4:16 PM - June 24, 2020
4:16 PM - June 24, 2020

Federally funded testing site in Montco to close next week

A new coronavirus testing site opened at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Thursday, April 16, 2020.
Frank Wiese / Staff
A new coronavirus testing site opened at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Thursday, April 16, 2020.

Pennsylvania’s sole federally funded testing site will close June 30, as the federal government has announced it will end funding for 13 drive-thru testing sites across the country, urging states to take over.

The testing site in Montgomery County will close Tuesday, a county spokesperson confirmed, but the county plans to open six additional testing sites with CARES Act funding in the near future.

“The site was originally scheduled to close on May 30, but we were able to get an extension,” the spokesperson said. “At that time, we were specifically told that it would end on June 30 with no option for an additional extension.”

”We are in the final planning stages of setting up six walk-up testing locations around the County and will release information as soon as it is available sometime next week,” she said.

The sites are spread across five states — Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas, and Colorado — and are the remnants of a larger federal testing program established in the early stages of the pandemic, according to Politico.

During a briefing Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the state had secured additional funding from FEMA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to keep community testing sites open through the summer.

“This partnership among state, federal government and our pharmacy chains, which has led to a significant increase in community-based testing centers, and which had also been scheduled to end on June 30 will now continue through at least the end of August,” Murphy said.

— Ellie Rushing and Rob Tornoe

3:30 PM - June 24, 2020
3:30 PM - June 24, 2020

MLS’ Orlando tournament schedule has Union starting vs. New York City FC on July 9

Philadelphia Union midfielder José Andrés Martí­nez (right) keeps the ball away from Jack Elliott (center) as Michee Ngalina (left) looks on during a training session at the 76ers' Fieldhouse complex in Wilmington, Delaware on June 12, 2020.
Philadelphia Union
Philadelphia Union midfielder José Andrés Martí­nez (right) keeps the ball away from Jack Elliott (center) as Michee Ngalina (left) looks on during a training session at the 76ers' Fieldhouse complex in Wilmington, Delaware on June 12, 2020.

Mark July 9 on your calendars. That’s the day the Union will become the first Philadelphia sports team to play a game since the coronavirus pandemic shut down the sports world in mid-March.

The Union will play New York City FC in a 9 a.m. kickoff, with the time set to avoid the worst of the summer heat in Orlando. ESPN and ESPN Deportes will televise the game nationally.

After that, the Union will play Nashville SC on July 14 at 8 p.m., televised in Spanish and English on Univision’s TUDN cable channel.

The group stage finale will be July 19 vs. Inter Miami, with a late-night kickoff time of 10:30 p.m. on FS1 in English and TUDN in Spanish.

— Jonathan Tannenwald

3:00 PM - June 24, 2020
3:00 PM - June 24, 2020

Penn to expand its free virtual summer academy to rising seniors in parochial schools

The University of Pennsylvania will open its free four-week virtual summer academy on career and college preparation and academic enrichment to rising seniors in Philadelphia’s parochial schools. The university will also open to parochial school seniors its free self-paced “How to Apply to College” course.

Penn previously said the program was for rising seniors in the Philadelphia’s public schools, including district schools and charters. Penn created the program in recognition of the losses students experienced this spring, including not being able to go on college campus tours and transitioning to online learning.

— Susan Snyder

2:20 PM - June 24, 2020
2:20 PM - June 24, 2020

Pennsylvania does less coronavirus testing than almost every other state

Nurse Practitioner Nina Marell administers a coronavirus test to a a subject in his car on April 28, 2020, at the Family Health Center at 11th and Parrish.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Nurse Practitioner Nina Marell administers a coronavirus test to a a subject in his car on April 28, 2020, at the Family Health Center at 11th and Parrish.

Pennsylvania has performed 5,215 coronavirus tests per 100,000 people — fewer than all but seven states, counting Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, according to an analysis by Johns Hopkins University.

New Jersey has conducted the third-most tests of the states, at 14,227 tests per 100,000, while Delaware is not far behind, at 11th.

Will Pennsylvania’s low rate of testing prevent policy makers from determining if the state has reopened too soon?

Epidemiologists say the answer is not simple, and that in one key respect — the percent who test positive — Pennsylvania’s low level of testing may be adequate.

Testing has been a hot topic lately after President Donald Trump’s remarks at a campaign rally Saturday in Oklahoma. Without providing evidence, he said the numbers of COVID -19 cases were up in some parts of the United States not due to any real increase in illness, but because the country was performing too many tests. Aides later said he was being sarcastic, but he repeated the claim Monday, insisting he was serious and saying the country was doing “too good a job” of testing.

— Tom Avril

1:37 PM - June 24, 2020
1:37 PM - June 24, 2020

Concern in Philly that cases are plateauing

A mask covers the face of the Rocky statue in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Friday, April 17, 2020. People are encouraged to wear masks or face coverings to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
A mask covers the face of the Rocky statue in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Friday, April 17, 2020. People are encouraged to wear masks or face coverings to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Philadelphia announced 108 new cases of the coronavirus Wednesday — a number roughly in line with the average daily cases the city has reported in the past week.

“The drop in new cases per day has definitely slowed and that could be indicative of a plateauing,” Health Department spokesperson James Garrow said in an email.

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Tuesday he was concerned about what a rise in new cases of the virus in many areas of the country could mean for Philadelphia. But Garrow said Wednesday that it was still too soon to determine whether Philadelphia’s cases are plateauing, noting that “it’s tough to say until we’re past it.”

“Whether it picks back up and we continue moving toward zero, or continues at this level, or starts to rise again is something we won’t know for a bit,” he said.

Officials also confirmed seven additional deaths of Philadelphia residents related to COVID-19 Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,570 since the beginning of the pandemic.

A total number of 25,433 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Philadelphia residents as of Wednesday. The city is planning to allow pools and hair salons to reopen Friday, and to fully move into the “green” phase of reopening July 3.

But Farley has warned that the continued easing of restrictions will depend on a continued reduction in new cases of the virus.

“This epidemic is definitely not over,” Farley said. “The risk right now is rising.”

— Laura McCrystal

1:15 PM - June 24, 2020
1:15 PM - June 24, 2020

Museums and aquariums can reopen in N.J. next week. But gyms and movie theaters will remain closed.

Aquariums in New Jersey, including the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, will be allowed to reopen on Thursday, July 2.
BARBARA L. JOHNSTON / Staff Photographer
Aquariums in New Jersey, including the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, will be allowed to reopen on Thursday, July 2.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said that museums, aquariums, other indoor recreational facilities, and libraries can open at 25% capacity on Thursday, July 2. The state will require heightened sanitation measures, social distancing and face coverings or masks.

The order includes bowling alley, shooting ranges, and arcades.

Movie theaters, concert venues, performing arts centers, nightclubs and gyms will remain closed, though fitness centers can allow individual training sessions by appointment.

“It brings us no joy to say that,” Murphy said. “We just are not there yet. We just don’t think it’s the responsible thing to do.”

— Allison Steele

11:48 AM - June 24, 2020
11:48 AM - June 24, 2020

New Jersey, New York and Connecticut will quarantine travelers from states with high COVID-19 rates

The governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut announced that anyone traveling into their states from an area with a high level of community spread must quarantine for 14 days.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he believed the precaution would be essential to keeping the three states moving in the right direction in terms of confirmed cases. “I do believe we’re on the other side of the mountain,” he said. “But it’s not over til it’s over.”

The travel advisory is effective at midnight, and for now applies to people coming from Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Utah, and Texas. The new restrictions apply to travelers in states where the rolling seven-day average of new cases is at 10 or more people per 100,000, or 10% of those tested.

Murphy said the tri-state measure will focus on personal responsibility and rely on messaging on highways, airports, websites and social media to educate travelers. The three states will also ask hotels to communicate the 14-day quarantine to guests who have traveled from one of the impacted states.

“This is a smart thing to do. We have taken our people through hell and back. And the last thing we need to do is subject our folks to another round,” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said. “If you’ve been in a state that has a high infection rate, do the right thing.”

— Allison Steele

11:33 AM - June 24, 2020
11:33 AM - June 24, 2020

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. return to peak of outbreak

New coronavirus cases in the United States have surged to their highest level in two months, returning to numbers seen during the peak of the outbreak, according to Johns Hopkins University.

On Tuesday, the country reported more than 34,000 new cases of the virus, the third-highest day on record and the most new daily cases since April 24, when the nation reported more than 36,000 cases.

While states in the Northeast like New Jersey and Pennsylvania have seen cases decline for weeks, more than half of states — including Delaware — have seen increases in cases. Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada, and Texas all set single-day records Tuesday.

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, calling the surge of new infections “disturbing” during a congressional hearing Tuesday.

“The next couple of weeks are going to be critical to address those surges that we’re seeing in Texas, Florida, Arizona, and other states,” Fauci said.

— Rob Tornoe

11:13 AM - June 24, 2020
11:13 AM - June 24, 2020

Veterinarians in Pennsylvania can begin to spay and neuter pets again

Veterinary technician Laura Vazquez brings in Meg Tigani's dog, Louie, into an appointment at World of Animals at Rittenhouse in Philadelphia on Wednesday, April 29, 2020.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Veterinary technician Laura Vazquez brings in Meg Tigani's dog, Louie, into an appointment at World of Animals at Rittenhouse in Philadelphia on Wednesday, April 29, 2020.

Veterinary practices are now allowed to provide non-essential services and routine or elective surgeries, including spaying and neutering, the Wolf administration said Wednesday.

Under the state’s updated guidance, vets in both yellow and green counties are cleared to resume non-emergency surgical procedures.

In April, the state waived its requirement that dogs and cats had to be spayed or neutered before adoption; pet owners who adopted during the pandemic have 120 days from the adoption date to get their pets fixed.

Veterinary practices were deemed life-sustaining services and were never required to close due to COVID-19.

— Justine McDaniel

10:30 AM - June 24, 2020
10:30 AM - June 24, 2020

These preexisting conditions are most likely to hospitalize and kill people who contract coronavirus

New data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that hospitalizations were six times higher among patients with certain underlying medical conditions.

These patients were 12 times more likely to die of the virus than patients who had been healthy. Chronic heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and chronic lung disease were the most commonly reported underlying medical conditions, according to the CDC.

In the Philadelphia area, emergency medicine doctors say the CDC’s findings largely reflect their experience treating COVID-19 patients, but predictions are by no means sure.

“COVID-19 is a very wild disease,” said Erica Harris, an emergency physician at Einstein Medical Center. “It’s very hard to predict which way it’s going to go. ... There are people who can have every single risk factor and still do fine.”

The virus has hit the elderly, who are considered more vulnerable because they often have multiple chronic conditions, particularly hard. But Clarke Piatt, medical director of Bryn Mawr Hospital’s intensive-care unit, said he has seen some of the worst outcomes among patients in their 50s and 60s with type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Nearly half of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 had obesity, and about 28% had type 2 diabetes, according to the CDC.

— Sarah Gantz and Dominique DeMoe

10:10 AM - June 24, 2020
10:10 AM - June 24, 2020

New York City Marathon canceled

Runners take part in the 2019 New York City Marathon in New York. This year's marathon, scheduled to take place on Nov. 1, has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AP
Runners take part in the 2019 New York City Marathon in New York. This year's marathon, scheduled to take place on Nov. 1, has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The New York City Marathon, the world’s largest marathon, has been canceled, organizers announced on Wednesday. It had been scheduled for Nov. 1.

“While the marathon is an iconic and beloved event in our city, I applaud New York Road Runners for putting the health and safety of both spectators and runners first,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “We look forward to hosting the 50th running of the marathon in November of 2021.”

The Philadelphia Marathon remains scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 22. The Broad Street run also remains scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 4.

“We have not made a decision on the races yet, further information will be made available in the coming days,” a spokesperson for Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said.

— Rob Tornoe

9:49 AM - June 24, 2020
9:49 AM - June 24, 2020

Camden County College testing site to close on Friday

The coronavirus testing site at Camden County College in Blackwood, N.J., seen back in March before it opened. The country is closing the site on Friday, citing a decline in testing appointments.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
The coronavirus testing site at Camden County College in Blackwood, N.J., seen back in March before it opened. The country is closing the site on Friday, citing a decline in testing appointments.

Citing a reduction in testing appointments, Camden County announced it is closing the coronavirus testing site located at Camden County College in Gloucester Township. The site, which has been running since April 15, will cease operations at 4 p.m. on Friday, June 26.

“At this time, we feel confident that the site at Camden County College has served its purpose and can cease operations without impacting the availability of resources in the community,” Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. said in a statement.

The coronavirus testing site at 3101 Federal St. in East Camden will continue to operate, the county said. Cappelli Jr. also pointed out that testing capacity among healthcare providers and businesses like Rite Aid and CVS has “increased significantly” since the beginning of the pandemic.

The county reports 7,572 residents have tested positive for coronavirus since the pandemic began, though there were just 15 new positive cases reported on Tuesday. At least 430 county residents have died.

— Rob Tornoe

9:10 AM - June 24, 2020
9:10 AM - June 24, 2020

Six Flags Great Adventure to open next week

The roller coaster Nitro speeds along its track at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey. The popular theme park will reopen on July 3.
Philadelphia Daily News
The roller coaster Nitro speeds along its track at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey. The popular theme park will reopen on July 3.

Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J. announced on Wednesday it will reopen Friday, July 3, one day after the state relaxes coronavirus restrictions on amusement parks.

The popular amusement park said it will open first to members and season pass holders. The general public will be allowed to enter the park Saturday, July 4, with attendance levels gradually increasing throughout the month.

Six Flags said it will deploy an online reservation system to manage attendance, schedule guests for entry by day, and stagger arrival times to minimize proximity exposure. There will also be thermal imaging for temperature checks, touchless bag checks, and mobile food ordering.

“We have developed a comprehensive reopening safety plan that includes protocols designed by theme park and waterpark industry experts, along with best practices from top destination parks from around the world, which will allow guests to experience our parks in the safest way possible,” Six Flags President and CEO Mike Spanos said in a statement.

Six Flags Hurricane Harbor will remain closed, but the company noted a “preview date” is forthcoming.

Six Flags’ Wild Safari Drive-Thru Adventure opened May 30 following a seven-year hiatus. According to the company, it will remain open due to its popularity, noting that thousands of cars have taken the five-mile journey each day. The theme park said it aims to reintroduce its Safari Off Road Adventure guided truck tours soon.

— Rob Tornoe

8:50 AM - June 24, 2020
8:50 AM - June 24, 2020

Europe likely to keep U.S. travelers out due to spike in coronavirus cases

Tourists sit at the beach of Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. Borders opened up across Europe on Monday after three months of coronavirus closures that began chaotically in March.
Joan Mateu / AP
Tourists sit at the beach of Palma de Mallorca, Spain, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. Borders opened up across Europe on Monday after three months of coronavirus closures that began chaotically in March.

Americans are unlikely to be allowed into Europe when the continent reopens its borders next week, because of how the coronavirus pandemic is flaring in the United States and President Donald Trump’s ban on Europeans entering the United States.

European nations appear on track to reopen their borders between each other by July 1, and their representatives in Brussels are now debating what virus-related criteria should apply when lifting border restrictions to the outside world that were imposed in March.

In recommendations to EU nations on June 11, the European Commission said “travel restrictions should not be lifted as regards third countries where the situation is worse” than the average in the 27 EU member countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

That is likely to rule out the United States, where new coronavirus infections have surged to the highest level in two months, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. After trending down for well over a month, new U.S. cases have risen for more than a week.

— Rob Tornoe

8:00 AM - June 24, 2020
8:00 AM - June 24, 2020

Black Lives Matter protests won’t lead to spike on COVID cases: study

Hundreds of people marched to the Art Museum with a protest that began at LOVE Park in Philadelphia, Pa. on June 21.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
Hundreds of people marched to the Art Museum with a protest that began at LOVE Park in Philadelphia, Pa. on June 21.

Based on data collected on protests in 315 U.S. cities where protests occurred, researchers at the National Bureau of Economic Research found no evidence recent demonstrations against police brutality have led to a significant rise in coronavirus cases.

While tens of thousands of people demonstrated in the streets of Philadelphia and elsewhere after the killing of George Floyd, researchers said there was strong evidence that stay-at-home behavior actually increased, as people tried to avoid the protests. Curfews and business closures also had the effect of keeping more people in their homes, researchers said.

“Our findings suggest that any direct decrease in social distancing among the subset of the population participating in the protests is more than offset by increasing social distancing behavior among others who may choose to shelter-at-home and circumvent public places while the protests are underway,” the report reads.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday that just 2.5% of people who took part in protests in Boston have tested positive for COVID-19. In Philadelphia, city officials did said they thought it would invade privacy to ask people if they protested, so there is no firm data how many protesters here have contracted coronavirus.

— Rob Tornoe

7:30 AM - June 24, 2020
7:30 AM - June 24, 2020

‘Poor Dr. Fauci’: Obama calls out Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic

During a virtual fundraiser for former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday, former President Barack Obama condemned President Donald Trump for his administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and for downplaying the threat of the virus.

“That suggests facts don’t matter, science doesn’t matter. That suggests that a deadly disease is fake news,” Obama said.

Obama, making his first remarks in the 2020 campaign since he endorsed Biden in April, said a Biden administration would heed the advice of public health experts, who have urged people to wear masks and avoid large gatherings.

As Obama spoke, Trump was delivering remarks at an indoor rally of about 3,000 students in Phoenix, Ariz, where coronavirus cases are spiking. Most of the people present in the crowd were not wearing masks.

“Poor Dr. Fauci, who has to testify and then see his advice flouted by the person who he’s working for,” Obama said.

— Rob Tornoe

7:00 AM - June 24, 2020
7:00 AM - June 24, 2020

Positivity rate up in South Jersey, more young people testing positive for COVID-19

Cyclist along the boardwalk at New Jersey in Atlantic City, NJ on Tuesday, June 23, 2020.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Cyclist along the boardwalk at New Jersey in Atlantic City, NJ on Tuesday, June 23, 2020.

As the coronavirus surges in other parts of the United States, officials in New Jersey said Tuesday they were concerned about avoiding such an uptick in cases here, particularly warning residents not to allow reopenings to coax them into relaxing.

The positivity rate has increased in South Jersey. More New Jerseyans 29 years old and younger are contracting the virus, now making up more than one-fifth of new infections. The increase is concerning health officials, who don’t believe it can solely be attributed to increased testing.

Though New Jersey’s overall statewide transmission rate remains good, Gov. Phil Murphy said it was beginning to creep up in several counties, though he did not identify which ones. He also said hospitalizations and the use of ventilators were slightly up in recent days.

“We can’t get our economy back to where it was if our hospitals fill back up with COVID-19 patients because some people mistakenly thought they were invincible,” Murphy said. “What we cannot have is a one-day increase in our health metrics becoming a trend because people gave up on social distancing.”

Outdoor amusement and water parks in New Jersey can reopen July 2, including rides on boardwalks, Murphy announced Tuesday.

Attendance at amusement parks will be capped at 50% capacity. Murphy said that “specific guidance is currently being finalized and will be forthcoming” but that it is anticipated that employees and attendees will be required to wear masks “whenever practicable.” Murphy also announced that playgrounds across the state will be allowed to reopen.

“We are excited to welcome families back onto the piers again,” said Will and Jack Morey of Morey’s Piers in Wildwood. “We are working hard to redefine family fun this summer.”

— Justine McDaniel, Laura McCrystal and Allison Steele