8:30 AM - April 26, 2020
8:30 AM - April 26, 2020

Read the latest Philadelphia-area coronavirus coverage here

The nation’s top infectious disease expert says the United States needs to at least double its testing capacity before reopening. Pennsylvania positive coronavirus cases surges past 40,000 cases. New Jersey’s not close to reopening, and while the growth of COVID-19 cases seemed to have plateaued in Philadelphia, it remained far above the level deemed necessary to safely lift the stay-at-home order that has emptied city parks, restaurants, and stadiums.

9:02 PM - April 25, 2020
9:02 PM - April 25, 2020

Pa. gas prices are about $1 cheaper than they were this time last year, AAA says

Signs advertise low fuel gas prices at an Exxon gas station in Dallas.
Lynda M. Gonzalez / MCT
Signs advertise low fuel gas prices at an Exxon gas station in Dallas.

As gas prices continue to tumble across the country, the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline in Pennsylvania has fallen to $2.05 per gallon — $1 cheaper than it was at this time last year, AAA reported Saturday.

In New Jersey, the price was $2.02, down from $2.91 on the same date last year, the automobile club said. That’s about a 4-cent decline in the last week in both states.

Nationally, the prices have plummeted more than a buck, from an average of $2.88 12 months ago to $1.78, a 2-cent drop in the last week.

The primary reason is the obvious: Demand is way down because most people have decided to obey orders and stay home. Even if demand goes up in areas that see an increase in sales, prices still will stay way below what they were last year, AAA said.

—Anthony R. Wood

5:54 PM - April 25, 2020
5:54 PM - April 25, 2020

Delaware governor orders residents to wear face coverings in public

Delaware Gov. John Carney (center), pictured in May 2019 with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (left) and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy at the Independence Seaport Museum.
DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer
Delaware Gov. John Carney (center), pictured in May 2019 with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (left) and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy at the Independence Seaport Museum.

Delaware Gov. John Carney on Saturday said he was ordering residents to wear face coverings in public, including in grocery stores and on public transportation, as the state continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

People must also wear face coverings “when they are in an outdoor public area, including state parks and golf courses, if maintaining social distancing of six feet between individuals of different households is impracticable,” among other circumstances, the governor’s office said.

The order takes effect 8 a.m. Tuesday. Children ages 12 and younger are exempt from the requirement and those 2 or younger should not follow it due to risk of suffocation, according to Carney’s statement.

Residents are discouraged from wearing medical-grade masks that are used by health-care professionals.

Carney also ordered businesses to provide face coverings and hand sanitizer to employees, require that all employees cover their face while working in an area open to the public, and deny entry to people who aren’t wearing a mask. The business order takes effect Friday.

“Wearing a face covering in public settings is important to prevent transmission of this disease. But wearing a face covering is not permission to go out in public more often,” Carney said.

“Delawareans should stay home unless it’s absolutely necessary to go out for essential work or essential items,” he said. "Don’t go out in public unnecessarily. You will only increase your risk — and the risk to your family, friends, and neighbors.”

—Andrew Seidman

3:45 PM - April 25, 2020
3:45 PM - April 25, 2020

One-fifth of Camden County coronavirus cases occurred in long-term care facilities, officials say

Camden County Police Officers distribute flyers along Federal Street in East Camden April 19, 2020 - echoing a lighted traffic information sign - encouraging residents to stop the spread of the coronavirus by staying at home, washing hands and following social distancing guidelines.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Camden County Police Officers distribute flyers along Federal Street in East Camden April 19, 2020 - echoing a lighted traffic information sign - encouraging residents to stop the spread of the coronavirus by staying at home, washing hands and following social distancing guidelines.

More than 80% of the 98 deaths linked to coronavirus in Camden County have occurred in long-term care facilities, according to data released Saturday.

Officials said 82 deaths have been reported from the county’s 56 long-term care facilities. In addition, 515 people have tested positive for the virus in the facilities, representing about one-fifth of the county’s 2,592 total confirmed cases, the county Department of Health said Saturday.

The county reported 122 more positive cases on Saturday.

“Despite testing being more available throughout the county than at any other point in this pandemic, the number of new cases each day has stayed in roughly the same place for more than a week," Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. said in a statement.

“This a testament to the hard work and dedication by the people of Camden County to stay home and stop the spread of coronavirus,” he said. “We cannot take our foot off the gas during this critical phase of our response.”

—Andrew Seidman

3:45 PM - April 25, 2020
3:45 PM - April 25, 2020

Montgomery County reports 93 more positive cases

An additional 93 people tested positive for coronavirus in Montgomery County, officials said Saturday, and five more people died.

The new infections raised the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases to 3,474 in the county, and 194 fatalities have been linked to the virus.

“We continue to report a steady number of individuals testing positive for COVID-19, which reinforces 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 new cases reported Saturday were down from 171 announced Friday and 119 the previous day.

—Andrew Seidman

3:00 PM - April 25, 2020
3:00 PM - April 25, 2020

Montco and Northeast Pa. food supply workers are now eligible for coronavirus testing

Agriculture, food supply, and grocery store workers in Montgomery County and Northeast Pennsylvania who have symptoms of COVID-19 are now eligible for testing at state-sponsored sites in Blue Bell and Wilkes-Barre, state officials announced Saturday.

Officials said those criteria were selected because the food supply chain is essential and Montgomery County and Northeast Pennsylvania have emerged as hot spots for the spread of the coronavirus.

As COVID-19 spreads in Pennsylvania, grocery store and meat plant workers have died of the highly contagious virus, and some meat processing plants around the country, including in Montgomery County and Northeast Pennsylvania, have closed operations.

"This priority has been given to workers up and down the supply chain – from farm to store – in Pennsylvania's most at-risk counties for community spread," Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding said in a news release. "It's a step to further acknowledge the risk and sacrifice being made by these workers, and further ensure that food will be on the shelves at both our grocery stores and food banks, when Pennsylvanians go looking."

Testing at state sites had previously been limited to health-care workers and older residents who have symptoms of the coronavirus. The eligible food supply workers can get tested at the state sites at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell or the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre.

Laura McCrystal

2:38 PM - April 25, 2020
2:38 PM - April 25, 2020

Hospitalizations are increasing in South Jersey, Gov. Murphy says

Medical workers walk through the Field Medical Station at the site of the Atlantic City Convention Center this week as it prepared to open as surge hospital space.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Medical workers walk through the Field Medical Station at the site of the Atlantic City Convention Center this week as it prepared to open as surge hospital space.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Saturday that the state’s efforts to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic are working, with clear signs that the “curve is flattening.” But Murphy also stressed that the state is far from reopening, especially as hospitalizations continue to increase in South Jersey.

“We know that folks have tested positive, but as [Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli] reminded me, a lot of those folks have battled and won, and the curve is flattening, it’s undeniably flattening, and that’s in the face of a lot of positive testing,” Murphy said. “We need to see more progress in slowing before we can begin implementing the new normal that waits for our state on the other side of this pandemic.”

An additional 3,457 New Jersey residents tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the state’s total to 105,523, according to official data. Of those, 5,863 have died.

In the state’s nursing homes, which have gained international attention after highly publicized deaths, a total of 252 residents have tested positive, 95 of whom have died. The state saw four new deaths at such facilities Saturday — one in Menlo Park and three in Paramus.

Persichilli said that statewide, hospitalizations have decreased over last week, particularly in the northern part of the state, which had been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic. But the number of people admitted to hospitals in South Jersey, particularly in counties close to Philadelphia, continues to rise, she said.

“Public health must come before we can begin to restart our economy,” Murphy said. “We cannot let up, we cannot let a beautiful spring day like this prevent our social distancing. There will be many other spring days to come, and we can enjoy them together. But not now.”

Vinny Vella

2:36 PM - April 25, 2020
2:36 PM - April 25, 2020

Coronavirus cases increase in ICE detainees

The number of ICE immigration detainees who tested positive for the coronavirus has surged to 317, up nearly nine-fold from the 32 cases reported less than three weeks ago, statistics show.

The new figure includes 14 infections among those held at the Pike County Correctional Facility in Northeast Pennsylvania.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which confines about 32,000 detainees across the country, has been criticized by advocates, attorneys and some judges for not taking stronger steps to slow the spread of the virus in detention centers. ICE officials say they have evaluated those in custody for who might be at higher risk, and relied on Centers for Disease Control guidelines for who should be tested or released.

As of April 21, ICE had tested a total of 425 detainees. In Pennsylvania, ICE holds undocumented migrants awaiting hearings or deportation in Clinton County, Pike County, York County, and Berks County, the latter one of the nation’s three centers for families.

Jeff Gammage

1:28 PM - April 25, 2020
1:28 PM - April 25, 2020

New cases of COVID-19 in Philly remain level

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the city would need to have less than 50 new cases per day to consider lifting the stay-at-home order. City officials reported 459 new cases Saturday.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the city would need to have less than 50 new cases per day to consider lifting the stay-at-home order. City officials reported 459 new cases Saturday.

Philadelphia officials reported 459 new cases of the coronavirus Saturday, bringing the total number of Philadelphia residents with the virus to more than 12,000.

The number of new cases reported each day in Philadelphia has been around 400 for the past week; while officials have noted optimism in a plateau in the number of new cases, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the city would need to have less than 50 new cases per day to consider lifting the stay-at-home order.

Officials also reported 17 additional deaths in people who had COVID-19. There have now been 466 deaths of Philadelphia residents connected to the virus. Officials said 53% of those deaths have been in residents of long-term care facilities.

As of Saturday, a total of 967 patients were hospitalized with the coronavirus in Philadelphia, and a total of 1,834 were hospitalized in the Greater Philadelphia area. Statewide, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said 2,746 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Saturday, and 662 of them have needed ventilators or breathing machines.

Laura McCrystal

1:18 PM - April 25, 2020
1:18 PM - April 25, 2020

North Wildwood motel will take 2020 season off due to coronavirus

The deserted beach in Atlantic City on April 1. The spread of the coronavirus in New Jersey has turned Atlantic City and the rest of the Jersey Shore into a ghost town.
File Photograph
The deserted beach in Atlantic City on April 1. The spread of the coronavirus in New Jersey has turned Atlantic City and the rest of the Jersey Shore into a ghost town.

COVID-19 has claimed another victim in New Jersey: The summer 2020 season for North Wildwood motel The Sandpiper.

“Due to the uncertainly[sic] of Covid-19, we have decided not to open the Sandpiper Motel during the 202 season,” says a message posted Saturday on the motel’s Facebook page, calling the well-being of guests, employees, and family “our top priority” and saying “it is best to err on the side of caution.”

All deposits for the season will be refunded shortly, the post says.

“This was an extremely difficult decision as we do not want to ruin anyone’s vacation. We are deeply sorry if we have let you down. Please accept our apologies.”

The post, signed by Bill, Kathy, Stephanie and Lauren, assures the Sandpiper “will be open and ready for another season of ‘fun in the sun’ in 2021.”

Diane Mastrull

12:28 PM - April 25, 2020
12:28 PM - April 25, 2020

Pa. reaches more than 40,000 confirmed cases

Pennsylvania now has more than 40,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Saturday.

“There continues to be spread of COVID-19,” Levine said at a news briefing.

Pennsylvania reached the grim milestone as officials prepare to begin reopening some regions of the state as early as May 8. But before reopening — which officials have said will not happen soon for Philadelphia and its surrounding counties — the state must work to increase testing and contact tracing of COVID-19 cases, Levine said.

“We’re developing those plans as we speak,” Levine said of contact tracing. “They should be ready this week.”

While state and local officials have complained in recent weeks of a lack of available supplies for testing for the coronavirus, Levine said Saturday that the shortage of supplies has improved.

“Our state laboratory in the last week has obtained significant number of supplies,” Levine said. She said she heard that local hospitals and testing sites have also obtained more supplies, but noted that more work is needed to expand testing availability.

“We want to be sure that we’re able to do testing of even mildly symptomatic Pennsylvanians” in order to reopen the state, Levine said.

As of Saturday, Levine said 1,537 Pennsylvanians who tested positive for the virus had died. And after the state removed more than 200 deaths this week from its COVID-19 death count, considering them to be ‘presumed’ rather than confirmed cases of the virus, Levine said state officials planned to reach out to county coroners this weekend to discuss their concerns about communication with the state Health Department.

Levine said the state would work with coroners “to explain our opinion and to work out a solution and a path forward.”

Laura McCrystal

9:55 AM - April 25, 2020
9:55 AM - April 25, 2020

Camden offers free produce to residents

Free produce is available for residents Saturday afternoon in Camden.

Residents can drive or walk up to the BB&T Center parking lot starting at 12:30 p.m. to get 20-pound bags of mixed produce. No identification or registration is required.

Camden County’s Freeholder Board is working with Farmers Against Hunger, Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, and the city to provide at least 10,000 pounds of produce to residents in need. Cases of the coronavirus have surged in the last few weeks in Camden, which is among the poorest cities in the country.

David Rivera reads a flyer handed out by Camden County Police offices along Federal Street in East Camden last week encouraging residents to stop the spread of the coronavirus by staying at home, washing hands, and following social distancing guidelines.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
David Rivera reads a flyer handed out by Camden County Police offices along Federal Street in East Camden last week encouraging residents to stop the spread of the coronavirus by staying at home, washing hands, and following social distancing guidelines.

“The coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating inequities that were already devastating families in struggling communities," Freeholder Jonathan Young said in a news release. “The Freeholder Board is working to ensure that no family goes hungry due to the economic effects of this crisis."

Laura McCrystal

8:52 AM - April 25, 2020
8:52 AM - April 25, 2020

Healthy people in their 30s and 40s, barely sick with COVID-19, are dying from strokes

Reports of strokes in the young and middle-aged are the latest twist in our evolving understanding of the mysteries of COVID-19. Even as the virus has infected nearly 2.8 million people worldwide and killed 195,000 as of Friday, its origins, biological mechanisms and weaknesses continue to elude top scientific minds. Once thought to be a pathogen that primarily attacks the lungs, it has turned out to be a much more formidable foe — affecting nearly every major organ system in the body.

Now three large U.S. medical centers, including Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals in Philadelphia, are preparing to publish data on the stroke phenomenon for the first time. The numbers are small, only a few dozen per location, but they provide new insights into what the virus does to our bodies.

Jefferson, which operates 14 medical centers in the Philadelphia region, and NYU Langone in New York City, found that 12 of their patients treated for large blood blockages in their brains during a three-week period had the virus. Forty percent were under 50, and had few or no risk factors. Their paper is under review by a medical journal, said Pascal Jabbour, a neurosurgeon at Thomas Jefferson.

Washington Post

7:42 AM - April 25, 2020
7:42 AM - April 25, 2020

Officials and advocates brace for a coronavirus spike in requests for food stamps and other benefits

Bisma Whack was already struggling to make ends meet when the coronavirus forced the closure of Chesterbrook Academy in University City, where she works as a preschool teacher.

Whack, 43, applied for food stamps when the school closed, afraid she would stop getting paid and wouldn’t have enough money to feed herself and her two children. But after she was furloughed this month, her application was denied.

She spent hours on hold with state offices, seeking answers. Then Community Legal Services, a Philadelphia organization that had previously helped her get money to pay her utility bills, helped submit documentation of her furloughed work status. Whack received money from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) this week.

Bisma Whack is a preschool teacher, with two kids, who is furloughed. Community Legal Services helped her apply for food stamps and medical assistance.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Bisma Whack is a preschool teacher, with two kids, who is furloughed. Community Legal Services helped her apply for food stamps and medical assistance.

Whack is one of many Philadelphia residents who has reached out to Community Legal Services since the pandemic thrust workers into unemployment and economic instability. Other similar advocacy groups for the needy have also reported an increase in calls.

One such organization, BenePhilly, normally answers about 80 calls a week but answered 323 calls — a 300% increase — during one week in early April. The Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger said it processed about 26% more applications in the last month than its average in the past year.

Laura McCrystal

7:39 AM - April 25, 2020
7:39 AM - April 25, 2020

COVID-19 deaths triple at Chester County state-run veterans nursing home as families clamor for information

Almost every day over the last two weeks, military veterans and their spouses have been dying at a top-rated, state-run nursing home in Chester County ravaged by the coronavirus.

One, two, four a day.

The death toll has nearly tripled over the last five days at the sprawling, 283-bed Southeastern Veterans’ Center complex in a wooded stretch of East Vincent Township, near the Schuylkill. As of Friday, 26 residents who had tested positive for COVID-19 or were presumed to be infected have died, according to the Chester County coroner.

“They’re sitting ducks, the veterans,” said Nadine Bean, daughter-in-law of a 95-year-old World War II veteran who lives there.

Interviews with nursing home staff and residents’ families over the last week paint a grim picture of Southeastern Veterans’ Center, one of six state-owned veterans nursing homes, and show that even highly regarded facilities can be unprepared and devastated by the novel scourge.

William Bender, Allison Steele, Vinny Vella

7:35 AM - April 25, 2020
7:35 AM - April 25, 2020

A Delco couple eloped on their front porch as family and friends watched on Facebook

Joy Karsner, 39, and Brian Barton, 44, of Springfield, Delaware County eloped on their front porch on Friday.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Joy Karsner, 39, and Brian Barton, 44, of Springfield, Delaware County eloped on their front porch on Friday.

Anybody can elope to Vegas.

But it takes true love to elope on a front porch in Delco.

And so it was Friday night — as neighbors looked on in their quarantine finest, and loved ones watched from miles away on Facebook — that Joy Karsner married Brian Barton at their Springfield, Delaware County, home in a ceremony they dubbed “Eloping in Quarantine.”

The people of Ballymore Road came out with their babies and their beers, their dogs and their dancing shoes to groove on the sidewalk to the tunes of DJ Neeek Nyce and to celebrate the couple, true love, and finally having something to do on a Friday night.

Stephanie Farr

7:30 AM - April 25, 2020
7:30 AM - April 25, 2020

Health Secretary Rachel Levine is the face of the state’s fight against coronavirus. She has also faced hate speech.

Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine speaking at a virtual press conference about the coronavirus.
Commonwealth Media Services
Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine speaking at a virtual press conference about the coronavirus.

Every afternoon Rachel Levine stands behind a lectern in Harrisburg and answers questions about death counts and infection rates. She calmly, matter-of-factly, updates Pennsylvanians on the coronavirus’ toll.

Levine, the Pennsylvania health secretary, has become the face of the state’s fight against the catastrophic virus, standing beside Gov. Tom Wolf, or running the show solo, with a leather portfolio and head full of numbers and policy directives for quarantined citizens watching on phones or laptops.

Levine, 62, was already better known than many state health secretaries for becoming the first transgender person appointed to a Pennsylvania cabinet position in 2015, when she was named state physician general. She became secretary two years later.

Julia Terruso

7:20 AM - April 25, 2020
7:20 AM - April 25, 2020

Officials say Philly region is not close to reopening; N.J. and Delaware prepare to release reopening plans

A health-care worker stands with coronavirus test tubes at a testing site outside the Mount Airy Church of God in Christ in Philadelphia on Friday.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
A health-care worker stands with coronavirus test tubes at a testing site outside the Mount Airy Church of God in Christ in Philadelphia on Friday.

Seven weeks after the first diagnoses in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia is “still in the thick” of the coronavirus pandemic, and the infection rates in neighboring counties are not slowing enough to consider reopening, officials said Friday. In New Jersey, the number of people infected passed 100,000, the second-highest case count in the nation, with more than 5,600 dead.

“We had 253 people die today; positive tests are still going up,” said Gov. Phil Murphy, indicating it remained unclear when New Jersey will restart its economy. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Philadelphia officials said the same, reporting 651 new confirmed cases on Friday, while Delaware County officials said the county had “a ways to go.” Montgomery County’s current rate of infection is substantially higher than the state’s benchmark for possible reopening — a calculation clarified Friday by the state Department of Health — and officials said it was also far from opening.

Statewide, an additional 1,600 people had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Friday, meaning about 38,600 Pennsylvanians have confirmed infections. Nearly 1,500 people have died, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Friday.

Justine McDaniel, Anna Orso, Pranshu Verma

7:15 AM - April 25, 2020
7:15 AM - April 25, 2020

Today’s Inquirer front page

The Inquirer front page for April 25, 2020.
staff
The Inquirer front page for April 25, 2020.