11:05 PM - October 15, 2020
11:05 PM - October 15, 2020

Republican senator attacks President Trump’s response to the coronavirus

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. speaks during a televised debate against Democratic challenger Chris Janicek at NET, Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Lincoln, Neb. (Justin Wan/Lincoln Journal Star via AP)
Justin Wan / AP
Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb. speaks during a televised debate against Democratic challenger Chris Janicek at NET, Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, in Lincoln, Neb. (Justin Wan/Lincoln Journal Star via AP)

While most Capitol Hill Republicans defend just about every thing President Trump does or says, no matter how controversial, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse took an uncharacteristic stance during a Wednesday phone call with constituents.

For nearly ten minutes, Sasse denounced Trump on a broad range of issues, accusing him of flirting with white supremacists, kissing “dictators' butts,” “selling out our allies,” mistreating women, “mocking evangelicals” behind closed doors, and treating the presidency “like a business opportunity.”

He was equally harsh in his assessment of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus. “The reality is, that he careened from curb to curb. First, he ignored Covid. And then he went into full economic shutdown mode. He was the one who said 10 to 14 days of shutdown would fix this, and that was always wrong,” said Sasse, 48, who is expected to be re-elected next month. “So I don’t think the way he’s led through Covid has been reasonable or responsible or right.”

Sasse said he has “a duty to level with Nebraskans even though I recognize that a lot of our voters in Nebraska are Trumpier than I am.”

— Mensah M. Dean

8:15 PM - October 15, 2020
8:15 PM - October 15, 2020

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie details his seven days in ICU

In this file photo, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (C) talks with guests in the Rose Garden after President Donald Trump introduced 7th U.S. Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett, 48, as his nominee to the Supreme Court at the White House September 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. After President Trump tested positive for COVID-19, public health experts say that efforts to trace the contacts of officials in Washington should be more intensive. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Image/TNS)
Chip Somodevilla / MCT
In this file photo, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (C) talks with guests in the Rose Garden after President Donald Trump introduced 7th U.S. Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett, 48, as his nominee to the Supreme Court at the White House September 26, 2020 in Washington, DC. After President Trump tested positive for COVID-19, public health experts say that efforts to trace the contacts of officials in Washington should be more intensive. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Image/TNS)

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Thursday issued a statement detailing his experience being hospitalized with the coronavirus. Christie, who is now virus free, implored public officials to advocate that members of the public wear face masks, social distance and frequently wash their hands, while also calling for the reopening of closed businesses.

“I am happy and fortunate to inform you that I have recovered from COVID-19. Before this good news, however, I spent 7 days in the Intensive Care Unit of Morristown Medical Center to get treatment and insure this good result for me and my family,” Christie said.

“I was wrong to not wear a mask at the Amy Coney Barrett announcement and I was wrong not to wear a mask at my multiple debate prep sessions with the president and the rest of the team. I hope that my experience shows my fellow citizens that you should follow CDC guidelines in public no matter where you are and wear a mask to protect yourself and others.”

Christie said his takeaways from having the virus are that, “every public official, regardless of party or position, should advocate for every American to wear a mask in public, appropriately socially distance and to wash your hands frequently every day. At the same time, we should be reopening in every corner of this nation under these guidelines.”

— Mensah M. Dean

6:12 PM - October 15, 2020
6:12 PM - October 15, 2020

Philadelphia issues guidelines for winterizing outdoor restaurants

Molly Malloy's has a streetery on Filbert Street outside Reading Terminal Market.
MICHAEL KLEIN / Staff
Molly Malloy's has a streetery on Filbert Street outside Reading Terminal Market.

Restaurants have embraced outdoor-dining areas during the pandemic, adding televisions outside and moving tables and landscaping to the street. Now, with fall leading into winter, the city on Thursday issued guidelines for winterizing these spaces.

City officials said they wanted restaurants to operate to the best of their ability while maintaining health and safety standards.

Among the rules:

  • Prefabricated tents and canopies with pliable material overhead can be put up without a building permit. A building permit must be obtained before constructing a custom-built shelter with a roof and/or sides more than 48 inches high.
  • A tent permit and inspection (a $103 fee) are required for heated tents and all tents larger than 400 square feet.

— Michael Klein

5:22 PM - October 15, 2020
5:22 PM - October 15, 2020

City Council introduces bills to protect hospitality industry workers who lost jobs to the coronavirus

Councilmember Helen Gym, Councilmember At-Large, is among a group of Council members who introduced legislation to protect the jobs of hospitality industry employees.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Councilmember Helen Gym, Councilmember At-Large, is among a group of Council members who introduced legislation to protect the jobs of hospitality industry employees.

Philadelphia City Councilmembers introduced a package of bills Thursday aimed at aiding workers in the hospitality industry who have lost jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. The legislation would require hotels, event centers, and the Philadelphia International Airport to offer jobs back to laid-off workers based on seniority -- to ensure employers rehire experienced workers as the economy reopens rather than replacing them.

The other bills would protect hotel workers' jobs when a hotel is sold or foreclosed on and ensure seasonal workers at the sports complex and food service workers at the airport keep their jobs if new contractors take over services.

The bills were introduced by City Councilmembers Helen Gym, Kenyatta Johnson and Isaiah Thomas. “This Right to Return legislation secures economic justice for thousands of Philadelphia’s workers in the hospitality industry,” Gym said in a statement.

“As our economy reopens, it must be our top priority to protect the jobs of thousands of working class Black and Brown Philadelphians that their families depend on,” Gym said.

Workers in the city’s hospitality industry are disproportionately Black and female, and employment has declined by 53%, according to the councilmembers. Nationwide, hospitality workers have the highest unemployment rate of any sector, and only half of the 7.5 million leisure and hospitality jobs eliminated in April have been added back.

“Many hotel workers are middle-aged Black Philadelphians,” said Rosslyn Wuchinich, president of UNITE HERE Local 274, the union representing hospitality workers in the City. “The economic stability of their families and their community depends on their ability to return to their workplaces when they reopen.”

— Justine McDaniel

2:41 PM - October 15, 2020
2:41 PM - October 15, 2020

New Jersey reports 953 new cases as Murphy urges caution on Thanksgiving

Gov. Phil Murphy recommended residents start planning a Thanksgiving that looks different than prior years.

Officials are finding that coronavirus outbreaks are increasingly originating from small indoor gatherings.

Murphy recommended residents avoid celebrating the holiday with people outside their household. If people do want to gather with other relatives, keep it small, he said, and if at all possible, stay outside around a heater or fire pit.

“We do not want a Thanksgiving dinner to turn tragic because someone unwittingly exposed a large number of their family members to the coronavirus,” Murphy said. “Please plan for a smaller table this year so we can help ensure that you can once again gather at a larger one next year.”

The state reported Thursday 973 new COVID-19 cases and 6 deaths. The rate of transmission is 1.16%, meaning each new case is leading to at least one other infection.

The total number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals, in intensive care and on ventilators have been increasing. The statewide positivity rate from Sunday is 4.35%.

The state also reported one new case of multi system inflammatory syndrome in children for a total of 59 cases.

There are also 22 cases that can be traced to schools, infecting 83 people — an increase from last week.

Murphy urged people to continue to wear masks, social distance, wash hands, and stay home if exposed or feeling unwell.

“As the weather cools those numbers are not going to change themselves,” Murphy said, “only we can change those numbers.”

— Ellie Silverman

2:10 PM - October 15, 2020
2:10 PM - October 15, 2020

COVID-19 will likely get worse in the winter, thanks to biology and behavior

People walk along 17th street towards Sansom in Center City, Philadelphia on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
People walk along 17th street towards Sansom in Center City, Philadelphia on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020.

Pennsylvania is at the beginning of a fall COVID-19 surge, the state’s health secretary said Wednesday, matching experts' predictions that cooler weather will worsen the coronavirus' spread.

That’s likely both because of biology and behavior, though scientists say the latter may matter more.

“As it gets colder, people spend more time indoors and that will increase their risk of exposure to the virus,” said Nate Wardle, a spokesperson for the department of health.

Health Secretary Rachel Levine noted that around the country, small gatherings tend to be driving case count increases, “and I feel like we’re seeing that in Pennsylvania,” she said Wednesday.

The choices people make in fall and winter — whether to meet indoors, continue to wear masks, or maintain distance — are likely going to be the biggest determinants of how serious a cold weather surge could be, according to a Princeton study released in September but not yet peer reviewed, said Rachel Baker, postdoctoral research associate at the Princeton Environmental Institute and the study’s lead author.

“Indoor gatherings are going to be higher risk,” she said, due to indoor air being more stagnant than air outside. “If we think the virus can be partly airborne then being indoors you sort of trap it.”

— Jason Laughlin

1:11 PM - October 15, 2020
1:11 PM - October 15, 2020

New Jersey extends moratorium on utility shutoffs through March

No New Jersey household can have its electricity, gas service or water shut off through March 15, Gov. Phil Murphy announced at a news conference Thursday.

This executive order extends the previous moratorium on utility services and includes that all service disconnected during the pandemic must be restored. A voluntary moratorium on utility shutoffs Murphy announced back in August was scheduled to expire today.

The moratorium on disconnecting internet or voice services is also extended through Nov. 15. For households with school-aged kids who need internet for school, that moratorium will be extended through March 15.

“Our message to residents is clear,” Murphy said at the news conference. “As this pandemic and its economic fallout continues we will continue to have your back, and as the winter months get closer and closer, no one should fear losing the ability to heat their home.”

Murphy also announced that the Corporate Business Tax filing deadline has been pushed back to Nov. 16.

— Ellie Sliverman

1:10 PM - October 15, 2020
1:10 PM - October 15, 2020

COVID-19 cases hit records in Europe, surpassing the United States

A man runs across an empty medieval Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020.
Petr David Josek / AP
A man runs across an empty medieval Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020.

Coronavirus infections in Europe set records this week, overtaking the number of cases in the United States per capita.

The World Health Organization is seeing “exponential increases” in daily cases in Europe, said Hans Kluge, the agency’s director for that continent, noting that at 8,000 deaths a day, COVID-19 is now Europe’s fifth-leading cause of death. In just the past 10 days, a million new cases in Europe have been recorded, raising the total since the start of the pandemic to 7 million in the WHO’s 53 European member countries.

Few European countries are escaping the rapid rise in cases right now, with even countries that largely missed the first wave of the pandemic speeding into danger zones. Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Croatia posted fresh daily records on Thursday. Other countries hit highs in recent days.

The Czech Republic has been hit especially hard. Nearly half of the country’s 77,000 cases have been registered in the last two weeks, with a record 9,544 on Wednesday alone, the Czech Health Ministry said Thursday. Death rates have also spiked, and Prime Minister Andrej Babis has directed the country’s army to build a field hospital in Prague to handle the influx

— Washington Post

12:04 PM - October 15, 2020
12:04 PM - October 15, 2020

Pennsylvania reports nearly 1,600 new cases, nearing pandemic highs

Pennsylvania reported 1,598 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the highest one-day total since April 24 and the tenth day in a row new cases have exceeded 1,000. The commonwealth is now averaging 1,370 new cases a day over the past seven days, according to an Inquirer analysis, the highest number since April 14, right after the first peak.

Allegheny County reported 117 new cases and Westmoreland County, which is just east of Pittsburgh, reported 135 new cases, according to the Department of Health

The Department of Health said 240,220 coronavirus tests were administered between Oct. 8 and Oct. 14, with 9,370 positive cases — a positive test rate of about 3.9%. Overall, 177,520 Pennsylvania residents have tested positive for coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

The number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Pennsylvania is 779, a figure that has nearly doubled compared with last month, Health Secretary Rachel Levine told reporters on Tuesday.

At least 8,432 Pennsylvania residents have now died after contracting the coronavirus, with 21 new deaths reported on Thursday. Of the state’s deaths, 5,585 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.

— Rob Tornoe and John Duchneskie

11:50 AM - October 15, 2020
11:50 AM - October 15, 2020

Nominations open for Philadelphia Veterans Parade & Festival’s virtual Grand Marshal

The Philadelphia Veterans Parade & Festival has opened nominations for the first time for Grand Marshal of this year’s 2020 Virtual Parade. The parade will be held virtually this year including a broadcast on 6abc at 12:30 PM and on Facebook Live at 1 PM on Sunday, Nov. 8. The honor of Grand Marshal is awarded to a veteran of a past war or conflict who exemplifies the values of service, patriotism and valor.

To nominate a veteran for Grand Marshall of the 2020 Virtual Philadelphia Veterans Parade, follow this link and complete the submission form. Nominations will be accepted through Friday, Oct. 23, 2020. The Grand Marshal will be announced on Wednesday, October 28, 2020.

Past Grand Marshals have included Roland Scarinci a harmonica-playing World War II veteran, Albert F. Willis, one of the nation’s first Black Marines, Walter Joseph Marm, Pennsylvania’s only living Medal of Honor recipient and Dr. Eugene J. Richardson, Jr. a World War II Pilot in the Tuskegee Airmen Class 45A.

The Veterans Festival will be hosted by Anthony Murphy, President of the Philadelphia Veterans Parade, and Erica Webster, CEO of Dub Fitness. All will be broadcast live on Facebook at 1 p.m. on November 8, 2020 and will be available for viewing afterwards online.

“The Grand Marshal of the Philadelphia Veterans Parade is a veteran who answered the call to service and continues to inspire others while contributing to their community and most importantly helps other veterans,” says Anthony Murphy, President of the Philadelphia Veterans Parade.

RSVP on the Philadelphia Veterans Parade Facebook Page here.

Erin Arvedlund

11:40 AM - October 15, 2020
11:40 AM - October 15, 2020

Does the flu vaccine affect my chances of getting COVID-19?

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, shows a bandage on his arm after receiving a flu vaccine back in September.
/ AP
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, shows a bandage on his arm after receiving a flu vaccine back in September.

The flu vaccine protects you from seasonal influenza, not the coronavirus — but avoiding the flu is especially important this year.

Health officials and medical groups are urging people to get either the flu shot or nasal spray, so that doctors and hospitals don’t face the extra strain of having to treat influenza in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Not to mention the confusion factor: The illnesses have such similar early symptoms that people who get the flu may mistakenly think they have COVID-19, said Dr. Gregory Poland, an infectious disease specialist at Mayo Clinic.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the flu vaccine for everyone starting at 6 months of age, and suggests getting it by the end of October.

The CDC says the vaccine will not cause you to fall ill with the flu, and that the protection it provides takes about two weeks to kick in. And the flu vaccine isn’t perfect, but studies show if the vaccinated get sick, they don’t get as severely ill.

— Associated Press

9:45 AM - October 15, 2020
9:45 AM - October 15, 2020

Kamala Harris suspends in-person events due to COVID-19 cases

Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., arrives on Capitol Hill for the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday in Washington.
Jacquelyn Martin / AP
Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., arrives on Capitol Hill for the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday in Washington.

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign said Thursday that vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will suspend in-person events until Monday after two people associated with the campaign tested positive for coronavirus. The campaign said Biden had no exposure, though he and Harris spent several hours campaigning together in Arizona on Oct. 8.

Harris was scheduled to travel Thursday to North Carolina for events encouraging voters to cast early ballots.

The campaign told reporters Thursday morning that Harris' communications director and a traveling staff member for her trip to Arizona tested positive after that Oct. 8 trip.

— Associated Press

8:45 AM - October 15, 2020
8:45 AM - October 15, 2020

Jobless claims increased to 898,000, a sign the recovery could be stalling

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to 898,000, a historically high number and evidence that layoffs remain a hindrance to the economy’s recovery from the pandemic recession that erupted seven months ago.

Thursday’s report from the Labor Department shows that the job market remains fragile, and it coincides with other recent data that have signaled a slowdown in hiring. The economy is still roughly 10.7 million jobs short of recovering all the 22 million jobs that were lost when the pandemic struck in March.

Economists have warned that without further aid, families across the country will struggle in coming months to pay bills, make rent, afford food and avoid eviction. But Congress has hit a stalemate in negotiations to provide further rescue aid to jobless individuals and struggling businesses, states, and localities.

Negotiations, led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are continuing, although prospects appear dim.

— Associated Press

8:25 AM - October 15, 2020
8:25 AM - October 15, 2020

New cases continue to climb in Pa. and N.J., but remain flat in Del.

A digital sign “LIKE A GOOD NEIGHBOR-STAY OVER THERE” on a building at the corner of Spring Garden Street and Delaware Avenue on Wednesday. i
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
A digital sign “LIKE A GOOD NEIGHBOR-STAY OVER THERE” on a building at the corner of Spring Garden Street and Delaware Avenue on Wednesday. i

Health officials are warning that Pennsylvania faces a “fall resurgence” of coronavirus cases. Health Secretary Rachel Levine told reporters on Thursday a broad level of transmission is occurring across the state, and is no longer being driven primarily by college students.

New Jersey also continues to experience an uptick in cases, while Delaware has seen new infections remain flat compared to last week.

Here’s where things stand as of Thursday, according to an Inquirer analysis of data from each local health department:

  • Pennsylvania: Averaging 1,339 new cases a day, a 26% increase over last week’s average (1,061 a day) and about 64% higher than last month’s average (814 a day).
  • New Jersey: Averaging 821 new cases a day, a 25% increase over last week’s average (654 a day) and about 104% higher than last month’s average (401 a day).
  • Delaware: Averaging 133 new cases a day, basically flat compared to last week’s average (134 a day) and last month’s average (132 a day).

— Rob Tornoe

8:15 AM - October 15, 2020
8:15 AM - October 15, 2020

Coronavirus reinfections are real, but appear to be rare

The first confirmed case of an American who got COVID-19 twice adds to scant but mounting evidence that people can be reinfected with the coronavirus — and get sicker than during the initial bout.

The 25-year-old Nevada man, who had no known immune problems, got a mild case of COVID-19 in April. About a month later, he was diagnosed again and needed hospitalization and oxygen, according to the report published Monday in Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The authors say at least three other confirmed cases have been documented worldwide, including the first in Hong Kong barely two months ago. But the COVID-19 Reinfection Tracker of BNO News, an international news agency headquartered in the Netherlands, lists the Nevada case and 22 others, including one death.

To confirm reinfection, DNA sequencing of respiratory samples must reveal two slightly different variants of the virus, indicating the second infection was not just a remnant or reactivation of the first. That kind of analysis rarely occurs, partly because of the cost, but mostly because respiratory samples used for diagnosis are rarely preserved for later genetic analysis.

— Marie McCullough

8:00 AM - October 15, 2020
8:00 AM - October 15, 2020

Troubled Philly mall owner may have to file for bankruptcy to borrow $150M

People walk around inside Cherry Hill Mall in Cherry Hill, N.J. on Monday, June 29, 2020.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
People walk around inside Cherry Hill Mall in Cherry Hill, N.J. on Monday, June 29, 2020.

PREIT, the troubled major owner of malls in the region, is closing in on an agreement to borrow $150 million more from its lenders to keep itself afloat, but it may require a trip to bankruptcy court to seal the deal, the firm said Wednesday.

PREIT, which owns Center City’s Fashion District Philadelphia and other malls, said 80% of its creditors have endorsed the deal and that it’s working to bring the rest on board by the end of this month.

If PREIT can’t get support for this arrangement from all of its creditors, “it may need to complete this restructuring through a prepackaged reorganization under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code,” it said.

PREIT’s 21 malls in nine states include the Fashion District in Center City (formerly the Gallery at Market East); Willow Grove Park and the Plymouth Meeting Mall in Montgomery County; and the Cherry Hill Mall, Moorestown Mall, and Cumberland Mall in South Jersey.

The company had been in a yearslong struggle to reinvent itself for the e-commerce age. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, shuttering its properties for months and leaving many of its tenants unable or unwilling to pay rent.

— Jacob Adelman

7:45 AM - October 15, 2020
7:45 AM - October 15, 2020

U.S. reports nearly 60,000 new cases, most in two months: Thursday morning roundup.

  • The United States reported 59,494 new cases on Wednesday and is averaging over 52,000 new cases a day over the past seven days, the highest rates since early August, according to an Inquirer analysis of data Johns Hopkins University. The country also reported 985 new deaths.
  • Hospitalizations are also on the rise in the U.S., with five states reporting record hospitalization numbers on Wednesday, according to a CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins data: Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri. Overall, nine states — including Delaware — are currently experiencing double-digit increases in the number of patients hospitalized because of coronavirus complications.
  • An Arkansas judge dismissed a lawsuit on Wednesday by some Republican legislators challenging a mask mandate and other restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Associated Press reports.
  • Phillies radio announcer Jim Jackson announced his departure from the team on social media Wednesday night, as layoffs are expected due to the impacts of the pandemic.