8:09 PM - June 29, 2020
8:09 PM - June 29, 2020

New Jersey to allow doulas to be with expectant mothers in hospitals

The New Jersey Department of Health on Monday exempted doulas from a COVID-19 limit on who can accompany an expectant mother during a hospital stay.

Doulas, who are trained labor companions, will be allowed to be with a woman during labor and delivery if a hospital has sufficient personal protective equipment and testing capacity, the department said.

— Robert Moran

3:49 PM - June 29, 2020
3:49 PM - June 29, 2020

Gov. Murphy warns that New Jersey ‘losing ground’ after COVID-19 gains

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy gestures as he speaks about reopening the state to phase 2 during the coronavirus briefing in Trenton, N.J. Monday, June 15, 2020.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy gestures as he speaks about reopening the state to phase 2 during the coronavirus briefing in Trenton, N.J. Monday, June 15, 2020.

Citing data from over the past two weeks, N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy warned that the state was “losing ground” in terms of declining numbers of new cases and hospitalizations.

When those metrics are compared with those from other states, he said, New Jersey has slipped several places since mid-June.

Murphy said the state’s overall rate of transmission remains low, though it, too, has crept up since mid-June.

In recent weeks, several counties including Camden, Gloucester, Burlington and Cape May have also reported rising transmission rates.

Allison Steele

3:19 PM - June 29, 2020
3:19 PM - June 29, 2020

Photos: Cherry Hill Mall reopens to shoppers

— Monica Herndon

2:40 PM - June 29, 2020
2:40 PM - June 29, 2020

New Jersey won’t allow indoor dining to resume

Patrons dine outside The Cubby Hole restaurant in Moorestown, N.J. Monday, June 15, 2020. Indoor dining was scheduled to resume on Friday, July 2, but Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Monday those plans are now on hold.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Patrons dine outside The Cubby Hole restaurant in Moorestown, N.J. Monday, June 15, 2020. Indoor dining was scheduled to resume on Friday, July 2, but Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Monday those plans are now on hold.

New Jersey is postponing the start of indoor dining indefinitely, with Gov. Phil Murphy citing trends in other states as well as instances of “knucklehead behavior” at local outdoor restaurants.

“We’ve always said that we would not hesitate to hit pause if needed to safeguard public health,” Murphy said during his daily coronavirus press briefing Monday. “This is one of those times.”

Indoor dining was scheduled to resume in New Jersey on Thursday. The state loosened restrictions on outdoor dining on June 15.

At least 12 other states — including Delaware — have paused reopening plans (or put restrictions back in place) due to a surge in new coronavirus cases nationwide.

Murphy’s announcement created confusion around the planned reopening of casinos, which will now be expected to welcome guests without indoor dining or being allowed to serve them alcohol on the casino floor or in bars.

The parent company of Borgata, the city’s top-performing casino, responded to Murphy’s decision by saying the resort would remain closed.

Atlantic City’s casinos were all making plans to open either to the public or first by invitation only on or around July 2, with restaurants open.

Murphy said the nine casinos will be allowed to reopen Thursday as planned at 25% capacity.

On Facebook, Golden Nugget General Manager Tom Pohlman said casinos had also been told they would not be allowed to serve alcohol inside the casinos.

Golden Nugget said on its Facebook page that they were not allowed to serve any soda inside the casinos, and would be limited to bottles of water.

”All of the Casino operators are in the same boat and are still waiting for official guidelines in regards to reopening,” Pohlman said. “Since this will impact the Chairman’s Club, and all other indoor dining, I wanted to let everyone know personally, and as soon as practical.”

He asked customers to be patient and “bear with us during these unprecedented times.”

”This is a very fluid situation and we continue to adapt as we receive new information,” he said.

Golden Nugget added on Facebook, “We are going to try everything we can to open the Casino with just outdoor dining. We understand it is not the ideal situation, but we would rather get some team members back to work, and provide some experience for those interested, rather then continue to stay closed.”

MGM Resorts International had planned to reopen Borgata to the public on July 6, with an earlier invitation-opening.

”We respect the Governor’s decision to postpone the reopening of indoor dining in New Jersey to protect the public. Given this decision, our property Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City will remain closed,” MGM Resorts International said in a statement.

“Our guests expect a special experience when they come to our property and if we cannot provide that level of hospitality, we feel it best that we remain closed until such time that the Governor lets us know it is safe to offer food and beverage,” the statement said. “The health and safety of our employees and guests are at the center of all that we do, and we regret that, at this time, we are unable to welcome back the thousands of employees who are anxious to return to work. We look forward to a time when it is safe to welcome everyone back.”

Joe Lupo, president of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, said the casino was waiting for details from Murphy’s executive order before issuing an update on operations.

“We are disappointed that we cannot provide the experience our guests expect and deserve,” Lupo said.

U.S. Rep. Jeff Van Drew, R-Dennis Township, whose district includes Atlantic and Cape May Counties, said in a statement, “This is Governor Murphy forcing businesses to die.”

“I am completely disgusted and my heart aches for the pain these business owners are feeling after their dreams are being smothered by Governor Murphy’s cruel change of mind,” he said.

The Ocean City Boardwalk Merchants Association issued a statement saying they are “extremely disappointed,” in the governor’s reversal.

“It is a frustrating and potentially devastating blow to our dozens of restaurants, their families and their employees. The governor is implementing a one-size-fits-all solution to a nuanced and complicated problem. He is imposing the same restrictions on largely open-air Boardwalk restaurants in a dry community as he is on enclosed restaurants and bars,” the association said.

Mayor Patrick Rosenello of North Wildwood, who has clashed with Gov. Murphy over the pace of reopening, said he thought enforcement was the answer, not banning indoor dining altogether.

“It’s complete economic ignorance,” Rosenello said. “I guarantee you you have thousands and thousands of dollars of food orders cancelled and people being told the jobs they were coming back to no longer exist.”

He said all the problems existing at the Shore so far this summer — long lines at restaurants for takeout, trash from people eating outside, little control over social distancing in public spaces — “will be amplified,” without resuming indoor dining for the holiday weekend. “In a dining establishment, you can put controls in place,” he said.

But some restaurant owners said they were ok with staying with outdoor dining. At Annette’s, in Ventnor, owner Cheryl Venezia said the outdoor dining space she’d set up next to the restaurant had proven popular.

“Honestly we have so many tables for outdoors, I was not happy about opening up indoors. It’s a pain in the neck. People love outdoors. Honestly, we’re having a great summer,” she said.

— Allison Steele and Amy Rosenberg

2:38 PM - June 29, 2020
2:38 PM - June 29, 2020

Wolf reminds residents to wear masks, encourages people traveling from coronavirus hot spots to quarantine

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf adjust his mask while touring the Orontz Plaza in West Oak Lane in Philadelphia earlier this month.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf adjust his mask while touring the Orontz Plaza in West Oak Lane in Philadelphia earlier this month.

While restrictions have been relaxed across Pennsylvania, state officials on Monday warned that residents still need to wear masks.

“Pennsylvania can show how much they appreciate your hard work and the hard work of all the healthcare professionals on the front lines by taking the simple step of wearing a mask in public,” Health Secretary Rachel Levine told doctors and nurses at Pinnacle Community Osteopathic Hospital in Harrisburg. “When you wear a mask, whether you’re walking on a busy street, whether you’re inside a grocery store or riding public transportation, that is a sign to the whole community that we are in this together.”

Levine and Gov. Tom Wolf reiterated there will be no penalty for not wearing a mask — no one will be cited or jailed — so self-enforcement is key.

“It really needs to become socially unacceptable not to wear a mask in public,” Levine said. “Just like it’s not acceptable to smoke in stores.”

Wolf also said he would encourage people traveling from coronavirus hot spots to quarantine for 14 days upon returning to Pennsylvania, but is not considering an official quarantine requirement as he does not think it is enforceable.

While New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have imposed such a rule, “when [the three governors were] asked ‘how are you going to enforce that,’ it wasn’t really clear,” Wolf said. “There are some reasons why you’d want to do that, but the question comes down to the enforcement.”

— Erin McCarthy

2:30 PM - June 29, 2020
2:30 PM - June 29, 2020

Pa. officials express concern about increase in cases, pointing to bars

Garage bartender Rebecca Strapp talks with customer Ricky Powell, who is a bartender at BAR Philadelphia on Sansom St., at Garage's sidewalk walkup on E. Passyunk Ave May 14, 2020.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Garage bartender Rebecca Strapp talks with customer Ricky Powell, who is a bartender at BAR Philadelphia on Sansom St., at Garage's sidewalk walkup on E. Passyunk Ave May 14, 2020.

Pennsylvania officials expressed concern Monday about coronavirus cases increasing slightly in the commonwealth, an uptick which may be linked to more young people drinking and socializing at reopened bars and restaurants.

“Up until a couple days ago, I was really proud of being able to say Pennsylvania is one of the few states that have had a downturn in the cases,” Gov. Tom Wolf said while speaking with health experts outside UPMC Pinnacle Community Osteopathic Hospital in Harrisburg. “We’re still doing a pretty good job, but in the last week we’ve actually seen a slight uptick that’s been centered in a few different places.”

One of those places is Allegheny County, which includes the city of Pittsburgh. Health Secretary Rachel Levine said that uptick may be linked to an increase in young adults going to bars, drinking alcohol, and not social distancing. As a result, the county has suspended the sale of alcohol for on-site consumption at bars and restaurants.

“We know when we have a problem,” Wolf said. “We think it’s the bars. I think in the Southeast and Philadelphia, they’re thinking it’s the same thing.”

He said he has not considered a statewide ban on on-site alcohol consumption at bars and restaurants. Individual counties may decide to go that route, however, if they see similar spikes that appear tied to more young people socializing.

This demographic may not be as likely to experience severe symptoms, Levine said, but they can still transmit the virus to parents or grandparents who are more susceptible to complications.

So far, Wolf said, the new cases have not resulted in a spike in hospitalizations, and the healthcare system is not in a position to be overwhelmed at this time.

— Erin McCarthy

1:20 PM - June 29, 2020
1:20 PM - June 29, 2020

Daily coronavirus cases in Philly no longer dropping, health commissioner warns

Customers eat on the side of Ultimo Coffee and wait on the sidewalk to order along Locust Street and 20th Street on Saturday.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
Customers eat on the side of Ultimo Coffee and wait on the sidewalk to order along Locust Street and 20th Street on Saturday.

Philadelphia has added nearly 300 new coronavirus cases since Friday as health officials warn daily case counts in the city are no longer dropping.

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health on Monday reported 298 new coronavirus cases for the three-day period, roughly inline with the number of new daily cases the city has reported over the past week. Overall, the total number of confirmed cases in Philadelphia now stands at 25,991.

“Daily COVID case counts in Philadelphia are no longer falling,” Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said in a statement. “That, combined with the rise of cases throughout the country, is troubling.”

Farley warned that to protect residents, officials will be cautious about loosening more coronavirus restrictions. City officials are expected to provide an update on the city’s move to the modified “green” reopening phase on Tuesday.

On a positive note, the city did not report any new deaths over the weekend. The number of Philadelphians who have died after contracting COVID-19 stands at 1,579 — with more than half occurring in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

— Rob Tornoe

12:53 PM - June 29, 2020
12:53 PM - June 29, 2020

Coronavirus hospitalizations in Pa. continue to trend downward

Nurse Felicia Nemick wheels an empty bed out of a room before moving another patient into it in a COVID-19 intensive care unit at Temple University Hospital's Boyer Pavilion in North Philadelphia on Tuesday, April 7, 2020.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Nurse Felicia Nemick wheels an empty bed out of a room before moving another patient into it in a COVID-19 intensive care unit at Temple University Hospital's Boyer Pavilion in North Philadelphia on Tuesday, April 7, 2020.

Pennsylvania officials reported 492 new coronavirus cases on Monday as the average number of hospitalizations continues to decline across the state. Allegheny County, where cases have begun to surge in recent days, reported 83 new cases.

Currently, 635 patients are hospitalized in Pennsylvania after contracting coronavirus, with 104 people currently on ventilators. That’s down from 675 hospitalizations Friday morning and about 746 last Monday. It’s also well below the more than 4,200 available ICU beds available in Pennsylvania, according to data provided by the state.

The state also reported eight more deaths, increasing the state’s confirmed death toll to 6,614. Of those, 4,531 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities, according to officials.

— Rob Tornoe

11:40 AM - June 29, 2020
11:40 AM - June 29, 2020

Pa. businesses hurt by coronavirus can apply for grants tomorrow from $225 million fund

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf bumps elbows with U.S. Congressman Dwight Evans before Wolf toured West Oak Lane.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf bumps elbows with U.S. Congressman Dwight Evans before Wolf toured West Oak Lane.

Small businesses in Pennsylvania hurt by the coronavirus pandemic can begin to apply for grants that might offset some of their lost revenue starting tomorrow, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Monday.

The program, which was announced earlier this month, will provide $225 million in funds to eligible small businesses, with payments ranging from $5,000 to $50,000. The money comes from the federal government, part of the $2.6 billion in spending under the CARES Act to respond to COVID-19.

Officials said the program is not first-come, first-serve — applications will be prioritized and selected for funding based on the program criteria. The first application window will remain open for ten days. After that, applications will still be accepted, but considered for future rounds of funding.

“This joint effort between my administration, the legislature, and The Pennsylvania CDFI Network will provide critical assistance to Pennsylvania’s small businesses, putting them on better financial footing as they begin to reopen,” Wolf said in a statement.

— Rob Tornoe

11:00 AM - June 29, 2020
11:00 AM - June 29, 2020

At least 12 states — including Delaware — pause reopenings as coronavirus cases surge

Delaware is one of at least 12 states that have either paused reopening plans or reimposed restrictions due to a coronavirus surge across the country.

Delaware Gov. John Carney announced last week the state would not move into its less-restrictive “Phase 3” reopening today as scheduled. Instead, Carney said officials will look at the numbers and make a decision sometime this week.

“Too many Delawareans and visitors are not following basic public health precautions,” Carney said in a statement, citing in part lax behavior at the state’s beaches. Delaware has experienced a slight increase in coronavirus cases and the percentage of positive tests over the past two weeks, but new hospital admissions have decreased over the same time period.

Other states that have paused their reopening plans include Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, and North Carolina, according to CNN and local media reports. Florida, Texas, and California have gone one step further by putting back in place previous restrictions due to surging coronavirus cases.

Leaders in some cities are also warning about pausing reopening plans as cases increase. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said Friday officials will reconsider allowing more businesses to reopen on July 3 under the city’s modified “green” phase.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced during a press briefing Monday that the city might pause plans to allow indoor dining, which was scheduled to resume next week.

— Rob Tornoe

9:30 AM - June 29, 2020
9:30 AM - June 29, 2020

Face mask vending machines coming this week to Suburban Station

RapidMask2Go vending machines photographed on a New York street.
Courtesy RapidMasks2Go
RapidMask2Go vending machines photographed on a New York street.

A New York company will install four mask vending machines at Suburban Station this week.

The machines are set to be installed Tuesday in the area of the Center City hub outside the turnstiles, said David Edelman, cofounder of RapidMask2Go.

“I think this is right in time for the expanded SEPTA schedule,” which started Monday, he said. For his vending machines, “transit hubs are a natural fit because masks are a requirement to ride the trains.”

Edelman had said last month that he wanted to work with Philly to bring his creation to several locations across the city.

“We recognize for our cities to reopen we’re going to need these masks,” he said. “It’s not that this is your everyday mask. It’s a solution for when you’ve gone out and forgotten your cloth mask.”

Suburban Station is one of SEPTA’s busiest hubs and an entrypoint to Philadelphia for millions of people each year, according to AthenianRazak, which has the master lease for the station’s retail space.

“As people begin to use SEPTA more and commute into Philadelphia for work, these machines are the perfect addition to Suburban Station,” Jackie Buhn, CEO of AthenianRazak, said in a statement.

When the machines are installed Tuesday, Edelman said RapidMask2Go will also donate a couple thousand masks to SEPTA workers who have been on the front lines of the pandemic.

— Erin McCarthy

9:10 AM - June 29, 2020
9:10 AM - June 29, 2020

Pennsylvania added over 1,100 new coronavirus cases this weekend as state trends upward

A sign on Nic Grooming Barbershop requires customers to wear a mask as they enter and get a haircut along 20th Street on Saturday, June 27, 2020. Nic Grooming Barbershop will be reopening on July 6, 2020.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
A sign on Nic Grooming Barbershop requires customers to wear a mask as they enter and get a haircut along 20th Street on Saturday, June 27, 2020. Nic Grooming Barbershop will be reopening on July 6, 2020.

Pennsylvania added more than 1,100 new coronavirus cases over the weekend as the number of daily confirmed cases trends upward following the state’s steps to reopen.

On Saturday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 621 new cases, the largest single-day increase since June 12. The state reported an additional 505 COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the statewide total to 85,496 — the eighth-highest in the country.

Twenty-seven deaths were reported over the weekend, increasing Pennsylvania’s confirmed death toll to 6,606, with 4,528 deaths associated with nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

The daily increase in new cases comes as all but one county have now moved to the state’s less-restrictive “green” reopening phase. Lebanon County, the last county remaining in the “yellow” phase, is scheduled to move to “green” Friday.

“As nearly the entire state is now in the green phase, we must remain committed to protecting against COVID-19,” Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said in a statement, warning that ‘the virus has not gone away.”

“Each of us has a responsibility to continue to protect ourselves, our loved ones and others by wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing and washing our hands frequently,” Levine added.

— Rob Tornoe

8:00 AM - June 29, 2020
8:00 AM - June 29, 2020

Officials ‘concerned’ over photos from Delaware’s beaches showing people crowding without masks

Hot weather and clear skies brought thousands of visitors to Rehoboth Beach on Saturday, June 27, 2020. Social distancing did not appear to be followed very strictly on either the beach or boardwalk, with mask usage also not ubiquitous.
Chuck Snyder/Special to News Journal, DelawareOnline.com
Hot weather and clear skies brought thousands of visitors to Rehoboth Beach on Saturday, June 27, 2020. Social distancing did not appear to be followed very strictly on either the beach or boardwalk, with mask usage also not ubiquitous.

Health officials in Delaware are encouraging anyone who visited the state’s beaches over the weekend — especially Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach — to get a coronavirus test.

Karyl Rattay, the director of the Delaware Division of Public Health, said health officials were “extremely concerned” by a cluster of coronavirus cases at the beach and observations of people not wearing masks or social distancing, including inside bars and restaurants.

“Make no mistake, continuing this behavior is a recipe for disaster. It is a sure way for us to end up with widespread infection that ultimately may not be contained to the beach area,” Rattay said in a statement.

Free COVID-19 testing will be offered Monday at the Starboard restaurant and bar in Dewey Beach from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Gov. John Carney has said he would look closely at testing data from the beaches to determine when the state will move into its third and final phase of reopening, which he pushed back last week due to an increase in cases.

As of Saturday afternoon, 11,226 Delawareans have tested positive for the coronavirus. At least 449 people have died. The percentage of people who have tested positive has increased slightly over the past two weeks, averaging about 5.5%.

— Rob Tornoe

7:30 AM - June 29, 2020
7:30 AM - June 29, 2020

Malls in New Jersey open today

Cherry Hill Mall sign facing Rt. 38 in Cherry Hill, N.J. on June 28, 2020.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Cherry Hill Mall sign facing Rt. 38 in Cherry Hill, N.J. on June 28, 2020.

In New Jersey, where the state is gradually reopening under “Stage 2,″ merchants at the Cherry Hill Mall eagerly readied their businesses on Sunday in anticipation of long-missed customers. Malls open Monday for the first time since March 17.

Sara Purdy, who owns the Kona Ice Hawaiian-style shaved ice at the mall’s food court, plans to arrive early.

“I’ll be there at 10 a.m. for the 11 o’clock opening,” she said. “I’m excited.”

The mall will allow only 50% capacity and customers must enter through two designated entryways. Employees have to use a separate entrance. Employees and shoppers must wear masks.

“The food court is only open for takeaway, so there’s no inside seating,” Purdy said. “Once you purchase some food, does that mean you have to leave the mall to eat it? We don’t know yet. It’s near impossible to eat a Kona Ice through a mask.”

— Sam Wood

7:00 AM - June 29, 2020
7:00 AM - June 29, 2020

Fauci warns of risk if too many people refuse coronavirus vaccine

Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci wears a face mask as he waits to testify before a House committee.
KEVIN DIETSCH / AP
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci wears a face mask as he waits to testify before a House committee.

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said a coronavirus vaccine may not be enough to protect the country from another outbreak due to polling that suggests many Americans will not be vaccinated.

Fauci said in an interview with CNN that aired Sunday that he would settle for a COVID-19 vaccine that’s 70% to 75% effective at blocking the virus, lower than the 97% effective rate of the measles vaccine but much higher than an annual flu vaccine, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates has been about 43% over the past 10 years.

But if millions of Americans decided not to vaccinate themselves, Fauci said it was “unlikely” any vaccine would provide herd immunity, when a large-enough portion of the population is immune to an infectious disease through vaccine or prior illness, making its spread unlikely.

“There is a general anti-science, anti-authority, anti-vaccine feeling among some people in this country — an alarmingly large percentage of people, relatively speaking,” Fauci added.

Fauci has repeatedly said he is “cautiously optimistic” one or more coronavirus vaccines will be available to the general public in early 2021.

— Rob Tornoe