10:40 PM - August 6, 2020
10:40 PM - August 6, 2020

Ohio governor reports negative COVID-19 test after earlier positive test

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday night that he had tested negative for COVID-19 after an earlier test showed him as positive.

DeWine said he and his wife would be tested again on Saturday.

10:29 PM - August 6, 2020
10:29 PM - August 6, 2020

COVID-19 death toll in United States tops 160,000

Stephen Bonett, a nurse and Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps volunteer, administers a nasal swab to a driver at a coronavirus testing site next to Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia on Friday, March 20, 2020.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Stephen Bonett, a nurse and Philadelphia Medical Reserve Corps volunteer, administers a nasal swab to a driver at a coronavirus testing site next to Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia on Friday, March 20, 2020.

More than 160,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, the Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracking website reported late Thursday night.

At nearly the same time, the total worldwide confirmed cases of COVID-19 exceeded 19 million.

The total number of deaths globally was more than 713,400.

The nation with the second-highest death toll was Brazil with 98,493. The third highest was Mexico with 50,517.

China, where the cornavirus was first reported, had a total of 4,680 deaths.

— Robert Moran

4:54 PM - August 6, 2020
4:54 PM - August 6, 2020

PIAA disappointed with Gov. Wolf’s recommendation to postpone high school sports

Timmy Smith, right, of Central Dauphin runs for a gain against Alex Rosano, left, and Terrence Gainer of Downingtown West in the first quarter of the PIAA Class 6A semifinals on Nov. 29, 2019.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Timmy Smith, right, of Central Dauphin runs for a gain against Alex Rosano, left, and Terrence Gainer of Downingtown West in the first quarter of the PIAA Class 6A semifinals on Nov. 29, 2019.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, which oversees high school sports in the commonwealth, was “tremendously disappointment” with Gov. Tom Wolf’s recommendation that high school sports be postponed until at least Jan. 1, 2021.

The PIAA said its board of directors would meet Friday afternoon to review the situation.

“Today, Governor Wolf issue a statement of strongly recommending no interscholastic and recreational sports until January 1,” the PIAA said in a statement. “We are tremendously disappointed in this decision. Our member schools have worked diligently to develop health and safety plans to allow students the safe return to interscholastic athletics.”

The PIAA added that its board of directors would issue an updated statement on Friday.

— Phil Anastasia

4:34 PM - August 6, 2020
4:34 PM - August 6, 2020

Upper Darby quarantines entire sanitation division, will announce new plan for trash collection on Monday

Upper Darby has quarantined its entire sanitation division for two weeks due to a coronavirus outbreak and will announce a contingency plan for trash collection on Monday, Mayor Barbarann Keffer announced on Thursday.

“Please know that we have already begun to formulate a contingency plan to collect trash for the next two weeks. We will announce those details on Monday. Please stay tuned and be patient and compassionate as we all do our best to manage these difficult circumstances,” Keffer said in a video statement.

“Again, this was a decision made in close consultation with our township employees and their union leaders. Regular trash pick-up will resume with a new schedule on Monday, August 24th. This will give us enough time to have a healthy reset for our employees and residents,” Keffer said.

Vincent A. Rongione, Upper Darby’s chief administrative officer, said in a telephone interview that several employees in the sanitation division had tested positive for COVID-19 and others were feeling sick and asking for tests, so the township decided it was best to have a “hard health-and-safety reset” for two weeks.

The sanitation division has more than 60 full-time unionized workers with at least 14 trucks operating daily, Rongione said. During the summer, the division is assisted by around 20 seasonal workers as trash collections shift from once to twice weekly.

During the two-week quarantine, the township will likely use a private contractor possibly combined with seasonal workers to fill the gap, Rongione said.

“The goal is to have something close to normal trash pick-up in the interim,” he said.

— Robert Moran

4:18 PM - August 6, 2020
4:18 PM - August 6, 2020

Philly reports continued decrease in new COVID-19 cases

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley uses hand sanitizer before he gives an update on the coronavirus during a news conference at City Hall in Philadelphia, PA on March 16, 2020.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Health Commissioner Thomas Farley uses hand sanitizer before he gives an update on the coronavirus during a news conference at City Hall in Philadelphia, PA on March 16, 2020.

New cases of the coronavirus are continuing to decrease in Philadelphia, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Thursday as the city reported 109 new cases of the virus.

Philadelphia has reported slightly more than 100 cases per day in each of the past few days, Farley said — a lower number than the 124 cases per day that the city averaged last week.

”That’s really good news,” he said. “I can only say now that I hope it continues.”

The decrease in new cases may be attributable to Philadelphia residents wearing masks and practicing social distancing, Farley said. But he also noted that the city’s recent uptick in cases appears to have peaked in mid-July, around the same time the number of new cases peaked nationwide.

”So it may be related to the fact that, to a certain extent, this epidemic is a national epidemic and we rise and fall with the nation,” he said.

The city received more than 3,000 test results Thursday, Farley said, and only 3.6% were positive. In recent weeks, that positivity rate had been around 5% or higher.

Recent COVID-19 cases have largely been in young Philadelphia residents; Farley said he is closely watching case counts in older people. It is still possible that a spike could come if younger people spread the virus to older residents, he said.

”I’m concerned what’s going to happen when the weather turns cold and respiratory viruses tend to get worse,” Farley said. “So we’re not out of the woods, even if the case counts continue to fall over the next few weeks.”

— Laura McCrystal

3:30 PM - August 6, 2020
3:30 PM - August 6, 2020

Pa. officially recommends school and youth sports be postponed until at least 2021

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is recommending all school and youth sports in Pennsylvania be postponed until at least Jan. 1, 2021, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Steph Chambers / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Gov. Tom Wolf's administration is recommending all school and youth sports in Pennsylvania be postponed until at least Jan. 1, 2021, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Departments of Health and Education released a joint recommendation Thursday afternoon that school and youth sports be postponed until at least Jan. 1, 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement, Gov. Tom Wolf’s office said the recommendation is not an order or mandate, and “school administrators and locally elected school boards should make decisions on sports.”

The recommendation applies to all team and individual school and non-school recreational youth sports, including competitions, intramural play, and scrimmages. Conditioning, drills, and other training activities may continue on an individual basis.

The recommendation does not apply to college or professional sports.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, the governing body overseeing high school sports, held an emergency meeting at 2:30 p.m.

The PIAA later said it was “tremendously disappointment” with Wolf’s recommendation. The PIAA said its board of directors would meet Friday afternoon to review the situation.The organization is expected to release a statement Thursday afternoon.

PIAA leadership had a phone conversation with Wolf’s staff following his press conference on Thursday and requested the governor reconsider his statement, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

”We were not successful,” PIAA associate executive director Melissa Mertz told the newspaper.

— Rob Tornoe

2:50 PM - August 6, 2020
2:50 PM - August 6, 2020

New cases continue to trend downward in Pa.

Pennsylvania reported 807 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, pushing the seven-day average of new cases down to 788, its lowest point since July 14.

The Department of Health said 148,132 coronavirus tests were administered between July 30 and August 5, with 5,496 positive cases — a positive test rate of about 3.7%. Overall, 116,521 Pennsylvania residents have tested positive for coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

At least 7,282 Pennsylvania residents have now died after contracting the coronavirus, with 38 new deaths reported Thursday. Of the state’s deaths, 4,943 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.

— Rob Tornoe

1:54 PM - August 6, 2020
1:54 PM - August 6, 2020

If a contact tracer calls, pick up the phone

Dr. Thomas Farley, Philadelphia Health Commissioner, speak to members of the media during a press conference in Philadelphia, Pa. Monday, July 6, 2020
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Dr. Thomas Farley, Philadelphia Health Commissioner, speak to members of the media during a press conference in Philadelphia, Pa. Monday, July 6, 2020

Philadelphia officials are urging residents to answer the phone if the city’s team of COVID-19 contact tracers reaches out to them.

”As case counts go down contact tracing becomes even more important,” Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said.

Farley said about one-third of residents who tested positive for COVID-19 or had contact with someone who has the virus have not been responsive when contact tracers call them.

Since many people tend not to pick up calls from numbers they do not recognize, Farley said contact tracing calls will most likely begin with the digits 215-218, followed by four more digits that will vary.

— Laura McCrystal

1:45 PM - August 6, 2020
1:45 PM - August 6, 2020

New coronavirus cases continue to decrease in Philly

Corona virus daily life pictures outside Liberty Place at 16th and Chestnut St. in Center City Philadelphia streets on Monday, August 3, 2020.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
Corona virus daily life pictures outside Liberty Place at 16th and Chestnut St. in Center City Philadelphia streets on Monday, August 3, 2020.

New cases of the coronavirus are continuing to decrease in Philadelphia, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Thursday as the city reported 109 new cases of the virus.

Philadelphia has reported slightly more than 100 cases per day in each of the past few days, Farley said — a lower number than the 124 cases per day that the city averaged last week.

The city received more than 3,000 test results Thursday, Farley said, and only 3.6% were positive. In recent weeks, that positivity rate had been around 5% or higher.Farley said he also saw hope in decreasing numbers of new cases in the greater Philadelphia area, statewide, and across the country.

”That’s really good news,” he said. “I can only say now that I hope it continues.”

— Laura McCrystal

1:00 PM - August 6, 2020
1:00 PM - August 6, 2020

Free internet coming for 35,000 Philly families: city, schools, Comcast to spend $17M on digital equity plan

With the start of a school year just weeks away, city officials Thursday announced a plan to provide free internet access for 35,000 low-income families that currently lack it.

Under the plan — which will cost $17 million over two years, paid for with a mixture of philanthropic, school and local CARES Act funding — some households will be wired for free broadband access via Comcast’s Internet Essentials program and other families will receive at no charge wireless hot spots purchased by the city from T-Mobile.

Mayor Jim Kenney said the digital divide in Philadelphia was a problem before COVID-19, but the pandemic has led to a “transformational moment.”

“There is a real urgency to fixing this problem for our children and families and I’m proud that our city has come together,” he said. Kenney said the program will “make a powerful impact on lessening the digital divide.”

— Kristen Graham and Laura McCrystal

12:38 PM - August 6, 2020
12:38 PM - August 6, 2020

No high school sports in Delaware this fall

The Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association board of directors voted Thursday to not conduct any high school sports in Delaware during the fall, according to the News Journal.

The decision puts high school sports in Delaware on hold until at least December.

— Rob Tornoe

12:38 PM - August 6, 2020
12:38 PM - August 6, 2020

Ohio governor tests positive for COVID-19

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced on Thursday he has tested positive for coronavirus.

DeWine is the second governor to test positive for COVID-19. Back in July, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt disclosed he had tested positive for coronavirus during a press conference.

— Rob Tornoe

12:30 PM - August 6, 2020
12:30 PM - August 6, 2020

Teachers union calls on Bucks County to tighten school reopening guidelines

Pennsylvania’s largest teachers union is calling on the Bucks County Health Department to tighten its school reopening guidelines, saying three feet of social distance in classrooms is not enough to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.

While some area school districts are planning to begin the school year virtually, others have proposed bringing students back to classrooms. The Central Bucks School District has asked parents to select from several options — including in-person learning that would space students a minimum of three feet apart, rather than six.

The county’s guidance to schools “is at odds with virtually every generally understood health guidance. Six feet of social distance is now the norm in Pennsylvania,” Rich Askey, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said in a letter to county officials Thursday.

“To recommend anything less in school buildings will put students, teachers, support professionals, and their families at unnecessary risk of contracting COVID-19 and increase the likelihood that they will spread the virus to others.”

County officials said the union was mischaracterizing their guidelines, saying they have set three feet as a minimum if six feet isn’t achievable — rather than as a standard to aim for.

“If 6 feet between kids is guaranteed through a hybrid model or otherwise, do we have PSEA’s unwavering commitment to returning to teach in person on day 1?” Dr. David Damsker, the county’s health director, said in an email Thursday in response to the union’s letter.

In recommending schools provide at least three feet of social distance, Bucks’s health department has pointed to World Health Organization guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called for schools to aim to space students at least six feet apart — a recommendation that has been adopted by Pennsylvania health and education officials.

— Maddie Hanna

11:00 AM - August 6, 2020
11:00 AM - August 6, 2020

Pa. recommends no school sports until 2021, Wolf says

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said the recommendation of the state is for schools not to resume sports until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Anytime we get together for any reason, that’s a problem because it makes it easier for that virus to spread,” Wolf said. “So the guidance from us, the recommendation is that we don’t do any sports until January 1.”

The governor’s office was not immediately available to clarify Wolf’s comments.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, the governing body overseeing high school sports, said last week high school sports could move forward in the fall without parents or spectators in the stands. In recent days, the Philadelphia Catholic League, Inter-Ac League and Suburban One League have announced plans to delay the start of fall sports out of concerns about the further spread of COVID-19.

The PIAA has scheduled an emergency meeting for 2:30 p.m. Thursday, raising the possibility that sports will be shut down through the new year at the earliest.

Garry Cathell, the executive director of the Pennsylvania High School Football Coaches association, said in a statement Wolf’s recommendation was made without giving the PIAA any prior notice.

“If all sports are cancelled, the PSFCA will immediately begin a conversation to have spring football,” Cathell said.

— Rob Tornoe and Phil Anastasia

10:45 AM - August 6, 2020
10:45 AM - August 6, 2020

Pa. officials admit coronavirus testing is ‘below average,’ point to increased demand and shortage of materials

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine during a coronavirus press conference back in May.
Joe Hermitt / AP
Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine during a coronavirus press conference back in May.

Pennsylvania officials say the state is averaging over 22,000 coronavirus test results per day and testing at least 4% of the population each month, but admit that needs to expand to efficiently fight back the spread of the virus.

“According to data from the CDC, Pennsylvania is ninth in the nation in terms of tests completed. We’re somewhat less in terms of per capita,” Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said during a news conference Thursday. Gov. Tom Wolf admitted the state’s testing is “below average” and told reporters “we need to do better.”

Levine said the short-term goal would be to test at least 5% or more Pennsylvanians per month, but a lack of supply in terms of reagents and materials used in state testing labs and hospitals have presented problems in increasing the number of tests.

“We’re trying to source reagents,” Levine said. “That’s really controlled primarily by those companies and the federal government, but we’re trying to source the reagents so we can increase testing within hospitals.”

Pennsylvania has also partnered with Walmart to offer coronavirus testing at least 13 locations throughout the state. Appointments must be made through Quest Diagnostics, and according to Walmart regional health and wellness director Jamie Reilly, the results can take up to 14 days to come back due to increased demand in states suffering large outbreaks.

“Fourteen days … that’s too long,” Levine said. “What we’ve been told by Health and Human Services is they’re working with Quest and LabCorp in their capacity to decrease that wait time.”

— Rob Tornoe

9:30 AM - August 6, 2020
9:30 AM - August 6, 2020

Northern Delaware school district to start school year remotely

Red Clay Consolidated School District — which covers portions of Wilmington, Greenville, and Hockessin, Del. — is the first district in Delaware to announce it will start its school year fully online.

“We have decided to embrace a ‘safety first’ approach to learning this fall,” Superintendent Dorrell Green wrote in an email to parents and staff on Wednesday. Green said students would be learning remotely for at least the first six weeks of school, with the goal of shifting into a hybrid mode of instruction later in the fall. Red Clay’s school year is scheduled to begin Sept. 8.

Gov. John Carney announced on Tuesday schools in the state could proceed with a hybrid approach that combines remote and in-person learning, with an emphasis on getting elementary students back in the classroom if districts can meet safety requirements.

Colonial School District in New Castle County will allow parents of younger students to decide whether to send their children into classrooms or stay hope and opt for remote learning. All students attending William Penn High School will start the year remotely.

— Rob Tornoe

8:40 AM - August 6, 2020
8:40 AM - August 6, 2020

For 20th straight week, more than 1 million Americans filed jobless claims

A man walks past a retail store that is going out of business due to the coronavirus pandemic in Winnetka, Ill., Tuesday, June 23, 2020.
Nam Y. Huh / AP
A man walks past a retail store that is going out of business due to the coronavirus pandemic in Winnetka, Ill., Tuesday, June 23, 2020.

The number of newly filed unemployed insurance claims dropped last week after two straight weeks of rising, but it remains well above historic pre-pandemic levels.

It marked the 20th straight week that more than 1 million Americans filed jobless claims.

A total of 1.19 million people filed new claims last week, down from 1.43 million the week previously. The numbers of new claimants have come down from their peak in March of more than six million but they are still well above the pre-pandemic record of 695,000 from 1982.

Congress continues to wrangle over an extension to the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits that many laid off workers say have helped stabilize their finances — and stave off a deeper crisis from an economy hollowed by evictions, mortgage and credit card defaults, and plunging consumer demand. Those benefits expired last week.

— Washington Post

8:00 AM - August 6, 2020
8:00 AM - August 6, 2020

White House warns about ‘different outbreak,’ family gatherings in ‘yellow’ states like Pa.

White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the Department of Education building.
Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP
White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx speaks during a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the Department of Education building.

The White House coronavirus task force privately warned local officials about a “different outbreak” in several cities and states across the country during a phone call Wednesday obtained by the Center for Public Integrity.

In the recording, task force coordinator Deborah Birx said officials see trouble with community spread in the Sunbelt states, the Central Valley of California, and nine cities — Baltimore, Atlanta, Kansas City, Portland, Omaha, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, and Washington, D.C.

“This outbreak is different from the March, April outbreak in that it’s in both rural and urban areas,” Birx said.

Birx also said leaders in “red” and “yellow” counties — places where infection rates are high — should warn about and potentially stop family gatherings due to the asymptomatic carriers spreading the virus. 17 Pennsylvania counties were listed as “yellow” and Beaver County was listed as “red” in a July 23 White House report obtained by the New York Times but not released publicly.

“If you’re in a red or yellow county, bringing together family members will create, potentially, particularly if indoors, superspreader events,” Birx said. “There is significant asymptomatic spread; particularly if you’re under 30, the majority of individuals may be asymptomatic.”

— Rob Tornoe

7:30 AM - August 6, 2020
7:30 AM - August 6, 2020

Big Ten football players call for better coronavirus safety protocols

The Big Ten logo is displayed on the field before an NCAA college football game between Iowa and Miami of Ohio in Iowa City, Iowa.
Charlie Neibergall / AP
The Big Ten logo is displayed on the field before an NCAA college football game between Iowa and Miami of Ohio in Iowa City, Iowa.

Three hours after the Big Ten Conference announced its football schedules for the 2020 season, players released a letter to the NCAA and the conference expressing their concerns about returning to play.

The letter from College Athlete Unity, an advocacy group of college athletes, was published on the Players’ Tribune and says it expresses “the concerns of over 1,000 Big Ten football players.” It’s unclear how many players were involved in the writing of these proposals. The letter says that players feel the conference’s return-to-play plan “falls short in certain areas.”

The letter comes three days after a group of Pac-12 players threatened to boycott fall practices and games if the conference does not meet demands related to safety, racial justice and compensation. The Big Ten’s letter focuses specifically on health and safety protocols amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

— Washington Post

7:15 AM - August 6, 2020
7:15 AM - August 6, 2020

N.J. officials beg people to stay away from indoor gatherings

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks during a daily press briefing on the current updates of the coronavirus at Trenton War Memorial in Trenton, N.J., on Tuesday, May 26, 2020.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks during a daily press briefing on the current updates of the coronavirus at Trenton War Memorial in Trenton, N.J., on Tuesday, May 26, 2020.

While Pennsylvania and Philadelphia both saw decreases in coronavirus case numbers on Wednesday, the spread of the virus in New Jersey was continuing “too quickly and too widely,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.

The number of cases in New Jersey reported each day and the moving seven-day average number of new cases have fluctuated over the two weeks, more than doubling and then falling slightly since Friday. The transmission rate remains above 1.0, meaning for every person who contracts the coronavirus, at least another person is infected.

“We all need to be in this fight together,” Murphy said. “This is no time for complacency, for selfishness, or for thinking that someone else can wear a face mask but not you. Please do your part.”

Murphy acknowledged that it’s hard to enforce his new ban on gatherings of more than 25 people when a party is held in a private home, but he urged local officials and parents to discourage the behavior. He also said county and local governments were watching for advance notice of parties.

Last week, two lawmakers proposed a bill that would make it a crime for someone to refuse to wear a face mask in stores during the pandemic. Penalties would range up to a $500 fine and 30 days in jail.

Murphy said Wednesday that he agreed with the “spirit” of the legislation but noted that groups like the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey have expressed concern about criminalization and indicated that the details of fairly crafting such a policy could be complex.

— Justine McDaniel and Allison Steele

7:00 AM - August 6, 2020
7:00 AM - August 6, 2020

Thursday morning roundup