8:58 PM - July 22, 2020
8:58 PM - July 22, 2020

Due to spike in coronavirus cases, West Chester cancels parks and recreation events for rest of 2020

A man wearing a face mask is seen along Gay Street in West Chester on Monday, May 11, 2020.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
A man wearing a face mask is seen along Gay Street in West Chester on Monday, May 11, 2020.

The West Chester Department of Parks and Recreation announced Wednesday that it was canceling all its major events for the rest of 2020 because of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Chester County.

The events that are canceled include the 38th Annual Turks Head Music Festival, the 41st Annual Chester County Restaurant Festival, the Annual West Chester Halloween Parade, and Touch A Truck Day, the department said.

“The safety of our staff, the Borough Police, Public Works, the vendors, and our patrons is first and foremost with everything we do,” said Director of Parks and Recreation Keith A. Kurowski in a statement.

“With your support, we fully anticipate coming back bigger and better than ever in 2021,” Kurowski said.

It is with a heavy heart that we are announcing that all West Chester Parks and Recreation events are cancelled for the...

Posted by West Chester Parks and Recreation on Wednesday, July 22, 2020

— Robert Moran

6:50 PM - July 22, 2020
6:50 PM - July 22, 2020

Pa. clarifies rules for selling alcohol at bars and restaurants

Tables and chairs for diners along the sidewalk and in the road on 13th Street in Center City in Philadelphia, Pa. on Tuesday, July 14, 2020.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
Tables and chairs for diners along the sidewalk and in the road on 13th Street in Center City in Philadelphia, Pa. on Tuesday, July 14, 2020.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board on Wednesday issued rule clarifications for bars and restaurants — including what constitutes a meal when serving alcohol — in response to the rising number of coronavirus cases in the state.

The board emphasized that the sale of alcohol for on-premise consumption is only allowed with a meal that is prepared on premises and sufficient to be considered breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Snacks such as pretzels, chips, popcorn, or similar food do not meet the definition of a meal, the board said.

Additional drinks may be purchased while a customer is consuming a meal but not afterward. Bar service of food or alcohol is prohibited.

For places such as breweries, distilleries, and wineries, meals may be provided by the licensee or by a third party such as a food truck.

If a club does not see food directly or through a concession, it cannot use its liquor license.

The rules will be enforced by the Pennsylvania State Police, the Liquor Control Board, the Department of Agriculture, and local law enforcement, the board said.

— Robert Moran

5:28 PM - July 22, 2020
5:28 PM - July 22, 2020

There have been more coronavirus infections in Philly than we think, but new study muddies the picture

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

You may have seen the headlines about a new study suggesting that the number of coronavirus infections is much higher than the official number of confirmed cases in many parts of the country.

The study included the Philadelphia area, for which the authors found that as of April 25, the number of people who had developed antibodies to the virus was seven times the number of cases identified the usual way — with those nasal swabs that detect a current infection.

But the study did not rely on a random sample, causing some scientists to call it misleading. The study also did not take into account some demographic factors that can affect infection rates, including race and ethnicity.

It is nevertheless true that the actual number of infections is higher than we realize. But by how much, we still don’t know.

Tom Avril

4:43 PM - July 22, 2020
4:43 PM - July 22, 2020

Pa. Gov. Wolf denounces attack mocking Health Secretary Levine

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine meets with the media at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) headquarters in May.
Joe Hermitt / AP
Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine meets with the media at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) headquarters in May.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday denounced a Facebook post made by a small-town fair mocking transgender Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine.

The Bloomsburg Fair, located in the central part of the state, came under fire for sharing photos of a man in a dunk tank dressed as Levine. The president of the fair apologized at a news conference Tuesday night.

Levine has become the face of the state’s fight against coronavirus. That has led to hateful rhetoric against her.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has brought hate and transphobia into the spotlight through relentless comments and slurs directed at Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, who is a highly skilled, valued, and capable member of my administration and Transgender," Wolf said in a statement.

“The derogatory incident involving the Bloomsburg Fair is the latest of these vile acts, which by extension impact Transgender people across the commonwealth and nation,” Wolf said.

The governor added, “Hate has no place in Pennsylvania, even in the smallest transphobic joke, action or social media post. I’m calling upon all Pennsylvanians to speak out against hateful comments and acts, including the transphobia directed at Dr. Levine and all Transgender people in our great commonwealth.”

Rafael Álvarez Febo, executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs, also offered a statement with the governor and said that “Marginalized communities know when we are being targeted and will not be gas-lit into thinking this was just about Dr. Levine’s position as Secretary of Health.”

— Robert Moran

3:16 PM - July 22, 2020
3:16 PM - July 22, 2020

Pa. decides against allowing Toronto Blue Jays to play in Pittsburgh

Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr., left, watches teammate Teoscar Hernandez, right, spray sanitizer in the dugout during the first inning of an intersquad baseball action in Toronto on Friday.
Nathan Denette / AP
Toronto Blue Jays left fielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr., left, watches teammate Teoscar Hernandez, right, spray sanitizer in the dugout during the first inning of an intersquad baseball action in Toronto on Friday.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health won’t allow Toronto Blue Jays to play at PNC Park in Pittsburgh amid the pandemic.

The Canadian team wanted to play home games in the ballpark used by Pirates — sharing the venue with Pittsburgh’s home team — but state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said in a statement to the Associated Press: “To add travelers to this region for any reason, including for professional sports events, risks residents, visitors and members of both teams.”

— Associated Press

2:24 PM - July 22, 2020
2:24 PM - July 22, 2020

‘Come on man’: Gov. Murphy responds to Chris Christie’s criticism about help for small businesses

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy fired back at former Gov. Chris Christie, who this week criticized Murphy for “prioritizing public workers” over small businesses.

“In the end, this has not been shared sacrifice,” Christie said Tuesday during a video news conference held to discuss his 30-Day Fund, which he and his wife launched to raise money for small businesses. “It’s a policy decision that was made, but you could have shared the sacrifice a little bit more and put more money into the (state Economic Development Authority) and got those loan programs to be much more robust.”

New Jersey’s largest union of state workers last month agreed to furloughs and to hold off on a wage increase to avoid layoffs.

Murphy said he applauded the creation of the Christies’ small business fund, but blasted Christie’s management of the EDA, which has come under scrutiny in recent months for its decisions to award billions in tax breaks to large companies.

“We have strived from day one to make calls based on the science, on the data, on the facts,” Murphy said. “And frankly, I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry that he’s invoking the EDA, which was a piggy bank for special interests under his leadership. Big companies at the absolute expense of small companies.”

Murphy continued, “Who thinks that laying off middle class workers who are the very folks on the front lines providing the services that our residents so desperately need, who thinks that laying them off somehow benefits New Jersey’s families, when in fact the exact opposite is the case? ... Come on man, particularly given the train wreck that the EDA was under his leadership. Public sector workers were crushed under him, give me a break.”

Murphy said the EDA has committed $100 million to help 20,000 small businesses in the wake of the pandemic.

“We are in there every single day doing everything we can for small businesses,” he said.

— Allison Steele

1:43 PM - July 22, 2020
1:43 PM - July 22, 2020

Gov. Murphy calls Republican proposed stimulus plan ‘a slap in the face’

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy during a press briefing at Trenton War Memorial in Trenton, N.J., on Tuesday, May 26, 2020.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy during a press briefing at Trenton War Memorial in Trenton, N.J., on Tuesday, May 26, 2020.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy slammed Sen. Mitch McConnell’s proposed stimulus plan, which would provide no more relief money to states.

“This is a slap in the face to every governor across the country, Republican and Democrat, who have shouldered the responsibility of responding to this pandemic,” he said.

Murphy said New Jersey is facing a fiscal crisis on the scale of the Civil War and the Great Depression, and that the federal funding received so far has not made a dent. The state is facing a $10 billion budget gap.

“What Jersey has gotten back has been a drop in the bucket compared to our needs,” Murphy said. “Moreover, you would be hard pressed to find a state anywhere that would say different.”

He said he would work to send the message to Washington that McConnell’s proposed bill would “hurt the very people who are going to rebuild our country.”

As infection continues to spread in other parts of the country, New Jersey is now asking travelers from 31 states, including Delaware, to quarantine for 14 days upon entering the state.

New Jersey’s transmission rate was .90, but Murphy cautioned that backlogs in testing might be artificially lowering it slightly. Hospitalizations continue to drop.

“No matter what the numbers say, there is no reason for us to give up on our social distancing, or on wearing face coverings in public,” he said.

— Allison Steele

1:43 PM - July 22, 2020
1:43 PM - July 22, 2020

Yoga studios may reopen in N.J., but activity will be restricted

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced Wednesday that gyms must remain closed except for one-on-one training, but that martial arts studios, which are classified as indoor recreational facilities, may conduct non-contact classes inside at a maximum of 25% capacity. Attendees must wear masks and adhere to social distancing.

Yoga and pilates studios, which Murphy said also fall under the definition of “indoor recreation,” can open if they follow the same restrictions.

— Allison Steele

1:37 PM - July 22, 2020
1:37 PM - July 22, 2020

Man who spit on officers said he had coronavirus, according to police

A man claiming he was infected with the coronavirus spit in the face of police officers during a confrontation early Wednesday morning, according to Cherry Hill police.

Officials said Lance Phillips Jr., a 29-year-old from Pennsauken, was in the custody of officers from the Camden County Sheriff’s Office at about 2:19 a.m., when he was brought into the Cherry Hill Police Department for processing.

According to police, Phillips become combative, claimed he was infected with COVID-19, and spit in the faces of three officers — one Cherry Hill Police officer and two Camden County Sheriff’s officers — who were treated at local hospitals.

Phillips was taken to a local hospital, where police said he again became combative and assaulted two hospital staffers and a sheriff’s officer.

Phillips was arrested on several charges, including multiple counts of throwing bodily fluid at a law enforcement officer and a COVID-19 executive order violation. He was in custody at the Camden County Jail.

— Rob Tornoe

1:09 PM - July 22, 2020
1:09 PM - July 22, 2020

Philly warns of rising cases

Philadelphia announced 132 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Wednesday. That figure is roughly in line with the recent average number of cases reported per day; Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Tuesday that there had been an average of 138 new cases per day in the past week, as he warned that new cases of COVID-19 were rising in the city.

The city also confirmed seven additional deaths due to COVID-19 Wednesday. A total of 1,673 Philadelphia residents have now died of the virus and the city has reported a total of 28,874 confirmed cases.

Including Philadelphia’s numbers, Pennsylvania added a total of 763 new cases on Wednesday. Allegheny County — home to Pittsburgh — reported 96 new cases.

The Department of Health said 148,209 coronavirus tests were administered statewide between July 15 and July 21, with 6,094 positive cases — a positive test rate of about 4.1%, lower than the national rate of 9% reported by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

— Laura McCrystal and Rob Tornoe

12:40 PM - July 22, 2020
12:40 PM - July 22, 2020

Pa. Republican lawmaker calls for ‘tyrant’ Wolf to be impeached over coronavirus restrictions

Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, called Gov. Tom Wold a "tyrant" during a rally in Harrisburg on Wednesday.
Matt Rourke
Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, called Gov. Tom Wold a "tyrant" during a rally in Harrisburg on Wednesday.

Several Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania took to the steps of the state capitol in Harrisburg on Wednesday to call for Gov. Tom Wolf to remove all coronavirus restrictions in the state, which they say infringe on individual rights.

State Rep. Daryl Metcalf (R., Butler) called Wolf a “tyrant” and said he is attempting to push articles of impeachment against Wolf through the state legislature for what he calls a “violation of our rights.”

State Sen. Mario Scavello (R., Monroe County) suggested Democrats were over-hyping the threat of COVID-19 in order to hurt Republicans in the 2020 election, and falsely claimed more people have been killed by the flu this year than the coronavirus, which as of Wednesday has claimed the lives of at least 142,350 Americans, according to Johns Hopkins University.

At least 7,063 Pennsylvanians have died after contracting coronavirus. While the entire state has moved to the less-restrictive “green” phase of reopening, health official have kept certain limits place to curb the spread of the virus. Last week, Wolf added new restrictions on bars and indoor dining in response to a new surge of daily cases.

Other lawmakers scheduled to speak included several who represent areas in the western part of the state, which has seen a spike in new cases. A livestream is available on state Sen. Doug Mastriano’s Facebook page.

— Rob Tornoe

12:00 PM - July 22, 2020
12:00 PM - July 22, 2020

Pa. looking to build contact tracing resources to prevent outbreaks

On average, Pennsylvania residents who have tested positive for coronavirus share one to ten contacts with contract tracers, the state announced Wednesday.

Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said in a statement that contact tracing, the process of identifying and notifying people who came in contact with someone with the coronavirus, is “critical to identify any instances of community spread and prevent larger outbreaks.”

The state’s Department of Health says it currently has 661 contact tracers, 380 in the southeastern part of the state, but that number could grow by hundreds or thousands of people depending on the situation in the fall.

The state is currently hiring contact tracing field managers and community health nurses, which they say are needed to strengthen contact tracing throughout the state. You can find more information and apply on the state’s website.

— Rob Tornoe

11:31 AM - July 22, 2020
11:31 AM - July 22, 2020

New coronavirus cases in Chester County up nearly 65% compared to last week

Chester Springs Post Office letter carrier Tim Viola gets ready for his route in Chester County.
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Chester Springs Post Office letter carrier Tim Viola gets ready for his route in Chester County.

The number of new coronavirus cases in Chester County is up nearly 65 percent in the past week, according to data reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Between Tuesday, July 14, and Monday, July 20, Chester County added 321 new cases. The previous week, it added just 195 new cases. The Chester County Health Department says half of the new cases over the past seven days are in people under the age of 30.

Chester County Commissioner Josh Maxwell told the Daily Local News he believes some of the new cases stem from the July 4 weekend, when residents took trips to the Shore and didn’t wear masks or social distance.

“We lost a 19-year-old this week due to COVID,” Maxwell told the newspaper. “I’m disappointed in people who continue to not wear masks.”

Southern Chester County’s mushroom country continues to be the hardest-hit area in the county. Avondale, Kennett Square, and West Grove have the highest percentage of positive cases in the county, according to data from the county’s health department.

As of Tuesday, at least 341 residents in the county have died. Nearly 74% of those who have tested positive have recovered.

— Rob Tornoe

11:07 AM - July 22, 2020
11:07 AM - July 22, 2020

Pa. county that defied coronavirus restrictions sues Wolf over withheld funds

An old-style street sign marks the intersection of S. 8th and Cumberland streets in Lebanon, Pa.’s historic business district.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
An old-style street sign marks the intersection of S. 8th and Cumberland streets in Lebanon, Pa.’s historic business district.

A Pennsylvania county filed suit Wednesday to compel Gov. Tom Wolf to release $12.8 million in federal coronavirus relief funding that he withheld after county leaders defied his shutdown orders.

Wolf withheld nearly $12.8 million in funding from Lebanon County, where local Republican leaders voted in mid-May to lift pandemic restrictions in defiance of the Democratic governor. Wolf’s decision left Lebanon County as the only Pennsylvania county to have been cut off from a $625 million pot of federal coronavirus relief money distributed by the state.

The lawsuit, filed in Lebanon County Court, cast the Board of Commissioners’ vote to unilaterally move Lebanon to the less restrictive “yellow” phase of Wolf’s reopening plan as merely symbolic. The suit said Wolf had no legal right to withhold funding appropriated by the legislature, accusing him of a “gross abuse of power” and acting like a “de facto King.”

Wolf once again addressed his decision to withhold the money at a news conference in York, Pa. on Tuesday, saying Lebanon County had to pay a price for its decision to defy the state’s coronavirus restrictions.

“The county commissioners in Lebanon County should have thought of that when they violated the law.” Wolf said.

— Associated Press

10:00 AM - July 22, 2020
10:00 AM - July 22, 2020

Gov. Wolf says spike in new cases partially traced back to bars

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf adjust his mask while touring the Orontz Plaza in West Oak Lane back in June.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf adjust his mask while touring the Orontz Plaza in West Oak Lane back in June.

Gov. Tom Wolf said Pennsylvania’s recent spike in coronavirus cases can be traced back, in part, to bars and other places where people were gathering and drinking together.

Due to a surge of new cases driven by a spike in the western part of the state, Wolf ordered new restrictions last week that forced nightclubs to close and limited bars to serving alcohol to customers seated at a table or booth eating a meal. He also lowered the limit on indoor gatherings to 25 people.

“What we focused on is we know that [the rise in new cases] are coming from places where people are coming together and in close contact where they’re drinking. That’s bars,” Wolf said Tuesday during a press conference outside WellSpan York Hospital in York, according to PennLive. “And so, the order, I think, has really addressed that in a targeted way.”

Wolf said the state has the data, but won’t identify specific bars or businesses because of what happened in South Korea, where very specific information released by the government led to online ridicule and harassment. He also recognized the restrictions are extremely difficult for business owners, but warned the alternative would be worse.

“Isn’t it more frustrating to go through what the bar owners and restaurant owners are going through in Florida, where people are just not going to come to the bar?” Wolf said.

— Rob Tornoe

9:45 AM - July 22, 2020
9:45 AM - July 22, 2020

Toronto Blue Jays will play in Pittsburgh because of coronavirus — if Pa. approves

The Cleveland Indians and the Pittsburgh Pirates play an exhibition baseball game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Saturday, July 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Gene J. Puskar / AP
The Cleveland Indians and the Pittsburgh Pirates play an exhibition baseball game at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Saturday, July 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The Toronto Blue Jays will play home games this season at PNC Park in Pittsburgh if the state of Pennsylvania approves it, two officials familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

The agreement to share the stadium with the Pirates is pending state approval, according to the officials who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Wednesday because they were not authorized to speak ahead of the government decision.

Canada denied the Blue Jays’ request to play in Toronto because the regular-season schedule would require frequent travel back and forth from the United States, where COVID-19 cases are surging. Canada has flattened the epidemic curve.

— Associated Press

8:00 AM - July 22, 2020
8:00 AM - July 22, 2020

Pa. coronavirus numbers double what they were last month

With COVID-19 numbers rising stubbornly in the region — and more dramatically in Western Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the nation — the virus continues to cast an ominous shadow over the 2020-21 school year, with administrators confronting unprecedented challenges.

In Pennsylvania, where the seven-day average of daily confirmed cases — 871 — has more than doubled since mid-June, bumped up by outbreaks in the Pittsburgh area, Attorney General Josh Shapiro said he would sue the Trump administration if it attempted to withhold federal funds from schools that don’t reopen fully.

While they haven’t rivaled levels in Western Pennsylvania, reported case numbers have inched up in Philadelphia, with the daily average as of Tuesday for the previous seven days at 138, up from 110 the week before. While the rises are not large, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said they might affect the progress of reopenings. Farley said he also was concerned about numbers spiking around the country.

— Anthony R. Wood, Melanie Burney and Oona Goodin-Smith

7:40 AM - July 22, 2020
7:40 AM - July 22, 2020

Pa.‘s spike in cases fueled by Pittsburgh and counties in Southwestern Pa.

— John Duchneskie

7:20 AM - July 22, 2020
7:20 AM - July 22, 2020

Bloomsburg Fair officials apologize for transphobic post about Pa. health secretary

Health Secretary Rachel Levine speaks to reporters about COVID-19.
Commonwealth Media Services / Commonwealth Media Services: Natalie Kolb
Health Secretary Rachel Levine speaks to reporters about COVID-19.

The Bloomsburg Fair is under fire once again, this time after sharing photos of a man in a dunk tank dressed as Health Secretary Rachel Levine.

Levine, a transgender woman, has become the face of the state’s fight against coronavirus. But that has also led to hateful rhetoric mocking her gender, fueled by criticism from some of the state’s early coronavirus restrictions that forced many businesses to close.

According to organizers of the fair, a fire company official not connected to the event wore a dress for his turn in the dunk tank. The incident quickly evolved into what they described as a “disrespectful parody” of Levine, which the fair hyped on a since-deleted Facebook post.

“Dr. Levine? Thank you,” the fair’s page read, according to the Citizen Voice. “You were a hit and raised a lot of money for the local fire companies. Wonder why so many were trying to dunk you.”

Randy Karschener, the president of the Bloomsburg fair, apologized in a press conference Tuesday night, adding that he’s been in contact with Levine’s office about the incident.

“It turned into where people thought that we were offending Dr. Rachel Levine and that was no intention at all, especially to cross-gender, there was absolutely none of that and we apologize,” Karschner said.

The fair, held in Columbia County, 98 miles northwest of Philadelphia, has skirted with controversy in the past. In 2016, officials were forced to remove a vendor selling Nazi flags from the concessions area.

— Rob Tornoe

7:00 AM - July 22, 2020
7:00 AM - July 22, 2020

Wednesday morning round-up

  • The United States reported 1,082 new deaths Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University, fueled by a continued spike of new cases in the South and West. The seven-day rolling average of deaths per day in the United States is now more than 800, up from an average of about 475 earlier this month but still below a peak of over 2,200 deaths per day in April.
  • The state board that oversees Philadelphia’s finances approved the city’s five-year plan Tuesday despite concerns that overly optimistic revenue projections amid the coronavirus pandemic could leave the city with a deficit.
  • LabCorp CEO Adam Schechter told CNBC the coronavirus is spreading faster in the United States than the company can expand testing capacity, leading to slower turnaround time for results.