Read the latest Philadelphia-area coronavirus updates here
As Gov. Tom Wolf plans to ease restrictions in 24 Pennsylvania counties, the decline of new cases of the coronavirus in Philadelphia remains “very slow,” according to Thomas Farley, the city’s health commissioner. And the coronavirus has exposed deep racial inequities in health care, as black patients in Philadelphia are dying of the virus at a rate that is 30% higher than white patients.
Getting specialty fine wines in Pa. could soon be easier under a new court ruling
The specialty fine wines in Pennsylvania that aren’t available through the State Store system will soon be easier to buy, thanks to a court ruling Friday. But it remains unclear how soon consumers may see a benefit.
Specialty wine dealers last month sued the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to allow direct sales of special order wines to consumers, and to retailers and restaurants that sell wine for takeout. The Commonwealth Court ruled in favor of the dealers Friday.
Zach Morris, owner of the Bloomsday cafe, wine bar, and bottle shop in Old City, said the decision had made it a “great day for consumers and a great day for people who love wine and want to get it more easily.”
Friday’s reported deaths included residents between the ages of 69 and 93; with 240 people remaining hospitalized and 28 in critical condition.
On Thursday, David Damsker, head of the county’s Department of Health, said there is “no question” that the vast majority of coronavirus deaths in Bucks County come from long-term-care facilities for seniors.
How to personally deliver something (safely) during the pandemic
Say you bought groceries for your elderly neighbor.
Or you have a document you need to physically get to your colleague.
Or you baked a lasagna for a friend.
How do you do that during the pandemic?
As people have encountered this, they’ve asked us what to do. So we asked some experts, and the good news is there are some straightforward things to follow that will greatly minimize the risk of becoming infected or transmitting the coronavirus.
Two SEPTA employees die of coronavirus complications, bringing total to 7
Two additional SEPTA employees have died of coronavirus complications, SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards told employees in an email sent Friday.
Both longtime employees with the transportation authority, Steve McFadden worked as a Regional Rail conductor and Terrance Burton as a bus operator. Seven total SEPTA employees have now died of the illness.
“My thoughts are with all of you as we grieve the loss of our SEPTA family members,” Richards said in the message. “These are tough times and I am here for you and ask that you also continue be there for each other. Together, we will help each other through this.”
Pa. sets modest goal to conduct 8,500 coronavirus tests per day, far less than what some experts say is needed
As national experts sound the alarm that the nation needs to dramatically increase coronavirus testing, Pennsylvania officials said Friday that they will aim to conduct a modest 8,500 tests per day as they begin loosening restrictions across large swaths of the state.
The Department of Health’s plan sets a target for testing 2% of Pennsylvania’s population — or 256,000 people — each month. Health Secretary Rachel Levine said the state will continue to restrict testing to only those people who are showing coronavirus symptoms.
“We will continually remain flexible in our testing strategy as the disease changes and progresses,” Levine said during a news briefing.
Krys Johnson, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Temple University, said she was disappointed by the administration’s goal.
“I was really hoping to see something more aspirational,” Johnson said. “Not something that we have previously achieved.”
The Wolf administration’s daily testing target is about 2,000 more than the roughly 6,000 tests currently being conducted each day in Pennsylvania. But it’s only about 500 tests more than the state’s peak of 7,915 new tests reported April 4.
It’s also significantly less than benchmarks proposed by most national researchers who say that dramatically expanded testing and contact tracing is needed to prevent future coronavirus outbreaks.
Photos: Food boxes replace community iftars during Ramadan
Because the coronavirus has made it impossible to hold community iftars during Ramadan, the Philadelphia Ramadan and Eid Fund distributed boxes of produce and halal meats at the Philadelphia Masjid in West Philly on Friday. The food distribution was hosted in partnership with Share Food program, which donated all the produce, as well as Muslims Serve, Keystone First, and local leaders.
Mayor Kenney calls for end to city arts agency, cutting $4 million in cultural spending
In his new budget to cope with the revenue loss driven by the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Jim Kenney on Friday proposed the complete elimination of the city’s Office of Arts, Culture, and Creative Economy — a $4 million cut that would end grants to hundreds of cultural groups in the city.
The shutdown of the arts office would lso spell an end to the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, which this fiscal year year distributed over $3 million to community organizations all over the city.
The Cultural Fund is the only such support offered by the city to its growing population of artists, performers, and arts organizations. In the past year the cultural fund disbursed 349 grants, the most in its 25-year history.
The Art in City Hall program, administered by the arts and culture office, was also eliminated, leaving exhibition spaces throughout City Hall with a barren future and depriving artists of an opportunity in a period of shriveling opportunities.
Philly police to resume arrests for burglary, theft after increase in thievery
Philadelphia Police will again make arrests for some low-level crimes, like burglary and theft, as the department says it has seen an increase in cases in recent weeks.
Effective immediately, police will begin arresting people for burglary, retail theft, theft from a car or a person, and stolen cars, the department announced Friday. The arrested person will be transported to a police facility and processed in the traditional manner.
In mid-March, to manage jail crowding amid closed courts, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw sad the department would delay arrests for non-violent crimes, including drug offenses, theft, and prostitution. Instead of processing at the police facility, the offender would be detained at the scene to be fingerprinted and identified, and police would submit paperwork for charges to be filed later.
However, there have been increases in retail thefts and burglaries committed by repeat offenders, the department said in a press release Friday.
"At the time of the change, the Department was clear in that the list of offenses was subject to review and revision as conditions continued to evolve," said Outlaw. "Predictably, conditions have, in fact, evolved in dynamic fashion. Accordingly, we have reviewed our current protocols and have made several adjustments."
“The Police Department will continue to review its policies on a perpetual basis, and will keep the community informed of relevant revisions or amendments,” the department said.
How Pa. plans to keep track of the coronavirus after reopening to prevent another outbreak
While there have been calls for the federal government to assist in creating a new national tracing force, it has so far left action to the states. As of last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Health employed 131 public health nurses, down from 177 nurses in 2012, which is as far back as the state’s online payroll data shows.
Officials said an additional 16 employees from the department’s epidemiology and hospital-acquired infection teams are assisting with tracing.
As of last week, there were 31 public health nurse vacancies. These nurses are responsible for overseeing 60% of the state’s population — or about one nurse for every 56,000 people — including rural areas and populous suburbs like Delaware County.
Only six counties and four cities have their own health departments and contact tracers. However, the state nurses can get called in to support those local health departments, too, as has been the case with Montgomery County, which has been overwhelmed by the coronavirus.
As the state begins reopening, the nurses will also reach out to people who have come in contact with infected individuals and inform them that they should quarantine as well, Levine said. Without this work, asymptomatic individuals could spread the virus to many more people, leading to another outbreak.
Phish reschedules Atlantic City Beach concerts for 2021
There will be no Phish on the beach.
Not this year, anyway.
Popular jam band Phish announced on Friday that its 2020 summer tour will be rescheduled to the summer of 2021 because of coronavirus concerns.
That means that the three night stand the band had planned for Aug. 14 to 16 on the Atlantic City Beach is off. The three AC dates have been rescheduled for almost exactly a year later, and are now slated for Aug. 13 to 15, 2021.
The Trey Anastasio-led band, which last played the Philadelphia area with a intimate-by-their-standards show at The Met Philadelphia in December, issued a statement on its website: "Due to the ongoing pandemic, we sadly have made the difficult decision to reschedule Phish’s entire 2020 summer tour, now moving to the summer of 2021.
“We’ve been as excited as ever to play music for you all, and are so heartbroken to postpone these dates. The health and well-being of Phish fans, our touring crew, and the communities in which the band plays is our top concern.”
U.S. regulators on Friday allowed emergency use of an experimental drug that appears to help some coronavirus patients recover faster.
It is the first drug shown to help fight COVID-19, which has killed more than 230,000 people worldwide.
President Donald Trump announced the news at the White House alongside Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, who said the drug would be available for patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
The FDA acted after preliminary results from a government-sponsored study showed that Gilead Sciences’s remdesivir shortened the time to recovery by 31%, or about four days on average, for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
After the city broke up a homeless encampment, a COVID-19 outbreak and a death at a Philadelphia shelter
A man living in a Center City homeless shelter died of the coronavirus on April 2 after an outbreak of the disease infected more than three dozen people at the facility, The Inquirer has learned.
The death occurred 10 days after the city violated federal protocol by breaking up a homeless encampment at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and bringing some of its inhabitants into the shelter.
The man is the only known homeless person among 5,700 shelter residents in Philadelphia to die from COVID-19, city officials said. In a statement, they described the encampment as “dangerous" and said that moving people into the shelter was “absolutely the right thing to do,” a “humane intervention.”
A 46-year-old man who died was from Puerto Rico and had been living in Our Brother’s Place at 907 Hamilton St. since October 2016. He had suffered from various health conditions, “making him very vulnerable to the illness,” according to Misty Sparks, director of entry level programs at Bethesda Project, a homeless service provider that operates the shelter for the city of Philadelphia. She declined to provide his name or other details.
CDC: Pennsylvania leads the nation in coronavirus cases among meat plant workers
Pennsylvania leads the nation in confirmed cases of COVID-19 among meat production workers, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, the same day workers from one Central Pennsylvania plant began protesting what they described as unsafe working conditions.
Across Pennsylvania, there are 22 meat and poultry processing plants with workers sickened by the coronavirus, the report says. The state with the next highest number of impacted plants, Georgia, has almost half as many facilities affected.
Pennsylvania’s 858 confirmed cases of the virus among meat production workers also tops other states’ tallies by dozens of cases, signaling that the invisible virus had spread further across this essential industry in recent weeks than the public had realized.
“Wow,” said Wendell Young IV, who leads the 35,000-member United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, which represents workers in four Pennsylvania meat plants, which have closed temporarily due to concerns related to the pandemic. He said the CDC’s findings make sense because so many of the facilities are located on the I-80 corridor that stretches to New York.
N.J. cardiologist suffers stroke due to coronavirus, and he’s not alone
After five days the worst of the COVID-19 symptoms — the headache, the fever, the body ache — had ended. But it was only the start of the medical crisis for Troy Randle, a New Jersey cardiologist who is recovering from a devastating coronavirus consequence that doctors are only now learning about.
In mid-April, shortly after he was declared safe to go back to work treating patients in the Virtua Health System, Randle’s headache returned, more vicious than the last time.
“It felt like a sharp pain in the back of my head, and then I felt this intense pressure in the front,” the Mullica Hill man said. “It felt like a vise.”
Randle, 49, tried to wait it out at home. But after days of relentless pain, his wife Melody, a nurse practitioner, broke into tears, begging him to the hospital, where he had a CT scan and an MRI.
“I was totally blown away when they said I had a stroke,” Randle said.
Though it’s still a fairly unusual occurrence, more people Randle’s age and younger appear to have suffered strokes as a result of infection with the coronavirus. The connections between the virus and strokes are just beginning to be understood, but seem related to blood clots that form at a shockingly high rate in certain patients. Clots cause strokes when they block blood flow to the brain, and in COVID patients, these strokes may be especially dangerous and hard to treat.
Montco officials urge residents to resist crowding trails, public areas this weekend
Montgomery County is encouraging its residents to go outside in their own neighborhoods this warm spring weekend instead of crowding trails and other public areas. To help people do so, officials have created an interactive “low stress streets” portal to help residents find neighborhood areas near their address where it is easy to bike, run, and walk.
“I encourage everyone to take advantage of the weather this weekend,” Commissioner Ken Lawrence said, “but please practice social distancing.”
On Friday, Val Arkoosh, chair of the county commissioners, announced 119 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the county, for a total of 4,310, and 18 new deaths, for a total of 293.
Even the best case for coronavirus deaths is worse than Trump says, according to a new Wharton model
The number of coronavirus-related deaths and the economic impact of the pandemic over the next two months will vary widely depending on how quickly the U.S. economy reopens, according to a new model, with even the best-case scenario exceeding the fatalities predicted by President Donald Trump.
Even with no changes to the current patchwork of state-mandated business closures and social distancing guidelines, the number of coronavirus cases in the United States could reach 2.3 million by the end of June, with 117,000 deaths, according to the new Penn Wharton Budget Model analysis released Friday.
And if state governments relax all business restrictions, throw open travel and commerce, and drop all social distancing guidelines, the Penn model predicts a worst-case scenario of 8 million cases and 350,000 deaths in the next two months.
“If states fully reopen, that could be the worst-case number, using currently available models,” Wharton professor Kent Smetters said.
American Airlines to require all passengers to wear masks
American Airlines, the dominant carrier at Philadelphia International Airport, will require all passengers to wear a facial covering or mask beginning May 11.
Passengers are expected to bring their own masks, but the airline is working to procure face masks and hand sanitizer it can offer to customers as a supplement, according to Kurt Stache, senior vice president of customer experience.
"The American Airlines team continues to prioritize the safety of our customers and team members, and requiring a face covering is one more way we can protect those on our aircraft,” Stache said in a statement.
Over recent days, several airline companies — including Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, JetBlue, and Frontier Airlines — have announced new requirements related to facial coverings.
Carney: Delaware coronavirus trends heading in positive direction, but not yet ready to loosen restrictions
Delaware Gov. John Carney said COVID-19 trend lines are heading in a positive direction, but said the state isn’t yet ready to begin loosening restrictions put in place to limit the spread of the virus.
"We're not there yet, but we're getting there," Carney said during a Friday press briefing.
Carney said that while the number of hospitalizations decreases, new coronavirus cases continue to rise, which he attributed to increased testing in hot spots in Sussex County.
Carney has repeatedly said he will follow federal guidelines created by the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, which says states must show 14 days of declining rates of positive COVID-19 cases before beginning to ease restrictions. But Friday, Carney suggested officials might have to look at different criteria, considering the large disparity between the northern and southern part of the state.
"We know that we'll have to come up with a different measure than day-to-day declining cases,” Carney said.
As of Friday, there have been at least 4,918 positive COVID-19 cases in Delaware, including 2,292 in Sussex County, which continues to lead the state despite having less than half the population of New Castle County. 159 Delawareans have died.
Pennsylvania to partner with health-care workers, academic institutions to increase contact tracing
Health Secretary Rachel Levine Friday unveiled the state department’s contact tracing plan, which can help mitigate the spread of the virus as counties throughout the commonwealth begin to ease restrictions.
Levine said health-care workers, academic institutions, volunteers, and possibly newly hired volunteers will do that work along with the state health department. The department will also improve its technology and workflow processes. The state plans “to hire people when needed” to do contact tracing, Levine said, but will begin with existing members of the medical and public health communities.
Contact tracing involves contacting anyone whom an infected person may have infected and telling them to self-quarantine for 14 days to reduce the spread.
As far as diagnostic testing, “we plan to make testing widely available,” Levine said. The department plans to work with pharmacies and other health partners to increase the amount of testing it’s able to do. She said they also hope to add more mass testing sites, such as one in the Northeast, and remain “flexible” as the situation changes.
Levine said she hopes contact tracing efforts and increased testing in yellow phases of reopening will prevent clusters of coronavirus cases from becoming outbreaks, which would require a county to return to red.
The state health department is working with the governor’s office to incentivize Pennsylvania companies and manufacturers to create their own rapid tests, Levine said.
Wolf: ‘Every Pennsylvanian should feel proud of the work we all did to flatten this curve'
Gov. Tom Wolf expressed a measured degree of satisfaction on Friday in formally announcing which 24 counties in the Northern and central parts of the state would reopen on May 8.
“Working together, we Pennsylvanians have flattened the curve,” he said. ‘While we still have areas where outbreaks are happening, we also have many areas that are having few or no new cases.”
His announcement came less than an hour after his office released the list of reopening counties. The Philadelphia region is expected to be among the last to reopen.
Wolf said the counties were chosen due to a number of criteria including few cases per capita and low population density, and they’re already looking at counties to reopen next. These include some counties in the southwest.
“We finally made it to the moment of starting to reopen our commonwealth and it has been a tough time for everyone,” Wolf said. “Even though we’ve had to separate ourselves physically to succeed, we’ve only made it here by working together. Every Pennsylvanian should feel proud of the work we all did to flatten this curve.”
When asked why Centre County, which includes the main campus of Pennsylvania State University, was reopening when it had nearly 100 cases, while other central Pennsylvania counties such as Indiana had fewer, Wolf said he took into account the area’s capacity for testing and contact tracing.
“We have made decisions based on the overall case count, new case count,” Wolf said. “They also have capacity in Centre County that other counties don’t have. They have capacity for testing. They have capacity for contact tracing.”
Wolf reiterated that the move to lift some restrictions is not permanent. If the number of cases spikes in a county once they enter the yellow phase, Wolf said, they may have to go back to red “and try this again.”
He said he and his staff haven’t discussed how often they will provide updates about when other Pennsylvania counties can move into the yellow phase, but that “we’ll go as fast in the process as we can.”
Pennsylvania announced 1,208 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, for a total of 46,971 cases. Of those, 2,354 patients have died. As of Friday, 2,677 patients remain hospitalized, and 561 are on ventilators, a number that has decreased in recent days. Hospital beds, ICU beds, and ventilators remain available.
Philly may delay hiring of traffic enforcement officers until next year
A plan to help tame Philadelphia’s snarled streets doesn’t look likely to happen anytime soon.
A new public safety enforcement officer program is budgeted in the coming fiscal year, but the city is “considering delaying" hiring until FY2022, Managing Director Brian Abernathy said in a statement Friday.
The unarmed “boots-on-the-ground” officers in the traffic plan would patrol designated zones in Center City and enforce violations like illegal double parking and blocking bike lanes and crosswalks, according to the proposed guidelines from the Managing Director’s Office shared with The Inquirer in March.
Murphy: Follow social distancing guidelines as N.J. prepares to reopen parks, golf courses
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy warned residents to heed social distancing guidelines as the state prepares to reopen parks and golf courses this weekend.
“We will be closely monitoring actions across the weekend,” Murphy said during his Friday press briefing. “If we see what we saw over the first weekend in April, when we had good weather … we will not hesitate to re-close the parks.”
Many of the COVID-19 metrics in New Jersey appear to be declining, including hospitalizations, which as of Friday stands at 5,972 patients — down 28% since a peak of 8,293 on April 14. 1,724 of those hospitalized are in critical or intensive care, 75% of whom are on a ventilator.
New Jersey reported 311 new deaths on Friday, increasing the state’s death toll to 7,538, the second-highest in the country. The number of positive COVID-19 cases rose by 2,651, bringing the state’s total to at least 121,190.
Murphy announced he will be relaxing the in-person requirement for solemnization of marriage licenses, allowing couples to wed using video-conference technology. Municipalities will still permitted to allow in-person ceremonies, subject to social distancing, but will not be required to do so.
Murphy said he plans to announce whether public schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year next week.
Murphy also addressed problems some New Jersey residents have experienced trying to claim unemployment benefits, noting about 200,000 people who are self-employed, independent contractors, or gig workers will have their claims processed starting Friday and over the weekend.
“Every New Jerseyan eligible for unemployment benefits will receive every dollar, every penny they qualify for,” Murphy said.
Pa. will ease coronavirus restrictions in 24 northwest, north-central counties as reopening process begins
State officials will ease some coronavirus restrictions next week in 24 northwest and north-central counties, the first step in the Wolf administration’s plan to gradually reopen Pennsylvania by region.
At 2 p.m., Gov. Tom Wolf will announce that these counties can enter the “yellow” phase of a tiered reopening plan on May 8, according to administration officials.
The counties allowed to do so are Bradford, Cameron, Centre, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, Lycoming, McKean, Mercer, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Tioga, Union, Venango, and Warren.
In this phase, child care operations can resume and retail stores can reopen to customers, though curbside pickup and delivery remains preferable and certain safety precautions must be taken. Some businesses that cannot accommodate telework will be allowed to resume in-person operations, though they must provide masks to workers and ensure proper social distancing.
Gyms, theaters, and schools will remain closed, and gatherings of more than 25 people will be prohibited. Restaurants and bars will only be permitted to remain open for takeout.
Philadelphia coronavirus testing capacity is increasing, officials say
Testing capacity for the coronavirus is gradually increasing in Philadelphia, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Friday, as the city is receiving an increasing number of laboratory results daily.
Farley reported 669 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Friday — a number that he said was due in large part to a backlog at laboratories, and also in part due to expanded testing for the virus.
The city has typically received about 1,400 laboratory results daily, but Farley said it received more than 3,000 test results on Friday. He did not indicate how many of them may be attributed to a backlog in laboratories as opposed to increased testing, but the number of testing sites in the city has grown in recent days.
“Testing continues to gradually expand in its availability,” Farley said, and the city expects to continue receiving larger batches of test results each day.
Farley also announced 31 additional deaths due to the coronavirus Friday, bringing the city’s total number of deaths since the start of the pandemic to 638.
Women, minorities shoulder frontline work during coronavirus pandemic
As America tentatively emerges from weeks of lockdowns, it is becoming clear that the pandemic has taken its toll on workers who have been on the front lines all along.
They have been packing and delivering supplies, caring for the sick and elderly, and keeping streets and buildings clean.
They have also watched their coworkers fall ill. Thousands have gotten sick themselves. Many have died.
The burden has been borne unevenly across gender, racial and socio-economic lines, according to an Associated Press analysis of census data in the country’s 100 largest cities. They are mostly women, people of color and more likely to be immigrants.
Workers deemed “essential” are also more likely to live below the federal poverty line or hover just above it. They are more likely to have children at home, and many live with others who also have frontline jobs.
Pa. tax revenues plummet $2.2 billion as top state official warns reopening won’t end economic pain
Pennsylvania’s tax revenues nosedived $2.2 billion in April, falling 50% below official estimates, according to figures released Friday by the state Department of Revenue.
The majority of the shortfall is due to the three-month extension of the deadline for filing personal income taxes, which means that almost $2 billion that is usually collected in April will not flow into the state’s coffers until July.
But roughly $400 million is the direct fallout from the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak, state Revenue Secretary C. Daniel Hassell said, a drop of roughly 10% that represents “a significant shortfall all by itself." Revenue declines will only increase as summer approaches, Hassell said.
“This is by no means over even once we get to the point where businesses are allowed to reopen in the coming weeks,” he said.
The new numbers offer the starkest picture yet of the damage inflicted on the state’s finances by the outbreak, adding a looming budget deficit to the list of pressing issues Gov. Tom Wolf and lawmakers must address in the next two months.
Ventnor to open beaches May 8 for ‘passive recreation’
Ventnor announced on Friday it would be reopening its beaches at sunrise on Friday, May 8 for “passive recreation,” but the boardwalk will remained closed until further notice.
In a post on the city’s Facebook page, Ventnor City Commissioner of Public Safety Tim Kriebel outlined beach restrictions that will be in place, which include no swimming, sunbathing, organized sports, or groups of people gathering. Beachgoers will be permitted to walk, run, exercise, and walk their dogs on the beach, as long as they abide by social distancing guidelines.
“We believe these measures are in keeping with the spirit of the executive orders and have proven to discourage the surge in population that is counterproductive in reducing the spread of the novel virus COVID-19 in Ventnor,” Kriebel wrote.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Wednesday that New Jersey’s state parks and forests will reopen Saturday morning, and that county parks and golf courses will be allowed to reopen under certain restrictions. But he said guidance on the state’s beaches will depend on people adhering to social distancing guidelines.
“We’ll see how it goes in terms of opening parks. If folks do what we’re asking them to do, that will have a huge impact on our ability to take what I call baby steps,” Murphy said. “Let’s see how parks go, but no decisions yet or imminently on beaches.”
Atlantic City beaches and its boardwalk remain open, and other Shore towns are considering reopening their beaches and boardwalks in time for Memorial Day weekend, albeit with similar social gathering restrictions.
Mayor Kenney says revising budget to include tax hikes, layoffs, and service cuts was ‘truly painful’
Revising the city budget in face of the COVID-19 crisis involved making “truly painful decisions,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a video released Friday morning, as he explained the tax hikes, layoffs, and service reductions needed to fill a massive hole in the spending plan,
“This is not what I want for my residents and I understand if this leaves many of you angry. Frankly I’m angry and disappointed too,” Kenney said. “But after that anger fades we must remember exactly what we are dealing with. What we have is both a global pandemic and an economic catastrophe.”
The city projects a $649 million budget hole in the next fiscal year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. By comparison, Kenney said, the city had a projected $108 million deficit in 2009 during the Great Recession.
Kenney said the city learned from that last recession — when there was a heated debate about the potential closing of libraries and it took the city until last year to reopen closed firehouses — that public safety and neighborhood facilities must remain open. He has proposed reducing hours and programming at libraries and rec centers, and has vowed that there will be no closing of firehouses and no layoffs in the fire or police departments.
Hundreds of other city employees will lose their jobs — a decision that Kenney called “truly the most painful part” of his new budget plan. Kenney also wants to hike property taxes, parking taxes, and the nonresident wage tax rate, increase certain city fees, and freeze planned reductions in resident wage taxes and business taxes. Some City Council members, who can make changes to Kenney’s plan before approving it, have already expressed concern about tax hikes.
U.S. Supreme Court justice orders Wolf to respond to lawsuit opposing business shutdown orders
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has ordered Gov. Tom Wolf to respond to a lawsuit by a group of Pennsylvania business people seeking to overturn the state’s coronavirus shutdown order rights, the Morning Call reports.
The petitioners, including a Bethlehem real estate agent and a candidate for state representative from western Pennsylvania, are arguing the order violated their constitutional guarantees against having property taken without compensation, their rights to judicial review, equal protection under the law and free speech.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court previously denied the request April 13.
The group filed a petition this week asking the U.S. Supreme Court to suspend enforcement of the order pending an appeal of the state high court’s decision.
Alito, the justice assigned to rule on motions arising from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, on Tuesday ordered Wolf to file a response by noon Monday. The Third Circuit is based in Philadelphia and covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
Wolf’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
GOP lawmakers call on Del. Gov. John Carney to ease COVID-19 restrictions
Republican lawmakers in Delaware are calling on Gov. John Carney to ease coronavirus restrictions and begin to reopen the economy.
In an open letter sent to Carney on Thursday, the 15 members of the state House Republican Caucus pushed to reopen non-essential businesses as long as they observe social distancing practices to mitigate the spread of COVID-19:
“We need to restart our economy now in a way that responsibly manages risk; allows businesses to resume operations under protocol to curtail the spread of the virus; and provides our citizens and businesses with a predictable path forward that allows them to make plans on which they can act.”
Delaware has gone two straight days adding less than 100 new COVID-19 cases, but on April 28 the state reported 413 new cases, the second highest one-day total since the pandemic began. Through Thursday, 4,734 Delawareans have tested positive for coronavirus, and 152 have died.
Pa. drivers get extension for renewing expired licenses
Pennsylvania drivers have a little more time to renew expiring driver licenses due to the coronavirus shutdown.
If you have a driver’s license, photo ID card, or a learner’s permit that was set to expire between March 16 and May 31, you now have until June 30 to renew it, PennDot said Friday. Initially, the department had extended these expiration dates through May 31.
The latest announcement did not mention vehicle registrations, safety inspections, emissions inspections, and persons with disability parking placards. If you have any of those that expired between March 16 and April 30, the deadlines were already extended through May 31.
All license and photo centers remain closed throughout the commonwealth. Some transactions and services can be done on the DMV website.
New Jersey order forbids open-casket funerals. Now, families have no chance to say goodbye.
Since early March, a stream of mourners has coursed through the doors of Alison Perinchief’s Mount Holly funeral home looking to honor a loved one who has died from the coronavirus.
But late last week, Perinchief had to struggle with a first as a funeral director: Tell a grieving daughter she could not say goodbye to her mom, who died in a Burlington County nursing home from the coronavirus, nor honor her mother’s last wishes.
“Her mom wanted her hair done, wanted to be in a particular dress, wanted to have her makeup done,” Perinchief said. “I said that we’re not allowed to have an open casket funeral at this time. She just started crying. … She wanted to see mom, because mom always had talked about being in a particular dress."
As the coronavirus rages across New Jersey — already claiming more than 7,000 lives — state Health Department officials last week barred New Jersey funeral homes from holding open-casket ceremonies. The directive landed at the same time as South Jersey funeral homes were already feeling the growing impact of the pandemic, thanks to both a spike in local cases and the need for them to assist with a crush of bodies from the north.
Late Thursday, state officials said they were reconsidering the open-casket ban. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say people are not at risk of getting infected by the coronavirus from a dead body, but urge viewings to be limited to no more than 10 people — or ideally, livestreamed — while keeping social distance.
Law protecting Philadelphia domestic workers takes effect as they’re losing jobs in droves
Philadelphia’s Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, a law aimed at protecting the city’s 16,000 nannies, house cleaners, and home care workers, takes effect Friday, in the middle of a pandemic that’s left a huge portion of these workers — mostly women of color, many undocumented immigrants — jobless and unable to qualify for federal assistance.
It’s a crisis for the 2.5 million domestic workers nationwide who average $10 an hour, often lack health care, and a quarter of whom already lived below the poverty line. Those still able to find jobs put themselves at risk, working in close quarters with clients or scrubbing strangers’ homes to fend off the virus.
Philadelphia’s new law, which advocates say is some of the strongest domestic-worker legislation in the nation, stipulates employers and workers have a written agreement outlining pay rates, schedules, and benefits. It also requires advance notice of termination, a provision newly relevant as families cut in-home workers in droves.
Morning Roundup: After meeting with Trump, Murphy says N.J. is ‘on our way’ to doubling testing; Pa. officials prepare to release more on reopening Friday
New Jersey is preparing to receive more coronavirus testing supplies and personal protective equipment after Gov. Phil Murphy met with President Donald Trump at the White House on Thursday, and Pennsylvania’s top health official said the commonwealth’s testing capacity was also expanding somewhat as officials prepare for the phased reopening of some counties.
Murphy told Trump at the Thursday morning meeting that he expected New Jersey could double or more than double its testing capabilities — a benchmark set by the governor for the state to begin reopening — by the end of May thanks to federal assistance.
New Jersey reported more coronavirus-related deaths than New York state on Thursday, bringing the state’s death toll to 7,228 with the addition of 406 fatalities. Officials also reported 2,633 new positive cases for a total of 118,652. Next week, the state will begin to test all inmates and officers at the state’s correctional facilities for the virus, and all NJ Transit employees will also be able to be tested, Murphy said.
In Pennsylvania, the death toll reached 2,292, and officials announced 1,397 new confirmed cases, bringing the total to 45,763. Philadelphia announced relatively high death and case numbers Thursday but said the data included old cases that were only recently identified as Philadelphia residents. In total, 607 Philadelphians have died of the virus — 340 of them in nursing homes — and 14,468 have tested positive, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said.