8:51 PM - October 14, 2020
8:51 PM - October 14, 2020

Americans may have to “bite the bullet” and sacrifice some Thanksgiving gatherings, Fauci says

Thanksgiving Day next month should be enjoyed at your home instead of at grandma's, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.
DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer
Thanksgiving Day next month should be enjoyed at your home instead of at grandma's, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

Coronavirus precautions will result in a very different kind of Thanksgiving for many people this year, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday.

“It is unfortunate, because that’s such a sacred part of the American tradition, the family gathering around Thanksgiving, but that is a risk,” Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told CBS Evening News anchor Norah O’Donnell.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that given the current spread of Covid-19 and the uptick in infections, people need to be very careful about social gatherings, especially older people and those with underlying conditions.

“You may have to bite the bullet and sacrifice that social gathering, unless you’re pretty certain that the people that you’re dealing with are not infected. Either they’ve been very recently tested, or they’re living a lifestyle in which they don’t have any interaction with anybody except you and your family,” he said.

He added that travel on planes and public transportation could increase exposure to the virus.

— CNN and CBS News

6:26 PM - October 14, 2020
6:26 PM - October 14, 2020

The NFL has canceled next January’s Pro Bowl scheduled for Las Vegas

FILE - The NFL has pulled the plug on this January's Pro Bowl due to the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
Julio Cortez / AP
FILE - The NFL has pulled the plug on this January's Pro Bowl due to the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

During an owners meeting held virtually on Wednesday, the NFL opted to call off the all-star game, hoping to replace it with a variety of virtual activities. The game had been scheduled to be played in Las Vegas this upcoming January.

The NFL needs flexibility in January in case it needs to move regular-season games to that month because of the coronavirus pandemic, league officials said.

“The league will work closely with the NFLPA and other partners, to create a variety of engaging activities to replace the Pro Bowl game this season,” the NFL said in a statement.

The Pro Bowl, set for Jan. 31, a week before the Super Bowl, has lost much of its attractiveness in recent years. Many of the chosen players decided not to participate, and, naturally, players from the two Super Bowl teams don’t go. If there is a Pro Bowl in 2022, the 32 owners voted to return it to the new Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. A fan vote for Pro Bowl rosters still will be held, beginning Nov. 17. The rosters will be announced in December. Players, coaches and fans vote for the Pro Bowl.

— Associated Press

4:27 PM - October 14, 2020
4:27 PM - October 14, 2020

First lady reveals that first son also got coronavirus

President Donald Trump, right, and his son Barron Trump, left, wave from the top of the steps of Air Force One at Morristown Municipal Airport in August.
Susan Walsh / AP
President Donald Trump, right, and his son Barron Trump, left, wave from the top of the steps of Air Force One at Morristown Municipal Airport in August.

Melania Trump says her and President Donald Trump’s son, Barron, 14, has tested positive for the coronavirus but has no symptoms.

The White House initially said he had tested negative, after both of his parents tested positive earlier this month.

The first lady said Wednesday that subsequent testing showed Barron had also come down with COVID-19.

— Associated Press

1:28 PM - October 14, 2020
1:28 PM - October 14, 2020

Mnuchin says new coronavirus relief deal unlikely before election

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin walks through the Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020.
Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin walks through the Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that a new economic relief bill is unlikely before the election, suggesting Democrats are unwilling to give President Trump a victory.

“I’d say at this point getting something done before the election and executing on that would be difficult, just given where we are,” Mnuchin said during an event hosted by the Milken Institute’s Global Conference.

Mnuchin made his comments following an hour-long conversation he had earlier Wednesday with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.). The two have been negotiating the contours of a comprehensive deal for a couple of weeks, despite the long-shot prospects for success. Trump, on Wednesday, called for a deal in a Twitter post, urging negotiators to “Go big or go home!!!”

Mnuchin made Pelosi a $1.8 trillion offer on Friday that she rejected as inadequate in many respects, including the administration’s failure to agree to specifics on a national coronavirus testing strategy.

Pelosi’s spokesman, Drew Hammill, said on Twitter on Wednesday that Pelosi and Mnuchin had a “productive” conversation and would speak again on Thursday.

“One major area of disagreement continues to be that the White House lacks an understanding of the need for a national strategic testing plan,” Hammill wrote. “The Speaker believes we must reopen our economy & schools safely & soon, & scientists agree we must have a strategic testing plan.”

— Washington Post

1:12 PM - October 14, 2020
1:12 PM - October 14, 2020

Philadelphia reports 225 new cases, 3 additional deaths

Philadelphia announced 255 new cases of the coronavirus Wednesday, a count that remains in line with recent days as new confirmed cases of the virus continue to increase.

The city has now had a total of 39,249 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in residents. Officials announced three additional deaths Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,833. Of those deaths, 49% were in residents of long-term care facilities.

The city also announced 23 new probable cases of the coronavirus based on results from rapid tests.

— Laura McCrystal

12:55 PM - October 14, 2020
12:55 PM - October 14, 2020

Eagles fans ‘should feel safe’ returning to the Linc, Pa. health secretary says

Eagles' fan Chris Marshal from Philadelphia surrounded by Steelers' fans during the 4th quarter at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Sunday, October 11, 2020.
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Eagles' fan Chris Marshal from Philadelphia surrounded by Steelers' fans during the 4th quarter at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Sunday, October 11, 2020.

With the Eagles set to welcome about 6,000 fans back to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine said she does not expect outbreaks among those spectators, based on NFL data.

“I think fans should feel safe,” she said. “I think the Philadelphia Eagles really have robust protections in place for the fans that will be entering. Everyone will be wearing masks. Everyone will be socially distanced.”

State health officials have reviewed data from NFL games in other cities where a limited number of fans were allowed, she said, and “we have not seen any evidence of significant increases due to those games.”

The numbers make sense, she said, because these gatherings are held outdoors where transmission risk is lower than it is in enclosed spaces. The NFL findings contributed to Pennsylvania’s decisions to permit number of fans into these events, she added.

The commonwealth has not received any data linking cases to last Sunday’s Eagles-Steelers game at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field, which allowed in about 5,000 fans, she said, but it is a bit early to tell conclusively. The incubation period for the virus can be up to two weeks.

Pennsylvania health officials also have seen “no specific evidence” linking an uptick in cases to other outdoor events, including several of President Donald Trump’s rallies, where social distancing, mask-wearing, and other public health guidance is largely ignored.

When it comes to transmission of the coronavirus at any event, Levine said, data can only reveal so much, though.

“We are very dependent on what people tell us,” Levine said of the contact-tracing process. “We do ask if [people who test positive] have been to large gatherings. We do ask if they’ve been to other events. But we otherwise have no way of knowing.”

— Erin McCarthy

12:43 PM - October 14, 2020
12:43 PM - October 14, 2020

Some Philly students may not set foot in a classroom this school year

William R. Hite Jr., superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, outlined a plan that would return some students to in-person classes beginning Nov. 30. Students in grades Pre-K through 2 would attend school two days a week.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
William R. Hite Jr., superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, outlined a plan that would return some students to in-person classes beginning Nov. 30. Students in grades Pre-K through 2 would attend school two days a week.

Philadelphia’s slow phase-in to in-person instruction begins Nov. 30, with 32,000 children in prekindergarten through second grade eligible to return two days a week, if their families opt in. If all goes according to plan, students with complex special needs would return in January and ninth graders and students in career and technical education programs would come back by early February.

There is no timetable for when the remainder of district students — the majority of the 120,000 student school system — might return. Bringing back other children to in-person learning is possible, Hite said, but that decision, and its timeline, will be guided by the COVID-19 numbers, the state of school buildings, and public health officials' recommendations.

“It’s also equally feasible that we will not be able to,” bring all students back, the superintendent said at a news conference Wednesday.

Still, Hite emphasized, the goal is to get children back to face-to-face learning, especially given the needs of the district’s students, the majority of whom live in poverty.

“Children learn best when they are in a classroom with a great teacher,” said Hite. “We also know that the lack of in-person learning options disproportionately harms low-income and minority children, whose families are far less likely to have the resources to hire additional child care or instructional help while they work.”

It will be the first time since COVID-19 forced the closure of schools March 12 that any children will have set foot in district classrooms.

— Kristen A. Graham

11:55 AM - October 14, 2020
11:55 AM - October 14, 2020

Pa. at the start of a ‘fall resurgence’ of COVID-19, health secretary says

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus in Philadelphia's Franklin Square on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus in Philadelphia's Franklin Square on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020.

Pennsylvania appears to be at “the start of the fall resurgence” of the coronavirus, Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said as the commonwealth reported more than 1,000 additional cases for the ninth day in a row.

On Wednesday, she said, Pennsylvania added another 1,276 newly confirmed cases and 27 additional deaths. The commonwealth’s hospitals are currently caring for 773 coronavirus patients, she added.

However, despite rising case and hospitalization counts, “significant capacity” remains in the health-care system statewide. About 21% of ICU beds are available, she said, as are 19% of medical and surgical beds.

The latest uptick, Levine said, is not linked primarily to college students or college towns.

“It’s not just that college-age group that we were seeing in September. We are seeing increases in people in their 20s, in their 30s, in their 40s,” she said. Around the country, “it really is small gatherings that tend to be driving this, and I feel like we’re seeing that in Pennsylvania.”

As they try to get a handle on the resurgence, the Wolf administration on Wednesday began distributing 250,000 rapid antigen test kits to care facilities, colleges and universities, correctional institutions, drug and alcohol treatment centers, and other health-care providers. The distribution will start at these types of facilities in Bradford, Centre, Lebanon, Montour, Northumberland, Schuylkill and Snyder Counties, which are seeing significant case increases.

So far, Levine said, the uptick has not prompted the commonwealth to consider an imminent shutdown such as the one that occurred when the pandemic hit in the spring.

“We have no plans to have any further business restrictions or stay-at-home orders at this time,” Levine said. “It’s impossible for me to predict the future. But then again we are in a much better place than we were in the spring.”

— Erin McCarthy

10:25 AM - October 14, 2020
10:25 AM - October 14, 2020

Fauci tells New York Times he’s highly confident Trump is no longer contagious

President Donald Trump watches as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a press briefing back in April.
Alex Brandon / AP
President Donald Trump watches as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a press briefing back in April.

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, told the New York Times he has a “high degree of confidence” that President Donald Trump is no longer at risk of transmitting COVID-19.

Fauci confirmed an NBC statement that both he and Clifford Lane, a clinical director at the National Institutes of Health, reviewed Trump’s most recent medical data to clear the president for a town hall on the network Thursday night.

Fauci told the Times he reviewed data from a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test, as well as data from viral cultures and multiple negative tests on a rapid antigen test, Abbott’s BinaxNOW. Fauci said the president’s PCR test had a cycle threshold of 34.3, noting that people with a threshold over 33 carry little to no live virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We can say with a high degree of confidence that he is not transmissible," Fauci told the Times, adding that it’s been more than 10 days since the onset of symptoms.

— Rob Tornoe

10:00 AM - October 14, 2020
10:00 AM - October 14, 2020

Pennsylvania officials to discuss fall resurgence of COVID-19

Pennsylvania officials will offer a coronavirus update on Wednesday, as the commonwealth experiences a resurgence of new cases at levels not seen in months.

Among those joining Wolf will be Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine, Testing and Contact Tracing Director Michael Huff, COVID-19 Response Director Wendy Braund, Deputy Secretary for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Cindy Findley, and Deputy Secretary for Health Preparedness and Community Protection Ray Barishanksy.

The press conference is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m., and will stream live on the Department of Health’s Facebook account and on the state’s website via livestream.

— Rob Tornoe

9:00 AM - October 14, 2020
9:00 AM - October 14, 2020

Biden, Trump to hold overlapping town halls in place of second presidential debate

President Donald Trump (left) and former Vice President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio on Sept. 29.
Patrick Semansky / AP
President Donald Trump (left) and former Vice President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio on Sept. 29.

President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will hold overlapping town halls Thursday night in place of a second presidential debate, which Trump declined to take part in after organizers shifted the event to a virtual format.

Biden’s town hall will take place in Philadelphia and air on ABC at 8 p.m., moderated by longtime anchor and Good Morning America co-host George Stephanopoulos.

Trump’s town hall, which will take place outdoors in Miami and air on NBC, is also scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. The event will be moderated by Today show co-host Savannah Guthrie.

NBC had been waiting on a negative coronavirus test from Trump before committing to the town hall, according to network sources. The network offered a statement from Clifford Lane, a clinical director at the National Institutes of Health, who said he reviewed the president’s recent medical data with Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and concluded “with a high degree of confidence” that Trump is “not shedding infectious virus.”

“That should provide reassurance ahead of tomorrow night’s event, that will still be socially distanced and all guests wearing masks,” NBC White House correspondent Peter Alexander said on Wednesday’s Today show.

The final presidential debate remains scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 22 at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., though it’s unclear if it will actually take place. If it does happen, it will be moderated by NBC News White House correspondent (and Philadelphia native) Kristen Welker.

— Rob Tornoe

8:25 AM - October 14, 2020
8:25 AM - October 14, 2020

New cases continue to climb in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Philadelphia

A pedestrian walks past street murals encouraging Philadelphians to wear masks and keep six feet apart at Ridge Ave. and Spring Garden streets in Philadelphia on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
A pedestrian walks past street murals encouraging Philadelphians to wear masks and keep six feet apart at Ridge Ave. and Spring Garden streets in Philadelphia on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020.

The average number of new coronavirus infections being confirmed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey continues to climb, even after warnings last week from officials advising the public to double down on safety practices.

Cases are also up in Philadelphia. The city reported an average of 158 new confirmed cases per day for the week that ended Saturday, and 4.5% of people who were tested had positive results. Those numbers represent increases from the previous week, and the highest case counts since mid-July, according to city data sorted by date of testing.

Cases in Delaware have remained flat compared to last week, when they reached levels in the state not seen since May.

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

  • Pennsylvania: Averaging 1,343 new cases a day, a 26% increase over last week’s average (1,061 a day) and about 60% higher than last month’s average (836 a day).
  • New Jersey: Averaging 769 new cases a day, a 12% increase over last week’s average (682 a day) and about 96% higher than last month’s average (392 a day).
  • Delaware: Averaging 132 new cases a day, down slightly compared to last week’s average (118 a day) and nearly 12% higher than last month’s average (118 a day).

— Rob Tornoe

8:00 AM - October 14, 2020
8:00 AM - October 14, 2020

Cases are rising in 40 states, with infections surging across the West and Midwest

States across the West and Midwest are reporting record numbers of new coronavirus cases, a worrying sign of rapid transmission that could signal the arrival of a long-feared cold-weather wave of infections.

Since Saturday, more than 20 states have hit a new high in their seven-day average of reported case counts, and more than half of those states set records again Tuesday, according to data tracked by The Washington Post.

In 40 states, cases are higher when compared with the week before. Midwestern states such as Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio are driving the surge, while states farther west — such as Colorado, Idaho and the Dakotas — have seen their cases rise steadily for weeks.

“A lot of the places being hit are Midwest states that were spared in the beginning,” said William Hanage, a Harvard University infectious-diseases researcher. “That’s of particular concern because a lot of these smaller regions don’t have the ICU beds and capacity that the urban centers had.”

For the first time since August, the country’s seven-day average of new cases topped 50,000. Experts are concerned that the rising numbers portend an even greater increase this winter, when drier conditions and more time spent indoors will help the virus spread.

— Washington Post

7:40 AM - October 14, 2020
7:40 AM - October 14, 2020

Delaware promotes at-home COVID-19 testing

Governor of Delaware John Carney puts on his face mask after a press briefing about Delaware’s response to coronavirus, in the auditorium of the Carvel State Office Building in Wilmington, Delaware on Tuesday, October 6, 2020.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
Governor of Delaware John Carney puts on his face mask after a press briefing about Delaware’s response to coronavirus, in the auditorium of the Carvel State Office Building in Wilmington, Delaware on Tuesday, October 6, 2020.

Delaware has expanded its at-home COVID-19 test program, which is now open to all residents of the state.

According to AJ Schall, the director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, the home test will arrive at your home within 24 hours after it is requested. A health care provider helps administer the test via video chat, which can then put into a UPS drop box and sent to the lab at no cost. Results are sent via email 48 to 72 hours after the lab receives the test.

The test itself utilizes saliva collection, which the state says has the same effectiveness as the oral swab test and avoids the need for an uncomfortable nasal swab.

“Very easy, very convenient,” Schall said during a press briefing Tuesday.

Directions can be found at DE.gov/hometest.

Between Oct. 3 and Oct. 10, the state administered 34,287 tests, with 1,055 positive cases — a positive test rate of about 3%. Following the lead of other states, Delaware began reporting the percentage of tests that are positive this week on its coronavirus website. It will also continue to report the number of people who have tested positive.

Since the start of the pandemic, nearly one-third of all Delawareans have been tested for COVID-19, according to Karyl Rattay, the director of the state’s Division of Public Health.

— Rob Tornoe

7:30 AM - October 14, 2020
7:30 AM - October 14, 2020

Wednesday morning roundup

  • The United States reported 52,406 new cases and at least 802 deaths on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 7.8 million Americans have contracted COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and at least 215,914 have died, by far the most of any country.
  • Both the New York Times and the Washington Post are reporting that the White House has embraced a declaration from scientists that relies on a discredited “herd immunity” strategy to stop COVID-19. Michael LeVasseur, a professor in epidemiology at Drexel Dornsife School of Public Health, told the Inquirer last month that relying on herd immunity without a vaccine would kill a “staggering” number of people.
  • No ICU beds were available in Oklahoma City Tuesday morning as infection rates surge, a central Oklahoma regional health system executive told the city council, according to the Oklahoman. The city council voted to extend their mask mandate to Dec. 7
  • Trish Scalia, the wife of Labor Department Secretary Eugene Scalia, has tested positive for COVID-19, the department announced Tuesday night. Both attended a White House event on Sept. 26 announcing Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, a gathering that has been linked to numerous cases.