7:35 PM - July 15, 2020
7:35 PM - July 15, 2020

Judge nixes theater chains’ challenge to closure, for now

A movie theatre is closed Monday, June 29, 2020, in Phoenix. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has shut down bars, movie theaters, gyms and water parks amid a dramatic resurgence of coronavirus cases. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Matt York / AP
A movie theatre is closed Monday, June 29, 2020, in Phoenix. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has shut down bars, movie theaters, gyms and water parks amid a dramatic resurgence of coronavirus cases. (AP Photo/Matt York)

A federal judge has denied a request by several national theater chains to issue an order allowing them to reopen in New Jersey.

AMC, Cinemark and others sued New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy seeking a temporary restraining order to invalidate the Democrat’s executive order keeping theaters closed due to concerns over COVID-19.

In the suit filed last week, they had argued that they were being treated unfairly because Murphy has allowed other large gatherings, such as religious ceremonies, to resume. The failure to allow theaters to reopen while houses of worship and other public entities are allowed to constitutes a violation of the theaters’ rights to free speech, equal protection and due process, the suit alleged.

Associated Press

6:15 PM - July 15, 2020
6:15 PM - July 15, 2020

Penn State: No positive COVID-19 results among 178 student-athletes tested

Penn State Head Coach James Franklin walks the AT&T Stadium Field sidelines before Penn State plays Memphis in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, December 28, 2019 in Arlington, Texas.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Penn State Head Coach James Franklin walks the AT&T Stadium Field sidelines before Penn State plays Memphis in the Cotton Bowl on Saturday, December 28, 2019 in Arlington, Texas.

Penn State’s athletic department reported Wednesday that of its 178 student-athletes who have been tested for COVID-19 through July 10, no one has tested positive, although the results of 31 tests were pending.

The report is the second regarding coronavirus testing since the student-athletes returned to campus starting June 8. Vice president of athletics Sandy Barbour said earlier this month that the department will make testing results public every two weeks.

Penn State football began the second phase of its preseason training on Monday, working out with coaches present for the first time.

— Joe Juliano

5:49 PM - July 15, 2020
5:49 PM - July 15, 2020

Photos: Playstreets give Philly kids summer fun amid coronavirus restrictions

4:21 PM - July 15, 2020
4:21 PM - July 15, 2020

Pa. Health Secretary: ‘We cannot be Florida'

Vehicles wait in line at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site outside Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. Florida has become one of the nation's hot spots for coronavirus.
Wilfredo Lee / AP
Vehicles wait in line at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site outside Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. Florida has become one of the nation's hot spots for coronavirus.

In announcing new restrictions on indoor establishments and gatherings Wednesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Health Secretary Rachel Levine emphasized that the measures were meant to prevent “super spreader” situations. In Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and elsewhere in the state, contact tracers speaking to people infected with the virus have traced many infections to people crowding in bars and restaurants or congregating in social situations.

”In Florida, you can see what happens when you don’t do any mitigation efforts and you basically let the virus burn,” Levine said. “They are seeing, Saturday was over 15,000 cases... Their hospitals are threatened... Their death rate is now increasing. That’s what happens when you just let this burn. We cannot be Florida.”

With the new restrictions, Pennsylvania becomes the latest state to clamp down after loosening measures. Unlike states reacting to major surges such as California and Texas, however, Pennsylvania’s move is preemptive.

”Let’s hope we do this and get through this phase as quickly as possible,” Wolf said. “If we do nothing, I can guarantee you we’ll be looking a lot more like Florida.”

At the state’s peak in April, it confirmed 2,000 new virus cases in one day. By June, that had dropped to 300 or 400 new cases per days, but it has risen again, hitting 1,000 last week and 994 on Wednesday.

The increased transmission of the virus in Pennsylvania is due to people ignoring the requirement to wear face masks in public and to practice social distancing; travel in and out of the state; and a lack of national coordination in stopping the spread, Wolf said.

”We did everything we should’ve done... [but] other states have become Petri dishes for COVID-19 during the time when we were all working hard here in Pennsylvania to suppress the spread,” Wolf said. “Together, these three catalysts have turned our downward trend into an alarming escalation.”

— Justine McDaniel

4:12 PM - July 15, 2020
4:12 PM - July 15, 2020

New restrictions are necessary to avoid a major outbreak, Wolf says

Gov. Tom Wolf said the state needs to take action now to prevent a potential surge in the state, using new knowledge about how the virus has spread indoors and at places like bars and restaurants. By increasing restrictions on restaurants, bars, and other businesses now, the governor said, he hopes Pennsylvania can avoid a major outbreak in cases and surge in deaths — as is currently happening in states including Florida, Texas, and Arizona — and avoid the need to shut down further in the fall.

”Medical experts looking at our current trajectory are projecting that a new surge is in the offing, and what we’re seeing right now could soon be even worse than what we saw before,” Wolf said at Wednesday’s news briefing.

Dr. David Rubin, a general pediatrician and director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said at the news briefing that there was “extremely clear” evidence that the disease resurgence is quickly moving into the northeast region of the United States. He said the hospital’s virus tracker has shown “increased disease activity” in the New Jersey and Pennsylvania counties surrounding Philadelphia and increased risk of transmission statewide.

”Simply stated, we are seeing now widespread community transmission throughout the Northeast,” Rubin said. “It’s of sufficient concern now that if we do not act decisively in the next six weeks, we may not be in the favorable terrain we had hoped to be in… to assure the public that opening schools will be safe after Labor Day.”

State officials said that they did not want to wait until there was exponential growth in cases in the state before imposing targeted restrictions to prevent transmission of the virus.

”We are using the information we have gathered over the past few months to create these mitigation efforts based on how the virus spreads,” Wolf said. “We know that the virus appears to be primarily airborne, so we’re placing more limits on indoor activity.”

— Justine McDaniel

3:58 PM - July 15, 2020
3:58 PM - July 15, 2020

Pennsylvania placing new restrictions on restaurants, bars as coronavirus cases surge

People hangout outside of Teresa’s Cafe and Wine Bar in Wayne, Pa. last month. Gov. Tom Wolf is announcing stricter restrictions on bars and restaurants statewide.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
People hangout outside of Teresa’s Cafe and Wine Bar in Wayne, Pa. last month. Gov. Tom Wolf is announcing stricter restrictions on bars and restaurants statewide.

As coronavirus cases continue to increase statewide, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday announced new, tighter restrictions on bars, restaurants and other businesses statewide, as well as on indoor gatherings.

”I don’t like this more than anybody else does but … this is what we need to do if we want to stop this in its tracks right now,” Wolf said at an afternoon news conference.

Bars and restaurants will now only be allowed to seat people indoors at up to 25% of their capacity (currently, seating is allowed up to 50% capacity). Alcohol can only be served during meal transactions, and no bar service is allowed.

Bars can only operate if they serve dine-in meals or carry-out alcohol. Outdoor dining restrictions will not change, and to-go cocktails are still available. Nightclubs must close.

Indoor gatherings of more than 25 people are now prohibited. The state’s cap on outdoor gatherings at 250 people remains the same.

Additionally, businesses will be required to have employees telework unless it’s impossible.

The rollbacks are the first the administration has announced since it began reopening counties in May. All counties currently are in the green phase, and masks are required in public.

— Justine McDaniel and Angela Couloumbis of Spotlight PA

1:20 PM - July 15, 2020
1:20 PM - July 15, 2020

Gov. Murphy calls White House attacks on Anthony Fauci ‘bad for public health'

FILE - In this April 22, 2020 file photo, President Donald Trump watches as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Alex Brandon / AP
FILE - In this April 22, 2020 file photo, President Donald Trump watches as Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Asked about the Trump administration’s request this week that hospitals begin sending data to the department of Health and Human Services, a move that some health experts have said sparks concerns about transparency, Murphy said the data must continue to go to the CDC.

“If there’s an extra burden of request to send to Health and Human Services, I assume the hospital systems will comply,” said Murphy.

Murphy then took the opportunity to speak against what he characterized as the “politicization” of some virus containment efforts. Murphy also defended Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, amid reports that the Trump administration was seeking to discredit him.

“The politicization of this is bad for public health. That doesn’t mean people are infallible. Or that every system and every process is always right,” Murphy said. “But this attacking of Tony Fauci, who has dedicated his life to things like AIDS, and Ebola, and now to coronavirus and COVID-19, and folks trying to politicize wearing a mask, when we know that the science tells us that keeps people alive…”

Murphy added that the state has a strong relationship with HHS, but said that if there was any attempt at politicizing the data, “I think at the end of the day, all you get other than division, which is the last thing we need in this country, all you get is more people who are dead.”

— Allison Steele

1:20 PM - July 15, 2020
1:20 PM - July 15, 2020

Oklahoma governor, who backed aggressive reopening plan, tests positive for coronavirus

FILE - In this June 20, 2020 file photo, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt is recognized as President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the BOK Center, in Tulsa, Okla.
Sue Ogrocki / AP
FILE - In this June 20, 2020 file photo, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt is recognized as President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the BOK Center, in Tulsa, Okla.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Wednesday that he’s the first governor in the United States to test positive for the coronavirus and that he is isolating at home.

Stitt, 48, said he mostly feels fine, although he started feeling “a little achy” on Tuesday and sought a test. The Republican governor said his wife and children were also tested Tuesday and that none of them have tested positive.

Stitt has backed one of the country’s most aggressive reopening plans, resisted any statewide mandate on masks and rarely wears one himself.

“We respect people’s rights ... to not wear a mask,” Stitt said during Wednesday’s news conference, which was held virtually. “You just open up a big can of worms.

Stitt attended President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa last month, and came under fire early in the pandemic after he tweeted a photo of himself and his children eating at a crowded restaurant.

Stitt’s announcement came as Oklahoma reported a second consecutive day of record-high numbers of confirmed virus cases, with 1,075 new cases, bringing the statewide total to more than 22,000. The previous daily high was 993 confirmed cases on Tuesday. Health officials also confirmed four additional COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the statewide death toll to 432.

Coronavirus-related hospitalizations also are surging in Oklahoma, increasing from 458 last week to 561 on Wednesday, although Frye said there is still plenty of hospital capacity.

— Associated Press

12:54 PM - July 15, 2020
12:54 PM - July 15, 2020

Philly now says fans might be able to attend Eagles games

After saying fans won't be allowed to attend Eagles games this season, Philadelphia officials said Wednesday it may be possible for some fans to watch games in the stands later this year, depending on the course of COVID-19.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
After saying fans won't be allowed to attend Eagles games this season, Philadelphia officials said Wednesday it may be possible for some fans to watch games in the stands later this year, depending on the course of COVID-19.

Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration is clarifying guidance it offered Tuesday on whether professional sports teams can allow spectators in outdoor stadiums during the coronavirus pandemic, opening the door to the Eagles playing before fans this fall a day after saying that would be illegal under the city’s emergency rules.

But the possibility of fans getting to cheer and boo the Birds this year is dependent on the city easing its social distancing rules before or during the season, a scenario seen as increasingly unlikely as coronavirus cases spike across the country.

On Tuesday, Public Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said that allowing spectators at sporting events is illegal under Kenney’s executive orders, specifically Philadelphia’s modified version of Gov. Tom Wolf’s “green” phase for reopening. Kenney’s order prohibits outdoor crowds of 50 or more people.

“We have been in communication with the Eagles. We have told them our expectations are that they don’t have fans. And my understanding is NFL guidelines also provide authority and remind teams that local authorities have the ability to ban fans, so I don’t expect any issues,” Managing Director Brian Abernathy said Tuesday.

But on Wednesday, Kenney spokesperson Deana Gamble clarified that it is possible that the city changes its rules before or during the season. If there were a game tomorrow, however, spectators would not be allowed under current rules, she said.

“The Eagles have been planning for a variety of scenarios,” she said. “It’s a fluid situation, and that policy is under constant review.”

Gamble said the clarification was issued in response to “questions from the public” about administration officials’ comments. She declined to say whether the statement was made in response to a request by the Eagles.

“Discussions are continuing between the city and the Eagles,” she said.

— Sean Collins Walsh

12:30 PM - July 15, 2020
12:30 PM - July 15, 2020

Pennsylvania adds nearly 1,000 new cases as state continues to trend upward

Pennsylvania is now averaging close to 800 new coronavirus cases a day as the state continues to experience an increase in new cases.

The Department of Health reported 994 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the fourth time in the last nine days the daily total exceeded 900 cases.The state is now averaging 788 new cases a day over the last seven days.

At least 6,957 Pennsylvania residents have now died after contracting coronavirus, with 26 new deaths reported on Wednesday. Of the state’s deaths, 4,767 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities

While the number of new daily cases in Philadelphia has plateaued, Allegheny County — home to Pittsburgh — continues to experience a spike in new cases. The county reported 246 new cases on Wednesday, and a 8.35% positive test rate from tests takes between June 30 through July 14.

Younger people continue to be driving up Pennsylvania’s case counts. In the southeastern part of the states, 17% of all new cases in July have been among people 19 to 24-years-old. In southwestern Pennsylvania, that same group made up 23% of all new cases this month.

— Rob Tornoe

11:00 AM - July 15, 2020
11:00 AM - July 15, 2020

Walmart, Sam’s Club will require customers to wear masks

Jessica Torres Terreforte, a Certified Nursing Assistant, and her son Daniel Terreforte, in the parking lot of Walmart located at the Philadelphia Mills Shopping Center, in Philadelphia.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Jessica Torres Terreforte, a Certified Nursing Assistant, and her son Daniel Terreforte, in the parking lot of Walmart located at the Philadelphia Mills Shopping Center, in Philadelphia.

Walmart and Sam’s Club will require all shoppers to wear face masks beginning Monday, the company announced.

In a statement, the company said about 65% of its locations are in an area where the local government requires face masks, including in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Its new policy will make it a mandate in more than 5,000 stores and clubs.

“While we’re certainly not the first business to require face coverings, we know this is a simple step everyone can take for their safety and the safety of others in our facilities,” the company said in a statement.

In order to ensure compliance, the company said all stores will have a single entrance for customers. At Sam’s Clubs, complimentary masks will be provided to customers who don’t have one.

— Rob Tornoe

10:15 AM - July 15, 2020
10:15 AM - July 15, 2020

Delaware to offer drive-thru coronavirus testing at Walgreens

Walgreens is partnering with the Delaware Division of Public Health to offer drive-thru coronavirus tests starting Thursday.
Gene J. Puskar / AP
Walgreens is partnering with the Delaware Division of Public Health to offer drive-thru coronavirus tests starting Thursday.

Delaware residents will be able to take drive-thru coronavirus tests at Walgreens, thanks to a partnership between the drug store chain and the state’s Division of Public Health.

Beginning Thursday, residents can get tested without an appointment and regardless of their symptoms or insurance coverage seven days a week, from 9 a.m to 5 p.m.

The tests will be administered in the drive-thru lane, though walk-up testing will also be available. No testing will occur within the pharmacy itself. Initially, only one location per county will offer the tests, but the Division of Public Health said it is working to add more pharmacy locations over the coming weeks, including with different chains.

The Walgreens in Delaware that will offer drive-thru coronavirus testing beginning Thursday are:

  • New Castle County: 700 S. Ridge Ave., Middletown
  • Kent County: 1215 S. State St., Dover
  • Sussex County: 9202 Commercial Centre Drive, Bridgeville

The tests administered through this program are self-administered nasal swabs, where the patient swabs the inside front of their nose. The specimen samples will be processed through the Delaware Public Health Laboratory.

A map and calendar of all available testing sites throughout Delaware can be found on the state’s website.

— Rob Tornoe

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

Famed Shore pizza place will remain closed to test all employees

People line up at Manco & Manco Pizza on the boardwalk in Ocean City while enjoying the weather and the view of the beach on Saturday May, 16, 2020. Ocean City is one of few beaches doing a “dry run” to test “capacity management” this weekend in preparation for Memorial Day.
Tyger Williams / File Photograph
People line up at Manco & Manco Pizza on the boardwalk in Ocean City while enjoying the weather and the view of the beach on Saturday May, 16, 2020. Ocean City is one of few beaches doing a “dry run” to test “capacity management” this weekend in preparation for Memorial Day.

Manco & Manco Pizza, an institution on the Ocean City, N.J., boardwalk, will remain closed until at least Saturday after three employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

The owners initially announced their three boardwalk locations would reopen Wednesday after undergoing a professional cleaning. But late Tuesday, the restaurant announced on Facebook it will test all of its boardwalk employees, and that the three locations won’t reopen until Saturday, after all results have been received.

The three employees who tested positive were identified by contact tracing, and the owners said they have no reason to believe any person-to-person transmission took place in their restaurants.

“The individuals in question were promptly removed from their posts and replaced on the scheduled until further notice,” the Manco family said in a statement shared on Facebook. “It should also be noted that these employees may have worked at any of the 3 boardwalk locations.”

The owners said no employees have tested positive at the Somers Point location, which will remain open and continue offering delivery and parking lot pick-up.

Once the boardwalk locations reopen, beachgoers won’t be able to grab a slice of pizza. In an attempt to limit employees’ contact with food, only whole pizzas will be available for purchase.

Rob Tornoe

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

Philly schools to reopen in September, with most kids attending in-person classes two days a week

Dr. William Hite, center, Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, shown here in the hallway during a media tour at Benjamin Franklin HS and the Science Leadership Academy back in February.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Dr. William Hite, center, Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, shown here in the hallway during a media tour at Benjamin Franklin HS and the Science Leadership Academy back in February.

Philadelphia schools will reopen in September, but not fully, with most children attending in-person classes two days a week as officials attempt to balance public health and the education of 125,000 students during a coronavirus outbreak.

Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and Mayor Jim Kenney will announce the plan Wednesday morning.

Among the details:

  • Each of the district’s 200-plus schools will develop its own operations plan to execute the district’s broad guideline.
  • Preschoolers and students with complex needs will attend school four days a week.
  • Athletics will resume eventually, with a phased-in approach to getting students back on sports fields.
  • Families that choose to do so can opt out of face-to-face instruction in favor of 100% virtual instruction.
  • Hite will seek to move the first day of school to Sept. 2, instead of Aug. 31 as currently planned.

Kristen Graham

8:00 AM - July 15, 2020
8:00 AM - July 15, 2020

U.S. reported a record number of new coronavirus cases Tuesday

The United States reported 67,417 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, a new record high and the seventh-straight day with more than 60,000 new cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 3.4 million Americans have contracted COVID-19, with California, Florida, and Texas approaching numbers seen in New York, the virus’ original epicenter.

Thirty-eight states are experiencing an increase in new cases, and the virus continues to spread rapidly across the South and Southwest. At least 27 states have paused or rolled back plans to reopen their economies, according to CNN.

Cases continue to climb in Pennsylvania, where the rolling weekly average for daily new cases remains in the 700s, much higher than it was a few weeks ago. The infection rate has plateaued in Philadelphia, and continues to decline in New Jersey and Delaware.

At least 133,000 Americans have died after contracting coronavirus, with several states — including Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, Nevada, and Utah — reporting a record number of deaths on Tuesday, according to the Washington Post.

— Rob Tornoe

7:40 AM - July 15, 2020
7:40 AM - July 15, 2020

Where cases are surging and falling in Pennsylvania

7:20 AM - July 15, 2020
7:20 AM - July 15, 2020

Philly’s ban on large events among longest imposed in the county

Runners run during The Blue Cross Broad Street Run, Sunday, May 5, 2019.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Runners run during The Blue Cross Broad Street Run, Sunday, May 5, 2019.

In a dramatic step that underscores how long the coronavirus is expected to disrupt daily life, Philadelphia officials on Tuesday canceled all large-scale events in the city through February, including the Philadelphia Marathon, the Thanksgiving Day Parade, block parties, and other iconic traditions.

The 7½-month moratorium is one of various prevention measures that will have to stay in place until the population is vaccinated against the coronavirus, and that won’t happen before 2021, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said.

Philadelphia’s ban is one of the longest imposed anywhere in the nation since summer outbreaks hit states that had already reopened — many of which are now reinstating restrictions. Pennsylvania has not seen that type of surge, and the city’s move Tuesday looked like a decisive preventive measure.

The city also said fans will not be allowed at Eagles games: If professional sports teams resume playing, spectators will be barred from the stands, though that is not part of the moratorium. The Phillies already planned to play without fans.

The ban does not apply to demonstrations or other First Amendment-protected activities, private outdoor gatherings such as weddings or family picnics, or events on private property, including performance venues and stadiums, Kenney said. Under current health orders, however, events of 25 or more people indoors are not permitted and all theaters are closed.

— Justine McDaniel, Anna Orso and Rob Tornoe

7:00 AM - July 15, 2020
7:00 AM - July 15, 2020

Overnight coronavirus roundup