberts, CFO Mike Cavanagh, Comcast Cable CEO David Watson, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell, and Sky CEO Jeremy Darroch will donate their salaries “for the duration of this situation,” the memo said. The memo did not say which charities would receive the donations.
Roberts earned a salary of nearly $3.2 million in 2018, according to the most recent compensation disclosure. Cavanagh collected almost $2 million that year, while Watson made more than $1.5 million. Shell replaced former NBCUniversal head Stephen Burke, who made nearly $3 million.
“This too shall pass, and we will be on the other side of this crisis. But at this moment I have never been prouder of our company, our people and the collective strength and resilience from all corners of our great organization,” Roberts wrote.
Majority of new coronavirus cases in Gloucester County affect people under 60
At least 30 more people in Gloucester County have tested positive for the coronavirus as of Wednesday, with 22 of those cases being people under the age of 60, county officials said. The county has recorded a total of 150 positive cases so far, and the outbreak is expected to intensify across the state in the coming days and weeks.
The most recently confirmed cases range in age from 16 to 84. They are located in Harrison Township, Woolwich, Monroe Township, Westville, Washington Township, Mantua, East Greenwich, Franklin Township, Glassboro, Deptford, West Deptford, Greenwich Township, and Pitman.
Trump ‘very open’ to recommending all Americans wear mask in public, Pa. lawmaker says
President Donald Trump is “very open” to recommending all Americans wear masks when out in public but hasn’t committed to issuing such a guidance yet, according to Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, who said he spoke with the president about the issue Tuesday afternoon.
“He was aware that there is a growing sentiment that we ought to be encouraging the use of these masks generally out in public,” Toomey said.
Toomey, a Republican, on Wednesday joined Sen. Michael Bennett (D., Col.) in calling on Trump and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a widespread guidance urging everyone to don masks when taking necessary trips outside the home.
The CDC has not put out a guidance in opposition to what the senators and some public health officials are advocating, but it has only urged sick people and caregivers to wear masks. The agency is considering revising its guidance, deciding if or when to do so. Some health officials are concerned that encouraging widespread mask use will cause a run on medical-grade masks that are already in short supply.
Toomey said Americans should instead use a homemade mask, a scarf as a facial covering, or “any kind of barrier that will reduce the spread of droplets from our breath and when we talk.”
He said he is scheduled to speak Thursday with the head of the CDC.
Second Montgomery County inmate tests positive for coronavirus
A second inmate has tested positive for the coronavirus at a state prison in Montgomery County, Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
Four staff members in the prison system have also tested positive for the virus, Wetzel said, though he declined to say where those staff members worked.
All of the state’s 25 prisons have been quarantined since late Sunday night after a male inmate tested positive at State Correctional Institute Phoenix.
Wetzel declined to identify or provide other details about that inmate, or the other man who tested positive late Tuesday night, except to say that he did not believe they had been admitted within 14 days of their positive tests.
He did say one of the inmates had an outsider visitor a few weeks ago, but that authorities were still seeking to track potential sources of exposure.
Public health advocates, defense lawyers, and even some prosecutors have been raising alarm for weeks about the risk of a coronavirus outbreak among Pennsylvania’s incarcerated population, and the ACLU of Pennsylvania on Monday pressed the state Supreme Court to reduce the population in county jails — which often send inmates into the state system — before they become epicenters for the virus.
Pence says U.S. coronavirus outbreak comparable to Italy, predicts it could be behind us ‘in early June’
Even as President Trump refuses to issue a national stay-at-home order, Vice President Mike Pence said the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic could be behind us in a few months if Americans practice social distancing guidelines.
“By some time in early June, we could well have the coronavirus largely behind us as a nation,” Pence said during a CNN interview on Wednesday. “The number of losses becomes much lower by about Memorial Day weekend until June 1. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Pence said projections that between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans could die after contracting COVID-19 were based on data coming from Italy, which despite a strict national shutdown order remains one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.
“We think Italy may be the most comparable area to the United States at this point for a variety of reasons,” Pence said.
At least 105,792 people in Italy have contracted coronavirus as of Wednesday afternoon, and over 12,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. That’s the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases on Earth, just behind the United States, where at least 190,000 Americans have contracted the virus.
Pence was also pressed on President Trump’s repeated attempts to downplay the potential impact of COVID-19, including comparing it to the seasonal flu as recently as March 9.
”I don’t believe the president has ever belittled the threat of the coronavirus,” Pence said, adding that Trump “is an optimist person.”
An employee at the Newtown Square Post Office has tested positive for COVID-19, officials confirmed Wednesday. The United States Postal Service learned of the positive test Tuesday, said Ray Daiutolo, a spokesperson. Daiutolo said he could not divulge the worker’s name or condition.
A postal worker at the Bustleton Post Office has also tested positive. A Newtown Square employee said workers there were told early this week that seven postal employees in the Philadelphia area have tested positive for coronavirus. Daiutolo said he was only authorized to release national numbers: as of Wednesday, 207 postal employees nationwide have tested positive for the virus, up from 178 on Monday.
According to world and national health experts, including those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through the mail, Daiutolo noted.
Gov. Tom Wolf to extend coronavirus stay-at-home order to all of Pennsylvania, sources say
As the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday is expected to extend his stay-at-home order to all 12.8 million people in the state, according to three sources with knowledge of the governor’s plans.
Wolf’s move to enact a statewide order comes as COVID-19 continues its unrelenting spread into more counties. On Tuesday, state health officials reported 756 new cases, the largest single-day increase, bringing the statewide total to 4,843.
Sixty of the state’s 67 counties have confirmed cases, and 63 people have died after becoming infected with the virus.
Wimbledon tennis tournament canceled due to the pandemic
Wimbledon, the oldest tennis tournament in the world, has been canceled for the first time since World War II, the All England Lawn Tennis Club said Wednesday in the latest announcement of a major sports event being called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The annual tennis event was scheduled to begin in London on June 29, but Britain remains under a strict lockdown due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As of Wednesday morning, the country has seen nearly 30,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with over 2,300 deaths.
As far as other Grand Slam tennis tournaments, the French Open has been moved from May to September, while the Australian Open was already played earlier this year.
Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday he has secured another 350 ventilators from the federal national stockpile for the Garden State.
Murphy has repeatedly said the state is critically short of the equipment. He requested 2,500 from the federal government’s stockpile of emergency supplies and has received 650 in the past week. The additional ventilators will bring the total to 1,000.
Researchers at Harvard predict New Jersey could need upwards of 4,000 ventilators when the virus peaks. The state currently has around 2,500 in stock.
In anticipation of a shortage, health officials will train medical officials on how patients can share ventilators, a practice known as “co-venting.” FDA approval of the technique is ‘imminent,’ Murphy said earlier this week.
Medical ethicists are also drafting guidelines on how doctors should prioritize which patients get ventilators in case there aren’t enough.
Both measures are precautionary, officials said, and hopefully not needed.
Pa. state police limit calls troopers will respond to in bid to slow spread of coronavirus
Pennsylvania State Police will no longer respond in person to some types of calls as the agency tries to limit troopers’ contact with the public and slow the spread of the coronavirus, officials announced Wednesday.
Calls for lost and found, littering, identity theft and general requests to speak to a trooper are among the types of calls that will now be resolved with “limited or no-scene response,” state police said in a news release. The new policy took effect Wednesday and will be in place until further notice.
State police said troopers will continue to respond to emergencies.
“To enhance social distancing and keep our personnel and the public safe and healthy, we will begin collecting information via telephone for incidents that do not require an in-person response from a trooper,” said Col. Robert Evanchick, the state police commissioner. “This change affects only a limited number of call types, and the public can be confident that the PSP has the personnel, equipment, and plans in place to respond to emergencies and other critical incidents.”
New Jersey joined other states on Wednesday in extending its tax filing deadline.
Gov. Phil Murphy said Garden State residents now have until July 15th to file income and corporation business taxes.
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused hardships, financial strain, and disruptions for many New Jerseyans and New Jersey businesses,” Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney, and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said in a joint statement.
BREAKING: The New Jersey state tax filing deadline WILL BE EXTENDED from April 15th to July 15th.
Additionally, the state fiscal year will be extended to September 30th to allow us to focus on leading our state out of this crisis.
In just one week, Delaware has seen a 260% increase in COVID-19 cases, with the number of people infected doubling every three days, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Karyl Rattay.
As of Wednesday morning, 319 people in Delaware have tested positive for the coronavirus, 197 in New Castle County, Rattay said at news conference. Ten people have died, all over the age of 65 and all with chronic underlying conditions. Rattay said half of the deaths so far have been associated with long-term care facilities.
On Monday, Gov. John Carney said the numbers could spike in the next three weeks to over 3,000 cases and 500 hospitalizations. So far, about 17% of Delaware’s confirmed COVID-19 cases have required hospitalization.
Wallace Roney, 59, Philly-born jazz bandleader, dies from coronavirus
Wallace Roney, the Philadelphia-born trumpet virtuoso who was a protege of Miles Davis and went on to have a three decade plus career as a jazz bandleader, has died from complications of the coronavirus.
The 59-year-old musician died Tuesday at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson, N.J.,, according to his publicist, Lydia Liebman.
Roney was a jazz prodigy who became the youngest member of the classical ensemble Philadelphia Brass when he was 12.
We are devastated that our brother trumpeter Wallace Roney passed away today due to complications from Covid-19. Wallace was a global life force in the jazz community. He played with Miles at the historic Montreux concert directed by Quincy Jones. (1/2)
Stocks opens down as Trump warns of 'very painful two weeks’
Stocks opened down on Wednesday after President Trump warned that the U.S. will suffer through a “very painful two weeks” due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Dow Jones Industrial average opened down about 800 points, about 3.7%. The Dow was down 13.7% for the month of March, and recorded its worst first quarter in history, down 23.2%.
The Nasdaq opened down about 220 points (about 2.9%), while the S&P 500 opened down about 90 points (about 3.5%).
The S&P was down 20% during the first quarter, its worst start to a year since 2008. Losses on the tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 14.2% to start the year, its worst quarter since the last three months of 2018.
In a normal 10-year census, April 1 — Census Day — is a day of nationwide events to promote the population count and get households to fill out their forms. The Philadelphia region had a lot planned, including a rally at LOVE Park.
But this isn’t a normal census. Most residents across the country are confined to their homes. The sporting events, festivals, and block parties at which the Census Bureau, local governments, and community groups planned to get people to fill out their questionnaires have been canceled or postponed. Public libraries that were supposed to provide computers on which people could fill out the census are closed.
So events marking Census Day — the reference date the Census Bureau uses to measure the U.S. population — have turned into social media campaigns, phone banking, and virtual happy hours and trivia.
"I continue to be so impressed with how much technology is allowing us to do things that we could not have done” in previous census counts, said Fernando Armstrong, director of the Census Bureau’s Philadelphia Regional Office.
U.N. Secretary General: Pandemic ‘most challenging’ crisis since World War II
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said the coronavirus pandemic impact on the economy and public health is the greatest challenge facing the planet since World War II.
“It is a combination, on one hand, of a disease that represents a threat to everybody in the world and, second, because it has an economic impact that will bring a recession that probably has no parallel in the recent past,” Guterres said during a virtual news conference Wednesday.
A new United Nations report calls for “a large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response amounting to at least 10% of global G.D.P.”
As of Wednesday morning, nearly 875,000 people have been reported to have tested positive for COVID-19 across the globe, according to Johns Hopkins University. Over 43,000 people have died, more than 30,000 in Europe, including 12,000 in Italy.
New SEPTA coronavirus protections begin, including rear-door boarding and suspension of onboard fare payments
A host of changes to SEPTA transit service, including rear-door boarding, suspension of onboard fare payment, and rider limits, went into effect Wednesday morning as the union representing thousands of SEPTA workers called for better protections against the spread of the coronavirus.
SEPTA riders will now be asked to board and exit all buses and trolleys using rear doors as a social distancing measure.
Riders with disabilities can still board using front doors.
Only 20 riders will be allowed on buses at a given time, with a maximum of 25 on trolleys and 30 on the Norristown High Speed Line. SEPTA will also suspend its Route 102 trolley and use buses along its Route 101 trolley route as part of Wednesday’s adjustments.
A Pa. congressman said the U.S. coronavirus trajectory is more like South Korea than Italy. Is that true?
Last week, U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick spoke about the coronavirus pandemic on a local talk radio show, and he told the host that the outbreak in this country looks more like the one in South Korea than the one in Italy.
“We’ve got to give the American public a rough estimate of how long we think this is going to take, based mostly on the South Korean model, which seems to be the trajectory that we are on, thankfully, and not the Italian model,” the Republican congressman from Bucks County said on The Dom Giordano Program.
We wondered how the spread of the coronavirus in the United States compares with the spread of the disease in other parts of the world.
Fitzpatrick is right that the fatality rate in the United States roughly matches South Korea’s and is far lower than Italy’s. But Drexel epidemiologist Michael LeVasseur cautioned against reading too much into those numbers.
What it’s like to be locked in prison during the coronavirus pandemic
At the Pike County Correctional Facility, a contraband economy has sprung up around limited supplies of soap.
Fights have broken out between prisoners in Montgomery County over phone time since the state prisons banned visitors. And at least 180 immigration detainees in the York County Prison launched a hunger strike over the weekend.
Though public health advocates, defense lawyers, and even some prosecutors have been raising alarm for weeks about the risk of a coronavirus outbreak among Pennsylvania’s incarcerated population, it is only in the last several days that a snapshot has begun to emerge of what life is like for the tens of thousands of people living and working in the state’s prisons, county jails, and immigration lockups amid the pandemic.
Court filings, interviews, and social media postings detail an increasingly tense environment — one in which close quarters makes social distancing all but impossible, and where daily contact between on-edge inmates and concerned guards has led to a growing sense that widespread exposure is inevitable.
Morning Roundup: N.J. reports 72 more coronavirus deaths; Philadelphia adds 5, and it’s still uncertain when the peak might hit
New Jersey added 72 coronavirus deaths to its rapidly rising total on Tuesday, Philadelphia reported five more fatalities, and officials say they still can’t be sure when the wave of the pandemic might crest in the region and the nation.
The Garden State’s case total was approaching 19,000, with 270 virus-related deaths, 72 of those reported on Tuesday, officials said. At least 67 deaths have occurred in Pennsylvania, which has just under 6,000 cases. At least 53 have died in the Philadelphia region.
Pennsylvania hasn’t seen “quite the exponential rise and the doubling that we had seen before in certain areas,” said Rachel Levine, the state health commissioner, adding that it might be the result of social distancing. But she said it was too early to tell if the trend would continue.
She warned that in forecasting the arc of the outbreak, so many variables are in play that computer models are bedeviled by some of the same problems they have in predicting the future of a snowstorm. We are all familiar with how that can turn out.