New Jersey to offer survey to visitors from high-risk states
New Jersey will ask travelers coming from states with high rates of coronavirus infections to take an online survey beginning next week.
The action announced Friday comes on the heels of the governors of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut creating a “quarantine list” of more than 20 states where infection rates are rising. The three states have asked travelers from those states to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
On Friday, New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said airlines will notify passengers traveling to New Jersey about the survey at their point of departure, and again in flight. The survey will collect information on travelers' residence and destination, which will then be forwarded to the appropriate county health department. The county will contact the travelers, Persichilli said.
“Self-quarantine advisory is voluntary, but compliance is expected and is relying on the individual’s accountability,” she added.
The standard, while in line with previous guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, came as some schools had been considering reopening with three feet of spacing — a distance that Bucks and Chester county health officials had said was sufficient.
No school district will be able to reopen full time and maintain six feet of social distancing, according to Montgomery County Intermediate Unit Executive Director Regina Speaker.
”Confusion around the choices and options to reopen continues to grow. Our parents and staff are increasingly anxious and frustrated. We are trying to wade through layers of politics and listen to divided community voices,” Speaker said in a letter to Health Secretary Rachel Levine, Education Secretary Pedro Rivera and Gov. Tom Wolf that was signed by all 21 county superintendents.
“With just weeks before the start of school, we need support,” Speaker said.
In the letter, Speaker said the conflicting guidance from local and state officials has presented a dilemma for school leaders, with some parents accusing administrators of being reckless for planning just 3 feet of separation, and others insisting on the lesser measure if it means schools can reopen.
”Now, more than ever before, we need to present a united front to alleviate the fear and concern of our parents, community members, and most especially, our children,” Speaker said, requesting a meeting on behalf of the superintendents.
“I am calling on Gov. Wolf to reverse this shameful act and release the $12.8 million that is legally owed to the citizens of Lebanon County,” Saylor said in a statement. “This funding was appropriated by the Legislature in two pieces of legislation that the governor signed into law.”
Wolf said the federal funds were pulled because local Republican leaders voted in mid-May to lift coronavirus restrictions in defiance of the state’s orders. During a virtual public workshop in May, Republican commissioners Bill Ames, and Robert J. Phillips said they did not believe the county would lose the funding that Wolf threatened to withhold.
“Don’t come and say you want something from the state when you haven’t followed the rules. There are consequences. These are the consequences. I think I’m being consistent here,” Wolf said at a news conference Thursday.
Allegheny County to allow indoor dining to resume amid rise in cases
Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh, will allow indoor dining to resume Friday at 5 p.m., even as the number of new cases in the county continues to climb.
The Health Department order, which rescinds restrictions put in place July 8, will allow indoor dining to resume at 25% capacity. Bar service remains banned, but bars may serve alcoholic beverages indoors with food to customers seated at a booth or table. The county has also lifted its limit of three alcoholic drinks per customer.
Dining service will be allowed until until 11 p.m., but takeout and delivery can continue later into the night.
The county has also banned the use of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, at all indoor and outdoor dining facilities and indoors at casinos. The new order comes after Gov. Tom Wolf issued new restrictions on bars and restaurants earlier this week, limiting capacity to 25% and forcing bars and nightclubs that don’t serve food to close.
The county reported 240 new cases on Friday and a 11.3% positive test rate from tests takes between June 29 through July 26.
Last day for N.J. residents to apply for COVID-19 rental assistance
Friday is the last day that New Jersey residents can apply for emergency rental assistance. The program is open to renters who have experienced a “substantial loss of income” in recent months due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The program will pay at least 30 percent of a resident’s income toward rent. Anyone selected must be able to show they have lost income or are receiving unemployment benefits as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and that they have limited assets and savings. Participants are selected through an online lottery process, according to the Department of Community Affairs website.
Pennsylvania adds more than 1,000 new cases as spike continues
Pennsylvania reported 1,032 new coronavirus cases on Friday. The commonwealth is now averaging 800 new cases a day, double the 400 a day it was averaging in the middle of June.
At least 6,992 Pennsylvania residents have now died after contracting coronavirus, with 19 new deaths reported on Friday. Of the state’s deaths, 4,784 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.
Younger people continue to drive up Pennsylvania’s case counts. In the southeastern part of the state, 17% of all new cases in July have been among people 19 to 24-years-old, compared to just 5% in April. In southwestern Pennsylvania, that same group made up 22% of all new cases this month.
The Atlantic-10 Conference is postponing all fall 2020 sporting events and championship. Locally, that means that there will be no fall sports at either La Salle University or Saint Joseph’s University.
The conference said in a statement Friday the impacted sports include soccer, field hockey, cross country, volleyball, golf, tennis, swimming and diving, and rowing. The conference doesn’t sponsor football.
“The health and safety of our student-athletes and staff is paramount. We all desperately wish we could return to the playing field this fall, but we’ve made the decision based on health-related factors, and believe that postponing play until the spring is the best course of action,” Saint Joseph’s Athletic Director Jill Bodensteiner said in a statement.
The conference said it is “premature” to make any decisions currently about basketball, which begins in November. Leaders have agreed to a “look-in window” in mid-September that could allow some fall sports to resume if the risk of infection has “substantially been reduced.”
Cases have been spiking in Pennsylvania in recent weeks, and the Department of Health has reported more cases in younger age groups than in groups older than 50. In southwestern Pennsylvania, 19 to 24-year-olds account for 23% of new cases this month, up from just 5% in April. In southeastern Pennsylvania, that number is 17%
The report, first obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, outlines suggestions for 18 states it says are in the “red zone” for coronavirus cases, meaning they had over 100 new cases per 100,000 people last week. According to the report, those states — including California, Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma and Texas — are recommend to tighten rules in hot spots and increase testing.
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware were all listed in the “yellow zone,” meaning they reported between 10 and 100 new cases per 100,000 people last week. The report offered no recommendations for New Jersey, and suggested Delaware continue to emphasize masking requirements and closures of bars in the state’s beach towns.
The task force also suggests Pennsylvania continue to carefully monitor Pittsburgh, which has seen a spike in new cases in recent weeks local officials have linked to bars.
As the pandemic revealed, remote work can work well. Productivity has been maintained across a wide spectrum of industries, and workers are starting to embrace the work-at-home concept. But the more people work at home, the less the need for office space.
When you combine the risk to employees of another virus outbreak with the ability to work remotely, the likelihood is that demand for Center City, high-rise commercial real estate will decline.
If fewer people were employed downtown, mass transit usage would drop. That affects the finances of the transit systems and harms the microeconomies they sustain. Think of all the retailers in and around Suburban, Jefferson, and 30th Street Stations that depend upon transit riders for much of their income, as well as the suppliers of parts, equipment, goods, and services to the transit system.
On Thursday, the United States reported 77,225 new coronavirus cases, setting a new daily case count record for the ninth time this month, according to Johns Hopkins University. It’s more than triple the 20,000 cases or so a day the country was averaging just a month ago.
By comparison, the European Union — which has a population of 100 million more people than the United States — recorded just 5,779 new cases on Thursday. Three states — California, Florida, and Texas — each reported more new cases on Thursday than the European Union.
The United States also reported 943 new deaths, raising the county’s confirmed death toll to at least 138,360, by far the world’s highest. Florida, Texas, and South Carolina reported a record number of deaths on Thursday, while 10 states and Puerto Rico reported a record number of hospitalizations, according to CNN.
“What I think we need to do, and my colleagues agree, is we really almost need to regroup, call a timeout — not necessarily lock down again, but say that we’ve got to do this in a more measured way,” Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infections disease expert, said Thursday during a Facebook interview. “We’ve got to get our arms around this and we’ve got to get this controlled.”
Pennsylvania is now averaging close to 800 new coronavirus cases a day as the state continues to experience an increase in new cases. New Jersey and Delaware continue to see their daily case numbers decline.
Most coronavirus patients had one of three symptoms, according to the CDC
While COVID-19 can cause a number of different symptoms, including none at all, there are three that most patents who contract the virus have experienced, according to a new analysis done by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
The three symptoms are: fever, coughing, or shortness of breath.
Ninety-six percent of the patients had at least one of the three symptoms, and about 45% experienced all three, according to the analysis. Coughing was the most common, with 84% of patients reporting it as a symptom. 80% of patents reported a shortness of breath, which was the most common symptom associated with hospitalized patients.
Other symptoms patients reported included muscle pain, chills, fatigue and headache. About 50% of patients reported at least one stomach issue, most commonly diarrhea. A loss of smell and taste were reported by a higher percentage of patients who didn’t require hospitalization.
Gov. Wolf pulls funding from county that defied coronavirus orders
Gov. Tom Wolf followed through on his threat to yank COVID-19 funding from a county that defied his shutdown orders, while his administration targeted bars, restaurants and large gatherings statewide Thursday in an effort to prevent a wider resurgence of the virus that officials say could jeopardize students’ return to school.
Wolf withheld nearly $13 million in funding from Lebanon County, where local Republican leaders voted in mid-May to lift pandemic restrictions in defiance of the Democratic governor. Pennsylvania distributed $625 million of its federal coronavirus relief allotment to counties that did not get direct aid from the federal government. Wolf’s decision left Lebanon as the only one of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties to have not gotten any of the federal money.
Asked about it at a news conference Thursday, Wolf blamed the county’s GOP-controlled Board of Commissioners and suggested that Lebanon residents should kick them out of office.
“Don’t come and say you want something from the state when you haven’t followed the rules. There are consequences. These are the consequences. I think I’m being consistent here,” he said.
Pennsylvania’s largest teachers’ union calls for districts to plan for online-only learning
Pennsylvania’s largest teachers’ union urged Gov. Tom Wolf to direct public schools to plan for all-online instruction.
“It is absolutely essential that every public school entity in Pennsylvania is prepared to deliver online instruction,” Pennsylvania State Education Association president Rich Askey wrote to Wolf and Education Secretary Pedro Rivera.
Askey said educators want to return to school, but “an increasing number of Pennsylvania educators and parents are concerned that reopening schools for in-person instruction poses significant health risks that, in the current environment, may be impossible to completely prevent.”
On Thursday, Pennsylvania education and health officials updated their safety guidelines for schools that hope to reopen in the fall, including directing them to ensure students remain at least six feet apart all day long — a provision that threatens to upend plans in some districts.
That guideline, instructing schools to implement social distancing “to the maximum extent feasible,” was on a list that also included having students eat in their classrooms and be screened by their parents for coronavirus symptoms each morning. The six-foot standard had previously been recommended, but some districts had moved ahead with plans for less. Thursday’s announcement from Harrisburg had administrators instantly questioning if they would have to consider a model more dependent on remote learning.
“The six-foot-distance [recommendation] is really going to make us go back and reevaluate our structure,” said Christopher Marchese, superintendent in the Avon Grove School District, adding that it had been “quite an afternoon.” Health officials in his county, Chester, had previously said a three-foot minimum would be acceptable in classrooms where six was not viable. The Bucks County Health Department had issued similar guidance.