Read the latest Philadelphia-area coronavirus coverage
Every time Philadelphia-area flight attendants take to the air, they fear for their lives. A Frontier Airlines flight attendant said the question hit her: “We are still flying?” While the volume of passengers at U.S. airports has plummeted, one union representing American Airlines flight attendants offered a glimpse this week of the number of coronavirus infections in their ranks: About 100 flight attendants for Philadelphia’s dominant carrier have tested positive.
Plus, for undocumented domestic workers “every day is a fresh hell.” These people are left without work and without protections.
Sixers partner Michael Rubin, Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro donate 5,000 masks for Philadelphia Police Department
Michael Rubin just gave the Philadelphia Police Department a big assist.
The 76ers partner and executive chairman of Fanatics, a sports merchandising business, collaborated with Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro to donate 5,000 masks to the department.
“We need to be banding together during this time and taking care of one another," Shapiro said. "... We need to ensure front-line workers have what they need to keep our communities safe as well as themselves and their families.”
The masks are among those Fanatics recently made at the company’s factory in Easton out of material usually used for uniforms for Major League Baseball jerseys for the Phillies and New York Yankees. So the police officers’ masks will be Phillies pinstripe masks.
White House eases return-to-work rules for essential employees
In what may be a first, small step toward reopening the country, the Trump administration issued new guidelines Wednesday to make it easier for essential workers who have been exposed to COVID-19 to get back to work if they do not have symptoms of the coronavirus.
Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, announced at the White House that essential employees, such as health-care and food-supply workers, who have been within 6 feet of a confirmed or suspected case of the virus can return to work under certain circumstances if they are not experiencing symptoms.
As for everyone else, President Donald Trump said that while he knows workers are “going stir crazy” at home, he can’t predict when the threat from the virus will wane. “I can’t tell you in terms of the date." He added in his daily briefing that eventually, social distancing guidelines will disappear.
“We expect to be back, like it was before,” Trump said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said if the existing guidelines asking people to practice social distancing through the end of April are successful in halting the spread of the virus, more relaxed recommendations could be in order.
Under the new guidelines for essential workers, the CDC recommends that exposed employees take their temperatures before their shifts, wear face masks, and practice social distancing at work. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Philly police traffic officers self-quarantining after coronavirus death of Lt. James Walker
More than a dozen Philadelphia police officers assigned to the department’s traffic division are self-quarantining for 14 days after the death of Lt. James Walker, a commander of the unit, department sources said.
At least six traffic officers have tested positive for the virus, the sources said.
Other units are assisting in traffic duties, the sources said.
‘It’s terrifying': Corrections officers say jails aren’t doing enough to protect them as coronavirus spreads
A 30-year veteran of the Philadelphia Department of Prisons said she’s developed a system after her shifts in one of the city’s largest jails to protect her family from the coronavirus — even as she says her employer isn’t doing enough.
She douses her car in Lysol. She sprays down her uniform, disrobes and leaves it in a plastic bag in her basement. She avoids interacting with her daughters and grandchildren for fear of exposing them.
“Working in a jail is a stressful environment on a good day,” said the corrections officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions at her job. “The fact of not knowing if I’m coming into contact with inmates or guards that might be infected and bringing that into my house. It’s terrifying.”
As the number of confirmed cases in the region’s detention centers continue to rise, corrections officers are increasingly expressing concern that their employers aren’t doing enough to protect them.
Pence: Philadelphia an ‘area of particular concern’ for coronavirus
Vice President Mike Pence named Philadelphia as an “area of particular concern” at Wednesday’s White House coronavirus briefing, the second time a White House official has directly contradicted what the city’s health commissioner has said.
Pence said he spoke to Gov. Tom Wolf Wednesday morning about the city’s trend lines and steady rise in cases.
“As we begin to see early trend lines in Philadelphia, I assured him we would continue to flow resources and support to that community,” said Pence. He urged the city’s residents to practice social distancing so that residents would not have to “endure what other cities before them have had to endure.”
Pence is the second White House official to name Philadelphia as an area of concern in recent days, a direct contrast to local officials who say the growth in the city’s cases is slowing. Dr. Deborah Birx, who is leading the White House coronavirus task force, said Wednesday morning that the city could become a virus hotspot.
“I don’t know what numbers she’s looking at,” city Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Wednesday at a news conference in reference to Birx’s statement. “I doubt she’s looking at numbers as updated as we are. So I’m glad that she’s concerned about Philadelphia. We have been hit hard so far, but at the moment, things are better.”
The 505 new cases reported Wednesday is a smaller daily tally than the city has seen in recent days, Farley said. The city now has 4,777 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The city announced 13 new deaths Wednesday and a total of 78 deaths connected to the coronavirus.
“I’m not saying it’s turning around; I’m not even saying it’s plateauing, but the growth is slowing,” Farley said.
Amid coronavirus uncertainty, LA Fitness furloughs most employees
LA Fitness, which closed all of its clubs nationwide March 16 and had said it hoped to reopen April 1, now has no firm reopening date, and has furloughed most of its employees, the company said in an email to members Wednesday.
“Once we determined that we would need to extend the temporary closure, we made the difficult and unwanted decision to temporarily furlough nearly all of our club employees with the exception of a small group we kept to respond to your questions and to secure our clubs,” the company said. “Once we resume operations, we plan to create a fund to financially assist eligible employees who return to work so you can see the same familiar and friendly faces," the company said.
Members will not be billed for April, and those who were billed for days after the shutdown are being offered the option of a free one-month extension to their memberships or a free three-month membership for a family member or friend, the company said.
LA Fitness operates 37 clubs in Pennsylvania, 28 in New Jersey and 1 in Delaware, according to the company’s website.
Do you still think coronavirus is just like the flu? Here’s why COVID-19 is more dangerous.
The coronavirus has already outstripped flu as a killer in Pennsylvania, leading to 309 deaths compared with 102 deaths in laboratory-confirmed flu cases this year. During the 2017-18 flu season, the worst in the last five years, there were 258 flu deaths.
Thirteen weeks into the coronavirus era, some still question whether the new disease is bad enough to warrant an economic shutdown when influenza, a disease that kills thousands every year, is treated as an annual inconvenience.
There are some obvious reasons to compare flu and coronavirus. The viruses can cause similar symptoms, including fever and body aches. Both are more likely to cause serious illness and death in people over age 65. This year’s flu virus has been unusually tough on children, while the coronavirus seems to largely spare them.
A huge difference is that there are vaccines for flu each fall. They’re not perfect, but when well-matched to the circulating strains of flu, which change every year, they reduce the number of cases and the amount of serious disease. There is no vaccine for the coronavirus, which can cause a disease that no one in the world had before it emerged in China in December. Unlike the flu, there are no proven antiviral treatments for coronavirus.
Judith Johnson, vice president of the Philadelphia Tenants Union, said more people are talking about rent strikes every day as the hardships of job losses mount.
“My advice to people has been from the beginning: Talk to your landlord, and try to come to an understanding with your landlord. If that doesn’t work, put pressure on City Council, the mayor, state government. We want rent strikes to be a last resort — but it may be that we’re coming down to that last resort.”
A South Jersey couple created a massive sand sculpture to thank health-care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic
From her South Jersey home, Laura Cimador-Gowdy watched in fear as the coronavirus ravaged her native Italy. Her relatives relayed grim messages about sick friends. Then, the pandemic hit the United States.
Through it all, she could not stop thinking about the courage of health-care workers, who often sit with coronavirus patients as they die, in lieu of family members who are forced to stay away.
Patients “die in the arms of the health-care workers. They are our angels," she said. “There is no thank-you big enough for these people.”
She and her husband, John Gowdy, have done their best to capture their gratitude.
A Bucks County athletic club has become a makeshift medical facility to help with COVID-19
Officials in Bucks County announced Wednesday that a private athletic training facility is being converted to help ease the workload of local hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Newtown Athletic Club, closed by Gov. Tom Wolf’s shutdown order, has lent the county a 25,000-square-foot building to use as a temporary medical facility.
An indoor training area for baseball and soccer teams will soon have the capacity to hold 80 to 100 patients, a combination of people who have tested positive for the virus, and those with other ailments that need additional treatment before they can be sent home, according to Scott Forster, director of the county’s Emergency Services department.
But both seemingly contradictory statements can be true, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine said.
“Stabilizing ... means the curve has flattened somewhat,” Levine told reporters Wednesday, announcing 1,680 new coronavirus cases and 70 additional deaths statewide. “It’s not going up in this exponential way but [cases] have been increasing. We want to remain optimistic and positive that we will able to cope with this increase in patients in our healthcare system.”
As the coronavirus continues to spread throughout Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order allowing for the transfer of ventilators and personal protective equipment between heath-care facilities across the commonwealth, allowing medical supplies to go the hardest-hit areas.
Meanwhile, in New Jersey, as the coronavirus death toll surpassed 1,500 Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy tightened the state’s social distancing guidelines. Murphy halted non-essential construction, ordered grocery stores to limit customer numbers, and required grocery store shoppers and workers to wear face masks.
As Passover begins, Murphy implored residents to stay home, while Philadelphia’s Easter Mass — which usually draws a crowd of 1,000 — will be broadcast Sunday on WHYY.
New Jersey will use a 53-foot refrigerated Wawa truck as a mobile morgue
Wawa has donated a 53-foot refrigerated truck to New Jersey to help relieve crowded morgues and funeral homes in Bergen County as hundreds of residents die from the coronavirus.
“I want to give a shout out to Wawa,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday. “They had heard about our need, with a heavy heart, for refrigerated trucks to help take the pressure off our morgues and funeral homes in protecting the bodies of those loved ones we have lost.”
“The fact that we have to prepare for the unthinkable is, one level, extraordinary but having corporate citizens like Wawa ready to step in to help is invaluable,” he said.
A Wawa spokesperson confirmed the donation of the truck and said the food service chain “will not be receiving it back.”
Coronavirus closed schools. Here’s how those that serve the most vulnerable are still providing lifelines.
The coronavirus pandemic forced Francis Scott Key Elementary to lock its doors in mid-March. But Principal Pauline Cheung is keenly aware of the role played by Key and many other schools that serve the region’s most vulnerable children.
“Our schools are not closed — the buildings are,” said Cheung. “I feel that we have to be open, more than ever.”
Schools that have outsize roles in their students’ lives are still doing their best to serve as safety nets, not just places where children learn reading and math.
Educators — especially those in the Philadelphia School District, where more than three-quarters of pupils are considered economically disadvantaged — are still finding ways to feed hungry families, connecting parents to resources for unemployment benefits, internet access, and tech support.
Mostly, they’re reminding families that they’re not alone, even during the COVID-19 outbreak, which closed hundreds of schools in Philadelphia and beyond on March 13.
Coming days may indicate whether Montgomery County coronavirus cases are beginning to plateau, officials say
Montgomery County’s confirmed number of coronavirus cases has reached 1,402, chair Valerie Arkoosh said Wednesday as she announced 108 new confirmed cases. Eleven more people have died from the virus, she said, for a total of 43 county residents.
The number of new cases was down from yesterday, and Arkoosh, a doctor with a background in public health, said the next few days might offer a sense of whether the county might be starting to plateau. The county’s hospitals still all have open beds and ventilators available, she said.
The county’s community testing site is set to close Friday, but Arkoosh said officials were hoping to announce alternative testing sites by the end of the week. The county also plans to announce a mobile hospital that would treat overflow patients.
How to wash vegetables: Can I get the coronavirus from groceries?
With stay-at-home orders in place, most of us are donning our chef’s hat (and sweatpants) far more than usual. For many, cooking has become not only a life-sustaining necessity, but also pure quarantine entertainment. It nourishes our bodies and keeps our minds present.
However, it’s the step leading up to it — buying the food — that’s now become one of the biggest stressors in life. Whether navigating tight supermarket aisles or waking up early to grab one of the last online delivery slots, grocery shopping is not just a chore, but it’s one ridden with anxiety.
The good news: There’s currently no evidence of food, food containers, or food packaging being associated with transmission of the coronavirus, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Yet, there are still plenty of safety measures to practice as you unpack your next grocery haul. Put these tips to use to keep yourself, and your food, safe while quarantining.
Pennsylvania facing up to $4 billion shortfall as coronavirus shutdown upends state budget
The coronavirus outbreak could cost Pennsylvania $2.7 billion in lost tax revenue over the next 15 months, blowing a serious hole in the state budget, according to a report released Wednesday by the state’s Independent Fiscal Office.
And that’s the best case scenario, assuming that businesses can reopen by April 27. If the statewide shutdown has to remain in place for another six weeks, the office estimates, the state would be facing a financial hit of $3.7 billion in lost revenues.
Even that grim number is “cautiously optimistic,” said Matthew Knittel, the director of the fiscal office.
“Taxpayers should be prepared for a significant reduction in state resources,” Knittel said. “What we’re seeing, there’s just no precedent for it.”
Those numbers don’t take into account the effects of the recent $2.2 trillion federal stimulus package, which will bring roughly $50 billion to Pennsylvania through a variety of programs. The federal funding will help soften the blow, but won’t be enough to offset the revenue losses altogether, Knittel said.
The holiday will not change the scheduled food box distribution organized by the city and open to all residents at 40 locations.
Trash will not be picked up Friday due to the city holiday. Residents with Friday pick-up will have trash pick-up on Saturday this week. Recycling, which was not picked up this week, will be picked up starting Monday and continue on an every-other-week schedule.
Wolf orders Pennsylvania hospitals to share needed medical supplies for coronavirus care
Pennsylvania could receive more federal aid due to its classification as a coronavirus hot spot, Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday, citing a phone call with Vice President Mike Pence.
“[T]he federal government is actually bumping Pennsylvania up in terms of priority for getting this scarce personal protective equipment,” the governor said. “While it’s not good news that Philadelphia and the Southeastern part of the state is seen as a hot spot, it is going to be helpful in getting more resources.”
“I think both are true,” Health Secretary Rachel Levine said. “Stabilizing ... means the curve has flattened somewhat. It’s not going up in this exponential way but [cases] have been increasing. We want to remain optimistic and positive that we will able to cope with this increase in patients in our healthcare system.”
The governor signed an executive order allowing for the transfer of ventilators and personal protective equipment between heath-care facilities across the commonwealth, allowing supplies to go the hardest-hit areas.
“This will also prevent sick Pennsylvanians from having to choose which hospital to go to for fear that some have less access to equipment than others,” he said.
The commonwealth will be unveiling a new "hospital preparedness dashboard” that will let the public to see a county-by-county breakdown of how many beds and ventilators are available, and a map of testing sites.
Across the state, Levine said, 51% of hospital beds, 40% of intensive-care beds, and 70% of ventilators were available as of Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Pennsylvania reported 1,680 new cases and 70 additional deaths, bringing the totals to 16,239 cases and 309 deaths.
Murphy urges N.J. residents to stay home for Passover
As New Jersey’s coronavirus death toll ticked above 1,500, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy urged residents to stay at home especially with Passover starting Wednesday night.
“Tonight is different from all other nights,” Murphy said. “We cannot gather together. There cannot be large community seders or gatherings.”
Murphy noted an additional 3,088 people tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the statewide positive caseload to 47,437. Another 275 have died due to the disease, which brings the Garden State’s death toll to 1,504.
Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli noted 48 of the state’s new deaths were individuals who lived in long term care facilities. As of Wednesday, 231 of the state’s 375 facilities had at least one positive coronavirus patient under their care.
To protect the state’s most vulnerable residents, the health department will start examining staffing plans, patient isolation procedures and protective equipment inventory levels in each of the state’s long term care facilities. Murphy also noted the 500 bed field hospital in Edison is operational. The Atlantic City site is slated to open April 14. Murphy put out a call for individuals who have served as chief nursing or medical officer to help lead field hospitals. These positions would be paid.
Persichilli also noted that 61% of the state’s fatalities are white, while 22% are black, 6% Asian, 1% Native American or Pacific Islander, and 11% of cases still under review.
Murphy said he was encouraged that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer are looking to provide another $150 billion in aid to states and localities in the next coronavirus bill being considered by federal lawmakers.
Murphy also signed an executive order limiting grocery store operations and construction work. He also signed an order moving the state’s primary from June 2 to July 7.
The governor also thanked Wawa for donating a 53-foot refrigerated truck to Bergen County so it can be used as a mobile morgue.
New Jersey limits grocery store customer numbers, requires shoppers and employees to wear masks
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has signed an executive order that changes how grocery stores must operate in response to the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the state.
Effective 8 p.m. Friday, grocery stores in the Garden State must limit the number of customers allowed in their stores to 50% of their approved capacity. Customers and employees must also wear masks when shopping.
Stores must also provide special shopping hours for high-risk individuals such as seniors, and erect physical barriers between customers and cashiers and baggers where possible.
Murphy will also require non-essential construction in New Jersey to stop as of 8 p.m. Friday. Exceptions include projects at hospitals and schools, along with those in the transportation and utility sector. Affordable housing construction is also exempt, along with individual housing projects that can be built while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
Murphy also confirmed New Jersey’s June 2 primary will be postponed to July 7.
The growth of new coronavirus cases in Philly is slowing, officials say
The growth in newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia is slowing, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Wednesday.
“It looks like we’re stabilizing,” Farley said at a virtual news conference, streaming from his office. The 505 new cases reported Wednesday are less than in recent days, Farley said. The total number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the city is now 4,777.
The city announced 13 new deaths Wednesday, and a total of 78 deaths connected to the coronavirus.
“I’m not saying it’s turning around, I’m not even saying it’s plateauing, but the growth is slowing,” Farley said.
Farley’s announcement contradicts statements by Deborah Birx, the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response director, who said in an appearance on Good Morning America Wednesday, that Philadelphia is among the coronavirus hot spots that the White House is currently watching.
Farley said he learned of Birx’s comments after she made them, but that all cities in the Northeast have been hit hard by the virus.
“I don’t know what numbers she’s looking at,” he said. “I doubt she’s looking at numbers as updated as we are. So I’m glad that she’s concerned about Philadelphia. We have been hit hard so far but at the moment things are better.”
Farley also warned that it is still too soon to resume normal activities or ease social distancing measures.
"It’s important to say that we can’t assume that slower growth will continue,” he said. “This virus may find new populations and we may see more rises and falls before we see a sustained fall.”
Farley said the virus continues to affect the city’s African-American population at a slightly higher rate compared to other races. Of the 78 Philadelphia residents who have died of the virus, 38% were known to be African-American.
“Like many other health problems we may see that this virus affects people who have other disadvantages more,” he said.
As of Wednesday, Farley said Philadelphia hospitals are treating 616 patients with COVID-19, and 1,062 patients with the virus are hospitalized in the greater Philadelphia area, including the city.
COVID-19 has shut down hundreds of cleanups, leaving parks and waterways filthy
Each year, people throughout Philly and the region emerge from winter and eagerly flock to green spaces, blissfully unaware that they all look so clean because thousands of volunteers have cleaned them.
This year, that’s not the case, and it shows as litter — some of it coronavirus-inspired face masks and gloves — mars miles of stream banks, forests, and green space. Hundreds of cleanups are on hold or canceled altogether because of pandemic precautions.
Adding to the disappointment: April 22 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Organizers counted on boosted interest in environmental actions, and scheduled numerous cleanups on the weekends leading up to the date.
Some small-scale cleanups, perhaps involving only a few people, might go on. But larger efforts are likely be cancelled altogether, rather than postponed, as stay-at-home orders remain in place. Spring is the best time for cleanups, since the foliage isn’t yet obscuring trash, and the weather is pleasant for outdoor work.
South Jersey ShopRite president dies of coronavirus
A well-known South Jersey businessman, philanthropist, and president of a grocery store chain has died from the coronavirus, a family member said in a Facebook post.
Steve Ravitz, 73, president of Ravitz Family Markets, which ran multiple groceries, including ShopRites in Cherry Hill, Mount Laurel, and Marlton, died after a 13-day hospital stay battling the virus, said son Jason Ravitz.
Our hearts are 💔 on the loss of our beloved father/grandfather/brother/uncle Steve to the corona virus - he battled for...
The Ravitz family has created a makeshift memorial in front of a Cherry Hill ShopRite on Evesham Road.
“Under the current conditions, this is the best that we can do to collectively express our anguish and sorrow,” Jason Ravitz wrote. He said the family is “not in any shape to gather our thoughts and write a tribute as this is too fresh and the last couple weeks have been awful.”
Steve Ravitz, a Cherry Hill resident, made the news in October after he offered to give $14,000 to clear the lunch debt of Cherry Hill students. He was the chairman of the Ravitz Family Foundation, which provided grants to nonprofits and community groups helping children and families in need.
He also served on the board of the Cooper Hospital Foundation, the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey, and Crescent Memorial Park, and is a past president of Crescent Memorial Park and Temple Beth Sholom.
“This morning we received the crushing news that one of our county’s most notable boosters and business owners succumbed to the novel coronavirus,” said Camden County Freeholder Jeffrey Nash. “This was a gut punch for me, our Board and the County because Steve and the Ravitz’s Family were always there to help residents in the most need and were always willing to provide to the underserved.”
The Ravitz family had recently provided $10,000 to feed seniors and other food insecure people during the pandemic.
“Steve was the cornerstone of our community, volunteering on several nonprofit boards and someone you could always count on, we will miss his smile, levity and intelligence, and we will miss his constant presence in Camden County,” Nash said in a statement.
Fear of the coronavirus hasn’t emptied Philly’s basketball courts or the region’s parks
After more than a month of a stay-at-home order that has trapped people inside, prevented children from attending school, and resulted in the near-total shutdown of normal life, many are gravitating to parks and trails for exercise and fresh air. And in Philadelphia, where many residents have little access to private outdoor space, officials are struggling to keep people out of parks.
In recent weeks, as officials warned that social distancing is one of the only ways to prepare for a surge in coronavirus cases, the Philadelphia Parks Department closed athletic courts, took down basketball hoops, posted 6,000 signs, and locked fences.
But parks crews have already had to replace cut fencing at more than 40 sites, along with hundreds of broken locks, said department spokeswoman Maita Soukup. At one site, vandals removed 70 feet of fencing around the perimeter so they could use the courts and playground.
Do you still have to pay the Philly wage tax if you’re working from home in the suburbs due to coronavirus?
The closing of offices amid the coronavirus pandemic may bring a bit of relief to some of the thousands of workers who live outside of Philadelphia but commute to jobs in the city: A break from the city’s highest-in-the-nation wage tax.
Philadelphia-area residents who are now working from their dining room tables or home offices are likely eligible to stop paying the tax or apply for refunds later. As long as companies are requiring employees to work from home, those employees are exempt from the 3.4481% non-resident tax. (People who live in the city, no matter where they work, must always pay the 3.8712% resident wage tax.)
Employers can stop withholding the wage tax from non-Philadelphia residents’ paychecks, or workers can request refunds from the city later.
The exemption will add to the already significant financial hit to the city during the coronavirus pandemic, however. About 40% of the $1.7 billion that the city collected in wage taxes in the last fiscal year came from non-residents.
WHYY-TV to broadcast Easter Mass from Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul
The region’s 1.4 million Catholics will be able to watch the cathedral’s Easter Mass on their TVs as they social distance to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
WHYY announced Wednesday it will broadcast the service at 11 a.m. Sunday from the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. Viewers can worship virtually by tuning in to its TV station (812 for Comcast customers and 512 for Verizon customers).
Philly police to begin wearing cloth masks while on duty
Philadelphia Police officers have been instructed to begin wearing cloth masks while on the job in an effort to protect against the spread of the coronavirus, Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said Wednesday.
During a virtual news conference, Outlaw said the cloth masks were not perfect, but that the city did not have enough N95 masks to cover routine use by the entire 6,500-member department and other essential city agencies. Officers have been given the more protective N95 masks, Outlaw said, but are only to use them in certain circumstances that require close contact with other people.
Outlaw said she has been tested for the virus and does not have it, but she declined to say how many officers on the force have tested positive or are in quarantine. She said doing so could “lead to panic, or people calling in sick because of fear and paranoia.” She did say that the department has not encountered any staffing shortages due to officer absences amid the pandemic, and that officials are monitoring the number of cops who have tested positive, are awaiting test results, or are self-quarantining to determine if they need to adjust deployment strategies.
At the moment, she said, “I am not concerned about a need to call for mutual aid, or finding other ways to staff [what] are traditionally filled positions.”
Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham and daughter team up for a coronavirus video for kids
Eagles veteran defensive end Brandon Graham and his adorable young daughter worked with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to put out a coronavirus public service announcement for kids.
In the video message, Graham gives simple advice, such as “no play dates,” “no group sports,” and “absolutely no huddles.” Echoing health officials’ recommendations, he says children can go outside to exercise but must stay a safe distance from others. At the end of the clip, his 4-year-old daughter Emerson walks into the frame and yells “Got it, Daddy!”
Stocks opened up slightly on Wednesday following a volatile day of trading that ended with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 posting their largest reversals since the 2008 financial crisis.
The Dow opened up about 270 points, about 1.2%, following a roller-coaster session on Tuesday that saw a nearly 940-point gain disappear in the final half-hour of trading.
The Nasdaq opened up about 100 points (about 1.3%), while the S&P 500 opened up 25 points (about 1%).
Easter Bunny considered essential worker in one Philly suburb
Coronavirus will not stop the Easter Bunny, at least not in one Philly suburb, where the big guy is planning a socially-distanced parade.
The Jenkintown Police Department said it’s received word that the bunny will be hopping by the borough on Saturday and will do an 11 a.m. ride-along with officers to scout out the area before his Sunday deliveries.
“If your children wish to see The Easter Bunny and/or receive a sweet treat (social distancing will be in effect, the bunny is a very busy guy and can’t afford to get sick), please leave a basket curbside and as we drive by we will leave a treat, a wave, and a smile for the little ones,” the Montgomery County department said in a Facebook post, adding that the parade will be complete with sirens and a festive song or two.
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern confirms Easter Bunny is classed as an “essential worker” but it might be “difficult for the bunny to get everywhere” in current circumstances.
With malls and Easter displays closed, some local bunnies are doing virtual visits and drive-by parades to bring a little joy and normalcy to young families. Meanwhile in New Zealand, where residents are also staying at home for at least a month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told children that the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy are among the essential workers of this crisis, though it may be “difficult for the bunny to get everywhere” this year.
Hydroxychloroquine is not proven to work against the coronavirus. Why not just try it?
President Donald Trump has urged doctors and patients to treat coronavirus infections with hydroxychloroquine, a drug that is not approved for that purpose.
Some physicians are indeed doing that, and it is perfectly legal. But there are downsides.
When a patient takes a drug, one of three things can happen:
It will enhance the person’s recovery.
It will interfere with recovery.
It will have no impact.
If every patient were to “try it if you like,” as Trump urged, we would never know which of these three things had happened. Just because a person gets better after taking a drug, it does not mean the drug helped; it’s possible the patient would have gotten better faster without it.
For society at large, scientists say the better approach is a clinical trial.
Former Rep. Charlie Dent, who has COVID-19, worries about future prospects of out-of-work Pennsylvanians due to pandemic
Former Allentown Congressman Charlie Dent, who himself has tested positive for the coronavirus, said he is worried some out-of-work Pennsylvanians won’t be able to return to the same jobs they had before the pandemic.
“I’m sitting here in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I can tell you that there are just hordes of people who are out of work,” Dent said Wednesday morning on CNN, “and I’m really concerned they may not ever get back to work, at least in the jobs they have today, if we don’t get beyond the pandemic.
“We have to do the social distancing,” he said "... But I’m concerned about the long-term economic implications for a lot of people who thought they had stable jobs and may not anymore.”
Dent, a Republican who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2004 to 2018, said officials must work to get stimulus checks to Americans as soon as possible and called Trump’s firing of Glenn Fine, the inspector general who was to oversee the $2 trillion spending, “a very serious mistake.”
Mall owner PREIT asks for federal paycheck protection loan, furloughs staff
PREIT, the publicly-traded, investor-owned Philadelphia company that owns the Cherry Hill, Willow Grove and Plymouth Meeting malls, and runs the Philadelphia Fashion Center at the former Gallery in Center City, is asking for a “forgiveable” federal Paycheck Protection Program loan to pay staff members.
PREIT last week furloughed 41 office staff and 62 property management workers — 37 percent of its total staff — to cut costs. Even before state orders shut shopping malls as part of the costly national campaign to slow the spread of coronavirus COVID-19, PREIT was asking its banks for financial relief, due to Americans’ shifting shopping patterns and its own big debt load
The PPP program allows employers to borrow up to $10 million over the next two months, and promises to “forgive” the loans, at taxpayers’ expense, if the money is used to pay staff (not top management) and occupancy (rent, utilities).
White House task force is watching Philly area as a developing coronavirus hot spot
Philadelphia is among the coronavirus hot spots that the White House is currently watching, according to Deborah Birx, the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response director.
During an appearance on Good Morning America on Wednesday, Birx said the White House Coronavirus Task Force has been looking for trends in daily case reporting and COVID-19 testing, and that Philadelphia is among the cities they are keeping an eye on.
"We are concerned about the metro area of Washington and Baltimore, and we’re concerned right now about the Philadelphia area,” Birx said. “All of our previous areas appear to be steady at least.”
Birx didn’t offer any specifics about Philadelphia or the region. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
As of Thursday morning, there have been 4,272 COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia, and at least 200 deaths in the city and its surrounding counties. On Tuesday, officials reported 47 new deaths in the eight-county Philadelphia region, a daily high. But leaders are cautiously optimistic that social distancing efforts are having an impact, as the case curve has been flattening in Pennsylvania.
To commemorate World Health Day and to honor health-care workers fighting on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, many of the city’s iconic structures were lit blue. The landmarks will be bathed in blue every Tuesday for the rest of April.
“The selfless health-care workers who are on the front lines of this public health crisis are true heroes,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “The act of lighting our city up in blue is a small but highly visible way to express our support and appreciation during this trying time. We want Philadelphia’s health-care workers to know we are thinking of them and are eternally grateful for the sacrifices they are making each day.”
Buildings that participated included the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Franklin Institute, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the PECO Building, Citizens Bank Park, the Wells Fargo Center and Lincoln Financial Field.
Activists say Pennsylvania’s critical-care guidelines discriminate against the disabled for COVID-19 care
Disability Rights Pennsylvania has filed a federal civil rights complaint alleging that the state’s draft of the medical treatment rationing plan for prioritizing who gets critical care during the COVID-19 pandemic discriminates against people with disabilities.
The advocacy group, whose official role is to ensure that Pennsylvania policies do not violate the rights of people with disabilities, objects to the heavy weight a state Department of Health draft has given to life expectancy and quality of life in deciding who gets care, said Kelly Darr, the group’s legal director.
“Studies show that determinations of life expectancy are the product of bias and are not really grounded in actually life expectancy,” Darr said Tuesday. “We want them to put in the triage guidelines cautions against those kinds of biases very specifically.”
Unemployed and uninsured because of coronavirus? You may be eligible for Medicaid
Julia Ramsey felt shell-shocked when she was laid off from her IT job in early March.
Then, her family lost their health insurance.
Employer-sponsored health insurance is the most common type of health coverage for individuals under age 65, when most Americans become eligible for Medicare. And with millions of Americans out of work as businesses shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, analysts say the ranks of the uninsured also will rise.
Newly unemployed — and uninsured — individuals may be eligible for a plan through the federal marketplace, healthcare.gov. Others may have low enough family incomes to qualify for Medicaid.
Coronavirus leaves homebuyers and sellers in limbo — and at financial risk
A single mother and nurse in her mid-30s could no longer afford her Delaware County house. So she took all the money she could scrape together for a security deposit and the first and last month’s rent for an apartment, and she put her house on the market.
To help make ends meet, she needed the profits from her home sale, originally set to close April 6.
Two weeks ago, she lost her job. Last week, her buyer backed out. Now, she’s stuck with a mortgage she can’t pay, an apartment she can’t afford, and stress over how she will cover groceries and her family’s other living expenses, said her Realtor, Brian Kane.
“She’s in a major financial bind,” he said. “She can’t get work. She needs the money, and now the sale isn’t happening.”
In the weeks since the coronavirus pandemic upended daily life and Pennsylvania deemed real estate activity nonessential, real estate agents have been doing what they can to complete sales. But buyers are stymied by financial uncertainty and the unavailability of inspectors and contractors. Sellers waiting for the busy spring real estate season don’t know whether to list their houses as scheduled.
And no one knows just how long the uncertainty will last.
Celebrated songwriter John Prine dies from coronavirus complications
John Prine, the ingenious singer-songwriter who explored the heartbreaks, indignities and absurdities of everyday life in “Angel from Montgomery,” “Sam Stone,” “Hello in There” and scores of other indelible tunes, died Tuesday at the age of 73.
His family announced his death from complications from the coronavirus.
Winner of a lifetime achievement Grammy earlier this year, Prine was a virtuoso of the soul, if not the body. He sang his conversational lyrics in a voice roughened by a hard-luck life, particularly after throat cancer left him with a disfigured jaw.
He joked that he fumbled so often on the guitar, taught to him as a teenager by his older brother, that people thought he was inventing a new style. But his open-heartedness, eye for detail and sharp and surreal humor brought him the highest admiration from critics, from such peers as Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson, and from such younger stars as Jason Isbell and Kacey Musgraves, who even named a song after him.
Aware of his own mortality, Prine, an Army veteran, joked in “When I Get to Heaven" that he would have a vodka and ginger ale and smoke a cigarette nine miles long but also said he would shake God’s hand and “thank Him for more blessings than one man can stand.”
In 2017, Rolling Stone proclaimed him “The Mark Twain of American songwriting.”
Morning Roundup: Philadelphia warns of ‘painful cuts’ as coronavirus death toll jumps. Still, case curves might be flattening.
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the region reached new highs with their daily reports of coronavirus deaths on Tuesday; the Garden State closed its parks; and Philadelphia warned of impending “painful” cuts while imploring religious leaders to hold only virtual services during the coming holy days.
Those bleak developments notwithstanding, officials were continuing to see budding, if not quite blooming, signs for optimism that the virus and its insidious siege of anxiety eventually will relent.
While the numbers keep climbing on both sides of the river — up to 240 virus-related deaths in Pennsylvania and 1,232 in New Jersey, including 191 in Philadelphia and its neighboring counties — the case curves have been flattening in both states, which officials attribute to social distancing practices. Nine have died in New Castle County.
Gov. Phil Murphy said he had spoken with Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf and other governors about preliminary plans for a slow return to business.
But he also indicated that the suspension of business as usual will be the routine for a while longer.