1:34 PM - January 6, 2021
1:34 PM - January 6, 2021

Over 450,000 New Jersey residents have pre-registered for COVID-19 vaccine

More than 450,000 New Jersey residents have pre-registered to receive the coronavirus vaccine since a website portal went live yesterday, Gov. Phil Murphy said. Though high traffic led to delays and a rough launch, Murphy said the high demand from people who want the vaccine is encouraging.

State health officials have asked only healthcare officials to sign up for the time being, but Murphy said anyone who pre-registers will be kept informed about when they will be able to receive a vaccine.

“By pre-registering, you’ll be among the very first to know when the time comes for you to roll up your sleeves,” he said.

All police officers and firefighters around the state can start receiving vaccines as of tomorrow, Murphy said. On Friday, “mega sites” for vaccinations will open in Morris and Gloucester counties.

As of today Murphy said 137,829 New Jerseyans have been vaccinated, but he said there was “significant” underreporting so far.

The state added 5,028 cases and 104 deaths. Hospitalizations are holding steady, and the rate of transmission has stayed below 1 in recent days.

— Allison Steele

1:32 PM - January 6, 2021
1:32 PM - January 6, 2021

Philadelphia reports 603 new cases, 29 additional deaths

Philadelphia reported 603 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 Wednesday.

The city also announced 29 additional deaths due to the coronavirus. A total of 2,550 residents have now died of the virus.

As of Wednesday, there were 693 patients with COVID-19 in Philadelphia hospitals. Of those patients, 98 were on ventilators.

— Laura McCrystal

1:20 PM - January 6, 2021
1:20 PM - January 6, 2021

Federal stimulus prevented a spike in Medicaid enrollment in Pa., official says

Enrollment in Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Pennsylvania has increased since the pandemic began, but the anticipated “huge spikes” did not occur due in part to the first federal stimulus, said Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller. It has yet to be seen whether that trend will change due to the current gap in pandemic unemployment payments, a result of delays at the federal level, or the smaller $600 stimulus payments issued in the second round of relief.

Enrollment in Medicaid rose 10.6% between February and November, the last month for which Pennsylvania has data, with 300,076 additional people with low incomes receiving health coverage, she said. More than 3.1 million Pennsylvanians, about 24% of the population, were enrolled in Medicaid as of November.

Meanwhile, enrollment in SNAP rose by 5.6 percent during the same period, she added, with 96,549 additional people enrolling for a total of about 1.8 million in the program.

”Both SNAP and Medicaid can be bellwethers for the economic reality for Pennsylvanians,” Miller said. “These programs are our largest safety nets.”

Their research has shown that some people who lost jobs amid the pandemic did not enroll in Medicaid or SNAP programs immediately because they anticipated being called back to work or could rely on federal support for the time being, she said.”

Having some of these other supports has been critical,” she said. “Our biggest fear has been if that goes away.”

As Pennsylvania waits for the U.S. Department of Labor’s guidance and approval needed to issue federal pandemic unemployment benefits again, and more than half a million workers in the commonwealth await these funds to kick in, Miller reminded people that they can apply for public assistance programs for a temporary period.

Pennsylvanians can apply for Medicaid, SNAP, and other support programs at compass.state.pa.us.

— Erin McCarthy

1:20 PM - January 6, 2021
1:20 PM - January 6, 2021

Allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccines are ‘exceedingly rare,’ CDC says

Pharmacist Nadine M. Mackey injects the COVID-19 vaccine to nursing home resident Lydu Trudeau at the the Power Back Rehabilitation, in Phoenixville, P.A. Monday, December 28, 2020.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Pharmacist Nadine M. Mackey injects the COVID-19 vaccine to nursing home resident Lydu Trudeau at the the Power Back Rehabilitation, in Phoenixville, P.A. Monday, December 28, 2020.

Of the 1.9 million people who received a first COVID-19 vaccine dose in mid-December, 21 experienced a severe but treatable allergic reaction, federal health officials said Wednesday, calling the rate of such events “exceedingly rare.”

Twenty of the 21 people are known to have recovered, in most cases after injections with an EpiPen or similar device containing epinephrine — a hormone that increases blood flow, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Details on the 21st person were not available.

The rate of these allergic reactions, called anaphylaxis, was higher than what is seen after the flu vaccine yet still very rare, said Nancy Messonnier, director of the agency’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

”These are safe and effective vaccines,” she said at a news conference. “We have good data to show that.”

— Tom Avril

12:27 PM - January 6, 2021
12:27 PM - January 6, 2021

Pennsylvania reports 368 new COVID-19 deaths, most in one day since May

Pennsylvania on Wednesday reported 368 additional coronavirus-related deaths, its highest daily count since May according to the COVID Tracking Project.

The commonwealth also added another 9,474 confirmed coronavirus cases, a couple thousand fewer than the record-high daily numbers it was regularly reporting last month but higher than the lower-than-usual numbers that were logged during the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s.

Health Secretary Rachel Levine and other officials have said weeks may pass before the projected post-holiday surge is fully reflected in the commonwealth’s numbers and it is too early to know what impact travel and gatherings will have on case counts, hospitalizations, and deaths.

In Pennsylvania’s hospitals on Wednesday, about 5,684 patients were being treated for the coronavirus, nearly double the spring peak but slightly fewer than the height of the resurgence last month. Of those patients, 1,148 were in intensive-care units.

By the end of the day Tuesday, at least 159,216 doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered to people in Pennsylvania. At this time, only frontline health workers and nursing home residents and staff are eligible to be vaccinated. A wider group of frontline essential workers and people 75 and older could start getting shots in February.

At least 683,389 Pennsylvanians have been sickened by the virus since the pandemic began in March, and 16,914 have died.

— Erin McCarthy

12:24 PM - January 6, 2021
12:24 PM - January 6, 2021

Montco opens mass COVID-19 vaccination site for health workers

Medical staff and volunteers give COVID-19 vaccinations at Montgomery County Community College on Wednesday morning January 6, 2021.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Medical staff and volunteers give COVID-19 vaccinations at Montgomery County Community College on Wednesday morning January 6, 2021.

Few front-line workers have seen the terrible impact of COVID-19 as intimately as home health care workers have. So plenty are lining up for the new vaccine, but others have serious doubts.

That’s why Terrace Daniels, director of operations at home-care agency ComForCare, made certain to be at Montgomery County Community College Wednesday as the area’s first public vaccination site for health care workers opened for business.

“We take care of really vulnerable people,” Daniels said, “There is a lot of skepticism about about this vaccine, but I can’t ask my staff to go out and get it if I don’t.”

Because those facing the highest exposure risk, including health care workers and residents of nursing facilities, are the only people eligible for this first round of vaccinations, there is no timeline for when the vaccine will be available to the general public.

But Montgomery County’s new regional vaccination site could provide a blueprint for larger-scale efforts. The vaccination site is open to any employee in a county health care facility, regardless of where they live. An appointment is required.

Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Commission and also a physician, said during a press conference that the goal of the vaccination site is to create “bubbles of safety” within the community, though many of those getting vaccinated may live in other counties.

— Frank Kummer

12:10 PM - January 6, 2021
12:10 PM - January 6, 2021

Pa. State Police to give COVID-19 info during stops, could enforce quarantine rules

Pennsylvania State Police will start giving people pulled over while on patrol fliers featuring the latest information about the commonwealth’s testing, quarantine, and masking requirements.

Travelers are required to quarantine for 10 days upon entering Pennsylvania or test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours. Travelers who fail to comply may be fined between $25 and $300, according to the Department of Health.

State police view the role primarily as an opportunity to keep the public informed about the latest COVID-19 mitigation efforts, according to Colonel Robert Evanchick, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police. But Evanchick didn’t rule out the potential of enforcing restrictions if necessary.

“Troopers will not proactively stop a vehicle to investigate quarantining and testing compliance, although enforcement is possible on a case-by-case basis,” Evanchick said in a statement.

— Rob Tornoe

11:15 AM - January 6, 2021
11:15 AM - January 6, 2021

Pa. lags nation in COVID-19 testing, is nowhere near level needed to suppress the virus

Pennsylvania has greatly increased the amount of daily coronavirus testing it conducts since the pandemic began last spring, but still falls short of many states and lags far behind what some experts say is needed to actually suppress the spread.

Over the last week, the state has reported an average of 17,859 new PCR test results per day — or roughly 143 tests per 100,000 people, according to Spotlight PA’s coronavirus tracker.

That’s fewer than all but four states and Puerto Rico, according to Johns Hopkins University’s testing tracker.

The state Department of Health presents a different number that includes antigen tests, which detect specific proteins of COVID-19 and can produce results in less than an hour. From Dec. 16 through Dec. 22, the agency said it received 490,592 results. That breaks down to roughly 560 results daily per 100,000 people.

But even using that metric, the state falls well short of what would be needed to actually slow down the virus, and some experts said Pennsylvania should adopt a new, more aggressive target to ramp up capacity.

— Yaasmeen Piper, Spotlight PA

9:50 AM - January 6, 2021
9:50 AM - January 6, 2021

Some local governments in N.J. and elsewhere using party-invite websites to handle the vaccine rollout

People walk between cars parked at the front of the line, after spending the night in their cars, as they wait for the start time for vaccinations, Tuesday morning January 5, 2021 on day 2 of the COVID-19 vaccinations at the Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach.
David Tucker/News Journal / AP
People walk between cars parked at the front of the line, after spending the night in their cars, as they wait for the start time for vaccinations, Tuesday morning January 5, 2021 on day 2 of the COVID-19 vaccinations at the Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach.

It’s the most massive vaccine rollout in U.S. history, but many local governments are consigning patient appointments to web-based services better known for handling birthday-party RSVPs and online yoga sessions.

Several Florida counties have deployed Eventbrite. Some Oklahoma governments dabbled with SignUpGenius, and one New Jersey county was still using the service. Elsewhere, some seekers of COVID-19 protection reported hourslong holds on appointment hotlines — only to be disconnected — or logging on to websites that lock them out.

Options are often confusing. A resident of Newark, New Jersey, can sign up for a shot with the city, surrounding Essex County or the state itself. And as elderly people in Florida and Georgia wait overnight in lawn chairs at pop-up sites, other vulnerable Americans — or quite often, their tech-savvy children — are spending hours refreshing computer screens.

New Jersey, among the hardest-hit states early in the pandemic, is immunizing only health professionals and residents of long-term care facilities — in all, about 650,000 people — through at least the end of the month.

New Jersey’s statewide scheduling system went live on Tuesday, but the site went down before noon. Even before shots are available to the broad population, the state is struggling to assemble an inoculation-certified workforce, and appealing to medical retirees to help.

Meanwhile, some of the state’s 21 counties, including Essex and Passaic, are operating their own appointment websites. Hunterdon County was offering appointments via SignUpGenius, whose users more typically organize potlucks, carpools and bridal showers.

— Bloomberg News

9:30 AM - January 6, 2021
9:30 AM - January 6, 2021

New Jersey, Montgomery County to hold coronavirus briefings

Officials in New Jersey and Montgomery County will offer coronavirus updates on Wednesday. Here’s a schedule of how to watch and stream:

  • New Jersey, 1 p.m.: Gov. Phil Murphy and public health officials, live streamed on the governor’s Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts.
  • Montgomery County, 3 p.m.: County Commission Chair Valerie Arkoosh and public health officials, live streamed on the county’s Facebook account.

— Rob Tornoe

8:00 AM - January 6, 2021
8:00 AM - January 6, 2021

Incoming vaccine doses to Philly ‘not enough,’ city health commissioner warns

A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at Temple University Hospital in North Philadelphia on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at Temple University Hospital in North Philadelphia on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020.

Both Philadelphia and Montgomery County predicted Tuesday they might be able to begin offering coronavirus vaccinations to the second wave of recipients — likely essential workers and older seniors — as soon as February.

But the officials across the state and region say how quickly the vaccine becomes available to a wider pool of people is dependent on how quickly more doses arrive from the federal government, and the city’s top health official had some sobering news: If that pace doesn’t increase, it could be more than a year before all of Philadelphia is fully vaccinated.

The city is on track to receive about 19,000 doses a week from the federal government through January, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said.

“To be clear,” Farley said, “in a city of 1.5 million, this is not enough.”

New Jersey unveiled a website to let health-care workers preregister for inoculations, and Chester and Delaware Counties released vaccination plans and a form for people eligible for shots in the next phase. But questions about the speed at which people are able to be vaccinated — and when the general population will get the shots — continued to echo across the region.

“I would love nothing better [than] to be able to give an exact date,” Chester County Health Director Jeanne Casner said as she released the county’s vaccination plan. “It truly, truly depends on how quickly Chester County receives the vaccine doses.”

— Justine McDaniel, Sean Collins Walsh, Erin McCarthy and Jason Laughlin

7:30 AM - January 6, 2021
7:30 AM - January 6, 2021

Philly St. Patrick’s Day Parade canceled again because of COVID-19

Margie McGrath, of Grays Ferry watches the along Market Street during Philadelphia’s 248th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 11, 2018.
TOM GRALISH / TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Margie McGrath, of Grays Ferry watches the along Market Street during Philadelphia’s 248th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 11, 2018.

Organizers of the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade announced Tuesday night that the event this year will be canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is now the second year the parade has been canceled due to the coronavirus.

“Despite our love and excitement for our parade and celebration of St. Patrick, the safety and well-being of organizers, volunteers, participants, and spectators is our number one priority at this time,” the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Observance Association said in a post on Facebook and its website.

“We will continue with great enthusiasm to plan the 250th Saint Patrick’s Day Parade for March 13, 2022 where we will celebrate Saint Patrick, our Grand Marshal Michael J. Bradley, Jr., and the distinguished members of our Ring of Honor,” the association said.

— Robert Moran

7:00 AM - January 6, 2021
7:00 AM - January 6, 2021

Death toll remains high as COVID-19 numbers stabilize across the region

A medical staff exits the COVID-19 intensive care unit on New Year's Day at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas.
Go Nakamura / MCT
A medical staff exits the COVID-19 intensive care unit on New Year's Day at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas.

The United States reported 3,775 new COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University, a new pandemic high in a single day as health officials brace for a possible post-holiday surge of new infections.

Pennsylvania reported 185 deaths on Tuesday, and overall 16,546 Pennsylvanians have lost their lives after contracting the virus. New Jersey reported 138 new deaths on Tuesday, the most in one day in nearly two weeks.

The United States also reported 131,195 Americans hospitalized with COVID-19 Tuesday, yet another pandemic high and 10% higher than just two weeks ago. Eleven states in the South and West — including California, Texas, Georgia, Arizona, and Alabama — reported record hospitalization numbers on Tuesday, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Hospitalization numbers are down roughly 8% in Pennsylvania, with 5,684 residents in hospitals with COVID-19. But health officials fear a post-holiday surge in new infections on top of the high hospitalization numbers could overwhelm health systems across the commonwealth. The Keystone Health Care Coalition, which includes hospitals in Lancaster, York, and 14 other central counties, anticipates staffing shortages in more than one-third of its hospitals over the next week, according to the Department of Health.

Here’s where COVID-19 case numbers, hospitalizations, and vaccinations stand through Tuesday’s data across the region and country, according to an Inquirer analysis of data from each local health department and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Johns Hopkins University, and the COVID Tracking Project.

Pennsylvania

  • Vaccinations: 173,339 vaccine doses administered out of 753,000 doses promised (about 23%)
  • Cases: Averaging 7,827 new cases a day, down 12% compared to this time to two weeks ago (8,890 new cases a day)
  • Hospitalizations: 5,684 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, down nearly 8% compared to two weeks ago (6,151 hospitalizations)
  • Deaths: Averaging at least 170 COVID-19 deaths a day, down 10% compared to two weeks ago (189 deaths a day)

New Jersey

  • Vaccinations: 120,947 vaccine doses administered out of 390,900 doses promised (about 31%)
  • Cases: Averaging 4,457 new cases a day, flat compared to this time to two weeks ago (4,427 new cases a day)
  • Hospitalizations: 3,702 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, flat compared to two weeks ago (3,735 hospitalizations)
  • Deaths: Averaging at least 86 COVID-19 deaths a day, up 32% compared to two weeks ago (65 deaths a day)

Delaware

  • Vaccinations: 15,460 vaccine doses administered out of 50,725 doses promised (about 30%)
  • Cases: Averaging 692 new cases a day, up 8% compared to this time to two weeks ago (640 new cases a day)
  • Hospitalizations: 431 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, basically flat compared to two weeks ago (433 hospitalizations)
  • Deaths: Averaging at least 7 COVID-19 deaths a day, flat compared to two weeks ago (7 deaths a day)

United States

  • Vaccinations: 4.8 million vaccine doses administered out of 17 million doses distributed (about 28%)
  • Cases: Averaging 219,253 new cases a day, up slightly compared to this time to two weeks ago (216,255 new cases a day)
  • Hospitalizations: 131,195 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, up 11% compared to two weeks ago (117,761 hospitalizations)
  • Deaths: Averaging at least 2,670 COVID-19 deaths a day, down slightly compared to two weeks ago (2,715 deaths a day)

— Rob Tornoe

6:45 AM - January 6, 2021
6:45 AM - January 6, 2021

Wednesday morning roundup: Wealthy donors in Florida received vaccine before nursing home residents