9:14 PM - July 21, 2020
9:14 PM - July 21, 2020

Most people in the U.S. are still susceptible to the coronavirus, CDC study finds

A nurse draws blood last month for an antibody test at a District of Columbia testing site. MUST CREDIT: Photo of for The Washington Post by Amanda Voisard
Amanda Voisard / For The Washington Post
A nurse draws blood last month for an antibody test at a District of Columbia testing site. MUST CREDIT: Photo of for The Washington Post by Amanda Voisard

A small proportion of people in many parts of the United States had antibodies to the novel coronavirus as of this spring, indicating that most of the population remains highly susceptible to the pathogen, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency also reported that the number of actual coronavirus infections probably is higher - by two to 13 times - than the reported cases. The higher estimate is based on the study on antibodies, which indicates who has had the virus. The number of reported cases in the United States now stands at 3.8 million.

The new data appeared Tuesday in the JAMA Internal Medicine publication and on the CDC website. The information about antibodies was derived from blood samples drawn from 10 areas, including New York, Utah, Washington state and South Florida. The samples were collected in discrete periods in two rounds - one in early spring and the other several weeks later, ending in early June. For two sites, only the earlier results were available.

— Washington Post

6:08 PM - July 21, 2020
6:08 PM - July 21, 2020

Don’t let Trump and DeVos bully you into reopening schools, Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro tells educators

President Donald Trump listens as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks during a roundtable discussion in 2018.
Evan Vucci / AP
President Donald Trump listens as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaks during a roundtable discussion in 2018.

If President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos attempt to withhold federal funds for Pennsylvania schools that do not fully reopen in September, State Attorney General Josh Shapiro will take legal action to stop them, he told school superintendents Tuesday.

“Frankly, I’m sick and tired of this president trying to use teachers and our children as pawns, and I’m going to look out for them, unlike the president, who only seems to be looking out for himself and his political fortunes,” Shapiro said in an interview.

His comments followed a letter he sent to school administrators across the state. Educators now crafting reopening plans have reached out to Shapiro with concerns about how they weigh fears of the coronavirus spreading in schools against Trump and DeVos’ recent funding threats, Shapiro said. While local and state tax revenues account for the bulk of school budgets, federal money — particularly funds for needy students — also account for significant line items.

— Kristen A. Graham

5:41 PM - July 21, 2020
5:41 PM - July 21, 2020

Trump warns pandemic probably will ‘get worse before it gets better’

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House on Tuesday.
Evan Vucci / AP
President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference at the White House on Tuesday.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday gave a coronavirus briefing from the White House and warned that the pandemic in America “will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better” with the recent surge in cases.

Trump, who appeared by himself, also urged people to “wear a mask...whether you like the mask or not.”

Citing recent increases in infections among young people, he urged them to “avoid packed bars.”

Trump cited recently reported progress on vaccine research. “The vaccines are coming,” he promised.

Defending his response to the pandemic since it first hit the United States, he declared that ”we have a relentless focus and it’s been that way from the beginning.”

He took some questions during his nearly half-hour appearance and when he was reminded that he had early on insisted that the virus would go away, he insisted he will be proven right.

“The virus will disappear,” Trump said.

— Robert Moran

5:27 PM - July 21, 2020
5:27 PM - July 21, 2020

Photos: Temple health-care workers rally for hazard pay

Health care workers represented by District 1199C of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees on Tuesday called for Temple University and Temple University Health System to bargain with the union for hazard pay to compensate the workers for staying on the job during the worst of the COVID-19 outbreak and to pay them fairly during a possible second wave.

The union, which represents nurses aids, cleaners, patient transporters, and others, did not disclose specific demands. Temple and its health system employ 2,000 1199C members.

— Monica Herndon, Harold Brubaker

2:55 PM - July 21, 2020
2:55 PM - July 21, 2020

Gov. Carney ‘mad as hell’ about Delaware being re-added to New Jersey’s travel advisory

Delaware Gov. John Carney meets with staffers during a tour of the State Health Operations Center.
Randall Chase / AP Photo
Delaware Gov. John Carney meets with staffers during a tour of the State Health Operations Center.

Gov. John Carney is not happy that Delaware has once again landed on New Jersey’s travel quarantine list, meaning residents traveling into the Garden State are required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“I’m mad as hell, frankly,” Carney said. “We’re better today than we were when we were first put on the list two weeks ago. And we’re better today than we were last week, when we were taken off the list.”

Delaware is averaging a 4.2 percent positive coronavirus test rate over the past five days, down from over 5.5% earlier this month and well below New Jersey’s threshold of 10 percent.

But as Delaware has ramped up testing, the state is also averaging 105.3 new coronavirus cases per day, a rate of about 10.8 per 100,000 people. Because of the state’s small population, that pushes it slightly beyond New Jersey’s threshold of 10 new cases or more per 100,000 people.

“It makes no sense,” Carney said. “As I said to Governor Murphy and Governor Cuomo last week, we’re going to be on and off the list unless we stop testing, and we’re not going to stop testing.”

Philadelphia, which removed Delaware from its travel advisory last week, includes states with an infection rate of 90 residents per 100,000 people on a weekly basis. Pennsylvania hasn’t announced the specific criteria it uses, but says the advisory includes “states with a high number of cases.” It’s unclear if either will also re-add Delaware to their travel advisories.

Carney said that while the rate of positive tests continues to decline, he expects students will likely experience a mix of in-person teaching and remote learning when school resumes in the fall.

While the state hasn’t announced specific metrics, Carney said for schools to reopen with full, in-person teaching, he thinks the positive test rate would need to decrease to about 2%, according to criteria established by organizations like the World Health Organization.

“It would be more helpful if we had a recommendation about those criteria to identify community spread by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, but we have not received such guidance yet,” Carney said.

— Rob Tornoe

2:15 PM - July 21, 2020
2:15 PM - July 21, 2020

Camden isn’t sure if enough teachers will return to reopen schools

Woodrow Wilson High School is shown in Camden, N.J. Friday, June 19, 2020.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Woodrow Wilson High School is shown in Camden, N.J. Friday, June 19, 2020.

About one-third of Camden’s public school teachers may not return for the upcoming school year because they feel unsafe returning to the classroom, Superintendent Katrina McCombs said Tuesday.

McCombs said the district, the largest in South Jersey, is preparing contingency plans to possibly hire substitute teachers to replace those unable to return for in-person learning. The district plans to release its reopening plan July 28.

Asked at a county briefing Tuesday if Camden will have enough teachers to open schools, she replied: “We are not 100 percent sure.”

With a possibility that New Jersey could mandate all-remote learning if there is a drastic spike in coronavirus cases that has been seen elsewhere in the country, McCombs said the district must also be prepared to pivot to all virtual instruction, if needed.

”It’s like we’re planning in quicksand,” McCombs said. Camden enrolls about 6,800 students in the city’s 18 traditional public schools; 4,350 in 11 charter schools, and 3,850 in 11 Renaissance schools, which are publicly funded and privately operated.

Details about the fall are still being worked out, including whether teachers with health concerns will have the option to work remotely.

Camden Education Association President Keith E. Benson said Tuesday that a union survey of nearly 1,100 members found that roughly 75 percent would return to the classroom but “with deep reservations and concerns.” The union has worked on the reopening plan and hopes “to find the safest way” to return to in-person instruction, he said.

— Melanie Burney

2:10 PM - July 21, 2020
2:10 PM - July 21, 2020

Parents urged to help their kids get used to wearing a mask before school starts

Cherry Hill Superintendent Joseph Meloche said at a county briefing Tuesday that school officials are trying to figure out how to provide masks for teachers. It would cost about $2.5 million for disposable masks for the entire school year for staff and students and that is cost prohibitive, he said.

A preliminary reopening plan released last week requires staff and students to use masks inside buildings and on school buses. A spokesperson said the district is exploring providing reusable masks for teachers. Cherry Hill has about 11,000 students and 1,700 employees.

Meloche urged parents to involve their children in selecting a mask and encourage them to wear them at home during the summer to become accustomed to them when school begins. Cherry Hill’s reopening calls for most students attending in-person classes two days a week. A revised version will be released July 28.

”Ultimately, everybody is not going to be happy with the plan we come up with,” Meloche said.

— Melanie Burney

1:29 PM - July 21, 2020
1:29 PM - July 21, 2020

Coronavirus infection rates are increasing in Philadelphia, city says

The Retro Fitness health club at 16th and Spring Garden reopened for business on Monday, July 20, 2020. It was the first day gyms have been able to reopen since pandemic.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
The Retro Fitness health club at 16th and Spring Garden reopened for business on Monday, July 20, 2020. It was the first day gyms have been able to reopen since pandemic.

The rate of new confirmed coronavirus cases in Philadelphia increased in the past week, a worrying sign that the city will not be spared from the spikes in new infections seen elsewhere in the country, Public Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Tuesday.

Over the last seven days, the city has seen an average of 138 new confirmed cases per day, Farley said, including 150 on Tuesday. Those tallies could increase as delayed test results come in.

In the previous week, the city saw 110 per new cases per day, he said.

While small, the upward trend in new cases is reason to doubt that the city can continue opening parts of the economy that were recently allowed to resume operations, such as retail stores and outdoor dining.

Cases have been spiking in states in the South and the West, and have been climbing across Pennsylvania, including a recent outbreak in Bucks County. Philadelphia’s caseload had seemed to plateau around 110 new infections per day during that time, following a period of rapidly declining rates of new cases in the city.

But if cases continue to rise here, the city may be forced to bring back some tighter restrictions on businesses, Farley said.

“If case rates rise at some points we may need to close the medium-risk activities again. … If case rates fall we may gradually allow these higher-risk activities to resume,” he said. “What we’re trying to do here in Philadelphia, across the state and across the country at this point is to seek a balance.”

The city has significantly improved its testing capacity, Farley said. More testing, however, is not the only reason for the increase in case counts, he said, because the rate of positive test results also increased this week, suggesting the virus is spreading more rapidly. Over the last seven days, 5.5% of tests of Philadelphians came back positive, compared to 5.1% the week before.

Since the pandemic began, 28,742 Philadelphians have tested positive for the virus.

— Sean Collins Walsh

12:33 PM - July 21, 2020
12:33 PM - July 21, 2020

Delaware back on New Jersey’s travel quarantine list

Toll plaza for the Delaware Memorial Bridge
Delaware River and Bay Authority
Toll plaza for the Delaware Memorial Bridge

Individuals traveling to New Jersey from 31 states — including Delaware — are now advised to quarantine for a 14-day period after leaving the identified state with a high level of community spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday.

The updated list of 31 states includes: Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

In late June, New Jersey, along with New York and Connecticut, began requiring travelers to quarantine from states where the rolling seven-day average of new cases is at 10 or more people per 100,000, or 10% of those tested are positive.

As parts of the country begin to reopen their economies and see an increase in case numbers and hospitalizations due to the coronavirus, New Jersey’s updated travel advisory includes 10 additional states, and removes Minnesota from the list.

Travelers from the 31 states are advised to self-quarantine in a home, hotel, or other lodging, leaving only for food and other essential items, or to seek medical care.

“It is critically important that all New Jerseyans remain committed to beating COVID-19 by remaining vigilant and continuing our collective efforts to reduce new cases and the rate of transmission throughout the state,” Murphy said. “In order to prevent additional outbreaks across New Jersey and continue with our responsible restart and recovery process, I strongly encourage all individuals arriving from these hotspot states to proactively get a COVID-19 test and self-quarantine.”

— Oona Goodin-Smith

12:19 PM - July 21, 2020
12:19 PM - July 21, 2020

Pa. adds more than 1,000 new cases as spike continues

Pennsylvania reported 1,027 new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, continuing a surge of new cases that began in the middle of June. The commonwealth is now averaging more than 870 new cases a day, more than double the 400 a day it was averaging around this time last month.

Younger people continue to drive up Pennsylvania’s case counts. In the southeastern part of the state, 18% of all new cases in July have been among people 19 to 24 years old, compared to just 5% in April. In southwestern Pennsylvania, that same group made up 21% of all new cases this month.

The continued spike in cases forced Gov. Tom Wolf to issue new restrictions last week on bars, restaurants, and indoor gatherings across the state. They were the first rollbacks the administration added since it began reopening counties in May.

“As the state has put in place new mitigation efforts to offset recent case increases, we must renew our commitment to protecting against COVID-19 by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and following the requirements set forth in the orders for bars and restaurants, gatherings and telework,” Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said in a statement.

The Department of Health said 155,796 coronavirus tests were administered between July 14 and July 20, with 5,996 positive cases — a positive test rate of about 3.84%, lower than the national rate of 9% reported by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

At least 7,038 Pennsylvania residents have now died after contracting coronavirus, with 20 new deaths reported Tuesday. Of the state’s deaths, 4,809 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.

— Rob Tornoe

11:30 AM - July 21, 2020
11:30 AM - July 21, 2020

‘Watching people die’: Pa. vets nursing home failed residents during COVID-19 outbreak

The state-run Southeastern Veterans' Center in Chester County suffered a devastating outbreak of coronavirus cases in spring 2020 that took dozens of lives.
PA Dept. of Military and Veterans Affairs
The state-run Southeastern Veterans' Center in Chester County suffered a devastating outbreak of coronavirus cases in spring 2020 that took dozens of lives.

The Southeastern Veterans’ Center, a state-run nursing home in Chester County where dozens of residents have died of COVID-19, failed to protect elderly residents from the coronavirus outbreak and continued to place them in an “immediate jeopardy situation” by flouting infection control guidelines, according to state health inspectors.

The scathing inspection report, based on an early June inspection but only posted recently on the state Department of Health website, said SEVC officials and managers failed to screen the temperatures of staff entering the building each day, didn’t enforce social-distancing, allowed employees to work on both COVID-positive and COVID-negative units in the same day; and maintained a work culture in which staffers were afraid to speak out about problems for fear of termination.

“[W]e will be fired for talking to you,” a licensed practical nurse told an inspector. “Watching people die was awful. We were told to wrap the residents in a body bag and meet the undertaker at the elevator.”

— William Bender, Vinny Vella and Allison Steele

11:00 AM - July 21, 2020
11:00 AM - July 21, 2020

Surgeon general: We need to lower transmission rate of coronavirus to safely reopen schools

Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned Tuesday that towns and states need to lower their local coronavirus transmission rates if they want to reopen schools safely.

“The biggest determinant of whether or not we can go back to school actually has little to nothing to do with the actual schools — it’s your background transmission rate,” Adams said during an interview on CBS This Morning.

Adams didn’t cite specific figures, but pointed to Denmark as an example of a country that waited until coronavirus rates were low before reopening schools in order to prevent a spike in new cases.

In order to drive down the spread of the virus, Adams urged residents to adhere to social distancing guidelines and wear a mask or facial covering whenever they are in the public.

“Those public health measures are actually what’s going to lower the transmission rate,” Adams said.

— Rob Tornoe

9:50 AM - July 21, 2020
9:50 AM - July 21, 2020

Judge rules South Jersey gym can remain open, but must follow state’s coronavirus restrictions

A member enters the Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, N.J., on Tuesday, July 21, 2020. The gym has reopened against New Jersey's coronavirus restrictions and is allowing up to 70 members inside at a time, but a judge denied Monday the state's request to hold its owners in contempt of court, instead ordering the gym to comply with tighter limitations on gym usage.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
A member enters the Atilis Gym in Bellmawr, N.J., on Tuesday, July 21, 2020. The gym has reopened against New Jersey's coronavirus restrictions and is allowing up to 70 members inside at a time, but a judge denied Monday the state's request to hold its owners in contempt of court, instead ordering the gym to comply with tighter limitations on gym usage.

A South Jersey gym will be allowed to remain open, but must follow strict guidelines or face being shut down again by the state, a judge ruled Monday night.

New Jersey Superior Court ruled that Atilis Gym in Bellmawr must comply completely with an executive order issued by Gov. Phil Murphy, which limits indoor gym use to individual training sessions in separate rooms and bars unrestricted public use of the facility.

While the judge didn’t hold the gym’s owners in contempt, the court invited state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli to file a new motion for contempt “if the gym violates the order in any way,” the Attorney General’s office said in a statement.

Gym owners Ian Smith and Frank Trumbetti made national news by reopening their facility in May, holding rallies and appearing multiple times on Fox News. Recently, the pair announced they were keeping their facility open in defiance of an order from the state.

Gov. Phil Murphy said last week that indoor activities in gyms and restaurants remain too much of a risk to the public health to allow those businesses to reopen.

“I want to get to gyms. I want to get to indoor dining,” Murphy said at a press briefing Friday. “But we can’t do it if we think we’re going to have a likelihood of killing people.”

— Ellie Rushing and Rob Tornoe

9:00 AM - July 21, 2020
9:00 AM - July 21, 2020

As trash piles up in Philly, union says at least 100 Philadelphia sanitation workers have coronavirus

Trash sits on the sidewalk of Frankford Ave. near Girard in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia on Friday, July 17, 2020.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Trash sits on the sidewalk of Frankford Ave. near Girard in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia on Friday, July 17, 2020.

Garbage continues to pile up on sidewalks across Philadelphia, as sanitation workers call out sick in large numbers. The Streets Department has asked residents to put their garbage out at least a day later than their regular schedule, but said some waste may be picked up one to two days late in some parts of the city.

Leaders of AFSCME Local 427 say at least 100 of the city’s 1,100 sanitation workers have tested positive for COVID-19, and many more have had to self-quarantine after potential exposures. (The Kenney administration has refused to disclose how many city workers have been infected; other major cities regularly release those figures.)

The union leaders blame the problem on the city’s failure to provide workers with adequate personal protective equipment and on the nature of the job: Social distancing is impossible when three sanitation workers have to share a truck cab.

“The membership is coming to work. We’re encouraging the membership to come to work. But our problem is, we’re having more and more members test positive,” Charles Carrington, president of Local 427, told the Inquirer.

But others think there’s more to the story. Councilmember Brian J. O’Neill, a Republican who represents Northeast Philadelphia, called sanitation workers’ absences a “mini-strike” and said they are intentionally letting trash accumulate to pressure the city into giving them hazard pay for working during the pandemic. The union denies that there is an organized effort to keep workers from showing up.

— Sean Collins Walsh

8:00 AM - July 21, 2020
8:00 AM - July 21, 2020

N.J. will allow parents to choose all-remote learning

Geralda Saint Jean, front center, shown here walking across campus with classmates at the end of the graduation ceremony at Rowan University.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Geralda Saint Jean, front center, shown here walking across campus with classmates at the end of the graduation ceremony at Rowan University.

New Jersey parents will be able to choose remote-only learning for the next school year, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday, a move that acknowledged some may not feel safe sending their children back to classrooms.

Though New Jersey schools have been instructed to provide in-person learning at least part-time, Murphy said the lack of clear evidence about the health risks teachers and students face from the coronavirus creates a tough situation.

“This is about as complex a step as we will take or any American state will take,” Murphy said.

New Jersey is faring better than most states in containing the pandemic: Its seven-day average of new daily confirmed cases dropped to the lowest it has been since the crisis began, reaching 220 on Sunday after several days of steady decrease, according to data analyzed by The Inquirer.

Pennsylvania’s largest teachers’ union last week urged the state to require school districts to make plans for online instruction. Most school districts in the Philadelphia region that have announced reopening plans have said they will offer families not comfortable with sending their children to school a fully virtual option, but Pennsylvania has not required it.

— Justine McDaniel and Allison Steele

7:30 AM - July 20, 2020
7:30 AM - July 20, 2020

Which towns around Philly have the most and least cases

7:15 AM - July 21, 2020
7:15 AM - July 21, 2020

V Street, the popular Philly vegan spot, has closed for good due to the pandemic

Rich Landau in V Street, his bar-restaurant near Rittenhouse Square, on March 20, 2020
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Rich Landau in V Street, his bar-restaurant near Rittenhouse Square, on March 20, 2020

V Street, the casual Rittenhouse Square sibling of vegan-dining landmark Vedge, has closed for good after 5½ years due to the pandemic, owners Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby said.

“Despite getting [a Paycheck Protection Program loan] in early July to invite some former staff members back to work, many we contacted expressed concerns about the virus, and we completely understand their hesitation,” the couple wrote in a statement to The Inquirer. “Unfortunately, under continuing pandemic conditions, it became clear that we are not able to make the business model work at that location, and we are now in the process of returning the loan.”

“The restaurant industry has been long overdue for meaningful change on many levels, and despite our needing to close this location, we look forward to being a part of that change as we all navigate these unprecedented times,” the couple wrote.

Employees were notified of the closing Friday in an email responding to a July 10 email, signed by 34 V Street workers, seeking redress of a multitude of issues. For months, employees complained about the couple’s lack of communication, particularly about the status of their jobs. The company employed 92 people at the two restaurants, employees said.

Although V Street had been closed, Vedge recently reopened four nights a week for takeout and for eight tables of outdoor dining. A third restaurant, Fancy Radish in Washington, D.C., had been open for takeout but is closed temporarily.

— Michael Klein

7:00 AM - July 21, 2020
7:00 AM - July 21, 2020

Tuesday morning roundup