Montco may have reached coronavirus peak but has no plans for reopening; airlines reach $25 billion aid deal with feds
Montco may have reached coronavirus peak but has no plans for reopening; airlines reach $25 billion aid deal with feds
Harvard researchers say to expect coronavirus outbreaks and shutdowns to continue into 2022. Local officials say they have no plans to reopen anytime soon, with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy saying “June or July” might be realistic.
Governors are, however, forming regional committees to plan for an eventual reopening of society. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, is asserting his overarching authority on getting the nation back to normal.
Harvard researchers say to expect coronavirus outbreaks and shutdowns to continue into 2022. Local officials say they have no plans to reopen anytime soon, with New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy saying “June or July” might be realistic.
Governors are, however, forming regional committees to plan for an eventual reopening of society. President Donald Trump, meanwhile, is asserting his overarching authority on getting the nation back to normal.
Read the latest Philadelphia-area coronavirus coverage
With the pandemic spreading quickly, short-term rental firms and property owners on Airbnb marketed the Poconos area as a virus-free zone. But that campaign also helped spread COVID-19 in the Poconos and along the I-80 and I-78 corridors in eastern Pennsylvania, local officials say. Monroe County — the Poconos gateway — now records Pennsylvania’s highest COVID-19 infection rate, 46.7 cases for every 10,000 residents.
Also, in unprecedented action, Trump’s name to appear on actual stimulus checks. And how one activist is trying to help Philadelphia’s homeless population.
Lessons from a Main Line doctor who is surviving the coronavirus
Belinda Birnbaum started coughing in the middle of February. It didn’t strike her as particularly worrisome at first; as someone who has asthma and allergies, she’s used to being dogged by a chronic hack.
On March 15 — four days after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic — her cough worsened, and a low-grade temperature blossomed into a 101-degree fever. She was tested for the virus. The results came back positive.
Birnbaum, 46, knows there are some who still doubt the threat the coronavirus poses, who shrug off social distancing and scoff at the idea of donning a mask outside. She offered to revisit the details of her fight against the virus — one that isn’t remotely finished, even now, a month later — with the hope that it might encourage people to take it seriously, and plan ahead for the worst.
“It was terrifying,” she said, “because you don’t know which way it’s going to go.”
Trump says it’s up to him, not governors, to open states. That’s false. | PolitiFact
President Donald Trump said “it is the decision of the President,” not governors, to “open up the states.”
The White House provided no evidence to show that it is up to Trump and not the governors to reopen the states. The governors used their authority to issue emergency orders to close nonessential businesses and public spaces such as beaches and swimming pools, and they can use their powers to reopen them.
Trump can pressure governors to act as he sees fit — for example, he could pull emergency funding, or call the federal workforce back into work — but he has not provided evidence that he can decide whether to reopen the states.
Emergency marriage licenses are saving some Philadelphians who lost health insurance
Very few people will be smashing cakes into the faces of their loved ones this spring.
COVID-19 has brought many couples’ wedding plans, and planned traditions, to a halt. While for some lovebugs, that’s an annoying inconvenience, for others, it poses a nearly life-or-death (or at least financial death) predicament. That’s especially true for people who need to be able to access their spouse’s health insurance.
In early April, the city announced it was making changes to help address those concerns. More than 500 couples applied for “emergency" wedding licenses in the first week they were available.
Trump says he is halting funding to the World Health Organization
President Donald Trump said he had decided to temporarily cut funding to the World Health Organization, citing a contentious relationship with the 72-year-old agency that he said had inadequately shared information about the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve had problems with them for years,” he said Tuesday in the daily press briefing on the pandemic. “This should have been done by previous administrations a long time ago."
Trump said he would spend the rest of the week talking with governors and leadership from industries that spanned agriculture, defense, telecommunications, and finance.
“There are numerous states that are in great shape right now,” he said, estimating that he would talk with governors Thursday. He did not identify the states, but said he thought 20 to 29 were doing well enough to drastically relax restrictions before the end of the month.
“They’re set to open practically now,” Trump said, adding that they would “open in beautiful little pieces.”
He acknowledged that other states, which he also did not name, would need more time before they could start to resume operations.
Trump encouraged governors to “take charge,” but said his administration would keep a close eye on states, warning, “if they don’t do a good job, we’ll come down on them very hard.”
Airlines, U.S. government agree to $25 billion coronavirus aid deal to pay workers
The Treasury Department said Tuesday that the nation’s major airlines have tentatively agreed to terms for $25 billion in federal aid to pay workers and keep them employed through September.
The assistance will include a mix of cash and loans, with the government getting warrants that can be converted into small ownership stakes in the leading airlines.
The airlines did not want to give up equity, but Treasury demanded compensation for taxpayers. The airlines have little leverage — their business has collapsed as the COVID-19 pandemic reduces air travel to a trickle and they face mass layoffs without the federal aid.
The nation’s six biggest airlines — Delta, American, United, Southwest, Alaska and JetBlue — along with four smaller carriers have reached agreements in principle, and the Treasury Department said talks were continuing with others. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the department would work with the airlines to finalize deals "and disburse funds as quickly as possible.”
How the battered cemetery operator for Philly Archdiocese is coping with coronavirus: ‘We’re solvent enough’
The nation’s second largest “death care” company, based in the Philadelphia suburbs, is struggling to remake itself amid a pandemic while continuing to take a drubbing on Wall Street.
And, as the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 continues to rise, Trevose-based StoneMor Inc., says it is facing a shortage of protective gear required for its workers. The company, which operates “thousands and thousands of acres of cemeteries" across the United States, operates nearly 90 funeral homes and 320 cemeteries including 13 belonging to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
As one Philly-area nursing home endures 50 COVID-19 cases, leaders turn to data-driven solutions
The current coronavirus reporting regimen makes it hard to catch problems early in a nursing home. Pennsylvania regulations require that nursing homes report positive test results for COVID-19 to state and local health departments, but there’s no requirement or official mechanism for nursing homes to report worrying collections of symptoms to public health officials. Meanwhile, it takes three-to-five days for the virus test results to come back.
That means health departments are inevitably late to act. "By five days, you went from two cases in a nursing home to everybody,” said Scott Rifkin, founder and executive chairman of Real Time, which is based in Linthicum Heights, Md.
Real Time works by monitoring patient data that nursing home staff already collect — measures like temperature, breathing rate, pulse, and oxygen saturation of the blood. The system then combines the indicators to flag facilities where trouble might be brewing.
In a sample surveillance report, Rifkin pointed to an unidentified facility that had nine residents with a fever and a low oxygen level. “You have at least nine patients that I’d want to know what was going on with,” Rifkin said.
Philly teachers are being asked to donate their stimulus checks to the needy, including some colleagues
With steady paychecks and the ability to work from home, teachers are among the workers likely to fare better during the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic downturn.
A group of Philadelphia teachers and other school-based employees is calling for colleagues in a position to do so to donate their federal stimulus checks to people in need — including some of their fellow school staff.
The Caucus of Working Educators, a group focused on social-justice issues within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, began the campaign this week. In two days, 50 people have signed on to hand over all or part of their portion of the federal stimulus package, said Adam Bailey, a teacher at Hunter Elementary in North Philadelphia.
“As the largest union in this city, we’re in a unique position, and we should be standing in solidarity with other workers,” Bailey said.
The recently passed package will pay up to $1,200 per adult to workers who earned less than $99,000 in 2019. It also includes payments of $500 for children under 17.
Wolf faces backlash in temporarily releasing 1,800 Pennsylvania inmates
The Wolf administration has not begun to temporarily release medically compromised inmates as of Tuesday.
On Friday, Wolf ordered the release up to 1,800 nonviolent offenders who posed a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus within prison, which had been a subject of fierce contention in Harrisburg. However, Wolf said Tuesday he had been unable to come to an agreement with the legislature.
“There is a premium on speed here," Wolf said. "We need to move quickly. I communicated and worked as much as I could, and in the absence of the ability to do that, I’m going to be doing this on my own.”
In the days since Wolf made the announcement, the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association pushed back, calling it a “haphazard process” that would overtax parole officers.
A spokesperson for Wolf said Tuesday that the administration is “still working through the process.”
Philadelphia jail inmate who died from coronavirus would have been eligible for release in August
A 48-year-old woman on Tuesday became the first Philadelphia jail inmate to die of complications from the coronavirus, city officials said.
The Department of Prisons did not release the woman’s identity, say which facility she had been housed in, or describe the charges on which she was being held.
Sources who were not authorized to publicly discuss the woman’s death identified her as Yvonne Harris, who had been housed at the Riverside Correctional Facility on State Road since September 2018 on charges of robbery, trespassing, and possessing an instrument of a crime.
Harris received an 11½-to-23-month jail sentence after pleading guilty to those charges in July 2019. She would have been eligible for release in August, court records show.
Coronavirus outbreaks — and social distancing — may continue into 2022, Harvard experts find
Coronavirus infections will rebound and threaten to overwhelm hospitals when current social distancing measures are lifted, so prolonged or periodic restrictions may be needed for two more years, according to mathematical modeling by Harvard University’s Chan School of Public Health.
The study, published Tuesday in the journal Science, comes as the governors of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, and Rhode Island are conferring on when and how to safely lift stay-home orders and reopen their states’ economies. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has cited a University of Washington model that predicts the U.S. outbreak will taper off at the end of May, enabling a return to normalcy.
“Even in the event of apparent elimination," the Harvard researchers wrote, coronavirus "surveillance should be maintained, since a resurgence in contagion could be possible as late as 2024.”
Senior author Marc Lipsitch added during a Tuesday teleconference: “Predicting an end to the pandemic in the summer ... is not consistent with what we know.”
Marine East Pipeline workers failing to practice social distancing on the job, county officials say
Workers on the Mariner East Pipeline, the expansive natural gas network, were spotted failing to practice social distancing protocol despite promises to do so, the Delaware County Council and the Chester County Board of Commissioners told state officials Tuesday.
In a letter, county officials said several residents had noticed workers not wearing masks, standing close to each other, and traveling in cars together. A photo from a resident showed four workers huddling near each other over a section of the pipeline.
The councils requested the commonwealth narrow the terms of the six waivers it had granted the pipeline’s operator, Energy Transfer, so that only absolutely necessary work would be permitted.
The behavior of the workers ran contrary to the assurances Energy Transfer had made to the state, the county council said. The company had received permission to resume work on the pipeline at 17 locations amid the coronavirus outbreak, county officials said, taking "all possible precautions to protect personal and public health and safety while working within the project right-of-way.”
“We are concerned that, if the non-compliant behavior of the Energy Transfer workers triggers a COVID-19 hot spot, the burden on our health care system would impose a risk to our entire community,” according to the letter.
The letter added to a string of complaints residents in Delaware and Chester Counties have aired against Energy Transfer and the Mariner East Pipeline, which runs through Western Pennsylvania before stopping at a refinery in Marcus Hook.
Philly Mayor Jim Kenney: ‘Our housing needs are really serious’
As mayor of a city with the highest poverty rate in the country and so many out of work due to the coronavirus shutdowns, “our housing needs are really serious,” Jim Kenney said Tuesday on CNN during an interview with Philadelphia’s own Jake Tapper.
“We have a lot of people facing eviction although the eviction courts are closed and they’re not executing writs, people are getting behind in their mortgage, getting behind in their rent,” Kenney said.
He laid out that somber scenario in explaining the reasons behind a letter he wrote to Congress appealing for additional funding help.
“We need direct funding. We love our state governments but we need money directly to cities so that we can utilize [it] without any type of loss of money or handling charges. We need the money straight to us. Our housing needs are really serious,” he said.
After outlining efforts to feed families in need daily and to get the homeless tested for COVID-19, Kenney added: “When you’re living in a city as wonderful as our city but has a large poor population, our challenges are even greater.”
On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Apartment Association released a statement encouraging the commonwealth’s property owners to hold off on evictions due to rent non-payment until July 15.
Montgomery County may have reached its coronavirus peak, but no plans to reopen anytime soon
Montgomery County may have “reached its peak” in coronavirus cases, but the county does not plan to reopen until cases reach nearly zero and widespread testing becomes available, said Valerie Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.
Arkoosh, who is a physician with a background in public health, said at a Tuesday briefing that she believes the county “reached its peak” on April 5 and 6, when residents tested had a 24% positivity rate. She said the rate has “been on a downward trend since then.”
But she said that the county has no plans of opening up anytime soon.
“The last thing that any of us want to do is lift these restrictions too early and find ourselves two months from now right back in the situation where we have to close everything down again,” she said. “The best way to get through this is to stay closed for now, wait until the number of cases falls to zero, or near zero.”
“We cannot take any risks or chances. We are just not there yet,” she said.
Arkoosh said that every hospital in Montgomery County has open hospital beds. “Our surge capacity is up and ready to go if needed, but thankfully, right now, we don’t need it,” she said.
On Tuesday, Montgomery County reported 18 additional coronavirus related deaths, bringing the area’s death toll up to 109. Arkoosh said that 99 new cases were reported, bringing the case total up to 2,123.
Sixty-seven of those deaths have been residents of long-term care facilities. Arkoosh said that 587 positive cases have been reported across 73 of the 75 facilities in the county, with 364 cases infecting residents and 223 involving staff.
129 Philadelphia police officers have tested positive for coronavirus
In Philadelphia, 129 police officers have tested positive for COVID-19, according to law enforcement sources.
Managing Director Brian Abernathy said he is withholding statistics on how many city employees, including police officers, test positive for the virus out of fear that the information could be used to identify municipal workers.
“Even in these challenging times, people — public servants included — have rights to privacy and confidentiality," Abernathy said last week during a virtual news conference.
The department is not suffering any coverage issues due to the pandemic, Abernathy said.
“If we get to a point where we don’t have adequate coverage or need to use mutual aid to cover core services, we will make those actions public,” Abernathy said. “We won’t hide from staffing shortages or from efforts to meet our staffing demands.”
Camden County drive-through coronavirus test site to open Wednesday
A drive-through COVID-19 testing site that prioritizes first responders, healthcare workers and other essential employees is opening tomorrow on the campus of Camden County College in Gloucester Township.
The site will start taking people at noon and will be open Monday through Friday from noon to 4 p.m.
The appointment-only site will be available to county residents who have symptoms and who have received a referral for testing from a medical provider. Two of four lanes will be devoted to testing employees from grocery stores, pharmacies, medical supply stores, gas stations, healthcare facilities, supply chain drivers, utility workers and civil servants.
Appointments can be made by calling 844-542-2273.
The site was launched by the Camden County Freeholder Board, the county health department and Jefferson Health New Jersey, which currently operates drive-through testing sites in Cherry Hill and Washington Township.
The site will have capacity to test about 100 people per day, officials said, and clinicians will assess the demand for tests every few weeks to determine how long they keep the site operational.
Millions of Americans who file without linking their bank accounts to the IRS already wait longer for their tax refunds to arrive via paper check. Now, these same taxpayers will have to wait longer again — potentially up to an additional three months, according to a survey by MagnifyMoney, a personal finance research and data service.
Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Pittsburgh ranked among the top 15 cities where residents still receive tax refunds by check, along with Boston and New York.
Wolf: ‘We’re all fairly confident that the federal government will, in fact, come through with support for the states to keep our services open’
During a call with reporters Tuesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, increasingly a prominent face among the contingent of vocal governors facing the coronavirus epidemic, said he remains hopeful that the federal government will provide states with financial relief.
“We’re all fairly confident that the federal government will, in fact, come through with support for the states to keep our services open,” he said, adding that the commonwealth had taken efforts to minimize the cost of keeping essential services open.
Wolf continued to remain cautious about reopening businesses too quickly.
“All of us have to figure out the right cadence,” he said. “How do we get back to work and normal life in a way that is not going to swamp the healthcare system?”
While Pennsylvania continued to monitor and treat the outbreak, he also acknowledged the loss of in-person graduation ceremonies for students in the commonwealth.
“At this point, each school, each institution, has to determine their own ceremony and when they decide to do it,” he said, emphasizing that regardless of the way schools choose to celebrate their graduates, they needed to follow social distancing protocol and not arrange a ceremony that would bring a mass of people together.
Stimulus checks are starting to arrive. If you can afford it, here’s how to use that money to help Philly
The Internal Revenue Service has begun distributing stimulus checks via direct deposit in response to the economic struggle initiated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
About 80 million Americans are expected to see deposits of up to $1,200 in their bank accounts by Wednesday, Steven Mnuchin, secretary of the U.S. Department of Treasury, said on Monday. The funding comes from a $2.2 trillion economic recovery package that President Donald Trump signed last month.
You are free to spend the money as you wish, whether it be for bills or necessities like groceries and medicine. But, if you can afford it, you can use all or part of your check to help fellow Philadelphians.
We’ve compiled a list of some good local places to start. But there is no shortage of charities across the country working to help those who need it. Choosing one — or a few — to support may take some thought. A good place to start is Charity Navigator, which evaluates nonprofits and recommends credible organizations.
The coronavirus pandemic is playing out behind hospital walls. On social media, these doctors and nurses give a peek into the front lines.
The coronavirus pandemic is playing out behind hospital walls. On social media, doctors and nurses give a peek into the front lines.
Those sharing stories on social media said they felt compelled to tell about the battles hidden from the public. They post about intubating patients who could no longer breathe on their own. They post about their lack of personal protective equipment, including face shields made out of a snorkel mask.
They beg people to stay at home, since health-care workers can’t.
“It’s hard to know something is serious going on when you walk outside your front door and the sky is blue and kids are riding bikes,” said Dr. Kit Delgado, an attending physician in the Penn Presbyterian Medical Center emergency room. “The outside of your hospital may look quiet, but inside it’s a different story.”
More than 10,000 out-of-state healthcare workers join New Jersey’s fight against the coronavirus
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced more than 10,600 out-of-state health professionals have been granted emergency licenses to help join the Garden State’s fight to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“We are grateful to the dedicated individuals who have stepped up to assist New Jersey’s doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic,” Grewal said. “Whether they are deploying to New Jersey with the National Guard, returning to practice from retirement, or adding to our healthcare system’s capacity by offering telehealth services, every healthcare professional who joins our ranks makes New Jersey better equipped to fight back against COVID-19.”
More than half are physicians, physician assistants or nursing professionals. Another 2,200 are mental health professionals, while 117 are respiratory specialists.
These temporary licenses will remain active for the entirety of New Jersey’s state of emergency.
Delaware traffic down 70% as residents stay at home
Traffic is down 70% on average in Delaware as residents heed the state’s stay-at-home order, Gov. John Carney said during a Tuesday press conference.
Traffic on I-95 in Delaware is down to about 100,000 cars a day, down from about 215,000 during the same time last year, according to data from DelDot, which reported similar declines on SR-1 and US-113.
“We believe it’s having a very positive impact on the health and welfare of Delawareans” by helping to slow the growth of COVID-19 cases, Carney said.
Delaware reported 136 new coronavirus cases on Monday, bringing the state’s total to 1,761.
Forty-one Delawareans have died of the virus.
Carney said it is helpful to be working alongside the governors of other Northeastern states to determine how and when to lift COVID-19 restrictions, but said testing needs to be more robust before any form decisions can be made.
He also dismissed to President Trump’s claim he has the “total” authority to determine when businesses will reopen across the country.
“We shut the lights off, we’re going to turn them back on, and we’ll do it deliberately... with science,” Carney said.
Pa. health officials pressure state doctors, labs to better report patient demographics
Pennsylvania health officials are putting pressure on doctors and laboratory employees to better report coronavirus patients’ demographic data, including race.
Communities nationwide have seen the virus disproportionately affect people of color. While New Jersey and Philadelphia officials have noticed a similar disparity, Pennsylvania has not been able to thoroughly track this data statewide due to an outdated reporting system that easily allows busy doctors and nurses to skip over sections, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said.
In an effort to improve tracking, the Wolf administration on Tuesday sent out a mass reminder to all state health-care facilities and labs, Levine said.
“We know that the provider’s first priority is to provide care to the patients,” she said, “but it’s important to remember that this is required information that will help us gather a complete picture of the pandemic in Pennsylvania.”
The mandate is difficult to enforce, however, so “we’re going to rely on health-care providers and laboratories to do the right thing,” she said.
The state reported 1,146 new positive cases, bringing its total to 25,345, and 60 new deaths, for a total of 584.
Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Tuesday that the city does not have data on race for 34% of its 7,130 confirmed cases.
Based on the data that the city has collected, Farley said 40% of cases are known to be in African-American residents, 14% white, 6% Hispanic, 2% Asian, and 2% other races.
No Pennsylvania hospitals are overwhelmed, Levine said, though it is not known whether the state has yet reached its peak.
“We’ll only know that in retrospect,” she said, noting the University of Washington’s latest model shows Pennsylvania reaching its apex later this week.
As the daily tallies of new cases decrease, Levine said she did not believe widespread antibody testing will be necessary before parts of the economy could start to slowly reopen.
“We don’t want to wait in terms of when we might start to release the stay-at-home order or to open businesses,” she said. “So it’d be great if all these tests were available at that time, but I’m not sure they will be.”
Murphy: ‘We need the federal government, the full force of it’
On the heels of President Donald Trump claiming he has “total” authority to reopen the country, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy urged states to partner with federal officials as they plan on how to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.
“There’s no substituting for that big gorilla in the room, the federal government of the United States of America,” Murphy said. “We need the administration. We need the federal government, the full force of it.”
Governors from several northeast and western states have pushed back on Trump’s assertion that he has ultimate authority on how to bring the nation back to normal life.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, along with the governors of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts, said Monday they will create a multi-state council that creates plans on how to reopen as a region.
One-third of N.J. long-term care facilities not up to coronavirus protection standard, no longer allowed new patients
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said Tuesday one-third of the state’s long-term care facilities are no longer able to admit patients because they are not up to state standards for coronavirus prevention.
She noted this decision came after examining every state facility’s staffing plans, personal protective equipment inventory, and patient protection procedures.
Persichilli also said that 342 of the state’s 375 facilities now have at least one positive coronavirus patient under their care, with a total of 5,945 positive cases. She also noted another 27 people in long term care facilities have died as of Tuesday from the coronavirus, bringing the state death toll for facility residents to 538.
To deal with staffing challenges, 240 nursing professionals have been deployed to the state’s long term care facilities, Persichilli said. Ninety nurses from the Department of Veterans Affairs will also be sent to veteran nursing homes.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced another 4,059 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 68,824. Another 365 people have died from the disease, increasing the state’s toll to 2,805.
The governor said 8,185 New Jersey residents are hospitalized for the virus, including 2,051 who are in critical care. A little more than 1,600 residents are on ventilators, Murphy said.
After the state legislature sent a second package of coronavirus bills to the governor’s desk, Murphy said he intends to sign a bill that provides New Jersey residents 12 weeks of family leave to take care of a loved one stricken with the coronavirus without fear of losing their job. He will also sign a bill formally moving the state’s income and corporate tax filing deadline to July 15.
Philadelphia’s new coronavirus cases slow as hospitalizations increase
Philadelphia reported a continued slowing of new coronavirus cases Tuesday, but Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said that hospitalizations due to the virus are increasing.
There are now 757 patients with COVID-19 hospitalized in Philadelphia, and 1,361 hospitalized in the greater Philadelphia region, including the city."All the hospitals are busy," Farley said.
“Some of them are treating dozens of COVID patients. Some of them are closer to capacity than others, but all of them are able to handle it.”
Farley said 37% of hospital beds and 30% of intensive care unit beds are currently still available in the Philadelphia region.
A surge hospital site at Temple University’s Liacouras Center will open Thursday, officials said. City officials said they still have hope the space will not be needed.
Philadelphia is also opening a quarantine and isolation site for first responders, Managing Director Brian Abernathy said, as well as other facilities in addition to the space already available at the Holiday Inn Express in Center City.
Farley reported 317 newly confirmed cases of the virus in Philadelphia residents Tuesday, and 16 deaths. There have now been a total of 206 deaths of Philadelphia residents since the start of the pandemic, and 7,130 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the city.
The number of new cases reported Tuesday “may be falsely low,” Farley said, because not all laboratories reported results."Still, I think that’s evidence that we are flattening the curve," he said.
Fauci: U.S. lacks testing, tracing procedures to begin reopening economy
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said the U.S. currently lacks the critical testing and tracing procedures needed to begin reopening the nation’s economy.
“We have to have something in place that is efficient and that we can rely on, and we’re not there yet,” Fauci said in an interview with The Associated Press, adding that reopening some areas of the country by May 1 is “a bit overly optimistic.”
When he’s not beside President Trump during the White House’s daily coronavirus press briefings, Fauci and his staff at the National Institutes of Health are working to validate antibody tests to determine if people have already been infected by COVID-19 and may have some immunity.
“I know people are anxious to say, ‘Well, we’ll give you a passport that says you’re antibody-positive, you can go to work and you’re protected.’ The worst possibility that would happen is if we’re actually wrong about that, and those people get infected," Fauci said.
Despite estimates that a coronavirus vaccine won’t likely be available for 12-18 months, Fauci said a second wave of COVID-19 infections in the fall is possible, but not inevitable.
“I would hope that if and when that occurs, that we jump all over it in a much, much more effective way than we have in these past few months,” Fauci said.
PEMA relocates coronavirus care site from Delco to the Poconos
Equipment installed at a temporary medical facility in Delaware County was removed Tuesday and redistributed to other portions of the state that have been harder hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to state and local officials.
The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Association last month converted the shuttered gymnasium at the Glen Mills School into a 250-bed, overflow medical facility for patients who need medical care but couldn’t go to area hospitals because of the virus.
Yet, before a single patient could be admitted to the facility, state officials made the decision to reduce the number of beds at the site—touted as a crucial regional—to 150. The equipment was transported two hours north to East Stroudsburg University in Monroe County, where a similar facility is being installed in the Kohler Field House, one of the school’s athletic facilities, according to Bruce Henry, Monroe County’s director of emergency management.
“This is based off the overall picture of healthcare needs in the state, and in one region versus another,” Nate Wardle, a spokesman for the Department of Health, said in a statement. “This takes into account our current hospital capacity, modeled projections and other decision making points to determine how best to support communities.”
Wardle added that the northeastern corner of the state is an “area of concern.” Monroe County, a rural municipality in the heart of the Pocono Mountains, had 847 cases as of Tuesday, a per capita rate higher than Philadelphia’s, according to state data.
Delaware County Council Chairman Brian Zidek said Tuesday that the decision to move the beds was made at a time when the county’s hospitals don’t appear overly taxed.
“From my perspective, and I am not a pubic health official, it seems our hospitals are doing a great job of staying on top of this crisis and will be able to, assuming there is no significant surge,” Zidek said. “I suspect it was that knowledge that made them feel comfortable that they could move those beds elsewhere.”
Zidek stressed that if the situation worsens locally, the state has the ability to return the 100 beds back to Glen Mills, and that the remaining 150 beds will stay available as needed.
Philadelphia airport to receive $116 million in coronavirus relief funds
Philadelphia International Airport will receive about $116 million in relief aid to help combat the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Transportation announced Tuesday.
Philadelphia airport is one of 63 airports in Pennsylvania awarded a total of $239 million as part of the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill passed last month. Northeast Philadelphia Airport, located just east of Roosevelt Boulevard, was awarded $157,000.
A total of $10 billion in funds are being awarded to airports across the county to support continuing operations and replace lost revenue due to the dramatic decline in air travel due to the spread of COVID-19.
As more first responders get the coronavirus, Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration faces calls for greater transparency
As the number of Philadelphia first responders testing positive for the coronavirus grows, Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration is facing pressure to be more transparent about how many city workers have contracted the disease.
New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston and Washington, D.C., have all released, at a minimum, the number of police officers or first responders who have tested positive.
But Philadelphia Managing Director Brian Abernathy said he is withholding the totals out of concern for the workers’ privacy.
“Even in these challenging times, people — public servants included — have rights to privacy and confidentiality," Abernathy told reporters last week at a virtual news conference. "If we reported the number of police officers with this infection, you’d want to know what unit they were in. If we reported the number of firefighters with this infection, you’d want to know what station house. You’d want their ages.”
Abernathy’s position, however, hasn’t stopped word from getting out. City employees regularly reach out to journalists about coronavirus cases in their workplace, often to raise concerns about working conditions, such as a lack of personal protective equipment or decisions on which employees are essential.
First inmate in Philadelphia prison system dies of coronavirus
A woman in her 40s became the first inmate in the Philadelphia jails to die of complications from the coronavirus, city officials announced Tuesday.
The Philadelphia Department of Prisons did not release the woman’s identity, say which jail she had been housed in, or describe the charges on which she was being held.
“The death of this woman is heartbreaking,” Mayor Kenney said at a news briefing.
Her death came a day after the state’s prison system announced its first death — a 67-year-old inmate at SCI Phoenix in Montgomery County — and as both the city and the state ramp up efforts to thin their inmate populations to curb the spread of the virus behind bars.
Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said that the city has 54 inmates with the city’s jail system, which includes one new confirmed case since Monday. Farley said 13 inmates have recovered from the infection.
The city has refused to release a breakdown of how many inmates are ill at each of its four jail facilities or identify how many corrections officers have tested positive for the virus, citing privacy concerns.
Philadelphia water department: Stop flushing wipes and paper towels
The Water Department has a message for residents of Philadelphia: be careful what you flush down the toilet.
With a growth in the use of wipes, paper towels, and napkins due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Philadelphia Water Department warns that flushing anything but toilet paper down the drain can lead to significant damage and create massive problems for city services.
“We understand people want to be safe and are using more wipes these days, but flushing any wipe or any material other than toilet paper is just irresponsible,” Philadelphia Water Department Commissioner Randy Hayman said in a statement. “If you use wipes for your hands or anything else, please toss them in the trash and dispose of them like you would other household waste.”
Wipes, even those labeled “flushable,” don’t instantly dissolve like toilet paper, creating blockages that can lead to thousands of dollars worth of damage and the expense of needing a private licensed plumber. They also slow pumps, where stoppages are required to remove clogs.
According to the city, 13 sanitary pump stations have been impacted by discarded wipes, which act like magnets for cooled fat and grease commonly called “fatbergs.”
Three sewer stations have had issues due to a litany of flushed items, including wipes, gloves, masks, and other litter.
Officials say there has also been a spike in litter due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to discarded rubber gloves and masks getting washed into the sewer system, ending up in local waterways or at treatment plants.
According to the city, three storm water stations have been hampered by discarded gloves and masks.
“We can get through this together, and not flushing wipes or littering are really simple ways to help your city and the environment,” Hayman said.
Migrant advocacy groups call for quick, broad and permanent changes to help undocumented people during pandemic
A coalition of two dozen immigrant-advocacy groups called on state and local elected leaders on Tuesday to take broad, quick steps to help undocumented workers and families who have been denied federal benefits during the pandemic.
They want new measures on jobs, housing and health care to assist those who were put out of work by the impact of the coronavirus, but who do not qualify for unemployment payments or stimulus money because of their status. They said Pennsylvania should pay equal financial benefits to those workers, many of whom now struggle to provide food and housing for their families.
“Our duty is to continue pushing the government, but also looking for alternative forms of relief,” said Erika Guadalupe Núñez, the new executive director of Juntos, the Latino advocacy agency in Philadelphia. “What we’re doing right now, keeping people fed, keeping people free, that’s the government’s job, and we’re going to keep pushing them to do that that.”
The stay-at-home order that shuttered many Pennsylvania businesses exposed deep inequalities, member groups said, cutting off immigrants from essential lifelines even though many of them directly sustain the economy: growing food, caring for children and seniors, cleaning homes, maintaining factories and building homes.
Representatives from many of the region’s best-organized and most-active pro-immigrant groups said the Tuesday on-line gathering was the start of a push for permanent change in how migrants are treated.
“Our communities have always been left behind,” said Blanca Pacheco, co-director of New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia. “They’re always in the last thoughts of people who make decisions, decisions about our lives. … We will not stay quiet, and refuse to go back to the old normal. The old normal didn’t help us. We are ready to work with all the leaders who are willing to help our people.”
How does Philadelphia’s coronavirus outbreak compare to other big cities?
Philadelphia has one of the largest outbreaks of coronavirus in the country, to judge by the number of infections that have been confirmed. But the city’s rate of infection -- illnesses divided by people -- compared with hard-hit cities like New York, Detroit, and New Orleans, has been significantly lower, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
Just over 40 out of every 10,000 Philadelphians have tested positive for coronavirus, an infection rate that ranks 68th out of more than 3,000 U.S. counties included in the Hopkins database.
About one in 10,000 Philadelphia residents have died of coronavirus, the 140th-highest death rate among those counties.
‘The impact of the loss of human touch’: Philadelphia-area suicide hotlines grapple with an increase in calls related to coronavirus
While social distancing is critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19, experts have cautioned that it can greatly strain mental health. Previous research has shown that large-scale disasters lead to increases in depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use disorder and other mental and behavioral disorders. In an article published in JAMA Psychiatry on Monday, researchers warned that rising suicide mortality in the United States and coronavirus could create “a perfect storm” for increased risk.
In Philadelphia, calls to suicide hotlines have increased only about 10% in the past few weeks, said Omoiye Kinney, the communications director at the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services (DBHIDS), which oversees two hotlines — one national and one local. But she said that many of the calls are related to COVID-19.
“People are calling because of things that are causing them anxiety and stress, like losing their jobs, social isolation and domestic situations,” Kinney said. “We can’t anticipate whether the number of calls will go up or down — that depends on the progression of the pandemic — but the reasons have shifted.”
Reading Terminal Market has stopped taking online orders at least through next Monday after a surge in demand led to incorrect and incomplete orders in the days leading up to Easter.
The iconic Center City market first introduced delivery and e-commerce through the grocery delivery platform Mercato in 2018, and filled about 50 orders a day before the coronavirus pandemic, general manager Anuj Gupta said.
Last week, they were averaging between 8,000 and 10,000 daily orders, he added. The growth overwhelmed the system, Gupta said Tuesday in a letter to customers posted on Twitter, and as result “incomplete/erroneous orders became numerous.”
“We realize that you looked to the Reading Terminal Market in a time of need ... and we let some of you down,” Gupta wrote. “The Market has served the Philadelphia public through the Great Depression, two World Wars, and many other societal upheavals. We are intent on serving the public however long the COVID-19 crisis lasts and we are absolute to do it right.”
The market, which opened in 1893, has paused online ordering and delivery through Monday in order to improve the system. As an essential business, it remains open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, while implementing social distancing measures, including limiting customers in the store at one time, and enhancing cleaning.
Add the Tour de France to the ever-growing list of sporting events being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The world’s most-famous cycling race had been scheduled to start June 27, but has been postponed following French President Emmanuel Macron’s extension of a ban on public events with large crowds through at least the middle of July.
“Given that it’s now impossible that the Tour starts at its planned date, we are consulting with the [International Cycling Union] to try and find new dates,” organizers said in a statement Tuesday.
The Tour de France is one of cycling’s three-week-long Grand Tours. The Giro d’Italia, usually held in May, was indefinitely postponed last month. The Vuelta a España remains scheduled to begin on Aug. 14.
Collingswood Farmers’ Market to open next month as drive-thru operation
The Collingswood Farmers’ Market will open as scheduled next month, but due to the coronavirus pandemic it will do so with a new drive-through model that eliminates person-to-person contact.
A Camden County mainstay for the past 20 years, the market usually features dozens of vendors at a time and can draw as many as 6,000 people who browse the pop-up shops on foot Saturday mornings from May through November.
When it reopens May 2, customers will have to pre-order their items and their cars will be funneled into a large parking lot in the middle of the borough, director David Hodges said. Vendors will place orders in the trunk, he added, or on a seat through a passenger-side window.
The market will feature only five vendors at a time, but will be open four days of the week instead of just Saturday. At least to start the season, the only sellers will be farmers, Hodges said. If social distancing guidelines and state executive orders change, he said, the market’s format may, as well.
When Hodges began planning in January, he said he was prepared for some rainy Saturdays, “but I was not ready for this.”
New Jersey celebs to hold televised fundraiser to support COVID-19 fight in Garden State
An eclectic mix of celebrities will come together next week for a televised fundraiser aimed at raising money to help fight the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on New Jersey.
JERSEY 4 JERSEY, a fundraiser put together by the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund, will bring together “New Jersey’s biggest champions” for the one-night event, though everyone will be participating and performing from their homes. The fundraiser is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday April 22. It will air on WABC Channel 7, 6ABC, WPIX, News12, and NJTV, as well as various radio outlets and AppleTV.
Among the stars slated to participate are Bruce Springsteen, Jon Stewart, Bon Jovi, Chris Rock, Danny DeVito, Whoopi Goldberg, Halsey, Chelsea Handler, Charlie Puth, Kelly Ripa, and SZA.
The fund, founded last month by New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy, provides grants to organizations that provide essential services to those in need and to assist those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cuomo says phased recovery could take months, will ignore Trump if he orders rapid reopening
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he would ignore President Donald Trump if the president ordered states to ease restrictions on businesses before experts said it was safe to do so.
“If he ordered me to reopen in a way that would endanger the public health of the people of my state, I wouldn’t do it," Cuomo said during an interview on CNN Monday morning. “We don’t have King Trump. We have President Trump ... So the president should not even think of going there. That would be divisive and political, and it would be totally contrary to everything we have been trying to do by working in a cooperative fashion.”
Cuomo said he and other governors are looking at a phased reopening that will likely take months, pointing out “there is no light switch."
”We have to bring in testing, so that we’re testing as we’re doing this reopening, so that we can gauge whether or not we’re increasing the virus spread," Cuomo said. "We have to start with really what’s an expansion of essential services.”
“All of these executive orders are state executive orders and so therefore it would be up to the state and the governor to undo a lot of that,” New Hampshire Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said on CNN Monday night.
Sanofi, GSK join forces in developing a COVID-19 vaccine
Sanofi and GSK, two of the biggest names in vaccine development, are joining forces on coronavirus vaccine, the companies announced Tuesday morning.
Sanofi launched the project in February; what’s new is GSK’s contribution of an adjuvant: a substance that is added to a vaccine to enhance a person’s immune response.
The goal is to start testing the vaccine in humans during the second half of this year, the companies said. If the results are promising and regulators give the go-ahead, the companies say they could finish developing the product by the second half of 2021.
Dozens of coronavirus vaccines are in development worldwide, including several others that involve either Sanofi or GSK. Health officials generally agree that multiple vaccines will be needed to meet world demand.
GSK chief executive officer Emma Walmsley echoed that view at a news conference. “The world is working and collaborating as fast as it can to try and get to the best possible solution,” she said.
The U.S. hub of the London-based drug maker is located in Philadelphia, in the Navy Yard. Sanofi, which is based in Paris, has U.S. operations in Bridgewater, N.J.
A Philly nurse’s decision: Fight COVID-19 in New York, or stay safe for her kids?
The calls started coming in faster than she could answer them, filling the nurse’s voice mail with dozens of messages:
“This is regarding the crisis.” “I need to discuss this with you.” “If you could give me a call back.”
Jen Caserta sat on the deck of her apartment in Chadds Ford, on the southern edge of Delaware County. She played back the voice mails, wondering what to do. For several weeks now, recruiters had been emailing and calling Caserta, asking her to come to New York or New Jersey; hospitals there have been overrun with COVID-19 patients, and are desperate for staff to treat them.
The recruiters offered Caserta, an operating-room nurse, a crash course in critical-care nursing. They would train her to monitor anesthesia levels, to insert a ventilator tube on the first try. The mother of three, who sometimes flinches at her cellphone bill, could make $5,500 in one week, triple what she normally earns.
Most of all, Caserta thought, she could give a break to another health-care worker on the front lines. Caserta, an agency nurse, had recently finished an assignment at Penn Medicine and had at least a month before her next job would start. “I feel like my people are out there, and they need my help," she said.
“But at the same time, I have three kids I want to keep healthy.”
Pennsylvania will receive 2 million N95 masks for the ‘health-care challenges’ in the greater Philadelphia area, Pence announces
The federal government will send 2 million N95 masks to Pennsylvania “to support some of the health-care challenges they are facing in the broader Philadelphia area,” Vice President Mike Pence said Monday at the White House coronavirus briefing.
Pence said he spoke with Gov. Tom Wolf directly and that the state will receive the masks next week.
This will reduce a massive burden Pennsylvania has faced, as it had requested nearly 500,000 masks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to protect front-line medical workers. But as of early April, the state had only received one-quarter of that amount.
Backup medical station in Delco will move to Poconos, officials say
A medical station created late last month at the closed Glen Mills Schools to provide overflow beds for non-coronavirus patients while hospitals dealt with COVID-19 patients will be relocated to the Poconos, Delaware County officials said Monday night.
Those officials expressed confidence they can “handle the capacity of patients they are receiving and anticipate receiving” due to the coronavirus.
About 100 beds will remain at Glen Mills as a “regional reserve,” the county said in a news release.
Members of the Pennsylvania Department of Health and National Guard will begin breaking down the medical station Tuesday morning and will relocate it to an undisclosed site in East Stroudsburg, Monroe County.
As of late Monday, Monroe County reported 816 cases of COVID-19 and 24 deaths. While Delaware County reported roughly double the number of cases and deaths, the county has three times the population and a far greater medical-response capacity.
Morning Roundup: Coronavirus social distancing is causing the curve to flatten in Pa. and N.J.; Wolf, Murphy join regional coalition to plan for reopening
The curve of coronavirus infection is flattening in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, officials said Monday. Social distancing is working, they said — and has helped to avert a worst-case scenario in New Jersey hospitals — but progress is fragile.
Lifting the measures too soon could set the states back and reignite the virus’ spread, a coalition of governors including Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf and New Jersey’s Phil Murphy warned Monday. They announced a multi-state council with other governors in the Northeastern United States to create plans for returning to a more normal life as President Donald Trump claimed “total” authority to reopen the country.
Pennsylvania’s case count has plateaued thanks to residents and business owners following the state’s school and business closures and stay-at-home orders, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said.
Because of social distancing, the state has avoided a “much, much worse” death toll to date, she said. Philadelphia officials indicated the same, saying that while city hospitals were busy, there remained “plenty” of vacant beds and available ventilators.