9:42 PM - October 16, 2020
9:42 PM - October 16, 2020

Gov. Wolf moves to block the full reopening of restaurants and bars

File photo of Gov. Wolf
Matt Rourke / Associated Press
File photo of Gov. Wolf

Gov. Wolf on Friday doused the hopes of many who want to see the complete reopening of restaurants and bars, by vetoing a bill that would have done just that.

Allowing restaurants and bars to reopen at full capacity would further spread the coronavirus, Wolf said in a statement released shortly after he vetoed the bill that had won approval in both chambers of the Pennsylvania Legislature.

“This bill jeopardizes public health and safety as it permits eating establishments, including restaurants, bars, clubs and banquet halls, to operate, up to 100 percent capacity, without having to follow any mitigation guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the commonwealth,” Wolf said. “These federal and state mitigation guidelines were established to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 because of the severity of this pandemic.”

Wolf noted that to date, there have been 172,169 confirmed conronavirus cases and 8,457 deaths.

“Instead of removing mitigation guidelines and encouraging behaviors that increase the spread of COVID-19, we need to be focused on getting our children back to school, keeping our schools and businesses open, and taking precautions to keep our communities healthy,” he said.

— Mensah M. Dean

5:13 PM - October 16, 2020
5:13 PM - October 16, 2020

SEPTA adds “Sports Express” subway trips for Sunday’s Eagles game

SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards rides the Broad Street Line at NRG Station after holding a press briefing on the return of Sports Express service for Sunday's Eagles-Ravens game on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. Richards is encouraging the limited number of fans allowed in the stadium to ride SEPTA.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards rides the Broad Street Line at NRG Station after holding a press briefing on the return of Sports Express service for Sunday's Eagles-Ravens game on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. Richards is encouraging the limited number of fans allowed in the stadium to ride SEPTA.

In what is going to be milestone day for Eagles fans who will be allowed inside Lincoln Financial Field for the first time this season, SEPTA on Sunday is adding three “Sports Express” trips on the Broad Street Line.

The trains will depart from Fern Rock Transportation Center at 11:15, 11:30, and 11:45 a.m. to get fans to NRG Station as the Birds host the Baltimore Ravens at Lincoln Financial Field. The city on Tuesday announced it was loosening crowd restrictions, allowing up to 7,500 to attend the game.

“It’s very encouraging to get back to bringing fans to the stadium right now,” said SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards at NRG Station Friday, wearing a Brandon Graham jersey.

Average weekday ridership on the Broad Street Line has currently dropped to 31,500, from 106,200 before the pandemic, according to figures SEPTA provided Friday.

— Pat Madej

5:00 PM - October 16, 2020
5:00 PM - October 16, 2020

Jewish congregations sue New York State over crowd limits

A man holds a Yad Yamin #Fightback flag along with an Israeli flag as he stands next to another man with an American flag as they joined protesters outside the offices of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in New York. Three Rockland County Jewish congregations filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing Gov. Andrew Cuomo of engaging in a streak of anti-Semitic discrimination with a crackdown on religious gatherings. The Manhattan federal court lawsuit says Cuomo has made numerous discriminatory statements about the Jewish Orthodox community. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Kathy Willens / AP
A man holds a Yad Yamin #Fightback flag along with an Israeli flag as he stands next to another man with an American flag as they joined protesters outside the offices of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in New York. Three Rockland County Jewish congregations filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing Gov. Andrew Cuomo of engaging in a streak of anti-Semitic discrimination with a crackdown on religious gatherings. The Manhattan federal court lawsuit says Cuomo has made numerous discriminatory statements about the Jewish Orthodox community. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Three Rockland County Jewish congregations are suing New York State and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, saying he engaged in a “anti-Semitic discrimination” with a recent crackdown on religious gatherings to reduce the state’s coronavirus infection rate.

The Manhattan federal court lawsuit filed late Wednesday accused the Democrat of making negative, false, and discriminatory statements about the Jewish Orthodox community as he imposed the new coronavirus rules. The state said six coronavirus clusters in areas comprising 2.8% of the state’s population have appeared in Brooklyn and Queens, as well as Broome, Orange and Rockland Counties.

That prompted measures announced last week that include limiting the size of religious gatherings in the hot spots to 25% capacity, or a maximum of 10 people.The limits prompted several federal lawsuits, including two in Brooklyn and one in Albany.

The latest lawsuit said Cuomo’s order was “blatantly anti-Semitic” and was “directed towards particular Jewish communities. ”The lawsuit said his action “not only flagrantly flies directly in the face of scientific evidence” and a court order limiting what measures the state can take.

It also “specifically singles out the Orthodox Jewish community.” Cuomo, who has said he has “respect and love” for the Orthodox community, told reporters Thursday that he was not targeting Orthodox Jewish communities.

— Associated Press

2:16 PM - October 16, 2020
2:16 PM - October 16, 2020

Philadelphia reports 302 new cases, two additional deaths

Philadelphia announced 302 newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Friday, a number the health department said was partly due to the city receiving an unusually high number of test results. The city also announced two deaths.

The total number of confirmed cases in Philadelphia is 39,822. The Department of Public Health also announced seven new probable cases from rapid antigen tests.

— Justine McDaniel

1:00 PM - October 16, 2020
1:00 PM - October 16, 2020

After hospital stay, Chris Christie blames White House lapses for ‘false sense of security’

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani look on as President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Carolyn Kaster / AP
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani look on as President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie urged everyone to wear a mask and practice social distancing following a week-long hospital stay after contracting coronavirus.

Christie, who has asthma, said during an interview Friday on Good Morning America with George Stephanopoulos he didn’t wear a mask while helping to prepare President Donald Trump for the first presidential debate at the end of September. He announced the morning of Oct. 3 he tested positive for COVID-19, and was admitted to Morristown Medical Center for treatment.

“No matter what you’re doing, you should have a mask on and you should stay social distant from folks,” Christie said. “I did it for seven months. I stayed healthy. I didn’t do it for four days and I wound up in the ICU.”

Christie said he wasn’t contacted by White House officials for contact tracing, but said the Morris County Board of Health contacted him while in the hospital to contact trace. He also blamed lapses at the White House for creating a “false sense of security.”

“I was led to believe that all the people I was interacting with at the White House had been tested,” Christie said. “I’ve been so careful, George, for seven months because of my asthma — wearing masks, washing my hands, social distancing. For seven months, I was able to avoid the virus in one of the worst-hit states in the country, in New Jersey.”

“But I let my guard down and it was wrong,” Christie added. “It was just a big mistake.”

— Rob Tornoe

12:11 PM - October 16, 2020
12:11 PM - October 16, 2020

Pennsylvania reports 1,566 new cases, 25 additional deaths

Pennsylvania reported 1,566 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the 11th straight day the commonwealth has added more than 1,000 cases. Pennsylvania is now averaging about 1,400 new cases a day over the past seven days, according to an Inquirer analysis, a spike that shows no signs of slowing down.

Allegheny County reported 141 new cases and Westmoreland County, which is just east of Pittsburgh, reported 108 new cases, according to the health department.

It said 238,610 coronavirus tests were administered between Oct. 9 and 15, with 9,592 positive cases — a positive test rate of about 4%. Overall, 179,086 Pennsylvania residents have tested positive for coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

At least 8,457 Pennsylvania residents have now died after contracting the coronavirus, with 25 new deaths reported on Friday. Of the state’s deaths, 5,603 (about 66%) have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.

— Rob Tornoe

11:15 AM - October 16, 2020
11:15 AM - October 16, 2020

Pa. jobless rate fell to 8.1% last month, down 2.3 percentage points from August

Driven by gains in the leisure-and-hospitality sector, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.1% in September, a 2.3 percentage-point decrease from August, the state said Friday.

In all, the Department of Labor and Industry said, the state has recovered better than half of the non-farm jobs lost in March and April as the effects of the pandemic escalated.

Pennsylvania’s civilian labor force — the estimated number of residents working or looking for work —increased 52,000 over the month as the unemployment count fell by 141,000.

Despite the gains, the state jobless rate was still 3.5% higher than it was in September 2019.

— Anthony R. Wood

11:10 AM - October 16, 2020
11:10 AM - October 16, 2020

Pfizer won’t apply for vaccine authorization until at least late November, CEO says

A patient enrolled in Pfizer's COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, receives an injection.
/ AP
A patient enrolled in Pfizer's COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, receives an injection.

The soonest that Pfizer may apply for emergency-use authorization for a coronavirus vaccine is late November, the company’s chief executive said Friday, belying earlier assertions that the pharmaceutical giant could start seeking approval this month.

In an open letter to the public, CEO Albert Bourla said Pfizer expects to meet the Food and Drug Administration’s safety requirements for a vaccine in mid-November.

“So let me be clear, assuming positive data, Pfizer will apply for Emergency Authorization Use in the U.S. soon after the safety milestone is achieved in the third week of November,” Bourla said. “All the data contained in our U.S. application would be reviewed not only by the FDA’s own scientists but also by an external panel of independent experts at a publicly held meeting convened by the agency.”

Bourla said Pfizer’s scientists may know by the end of October whether their vaccine is effective, but it will depend on how quickly people participating in their clinical trial become infected with the virus. The company has to accumulate a certain number of cases to compare the outcomes of people who received the vaccine candidate with those who received a placebo.

Independent scientists will review the complete data and tell Pfizer whether the vaccine is effective, Bourla said. The company will complete its trial even if the vaccine is declared effective sooner and will probably publicize any conclusive results a few days after the independent scientists notify Pfizer, he said.

In addition to Pfizer, nine other companies are conducting Phase 3 trials of coronavirus vaccine candidates.

— Washington Post

10:45 AM - October 16, 2020
10:45 AM - October 16, 2020

Pennsylvania and New Jersey now considered high-risk states by Massachusetts

Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware have been added to Massachusetts' travel quarantine list due to an increase in COVID-19 infections over the past month.
Steven Senne / AP
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware have been added to Massachusetts' travel quarantine list due to an increase in COVID-19 infections over the past month.

If you live in the tri-state area, don’t make plans to visit Boston.

While New Jersey and Pennsylvania have their own travel quarantine lists, both have been deemed high-risk states by Massachusetts and added to its travel advisory. Delaware is also classified as a high-risk state by Massachusetts.

Massachusetts requires travelers coming from a high-risk state to complete a travel form and self-quarantine for 14 days. Travelers who don’t follow the state’s rules face a fine of up to $500 per day.

Massachusetts' travel requirements are stricter than either New Jersey’s or Pennsylvania’s. States are considered high-risk under two conditions: They’re reporting six or more cases per 100,000 people, or the positive COVID-19 test rate is over 5%, measured as a seven-day rolling average.

Pennsylvania is currently averaging about 10 cases per 100,000 people, New Jersey, 9.4 cases per 100,000, according to an Inquirer analysis. Pennsylvania’s numbers would technically place the commonwealth on New Jersey’s quarantine list, if it remains that high into next week.

— Rob Tornoe

9:06 AM - October 16, 2020
9:06 AM - October 16, 2020

WHO study finds remdesivir and three other drugs have little to no effect on coronavirus

The U.N. health agency says the world’s largest randomized trial of COVID-19 treatments found “conclusive evidence” that remdesivir, a drug used to treat U.S. President Donald Trump when he fell ill, has little or no effect on severe cases.

The World Health Organization announced Friday the long-awaited results of its six-month “Solidarity Therapeutics Trial” that endeavored to see if existing drugs might have an effect on the coronavirus.

The study, which was not peer-reviewed, found that four treatments tested — remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir and interferon — had " little or no effect" on whether or not patients died within about a month or whether hospitalized patients recovered.

Most of those had already been ruled out. But remdesivir, a repurposed malaria drug, has been classified as standard-of-care in the United States, and it has been approved for use against COVID-19 in the UK and EU. Supplies of the drug have been limited, and the European Medicines Agency is now reviewing whether remdesivir is causing kidney problems as reported by some patients.

— Associated Press

7:10 AM - October 16, 2020
7:10 AM - October 16, 2020

Spike in cases in Pa. shows no signs of slowing

Signs with the message “Spectators are asked to please keep us in the game by…WEARING YOUR MASK” are posted around the football stadium at West Deptford H.S. where a limited number of spectators were allowed in to watch the JV football game against visiting Haddonfield on Oct. 5, 2020.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Signs with the message “Spectators are asked to please keep us in the game by…WEARING YOUR MASK” are posted around the football stadium at West Deptford H.S. where a limited number of spectators were allowed in to watch the JV football game against visiting Haddonfield on Oct. 5, 2020.

Pennsylvania continues to see a spike in new cases as a third wave of coronavirus infections sweeps across the country and the region. The commonwealth has reported 1,000 new cases a day for 10 days in a row, and is currently averaging the most new cases a day since April 14.

New Jersey is also experiencing a rise in new cases, while Delaware has managed to keep the number of new cases relatively flat. All three are also seeing an increase in hospitalizations, though numbers remain far below pandemic highs.

“As the weather cools those numbers are not going to change themselves, only we can change those numbers," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said during a coronavirus briefing on Thursday.

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

  • Pennsylvania: Averaging 1,370 new cases a day, a 12.8 increase over last week’s average (1,115 a day) and about 22% higher than last month’s average (864 a day).
  • New Jersey: Averaging 882 new cases a day, a 17.4% increase over last week’s average (751 a day) and about 109% higher than last month’s average (421 a day).
  • Delaware: Averaging 131 new cases a day, basically flat compared to last week’s average (128 a day) and about 7% higher than last month’s average (122 a day).

— Rob Tornoe

7:00 AM - October 16, 2020
7:00 AM - October 16, 2020

Fauci talks with Jefferson doctors about how long we’ll need to wear masks

Anthony S. Fauci, the nation's top-ranking infectious-disease doctor, expressed "cautious optimism" about COVID in a Thursday address to the Thomas Jefferson University medical community.
Screenshot via Zoom
Anthony S. Fauci, the nation's top-ranking infectious-disease doctor, expressed "cautious optimism" about COVID in a Thursday address to the Thomas Jefferson University medical community.

Anthony Fauci, the man millions turn to for pandemic wisdom, displayed his trademark bluntness Thursday in an address to the medical community at Thomas Jefferson University.

Sandra E. Brooks, chief medical officer at Jefferson University Hospital, asked Fauci to predict how long masks and social-distancing will be needed.

Fauci said that if the vaccine is 70% effective, and if some people resist taking it, many months will elapse before society reaches herd immunity.

“You’re not going to have a profound degree of herd immunity for a considerable period of time, maybe toward the end of 2021, into 2022,” he said. “I feel very strongly that we’re going to need to have some degree of public-health measures to continue. Maybe not as stringent as they are right now.”

He added:

“It’s not going to be the way it was with polio and measles, where you get a vaccine, case closed, it’s done. It’s going to be public-health measures that linger for months and months.”

— Tom Avril

6:45 AM - October 16, 2020
6:45 AM - October 16, 2020

Coronavirus cases, hospitalizations rising in most states

This is not a regional crisis, but instead one that is intensifying almost everywhere in the country. Forty-four states and the District of Columbia have higher caseloads than in mid-September, and more than 36,000 people are hospitalized nationally with COVID-19 amid a long-feared autumnal rise of infections and serious illnesses.

During the past week, at least 20 states have set record seven-day averages for infections, and a dozen have hit record hospitalization rates, according to health department data analyzed by The Washington Post.

Wisconsin set a record Thursday when it surpassed 4,000 newly reported cases. Illinois also reported more than 4,000 cases, eclipsing records set during the state’s first wave in April and May. Ohio set a new high, as did Indiana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Montana, and Colorado. In El Paso, officials have ordered new restrictions and lockdowns amid a frightening coronavirus surge.

Some hospitals in the Upper Midwest and Great Plains have become jammed with patients and are running low on intensive-care-unit beds. On Wednesday, Wisconsin opened a field hospital on the grounds of the Wisconsin State Fair Park outside Milwaukee and will eventually be able to treat more than 500 patients.

Montana reported a record 301 hospitalized COVID-19 patients Thursday, with 98 percent of the inpatient beds occupied the day before in Yellowstone County, home to the city of Billings and the state’s most populous county.

— Washington Post

6:30 AM - October 16, 2020
6:30 AM - October 16, 2020

Friday morning roundup