Rowan University is among first in the region to hold in-person commencement
Rowan University in Glassboro on Tuesday gave its graduates a little slice of normal during a year that was anything but normal, even if it came a couple of months later than originally planned.
The campus was filled with students clad in graduation robes and caps and parents snapping pictures under a big tent on the college green. There was a procession to Pomp and Circumstance and the ceremonial turning of the tassels by rows of graduates to mark the end of a successful college career.
But then a lot was different, too: All graduates and their guests wore masks. Chairs were set strategically apart. Hand sanitizer stations were abundant, as were signs warning everyone to maintain six feet of distance.
First COVID-19 vaccine tested in US poised for final testing
The first COVID-19 vaccine tested in the U.S. revved up people’s immune systems just the way scientists had hoped, researchers reported Tuesday -- as the shots are poised to begin key final testing.
“No matter how you slice this, this is good news,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, told The Associated Press.
The experimental vaccine, developed by Fauci’s colleagues at the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., will start its most important step around July 27: A 30,000-person study to prove if the shots really are strong enough to protect against the coronavirus.
But Tuesday, researchers reported anxiously awaited findings from the first 45 volunteers who rolled up their sleeves back in March. Sure enough, the vaccine provided a hoped-for immune boost.
Rivers Casino Philadelphia will reopen for business at 9.a.m. Friday after four months in coronavirus lockdown, the last casino in Pennsylvania to restart operations.
The Fishtown casino formerly known as SugarHouse will provide an ascetic gambling experience for customers who must wear face masks — no smoking, no vaping, no eating, and no beverages, except for bottled water.
The casino said it will meet or exceed protocols adopted by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board when it restarts. Occupancy will be limited to 25% capacity. There will be no valet parking.
Customers will have their temperatures checked at the door, and anyone with a fever —100.4 degrees or higher — will be denied entry.
Employees and customers will wear a mask at all times while in the casino — “no exceptions, no pulling down,” the casino said in a news release. Casino security and staff will be monitoring continuously and “enforcing full compliance.”
Say goodbye to 24/7 gambling: The casino will close down Monday through Friday between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. for a deep cleaning, in addition to continuous sanitizing. The property will remain open around the clock on weekends.
The casino also recently upgraded its air conditioning and ventilation system to include new purification systems: airPHX, a technology that continuously disinfects indoor air and eliminates coronavirus on surfaces, and AtmosAir, a purification system that neutralizes nearly all airborne coronavirus
The casino has also asked salaried employees to take a 15% pay cut, though hourly workers are unaffected.
Trump administration rescinds rule on foreign students
Facing eight federal lawsuits and opposition from hundreds of universities, the Trump administration on Tuesday rescinded a rule that would have required international students to transfer or leave the country if their schools held classes entirely online because of the pandemic.
The decision was announced at the start of a hearing in a federal lawsuit in Boston brought by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs said federal immigration authorities agreed to pull the July 6 directive and “return to the status quo.”
A lawyer representing the Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said only that the judge’s characterization was correct.
The announcement brings relief to thousands of foreign students who had been at risk of being deported from the country, along with hundreds of universities that were scrambling to reassess their plans for the fall in light of the policy.
State Sen. Anthony Williams is the second Pennsylvania legislator to contract coronavirus
Democratic state Sen. Anthony Williams has tested positive for the coronavirus, becoming the second Pennsylvania legislator to contract the virus.
In a statement, Williams of Philadelphia said he is following recommended health guidelines, and has informed Senate Democratic leadership, his colleagues, and those he has come into contact with “so they can take the necessary steps to evaluate if they are running any risk.”
Black Philadelphians dying at a higher rate; people under 30 now make up 40% of new cases
Black Philadelphians have died of the coronavirus at 1.5 times the rate of white residents, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Tuesday, reporting new racial data from the city.
The data indicate that access to testing has been as good or better for Black residents as white residents, Farley said, which is "a good sign."
Of the people who have died in the city of the virus, about 51% have been African American, 27% white, 9% Hispanic, and 4% Asian, Farley said. The mortality rate is a per capita rate.
The city will be putting out a more detailed report on racial data soon, the health commissioner said.
Forty percent of Philadelphia's coronavirus infections in "the past few days" has been in people under 30, Farley said, compared with 20% during the pandemic overall. He asked all residents, especially young people, not to participate in social activities to prevent the spread.
The city reported 148 new infections on Tuesday. Last week, the city averaged 107 new cases and one new death per day.
One person held in the city jail tested positive last week, Farley said. The city screened 65 additional people, and 23 people with no symptoms tested positive. The jail is trying to contain the outbreak with infection control procedures, he said.
City nursing homes are seeing an average of one new case a day, and most clusters of infection in homes "have been resolved," Farley said. "The nursing homes right now are looking very quiet and that's a good thing."
The city is averaging 2,100 tests per day, and the average turnaround time for test results is 1.3 days. However, the city identified delays in results from LabCorp and Quest — the national laboratories take about a day to report a negative result but seven days to return a positive result. Farley said the city was looking at whether it would be possible to redirect samples to other labs, but asked anyone who’s been tested to isolate until they get results back in case they are contagious.
After the city's announcement of a moratorium on large public events, the Philadelphia Marathon updated its website Tuesday to confirm the annual race was cancelled.
Participants will be able to get refunds, defer to 2021, 2022, or 2023, or make a donation to the American Association for Cancer Research. All participants will be contacted with instructions on how to choose their desired option.
"While this decision weighs heavily on us, the health and well-being of our running community is of the utmost importance," the statement said. "We appreciate your continued support and look forward to continuing in-person races as soon as safely possible."
Philly event cancellations ‘another nail in the coffin’
The cancellations are more bad news for Philadelphia businesses that have been struggling since the start of the pandemic.
Larry Steinberg, a retail broker at commercial real estate firm Colliers International, said the cancellations present another threat to the survival of the city’s restaurants and retailers. “Any time that you cancel events that are going to draw pedestrian traffic to the streets that in turn service the retailers and the restaurants, you’re putting a hurting on them,” he said. “It’s another nail in the coffin.”
Jacob Cooper, of brokerage MSC Retail, however, said most shop and restaurant operators he’s spoken with had already assumed that there would be few large events over the next year or so and had adjusted their expectations accordingly. “I can’t imagine that the retail and restaurant tenants in Center City were expecting and banking on these as large generators of business,” he said. “My sense is that everyone is focused on reduced capacity and reduced revenue streams well into next spring.”
The cancellations will impact the hotel industry, too. Ed Grose, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, said that while hotels don’t normally rely on large events for big revenue increases, other losses this year made those events more important. “The business travel has pretty much stopped, all of our conventions have been canceled, and this was all we had left.”
Delaware removed from Pennsylvania’s travel advisory, according to Gov. Carney
Pennsylvania has removed Delaware from a travel advisory featuring states with high coronavirus infection rates, Gov. John Carney announced on Tuesday. Pennsylvania has yet to update its website, and Gov. Tom Wolf’s office was not immediately available for comment.
Delaware was also removed from New Jersey’s travel advisory earlier Tuesday morning due to a decline in cases over the past two weeks.
Carney said Delaware’s coronavirus metrics weren’t close to the numbers seen in other states on those travel advisories, and that the state was punished because of aggressive testing following an outbreak of cases at the state’s beaches, which looked larger due to the state’s small population.
Asked about Eagles and other pro games, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the protocols for the major sports leagues “look pretty good” but having spectators would not be safe.
”I do think that games can be played with the kind of safety precautions that they’re proposing. I do not think that they can have spectators at those games. There’s no way for them to be safe having a crowd there,” Farley said. “I can’t say what the plans are for the league, but from a safety perspective, they can play games but not [have] crowds.”
“The Eagles are still going to be allowed to play, although without crowds. The Phillies will continue to be allowed to play, although without crowds,” Managing Director Brian Abernathy said.
Abernathy said NFL guidelines also “remind teams that local authorities have the ability to ban fans, so I don’t expect any issues.”
“We have been in communication with the Eagles. We have told them our expectations are that they don’t have fans,” Albernathy said.
Private events at indoor venues aren’t prohibited, but under the city’s current guidelines, any events of 25 or more people indoors are not permitted. All theaters are still closed under health orders.
Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day parade organizers: ‘we agree with the assessment of the City’
The organizers of the annual Thanksgiving Day parade in Philadelphia, considered the oldest in the nation, said they agree with city officials, who on Tuesday said no large public events will be permitted through at least February.
“We are concerned for the health of the hundreds of thousands of people who line the parade route each year, as well as the people of all ages who participate in the parade and help produce the event,” organizers said in a statement issued by 6ABC, which coordinates the event on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway annually.
They said, however, that the “celebration made specially for Philadelphia will continue,” albeit on television. Rick Williams, Cecily Tynan and other personalities will host performances and “even welcome the arrival of Santa.”
“And this year,” the organizers said, “the best view of it all will be the safest of all: from your living room.”
Managing Director Brian Abernathy said the city has spoken to the majority of event producers and that they understood the public health challenges.
”I don’t think they were surprised by the city’s position, and I’d say some of them were relieved,” Abernathy said. “None of us are happy about the event cancellations, but we all recognize it’s the right thing to do for the public health.”
Broad Street Run goes ‘virtual’; will not issue refunds
The 2020 Blue Cross Broad Street Run was canceled Tuesday amid an announcement the city will prohibit large events through at least February, and the 40,000 runners who signed up won’t be eligible for refunds.
The popular 10-mile race — which typically takes place in the spring and was rescheduled for Oct. 4 — will transition to be a “virtual” event, said Leo Dignam, assistant managing director for the city and executive director of the run. That means runners are encouraged to run 10 miles on their own and share photos to be broadcast live on NBC10.
“Because this race was supposed to be in May, all the shirts and medals and signs associated with it” were already ordered, Dignam said. “We do not have the funds to refund everybody.”
Runners will be mailed a package that includes a race Tshirt, a finisher’s medal, a branded buff (which is a mask often used by runners), hand sanitizer and information to print a finisher’s certificate.
They will also be granted entry into the 2021 Broad Street Run without having to enter the lottery system and will receive a 20% discount on the 2021 registration fee. In its 40-year history, the run has never been canceled, Dignam said.
Philly announces moratorium on large events through February
Philadelphia is placing a moratorium on events of 50 or more people on any public property through Feb. 28, Mayor Jim Kenney said at a virtual news briefing Tuesday afternoon. That includes block parties in addition to festivals, parades, concerts, carnivals, fairs, and flea markets.
The moratorium does not include demonstrations or First Amendment-protected activities. Nor does it include events on private property — like performance venues and stadiums — or private outdoor gatherings, such as weddings or family picnics, Kenney said.
Kenney said he was “really disappointed” to make the announcement.
”Philadelphia has built up a reputation for hosting spectacular events of all sizes,” the mayor said, but to safeguard against the spread of the virus, “the event landscape in our city is going to look very different.”
The city will not accept, review, or approve permit applications or issue permits during the moratorium. It will not accept applications for residential block permits until further notice, Kenney said.
”I look forward to celebrating with all of you at a block party or neighborhood festival once we get through this thing,” Kenney said.
Farley said the city decided to do a six-month moratorium because there will not be a vaccine ready by the start of next year. The city also wanted to give clarity to event planners, who often work months in advance.
”The bigger lesson right now is that we’re going to have to live with this virus for a long time... We’re going to have to have some restrictions on our actions until we deploy a vaccine,” Farley said. “I know this is disappointing people, but we’re certainly not going to be deploying a vaccine and be free of this virus in January.”
Farley said he did not believe a vaccine would be ready by January but that he hoped it would happen in early 2021.
Positive test rate inches up in Pennsylvania as new cases continue to rise
Pennsylvania reported 929 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, the third time in the past eight days the state added more than 900 new cases.
According to the state’s Department of Health, 216 of those cases were a result of a delay in private lab result reporting. But even accounting for the delay, Pennsylvania is averaging 767 new cases a day over the past seven days — up from average of 394 new cases a day a little less than a month ago.
The state also said it administered 130,315 coronavirus tests between July 7 and July 13, with 5,438 positive test results — a positive test rate of about 4.2%, up from about 3.7% last week.
At least 6,931 Pennsylvania residents have died after contracting COVID-19, with the state reporting 20 new deaths on Tuesday. 4,712 of the deaths have occurred among residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities.
New Jersey adds four states to travel advisory, but removes Delaware
New Jersey has removed Delaware from its travel advisory due to a decline in cases over the past two weeks, the state announced Tuesday.
In its place, New Jersey added four other states that have seen an uptick in cases in recent weeks — Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
The travel advisory applies to any person arriving from a state with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents or a state with a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average.
There are 22 states now impacted by the tri-state travel advisory: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.
According to parent company MGM Resorts, the Borgata will open its doors to the general public at 10 a.m. on Sunday, July 26. The company said a hosted, invitation-only event will take place ahead of the public reopening.
New Jersey allowed casinos to reopen under capacity limits last month, but pulled back on allowing indoor dining to resume. Despite that, Atlantic City’s eight other casinos reopened to the public, while the Borgata — the city’s most profitable property — opted to remain closed to improve its offerings under the new restrictions.
“Following the Governor’s directive to postpone indoor dining, we took a step back to reassess our reopening date to ensure we could give our guests the world-class experience they expect from us, safely,” Melonie Johnson, the Borgata’s president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. “When we reopen, Borgata will introduce new outdoor dining experiences, as well as a convenient takeout program from several of our fine and casual dining outlets.”
Philly expected to cancel all large events for six months, including Mummers parade
Philadelphia officials will announce Tuesday that all large, public events through the end of February will not be permitted.
The expected announcement means officials will not allow some of the city’s most iconic events to proceed, including the Mummers Parade and the Thanksgiving Day parade, and races like the Broad Street Run, which had already been rescheduled to October.
A city spokesperson said more details will be shared at a 1 p.m. news conference about mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
New Jersey has no plans to fine travelers who don’t follow state’s travel advisory
New Jersey has no immediate plans to follow New York’s plan to fine travelers who don’t follow a tri-state travel advisory, Gov. Phil Murphy said on Tuesday.
During an interview on Good Morning America, Murphy said the state is “deadly serious” about forcing people who travel from states with high coronavirus infection rates to self-quarantine for 14-days, though he has previously admitted enforcement of such an advisory is difficult and largely up to individuals.
Nineteen states — including Delaware — currently meet the criteria of the travel advisory set up by New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo imposed new restrictions on people coming from those states on Monday, including a $2,000 fine for travelers who don’t comply at the state’s airports. Murphy said only New Jersey would enforce the restrictions “our own way.”
“If we could control everything within our own walls, that’d be one thing,” Murphy said. “But we are the United States of America, and we have to look with great concerns on the surges elsewhere.”
New Jersey, which was once a coronavirus hot spot, has avoided an uptick in cases that other states — including Pennsylvania — have experienced in recent weeks. On Monday, the state reported just 231 new positive cases, as New Jersey’s seven-day rolling average of new cases continues to decline.
Manco & Manco Pizza closes after three employees contract coronavirus
Manco & Manco Pizza, an institution on the Ocean City, N.J., boardwalk, is closing its doors temporarily after three employees tested positive for the coronavirus.
In a message posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page, the owners said they are closing all three of their boardwalk locations today to have them professionally cleaned. They plan to reopen Wednesday with new safety measures in place, including more frequent sanitizing of credit card terminals and touch screen tablets.
In an attempt to limit employees’ contact with food, only whole pizzas will be available for purchase when Manco & Manco reopens — individual slices of pizza will not be for sale, at least for the time being.
“We want the public, as well as our customers, to be able to make an educated decision and have all the facts before ordering,” the owners wrote. “The safety of our staff and our loyal customers is paramount.”
Pa. health secretary warns pattern of coronavirus infections is repeating itself
Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine warned Monday that a cycle seen at the start of the coronavirus pandemic may be repeating: A wave of sickness among younger people that can lead to more severe infections and death among older people.
When the virus first began to circulate in the spring, more people aged 19 to 49 got sick — and then older people fell ill, and the virus spread quickly and killed thousands. Even though Pennsylvania is not seeing the dramatic virus surges plaguing some other states, the number of cases among people under 50 here has risen again, now making up 45% of the commonwealth’s cases, Levine said.
“There are things we can do right now to stop this cycle,” Levine said, speaking at the state’s first formal news conference in several days. “We need to make important choices to lower our risk. We have to adapt our activities to protect against COVID-19.”
In addition to wearing masks and practicing social distancing, Levine asked residents to avoid situations that seem risky — people who show up to a crowded restaurant or a supermarket where others aren’t wearing masks should simply leave. And, she added, “If you are in a situation where you are considering whether or not you need a mask, and you’re thinking about it, then the answer is yes, you need a mask,” she said.
Case counts increased in 43 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties over the last week, compared with the previous week, and the percentage of tests that are positive was on the rise in 28 counties, Levine said.
Still, the statewide positivity rate has decreased slightly to 4.4%, and Pennsylvania hospitals have plenty of capacity. Levine said state officials were not currently considering moving any counties back to the more restrictive yellow or red phases of reopening.
The United States reported 58,114 new coronavirus cases on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 30,000 of those cases were reported in just three states — California, Florida, and Texas.