Temple Health is paying COVID-19 bonuses to front-line clinical workers
Temple University Health System is paying thousands of clinical workers an extra $1,500 as a thank you for their work during the pandemic, Temple officials said.
“Our employees are the ones who stepped up, and they continue to step up today,” health system chief executive Mike Young said. “We wanted to thank them by providing additional compensation.”
The payments will go to 6,500 to 7,000 Temple employees, about two-thirds of the system’s workforce, including those who moved from offices into clinical settings during the pandemic, Young said. The total cost is about $10 million.
The announcement came several weeks after Temple employees rallied to demand hazard pay for working during the pandemic. Temple officials said the payments were in the works before the rally.
Big East Conference announces postponement of competition in its six fall sports
The Big East Conference announced Wednesday that competition in its six fall sports will not be staged because of the continuing impact of the pandemic, and that it will assess options to conduct contests in those sports in the spring of 2021.
The sports are men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, volleyball, and field hockey. Big East member Villanova fields teams in all six sports.
Big East commissioner Val Ackerman said the decision, made in consultation with the Big East COVID-19 Task Force, came after a review of case counts and trends in conference communities, “and the many unknowns surrounding testing availability, turnaround time, and travel restrictions in our 11 locales.
“We take pride in the high-level competition and experiences we provide to our fall sports student-athletes,” she said, “and we share their deep disappointment that this will not be a normal year.”
Beach home sales at the Jersey Shore are surging during the coronavirus outbreak
For some employees given the option of working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, the workplace expanded from the city office to the beachfront condominium.
A picturesque scenario. If a Shore house is even available.
Sales are so strong that buyers should “make a very, very strong offer and don’t hesitate. Don’t wait three weeks to come down” to the Shore, said Brenda Connolly, owner of the Connolly Agency, a real estate company in the coastal town of Avon-by-the-Sea in Monmouth County, where a condominium can sell for $375,000 and houses for as much as $3 million.
Interest in beach homes, often a second dwelling for wealthy city residents or landlocked suburbanites, has seen a prolific jump in New Jersey during the coronavirus pandemic, with Connolly reporting that sales were up 25% this year compared with the same period last year, an increase she attributed partially to historically low mortgage rates.
As schools consider going fully virtual, New Jersey data shows kids make up a growing share of COVID carriers
New data from two South Jersey counties provides a window into how much of a hazard COVID-19 could pose for reopening.
Children and teenagers account for a growing share of the coronavirus cases in Camden and Gloucester counties, mirroring a national — and ominous — trend as young people rebel against social distancing rules, health experts say.
In those two counties, people under age 20 accounted for almost 13% of all confirmed cases in the past month, compared to less than 2% in a four week period this spring. Camden and Gloucester officials have made public the age of every confirmed case, a step no other area municipality has taken. So it’s not possible to compare them directly with the rest of the region, but experts say the lessons of the data are apparent.
”I think it’s very clear we should expect there will be outbreaks among children and teenagers if schools open,” said David Rubin, a pediatrician and director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “If the disease burden in the community is too high, the risk in schools is too high.”
Gov. Murphy recognizes family devastated by COVID-19, says state needs to remain vigilant against virus
Over the course of 48 hours in April, three people in the same New Jersey family — a mother, father, and son — died of complications of the coronavirus. It’s just one example of the devastating mark the pandemic has left on the region, Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday.
First, John Freda, a 51-year-old optician in Bergen County, died, the governor said. “A Jersey product all the way,” he was described by loved ones as a “creative soul” who loved writing, drawing, reading, and watching superhero movies, Murphy said.
Two days later, John’s parents Larry, 85, and Vicki, 83, died within hours of each other, he said. The “inseparable” couple, both Newark natives, had been married for 62 years, he said, and still managed to eat breakfast together every day. Larry was an Army veteran and a retired custodian, Murphy said, while Vicki served as executive secretary to Fairfield Township’s mayor. She was the “den mother” to her sons’ cub scout troops, he said, and to her large Italian family.
Larry and Vicki are survived by two other sons, while John is survived by three sons.
”The Freda family is one of thousands of families who know all too well the awful strength and power of this virus,” Murphy said. “For them and for us all, we must continue to do everything we can to slow the spread of this virus and save lives.”
”We must keep up with our social distancing, and we must continue to wear our face masks. We have to think of others, of our families and friends and our communities, and put the common good above all else,” Murphy said.
On Wednesday, New Jersey reported an additional 484 confirmed coronavirus cases and nine additional deaths.
N.J. police forced to shut down ‘massive’ pool party, packed strip club
Police in New Jersey in recent days have shut down a “massive” nearly 300-person Gloucester Township pool party and a packed strip club in the northern part of the state as people continue to flout the governor’s emergency coronavirus orders.
At the Gloucester Township, Camden County, gathering, which was advertised on social media, state police superintendent Col. Pat Callahan said officers cited the property owner and the party organizer.
In Elizabeth, Looker’s Bar — which describes itself as a “gentlemen’s club” — packed 300 to 400 people inside, many not wearing masks. The manager was cited, Callahan said.
A patron at Flip Flopz Bar in North Wildwood was also cited for refusing to wear a mask after being repeatedly asked to put one on, the superintendent said.
Comcast to give customers credits on their cable bills for unplayed MLB games
Comcast plans to compensate its TV customers for cancelled baseball games after the coronavirus pandemic wiped out nearly two-thirds of the Major League Baseball season.
The Philadelphia cable giant expects to get money back from regional sports networks that broadcast live games and will pass along to customers credits on their bills, company officials said. It’s unclear how much customers will receive, as Comcast hasn’t received rebates from the networks yet. The credits could vary depending on where customers live.
In Philadelphia, customers of Comcast’s Xfinity cable unit pay $8.75 per month for local sports. The issue got the attention of New York’s attorney general, who called on cable and satellite TV companies to cut the fees.
“I would not ask parents in Willingboro, for instance, to decide what’s best for schools in East Brunswick, or vice versa,” Murphy said. “We recognize for some districts there are legitimate and documentable reasons these health and safety standards cannot be met on day one.”
In announcing the change, the governor indicated that in-person instruction could resume in areas where coronavirus transmission rates are low and districts have the resources to keep students safe. Public and private schools must submit documentation to the state that they can start school in-person, he said.
For schools that cannot, they will start the school year online for every student, Murphy said. Public school districts will have to indicate to the state that they are equipped to provide meaningful virtual education, that students have resources — including internet access and computers — to learn from home, and that schools have a target date for the resumption of in-person instruction.
Department of Education Interim Commissioner Kevin Dehmer said their guidance was always meant to evolve. In the weeks since the prior guidance was released, he said officials have listened to school districts that say they need more time to implement health and safety standards.
So far, Dehmer said a “vast, vast majority” of schools that have submitted plans for a hybrid option, while a “select number” are going remote-only.
In order to help determine which schools can safely hold in-person classes, the state will divided into six geographic regions and those regions will be placed into a color-coded category each week based on number of coronavirus cases, percent positivity, and “syndromic surveillance,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichili.
The state’s finalized guidance on school reopening will be released by Thursday, officials said.
Philly reports 141 new cases, nine additional deaths
Philadelphia reported 141 new cases of the coronavirus Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases in city residents to 31,725.
New cases of the virus in Philadelphia have decreased in recent weeks, after increasing in July. In the week that ended Saturday, the city had an average of 105 new cases per day. The previous week’s average was 123 cases per day, and the average was 166 cases per day the week before that.
New cases reported Tuesday and Wednesday were greater than daily reports in recent days, which were close to 100 per day. But Health Commissioner Thomas Farley has said that long-term trends are more telling than individual daily case counts. James Garrow, a Health Department spokesperson, said daily case reports from labs include results for tests taken as long as a week ago.
Philadelphia also reported nine additional COVID-19 deaths Wednesday. A total of 1,709 residents have died of the virus since the start of the pandemic.
New Jersey can borrow $10 billion to fill budget gaps caused by coronavirus, court rules
Calling it an “unprecedented” ruling, New Jersey’s Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously upheld a law authorizing the governor to borrow nearly $10 billion to close budget gaps opened by the coronavirus outbreak.
The ruling is a victory for Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy and the Democrat-led Legislature, which passed the law to close what Murphy said is a roughly $10 billion budget gap through June 2021.
It's a defeat for the state Republican Party, which had filed the suit challenging the law, arguing that it violated part of the constitution that holds debt cannot be counted as revenue in the annual budget process.
“Statutes challenged on constitutional grounds can be declared void only if their ‘repugnancy to the constitution is clear beyond reasonable doubt,’” the court’s opinion said. “Plaintiffs have not met that heavy burden.”
Pennsylvania reports 849 new cases, 33 additional deaths
Pennsylvania reported 849 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday. The commonwealth is now averaging 774 new cases a day over the past seven days, according to an Inquirer analysis, increasing slightly over the past few days.
The Department of Health said 157,895 coronavirus tests were administered between Aug. 5 and Aug. 11, with 5,272 positive cases — a positive test rate of about 3.3%. Overall, 121,130 Pennsylvania residents have tested positive for coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
At least 7,385 Pennsylvania residents have now died after contracting the coronavirus, with 33 new deaths reported on Wednesday. Of the state’s deaths, 5,012 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.
Penn State students forced to sign coronavirus liability waiver
Students and staff at Pennsylvania State University, which plans some in-person classes this fall, are raising questions about the university’s request that students sign a COVID-19 compact before returning to campus.
The compact includes a section asking students to assume the risk of exposure to the virus from attending Penn State and acknowledge that it could result in illness or death. It also asks students to acknowledge that the rules and precautions put in place by the university, state, and federal government “may or may not” be effective in protecting against the virus.
Some instructors sent a letter to students alerting them to the language in the compact last week, and faculty and students have expressed concern to administrators, said two people who work at the university.
“Requiring students to agree to what is essentially a waiver releasing Penn State from responsibility from any COVID-related problems that they may suffer, including death, is unacceptable — particularly given that Penn State’s testing plan and other safety measures are substandard and insufficient,” said Sarah J. Townsend, an associate professor and an organizer of Coalition for a Just University at Penn State, a faculty group working for greater transparency, health and safety standards.
A university spokesperson said Penn State is “committed to meeting and exceeding the guidance of health experts,” and said the compact’s purpose was to outline the university’s safety requirements and ask students to commit to following the guidelines. Students can choose to learn remotely if they do not want to return to campus.
“We feel it is important that students and families understand there is COVID-19 risk everywhere in our daily lives, and to reinforce the importance of following the public health guidelines established by the state and public health experts for the return to campus learning,” spokesperson Wyatt DuBois said in an email.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health on Wednesday announced that residents in this radius can request the tablets by calling the Department of Health at 1-877-PA-HEALTH or at county and municipal health departments or state health centers. This is in lieu of the department’s usual in-person distribution, since currently no more than 25 people are permitted to gather indoors due to the pandemic.
The distribution of potassium iodide is one way to prepare for a radiological emergency, Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said in a statement. In the case of such an emergency, the governor or state health officials could instruct residents in close range of a nuclear reactor to take the tablets to protect the thyroid gland from harmful radioactive iodine, as well as to take other steps like evacuating the area.
The free tablets are also available to residents who live or work within 10 miles of the commonwealth’s other nuclear power plants: Beaver Valley near Pittsburgh; Peach Bottom in York County; and Susquehanna Steam Electric Station in Luzerne County.
In reversal, Murphy expected to announce that N.J. schools can go fully virtual
Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to announce a new option for New Jersey’s public schools that will offer the option of beginning the school year remotely, according to sources. The news was first reporting by CBS News.
An immigrant family that’s lived nearly three years in Philadelphia church sanctuary to avoid deportation has been stricken by the coronavirus and is battling for recovery.
Carmela Apolonio Hernandez, 39, and her eldest children — teenagers Fidel, Keyri, and Yoselin — suffered severe COVID-19 symptoms in late spring and early summer, and continue to fight for their health. Hernandez has memory loss and pain in her lungs. Fidel, 18, still has a cough, cold symptoms, and aches in his bones. Yoselin, 14, has trouble breathing.
”Thank God we survived, but we still have problems,” said Keyri, 15. “I am afraid of becoming infectious again and passing the virus on to the community.”
Supporters think the children may have been infected at school, which they have been able to attend while in sanctuary, before the Philadelphia district closed in mid-March.The children — no longer believed to be infectious — plan to hold a 10 a.m. Wednesday vigil in front of the Germantown Mennonite Church where the family lives. They’ll share letters they’ve written to members of Congress about living with COVID-19 in sanctuary, and about the urgency of their leaving the church during the pandemic.
In an Instagram video shared Tuesday night, co-owner Ian Smith asked Gov. Phil Murphy and local officials to show him the scientific data that justified closing his business.
“We are so confident in our process and in our safety protocol that if you can so us scientific data that proves Atilis Gym in Bellmawr poses more of a threat to the general public than any other place, and should remain shut down, we will happily shut our doors,” Smith said.
Gyms and fitness centers aren’t allowed to have customers workout in indoor spaces as part of New Jersey’s coronavirus restrictions, but they are permitted to offer individualized indoor instruction by appointment only to individuals and their families, caretakers, or romantic partners.
Atilis Gym has repeatedly defied the state’s restrictions. On Aug. 1, they kicked open a plywood barricade to reopen their business.
Longtime Philadelphia judge won’t wear a mask in court and ordered others to remove theirs
Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge James Murray Lynn has repeatedly refused to wear a mask while sitting on the bench, despite pleas from prosecutors, defense lawyers, and witnesses who have expressed concerns about their health and safety.
And according to a written complaint obtained by The Inquirer, the veteran judge has ordered others to remove their masks while in his courtroom.
“It has come to the attention of our offices that Judge Lynn continues to refuse to wear a mask while operating in-person hearings,” wrote Alan J. Tauber, first assistant at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, in a letter dated Friday, to Margaret Murphy, administrative judge for the Family Division, where Lynn sits. “We believe this safety breach needs to be addressed expeditiously.”
“Not only was he not wearing a mask, but he was actively ordering counsel to remove their masks while litigating,” Tauber wrote on behalf of both public defenders and prosecutors in the District Attorney’s Office.
Lynn did not return two messages left by a reporter at his chambers.
Pa. restrictions on restaurants and bars won’t be relaxed anytime soon
Gov. Tom Wolf is not yet considering relaxing any of the state’s tightened restrictions on restaurants and bars, he said Tuesday, saying that keeping coronavirus protocols in place will be the fastest way to get to a fuller reopening.
A day after giving school districts specific guidance on reopening based on local virus transmission data, Wolf said the state was not planning to transfer that type of localized reopening to other sectors, such as the food and drink industry.
“There’s a difference between elective things that we do and central things that a society needs to do,” he said. “We need to get our kids back to school. We need to make sure they get an education. That’s our first priority.”
Wolf said his administration would give the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association guidance about fall high school sports, which remain in limbo, based on area-specific virus transmission data.
Like officials in Delaware and elsewhere, the Wolf administration has said that keeping the spread of the coronavirus low and pushing it lower will provide the best chance for schools to successfully reopen. The way to do that, they say, is for residents and businesses to continue to follow safety protocols and abide by the restrictions designed to prevent transmission.
Rising case numbers in various parts of Europe spark concerns
The number of new daily coronavirus cases is rising in multiple major European Union countries, including Germany, France and Spain.
Germany on Wednesday announced 1,226 new cases, the highest figure since early May. Speaking to the country’s public broadcaster, German Health Minister Jens Spahn cautioned that the rise in cases was no longer primarily due to regionally isolated outbreaks as was previously the case, but rather attributable to clusters “in almost all regions of the country.”
Spain’s rise in cases has been particularly alarming to European health authorities. Between Friday and Monday, the country reported over 8,600 new infections, according to the El Pais newspaper.
In France, there are also signs that outbreaks are accelerating.
“The epidemiological situation, which we are following very closely, is deteriorating: 2,000 new cases per day compared to 1,000 three weeks ago,” said Prime Minister Jean Castex.
“About 25 new clusters are identified every day compared to five, three weeks ago,” he said.
France recently allowed regions to make face masks mandatory in outdoor areas. Other European countries are similarly expanding the use of face masks in response to rising case numbers.
Coronavirus caseloads have been surging in Belgium, which is witnessing one of its longest heat waves on record.