Walt Disney Co. to lay off 28,000 employees amid COVID-19 losses
Walt Disney Co. plans to lay off 28,00 workers at its theme parks in California and Florida due to financial strains because of COVID-19 restrictions on attendance.
The theme parks closed this spring as the coronavirus spread across the country and stay-at-home orders were put into place. Walt Disney World in Florida reopened this summer but Disneyland in California remains closed as the company awaits guidance from the state.
Josh DÁmaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experience, and Product, said in a letter to employees that California’s “unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen” exacerbated the situation for the company.
Company officials didn’t break down the number of layoffs between Walt Disney World, which has 77,000 employees, and Disneyland, which employs 30,000 people.
Lehigh suspends all sports; athletes ordered to quarantine after COVID-19 exposure
Lehigh University announced Tuesday that it’s temporarily suspending all sports training and practices because a number of student athletes were required to quarantine after coming into close contact with people who tested positive for COVID-19.
According to a statement on the school’s website, over the last two days the university has marked its first positive cases of COVID-19. Of the 15 students who’ve tested positive, two live in residence halls and 13 live off-campus.
“We have seen a significant increase in the number of students requiring quarantine,” the statement said. “Careful contact tracing has identified at least 60 close contacts as a result of these new COVID-19 cases, including cases connected to multiple athletics programs.”
The decision to suspend athletics at the university was first reported by the school’s newspaper, The Brown and White.
Delaware reports increase in new cases near campuses
Delaware Governor John Carney said Tuesday that the state has seen about a 10% uptick in new coronavirus cases this week, compared with “a week or two weeks ago,” likely related to gatherings among college students.
He said the state has averaged about 110 new cases in the seven-day period that ended Monday, with a 7.2% positive-test rate.
He said the increase in cases appears to be the result of indoor gatherings near college campuses.
“We’re really working hard with the University of Delaware and the city of Newark, Delaware state University, with respect to these challenges,” he said.
Active COVID-19 cases nearly tripled at Villanova University
Villanova University has seen nearly a tripling in active coronavirus cases on campus since Friday, according to its dashboard.
The university on Tuesday reported 71 active cases — those involving students who have tested positive and remain sick — up from 24 on Friday. Overall, the university has had 146 cases since Aug. 17.
The university has 4,945 students living on campus this fall, just a couple hundred fewer than last year. It’s holding some classes in person, and the university is not planning any change in course due to the uptick, a spokesperson said.
Spokesperson Jonathan Gust said there have been no hospitalizations and the majority of people have showed mild symptoms.
“Students have been back on campus for nearly eight weeks,” said Gust. “The university knew there would be increases as the semester went on and prepared for this by putting in place extensive health and safety guidelines and protocols for symptom monitoring, testing and contact tracing. We continue to have ample space available for isolation and quarantine and have even added additional spaces, should it be needed.”
The university is testing students who show symptoms and close contacts of those who test positive, as well as conducting random, or surveillance, testing, he said.
Pennsylvania State University, meanwhile, reported 2,475 total cases, up by 352 from Friday. But its number of active cases dropped by more than 100, to 701, and fewer students are in isolation, according to the school’s coronavirus dashboard.
Philadelphia will begin reporting results of rapid COVID-19 testing as it becomes more widespread, but Health Commissioner Thomas Farley warned that the tests can yield incorrect results and have limited use.
Farley said the city would classify such tests as “probable cases” of the coronavirus. There have been 180 such probable cases in Philadelphia residents to date, he said, based on rapid test results that were not confirmed with standard tests.
“We do expect this number to grow as rapid testing becomes more popular,” he said.
Farley said that the cases will be classified only as “probable cases” because they can give false results, and noted that the city has given guidance to doctors on using rapid testing.
“These tests can have both false negatives and false positive results,” he said. “I think that they are valuable in certain situations, but because they’re not perfect they need to be used carefully.”
Farley said that rapid tests, which include those that the federal government announced Monday would be distributed to Pennsylvania and other states, are most useful when a person has classic respiratory symptoms of COVID-19.
In that case, a positive result is most likely to be correct and the rapid test would allow officials to act more quickly to contact people exposed to that patient and ask them to self-quarantine.
“For someone without symptoms they’re probably not the best idea,” he said.
Farley said he did not know much about the card tests that the federal government said would be distributing, or when they would be sent to Philadelphia.
“I look forward to knowing more about that,” he said.
After a modest July rebound, Cape May County tourism still down 42%
Coronavirus took direct aim at the tourism economy in Cape May County, but beach communities rebounded somewhat in July, tourism officials said Tuesday. Tourism losses based on New Jersey occupancy tax revenue showed a 42% decrease from 2019 through July, closing a year-to-date gap that was 60% through June, officials said.
(The occupancy tax represents 5% of the room rate and includes hotels, motels, and Bed and Breakfast, but not rentals and campsites.)
In July, $2.6 million in taxes were collected, a $1.6 million increase over June and more than the total collected through the first six months of 2020, said Diane Wieland, director of the county’s department of tourism. While the number falls short of last year’s July taxes by $760,849, Wieland said, “Cape May County fared well statewide due to the high demand in beach and outdoor activities."
”The COVID-19 shutdown came at a critical time for our tourism industry," said Gerald Thornton, Cape May County Freeholder director. "After coming off a record 2019, with direct tourism spending at $6.9 billion and indications that the County was well on its way to another record year, the bottom fell out and there was nothing we could do but assist small businesses in applying for State and Federal loans and programs. "Also impacting the Shore communities was the closing of the U.S.-Canadian border that prevented Canadian travel, usually 7% of summer visitors.
On the upside: renewed interest in RV’ing boosted the county’s campground industry, Wieland said.The county is also hoping for a strong fall with some summer residents staying put and working remotely, buying homes, or even enrolling their children in local schools.
Philadelphia averaging 74 cases a day, will tweak reporting procedures
The total number of coronavirus cases in Philadelphia residents since March increased by 376, after health officials announced they had reconciled city and state COVID-19 case databases.
Health Commissioner Thomas Farley announced the additional cases Tuesday, which bring the total number of confirmed cases in city residents since March to 36,887. The 376 additional cases represent Philadelphia residents who tested positive for the coronavirus between March and August, he said.
“That doesn’t change the number here in September,” Farley said, as the city reported 59 new confirmed cases of the virus from lab results reported Tuesday.
In the week that ended Saturday, Farley said the city had a total of an average of 74 cases per day and a total of 517 cases. Of tests performed, 2.5% came back positive.
As of this week, the city is also tweaking its procedures for reporting data. The city’s graphs showing the cases of COVID-19 overtime will reflect the date that a test sample was collected, rather than the date a lab test was run on the sample.
By removing the lag between the test sample and when it reaches a laboratory, Farley said city data will be “closer to reflecting what was actually happening with the epidemic.”
Health officials will also begin tracking rapid test results separately from other tests, Farley said, because they can yield both false positives and false negatives. Positive rapid tests will be documented as “probable cases,” he said.
Phillies expected to lay off staffers due to steep losses caused by pandemic
The Phillies are expected to lay off employees next month due to steep financial losses suffered during to the coronavirus pandemic.
Two weeks ago, the Phillies offered their full-time employees a voluntary-separation package in hopes that it would allow them to lay off fewer employees after a season where owner John Middleton said he expected to lose “substantially more than $100 million.”
Employees received an email Tuesday that the buyout packages had been increased after so few employees agreed to accept the first offer.
“The club hopes that with meaningful participation, any further reduction in the workforce will be less severe,” the Phillies said.
Layoffs could include employees who have worked for the team for decades and spent the summer at the ballpark during the pandemic taking on different jobs in order to remain productive. In June, the team cut salaries for all employees who make at least $90,000. Now they’re eliminating jobs, perhaps in anticipation of another year of lost revenue in 2021.
Philadelphia restaurants can increase indoor dining capacity from 25% to 50% starting Friday, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley announced Tuesday.
Expanded indoor dining capacity began in the rest of the state earlier this month but was delayed in Philadelphia, where coronavirus restrictions have been more stringent. Restaurants must certify online with the state that they are following guidelines, Farley said, and the city had previously imposed an additional restriction of limiting seating to four people per table.
“We want only household members to be dining together,” he said.
Diners seated at tables must be six feet apart from those at other tables, Farley said, and servers must wear both masks and face shields.
Restaurants can improve ventilation by opening windows and doors or by optimizing heating and cooling systems, Farley said. He also encouraged restaurants to continue with expanded outdoor dining."No matter how much restaurants improve ventilation indoors, the ventilation outdoors is going to be much better," Farley said. “We do think that’s a much safer environment for diners.”
Farley said the easing of restrictions is possible because the city had an average of 74 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 per day last week."Those numbers are similar to what we had the week before," he said.
Pennsylvania reports 988 new cases as outbreak continues in Centre County
Pennsylvania reported 988 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday. The commonwealth is now averaging about 881 new cases a day over the past seven days, according to an Inquirer analysis, increasing slightly over the past few days.
Centre County reported 103 new cases on Tuesday, linked to students at Penn State University. The county has reported 2,667 COVID-19 cases overall, adding 1,179 new cases over just the past two weeks.
The Department of Health said 190,042 coronavirus tests were administered between Sept. 22 and Sept. 28, with 6,014 positive cases — a positive test rate of about 3.1%. Overall, 157,814 Pennsylvania residents have tested positive for coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
At least 8,123 Pennsylvania residents have now died after contracting the coronavirus, with 16 new deaths reported on Tuesday. Of the state’s deaths, 5,436 (about 67%) have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.
Wolf defends security of voting by mail in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday defended the security of voting by mail in November’s presidential election. Republicans have contested the expansion of mail-in voting accommodations due to the pandemic, and President Trump has repeatedly raised concerns about election fraud despite few reports of such activity.
The governor has encouraged people, especially those who are vulnerable to the pandemic or who have jobs that make it difficult for them to get to the polls on Election Day, to vote by mail or to drop off mail-in ballots at county offices.
“I’m not sure where the concern has come from,” he said. “We’ve been doing this for well over a century.”
Two NFL teams suspend activities after 8 new coronavirus cases
Two NFL teams are suspending in-person activities after eight people tested positive for COVID-19.
Three Tennessee Titans players and five staffers tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday morning, the league announced on Tuesday, causing the team to suspend in-person club activities beginning today.
The Minnesota Vikings, who played the Titans last Sunday, will also suspend in-person club activities.
“Both clubs are working closely with the NFL and the NLFPA, including out infectious disease experts, to evaluate close contacts, perform additional testing and monitor developments,” the league said in a statement.
It is unclear if the positive cases will impact this week’s schedule. The Titans are scheduled to play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Nashville on Sunday, while the Vikings are scheduled to travel to Houston to play the Texans.
Philadelphia, Delaware officials to offer coronavirus updates Tuesday
Officials in Philadelphia and Delaware will offer coronavirus updates on Tuesday. Here’s a schedule of how to watch and stream:
Philadelphia, 1 p.m.: Mayor Jim Kenney, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, live-streamed via the Department of Public Health’s Twitter (@PHLPublicHealth) and Facebook accounts, and broadcast on PHLGovTV (Comcast channels 64 and 1164, and Verizon channels 40 and 41).
No water shutoffs in Philadelphia through Spring 2021, city announces
Philadelphia residents won’t have to worry about having their water shutoff until April 1, 2021, the the Philadelphia Water Department and Water Revenue Bureau announced Tuesday.
The Water Revenue Bureau has waived penalties and fees on unpaid balances until further notices, but customers will still be held accountable for the principal payment each month.
“We have staff and programs that can help you avoid a big debt once we get through this crisis and shut-offs resume. No one should wait until the last minute,” Water Department Commissioner Randy Hayman said in a statement.
Pennsylvania offers update on contact tracing efforts
More than half of all new coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania last week had a case investigation started within a day, the commonwealth announced on Tuesday.
Between Sept. 12 and Sept. 19, Pennsylvania reported 5,749 coronavirus cases, and 55% had an investigation started within 24 hours, according to the Department of Health. Staff monitored 8,927 identified contacts in an attempt to control outbreaks and limit the spread of the virus.
“It is important for our fellow Pennsylvanians to pick up the phone when public health professionals call to ensure that public health staff can inform them of the important steps they can take to protect their communities and those close to them,” Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said in a statement. “If you are a close contact, we need you to answer the call to stop this virus in its tracks before it could affect your loved ones, co-workers or friends across the state.”
Health officials say the investigation is conducted by a public health profession, who spends 30 to 60 minutes asking questions to identify all potential close contacts. The Department of Health said any information collected during the investigation process is not shared publicly “unless doing so would help the department in its efforts to stop the spread on a broader scale.”
As of August, the commonwealth had 1,032 contact tracers, 408 working in southeast Pennsylvania.
One dad’s 10-day hospital stay in Delco cost $97,000
At just 18 years old, John FitzGerald signed up to serve his country in World War II, survived being a prisoner of war after his plane was shot down over Germany in 1944, and went on to serve 40 years with the military. But at 96, the coronavirus was a foe he couldn’t beat.
He died May 10, after a 10-day stay in isolation at Riddle Hospital in Delaware County.
Months later, as the family was still grappling with a loss they hadn’t expected, they got another surprise: an explanation of benefits from FitzGerald’s health insurer that showed the hospital had charged $97,000. TRICARE, which provides health coverage for military members and veterans, had paid $15,000 of that.
“What does it mean?” Thompson, of Media, wondered. Did his father-in-law’s care really cost almost $100,000? If so, why was the hospital willing to accept just a fraction of that from TRICARE? And, most importantly, was it only a matter of time until someone came after the family for the remaining $82,000?
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed major fissures in our health-care system, including the crushing — and, at times, seemingly arbitrary — cost of care. Price tags vary widely depending on where you seek care, and what type of insurance you have. Hospitals and doctors routinely charge prices that are magnitudes more than they expect to receive from insurance companies, though those who are uninsured, or who see a doctor who is not in their plan’s network could be stuck with the full bill.
Spike in Ocean County driving new cases in New Jersey
In New Jersey, the number of new daily cases has been slowly increasing since the end of August, driven in part by an outbreak in Ocean County.
The state is averaging about 541 new cases a day over the past seven days, a 98% increase compared to this time last month, when New Jersey was averaging just 273 new cases a day, according to an Inquirer analysis. The state rate of transmission is 1.12, meaning each new infection is leading to at least one more case, officials said.
On Monday, New Jersey reported 561 new cases, 242 of which came from Ocean County. Lakewood, the county’s most populated municipality, has reported 516 new cases between Sept. 23 and Sept. 28, an increase of 14.2%, according to data from the Ocean County Health Department.
New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said during Monday’s coronavirus briefing the state was increasing testing throughout the county and deploying new contact tracers there in an attempt to get control of the outbreak.
“Our goal with this increased testing and contact tracing capacity is to contain the transmission of the virus in that county,” Persichilli said.
Fauci admits to differences with new White House adviser
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, criticized how Fox News has covered the coronavirus pandemic during an interview with CNN media reporter Brian Stelter.
“Some of the media that I deal with really … I wouldn’t say distort things, but certainly give opposing perspectives on what seems to be a pretty obvious fact,” Fauci said in excerpts that aired on CNN Monday. “If you listen to Fox News, with all due respect to the fact that they do have some good reporters, some of the things that they report there are outlandish, to be honest with you.”
“There is so much misinformation during this very divisive time that we’re in, and the public really needs to know the facts,” Fauci added.
Fauci also admitted he has been at odds over the facts with Scott Atlas, a neuroradiologist who was added to the White House coronavirus task force after downplaying the importance of masks on Fox News and pushing a “herd immunity” theory that experts say could kill millions.
“If I have an issue with someone, I’ll try and sit down with them and let them know why I differ with them and see if we can come to some sort of resolution,” Fauci said. “So, I mean my differences with Dr. Atlas, I’m always willing to sit down and talk with him and see if we could resolve those differences.”
The Times reported that top Trump officials attempted to push alternate data on the CDC back in June that showed the pandemic was weakening and posed little danger to children.
Olivia Troye, a former top adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, confirmed the Times story in an interview with CNN. Troye said and other junior staffers were pushed by Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, to circumvent the CDC’s own data about the potential risk to students and teachers, especially in areas of the country where the infection rates remained high.
“Unfortunately, this was an effort, you know, at times where I would get blindsided, where there would be junior staffers being tasked to find different data for charts to show that the virus wasn’t as bad for certain populations, ages or demographics,” Troye said on CNN Monday night.
At least 624,890 children in the United States have contracted coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children make up slightly more than 10% of all coronavirus cases, with a 14% increased in cases between Sept. 10 and Sept. 24.
“Children do get infected. And we’d better be careful about just dismissing infection in children,” Fauci told CNN’s Brian Stelter during a new interview Monday.
Global coronavirus deaths has topped 1 million, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the United States, at least 205,000 have died of COVID-19, by far the most on the planet.
27 states are reporting an increase in new cases compared to last week, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Utah, Iowa, Montana, Idaho, and Utah have seen the largest spike in new cases over the past two weeks, and have positivity rates over 10% (North Dakota leads all states with a 25% positivity rate).