5:06 PM - October 7, 2020
5:06 PM - October 7, 2020

COVID-19 first up in the vice presidential debate

Vice President Mike Pence looks at Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., during the vice presidential debate Wednesday.
Morry Gash / AP
Vice President Mike Pence looks at Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., during the vice presidential debate Wednesday.

In Salt Lake City on Wednesday, separated from Republican Vice President Mike Pence by plexiglass barriers, Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris called the Trump administration’s response to the growing pandemic “the greatest failure of any presidential administration in the history of our country.”

Speaking directly to the camera, as Democratic nominee Joe Biden did in his first debate with President Donald Trump, Harris said, “They knew what was happening, and they didn’t tell you.”

In response, Vice President Mike Pence commended Trump’s decision to shut off travel from China, saying the decision “bought us invaluable time” to coordinate the country’s response to the pandemic. Trump’s move only cut off some but not all travel from China.

The virus has been blamed for killing more than 210,000 Americans. Trump is recovering at the While House from his own infection.

— Associated Press

5:06 PM - October 7, 2020
5:06 PM - October 7, 2020

Trump returns to Oval Office for the first time since COVID-19 diagnosis

A Marine is posted outside the West Wing of the White House, signifying the President is in the Oval Office, on Wednesday.
Evan Vucci / AP
A Marine is posted outside the West Wing of the White House, signifying the President is in the Oval Office, on Wednesday.

President Donald Trump has returned to the Oval Office for the first time since he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Spokesman Brian Morgenstern confirmed that the president has returned to the Oval Office. He has been convalescing in the White House residence since he returned from a three-night hospital stay on Monday evening.Trump is likely still contagious with the virus.

Morgenstern says of the Oval Office return that there are “certainly ways to do it without compromising anyone.

”White House officials say they have put additional safeguards in place to protect staff who may interact with the president, including requiring full personal protective equipment.

Morgenstern says Trump is being briefed on economic stimulus talks and a potentially devastating hurricane heading toward the Gulf Coast.

— Associated Press

4:35 PM - October 7, 2020
4:35 PM - October 7, 2020

1 in 4 Philadelphians know someone who has died of COVID-19, and nearly half have lost jobs or wages, Pew study says

A quarter of Philadelphia residents know someone who has died of COVID-19, half the population struggled to pay bills or had other financial hardship, and more than half worry they could catch the coronavirus at work, according to a new Pew survey of 1,025 Philadelphians about the unprecedented spring and summer.

The survey found that nearly 60% of Philadelphians know someone who has tested positive for the virus. But while 12% of white residents know someone who has died of the coronavirus, two-thirds of Hispanic and Black survey respondents said the same.

Regarding financial hardship, a third of white people reported challenges compared to 75% of Hispanic and 55% of Black residents. The survey counted residents identifying as Asian or with any other racial groups in an “other” category; of those, 53% reported financial hardship.

The survey also found that a majority of respondents hold an unfavorable view of the city and police department’s handling of the summer’s protests, though most approve of the city and state responses to the pandemic. And, the survey indicated, at least some feel Philadelphia has become an overall less desirable place to live.

— Justine McDaniel, Oona Goodin-Smith and Laura McCrystal

3:20 PM - October 7, 2020
3:20 PM - October 7, 2020

Philadelphia Union to allow fans in the stands Sunday

The Union will become the first sports team in the Philadelphia area to host fans at a game during the coronavirus pandemic when they open the gates of Subaru Park for Sunday’s 7:30 p.m. game against the Montreal Impact.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
The Union will become the first sports team in the Philadelphia area to host fans at a game during the coronavirus pandemic when they open the gates of Subaru Park for Sunday’s 7:30 p.m. game against the Montreal Impact.

The Union will become the first sports team in the Philadelphia area to host fans at a game during the coronavirus pandemic when they open the gates of Subaru Park in Chester for Sunday’s 7:30 p.m game against the Montreal Impact.

Pennsylvania’s new allowance for fans to attend sports games permits venues with capacities above 10,000 to fill 15% of occupancy, up to 7,500 people total. At 18,500-seat Subaru Park, that means a total of 2,775 people including both teams and all stadium staff.

All seats available are spaced out so there’s six feet of distance between any purchased set. A diagram on the Union’s website of a sample section showed 49 seats available for purchase, divided into groups of two, three or four. Multiplied by the 40 sections in Subaru Park’s seating bowl, that would mean an estimated crowd of 1,960 fans.

Jonathan Tannenwald

3:17 PM - October 7, 2020
3:17 PM - October 7, 2020

Pennsylvania reports 1,309 new cases, 28 additional deaths

Pennsylvania reported 1,309 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday. The commonwealth is now averaging 1,084 new cases a day over the past seven days, according to an Inquirer analysis, the most since the beginning of May.

The Department of Health said 200,610 coronavirus tests were administered between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6, with 7,429 positive cases — a positive test rate of about 3.7%. Overall, 166,552 Pennsylvania residents have tested positive for coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

At least 8,272 Pennsylvania residents have now died after contracting the coronavirus, with 28 new deaths reported on Wednesday. Of the state’s deaths, 5,525 (about 66%) have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.

— Rob Tornoe

3:00 PM - October 7, 2020
3:00 PM - October 7, 2020

How long could I be contagious before a positive virus test?

Your coronavirus questions, answered.
Cynthia Greer
Your coronavirus questions, answered.

Studies have shown that people may be contagious for about two days before developing COVID-19 symptoms.

In fact, right before developing symptoms is when people are likely the most contagious, said Werner Bischoff, an infectious disease specialist at Wake Forest University.

People who never develop symptoms can spread infection, too. That’s a problem because many people would never seek testing unless they developed symptoms or knew they’d been exposed.

But there’s a more complicated part to this question: What if someone knows they were exposed but their virus test comes back negative — could they still be contagious?

Maybe.

A negative test within less than seven days after exposure “is a very, very poor indicator of whether you have virus on board,” said Dr. Alan Wells of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Some tests are less accurate than others, and you have to factor in the incubation period, he said.

A negative test between seven and 10 days of exposure is a better indicator, Wells said, but even then some people might not test positive until later.

“That is why if you have had a credible exposure, you should wear a mask and you should self-quarantine if there’s any question,” he said.

— Associated Press

2:05 PM - October 7, 2020
2:05 PM - October 7, 2020

Pederson feels comfortable with Eagles COVID-19 protocols: ‘We just took this long road trip, and everything was good’

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson watches as his team practices at the NovaCare Complex in Philadelphia, Pa. on September 30, 2020.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson watches as his team practices at the NovaCare Complex in Philadelphia, Pa. on September 30, 2020.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson still has confidence the NFL season will continue despite the growing number of players testing positive for the coronavirus.

Pederson spoke with reporters Wednesday morning, just as news surfaced that two more Tennessee Titans players had tested positive for the virus, meaning the team won’t be permitted to return to its practice facility yet. The Titans had eight players test positive last week, leading to the postponement of their Week 4 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore also tested positive Wednesday.

“I can’t comment too much on other teams,” Pederson said. “I don’t know all the situations, but I do know that there’s positive tests. Basically, the message from the league office is just to uphold the protocols in place that we’ve been asked to do. I feel comfortable with what we’ve done, what our players have done. We just took this long road trip, and everything was good.”

Pederson, who caught the coronavirus at the start of training camp, said he will continue to enforce the safety measures to his players and staff. The Eagles haven’t placed a player on the Reserve/COVID-19 list since before the start of the season, although a handful of players have missed time with undisclosed illnesses unrelated to the virus.

“I have to do my due diligence and keep reminding my team, coaches, players, staff of the protocols that are in place,” Pederson said. “We can’t let our guard down. It’s unfortunate, but I’m optimistic that the league and the season will continue.”

— EJ Smith

1:11 PM - October 7, 2020
1:11 PM - October 7, 2020

Philly reports 171 new cases

Philadelphia announced 171 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Wednesday.

New daily cases of COVID-19 have been increasing since last week in Philadelphia, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Tuesday, after weeks of decreasing cases. Clusters have been tied to college students, he said, but cases have also started to rise in all age groups citywide.

The city also announced 15 new probable cases Wednesday, found through rapid antigen tests. A total of 37,983 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Philadelphia residents to date.

— Laura McCrystal

12:45 PM - October 7, 2020
12:45 PM - October 7, 2020

Eli Lilly seeks authorization of antibody drug for emergency use

Eli Lilly researchers prepare cells to produce possible COVID-19 antibodies for testing in a laboratory in Indianapolis.
David Morrison / AP
Eli Lilly researchers prepare cells to produce possible COVID-19 antibodies for testing in a laboratory in Indianapolis.

Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co. is seeking emergency-use authorization to provide its antibody drug to high-risk patients with mild or moderate cases of COVID-19 in the United States.

The Eli Lilly antibody drug is aimed at treating patients who are not yet hospitalized, to help prevent severe cases of the disease. It is the same class of medicine as the experimental treatment that was given to President Donald Trump. Trump was treated with an experimental drug made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, which is also in discussions with regulators to see if its data merits an emergency-use authorization that could make it available outside a clinical trial.

The company has not published data yet, but it announced the results of a combination therapy of two monoclonal antibodies and a single monoclonal antibody alone. According to the company, the drugs reduced the amount of virus in people’s noses, decreased symptoms and prevented visits to emergency rooms or hospitals, although there were small numbers of those follow-up medical visits for both patients who received the drug and those who got a placebo.

Any treatment to prevent moderate or mild disease from becoming worse could be transformative in the pandemic, but these medicines will be in short supply, creating difficult questions about how to prioritize the drug.

There were more than 300,000 cases of COVID-19 in the last week in the United States. Eli Lilly has projected having 100,000 doses available in October, and as many as 1 million doses by the end of the year.

— Washington Post

11:33 AM - October 7, 2020
11:33 AM - October 7, 2020

West Chester University announces plans for spring.

West Chester University Golden Rams banners on the campus on Aug. 5, 2020.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
West Chester University Golden Rams banners on the campus on Aug. 5, 2020.

West Chester University students will continue to learn mostly remotely, with some in-person instruction, through the spring semester, President Chris Fiorintino announced Wednesday.

“There is not enough information on the availability of rapid testing or a vaccine on a sufficient scale for us to be confident enough to announce and plan for a spring semester that includes a return to in-person instruction,” Fiorintino said in a video message to the university. “Continuing remote instruction through spring 2021 will ensure that WCU students will be able to earn credits for academic degrees in an uninterrupted manner.”

The university will provide “COVID relief credits” to lower the cost of tuition for all students.

Universities across the region are beginning to announce plans for the coming semester. Community College of Philadelphia in September announced it would continue virtual instruction in the spring, also.

— Kristen A. Graham

11:30 AM - October 7, 2020
11:30 AM - October 7, 2020

Second presidential debate will depend on Trump’s health, organizer says

A member of the production crew cleans glass on stage which will serve as a barrier to protect the spread of COVID-19 during tonight's vice presidential debate.
Julio Cortez / AP
A member of the production crew cleans glass on stage which will serve as a barrier to protect the spread of COVID-19 during tonight's vice presidential debate.

Planning is underway for the second presidential debate on Oct. 15 in Miami between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, but the event will depend on the president’s health status, as he recovers from the coronavirus.

“It’s going to depend on what the doctor’s say about [Trump’s] health,” Frank Fahrenkopf, the co-chair of the Commission on President Debates, said on CNN Wednesday morning. “We’re concerned about our staff... we have a crew of about 65 people who work on these things. So it’s going to depend on what the medical evidence is and the advice we get on whether or not its safe to go forward.”

Fahrenkopf also said masks will be required in all debate halls moving forward, after Trump’s family members refused to wear masks while sitting in the audience of the first presidential debate last week (earning a strong rebuke by the debate’s moderator, Fox New anchor Chris Wallace).

“You have to have a mask to get in this hall,” Fahrenkopf said. “If you get in the hall and take the mask off, you will be approached and asked to put the mask back on. If you don’t put the mask back on, you’ll be removed from the premises.”

“I think if he still has COVID, we shouldn’t have a debate,” Biden told reporters Tuesday night, noting his decision would be guided by doctors at the Cleveland Clinic, which is advising the commission. Trump said on Twitter Tuesday he planned on participating in the remaining debates.

— Rob Tornoe

10:55 AM - October 7, 2020
10:55 AM - October 7, 2020

Trump’s erratic tweets on a new stimulus relief bill — over several hours — leave strategy unclear

President Donald Trump removes his mask as he stands on the Blue Room Balcony upon returning to the White House Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. Trump hasn't appeared or spoken publicly since, but has been active on Twitter.
Alex Brandon / AP
President Donald Trump removes his mask as he stands on the Blue Room Balcony upon returning to the White House Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. Trump hasn't appeared or spoken publicly since, but has been active on Twitter.

President Donald Trump called on Congress to approve federal economic relief late Tuesday night mere hours after publicly terminating negotiations with Democrats, posting tweets that appeared to contradict his own declarations from earlier the same day.

He continued pushing for more stimulus on Wednesday as aides scrambled to adjust to his ever-changing directives.

Despite the president’s tweets Tuesday night, Meadows told reporters on Wednesday morning: “The stimulus negotiations are off.”

Further complicating matters, Mnuchin asked Pelosi on Wednesday morning about the possibility of a standalone agreement on relief for the airline industry, Drew Hammill, a spokesman for Pelosi, said on Twitter.

Pelosi reminded Mnuchin on the call that Republicans had blocked a standalone bill that would have provided more airline aid last week, and asked him to review House Democrats' airline bill “so that they could have an informed conversation,” according to Hammill. A Treasury Department spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.

White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow told CNBC on Wednesday that there was a “low probability” of approving additional legislation in time for the election but reiterated the call for passing piecemeal legislation. Meadows said the administration was “willing to look at” about 10 items that have bipartisan support.

— Washington Post

10:00 AM - October 7, 2020
10:00 AM - October 7, 2020

NFL coronavirus outbreak escalates, as three teams reportedly dealing with positive cases

Rain drops are seen on the NFL logo on padding of a goal post at an NFL stadium.
Julio Cortez / AP
Rain drops are seen on the NFL logo on padding of a goal post at an NFL stadium.

The NFL appears to be facing continued problems dealing with the coronavirus, as several teams are reportedly facing new positive cases.

Two Tennessee Titans players, one Las Vegas Raiders player, and one New England Patriots player have tested positive for COVID-19, according to ESPN and the NFL Network.

The Titans-Steelers game scheduled for last Sunday was postponed due to multiple Titans players and staff members testing positive. The team had hoped to return to their facilities Wednesday, but they remain barred by NFL rules. According to ESPN, a total of 22 Titans players and staff members have tested positive since Sept. 24.

The Patriots, who are scheduled to play the Denver Broncos at Gillette Stadium on Sunday, will not practice Wednesday and have shut down their facilities in Foxborough, according to the NFL Network.

It’s not immediately known if the new cases will cause any games on Sunday to be postponed.

Rob Tornoe

9:00 AM - October 7, 2020
9:00 AM - October 7, 2020

National coronavirus updates: 7 states set new highs for hospitalizations

  • The United States reported 43,562 new coronavirus cases and at least 705 deaths on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. Seven states — Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming — set new highs for COVID-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday, according to the Washington Post.
  • Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the White House coronavirus outbreak could have been prevented, and warned of needless deaths unless precautions are taken.
  • President Donald Trump urged coronavirus stimulus talks in Congress to continue — hours after calling them off.
  • New Jersey Senate candidate Rik Mehta attended Trump’s fundraiser in Bedminister, N.J., on Thursday, but refuses to self-quarantine and said he would continue to hold campaign events. “I think that statement should disqualify him from seeking public office,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.
8:15 AM - October 7, 2020
8:15 AM - October 7, 2020

Philadelphia experiences ‘substantial increase’ in new cases

A visitor in a face shield and mask walks past Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s Diana and down the grand staircase of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020.
Heather Khalifa / File Photograph
A visitor in a face shield and mask walks past Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s Diana and down the grand staircase of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020.

Philadelphia’s case numbers now show a “substantial increase” too, which is “a reason for concern,” city Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Tuesday, though city rates are not rising as steeply as some counties.

Philadelphia reported a positivity rate of 3.4% on Friday, up from 2.8% a week before. The city had an average of 110 new confirmed cases per day in the last week, with a 3.9% positivity rate for tests. That represents a large increase from the previous week, in which there was an average of 86 cases per day and a 2.9% positivity rate.

“If we go above 5% again, or trending toward 5%, that’s around when I’d get concerned,” said Michael LeVasseur, a Drexel University epidemiologist.

Farley said the spread of the virus in the city appears to be tied to social gatherings, but officials are looking out for other causes. But so far, Farley said officials aren’t seeing evidence the rise is linked to indoor dining.

Southeastern Pennsylvania, once the epicenter of the state’s outbreak, has remained fairly steady compared with elsewhere in the commonwealth. Montgomery County showed no increase in its rate of infection in a comparison between last week and the end of August. Delaware and Bucks Counties reported small increases in their daily rates over the last month.

Chester County, however, reported an average of 44 new cases a day over the last week, almost 60% more than its average during the last week of August.

“I think Southeastern Pennsylvania is the last bastion of safety here in Pennsylvania,” pediatrician David Rubin of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s PolicyLab said last week. “We need to brace ourselves, and we need to have ample testing capacity.”

— Laura McCrystal, Justine McDaniel and Jason Laughlin

8:00 AM - October 7, 2020
8:00 AM - October 7, 2020

Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware all report highest COVID-19 case levels since late spring

Governor of Delaware John Carney speaks during a press briefing about Delaware’s response to coronavirus, in the auditorium of the Carvel State Office Building in Wilmington, Delaware on Tuesday, October 6, 2020.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
Governor of Delaware John Carney speaks during a press briefing about Delaware’s response to coronavirus, in the auditorium of the Carvel State Office Building in Wilmington, Delaware on Tuesday, October 6, 2020.

Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware have started October with coronavirus case levels at the highest level since the end of spring. It’s part of a trend areas in the northeast are experiencing as the temperature cools and more people gather together indoors.

On a positive note, hospitalizations remain low, as the increase in new cases is being driven largely by a spike in cases among people aged 18 to 22.

Here’s where things stand through Wednesday, according to an Inquirer analysis of data from each local health department:

  • Pennsylvania: Averaging 1,061 new cases a day, a 15% increase over last week’s average (918 a day) and 46% higher than the seven-day average last month (725 a day).
  • New Jersey: Averaging 682 new cases a day, a 11% increase over last week’s average (612 a day) and 108% higher than the seven-day average last month (327 a day).
  • Delaware: Averaging 134 new cases a day, a 19% increase over last week’s average (112 a day) and 61% higher than the seven-day average last month (83 a day).

— Rob Tornoe

7:45 AM - October 7, 2020
7:45 AM - October 7, 2020

Where cases are rising and falling in Pa. and N.J.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey are entering October with coronavirus case levels at the highest they have been since the end of spring, when the region was recovering from the first devastating wave of the pandemic.

Pennsylvania State University, which saw 2,279 cases from Sept. 4 to Oct. 1, drove the Centre County spike, the state’s biggest. An outbreak at West Chester University caused the borough of West Chester to declare a state of emergency on Friday. Temple University saw an outbreak in September that spiked city case numbers but has since eased; the university reported 50 active cases on Tuesday.

In central Pennsylvania, Union, Montour, Snyder, and Bradford Counties all reported increases, though the raw numbers of cases in these less populous counties are comparatively small, between about 80 to 230 cases in the last month.

In Schuylkill County, where the positivity rate has shot up to 6.5%, County Commissioner George Halcovage Jr. said one of the county’s nursing homes had recently seen an increase in cases, and he also believed people may be less vigilant about COVID-19 precautions.

In New Jersey, too, colleges have accounted for some significant case spikes. Rowan University, in Gloucester County, reported 100 new cases over the last 10 days among students, most of them living off-campus, state health officials said. In total, the university has recorded 494 cases among students and employees off and on its three campuses.

Monmouth University in Monmouth County closed its campus Thursday due to an increase in student cases as 450 students were in isolation or quarantine as of Tuesday, according to the university. Rutgers University has seen rising case numbers for the last three weeks, though its host county, Middlesex, has seen a larger increase.

And Ocean County added 3,153 new infections between Sept. 1 and Monday. The outbreak, the largest in the state, has been traced to religious gatherings, weddings, and funerals and is centered in Lakewood, which is home to a large Orthodox Jewish community.

— Justine McDaniel, Jason Laughlin and John Duchneskie