8:39 PM - October 8, 2020
8:39 PM - October 8, 2020

Trump expected to return to public engagements by Saturday, doctor says

In the latest update on President Donald Trump’s health from the White House physician, Sean Conley predicted that the president will be able to resume “public engagements” by Saturday, the 10th day since Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis.

Conley said in a memo released by the White House that the president’s condition has been stable since leaving the hospital, that he has completed his prescribed treatment without any problems and that there are no signs that he will get worse.

“Since returning home, his physical exam has remained stable and devoid of any indications to suggest progression of illness,” Conley wrote. “Overall he’s responded well to treatment, without evidence on examination of adverse therapeutic effects. Saturday will be day 10 since Thursday’s diagnosis, and based on the trajectory of advanced diagnostics the team has been conducting, I fully anticipate the President’s safe return to public engagements at that time.”

— Washington Post

6:09 PM - October 8, 2020
6:09 PM - October 8, 2020

Wolf extends application period for homeowner and renter relief programs

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf issued an emergency order extending the application period for the CARES Act Mortgage and Rental Assistance Grant Programs.

Applications for the assistance program for Pennsylvania renters, the Rental Relief Program, and the assistance program for homeowners, the Pandemic Mortgage Assistance Program, are now open until Nov. 4. All eligibility requirements remain the same, including new program rules that allow homeowners who aren’t late on payments or who are in forbearance agreements to apply. The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency will continue processing applications as they are received.

In late September, several changes were made to the program that also made applications and approvals easier. However, as of Sept. 11, only 420 Philadelphians had applied for this relief, with many unaware that this program exists or have been unable to apply. PHFA had originally required homeowners to be at least 30 days late and required that they not be in a forbearance agreement with their mortgage company. The application website automatically turned away applicants if they didn’t meet these qualifications. PHFA eliminated these restrictions Sept. 17.

The Save Your Home Philly Hotline at Philadelphia Legal Assistance and the Philadelphia Unemployment Project are reaching out to homeowners to notify them of the new deadline and to assist anyone experiencing difficulties in submitting the application. Both organizations offer application support, a referral to a housing counselor, or legal aid. If you need help with your application contact the Save Your Home Philly hotline at 215-334-HOME (4663).

— Erin Arvedlund

3:43 PM - October 8, 2020
3:43 PM - October 8, 2020

Biden announces a town hall in Philly, after Trump rejects virtual debate

President Donald Trump gestures while speaking during the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio.
Patrick Semansky / AP
President Donald Trump gestures while speaking during the first presidential debate Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020, at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, Ohio.

ABC News and Joe Biden’s campaign announced that the Democratic presidential nominee has agreed to appear at a town hall in Philadelphia, moderated by anchor George Stephanopoulos, on Oct. 15, the night the second debate had been planned for. The Biden town hall was planned after President Donald Trump withdrew from the debate, after a day of sparring over when and how the next two debates should be held amid concerns raised by his recent COVID-19 diagnosis.

The town hall will allow voters the opportunity to ask the former vice president questions. It will be held in accordance with state and local government health and safety regulations. Additional details, including when the town hall will air, are expected to be released in the following days.

— Bethany Ao

3:02 PM - October 8, 2020
3:02 PM - October 8, 2020

Biden’s latest coronavirus test is negative, campaign says

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden walks to board his campaign plane at New Castle Airport in New Castle, Del., on Thursday.
Carolyn Kaster / AP
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden walks to board his campaign plane at New Castle Airport in New Castle, Del., on Thursday.

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign says the Democratic nominee tested negative for COVID-19.

It’s at least the fifth time Biden has tested negative since President Donald Trump confirmed that he had contracted the coronavirus.

Biden is campaigning in Arizona on Thursday. Trump remains sidelined at the White House.

— Associated Press

2:58 PM - October 8, 2020
2:58 PM - October 8, 2020

Mitch McConnell says he’s avoided the White House for months over lax COVID-19 precautions

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020.
J. Scott Applewhite / AP
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) told reporters he’d been avoiding the White House since August because officials there haven’t followed proper guidelines to guard against COVID-19.

“My impression was that their approach to how to handle this was different from mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” McConnell told reporters on Thursday at a campaign event in Kentucky.

“I personally didn’t feel [the Trump administration] were approaching the protection from this illness in the same way that I thought was appropriate for the Senate," McConnell said a second campaign event about an hour later, according to NBC News correspondent Julie Tsirkin.

Unlike many Trump officials and Republicans, McConnell — who suffered from polio as a child — has repeatedly urged Americans to wear masks and heed public safety guidelines to limit the spread of the virus.

— Rob Tornoe

2:40 PM - October 8, 2020
2:40 PM - October 8, 2020

Gov. Wolf ‘very concerned’ about COVID-19 trajectory in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf at a press conference outside the Bucks County Justice Center in Doylestown in September.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf at a press conference outside the Bucks County Justice Center in Doylestown in September.

As Pennsylvania on Thursday reported 1,376 additional confirmed coronavirus cases, the largest daily total since May 8, Gov. Tom Wolf said he’s “very concerned” about the virus' trajectory in the commonwealth.

“I think there is a concern generally that we’re going to see an upsurge as we get into the flu season and colder weather,” the governor said. “I think that might be part of it. I think part of it is Pennsylvania has a lot of colleges and universities and they’re back in session.”

He reiterated that “some of the hot spots” are in areas where there are high concentrations of college students.

If there is a continued upsurge in cases and hospitalizations, Wolf said he is confident the commonwealth’s healthcare system will be able to handle it. Compared to when cases surged at the beginning of the pandemic in the spring, he said he had “less concerns about ventilators and PPE."

”We’re now in a very different situation," the governor added, not only at hospitals but also in the broader community in terms of compliance with mask wearing, social distancing, and other public health guidelines.

— Erin McCarthy

2:14 PM - October 8, 2020
2:14 PM - October 8, 2020

New Jersey officials express concern as new cases rise

New Jersey officials are sounding loud alarms about the rise in infections in the state.

The state reported 1,301 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, the highest one-day total since late May. Gov. Phil Murphy called it “a sobering number.” The state also added 11 deaths, and is now averaging 750 new cases a day over the past seven days, according to an Inquirer analysis.

The rate of transmission is 1.22%, which means each new case is leading to at least an additional infection. The total number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals has been increasing, as well as the number of people in intensive care. The statewide positivity rate from Sunday is 3.69%.

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said officials are seeing increasing signs of community spread in the state, and are monitoring flareups in several northern New Jersey counties as well as Monmouth and Ocean, which has been a point of concern in recent weeks. Officials have stockpiled PPE, medicine and other supplies to prepare.

Persichilli said that if healthcare workers begin to fall ill, the state may not be able to depend on backup from neighbors, as they did in the spring.

“If healthcare workers fall ill, like in the prior surge, we will have a problem,” she said. “Unlike in March and April, when healthcare workers from other states came to New Jersey to help out, those workers are now fully engaged with fighting this virus in their own states.”

— Allison Steele

2:14 PM - October 8, 2020
2:14 PM - October 8, 2020

Gov. Murphy blasts Trump for downplaying COVID-19 after being hospitalized

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday that he was “extremely disappointed” by President Donald Trump’s recent comments following the president’s own coronavirus diagnosis, in which he urged citizens not to let the virus “dominate” their lives.

“I speak with survivors and loved ones all the time. And as different as the people are, there are two things in common,” he said. “Number one, they fought this virus tooth and nail. In some cases for weeks, in others for months. They fought it. they didn’t give an inch. They fought it as hard as they could in every way they could.

”The other common trait, every one of them is dead. Every single one of them is dead. So to say this virus isn’t still with us, to say it’s not virulent, to say it could not take your life, is completely false."

— Allison Steele

2:02 PM - October 8, 2020
2:02 PM - October 8, 2020

Philadelphia reports 225 new cases, no additional deaths

Philadelphia announced 225 new cases of the coronavirus Thursday, bringing the city’s total number of confirmed cases to more than 38,000 since the start of the pandemic.

The daily case count, from test results reported to the city Thursday, also appeared to reflect the recent significant increase in COVID-19 cases in the city.

In the week that ended Saturday, the city had an average of 110 new confirmed cases per day, compared to 86 per day in the prior week. Those averages are based on the day the test was taken.

The city also reported 27 new probable cases, from rapid antigen tests. Confirmed cases of the virus in city residents now total 38,208 since March. A total of 1,817 residents have died of COVID-19.

Of the 863 cases that city workers attempted to contact trace last week, officials said 61% of people were reached and agreed to participate. Of the contacts they named, 75% were reached and agreed to quarantine.

— Laura McCrystal

1:40 PM - October 8, 2020
1:40 PM - October 8, 2020

Eight SEPTA workers have now died of COVID-19

SEPTA vehicles in front of headquarters at 1234 Market St. in Center City Philadelphia, Thursday, August 20, 2020.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
SEPTA vehicles in front of headquarters at 1234 Market St. in Center City Philadelphia, Thursday, August 20, 2020.

An eighth SEPTA worker has now died of COVID-19 complications, according to a recent email from SEPTA General Manager Leslie Richards to employees.

Mbassa Bessike, a bus operator for six years, “will be greatly missed and remembered,” Richards wrote in the message sent Tuesday. The authority has seen a total of 365 confirmed employee COVID-19 cases, though nearly 290 have returned to work.

“My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends, and all of you,” Richards said in the message shared with The Inquirer. “This year has been extremely challenging due to the pandemic and I continue to be here for you as we come together to support each other.”

SEPTA’s seven additional workers who died of COVID-19 complications include Ted Nixon, Phil Williams, Michael Holt, Michael Hill, Yolanda Woodberry, Steve McFadden, and Terrance Burton. All were veterans of the authority, with their years of service ranging 17 to more than 30 years in positions that included mechanic, bus operator, fueler, and Regional Rail conductor.

Richards updated workers of its last two employee deaths — McFadden and Burton — in May.

In July, the authority launched a COVID-19 memorial fund to help the families of those employees who died. SEPTA has about 9,300 workers.

Patricia Madej

1:29 PM - October 8, 2020
1:29 PM - October 8, 2020

New cases rising in the U.S. as infection rates spike in the midwest

The United States reported more than 52,000 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The country is averaging 45,660 new cases a day over the past seven days, a 5% increase compared to this time last week (43,439 new cases a day) and 31.9% higher than a recent low on Sept. 12 (34,596 new cases a day).

The biggest spikes are occurring in the Midwest in Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Utah. North Dakota is reporting more than 555 daily cases per million population, breaking the pandemic record set by Florida in mid-July, according to Johns Hopkins.

Thirteen states are reporting test positivity rates greater than 10%, including three states with positivity rates above 20%: Idaho, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Hospitals in central and northeastern Wisconsin are experiencing capacity issues as hospitalizations continue to climb. A 530-bed field hospital, built earlier this year at State Fair Park in Milwaukee, is scheduled to open Wednesday, according to Gov. Tony Evers.

— Rob Tornoe

12:09 PM - October 8, 2020
12:09 PM - October 8, 2020

Pennsylvania reports 1,376 new cases, 27 additional deaths

Pennsylvania reported 1,376 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the highest one-day total since May 8 and the second day in a row the commonwealth has reported more than 1,300 new cases. Pennsylvania is now averaging 1,118 new cases a day over the past seven days, according to an Inquirer analysis, up more than 16% compared to this time last week.

Allegheny County reported 128 new cases, while Philadelphia reported an increase of 122 cases.

The Department of Health said 210,227 coronavirus tests were administered between Oct. 1 and Oct. 7, with 7,585 positive cases — a positive test rate of about 3.6%. Overall, 167,928 Pennsylvania residents have tested positive for coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

At least 8,299 Pennsylvania residents have now died after contracting the coronavirus, with 27 new deaths reported on Thursday. Of the state’s deaths, 5,528 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.

— Rob Tornoe

11:54 AM - October 8, 2020
11:54 AM - October 8, 2020

Biden will hold his own event after Trump passes on virtual debate

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden waves as he boards his campaign plane at New Castle Airport on Thursday.
Carolyn Kaster / AP
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden waves as he boards his campaign plane at New Castle Airport on Thursday.

Former Vice President Joe Biden will hold his own event on Oct. 15 after President Donald Trump declined to take part in the second presidential debate when organizers announced it would be held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Joe Biden will find an appropriate place to take questions from voters directly on October 15th, as he has done on several occasions in recent weeks,” Kate Bedingfield, the campaign’s communication director, said in a statement.

The Biden campaign also asked the Commission on Presidential Debates to move the town hall debate on Oct. 22, the date of the third presidential debate, and rejected a Trump campaign request to move both debates back a week to accommodate the recovering president.

The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates will make the final determination.

— Rob Tornoe

11:20 AM - October 8, 2020
11:20 AM - October 8, 2020

Trump says stimulus talks, $1,200 checks are back on. Pelosi said ‘some progress’ made.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a weekly news conference.
Jacquelyn Martin / AP
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks during a weekly news conference.

President Donald Trump indicated that talks on a new round of coronavirus relief with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) are back on, just days after ordering his team to walk away from negotiations.

During an interview on Fox Business Thursday morning, Trump said a new round of relief could include $1,200 stimulus checks similar to those sent to most Americans in April as part of the CARES Act.

“I think we have a really good chance of doing something," Trump said.

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke on the phone twice on Wednesday, and are scheduled to speak again Thursday, according to Pelosi’s spokesperson.

During her weekly press conference Thursday, Pelosi said there would be no standalone stimulus bill for the airline industry unless a larger aid package can also be agreed to.

“We’re at the table, we want to continue," Pelosi said. “We’ve made some progress.”

— Rob Tornoe

10:30 AM - October 8, 2020
10:30 AM - October 8, 2020

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to hold coronavirus briefing today

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks during a daily press briefing on the current updates of the coronavirus at Trenton War Memorial in Trenton, N.J., on Tuesday, May 26, 2020.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks during a daily press briefing on the current updates of the coronavirus at Trenton War Memorial in Trenton, N.J., on Tuesday, May 26, 2020.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and public health officials will offer coronavirus today, as the state continues to see an increase in new cases and an uptick in hospitalizations.

The briefing is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., and can be live-streamed on the governor’s Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts.

— Rob Tornoe

9:50 AM - October 8, 2020
9:50 AM - October 8, 2020

Biden says he’ll follow guidelines for virtual debate

Former Vice President Joe Biden said he’ll follow whatever health guidelines are in place for the second presidential debate, which organizers said will be virtual. He also expressed skepticism that President Donald Trump would not participate in the debate, despite his comments earlier this morning on Fox Business.

“We don’t know what the president’s gonna do — he changes his mind every second,” Biden told reporters Thursday morning before boarding a plane to Phoenix for campaign events.

“I’m going to follow the commission’s recommendation,” Biden added. “If he goes off and is going to have a rally, I’ll…. I don’t know what I’ll do.”

— Rob Tornoe

9:00 AM - October 8, 2020
9:00 AM - October 8, 2020

U.S. layoffs remain elevated as 840,000 seek jobless aid

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell slightly last week to a still-high 840,000, evidence that job cuts remain elevated seven months into the pandemic recession.

The latest sign of a flagging recovery comes two days after President Donald Trump cut off talks over a new rescue aid package that economists say is urgently needed for millions of unemployed Americans and struggling businesses.

A failure to enact another round of government aid would crimp household income and spending, and some economists say it would raise the risk of a double-dip recession.

— Associated Press

8:30 AM - October 8, 2020
8:30 AM - October 8, 2020

Trump plans to hold a rally rather than participate in virtual debate with Biden, campaign says

President Donald Trump removes his mask as he stands on the Blue Room Balcony upon returning to the White House Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington, after leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Alex Brandon / AP
President Donald Trump removes his mask as he stands on the Blue Room Balcony upon returning to the White House Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington, after leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

The Trump campaign announced in a statement the president plans to hold a rally next week rather than participate in a virtual debate with former Vice President Joe Biden.

“The safety of all involved can easily be achieved without canceling a chance for voters to see both candidates go head to head,” Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement. “We’ll pass on this sad excuse to bail out Joe Biden and do a rally instead.”

The Trump campaign did not release any details. New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman reported that Trump’s campaign is exploring holding an event in Pittsburgh on Monday, though no final decision has been made.

“I thought those who even were in the presence of COVID-19 are to quarantine for 14 days?” Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto wrote on Twitter Wednesday night.

Generally, people with COVID-19 should remain isolated for 10 days after the start of symptoms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A “limited number of patients with severe illness” may transmit virus for up to 20 days, the CDC says.

But Trump’s symptoms are moderate, according to the White House. His first reported symptoms occurred a week ago, Oct. 1, so 10 days will have elapsed by Sunday, the day before the proposed event in Pittsburgh.

— Rob Tornoe and Tom Avril

7:40 AM - October 8, 2020
7:40 AM - October 8, 2020

Trump, recovering from COVID-19, says he won’t participate in second debate with Biden after it goes virtual

Temple students watch the first presidential debate on Sept. 29, 2020. The second presidential debate will be virtual due as President Donald Trump recovers from coronavirus.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Temple students watch the first presidential debate on Sept. 29, 2020. The second presidential debate will be virtual due as President Donald Trump recovers from coronavirus.

The second presidential debate will be virtual, as President Donald Trump continues to recover from coronavirus.

The Commission on President Debates announced Thursday that the debate between Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, scheduled for Oct. 15, will still be a town hall format. But the candidates will participate from separate remote locations.

The commission said the decision was made “to protect the health and safety of all involved."

During an interview on Fox Business Thursday morning, Trump said the decision was “not acceptable” and said he won’t participate.

“I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate,” Trump said.

— Rob Tornoe

7:30 AM - October 8, 2020
7:30 AM - October 8, 2020

Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware reporting highest COVID-19 case levels since late spring

A masked pedestrian walks past a bear painted on a window thanking hospital workers along the 200 block of 10th Street, near Thomas Jefferson University Hospital on Thursday, May 21, 2020.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
A masked pedestrian walks past a bear painted on a window thanking hospital workers along the 200 block of 10th Street, near Thomas Jefferson University Hospital on Thursday, May 21, 2020.

Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware have begun October with coronavirus case levels at the highest they have been since the end of spring, when the region was recovering from the first devastating wave of the pandemic. Cases are also on the rise in Philadelphia, part of a trend areas in the northeast are experiencing as the temperature cools and more people gather together indoors.

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

  • Pennsylvania: Averaging 1,084 new cases a day, a 12.7% increase over last week’s average (961 a day) and about 35% higher than last month’s average (802 a day).
  • New Jersey: Averaging 654 new cases a day, a 5.6% increase over last week’s average (619 a day) and about 93% higher than last month’s average (338 a day).
  • Delaware: Averaging 134 new cases a day, a 11.6% increase over last week’s average (120 a day) and about 36% higher than last month’s average (98 a day).

— Rob Tornoe

7:20 AM - October 8, 2020
7:20 AM - October 8, 2020

Hospitalizations are also rising in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware

Hospitals in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware are starting to see an uptick in COVID-19 admissions, a delayed ripple effect of increases in daily cases in the region.

Data from the states show that neither cases nor hospitalizations are anywhere near the levels reached in the spring, when the region was reeling from the first devastating wave of the pandemic. Currently, hospitals still have plenty of capacity.

Pennsylvania currently has an average of about 600 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, about 200 more than two weeks ago. New Jersey, which has had a steady decline for months, currently has almost 600 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, up from about 450 in late September. Delaware has about 90 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, up from about 70 in late September.

Philadelphia hospitals have not seen an uptick in hospitalizations — at least, not yet, city health department data show.

— Marie McCullough