8:54 PM - August 3, 2020
8:54 PM - August 3, 2020

Philadelphia braces for more recycling pickup delays due to trash crisis, impending storm Isaias

In this photo from May 13, 2020, bags of garbage sit along the street before being picked up in Philadelphia's Ogontz section.
TIM TAI/PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER
In this photo from May 13, 2020, bags of garbage sit along the street before being picked up in Philadelphia's Ogontz section.

If you’ve been staring out your window at an overflowing recycling can, wondering if it will ever be picked up, you’re not alone. The bad news: The wait likely isn’t over.

If your recycling is picked up on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday in Philadelphia, expect another round of delays due to Hurricane Isaias. The storm is expected to bring heavy rain and wind to the region beginning Tuesday. As a result, the city is suspending all recycling collections scheduled for Wednesday through Friday, asking residents to hold the items until next week’s collection.

Last week, pickup was suspended on Monday and Tuesday, but collection was resumed on those days this week, the Streets Department said.

— Erin McCarthy

7:07 PM - August 3, 2020
7:07 PM - August 3, 2020

Bars closed and traffic dropped during the pandemic, but DUI arrests are up

The lights of moving vehicles blur in a long time exposure as traffic moves along I-95 near Penn's Landing July 26, 2020. According to Pa. State Police data, DUI arrests are nearing pre-pandemic levels despite lower traffic volume and bars remaining closed.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
The lights of moving vehicles blur in a long time exposure as traffic moves along I-95 near Penn's Landing July 26, 2020. According to Pa. State Police data, DUI arrests are nearing pre-pandemic levels despite lower traffic volume and bars remaining closed.

The ripples formed from the COVID-19 pandemic may be reaching the road.

The number of DUI arrests neared pre-pandemic levels in early summer, according to Pennsylvania State Police figures, despite much less traffic and pandemic restrictions imposed on bars and restaurants.

State Police recorded 420 total DUI arrests during the last week of February, shortly before Gov. Tom Wolf’s shutdown order in March. While arrests and crashes stayed low from March until late June, DUI arrests crept back up to 407 for a week in late June — down just 3% from pre-pandemic figures recorded in February.

— Patricia Madej

5:18 PM - August 3, 2020
5:18 PM - August 3, 2020

Dr. Anthony Fauci says COVID-19 surges are ‘not inevitable,’ hopes for vaccine transparency and that baseball can succeed

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was interviewed Monday by Howard Bauchner, editor-in-chief of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.
JAMA Newtwork
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was interviewed Monday by Howard Bauchner, editor-in-chief of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The COVID-19 surges in much of the country were “not inevitable,” and scientists must remain “humble” as they continue learning how to treat the disease that has claimed more than 150,000 U.S. lives and close to 700,000 worldwide, Anthony Fauci said Monday.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was interviewed by Howard Bauchner, editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Some excerpts:

On whether physicians should approach unmasked people in public, politely asking them to mask up

You read about confrontations that really go bad. You don’t want that to happen. I think what we really need to do is to, just as a nation, show a degree of consistency of everybody doing that. The trouble with mandating is people who push back on authority, if you mandate, they may push back even more.I’m very pleased to see that the president is wearing a mask more now. The vice president, I know I’m with him a fair amount, he wears a mask when he goes out.

On how well children of various ages spread the virus

Clearly they have much less of a chance of getting sick and of getting a serious outcome. Maybe children don’t get infected as much. We don’t know that yet. We need to do better studies.Very young children, when you look at the viral load in their nasopharynx, its anywhere from 10 to, in some cases, 100 times more than in older children. You can make a reasonable assumption that if very young children have a high viral load in their nasopharynx, that they’re very capable of transmitting it. The question is how well do they transmit that infection to others.

On data needed before distributing a vaccine:

Everything needs to be transparent. Clearly if you’re going to gain the confidence of the American people to either engage in a vaccine trial or act upon the results of a vaccine trial, we need to show safety and efficacy.

— Tom Avril

4:26 PM - August 3, 2020
4:26 PM - August 3, 2020

Wawa permanently closing Broad & Walnut store

A pedestrian walks near the closed Wawa on Broad and Walnut Streets in Center City on Monday, August 3, 2020. The Flagship Wawa closed due to the pandemic.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
A pedestrian walks near the closed Wawa on Broad and Walnut Streets in Center City on Monday, August 3, 2020. The Flagship Wawa closed due to the pandemic.

Wawa is permanently closing its store at Broad and Walnut Streets, officials announced.

“This decision was a difficult one,” a news release said. “But due to the impact from the pandemic coupled with some operational uncertainties of today, our long-term plans for this store are no longer viable.”

This was first reported on PhillyChitChat. The coronavirus pandemic has forced many Center City office employees to continue working remotely, dramatically decreasing foot traffic and lunch crowds. Wawa citied “the unique circumstances that continue to impact our customers’ daily lives and our own store operations” in announcing that the location would not reopen.

— Ellie Silverman

3:32 PM - August 3, 2020
3:32 PM - August 3, 2020

Protesters call on Comcast to get all Philly kids internet access

Protest outside Comcast headquarters in Center City is calling on the company to open residential hot spots and boost internet speeds for students as Philadelphia prepares for an online-only start next month.

— Maddie Hanna

3:00 PM - August 3, 2020
3:00 PM - August 3, 2020

Wolf says fall sports may not be a good idea for some schools

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf speaking about the coronavirus last month.
Commonwealth Media Services
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf speaking about the coronavirus last month.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf indicated Monday that high schools that are doing virtual learning this fall may want to reconsider whether they allow contact sports. The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association has said it will resume sports but without fans, in accordance with Wolf’s previous guidelines, which the governor said Monday were put out when the virus appeared to have flattened.

“What happens in the schools should be consistent with what happens on the playing field,” Wolf said. “If the school is going completely virtual, it seems hard to justify in-person contact sports being played in the fall. If the school is going to be opened and feels it’s safe … then that’s a different proposition for contact sports.”

Wolf and Health Secretary Rachel Levine did not indicate whether they would issue any official mandates regarding high school sports, but Levine said further guidelines would be released later this week. Their comments come as Maryland moved to postpone fall and winter high school sports due to more schools opting for virtual learning and a gradual reintroduction of in-person student activity.

“This is a work in progress,” Wolf said. “The situation changes every day across the state and within the state, on any given day, it’s very different from one region to another. We’re just trying to keep up with the virus.” Wolf said he “recognizes” the immense problems that the commonwealth hopes to help working parents solve if their children’s school districts pivot to virtual learning this fall.

The governor said the commonwealth has put $100 million of its federal coronavirus relief money toward ensuring childcare centers remain open, but assistance for parents of older children who will need more personalized help during the school day is lacking.

“Is there more to do?” the governor said. “Absolutely.”

He said his administration would also do what it can to keep childcare and tutoring services from jacking up their prices due to increased demand. It will not be a solution “if all we’re doing is increasing the revenue [of childcare services] and not really helping parents.”

“We got to make sure that they are able to go to work,” he added.

— Erin McCarthy

2:30 PM - August 3, 2020
2:30 PM - August 3, 2020

Philly to offer grants to organizations that work to aid the homeless

Philadelphia has received nearly $4.2 million in federal grant money for homeless services during the coronavirus pandemic.

The city’s Office of Homeless Services announced Monday that grants from a program in the federal coronavirus relief package would be awarded to organizations that work in homeless outreach and homelessness prevention.

”The competition both locally and statewide was fierce,” Liz Hersh, director of the Office of Homeless Services, said in a news release. “These funds give the city a chance to meet some of the unmet, but urgent community needs — and bring new voices to the table.”

The grants, called State CARES Emergency Solutions Grants, are separate from the $276 million the city received got through the CARES Act to pay for the response to COVID-19.

The grants will go to 10 organizations that work on homeless outreach and prevention, including $400,000 for a new partnership with SELF Inc., and the William Way LGBTQ Community Center, to better serve the homeless LGBTQ community.

An additional $1.5 million in grants will go to three organizations that work with Latinx residents. Other grants include funding for groups that will focus on youth aging out of foster care and young people experiencing homelessness.

— Laura McCrystal

2:00 PM - August 3, 2020
2:00 PM - August 3, 2020

Spike in new cases in Pa. shows signs of leveling off

Pennsylvania reported 656 new coronavirus cases on Monday as a recent surge in infections shows signs of leveling off. The commonwealth is now averaging 842 new cases a day over the past seven days, according to an Inquirer analysis, down from over 900 a day last week.

The Department of Health said 152,627 coronavirus tests were administered between July 27 and July 2, with 6,165 positive cases — a positive test rate of about 4%. Overall, 114,155 Pennsylvania residents have tested positive for coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

At least 7,209 Pennsylvania residents have now died after contracting the coronavirus, with no new deaths reported Monday. Of the state’s deaths, 4,914 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.

— Rob Tornoe

1:40 PM - August 3, 2020
1:40 PM - August 3, 2020

Trump tells reporters he’s opposed to giving stimulus money to states and cities hit hard by the pandemic

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with U.S. tech workers on Monday.
Alex Brandon / AP
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with U.S. tech workers on Monday.

President Donald Trump said he’s opposed to offering coronavirus relief funds to cities and states hit hard by the pandemic, citing Democratic leaders he claims have been running things poorly for years.

“They want to bail out cities and states that have done a bad job over a long period of time,” Trump told reporters at the White House Monday afternoon. “They want a trillion dollars in bailout money. And a lot of people don’t want to do that because we don’t think it’s right.”

In a stimulus bill passed in May, House Democrats included nearly $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments to help make up for lost revenue and increased spending forced by the pandemic. Republicans have proposed giving states $105 billion specifically for education funding, favoring schools that resume in-person classes.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy called the lack of progress toward getting more federal money “discouraging” during his coronavirus press briefing Monday. Murphy said federal funding is needed to keep state workers on the payroll, help small businesses such as restaurants, and provide people with continued unemployment money.

“Forget about how we allocate the CARES Act money,” Murphy said. “We need 10 times that.”

— Rob Tornoe

1:25 PM - August 3, 2020
1:25 PM - August 3, 2020

Pa. food safety inspectors can now enforce coronavirus restrictions

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s food safety inspectors will now be able to enforce coronavirus safety mandates during their routine inspections at the commonwealth’s restaurants.

“This team approach will help ensure our food and those who serve it are safe,” Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding said.

Previously, only the Department of Health and local law enforcement had the legal authority to issue written warnings or citations for establishments that weren’t following Gov. Tom Wolf’s pandemic orders.

Going forward, food safety inspectors — which regularly conduct random inspections as well as checks if a customer complains about a restaurant’s cleanliness — will also be able to enforce the commonwealth’s rules, including the recent requirements that restaurants limit indoor capacity to 25%, suspend bar service, and require patrons order meals with alcohol purchases.

— Erin McCarthy

1:15 PM - August 3, 2020
1:15 PM - August 3, 2020

Philly reports 311 new coroanvirus cases since Friday

A bicyclist tries to get a glimpse of the Phillies workout outside the centerfield gate at Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia on Saturday, August 1, 2020.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
A bicyclist tries to get a glimpse of the Phillies workout outside the centerfield gate at Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia on Saturday, August 1, 2020.

Philadelphia announced 311 new cases of the coronavirus Monday, representing test results reported since Friday.

The city also announced two additional deaths from the coronavirus Monday. A total of 1,692 Philadelphia residents have now died of COVID-19, and the city has reported a total of 30,655 cases.

City health officials have said that cases of COVID-19 have been increasing in Philadelphia. Test results have often been delayed for several days, making it difficult to determine trends until days later. The seven-day average of daily total cases was 163 for the week that ended last Monday, according to the city’s data.

— Laura McCrystal

1:05 PM - August 3, 2020
1:05 PM - August 3, 2020

N.J. tightens restrictions in response to house parties, will require all students to wear masks

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy during a coronavirus press briefing in May.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy during a coronavirus press briefing in May.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said that indoor gatherings will now be limited to 25 people, down from 100. The new order means that indoor house parties can include no more than 25 people, Murphy said, a shift the governor said is the direct result of concerns over large gatherings and a rising rate of COVID-19 infections.

New Jersey’s transmission rate is now 1.48, twice what it was in mid-June.

“We know that there are many more of you who’ve been responsible in your actions, and who’ve taken your civic duties to help us defeat COVID-19 seriously,” Murphy said. “Unfortunately, the actions of a few knuckleheads leave us no other course. We have to go back and tighten these restrictions.”

Murphy also announced that face coverings will be required for all students at all times while inside school buildings, unless doing so would inhibit the individual’s health. The guidelines will also include exceptions for certain students with disabilities.

The limit on indoor gatherings will remain in place until numbers of cases drop for a week straight, Murphy said. It will not apply to weddings, memorials, or religious services, which can have up to 100 people.

Murphy lauded a recent decision by Airbnb to remove several dozen listings that were the scenes of recent house parties, including one in Jackson Township that hosted more than 700 people last month.

“The only way we can get to where we want to be with indoor activities is if everyone plays by the rules,” he said. “We cannot move forward if a few knuckleheads think the rules don’t apply to them.”

— Allison Steele

12:50 PM - August 3, 2020
12:50 PM - August 3, 2020

SEPTA to deploy ‘social distancing coaches’ at stations in August

SEPTA riders on Market-Frankford Line's Girard Avenue Station in July.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
SEPTA riders on Market-Frankford Line's Girard Avenue Station in July.

Starting Tuesday, SEPTA will be deploying ambassadors in an attempt to encourage all travelers to wear a mask and maintain social distancing.

Social distancing coaches will be positioned at locations throughout the SEPTA system from Aug. 4 to Aug. 27, beginning on the Market-Frankford Line at the 69th Street Transportation Center, the Frankford Transportation Center, and the 15th Street Station in Center City.

More ambassadors will be deployed in subsequent weeks at other locations, including the Broad Street Line’s Fern Rock, City Hall, and Snyder stations. They will also be available at Regional Rail hubs at Suburban Station, Jefferson Station and 30th Street Station, followed by outlying suburban stations, according to SEPTA.

SEPTA Assistant General Manager Kim Scott Heinle said in a statement the agency is “focusing on the positives first and foremost.”

— Rob Tornoe

12:30 PM - August 3, 2020
12:30 PM - August 3, 2020

Eagles coach Doug Pederson says he remains confident the NFL can have a season

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is seen in a screenshot from a Zoom press conference on Monday, one day after the team announced he tested positive for coronavirus.
Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is seen in a screenshot from a Zoom press conference on Monday, one day after the team announced he tested positive for coronavirus.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson told reporters on Monday he’s feeling well one day after testing positive for coronavirus.

Pederson said he didn’t want to speculate on how he contracted the virus, but did say he feels confident he can still run the team remotely. Duce Staley, the team’s assistant head coach and running backs coach, has assumed head coaching responsibilities at the NovaCare Complex in Pederson’s absence.

“I do everything I can virtually. I just finished up a bunch of player meetings,” Pederson told reporters. “Duce being the assistant head coach, he just assumes my role in the day-to-day activities in the building. He and I talk every single morning.”

Pederson also said he remains confident the NFL will be able to hold its upcoming season in the fall.

— EJ Smith

12:15 PM - August 3, 2020
12:15 PM - August 3, 2020

Some movie theaters in the Philly suburbs finding it hard to get viewers to show up

Manager Jimmy Hotham, seats inside a limit theater seating inside the Water Tower Cinema in lansdale, Pa. Friday, July 31, 2020. The Cinema reopened given virus risks and further-reduced capacity limits.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Manager Jimmy Hotham, seats inside a limit theater seating inside the Water Tower Cinema in lansdale, Pa. Friday, July 31, 2020. The Cinema reopened given virus risks and further-reduced capacity limits.

When the Colonial Theatre reopened in downtown Phoenixville last month, its board was optimistic — as long as moviegoers were willing to wear masks and follow a long list of coronavirus safety precautions.

It turned out, however, that the historic cinema’s biggest hurdle had nothing to do with customer compliance. Instead, board members said, it’s getting people to show up to watch decades-old movies — indoors, with strangers, in the middle of a global pandemic.

“We’re constantly judging whether or not it’s worth it for us to turn on the electricity and bring in the staff, put them at risk, for two people” to watch a movie, said marketing director Bob Trate. “It’s touch-and-go every day.”

In the Philadelphia suburbs, movie theaters were permitted to reopen in June when the area moved into the green phase, but many independent cinemas opted to remain closed. They said the health and financial risks were not worth the unlikely chance of a reward.

Movie theaters in Philadelphia and New Jersey are still prohibited from opening, and it’s unclear when that restriction might be lifted.

— Erin McCarthy

11:27 AM - August 3, 2020
11:27 AM - August 3, 2020

Where cases grew fastest in around Philly in July

No Philadelphia zip code reported an increase of 50% or more from June to July, but four suburban towns saw their case totals double, according to an Inquirer analysis.

— John Duchneskie

10:30 AM - August 3, 2020
10:30 AM - August 3, 2020

Phillies to return to the field tonight after reporting no new coronavirus cases

Phils 4 Scott Kingery air fives a teammate as Adam Hasely looks on before the Philadelphia Phillies vs. the Miami Marlins game on July 26.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Phils 4 Scott Kingery air fives a teammate as Adam Hasely looks on before the Philadelphia Phillies vs. the Miami Marlins game on July 26.

The Phillies will travel to New York on Monday to resume their schedule against the Yankees, after reporting no positive coronavirus results from tests taken Sunday.

The Miami Marlins left Philadelphia on Friday and Sunday following an outbreak last week that left team members quarantined in the Rittenhouse Hotel. The Marlins will play the Baltimore Orioles in a four-game series scheduled to start on Tuesday.

The Phillies learned Saturday that two of their three positive coronavirus tests last week were actually false positives.” That allowed them to continue to train at Citizens Bank Park and schedule Monday’s game against the Yankees.

Not every team is ready to play. The Cardinals are postponed Monday for the fourth-straight game after a series of positive coronavirus tests. If they play Tuesday, it will be the first time in nine days that baseball has had all 30 teams available for action. It’s shaping up to be a long 60-game season.

— Rob Tornoe and Matt Breen

9:50 AM - August 3, 2020
9:50 AM - August 3, 2020

Lord & Taylor, the country’s oldest department store chain, files for bankruptcy

Lord & Taylor on City Avenue in Bala Cynwyd, Monday, August 3, 2020. Lord &Taylor has declared bankruptcy.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Lord & Taylor on City Avenue in Bala Cynwyd, Monday, August 3, 2020. Lord &Taylor has declared bankruptcy.

Lord & Taylor, the county’s oldest department store chain, filed for bankruptcy protection on Sunday.

Signs promoting a “store closing sale” were displayed in the windows of the Lord & Taylor in Bala Cynwyd Monday morning, though it’s unclear when the location is scheduled to close. The company could not be reached for comment.

There are also Lord & Taylor stores in the King of Prussia Mall and the Moorestown Mall. It’s unclear if any of these locations will close due to the bankruptcy filing.

Lord & Taylor, which traces its New York City origins back to 1826, was purchases by the French rental clothing company Le Tote Inc. last year, according to the filing. Both filed for bankruptcy protection in the Eastern Court of Virginia on Sunday.

Among the retailers that have filed for bankruptcy protection during the coronavirus pandemic are J. Crew, J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, Brooks Brothers, and Ascena Retail Group, which owns Lane Bryant and Ann Taylor.

— Rob Tornoe

9:20 AM - August 3, 2020
9:20 AM - August 3, 2020

Latest coronavirus case counts for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware

Here is are the latest total coronavirus figures for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware as of Monday morning, reported by each state’s respective health departments:

  • Pennsylvania: 113,590 cases, at least 7,209 deaths, new cases down about 3.6% last week compared to the previous week
  • New Jersey: 182,350 cases, at least 13,961 deaths, new cases up about 16.5% last week compared to the previous week
  • Delaware: 14,949 cases, at least 585 deaths, new cases down about 12.8% last week compared to the previous week,

— Rob Tornoe

8:00 AM - August 3, 2020
8:00 AM - August 3, 2020

Democrats, Republicans remain far apart on new coronavirus relief deal

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows made clear in separate interviews Sunday that they remain far apart on a coronavirus relief deal that would restore expired unemployment benefits for millions of Americans.

The three spoke a day after a rare weekend meeting at the Capitol yielded some signs of progress. They plan to meet again Monday but pointed to multiple areas of disagreement that suggest consensus remains elusive, even while saying they would continue to work toward a deal.

“We still have a long ways to go,” Meadows said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “I’m not optimistic that there will be a solution in the very near term.”

After struggling to reach agreement among themselves on an overall bill, Republicans and administration officials have been pushing for a short-term fix to address the expiration of $600 weekly enhanced unemployment benefits, which lapsed last week for some 30 million workers.

Republicans have proposed reducing the $600 weekly payment to $200, or adopting a formula that would amount to replacing about two-thirds of a worker’s wages before they were unemployed. Pelosi suggested Democrats could be open to an approach that reduced the $600 over time as the unemployment rate declines.

House Democrats passed a $3 trillion bill in May that would have extended the $600 enhanced benefits through January. They are incensed Republicans waited months to start negotiating again, only to quickly run up against the unemployment insurance deadline and start demanding a short-term solution.

— Washington Post

7:40 AM - August 3, 2020
7:40 AM - August 3, 2020

Birx says outbreak is ‘extraordinarily widespread,’ recommends some wear masks at home

White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx holds a graph as she speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing in July.
Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP
White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx holds a graph as she speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing in July.

Deborah Birx, the physician who is overseeing the White House’s coronavirus response, said on Sunday the United States has entered a “new phase” of the pandemic where the virus is “extraordinarily widespread” in both rural and urban areas.

“I want to be very clear what we’re seeing today is different from March and April,” Birx said during an interview on CNN.

More than 4.6 million coronavirus cases and at least 154,860 deaths have been reported in the United States since the outbreak began, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 47,000 new cases and at least 413 deaths were reported on Sunday, though Texas did not report new numbers due to a system upgrade.

Last week, the Trump administration classified 21 states are being in the “red zone,” because they had more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people in the past week. Three states were added last week — Missouri, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware were listed in the “yellow zone” in the report, dated July 26, indicated between 10 to 100 new cases per 100,000 people.

Birx recommended people living in areas where the virus is spreading to wear masks, maintain social distancing, and practice good hand hygiene. She also suggested some people should consider wearing masks at home.

“If you’re in multi-generational households and there’s an outbreak in your rural area or in your city, you need to really consider wearing a mask at home, assuming that you’re positive, if you have individuals in your households with comorbidities,” Birx said.

— Rob Tornoe

7:20 AM - August 3, 2020
7:20 AM - August 3, 2020

Mail delays are frustrating Philly residents

Photograph of Post Office at N. 63rd Street at Media in Philadelphia as seen on Thursday, July 30, 2020.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Photograph of Post Office at N. 63rd Street at Media in Philadelphia as seen on Thursday, July 30, 2020.

Neighborhoods across the Philadelphia region are experiencing significant delays in receiving their mail, with some residents going upwards of three weeks without packages and letters, leaving them without medication, paychecks, and bills.

According to local union leaders and carriers, mail is piling up in offices, unscanned and unsorted. Mail carriers who spoke with The Inquirer said they are overwhelmed, working long hours yet still unable to finish their routes. Offices are so short-staffed that when a carrier is out, a substitute is often not assigned to their route.

“I understand we are flexing our available resources to match the workload created by the impacts of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic,” said USPS spokesperson Ray V. Daiutolo Sr. “We have a liberal leave policy and we are aggressively trying to hire qualified candidates.”

Across Philadelphia, at least 133 Postal Service employees — from carriers and clerks to mail handlers and custodians — have tested positive for the coronavirus since March, according to records provided by American Postal Workers Union Local 89. Two employees have died. Philadelphia’s main headquarters has been hit hard — the Processing and Delivery Center has seen 34 cases, while the Main Office of Delivery on 30th and Chestnut Streets has seen 28.

The cases are exacerbating staffing shortages, said Nick Casselli, president of APWU Local 89. When an employee tests positive, they cannot work for at least two weeks, and employees who have been in contact with them are forced to quarantine for 14 days. If there is no one to fill in, the mail doesn’t go out.

On top of staff shortages, the agency has seen a significant increase in packages due to a boom in online shopping as people stay home. Casselli said Philadelphia’s plant was processing about 30,000 parcels per day before the coronavirus. Now, it’s processing 100,000.

Amid this increase, sudden policy changes instituted to cut costs by new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump donor who was appointed in May, are exacerbating delays, at a time when unprecedented voting by mail has put scrutiny on the agency. In memos to employees, DeJoy has ordered carriers to leave mail behind if it delays routes, and said the agency will prohibit overtime.

Additionally, post offices’ hours are being slashed, including in Camden and Cherry Hill.

— Ellie Rushing

7:00 AM - August 3, 2020
7:00 AM - August 3, 2020

Weekend coronavirus round-up