8:38 PM - July 23, 2020
8:38 PM - July 23, 2020

Philly Archdiocese reveals hybrid attendance plan for high school students this fall

Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez greets representatives from Blessed Trinity Elementary School after they received chrome books from the technology team from the Archdiocese Office of Catholic Education, at the Archdiocese, in Philadelphia, April 20, 2020.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez greets representatives from Blessed Trinity Elementary School after they received chrome books from the technology team from the Archdiocese Office of Catholic Education, at the Archdiocese, in Philadelphia, April 20, 2020.

High school students in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will attend classes on alternate days this fall as part of a hybrid plan for dealing with the coronavirus, according to a document made available Thursday on the archdiocese’s education website.

"To allow for proper social distancing all schools will operate with a hybrid instructional model utilizing an every other day cycle, which has been termed an A/B cycle," the nine-page document said.

While certain students will attend class in-person, the remainder on that day will learn through video-conferencing. Then the students will switch the next day.

Cameras and sound equipment will be installed in classrooms of all 17 high schools.

“During this pandemic, our foremost priority has been the safety of students, faculty and staff. In our reopening, we will focus on providing the recommended six feet distancing in classrooms and other areas of the school, implementing screening, following requirements for face coverings, increasing cleaning and sanitation and promoting healthy behaviors,” the document said.

— Robert Moran

6:58 PM - July 23, 2020
6:58 PM - July 23, 2020

Trump says he will throw out first pitch at empty Yankee Stadium

President Donald Trump leaves after speaking at a news conference at the White House, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany is at left. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci / AP
President Donald Trump leaves after speaking at a news conference at the White House, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany is at left. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

At his coronavirus briefing on Thursday, President Donald Trump said he will be throwing out the first pitch for a game next month at an empty Yankee Stadium.

Major League Baseball games are resuming this week with strict coronavirus restrictions, including no fans in attendance.

“Randy Levine’s a great friend of mine from the Yankees,” Trump said, referring to the team’s president. “He asked me to throw out the first pitch, and I think I’m doing that on Aug. 15 at Yankee Stadium. And I say, ‘How’s the crowd gonna be?' And, you know, it’s like you don’t have a crowd. There’s no such thing.”

ESPN baseball reporter Marly Rivera later reported on Twitter that the Yankees confirmed that Trump will throw out a first pitch “at some pint this season.”

— Robert Moran

5:38 PM - July 23, 2020
5:38 PM - July 23, 2020

Trump cancels Florida part of upcoming GOP convention

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

President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he was canceling the portion of the Republican National Convention that was to have occurred in Jacksonville, Fla., at the end of August because of the surge in COVID-19 in Florida.

“It’s not the right time,” Trump during his coronavirus briefing at the White House.

“I have to protect the American people,” he said.

The part of the convention involving delegates renominating Trump as the Republican candidate for president will proceed as planned in North Carolina, he said.

Trump said his political team would organize “telerallies” and that he would have some form of an acceptance speech, but the details remain to be worked out.

— Robert Moran

4:38 PM - July 23, 2020
4:38 PM - July 23, 2020

Penn State reports first positive COVID-19 test of a student-athlete

Penn State football coach James Franklin at an NCAA college football press conference in Novemeber
Abby Drey / AP
Penn State football coach James Franklin at an NCAA college football press conference in Novemeber

Penn State’s athletic department confirmed Thursday that a student-athlete has tested positive for the coronavirus, the first report of a positive test since athletes in football and other sports started returning to campus on June 8.

Neither the student-athlete nor the sport in which he or she participates was identified.

The news was first reported by WPSU, Penn State’s public television station, after the Pennsylvania Health Department reported a positive test result Wednesday in the 16802 zip code, which matches the zip code for the University Park campus.

— Joe Juliano

4:26 PM - July 23, 2020
4:26 PM - July 23, 2020

U.S. tops 4 million COVID-19 cases

A medical worker prepares to collect samples from individuals who signed up for "drive-through testing" for the coronavirus at a Penn Medicine site in West Philadelphia on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Penn, Jefferson and other area hospital systems have set up drive-through stations to swab for samples that can be tested for the coronavirus. (Tim Tai/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)
TIM TAI / MCT
A medical worker prepares to collect samples from individuals who signed up for "drive-through testing" for the coronavirus at a Penn Medicine site in West Philadelphia on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. Penn, Jefferson and other area hospital systems have set up drive-through stations to swab for samples that can be tested for the coronavirus. (Tim Tai/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

The United States on Thursday afternoon hit 4 million cases of coronavirus infections, according to Johns Hopkins University.

As of 3:34 p.m., the university’s online coronavirus tracker showed that the U.S. had 4,007,859 reported cases of COVID-19 — the most for any country in the world.

The next highest country was Brazil, with more than 2.2 million cases.

Mexico reported 370,712 cases while Canada had 114,144.

China, where the virus was first reported, had 86,026 cases.

— Robert Moran

2:15 PM - July 23, 2020
2:15 PM - July 23, 2020

Philly unlikely to let indoor dining resume on Aug. 1

A view through a window of the former Northern Liberties outpost of Dmitri’s in Philadelphia, Pa. on July 15, 2020. The restaurant has closed permanently.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
A view through a window of the former Northern Liberties outpost of Dmitri’s in Philadelphia, Pa. on July 15, 2020. The restaurant has closed permanently.

Philadelphia is unlikely to allow indoor dining to begin Aug. 1 as new cases of the coronavirus rise in the city, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Thursday.

City officials announced last month that indoor dining would not be allowed until at least Aug. 1, despite state guidelines allowing it to resume in the “green” phase of reopening.

“With case rates rising, it looks unlikely that we would allow that to start Aug. 1,” Farley said Thursday.

City officials have not set a date by which they will decide whether to extend the ban on indoor dining, Farley said.

To enforce COVID-19 restrictions for outdoor dining, Farley said health inspectors have closed seven restaurants to date for failure to comply with regulations.

Streets Department officers, who are also responding to complaints and enforcing health guidelines, have issued 89 warnings and 19 fines, said Michael Carroll, Deputy Managing Director for Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability.

Outdoor dining tables must be spaced so that diners are sitting at least six feet apart, tables must leave space for sidewalk accessibility, and the total number of people on site including staff must be less than 50, the current limit for gatherings.

— Laura McCrystal

2:00 PM - July 23, 2020
2:00 PM - July 23, 2020

2,000 Philly students have already opted for online-only learning

 Philadelphia School District Superintendent William R. Hite, with Mayor Jim Kenney in the background. Philadelphia's school reopening plan could change quickly because of coronavirus conditions or school board demands, Hite said Thursday.
Heather Khalifa / File Photograph
Philadelphia School District Superintendent William R. Hite, with Mayor Jim Kenney in the background. Philadelphia's school reopening plan could change quickly because of coronavirus conditions or school board demands, Hite said Thursday.

Even as the Philadelphia School District makes plans to re-open classrooms to most children two days a week, it is anticipating that thousands will choose a fully virtual option to minimize coronavirus risk.

In just one day Wednesday, the families of 2,000 students indicated they want to continue remote instruction when school begins Sept. 2. Eventually, officials said Thursday, they expect 20% of students will opt into the “Digital Academy.” Schools with high concentrations of children in online instruction will see losses in resources, with teaching and support staff needed for the cohort of fully virtual learners, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said.

That comes as more than 100 people are expected to speak out at a Thursday evening school board meeting, many of whom are planning to voice concerns about the district’s ability to bring students and staff back to school safely. Among those expected to speak is a bloc of district principals.

Hite also said an announcement is forthcoming next week about childcare options for families of essential workers and others who will be in a tight spot with children in school just two days a week. The city, working with childcare providers and others, Hite said, was likely to open up recreation centers, libraries, and other spots with Internet access.

It was not clear what the cost of such care would be or how many children could be accommodated.

— Kristen A. Graham

1:30 PM - July 23, 2020
1:30 PM - July 23, 2020

New coronavirus cases continue to rise in Philly

Joe Lewis, of N. Warnock near Huntingdon in N. Philadelphia is a street artist. He is wearing his hat "Him Juice Deluxe" that is covered by a variety of found objects he picks up off the street.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Joe Lewis, of N. Warnock near Huntingdon in N. Philadelphia is a street artist. He is wearing his hat "Him Juice Deluxe" that is covered by a variety of found objects he picks up off the street.

New cases of the coronavirus are continuing to increase in Philadelphia, with infections concentrated in people under age 40, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Thursday.

Philadelphia reported 228 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday. While that number is much higher than daily counts reported in recent days, Farley said the city received a large backlog of laboratory tests, totaling more than twice the number that the city usually receives in a day.

“Nonetheless, though, this is reflective of an increase,” Farley said.

The average number of new daily cases in the past week has been 139, Farley said, compared to 110 cases per day in the previous week.

Of recent cases, 38% are in people under age 30 and 61% are in people younger than 40, Farley said.

The city also reported two additional deaths due to the coronavirus Thursday.

Hospitalizations have increased in the city and surrounding region in the past week, Farley said, with 271 patients currently hospitalized in Philadelphia and surrounding counties. That number increased from 228 a week ago, but is still only 15% of the peak in hospitalizations in late April.

— Laura McCrystal

1:20 PM - July 23, 2020
1:20 PM - July 23, 2020

New restrictions are necessary so schools can reopen, Pa. health secretary says

Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine speaks during a press conference back in March.
Commonwealth Media Services: Natalie Kolb
Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine speaks during a press conference back in March.

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine defended Thursday the commonwealth’s recent decision to tighten restrictions on bars and restaurants in an effort to squash surges of the coronavirus.

“We are not going to be Florida. I can guarantee you,” she said. “As we look at the subtle signs, like the percent positivity, that’s why we acted like last week.”

“You take targeted mitigation efforts when you’re seeing those signs,” she added. “You don’t wait until it’s an emergency.”

As some business owners question whether the commonwealth could conclusively link upticks in cases to bars and restaurants, Levine said officials would consider whether to release data regarding the correlation, which was recognized in part due to contact tracing.

She urged residents and business owners to take the new restrictions seriously so school students have a chance to return to the classroom in a few weeks, she said.

“Our goal right now is that school will reopen in person,” she said. “It’s critical to drive down the case counts now in terms of the rise of new cases … If we don’t do that now, that could put [schools reopening] in jeopardy.”

She would not say whether the commonwealth would enforce restrictions on restaurants, including the new requirement that they may only serve alcohol with the purchase of a meal. She hoped, she said, Pennsylvanians would do the right thing on their own.

“By trying to skirt the rules,” she said, “you’re not protecting the public health.”

On Thursday, Pennsylvania reported 962 additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 16 additional deaths. Since the pandemic began, 104,358 Pennsylvanians have been sickened with the virus and 7,079 people have died.

— Erin McCarthy

12:40 PM - July 23, 2020
12:40 PM - July 23, 2020

N.J. town investigating coronavirus outbreak among teens linked to house party

A New Jersey town is investigating an outbreak of coronavirus cases among teenagers linked to a house parties that occurred about two weeks ago.

The Middletown Township Department of Health and Social Services said about 20 teens between the ages of 15 and 19 have tested positive for coronavirus. Officials said the cases may be related to a house party that took place on or about July 11 on West Front Street in Middletown Township in Monmouth County.

Health officials urge parents who believe their kids may have attended the party or participated in any activity involving the teens to self-quarantine for 14 days to monitor for signs and symptoms.

Gov. Phil Murphy said none of the teens have been hospitalized, but repeated concerns expressed by Middletown Mayor Anthony Perry that contact tracing had “hit a brick wall” with people refusing to answer questions.

“We don’t condone illegal behavior, so I’m not wild about 15-year-olds or whatever is drinking alcohol,” Murphy said during a press briefing on Thursday. “On the other hand, this isn’t a witch hunt.. This is a public health pursuit that the contact tracing core is after.”

“So I’d ask folks please cooperate with those contact tracers,” Murphy added.

— Rob Tornoe

12:15 PM - July 23, 2020
12:15 PM - July 23, 2020

New Jersey announces rent relief plan for small businesses

Gov. Phil Murphy announces a new rental assistance program for small business in New Jersey at Long Branch City Hall on Thursday, July 23, 2020.
New Jersey Office of the Governor
Gov. Phil Murphy announces a new rental assistance program for small business in New Jersey at Long Branch City Hall on Thursday, July 23, 2020.

New Jersey will offer rental relief to small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Thursday.

The relief, funded by $6 million from the federal CARES Act, will allow certain small businesses in 64 eligible municipalities to apply for grants of up to $10,000 to assist with lease payments.

“This helps small businesses, obviously, but it also helps the property owners as well. Many of them are small businesses themselves,” Murphy said during a press briefing in Long Branch on Thursday.

Most of the eligible municipalities are in the northern part of the state, which has been hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic. Among those in the southern part of the state include Atlantic City, Camden, Pennsauken, Burlington City, Bridgeton City and Winslow.

According to Murphy, the program will be targeted to businesses with 5,000 square feet or less of leased space. Applications will open Aug. 10, and fund will be distributed on a first come, first served basis.

— Rob Tornoe

9:50 AM - July 23, 2020
9:50 AM - July 23, 2020

Republicans stimulus bill will include $1,200 check, but extension of $600 unemployment benefit unclear

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks with reporters about the coronavirus relief package negotiations, at the White House, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci / AP
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks with reporters about the coronavirus relief package negotiations, at the White House, Thursday, July 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The White House has dropped a bid to cut Social Security payroll taxes as Republicans unveil a $1 trillion COVID-19 rescue package on Thursday, ceding to opposition to the idea among top Senate allies.

“It won’t be in the base bill,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, speaking on CNBC about the payroll tax cut, killing the idea for now. The idea has been a major demand of President Donald Trump.

The Republican package, which is scheduled to be released Thursday morning, is not expected to provide any new money for cash-strapped states and cities, which are clamoring for funds, but Republicans propose giving $105 billion to help schools reopen and $15 billion for child care centers to create safe environments for youngsters during the pandemic.

But the GOP measure forges an immediate agreement with Democrats on another round of $1,200 checks to most American adults.

The $600 weekly unemployment benefit boost that is expiring Friday would be cut back, and Mnuchin said it would ultimately be redesigned to provide a typical worker 70% of his or her income. Republicans say continuing the $600 benefit as Democrats is a disincentive to work, but some Republicans are pressing for a temporary extension of the current benefit if the talks drag.

— Associated Press

8:40 AM - July 23, 2020
8:40 AM - July 23, 2020

1.4 million more Americans filed for unemployment last week, rising for the first time since March

A sign announces a store closing in Niles, Ill. The number of laid-off Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week for the first time since the pandemic struck in March.
Nam Y. Huh / AP
A sign announces a store closing in Niles, Ill. The number of laid-off Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week for the first time since the pandemic struck in March.

The number of laid-off Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week for the first time since the pandemic struck in March, evidence of the deepening economic pain the outbreak is causing to the economy.

The rise in weekly jobless claims to 1.4 million underscores the outsize role the unemployment insurance system is playing among the nation’s safety net programs — just when a $600 weekly federal aid payment for the jobless is set to expire at the end of this week.

All told, the Labor Department said Thursday that roughly 32 million people are receiving unemployment benefits, though that figure could include double-counting by some states. Some economists say the figure is likely closer to 25 million.

Last week’s pace of unemployment applications — the 18th straight week it’s topped 1 million — was up from 1.3 million the previous week. Before the pandemic, the number of weekly applications had never exceeded 700,000.

— Associated Press

8:00 AM - July 23, 2020
8:00 AM - July 23, 2020

Cases up in both Philly and the suburbs

Ruben Colon teaches his daughter.Rhianna Colon, 6, how to ride a bicycle at Penn Treaty Park in Philadelphia.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Ruben Colon teaches his daughter.Rhianna Colon, 6, how to ride a bicycle at Penn Treaty Park in Philadelphia.

As the virus continued to extract a seismic economic toll, rising case numbers in Philadelphia and its suburbs stoked new anxieties Wednesday, even as some Pennsylvania lawmakers called Gov. Tom Wolf a “tyrant” and urged him to move ahead with reopening the economy.

Pennsylvania had recorded 7,063 coronavirus-related deaths as of Wednesday and more than 100,000 confirmed cases. While death rates have been declining, the seven-day average for daily confirmed cases through Monday was twice what it was in mid-June, according to an Inquirer analysis.

Philadelphia announced 132 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Wednesday, roughly in line with the recent average number of cases reported per day. 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.

Surges in Western Pennsylvania have swelled the commonwealth’s numbers, and on Wednesday the state scotched a plan to have the Toronto Blue Jays play their “home” games in Pittsburgh.

Infections have also been ticking upward this month in Bucks, Chester, and Delaware Counties. The county Health Department said half the new cases over the past seven days were among people under age 30.

— Anthony R. Wood, Rob Tornoe, and Allison Steele

7:30 AM - July 23, 2020
7:30 AM - July 23, 2020

U.S. Attorney tells Philly mayor canceling big parades but allowing protests is ‘unconstitutional'

Willam M. McSwain, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, speaks in Chester, Pa. in October 2019.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
Willam M. McSwain, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, speaks in Chester, Pa. in October 2019.

Mayor Jim Kenney’s policy of prohibiting large permitted events like the Mummers Parade while allowing spontaneous protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis is “plainly unconstitutional,” U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain told the city administration Wednesday.

“The subtext, of course, is clear: the city has seen a surge of protests inspired by the killing of George Floyd and does not want to be perceived as prohibiting those gatherings, regardless of any possible public health consequences, but has decided to prohibit other forms of protected speech,” McSwain wrote in a letter to City Solicitor Marcel Pratt. “The First Amendment, however, does not allow the city to pick and choose like that.”

Kenney spokesperson Mike Dunn said the administration “values and respects the First Amendment and the resulting rights and protections to our residents,” and said it will offer a fuller response to McSwain’s letter in the near future.

“The city is continuing to balance these rights and the significant health risks posed by the pandemic,” Dunn said in a statement. “We are trying to save lives, and we are confident that this approach protects the residents of this city from a surge in COVID-19 while safeguarding the constitutional right to free speech.”

— Sean Collins Walsh

7:15 AM - July 23, 2020
7:15 AM - July 23, 2020

Gov. Murphy calls out ‘bozos’ spreading coronavirus rumor involving daughter

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks during a daily press briefing on the current updates of the coronavirus.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks during a daily press briefing on the current updates of the coronavirus.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy criticized “bozos” who he said were promoting a conspiracy theory that he and his family were defying coronavirus restrictions so his daughter could hold a wedding.

Erin Murphy, a 20-year-old college student, is self-quarantining in New Jersey after coming home from Virginia, according to the governor. Virginia was among the states added to New Jersey’s travel quarantine earlier this week.

“There’s insanity on social media sometimes,” Murphy said during a coronavirus briefing on Wednesday. “That’s my daughter, who did not have a bachelorette party, is not engaged, and is not getting married this weekend. Just for the record, to all of you bozos out there who think otherwise.”

As NJ Advance Media reported, rumors of the large wedding have spread on social media and have even been promoted by a few right-leaning media outlets. Earlier this month, the Park Savoy Estate in Florham Park — where the larger wedding was alleged to have taken place — wrote on its Facebook page the claims were “false and patently untrue.

— Rob Tornoe

7:00 AM - July 23, 2020
7:00 AM - July 23, 2020

Thursday morning round-up

  • The United States reported more than 1,000 new deaths for the second day in a row, driven by a sharp increases in Arizona, South Carolina, Florida, and Texas. At least 623,897 Americans have died after contracting coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University, which reported 1,195 new deaths Wednesday.
  • Several cities, including Miami, Los Angeles, and Costa Mesa, Calif., will fine residents for not wearing a mask in public. Indiana, Minnesota, and Ohio all announced new mask mandates on Wednesday, joining Pennsylvania, New Jersey and at least 25 other states.
  • Two cafeterias in the White House complex were forced to close after an employee tested positive for coronavirus. According to the New York Times, the cafeterias are in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and the New Executive Office Building, which are next to the West Wing.
  • The University of Delaware has reversed course, and is now opting to hold most classes virtually in the fall. Only “select” courses requiring classroom attendance will meet on campus.