8:26 AM - April 19, 2020
8:26 AM - April 19, 2020

Read Philadelphia-area coronavirus coverage here

In Pennsylvania, shoppers and employees at grocery stores must wear masks under a new directive that takes effect 8 p.m. Sunday, as the number of coronavirus cases throughout the region continues to rise. Liquor stores will reopen with curbside pickup Monday, and stay-at-home protests are starting to emerge while experts caution widespread testing is needed before the country can safely return to normal life.

8:59 PM - April 18, 2020
8:59 PM - April 18, 2020

Pennsylvania liquor stores to offer curbside pickup starting Monday

At the Fine Wine and Good Spirit Store in the Ivyridge Shopping Center in Roxborough, customers were greeted with some empty shelves as they waited in line to purchase the beverages of their choice before stores were ordered to close last month. The state announced that some stores will be offering curbside service starting Monday.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
At the Fine Wine and Good Spirit Store in the Ivyridge Shopping Center in Roxborough, customers were greeted with some empty shelves as they waited in line to purchase the beverages of their choice before stores were ordered to close last month. The state announced that some stores will be offering curbside service starting Monday.

Starting Monday some of Pennsylvania’s state-run liquor stores will be offering curbside pickups on a limited basis.

Only one order will be accepted per caller per day and it cannot exceed six bottles.

In a notice posted on its website, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board said that store staff would inform callers about what was available at each location.

“We ask you to remain patient if you don’t get through by phone right away,” the notice said. “We’re optimistic our capacity to fulfill orders through our website and curbside pickup will increase in the coming weeks.”

Orders will be accepted from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday.Curbside pickup will be available at 10 stores in Philadelphia and about 45 in the collar counties.

A list of stores and phone numbers can be found here.

—Anthony R. Wood

8:59 PM - April 18, 2020
8:59 PM - April 18, 2020

Camden County reports 22 more coronavirus deaths

Camden County officials on Saturday said they had linked 22 new deaths to the coronavirus dating back to April 2, raising the total fatality count to 80.

Officials cited “significant reporting delays” in announcing the revised figures.

The county Department of Health also said 100 more people had tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 1,908.

Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. said he was at a “total loss for words today.”

“The families impacted will be in our thoughts and prayers tonight and into the future as this pandemic grinds on,” Cappelli said in a statement. “Right now it is important to remember that we need to continue to fight this virus with the best tools we have, in other words, we need to double down on our mitigation efforts so we can flatten the curve and we need to work hard to flatten the curve of this virus.”

—Andrew Seidman

7:29 PM - April 18, 2020
7:29 PM - April 18, 2020

The Pa. National Guard is deploying nurses to a Delco nursing facility due to ‘staffing shortages’

Delaware County Council Chairman Brian Zidek.
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Delaware County Council Chairman Brian Zidek.

The Pennsylvania National Guard is sending 18 military nurses and medics to help a Delaware County nursing facility handle an apparent uptick in coronavirus cases.

Officials did not say how many patients have tested positive for the virus at the Broomall Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Marple Township, but said the help was needed “due to current staffing shortages.”

“That information isn’t being released,” county spokesperson Adrienne Marofsky said Saturday. “We’re planning to release more data on long term care facilities next week.”

County officials requested support from the Pennsylvania National Guard Medical Team after conferring with the facility. The team is expected to provide routine care to “non-acute” patients for three days, officials said.

“We understand the challenges that many long-term care facilities such as the Broomall Rehabilitation and Nursing Center are facing right now, and together with support from the Chester County Health Department we are doing everything we can to support the staff, patients and their loved ones,” Brian Zidek, chairman of Delaware County Council, said in a statement. “This call to the National Guard for temporary staffing is one way we are able to provide support.”

—Andrew Seidman

7:02 PM - April 18, 2020
7:02 PM - April 18, 2020

NJ Transit executive Raymond P. Kenny dies from coronavirus, agency says

Raymond P. Kenny, NJ Transit’s senior vice president and general manager of rail operations, has died from coronavirus-related complications, the agency said Saturday.

“Ray’s reputation and experience in the industry are unparalleled,” NJ Transit president & CEO Kevin Corbett said in a statement. “The leadership and incredible wealth of railroad knowledge Ray brought with him has truly made a positive impact on our organization. On behalf of everyone at NJ Transit, our thoughts and prayers are with Ray’s family and friends at this difficult time.”

Kenny had held the position since January 2019.

Corbett also tested positive for the virus this week, and the agency said Thursday he was isolating at home and feeling well.

—Andrew Seidman

6:27 PM - April 18, 2020
6:27 PM - April 18, 2020

Rite Aid will offer drive-through testing in Camden County starting Monday

A coronavirus testing site for first responders and healthcare workers prepares to open in the parking lot of the Rite Aid on the 7400 block of Ogontz Avenue in Philadelphia, PA on March 23, 2020. Rite Aid is opening a testing site in Camden County on Monday.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
A coronavirus testing site for first responders and healthcare workers prepares to open in the parking lot of the Rite Aid on the 7400 block of Ogontz Avenue in Philadelphia, PA on March 23, 2020. Rite Aid is opening a testing site in Camden County on Monday.

Rite Aid will open a drive-through coronavirus testing site in Barrington, Camden County on Monday, local officials said.

Testing will take place in the parking lot of the Rite Aid store at 501 Clements Bridge Road. The self-swab nasal tests will be overseen by pharmacists.

The tests will be available to people who meet criteria established by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the company said.

Rite Aid said patients who meet the criteria will not have to pay for the tests. Patients must be at at least 18 years old and bring government-issued ID. They need to register online at www.riteaid.com to schedule an appointment for the tests, which will be available every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Mobile coronarivus testing is also available in Cherry Hill and Blackwood.

“Expanding COVID-19 testing is critical to our response to this pandemic," Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. said Saturday. “Without smart data we cannot not combat this virus and are blind to its impact on our community.”

In Philadelphia, Rite Aid is offering testing to first responders and healthcare workers at a location in the city’s West Oak Lane section. The pharmacy also offers testing at locations in York and Pittsburgh.

—Andrew Seidman

5:15 PM - April 18, 2020
5:15 PM - April 18, 2020

Philly has purchased three refrigerated trailers to store bodies in University City, officials say

Workers build ramps to two refrigerated trailers that are now parked behind the Joseph W. Spellman Medical Examiner Building in the University City section of Philadelphia on April 9, 2020.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Workers build ramps to two refrigerated trailers that are now parked behind the Joseph W. Spellman Medical Examiner Building in the University City section of Philadelphia on April 9, 2020.

Philadelphia has purchased three refrigerated trailers to increase the space the Medical Examiner’s office has for storing bodies, city officials said Saturday.

The trailers are parked behind the location where the office conducts autopsies in University City, near the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Deana Gamble, a spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney, said that the trailers aren’t exclusively for people who have died from COVID-19.

They were purchased to “relieve general overcrowding due to lack of funeral home capacity,” according to Gamble.

In recent weeks, families have taken longer to make funeral arrangements because of the isolation mandated by the city’s shut down order, she said.

Each trailer can store up to 40 bodies, and Gamble confirmed that they are currently in use. She declined to say how many bodies are currently in storage there “out of respect for the decedents and next of kin.”

—Vinny Vella

5:15 PM - April 18, 2020
5:15 PM - April 18, 2020

New Jersey man cited for violating stay at home orders while kite surfing on the Shore

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced new enforcement actions taken this weekend regarding Gov. Phil Murphy's stay at home order.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced new enforcement actions taken this weekend regarding Gov. Phil Murphy's stay at home order.

Dozens of New Jersey residents were cited this weekend for violating Gov. Phil Murphy’s stay at home order, law enforcement officials said, including a man who was rescued while kite surfing in Toms River.

Geoffrey T. Vonderlinden, 51, of Basking Ridge, Somerset County, was charged Friday with violating the emergency orders after police responded to a report of a kite surfer in distress about 50 yards off Normandy Beach, authorities said.

Vonderlinden was “drifting northbound in the water, with strong winds and current,” officials said, but rescue crews and another surfer were able to return him to shore.

Authorities said he, like others accused of violating the order, was charged by summons and was not arrested. Such violations carry a potential sentence of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

More serious charges were filed against three people accused of making terroristic threats, including Amy Bosco, 47, of Point Pleasant Beach.

Authorities said she entered the police station there Thursday yelling, “Pigs! Oink, oink!” She allegedly claimed she was sick, and was arrested and taken to the hospital. While in the ambulance, Bosco allegedly removed her mask to blow on EMTs.

—Andrew Seidman

4:22 PM - April 18, 2020
4:22 PM - April 18, 2020

FEMA delivers 86,400 N95 masks to Philly for coronavirus response

Nursing assistant Michelle Hand, a patient care tech in the emergency care facility, shows an N95 mask (the green mask) that is usually underneath the procedural mask (the white mask in the lower of the frame) at the request of an Inquirer photographer, during a media tour of the new emergency response facility at Doylestown hospital.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Nursing assistant Michelle Hand, a patient care tech in the emergency care facility, shows an N95 mask (the green mask) that is usually underneath the procedural mask (the white mask in the lower of the frame) at the request of an Inquirer photographer, during a media tour of the new emergency response facility at Doylestown hospital.

The federal government delivered 86,400 N95 masks and other personal protective equipment to Philadelphia on Saturday, city officials said.

The masks provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency will go to first responders, healthcare workers, and others fighting the coronavirus pandemic, the city said.

N95 masks — which block at least 95% of very small airborne particles — haven’t been easy to get. Late last month, the city ordered 500,000 masks to protect police, firefighters, and others. But they never came.

—Andrew Seidman

4:02 PM - April 18, 2020
4:02 PM - April 18, 2020

Montgomery County reports 201 new cases, nearly doubling previous day

A member of the Pennsylvania National Guard, left, pantomimes the action of the nasal swab that the person sitting in their car, right, must follow, so they can self-swab their nostril to test for the coronavirus at the new testing site in Montgomery County on April 16, 2020. A new coronavirus testing site opened on Thursday April 16, 2020, at the Central Campus of Montgomery County Community College.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
A member of the Pennsylvania National Guard, left, pantomimes the action of the nasal swab that the person sitting in their car, right, must follow, so they can self-swab their nostril to test for the coronavirus at the new testing site in Montgomery County on April 16, 2020. A new coronavirus testing site opened on Thursday April 16, 2020, at the Central Campus of Montgomery County Community College.

Montgomery County officials reported 201 new coronavirus cases on Saturday — the most infections disclosed on a single day in the county since the outset of the pandemic.

The new infections reported Saturday nearly doubled the 111 cases disclosed on Friday. The previous single-day record was April 11, when officials reported 193 new positive tests.

The total number of cases in the county now stands at 2,623. Officials also reported 12 more deaths linked to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, bringing the total number of fatalities to 147.

“Today’s large number of positive test results, which include the first results from the re-opened community-based testing site on April 16, demonstrate the importance of testing to understand the spread of the virus in our community and the continued need to stay at home except for essential work and essential errands,” Valerie A. Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, said in a statement.

The county’s drive-through testing site is located at the Central Campus of the Montgomery County Community College, at 340 Dekalb Pike in Whitpain Township. It will open again Sunday at 10 a.m. Eligible residents must schedule an appointment.

—Andrew Seidman

2:55 PM - April 18, 2020
2:55 PM - April 18, 2020

Upper Darby plans tentative graduation for July or August

With Pennsylvania schools closed through June, districts have been debating how to recognize graduating seniors. The Upper Darby School District on Saturday announced tentative dates for in-person ceremonies this summer, if social distancing guidelines are lifted.

In addition to a virtual graduation ceremony scheduled for June 9, the district hopes to hold an in-person ceremony either July 21 or Aug. 5 at the Tower Theater.

“Our seniors deserve it,” district spokesperson Aaronda Beauford said. But “we are operating in a situation with a lot of unknowns.

”If social distancing is relaxed by July 15, the district plans to hold the ceremony July 21. If that isn’t possible, it has a tentative plan to do so Aug. 5.

If neither date is permitted, Upper Darby is planning a “social gathering” for Nov. 25 at the Drexelbrook Catering and Special Event Center.

Beauford said the decision to plan in-person ceremonies was based on the desire of graduating seniors. “That was the prevailing voice,” she said.

Maddie Hanna

2:24 PM - April 18, 2020
2:24 PM - April 18, 2020

Gov. Murphy says calls to end social distancing in NJ are ‘irresponsible’

In his daily remarks Saturday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy rebuked calls from protesters to reopen the state , saying residents pushing for that at this point in the coronavirus pandemic is “irresponsible.”

“With all due respect, anyone who thinks we’re doing this to take away people’s rights isn’t looking at the data we’re looking it,” Murphy said. “We’re doing this to save people’s lives.”

One such protest took place Friday in Trenton, according to state police officials, and resulted in criminal charges for its organizer for ignoring social-distancing requirements.

Murphy said that if state leaders caved to this pressure and reversed his executive order, they would have “blood on our hands.”

“The minute we think we can begin to tweak this and open things up based on science and data and facts, we will do that,” he said.

Murphy’s comments came as New Jersey recorded 3,026 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the state’s total to 81,420. There were 231 new deaths attributed to the virus on Saturday, for a total of 4,070.

Of those deaths, 1,655 — a little more than 40% — were residents connected to long-term care facilities for seniors, according to Judith Persichilli, the commissioner of New Jersey’s Department of Health.

County data has often differed from state totals since COVID-19 began spreading in Pennsylvania; officials have said that the state releases daily totals on a count from the previous night at midnight, while counties update numbers throughout the day. But the significant gap between the city and state’s reported deaths in Philadelphia, first reported Friday by WHYY, did not narrow Saturday when the state released updated figures.

Philadelphia began reporting deaths differently Saturday, said Health Department Spokesman James Garrow, “using a new process that we hope will lessen any differences.”

Philadelphia has reported 121 deaths in the last three days, which is a third of the total since the first death was reported on March 25. While the total number of new cases reported in the city has plateaued, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley has said he expected the peak of hospitalizations and deaths in the city to lag behind.

As of Saturday, Philadelphia reported a total of 9,014 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in city residents.

Laura McCrystal, John Duchneskie

10:30 AM - April 18, 2020
10:30 AM - April 18, 2020

Pa. opens unemployment benefits applications to self-employed workers

Pennsylvanians who are self-employed, independent contractors, and gig workers can now file unemployment claims.

But hours after its launch, the state website was plagued with glitches, delays, and reports of crashes.

The website opened late Friday and was formally announced as open on Saturday morning, said Penny Ickes, a spokesperson for the state’s Department of Labor and Industry.

“Due to the demand on a new system, we know that it will not be perfect and is slow at this time,” she said. “We expect tens of thousands of people to apply, so we are asking for patience.”

The new application system is available for people who have traditionally been ineligible for unemployment benefits. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program is part of the federal relief package and is administered by the state.

Laura McCrystal

9:29 AM - April 18, 2020
9:29 AM - April 18, 2020

More than 15,000 people have called Philly coronavirus hotline

Since it launched a month ago, a Philadelphia hotline set up to field questions from the public about coronavirus has answered more than 15,000 calls, officials said.

The helpline, set up through the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia poison control hotline, has taken calls from people who have symptoms of COVID-19 as well as some who simply want information about it, said Jeanette Trella, managing director of the Poison Control Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Common questions from callers include what to do if they have symptoms, where to get tested for the virus, how to stay safe at work if they have an essential job, how people with chronic health conditions can protect themselves, and whether it is safe to open packages.

“We are doing what we can to keep people out of the hospital,” Trella said in a news release. “If they do need to seek care, we are guiding them to do so in a way that is safe for our health care providers and community.”

The helpline is staffed around the clock. Anyone can call to speak with a medical professional at 1-800-722-7112.

Laura McCrystal

7:45 AM - April 18, 2020
7:45 AM - April 18, 2020

Pregnant women turn to home births during pandemic

Tiearra Sampson and her son Zaiden Miles, 4, near their Philadelphia home. Sampson is pregnant and seeking a home birth. She fears exposure to COVID-19 if she goes to the hospital.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Tiearra Sampson and her son Zaiden Miles, 4, near their Philadelphia home. Sampson is pregnant and seeking a home birth. She fears exposure to COVID-19 if she goes to the hospital.

Tiearra Sampson described the hospital birth of her son nearly five years ago as “the worst delivery ever.”

“They gave me morphine. The morphine didn’t work. They gave me an epidural. It didn’t work,” Sampson recalled. “I still felt pain. I was throwing up."

After 12 hours in labor, she ended up having an emergency cesarean section at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP).

Still, Sampson, who is expecting her second child this summer, said she’d rather have a home birth — though she is aware of the risks — than take the chance of exposing herself or her baby to coronavirus during a hospital delivery.

Sampson is one of a growing number of pregnant women in Philadelphia who are seeking home births. What’s more, they’ll have to pay roughly $5,500 for a midwife, who is highly trained but whose fee is not covered by insurance.

Wendy Ruderman

7:40 AM - April 18, 2020
7:40 AM - April 18, 2020

As the coronavirus shutdown inches toward summer, Jersey Shore renters and homeowners hold their breath

Ventnor beaches and Boardwalk are closed until further notice due to the coronavirus outbreak.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
Ventnor beaches and Boardwalk are closed until further notice due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Typically at this time of year, Mary Arabia-Galgon is driving down Route 55 to open up her Wildwood duplex, and collecting final payments from the families who rent the spaces for the summer.

But this year, due to the coronavirus, Arabia-Galgon remains in her Bensalem home, watching the calendar days inch closer to May and anxiously anticipating a cancellation from her renters.

“I’m just holding my breath,” said Arabia-Galgon, 54.

Nearly all homeowners, renters, real estate brokers, and officials of New Jersey Shore communities have said something like that with a sigh, as shutdowns and beach closures edge into the summer with no clear end in sight, threatening the state’s multibillion-dollar tourism industry.

In Cape May County, which has about 50% of the state’s second homes, seasonal renters are worrying about refunds, homeowners and brokers are reviewing contract language, and officials are wondering if the entire local economy could be upended.

— Ellie Rushing

7:35 AM - April 18, 2020
7:35 AM - April 18, 2020

Coronavirus has disrupted education for all children. For those with disabilities, the challenges are greater.

Valerie King, grandmother and nursing assistant for the Powers family, holds the hand of Logan Powers (left) and sister Georgia Powers while they go for a family walk in West Philadelphia.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Valerie King, grandmother and nursing assistant for the Powers family, holds the hand of Logan Powers (left) and sister Georgia Powers while they go for a family walk in West Philadelphia.

Syrita Powers has advocated for her three daughters to get the resources they need in school. Her 11-year-old is autistic and works with reading and math specialists, while her 9- and 7-year-old sisters are nonverbal and have aides who even help them in the bathroom.

“My husband and I had a plan,” said Powers, of West Philadelphia. They told the schools: “If you all just meet us halfway, we can see what they’re capable of.”

They don’t know how they will manage at home.

With schools closed for the foreseeable future due to the coronavirus outbreak, families across the region have been challenged to oversee their children’s education. But for parents of students with special needs, the task is more daunting. Many are unsure how to assume roles normally filled by teams of professionals while also managing disruptions to their children’s lives.

— Maddie Hanna and Kristen Graham

7:29 AM - April 18, 2020
7:29 AM - April 18, 2020

Gov. Wolf outlines plan for reopening Pa. but says social distancing must continue for weeks

A runner using a mask for protection makes her way along Kelly Drive on Friday.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
A runner using a mask for protection makes her way along Kelly Drive on Friday.

Gov. Tom Wolf outlined a broad plan Friday to reopen parts of Pennsylvania’s economy by region, but cautioned that the phased reopening cannot happen until the spread of the coronavirus slows further. Social distancing will continue for “the next few weeks,” he said, asking Pennsylvanians to “stay the course.”

Reopening large swaths of the economy now would only “prolong this crisis,” the governor said, warning that the state has a shortage of testing materials and people continue to be hospitalized with, and die of, the highly contagious virus.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney on Friday also dismissed the possibility of the city returning to normal anytime soon, as the city’s health commissioner said officials were “absolutely not talking dates right now.”

Wolf’s 20-minute address announcing the reopening plan came after a week of national debate over the issue that saw apparent impatience from President Donald Trump to reopen at least parts of the country and saw governors across the Northeast and elsewhere making moves to take charge.

Justine McDaniel, Anna Orso, Sean Collins Walsh

7:15 AM - April 18, 2020
7:15 AM - April 18, 2020

Today’s Inquirer front page

The Inquirer front page for April 18, 2020.
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The Inquirer front page for April 18, 2020.