8:20 AM - April 3, 2020
8:20 AM - April 3, 2020

Read the latest Philadelphia-area coronavirus

The U.S. economy lost 701,000 jobs in March, sending the unemployment rate up a tick to 4.4% according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Friday morning. But it’s only a hint of what’s to come as businesses remained shuttered by state governments as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic. Plus, Lizzo treats University of Pennsylvania hospital workers to lunch.

11:35 PM - April 2, 2020
11:35 PM - April 2, 2020

Boeing to temporarily shut down Delco helicopter plant because of the coronavirus

The Ridley Park plant where Boeing assembles its V-22 Osprey aircraft.
MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / Staff Photographer
The Ridley Park plant where Boeing assembles its V-22 Osprey aircraft.

Due to the spread of the coronavirus, the Boeing Co. announced Thursday night that it was temporarily shutting down operations at its Ridley Park, Delaware County, plant for two weeks, starting Friday, April 3.

“This action is intended to ensure the well-being of employees, their families and local communities, and will include an orderly shutdown consistent with requirements of the U.S. and global defense customers,” the company said.

Boeing said it would conduct deep cleaning at the Ridley Park plant and “establish rigorous criteria for return to work."

The plant employs more than 4,600 workers who make H-47 Chinook, V-22 Osprey, and MH-139A Grey Wolf helicopters.

Employees who can work remotely will do so, and those who cannot will receive paid leave at double the normal rate, the company said.

Employees are to return to work April 20.

“When the suspension is lifted, Boeing Philadelphia will restart production in an orderly manner with a focus on safety, quality and meeting customer commitments,” the company said.

— Mensah M. Dean

9:44 PM - April 2, 2020
9:44 PM - April 2, 2020

Trump mentions Philadelphia while criticizing state and local governments for releasing prisoners to reduce coronavirus risk

During his daily coronavirus news conference Thursday, President Trump name dropped Philadelphia when criticizing states and cities that have released some jailed prisoners to cut down on the spread of the virus.

“Some states are letting people out of prison. Some people are getting out that are very serious criminals in some states and I don’t like that, I don’t like it," Trump said.

"But it’s a city or state thing in certain cases, as you know, I think. Maybe Philadelphia comes to mind. So we’ll have to see what’s going on. We don’t like it, the people don’t like it, and we’re looking into seeing if I have the right to stop it in some cases,” Trump said.

— Mensah M. Dean

9:25 PM - April 2, 2020
9:25 PM - April 2, 2020

2 new coronavirus deaths reported in Bucks County; another fatality reported in Delaware state

Two more people in Bucks County have died after contracting the coronavirus, raising the county’s death toll to eight, a county spokesperson said Thursday night.

And the state of Delaware reported a new death for a total of 12 fatalities.

The latest victims in Bucks County were a 79-year-old man and an 82-year-old woman. Both had underlying health conditions, said county Health Director Dr. David Damsker in a news release.

Bucks County reported 77 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the county's total of positive test to 450.

Damsker said there are 35 residents hospitalized with COVID-19 with 12 listed in critical condition.

— Robert Moran

8:07 PM - April 2, 2020
8:07 PM - April 2, 2020

Pennsylvania asked FEMA for nearly 500,000 N95 masks. It’s still 380,000 short.

Stephen Bonett, a nurse and Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps volunteer, administers a nasal swab to a driver at the city's coronavirus testing site next to Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia on Friday, March 20, 2020. The site, which opened Friday afternoon, is the first city-run drive-through location where people can be swabbed to determine if they have the coronavirus. At the time of opening, it was only for people with symptoms who are over 50 and healthcare workers with symptoms.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Stephen Bonett, a nurse and Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps volunteer, administers a nasal swab to a driver at the city's coronavirus testing site next to Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia on Friday, March 20, 2020. The site, which opened Friday afternoon, is the first city-run drive-through location where people can be swabbed to determine if they have the coronavirus. At the time of opening, it was only for people with symptoms who are over 50 and healthcare workers with symptoms.

As Pennsylvania braces for the worst of the coronavirus, state officials have requested 494,392 N95 medical masks from FEMA to protect front-line medical workers.

To date the state has received less than a quarter of that amount — 112,250.State officials have been told more are the way, but even once those arrive, they’ll be more than 261,000 masks short of what they’ve asked for, according to FEMA data released by Congressional Democrats Thursday.

As of Monday Pennsylvania had also received 216,621 fewer pairs of gloves and nearly 55,500 fewer surgical gowns than it has requested.

Meanwhile, the state is on track to receive 62,000 more face shields than it has asked for, and a surplus of surgical masks.

The numbers add to the concerns that the federal response to the pandemic has been scattershot and disorganized.

— Jonathan Tamari

7:50 PM - April 2, 2020
7:50 PM - April 2, 2020

People should wear a cloth mask or facial covering when in public, new CDC guidance to say

Two women walk along South Street wearing masks on Monday, March 30, 2020. Experts are increasingly encouraging American to wear masks while out in public.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Two women walk along South Street wearing masks on Monday, March 30, 2020. Experts are increasingly encouraging American to wear masks while out in public.

U.S. officials are moving closer to recommending that people should wear a cloth mask or facial covering in public settings like grocery stores to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The policy would be new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has for weeks said only medical professionals, those who are sick, or those caring for the sick needed to wear masks. But over the last week, as an escalating number of Americans tested positive for the virus, pressure has mounted for the agency to revise its recommendations.

The recommendation would be an acknowledgement that making a mask out of fabric or a T-shirt could help prevent carriers of the virus from spreading it if they cough or sneeze while in public, particularly before the onset of symptoms.

At a briefing Thursday, Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, described the new advisory as “an additive piece,” saying a mask was not a replacement for social distancing and hand washing.

“We want to make sure everybody understands it’s not a substitute for the presidential guidelines that have already gone out,” she said.

— Anna Orso

7:25 PM - April 2, 2020
7:25 PM - April 2, 2020

Fleeing coronavirus in NYC, pregnant women head to Philly area but struggle to find prenatal care

A medical worker directs a patient to enter a COVID-19 testing site at Elmhurst Hospital Center, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
John Minchillo / AP
A medical worker directs a patient to enter a COVID-19 testing site at Elmhurst Hospital Center, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Hope Halliday’s daughter — pregnant with her second child — arrived from Brooklyn last week with her husband and 4-year-old son. The young family sought refuge at Halliday’s home in Delaware County as coronavirus overruns hospitals in the New York City metropolitan area.

“We came down here in hopes of finding a place to have the baby that was safe,” said Halliday’s daughter, who is 42 and 7½ months pregnant.

But she has struggled to find prenatal care. Every OB-GYN practice she called in the Philadelphia region turned her away. Office managers said they weren’t taking any new patients from New York, the national epicenter of the virus.

“I basically can’t get in with anyone,” she said Tuesday night from her mother’s house in Media. “I understand that our name is mud as New Yorkers right now and that everyone is scared of this virus, but there’s other ways to deal with it besides that. It seems unethical to blanketly state that we are not going to try to help you at all.”

She is part of an influx of pregnant women who have fled New York to hunker down with relatives and friends in the Philadelphia region, where the virus has yet to hit its peak.

— Wendy Ruderman

7:13 PM - April 2, 2020
7:13 PM - April 2, 2020
People walk dogs through the closed Marconi Plaza in South Philadelphia, Thursday, April 2, 2020.
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
People walk dogs through the closed Marconi Plaza in South Philadelphia, Thursday, April 2, 2020.

— Steven M. Falk

7:08 PM - April 2, 2020
7:08 PM - April 2, 2020

No, seriously, coronavirus parties for herd immunity are a bad idea, experts say. ‘Absolutely not.’

A member of the 103rd Brigade Engineer Battalion National Guard adjust a cot bed in the gymnasium at the Glen Mills School on Saturday, March 28, 2020. FEMA and National Guard members will assemble medical equipment and beds in the field hospital to make room for coronavirus patients elsewhere.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
A member of the 103rd Brigade Engineer Battalion National Guard adjust a cot bed in the gymnasium at the Glen Mills School on Saturday, March 28, 2020. FEMA and National Guard members will assemble medical equipment and beds in the field hospital to make room for coronavirus patients elsewhere.

There’s an idea for combating the coronavirus that might seem logical, but experts beg you not to try. Because it is, in fact, a bad idea: a coronavirus party to get lots of young people sick.

It’s an idea that some people have proposed since there’s been so much messaging around older people being particularly at risk. If we expose young people, the thinking goes, they’ll experience the mild symptoms that are most common for them, and then they’ll pull through and become immune.

That would create herd immunity, right — if they’re immune, they’ll no longer be able to transmit the virus to other, more vulnerable people? A few people have asked The Inquirer if this is actually a good idea.

“Absolutely not,” said Jen Caudle, a family physician and professor at Rowan University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine. “It’s not that simple.”

— Jonathan Lai

6:58 PM - April 2, 2020
6:58 PM - April 2, 2020

Philadelphia Museum of Art extends closure to June 30 with staff salary cuts, but no layoffs

The steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Roads, campuses, parks and plazas are quieter than normal during the coronavirus outbreak in Philadelphia, March 26, 2020
Frank Wiese / Staff
The steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Roads, campuses, parks and plazas are quieter than normal during the coronavirus outbreak in Philadelphia, March 26, 2020

Amidst increasing COVID-19 pandemic fears, the Philadelphia Museum of Art announced Thursday that it would remain closed until June 30, reduce compensation for staff members making more than $30,000 annually, and cancel or postpone all exhibitions and programs through the spring and summer.

Museum officials said they were attempting to avoid layoffs.

— Stephan Salisbury

6:39 PM - April 2, 2020
6:39 PM - April 2, 2020

Disruption in the seafood supply chain ripples from empty Philly restaurants to idle N.J. docks

An entire network of independent harvesters, processors, distributors, retailers, and restaurants that comprise the nation’s vast $100 billion seafood industry is suddenly suffering a 90% decline in sales for consumption outside the home, where two-thirds of Americans eat their seafood, according to the National Fisheries Institute.

And the local impact has been profound, from the idle docks of New Jersey, which employ nearly 40,000 workers and ranks fifth nationally in commercial seafood sales (more than $6 billion), to the usually bustling cutting room of South Philadelphia’s seafood distribution giant, Samuels and Son, to restaurant kitchens like Little Fish BYOB in Bella Vista. Chef-owner Alex Yoon has traded high-end seafood tastings there for $15 takeout bento boxes and an updated version of the fried flounder hoagie (“the floagie!”) his immigrant parents once sold at their North Philadelphia deli: “We’re trying to keep it going as long as we can. A lot of neighbors told me they were tired of cooking at home.”

— Craig LaBan

6:31 PM - April 2, 2020
6:31 PM - April 2, 2020

University of Delaware postpones commencement, asks students to weigh in

The University of Delaware has become the latest school to postpone commencement, originally scheduled for May 30.

In a twist, the university is asking seniors to respond to a survey on how they would like to celebrate later.

“This is your celebratory moment, and only with your input can we make it meaningful for you,” President Dennis Assanis wrote to seniors. Students have until April 9 to respond to the survey.

— Susan Snyder

6:22 PM - April 2, 2020
6:22 PM - April 2, 2020

How to sleep when you can’t stop thinking about coronavirus: Experts offer tips

There’s nothing like a dark, quiet bedroom to send a stressed-out mind down a rabbit hole of worry, and the coronavirus is giving us all a new set of possible catastrophes to feast upon.

As your head hits the pillow, or maybe when you stir at 2 a.m., you start to wonder: Does that little sore throat mean you’re doomed? What if that guy who stood too close at the grocery store had the virus? Can your father or grandfather — or you — survive this?

It goes on and on, and pretty soon you’re worried that you’ll never get to sleep, and you’ll feel horrible the next day. Plus, you need sleep for a strong immune system, so staying awake could make you sick. This kind of thinking is a recipe for insomnia.

We asked the experts how to fight back against the mostly irrational thoughts that pop into your head as soon at it hits the pillow. The solutions, they said, start long before bedtime.

— Stacey Burling

6:10 PM - April 2, 2020
6:10 PM - April 2, 2020
The deserted beach on the south end of Atlantic City, NJ on Wednesday April 1, 2020. The spread of the coronavirus in New Jersey has turned Atlantic City and the shore into a ghost town on April 1, 2020.
Michael Bryant / File Photograph
The deserted beach on the south end of Atlantic City, NJ on Wednesday April 1, 2020. The spread of the coronavirus in New Jersey has turned Atlantic City and the shore into a ghost town on April 1, 2020.

— Michael Bryant

5:47 PM - April 2, 2020
5:47 PM - April 2, 2020

Barra Foundation sends half million dollars in coronavirus relief to Philly-area non-profits

Stanley Glover and Chloe Perkes in rehearsal at BalletX in February. The dance company is one of the groups receiving grant money from the Barra Foundation.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
Stanley Glover and Chloe Perkes in rehearsal at BalletX in February. The dance company is one of the groups receiving grant money from the Barra Foundation.

The Barra Foundation has awarded a total of $525,000 to 115 area non-profits for relief from the financial strains of the coronavirus pandemic.

The largest grant, $100,000, is going to the PHL COVID-19 Fund being administered by the Philadelphia Foundation to help the region’s most vulnerable populations.

Barra’s board boosted its support for Food Connect by $50,000, and has awarded five grants totaling $100,000 to recovery efforts in Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware, and Chester counties.

— Peter Dobrin

5:22 PM - April 2, 2020
5:22 PM - April 2, 2020

Atlantic, Burlington Counties report COVID-19 deaths

Atlantic County has reported its first coronavirus-related death, officials said Thursday.

The individual was an Egg Harbor Township man in his late 50s with a history of underlying conditions, Public Health Officer Patricia Diamond said in a press release.

The county also reported 11 new cases in individuals between the ages of 15 and 70 years old, bringing the countywide case total to 52.

In Burlington County, two more people have died of the virus, officials said Thursday, bringing the death toll to nine. Burlington County has reported 299 positive cases of the coronavirus.

— Ellie Rushing

4:55 PM - April 2, 2020
4:55 PM - April 2, 2020

Bryce Harper, wife Kayla donate $500,000 toward coronavirus relief

Phillies, Bryce Harper looks on during the last day of spring training workouts in Clearwater, FL on February 21, 2020.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Phillies, Bryce Harper looks on during the last day of spring training workouts in Clearwater, FL on February 21, 2020.

Bryce Harper donated $500,000 on Thursday toward coronavirus relief in Las Vegas and Philadelphia, the two cities the Phillies star considers to be home.

Harper and his wife, Kayla, donated to Direct Relief and Three Square in Las Vegas and Philabundance in Philadelphia. Direct Relief is a nonprofit humanitarian aid organization with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies. Three Square is a food bank that provides more than 41 million meals per year throughout Southern Nevada. Philabundance is the largest food bank in the Philadelphia region and serves more than 24 million pounds of food a year to those in need.

— Matt Breen

4:51 PM - April 2, 2020
4:51 PM - April 2, 2020

Pa. needs another 1,000 to 1,400 ventilators, governor says. Here’s how the state is trying to find them.

Ismael Cordero, Senior Project Officer Health Devices, points to parts of a ventilator, at the ECRI Institute, during a presentation about problem solving in the event of ventilator shortage, April 01, 2020, in Plymouth Meeting, PA. The staff at ECRI is in agreement that splitting a ventilator is a last resort, there are significant risks when trying to ventilate two patients at once properly.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Ismael Cordero, Senior Project Officer Health Devices, points to parts of a ventilator, at the ECRI Institute, during a presentation about problem solving in the event of ventilator shortage, April 01, 2020, in Plymouth Meeting, PA. The staff at ECRI is in agreement that splitting a ventilator is a last resort, there are significant risks when trying to ventilate two patients at once properly.

Pennsylvania has received a fraction of the equipment it has requested from a federal stockpile to help battle the coronavirus, new data shows, as state officials look to other sources to purchase more supplies, including life-saving ventilators.

Health officials said there are approximately 4,000 ventilators available at hospitals across the state, enough to meet current demands. But Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday that, like many other states, Pennsylvania is actively searching for more.

“I think, in a perfect world, looking at a very conservative model, if we could get another 1,000 to 1,400 ventilators in Pennsylvania, that would be great,” Wolf said at a news conference. “So we're trying to do that.”

For patients with severe cases of the coronavirus, a ventilator can mean the difference between life and death, making them hot commodities throughout the country. With the federal stockpile running low, states are competing against one another to secure equipment.

As of Thursday, 130 COVID-19 patients in Pennsylvania had required treatment with a ventilator, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said, though that number is expected to rise as cases increase. Wolf recently signed a bill to provide $50 million to purchase additional equipment such as ventilators and supplies like N95 masks, which are crucial to prevent health care workers from getting sick.

— Brett Sholtis, WITF

4:45 PM - April 2, 2020
4:45 PM - April 2, 2020

Lizzo treats Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania workers to lunch

Lizzo performs at the Liberty stage for the Made in America festival on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pa., on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
Lizzo performs at the Liberty stage for the Made in America festival on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia, Pa., on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019.

Workers at Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania were treated to lunch by Grammy-winning singer Lizzo, who has been sending food to hospitals caring for COVID-19 patients all week.

“Shout out to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania,” Lizzo said in a video Penn Medicine shared on social media. “I just wanted to tell you personally: thank you so much for everything you are doing during this pandemic.”

“The least I could do is send y’all some lunch,” she continued.

— Sarah Gantz

4:17 PM - April 2, 2020
4:17 PM - April 2, 2020

HBO to make 500 hours of programming free, including Sopranos, Veep

Starting Friday, the premium cable network will make nearly 500 hours of programming available to stream on its apps or online with no subscription required.

The list of series that will be free for a limited time include not only the celebrated mob drama The Sopranos, but also Veep, The Wire, and Six Feet Under. Movies, including Crazy, Stupid, Love and The Lego Movie 2 are also included.

— Ellen Gray

4:17 PM - April 2, 2020
4:17 PM - April 2, 2020

More than 1 million people worldwide have tested positive for coronavirus

The coronavirus pandemic reached a grim milestone just after 4 p.m. Thursday: more than one million people around the globe have tested positive for the virus.

Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking the spread of the virus in real time, reports that 1,002,159 people have now tested positive for the virus and just under 51,500 have died.

The United States leads all other nations in the number of positive cases, 236,339, with 5,648 deaths, the Baltimore university reported.

— Mensah M. Dean

4:12 PM - April 2, 2020
4:12 PM - April 2, 2020

Montgomery County officials brace for coronavirus peak in two weeks

Two more people have died of coronavirus in Montgomery County, officials announced Thursday, bringing the county death toll to 12. The county also reported 113 new cases of the virus, which brings the county’s case total to 707, said Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.

The positive individuals range in age from one month to 94 years old. Arkoosh said that this increase in cases today does not represent a surge in cases. The percent of individuals testing positive remains at 13-15%, which she said has been the percentage rate since testing began. She said that when this percentage starts to increase, that would indicate a surge.

“We do absolutely anticipate that we will see higher percentages of patients start to turn positive in the days ahead,” said Arkoosh, who is a physician with a background in public health. She said that the county expects to see its peak number of cases in about two weeks.

— Ellie Rushing

3:52 PM - April 2, 2020
3:52 PM - April 2, 2020

Pennsylvania sees 1,200 new coronavirus cases as single-day increases rise

The single-day increases in coronavirus cases continues to rise in Pennsylvania, with the state reporting 1,211 new cases on Thursday.

“I think the increases we’re seeing are not just [on account of] more testing,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “We’re seeing more cases.”

As of Thursday, the first full day of Gov. Tom Wolf’s statewide stay-at-home order, Pennsylvania has recorded 7,016 cases in 62 of its 67 counties and 90 people have died.

Recently, the most notable upticks in cases have been in the Northeastern and Southeastern parts of the state, including Philadelphia.

Sixty-nine nursing homes have reported at least one positive case, and at least 345 healthcare workers have been sickened. Levine reiterated the need to continue social distancing and to only get tested if your symptoms are more severe. If cough and fever are manageable, she said, stay home and assume you have the coronavirus.

As people continue to isolate from others, calls to state mental health resources have increased, she said.

— Erin McCarthy

3:37 PM - April 2, 2020
3:37 PM - April 2, 2020

Report: Philly can financially weather coronavirus crisis - for now

The sun sets behind the Philadelphia skyline and Market Street in Camden Mar. 30, 2020 as New Jersey’s shutdown of schools and nonessential businesses because of the coronavirus pandemic continues.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
The sun sets behind the Philadelphia skyline and Market Street in Camden Mar. 30, 2020 as New Jersey’s shutdown of schools and nonessential businesses because of the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Philadelphia has the second-worst credit rating and second-smallest cash reserves among 10 large U.S. cities, but “is in a better financial position than it has been in years” to handle the financial stress of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s according to municipal-credit analyst Blake Yocom in a report to clients of Standard and Poor’s, the credit rating agency.

The city has about $400 million in cash reserves, he said. City officials have warned they have enough cash in reserves to cover only 30 days of expenses.

Mayor Kenney, Yocom noted, “has called for $85 million to cover costs related to COVID-19, which will include increased labor and IT costs and expenditures for quarantine and testing sites.”

The city says it can afford the cost, though it’s not in the 2021 budget, which was prepared just last month; the cost should be worked into the revised budget by next month.

“We believe Philadelphia’s primary general fund revenue sources to be somewhat resilient to near-term economic shocks, but would be vulnerable over the medium term if the current economic disruption persists,” under the city and state stay-at-home orders, the report adds.Philadelphia is unusually dependent on income taxes, which account for one-third of general-fund revenues, more than double any other big U.S. city.

But it is far less dependent than most cities on property or sales taxes, and also gets more than most big cities from state and federal funds.

— Joseph N. DiStefano, Laura McCrystal

3:32 PM - April 2, 2020
3:32 PM - April 2, 2020

Philly’s Catholic basilica to close during livestreamed services, after video shows crowd still showing up for Mass

Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, in Philadelphia, Feb. 26, 2020.
Frank Wiese / Staff
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, in Philadelphia, Feb. 26, 2020.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced Thursday that it will close the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul to the public during livestreamed Easter and Holy Week Masses as part of its “commitment …to protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The decision comes a day after The Inquirer reported that at least two dozen people showed up to the recording of last Sunday’s 11 a.m. Mass and were served Holy Communion, despite Archbishop Nelson J. Perez’s order earlier this month suspending all public Masses in an effort to curb the coronavirus’ spread.

A video of that service, shared by a churchgoer who asked not to be identified, showed the congregants side by side in a tight line as they waited for a priest to place Communion wafers in their hands or, in at least one case, directly on their tongue.

Though the Cathedral will now be closed during the Easter and Holy Week Mass celebrations, it — like many of the archdiocese’s more than 250 churches across the region — will remain open outside of that time for private prayer.

— Jeremy Roebuck

3:28 PM - April 2, 2020
3:28 PM - April 2, 2020

After 2 reported coronavirus cases, Ventnor changes course, closes down its beaches and boardwalk

After much initial resistance, Ventnor has now joined other Shore towns, including Ocean City and Cape May, and closed its beaches and Boardwalk.

“With the recent local cases and predicted apex of the coronavirus curve in the near future, we believe part of our shared responsibility is to encourage residents to limit their movements during this public health crisis,” the city said in a statement. “We take no pleasure in this action and only hope this proactive measure will protect our friends and loved ones in the weeks to come.”

The town reported two confirmed cases of coronavirus this week. With an influx of second-home owners, the town’s narrow boardwalk had been busy with runners and cyclists and stroller-pushers, with little evidence of social distancing.

“This includes any and all ramps, pavilions, steps and walkways leading to and from the beach and boardwalk as well as the entire fishing pier,” the statement said. “All 4x4 Vehicle Beach Permits are no longer valid for use on the beach as well.”

Those found to be in violation will be issued a summons and face fines up to $1,000 and 6 months in jail, the city said.

Mayor Beth Holtzman had said last week that the closures were not under consideration, and that the shore town’s centerpiece was "a healthy place for our hearts, minds and souls.”

But pleas for social distancing were not heeded.

— Amy S. Rosenberg

3:04 PM - April 2, 2020
3:04 PM - April 2, 2020

U.S. eases blood donation limits for gay men due to shortage

A man gives a Power Red blood donation at the American Red Cross Blood Donation Center despite the coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday March, 18, 2020.
TYGER WILLIAMS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
A man gives a Power Red blood donation at the American Red Cross Blood Donation Center despite the coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday March, 18, 2020.

The U.S. government Thursday eased restrictions on blood donations from gay men and other key groups because of a drop in the nation’s blood supply triggered by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Food and Drug Administration’s new policy aims to allow tens of thousands more Americans give blood, including gay and bisexual men and people with recent tattoos and piercings.

The FDA’s previous rules barred donations from men who have had sex with a man in the previous year. The same policy applied to women who’ve had sex with gay or bisexual men and people who’ve received tattoos and piercings in the past year. Under the new policy, the disqualifying time period was reduced to three months.

American Red Cross officials said Thursday that a recent surge in blood donation has allowed the organization to meet current patient needs.

But they are still facing a future shortage as about 600 blood drives — that typically take place in workplaces, schools and the like — have been canceled since March 10 in the southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey area.

Alana Mauger, an American Red Cross regional spokesperson, said the organization is aware that many of the blood drives that are still open are at capacity.

She recommended donors schedule appointments for later in April and through May, as there is “no certain end date in this fight against coronavirus.”

— Anna Orso, Associated Press

2:59 PM - April 2, 2020
2:59 PM - April 2, 2020

Free Philadelphia food distribution sites face swelling demand

Demand is so high for food distribution offered to Philadelphia residents starting this week that some sites ran out of meal boxes to distribute Thursday — even after the city quadrupled the number of meals it is handing out. The city has offered meals to children since the schools closed last month, but this week expanded the program to offer one box of food per household to all residents.

On Monday, the city distributed 4,600 boxes of food at 20 different locations.

The program expanded to offer 16,000 boxes of food at 40 locations Thursday. It is coordinated by city officials in partnership with Philabundance and the Share Food Program. Managing Director Brian Abernathy said Thursday afternoon that some of those sites still ran out of food and experienced long lines.

At Hank Gathers Recreation Center, 400 boxes were claimed within 30 minutes Thursday.

“It shows how great the need is,” Abernathy said. “These sites are meant to supplement our existing food pantry system and we’re going to do everything we can to continue to provide some sustenance and meals to our city."

Abernathy encouraged residents who are able to donate to or volunteer with Philabundance or the Share Food program. It will be a great challenge for the city to continue to provide the food program over time, he said.

“We’re committed to providing it long term,” he said, “But it is a fragile operation for a fragile population.”

— Laura McCrystal, Michael Bryant

2:34 PM - April 2, 2020
2:34 PM - April 2, 2020

Coronavirus payments expected to begin mid-April, but some Americans could wait until September

People wait for the bus in front of a business that has been boarded up a little after 6:30am in Center City, Philadelphia, March 24, 2020.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
People wait for the bus in front of a business that has been boarded up a little after 6:30am in Center City, Philadelphia, March 24, 2020.

Many Americans will likely start receiving direct payments from the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill beginning the week of April 13, according to a memo from House Democrats obtained by the Inquirer.

The House Ways & Means Committee, based on “extensive conversations” with the IRS and the Treasury Department, expects payments to start going out to Americans through direct deposit in mid-April and take about three weeks to complete.

Beginning the week of May 4, Democrats expect paper checks to go out to taxpayers with no direct deposit information on file, issued at a rate of about five million a week, starting with low-income earners first. The process of mailing checks could take up to 20 weeks, potentially pushing back some payments to September, according to the committee.

An IRS portal is expected to go live by the end of April or early May that will allow taxpayers to update their direct deposit information and track the status of their rebate payment. The IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Individuals who earn $75,000 or less are slated to receive $1,200, and couples making $150,000 or less will be paid $2,400. The payments decrease for those who earn more, up to $99,000 for individuals and $198,000 for couples.

Families will also receive an additional $500 for each child, though the bill gives nothing for children older than 16.

— Rob Tornoe, Jonathan Tamari

2:25 PM - April 2, 2020
2:25 PM - April 2, 2020

Philadelphia Catholic schools lay off 180 teachers, staff

COVID-19 and related economic concerns have forced Independence Mission Schools, a network of Catholic elementary schools in Philadelphia, to lay off 180 teachers and staff at its 15 schools throughout the city.

Bruce Robinson, CEO of Independence Mission Schools, said Thursday that the nonprofit kept core teachers but let go staff not involved in direct instruction and teachers of subjects like art, music and gym.

“Our funding comes from tuition, tax credits and scholarships," Robinson said. “We know that some of our families are hurting right now.

Students at the schools — Holy Cross, Our Mother of Sorrows/St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Barnabas, St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Frances Cabrini, St. Gabriel, St. Helena/Incarnation, St. Malachy, St. Martin de Porres, St. Martin of Tours, St. Raymond of Penafort, St. Rose of Lima, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Veronica and The DePaul Catholic School — will continue to receive instruction in subjects like math and reading.

The network was created in 2012 to sustain Catholic education in low-income neighborhoods.

Robinson said the move was not made lightly.

“We feel terrible about the decision,” he said.

— Kristen A. Graham

2:09 PM - April 2, 2020
2:09 PM - April 2, 2020

At least four N.J. hospitals at maximum capacity as surge of coronavirus patients tax emergency rooms

At least four New Jersey hospitals are at maximum capacity, as the surge of coronavirus patients begins to tax hospital emergency rooms and critical care units, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Thursday.

Gov. Phil Murphy announced Thursday that another 182 people have died from the coronavirus in the Garden State, bringing the statewide toll to 537. Another 3,489 people have tested positive, increasing the state’s total case count to 25,590.

Relief for hospitals is on the way, Murphy noted, with the Army Corps of Engineer’s first temporary field hospital slated to open early next week. The site will accommodate 250 beds, and staffed primarily by a volunteer healthcare force. It will be meant for patients who are less sick, and officials said they will have access to services similar to that of any “acute care hospital.” Murphy noted that a 500-bed unit in Edison will open April 8, while the site at Atlantic City is slated to open April 14.

New Jersey will also get 500,000 N95 respirator masks and 81,000 face shields, donated by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Murphy urged that the state is continually pursuing all avenues to procure more protective equipment and ventilators. In response to the news that another 206,000 New Jerseyans filed for unemployment last week, Murphy noted over 500 Garden State employers have posted more than 44,000 job postings on the state’s coronavirus website that need to be filled.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Camden and Burlington counties each saw three deaths. She also said the virus continues to spread in long-term care facilities. At least 110 of the state’s 375 facilities now have at least one positive coronavirus patient under their care. She also noted 47% percent of the state’s dead are people over the age of 80.

— Pranshu Verma

2:05 PM - April 2, 2020
2:05 PM - April 2, 2020

Philly charter, parochial students to receive donated Chromebooks to support learning during coronavirus school closures

Eight grade student, Kyree Williams holds his new Chromebook outside the Universal Alcorn Charter Middle School in Philadelphia, Pa. Thursday, April 2, 2020. schools and districts are pivoting their curriculum from entirely in person to entirely online.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Eight grade student, Kyree Williams holds his new Chromebook outside the Universal Alcorn Charter Middle School in Philadelphia, Pa. Thursday, April 2, 2020. schools and districts are pivoting their curriculum from entirely in person to entirely online.

The Philadelphia School Partnership announced a new effort Thursday to buy 15,000 Chromebooks for students in city charter and parochial schools as learning moves online during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Jump-Start Philly Schools Fund, backed by $3.8 million in donations, will pay for laptops for students in more than 100 charter and Catholic schools.

“Regardless of where they live in the city or what type of school they attend, students must have the opportunity to continue their learning,” Janine Yass, a cofounder of Boys Latin Charter School and board member of Philadelphia School Partnership, said in a news release. She and husband Jeff Yass, the founder of Susquehanna International Group, donated $2.8 million to the new fund, which is also supported by the Lenfest Foundation and the McCausland Foundation. (A separate nonprofit, the unrelated Lenfest Institute for Journalism, is the parent company of The Inquirer.)

The announcement by the nonprofit partnership, which donates millions to city schools, comes as schools across the region have been distributing laptops amid the extended coronavirus school closures, though some districts with higher concentrations of economically disadvantaged students have been slower to get technology into students’ hands.

— Maddie Hanna

1:49 PM - April 2, 2020
1:49 PM - April 2, 2020

Photos: Protesters call for Hahnemann hospital to be reopened during the coronavirus pandemic

A group of activists staged a protest Thursday morning demanding the reopening of the shuttered Hahnemann Hospital, but it didn’t quite look like the demonstrations and rallies that have taken place outside the hospital in the past.

— Jessica Griffin

1:43 PM - April 2, 2020
1:43 PM - April 2, 2020

Philly non-profit delivers groceries to homebound cancer patients during pandemic

— Lauren Schneiderman

1:16 PM - April 2, 2020
1:16 PM - April 2, 2020

Philadelphia beginning to see increased number of hospitalized coronavirus patients

Tents are set up outside of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia on Saturday, March 28, 2020 to treat coronavirus patients.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Tents are set up outside of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia on Saturday, March 28, 2020 to treat coronavirus patients.

Philadelphia hospitals are beginning to see increases in the number of patients hospitalized with the coronavirus, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Thursday.

There are now 315 patients with the virus in hospitals in the city, he said, and 560 patients hospitalized in the greater Philadelphia area. Philadelphia and its surrounding Pennsylvania counties have a total of about 12,000 hospital beds and 44% of them are empty, Farley said.

Philadelphia now has a total of 2,100 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, Farley said.

Two Philadelphians died of the virus in the last day, Farley said, increasing the city’s total deaths from the virus to 17.

Farley said clusters of infections continue to be found in group settings like nursing homes, as well as in the city’s jail, where there are now 20 inmates with the coronavirus.

Farley said it is “too early to say” whether social distancing is working, because there can be several days between the time a person is exposed to the virus and when they get a positive test result.

“We have plenty of availability in the health care system right now should people need it," he said. "But I want to emphasize we want to keep it that way.”

— Laura McCrystal

1:05 PM - April 2, 2020
1:05 PM - April 2, 2020

Despite coronavirus stay-at-home order, Pa. is transferring youth in juvenile justice system across the state

Governor Tom Wolf speaking to reporters.
Commonwealth Media Services
Governor Tom Wolf speaking to reporters.

Pennsylvania officials have approved moving youth in the juvenile-justice system more than 100 miles across the state, despite a stay-at-home from Gov. Tom Wolf to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

In a letter to Wolf, two state lawmakers expressed outrage that children from Philadelphia were being transported and admitted to a secure state residential program called Loysville Youth Development Center.

“With the shutdown of the Commonwealth, it seems incomprehensible that youth from the area known to be a COVID-19 ‘hotbed’ such as Philadelphia would be moved to an area in Perry County where there is only one case of the virus being reported,” wrote Rep. Mark Keller (R-Perry/Cumberland) and Sen. John DiSanto (R-Dauphin/Perry).

— Lisa Gartner

12:48 PM - April 2, 2020
12:48 PM - April 2, 2020

15 charged for attending funeral in violation of N.J. ban on large gatherings

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, right, and Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, center.
Seth Wenig / AP
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, right, and Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli, center.

Fifteen men were charged with violating Gov. Phil Murphy’s ban on large gatherings amid the coronavirus crisis, after they attended an Orthodox Jewish funeral Wednesday in Lakewood, Ocean County.

The gathering was one of several in Lakewood in recent weeks in which police were called to break up large groups of people. Other events included a bat mitzvah over the weekend; four separate weddings in which four people who hosted them were charged with a disorderly person offense or with maintaining a nuisance; and a gathering of about 25 young men at a school in which the headmaster was charged with maintaining a nuisance.

Lakewood Township Police responded about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday to a report of a large gathering on the corner of Eighth Street and Madison Avenue and found about 60 to 70 people, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office said in a news release Thursday.

The funeral was held by the Orthodox Jewish community, according to Bryan Huntenberg, spokesperson for the Prosecutor’s Office. He did not immediately have more details.

— Julie Shaw

12:41 PM - April 2, 2020
12:41 PM - April 2, 2020

New Jersey public TV to air lessons for elementary, middle school students

New Jersey’s elementary and middle school students will be able to tune into New Jersey’s public television station starting Monday to watch lessons taught by Garden State teachers, Commissioner of Education Lamont Reppollet announced Thursday.

“Nothing is better than face-to-face instruction given by a teacher in the classroom,” Maria Blistan, the president of New Jersey’s Education Association, said. “But while we are all doing our part to flatten the curve, NJEA members are also looking for every opportunity to help students keep learning.”

Over 200 teachers have volunteered to host lessons, which will include english, math, science, social studies, and one “special” subject like art, music or physical education.

Third grade lessons will start at 9 a.m., followed by fourth grade programs at 10 a.m. Fifth graders can start watching at 11 a.m., while sixth graders can tune in at noon.

— Pranshu Verma

12:39 PM - April 2, 2020
12:39 PM - April 2, 2020

Chester County jail staff members, inmate test positive for coronavirus

Three staff members and one inmate at the Chester County jail have tested positive for COVID-19, county officials said Thursday.

All three staff members, men ages 41, 46 and 58, contacted supervisors at the prison after they began showing symptoms of the virus at home, according to county spokesperson Rebecca Brain. The men did not report for work. The two younger staff members are self-quarantining at home with mild symptoms, while the third man has been hospitalized.

Additionally, a 36-year-old male inmate at the jail showed mild symptoms and was tested earlier this week. His results came back Thursday, showing that he had the virus, Brain said.The inmate remains in isolation at the prison’s medical department. Three other inmates have been tested for the virus after displaying mild symptoms, and prison officials were awaiting the results of those tests late Thursday.

In light of the positive cases, administrators at the prison have restricted movement between prison blocks and have reduced the number of inmates allowed in certain activities, according to Brain.

As part of the county’s ongoing COVID-19 mitigation efforts, 95 nonviolent offenders have been released from the county jail in the last month.

— Vinny Vella

12:33 PM - April 2, 2020
12:33 PM - April 2, 2020

Democrats postpone July 2020 Milwaukee convention for a month because of coronavirus

The scene in 2016 inside the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia at the Democratic National Convention.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
The scene in 2016 inside the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia at the Democratic National Convention.

The Democratic National Convention has been pushed back a month, the latest major event postponed or canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The convention, originally scheduled to take place in mid-July, will now be held the week of August 17 in Milwaukee, Wisc. The new date would place it just one week before the Republican National Convention, which remains scheduled to begin on August 24 in Charlotte, N.C.

"In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds so we can best position our party for a safe and successful convention,” said Joe Solmonese, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee.

— Rob Tornoe

12:15 PM - April 2, 2020
12:15 PM - April 2, 2020

Bucks County sees decrease in coronavirus community spread

Kim Messersmith, of Bucks County, Pa., Emergency Management, left, and Monica, Hause, of Bucks County, Pa., Emergency Management, right.
TYGER WILLIAMS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Kim Messersmith, of Bucks County, Pa., Emergency Management, left, and Monica, Hause, of Bucks County, Pa., Emergency Management, right.

Health officials in Bucks County continue to see a decrease in community spread of the coronavirus, with most of these community-spread cases being doctors, nurses, first responders, grocery store workers, and others who still have to be out in the community.

“We are definitely seeing a decrease in the number of cases who don’t know where the heck they got it,” Health Director David Damsker said. “The community spread we’re seeing is mostly in the essential workers at this point.”

The county has seen cases in the law enforcement and EMS communities, as well as a couple cases at senior living facilities, but Damsker said they weren’t disclosing specific information about those cases at this time.

While they continue to focus efforts on health-care workers and emergency responders, Damsker said they are in fact contacting and interviewing every new coronavirus case. Last week, officials had indicated they were only doing so for health-care workers, first responders, and people who work in nursing homes or jails.

As of Thursday, the county had recorded 407 cases, and six people had died from the virus. The most recent deaths were two elderly residents who died Sunday before they received positive test results. Both had underlying conditions, officials said.

Damsker said 10 people were on ventilators in the county. Between 50 and 60 people who tested positive for the coronavirus have recovered and come out of quarantine.

— Erin McCarthy

11:35 AM - April 2, 2020
11:35 AM - April 2, 2020

FEMA requests 100,000 body bags as coronavirus pandemic worsens

FEMA has requested 100,000 body bags from the Department of Defense as projections shared by the White House Coronavirus Task Force revealed the government expects between 100,000 and 240,000 people to die during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Department of Defense and the Defense Logistics Agency “is currently responding to FEMA’s prudent planning efforts for 100,000 pouches to address mortuary contingencies on behalf of state health agencies,” spokesperson Lt. Col. Mike Andrews said in a statement.

Over 5,100 people have died in the United States as of Thursday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, COVID-19 has claimed over 49,000 lives.

— Rob Tornoe

11:25 AM - April 2, 2020
11:25 AM - April 2, 2020

Philly trash pick-up schedule thrown out of whack as workers call out during the coronavirus crisis

A City of Philadelphia sanitation worker tosses trash into a garbage truck along the 1100 block of Lombard Street on Thursday, April 2, 2020.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
A City of Philadelphia sanitation worker tosses trash into a garbage truck along the 1100 block of Lombard Street on Thursday, April 2, 2020.

Trash pick-up in Philadelphia has been delayed due to sanitation workers calling out from work amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The city is continuing to pick up trash and recycling, a Streets Department spokesperson said, but it is doing so on an inconsistent schedule.

“As such, residents should expect some collection delays as the health crisis is beginning to have an impact on employees’ attendance,” the spokesperson said. “Streets employees are trying to balance their personal and professional lives in the midst of COVID-19.”

Mayor Jim Kenney addressed the delays on Twitter Thursday morning and urged patience.

He said the service is running about a day behind, and residents should continue to leave trash and recylcing in its normal spot on its scheduled day.

The delays come days after the city stopped paying its essential employees, including sanitation workers, time and a half to work during the pandemic.

— Erin McCarthy

11:10 AM - April 2, 2020
11:10 AM - April 2, 2020

Philly City Council approves $85.4 million coronavirus emergency funding in first-ever virtual meeting

In its first-ever virtual meeting, Philadelphia City Council on Thursday unanimously approved an $85.4 million emergency funding bill for the city to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The money, which will be transferred from a pool of existing funds left unspent in the current budget, was requested by Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration to provide flexibility as it tackles projects like converting a Center City hotel into a quarantine site in Center City and Temple University’s Liacouras Center into a pop-up hospital.

Last week, a Council committee amended the bill to add $400,000 for the council’s own budget, which Council President Darrell L. Clarke said will be used to educate residents about the need to practice social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.

Clarke on Thursday wielded the gavel from Council’s chambers in City Hall during the brief meeting to approve the bill, but all other members participated through a video conference. The only person who participated in public comment, a woman from Fox Chase who called in by phone, urged the lawmakers to hold the city accountable for how the money will be spent and thanked them for their leadership during the pandemic.

— Sean Walsh

11:05 AM - April 2, 2020
11:05 AM - April 2, 2020

Adhering to social distancing guidelines, protesters demand reopening of Hahnemann Hospital during COVID-19 pandemic

A group of activists staged a protest Thursday morning demanding the reopening of the shuttered Hahnemann Hospital, but it didn’t quite look like the demonstrations and rallies that have taken place outside the hospital in the past.

This time, a grassroots organization called Put People First! PA staged an action that aimed to strictly follow social-distancing guidelines in the time of coronavirus. That means there were just 10 people there, all wearing masks and gloves, and standing at least eight feet away from each other.

“There is absolutely a risk to being out in public,” said Clarissa O’Conor, a medical student at Drexel and an organizer with the group. “But we feel that if we don’t take action, the consequences are going to be much greater, and there is thousands of people’s lives at risk right now.”

Hahnemann Hospital closed last summer, but city officials explored reopening it as fears intensified that the coronavirus crisis would overwhelm healthcare systems. Those talks ended after the city balked at the nearly-one-million-dollars-per-month pricetag set by Joel Freedman, a California businessman who owns the empty building. The protesters today both excoriated Freedman and asked the city seize the property and prepare it to treat COVID-19 patients

“Our right to be safe is worth more than Hahnemann owner Joel Freedman’s right to make money off of it,” O’Conor said, “and his attempt to price-gouge the city, demanding anything for the use of this empty building, is really unconscionable and outrageous.”

Freedman, through a spokesperson, has defended the lease price as below-market.

City officials said last week they explored eminent domain, but determined it could be too lengthy of a process. Temple University’s Liacouras Center has instead been tapped to use as hospital overflow space. The school did not charge the city.

After negotiations ended, city officials said the vacant building — which does not currently have beds inside — would likely not have become a functioning hospital, given it would have needed significant work. It could have been used as an isolation or quarantine space, the city said.

— Anna Orso

10:25 AM - April 2, 2020
10:25 AM - April 2, 2020

Some low-wage workers laid off amid the coronavirus pandemic in Philly are also losing their health insurance

Suzie Wilson was recently laid off from her job as a prep cook at Local Tavern at Philadelphia International Airport.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
Suzie Wilson was recently laid off from her job as a prep cook at Local Tavern at Philadelphia International Airport.

Thousands of low-wage workers are losing their health-care benefits when they lose their jobs. Many hourly workers don’t get health benefits through their job because it’s too expensive or their employers don’t offer it, but those who do have found themselves uninsured during a global pandemic.

“If I took sick right now, I couldn’t go to the doctor because I don’t have any money and I’m not working," said Suzie Wilson, 55, a prep cook at Philadelphia International Airport.

The loss of these workers’ health-care benefits could have an impact on efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

”The big concern is that people might wait until they get very, very sick before going to the hospital, and the possibility that they could have exposed more people along the way increases,” the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Cynthia Cox told Vox.

— Juliana Feliciano Reyes

10:00 AM - April 2, 2020
10:00 AM - April 2, 2020

Two more coronavirus deaths reported in Chester County

Two more people died on Wednesday in Chester County after testing positive for the coronavirus, officials said. Both were elderly men with underlying health conditions.

One was a 79-year-old from Honey Brook who had been hospitalized. The other was an 87-year-old from Montgomery County who died in a Chester County hospital.

“The death of both these men reinforces the fact that older people with chronic health conditions are the most susceptible to this virus,” county commissioners said in a statement. “Right now, social distancing is the most practical ‘cure’ we have to beat COV-19.”

The county’s first death was an 89-year-old Willistown Township man who died Sunday after being hospitalized. He also had underlying conditions. In all, Chester County has recorded three deaths from the coronavirus. As of Tuesday, when its database was last updated, the county reported it had 182 positive cases, 147 of which were people under the age of 60.

— Erin McCarthy

9:40 AM - April 2, 2020
9:40 AM - April 2, 2020

Stocks open flat after feds report record unemployment claim numbers

Stocks opened flat on Thursday following news that a record 6.6. million people in the U.S. filed for unemployment benefits last week, exceeding expectations.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened up about 60 points, about 0.3%, taking the poor jobless numbers in stride thanks to an increase in oil prices on hopes of a truce between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Both the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 also opened the day slightly up.

— Rob Tornoe

9:00 AM - April 2, 2020
9:00 AM - April 2, 2020

Record 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, doubling from previous week

More than six million people filed for unemployment benefits last week, an almost incomprehensible number as coronavirus-related shutdowns continue to ravage the economy.

According to the Labor Department, 6.6 million people applied for jobless benefits for the week ending March 28, surpassing the then record-setting 3.3 million that filed for unemployment benefits the previous week.

About 406,000 Pennsylvanians filed unemployment claims for the first time last week, pushing the state’s two-week total to 783,000 new claims, the second-most in the country behind California. New Jersey reported 205,515 new claims last week, up from 115,815 the prior week.

Until two weeks ago, the previous record for initial unemployment filings was 695,000 in 1982. The number was as low as 200,000 people just three weeks ago. Last week, President Trump signed a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill that increases unemployment payments by $600 a week and includes one-time checks of $1,200 for most Americans.

Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist of UFG Bank, said the 9.9 million jobless claims filed in the past two weeks combined with February’s number means 15.74 million people are out of work for an unemployment rate of 9.6%.

The top five states in terms of initial jobless claims over the past two weeks were:

  • California: 1.06 million
  • Pennsylvania: 783,331
  • Ohio: 468,438
  • New York: 446,402
  • Michigan: 439,092

— Rob Tornoe and Erin Arvedlund

6:55 AM - April 2, 2020
6:55 AM - April 2, 2020

Trinity Health plans to furlough staff at five 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 Philly; 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 non-clinical 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 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.

— Ellie Rushing

5:15 AM - April 2, 2020
5:15 AM - April 2, 2020

Coronavirus delaying nonurgent medical procedures, leaving some patients anxious and in pain

Anna Marie Dunn was scheduled to have her adrenal gland removed due to kidney cancer on April 1, but the procedure has been moved to June. She trusts her doctor's judgement but still worries about delaying a needed cancer surgery.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Anna Marie Dunn was scheduled to have her adrenal gland removed due to kidney cancer on April 1, but the procedure has been moved to June. She trusts her doctor's judgement but still worries about delaying a needed cancer surgery.

AnnaMarie Dunn thought her cancer-fighting days were behind her — she’d already lost one kidney in 2018. But in January, a routine scan found that her kidney cancer had spread to her adrenal gland, so her doctor scheduled surgery to have that removed, too.

Dunn, a 68-year-old early-childhood teacher from Manahawkin, N.J., was eager to get the procedure over with and get back to normal. Then, a week and a half before her April 6 appointment at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, her doctor called to cancel.

Hundreds of elective and non-urgent medical procedures have been postponed, as hospitals prepare for a surge of coronavirus patients. Rescheduling all but the most urgent procedures limits the likelihood of spreading the virus by reducing the number of patients coming to the hospital, and preserves medical resources, such as personal protective equipment, for treating critically ill patients.

— Sarah Gantz

5:00 AM - April 2, 2020
5:00 AM - April 2, 2020

A call to action: Medical school students throughout the region are helping fight the coronavirus

Next Friday, fourth-year students from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School — many likely sitting at home — will take part in a virtual graduation ceremony, held nearly six weeks early.

They’ll raise their hands and cite the Hippocratic Oath, pledging to “exercise my art solely for the care of my patients.” Then they’ll be off to face a pandemic, perhaps the greatest medical challenge of their lifetime.

Rutgers, like some other medical schools around the country, is sending off its 192 graduates early so they can start their residencies if hospitals need them.

As the coronavirus spread last month, most medical school students nationally were pulled off clinical rotations for their safety, but also because there wasn’t enough protective gear. Now, largely by their own initiative and desire to help, they’re staffing patient hotlines, raising money to buy face masks for their health-care colleagues and in some cases babysitting for them.

— Susan Snyder

4:30 AM - April 2, 2020
4:30 AM - April 2, 2020

Morning Roundup: Wolf extends stay-at-home order; N.J. death toll climbs past 350

Medical workers from Cooper University Health Care and Virtua Health prepare for the first residents to arrive before Camden County's first public drive-thru coronavirus testing site opened Wednesday.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Medical workers from Cooper University Health Care and Virtua Health prepare for the first residents to arrive before Camden County's first public drive-thru coronavirus testing site opened Wednesday.

On the day that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf expanded his stay-at-home order statewide, the reported coronavirus death count climbed past 350 on Wednesday in New Jersey, and plans were in the works to set up makeshift hospitals in Philadelphia for the first time since the catastrophic flu outbreak of 1918.

Perhaps hoping to offer some relief from the relentless anxiety generated by the pandemic, Pennsylvania reopened its online liquor business — only to see it become quickly overloaded and forced to close shop. You can take another shot Thursday, the state says.

While the surreal has become routine, and it’s going to stay that way for a while, at least a few positive signs emerged Wednesday. For the rapidly swelling ranks of the financially distressed, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court extended a moratorium on evictions for a month.

Anthony R. Wood, John Duchneskie and Pranshu Verma

4:15 AM - April 2, 2020
4:15 AM - April 2, 2020

Today’s Inquirer Front Page

The Philadelphia Inquirer front page for Thursday, April 2, 2020.
Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia Inquirer front page for Thursday, April 2, 2020.