3:40 PM - July 17, 2020
3:40 PM - July 17, 2020

New Jersey to offer survey to visitors from high-risk states

FILE - In this July 18, 2018, file photo, a United Airlines commercial jet takes off as travelers sit at a gate in Terminal C of Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
Julio Cortez / AP
FILE - In this July 18, 2018, file photo, a United Airlines commercial jet takes off as travelers sit at a gate in Terminal C of Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

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.

— Associated Press

3:15 PM - July 17, 2020
3:15 PM - July 17, 2020

Montco school leaders plead for help with ‘confusing’ state reopening rules

Back-to-school supplies await shoppers at a store on Saturday, July 11, 2020, in Marlborough, Mass. School districts across America are trying to decide how to resume classes in the fall amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes)
Bill Sikes / AP
Back-to-school supplies await shoppers at a store on Saturday, July 11, 2020, in Marlborough, Mass. School districts across America are trying to decide how to resume classes in the fall amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Bill Sikes)

Montgomery County school superintendents on Friday asked state leaders for help navigating “confusing and conflicting” reopening guidance, a day after health and education officials instructed schools to plan to keep students six feet apart.

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.

— Maddie Hanna

2:35 PM - July 17, 2020
2:35 PM - July 17, 2020

Pa. Republican calls on Wolf to release funding to county that defied coronavirus order.

The view from South 9th St. heading into Lebanon, Pa.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
The view from South 9th St. heading into Lebanon, Pa.

House Appropriations Chairman Stan Saylor (R., York) is calling on Gov. Tom Wolf to release funding to Lebanon County, which he said was yanked because leaders there defied his shutdown orders.

“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.

— Rob Tornoe and Justine McDaniel

1:10 PM - July 17, 2020
1:10 PM - July 17, 2020

Allegheny County to allow indoor dining to resume amid rise in cases

People gather at the North Shore Tavern in Pittsburgh on Sunday, June 28, 2020. Allegheny County health officials are allowing indoor dining and the sale of alcohol to resume Friday at 5 p.m., even as the county continues to experience an increase in new cases.
Gene J. Puskar / AP
People gather at the North Shore Tavern in Pittsburgh on Sunday, June 28, 2020. Allegheny County health officials are allowing indoor dining and the sale of alcohol to resume Friday at 5 p.m., even as the county continues to experience an increase in new 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.

— Rob Tornoe

12:38 PM - July 17, 2020
12:38 PM - July 17, 2020

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.

Applications will be accepted online at www.waitlistcheck.com/NJ559-2809 until 5 p.m.

Allison Steele

12:23 PM - July 17, 2020
12:23 PM - July 17, 2020

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.

— Rob Tornoe

11:47 AM - July 17, 2020
11:47 AM - July 17, 2020

No fall sports at La Salle or Saint Joseph’s

La Salle said men's rowing, which isn't part of the Atlantic-10 Conference, will also be canceled during the fall semester.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
La Salle said men's rowing, which isn't part of the Atlantic-10 Conference, will also be canceled during the fall semester.

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.

La Salle said sport programs that are not part of the Atlantic-10 men’s rowing, men’s water polo, women’s golf and women’s water polo also will not compete during the fall. Saint Joseph’s announced that spring sports teams will not compete in intercollegiate competition during the fall semester.

“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.”

— Rob Tornoe

11:20 AM - July 17, 2020
11:20 AM - July 17, 2020

White House suggests Pennsylvania test more young people in unpublished report

People wait on line to eat outdoors at Fette Sau in Fishtown on Friday, June 12, 2020.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
People wait on line to eat outdoors at Fette Sau in Fishtown on Friday, June 12, 2020.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force suggested that Pennsylvania test more young people in an unpublished report dated Tuesday.

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.

— Rob Tornoe

9:15 AM - July 17, 2020
9:15 AM - July 17, 2020

High-rise buildings, condos, retail, SEPTA — coronavirus threatens everything in Philly

The Center City skyline pictured from South Philadelphia on Thursday, July 9, 2020.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
The Center City skyline pictured from South Philadelphia on Thursday, July 9, 2020.

COVID-19 has created significant uncertainties for cities with high-density employment centers, such as Philadelphia. What they now don’t know is the willingness of firms to continue locating in high-rise buildings, and if they stay, what will be the size of their work force.

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.

A reduction in the need for commercial space would affect the “microeconomies” that offices support. Suppliers of services and goods, such as cleaning, catering, and office supply companies, would lose sales. And less demand for space could lead to declining commercial real estate values and lower property taxes.

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.

— Joel L. Naroff, for The Inquirer

8:00 AM - July 17, 2020
8:00 AM - July 17, 2020

U.S. blows past coronavirus record as surge grows

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.

— Rob Tornoe

7:30 AM - July 17, 2020
7:30 AM - July 17, 2020

Most coronavirus patients had one of three symptoms, according to the CDC

Volunteers provide coronavirus testing for any Delaware County resident over the age 18, during a walk in at the Parking Lot Adjacent to Providence Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center on Mercy Fitzgerald Campus in Yeadon Pa. Thursday, July 9, 2020.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Volunteers provide coronavirus testing for any Delaware County resident over the age 18, during a walk in at the Parking Lot Adjacent to Providence Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center on Mercy Fitzgerald Campus in Yeadon Pa. Thursday, July 9, 2020.

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.

The analysis, published on Thursday by the CDC, included 164 patients who were confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 and had symptoms.

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.

— Rob Tornoe

7:30 AM - July 17, 2020
7:30 AM - July 17, 2020

Gov. Wolf pulls funding from county that defied coronavirus orders

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf speaking with the press outside of the Broad Street Market in Harrisburg, Pa. on July 9, 2020.
Commonwealth Media Services
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf speaking with the press outside of the Broad Street Market in Harrisburg, Pa. on July 9, 2020.

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.

— Associated Press

7:00 AM - July 17, 2020
7:00 AM - July 17, 2020

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.

— Justine McDaniel, Maddie Hanna and Kristen A. Graham