10:01 PM - August 14, 2020
10:01 PM - August 14, 2020

COVID-19 is killing over twice as many Black Americans as whites, new report says

Omar Salaam, Business Manager Local 427, back center black shirt, and Leonard Brown, front right green shirt, Business manager of local 403, rally together with a small group of sanitation workers gathered on the steps of the Municipal Services Building on June 17.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Omar Salaam, Business Manager Local 427, back center black shirt, and Leonard Brown, front right green shirt, Business manager of local 403, rally together with a small group of sanitation workers gathered on the steps of the Municipal Services Building on June 17.

Black individuals are nearly three times as likely to contract COVID-19 and twice as likely to die from the virus, compared with white individuals, according to a new report by the National Urban League.

Researchers have struggled to measure with precision the race gaps in COVID-19 because much of the early data reported by hospitals did not include information about patients’ race — as of early August, Pennsylvania has reported race data for about half of its cases.

But the Urban League’s State of Black America report adds to a growing body of research that has found the virus is disproportionately affecting Black and Latino communities — a trend that is largely reflective of deeper health, economic, and social inequality.

In an introduction to the report, Urban League CEO Marc H. Morial called racism “the pandemic within the pandemic.”

“The American people are seeing — many for the first time — the stark and deadly results of racism on an enormous scale,” Morial wrote, referring to the intersection of the pandemic and widespread demonstrations against police brutality after the death of George Floyd.

— Sarah Gantz

4:50 PM - August 14, 2020
4:50 PM - August 14, 2020

North Wildwood bar owner charged with violating order on social distancing

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy gestures as he speaks about reopening the state to phase 2 during the coronavirus briefing in Trenton, N.J. Monday, June 15, 2020.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy gestures as he speaks about reopening the state to phase 2 during the coronavirus briefing in Trenton, N.J. Monday, June 15, 2020.

Police in North Wildwood charged the owner of Flip Flopz Beach Bar and Grill with violating Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order on social distancing.

Joseph Mahoney Jr., 34, of Mount Laurel, was charged with a disorderly persons offense in violation of the executive order and was served with a summons, police said.

Just after 12:30 a.m. Sunday, North Wildwood police said they witnessed large numbers of patrons crowded around the upstairs poolside bar known as “Tiki Topz.”

The police had received prior complaints about the bar and had warned management about violating the executive order.

— Robert Moran

4:17 PM - August 14, 2020
4:17 PM - August 14, 2020

PIAA vows to continue push for fall sports after meeting with staff of Gov. Wolf administration

Central Bucks West High's Nick Olear (#14) reaches for the fumbled football by Coatesville High during the first-quarter in the District One Class 6A football quarterfinals on Friday, November 8, 2019.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Central Bucks West High's Nick Olear (#14) reaches for the fumbled football by Coatesville High during the first-quarter in the District One Class 6A football quarterfinals on Friday, November 8, 2019.

PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi said Friday that the organization would continue to push forward with the possibility of staging fall sports for Pennsylvania high school athletes.

Lombardi’s comments came in a statement from PIAA that outlined the topics of a meeting Friday afternoon between PIAA officials and representatives of Gov. Wolf’s administration.

The statement indicated that PIAA still hopes to stage fall sports while noting that the “Governor’s staff repeatedly indicated this is a local school decision.”

PIAA said that in the meeting, “We discussed many different scenarios including schools’ health and sports’ safety strategies, local liability protection and options for moving ahead with fall sports.”

— Phil Anastasia

4:08 PM - August 14, 2020
4:08 PM - August 14, 2020

Pennsylvania to voters: Don’t panic about the mail

A voter prepares to drop off their ballot into a ballot drop box at the south portal of City Hall on Thursday, May 28, 2020.
Yong Kim / File Photograph
A voter prepares to drop off their ballot into a ballot drop box at the south portal of City Hall on Thursday, May 28, 2020.

Pennsylvania’s top elections official on Friday expressed “great confidence” in the state’s vote-by-mail system, despite new fears about the 2020 election sparked by the disclosure of a warning from the U.S. Postal Service that some mail ballots might not be delivered on time.

Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said her Department of State and county elections officials “are working day and night to make sure that every eligible Pennsylvanian’s vote is counted in November, no matter whether they vote by mail or they vote in person.”

Her comments, in a conference call with reporters, came after the department on Thursday asked the state Supreme Court to extend the deadline for mail ballots to be returned to local elections officials. She said the department made that request “so that every eligible voter can have confidence that their vote will be cast and counted on time.”

Boockvar encouraged voters to apply for mail ballots early and to return them as soon as possible, either by mail or in person at their county election offices.

Jonathan Tamari, Ellie Rushing, and Jonathan Lai

3:20 PM - August 14, 2020
3:20 PM - August 14, 2020

Murphy says politicization of Postal Service is ‘beyond repugnant’

The United States Postal Service South Jersey Processing and Distribution Center in Bellmawr, N.J. on August 8, 2020.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
The United States Postal Service South Jersey Processing and Distribution Center in Bellmawr, N.J. on August 8, 2020.

New Jersey’s move to hold the general election largely by mail comes after the Postal Service warned that some mail ballots in Pennsylvania might not be delivered on time due to the state’s deadlines, which has prompted election officials to seek an extension from the state’s Supreme Court to prevent voters from being disenfranchised.

President Donald Trump has said he is against sending additional funding to the postal service because of his opposition to mail-in voting.

”The Postal Service and its necessary funding is being turned into a political football by those who simply don’t believe in expanding ballot access,” Murphy said Friday at his regular coronavirus briefing. “We will not let these political issues disenfranchise voters, or suppress anyone’s right to vote.”

Murphy called the politicization of the Postal Service “beyond repugnant,” noting that many seniors rely on mail service to receive medication.

”Let’s not play with fire here,” he said.

The July primary, in which mail-in ballots were overwhelmingly used in conjunction with in-person voting, was the second-highest state primary turnout in the state’s history. Officials said that it went smoothly overall.

”Results here and across the nation show that making it easier to vote does not favor any one political party, but it does favor democracy,” Murphy said. “No voter should fear for the sanctity of their ballot…This mattered before the pandemic, and it has even greater urgency now.”

Secretary of State Tahesha Way urged voters to stay on top of the process, and to inform state officials if they have not received ballots by mid-October.

— Allison Steele

3:14 PM - August 14, 2020
3:14 PM - August 14, 2020

What you should know about voting in New Jersey’s general election

  • Mainly by mail: New Jersey’s November election will be primarily vote-by-mail, Gov. Phil Murphy announced, meaning that all active registered voters will receive ballots with prepaid postage.
  • Returning ballots: The ballots, which will be sent to homes in early October, can be mailed or dropped in ballot boxes. There will be 10 ballot drop boxes in each county, double the number that were available during the primary. Voters can also hand them to poll workers on election day, and each municipality will have one poll location open.
  • Voting in person: Voters who choose to cast their vote in-person will do so using provisional ballots, Murphy said. All individuals with disabilities will have access to ADA-conforming voting machines. The state will provide PPE to poll workers, state officials said.
  • Postmarks: New Jersey will also allow ballots to be counted if they’re postmarked by election day and received for up to 7 days after polls close.

New Jersey residents can check their voter-registration status at https://voter.svrs.nj.gov/registration-check.

— Allison Steele

2:40 PM - August 14, 2020
2:40 PM - August 14, 2020

Wolf releases funds to rogue Pa. county that defied coronavirus orders

An old-style street sign marks the intersection of S. 8th and Cumberland streets in Lebanon, Pa.’s historic business district. Nearly 40 percent of the county’s known coronavirus cases trace back to a single Lebanon zip code – 17046.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
An old-style street sign marks the intersection of S. 8th and Cumberland streets in Lebanon, Pa.’s historic business district. Nearly 40 percent of the county’s known coronavirus cases trace back to a single Lebanon zip code – 17046.

Pennsylvania announced it will provide $12.8 million in aid to businesses and non-profits in Lebanon County, which has sued Gov. Tom Wolf over his refusal to release funds allocated as part of the federal CARES Act.

Last month, Wolf followed through on a threat to pull nearly $13 million in federal funding from Lebanon County, where local leaders voted to lift pandemic restrictions in defiance of the state. Wolf said he pulled the funding because the county’s Republican-controlled Board of Commissioners “haven’t followed the rules.”

“Throughout the process, I have remained committed to helping the people of Lebanon County and we have found a solution to directly inject nearly $13 million into the community,” Wolf said in a statement. “My hope is the money will help businesses to succeed and pay workers and allow important local organizations to provide vital services that people need.”

As part of the agreement announced Friday, Lebanon County will launch a $2.8 million camping to promote the importance of wearing masks, Wolf said.

“I’m pleased that Lebanon County will launch a campaign to encourage the use of face masks,” Wolf said. “Mask-wearing is important to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to protect people, schools and businesses. It’s a simple and easy way for all of us to fight this virus and control case counts in Lebanon County and across the state.”

— Rob Tornoe

1:15 PM - August 14, 2020
1:15 PM - August 14, 2020

Philly reports 147 new cases, six additional deaths

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, seen here back in March, said Thursday that the number of new cases reported this week have been higher than in the previous week.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, seen here back in March, said Thursday that the number of new cases reported this week have been higher than in the previous week.

Philadelphia reported 147 new cases of the coronavirus Friday, bringing the total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in city residents to more than 32,000.

While new cases of the coronavirus had been decreasing, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Thursday that the number of new cases reported this week have been higher than in the previous week. Farley said city health officials would watch the numbers closely to determine whether cases are again increasing.

The city has reported more than 140 cases per day since Tuesday. The daily cases last week were slightly more than 100 per day.

The city also reported six additional deaths Friday. A total of 1,715 Philadelphia residents have now died of COVID-19.

— Laura McCrystal

12:35 PM - August 14, 2020
12:35 PM - August 14, 2020

Wolf says Trump’s relief plan would prevent nearly 30,000 from receiving additional unemployment benefits

Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf at a press conference last month.
Commonwealth Media Services
Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf at a press conference last month.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday said President Donald Trump’s new coronavirus relief plan would prevent nearly 30,000 Pennsylvanians from receiving additional unemployment benefits due to eligibility requirements. The governor on Thursday sent a letter to Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation reiterating his support for a continuation of the extra $600 unemployment benefit which expired last month.

”The President’s convoluted and temporary idea will leave families waiting weeks just to get less,” Wolf said in a statement. “As I have said before, the extra $600 per week is vital for families to get by and the federal government should extend it. The additional unemployment benefit was helping many working families to pay their bills and put food on the table.”

The President’s plan would provide some unemployed individuals with an extra $400 a week, $100 of which would come from the states and $300 of which would come from FEMA funds that are intended for storm disaster relief, Wolf said. But the states couldn’t afford to contribute, Wolf said, and the FEMA funds will run out by fall, making the plan a short-term fix.

In addition, only people receiving $100 or more in weekly benefits are eligible under the President’s plan, which Wolf said would exclude about 30,000 Pennsylvanians.

— Erin McCarthy

11:58 AM - August 14, 2020
11:58 AM - August 14, 2020

Pa. seeing an uptick in cases again, but Wolf points to decline in positivity rate

Pennsylvania reported 829 new coronavirus cases on Friday. The commonwealth is now averaging over 800 new cases a day over the past seven days, according to an Inquirer analysis, increasing slightly over the past few days.

Gov. Tom Wolf said that while the number of new cases has been on the rise again, the percentage of positive tests decreased for the second straight week.

“This reflects the willingness of Pennsylvanians to take steps to protect themselves and their neighbors,” Wolf wrote on Twitter.

The Department of Health said 165,694 coronavirus tests were administered between Aug. 7 and Aug. 13, with 5,600 positive cases — a positive test rate slightly less than 3.4%. Overall, 122,950 Pennsylvania residents have tested positive for coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.

At least 7,445 Pennsylvania residents have now died after contracting the coronavirus, with 36 new deaths reported on Friday. Of the state’s deaths, 5,056 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.

— Rob Tornoe

11:37 AM - August 14, 2020
11:37 AM - August 14, 2020

Canada-U.S. border closure extended, Canadian public safety minister announces

The border between the United States and Canada will remain closed to non-essential traffic until at least Sept. 21, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair announced Friday morning.

The United States, Canada, and Mexico had agreed to keep their shared borders closed until late August due to the coronavirus pandemic.

— Rob Tornoe

11:20 AM - August 14, 2020
11:20 AM - August 14, 2020

Famed composer Andrew Lloyd Webber among volunteers testing coronavirus vaccine

Famed Broadway composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is among the volunteers taking part in Oxford University’s coronavirus vaccine trial. Webber shared a photo of himself receiving an injection of the vaccine on his Facebook page Thursday.

“I’ll do anything to get theatres large and small open again and actors and musicians back to work.”

Just completed the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine trial. I’ll do anything to get theatres large and small open again and actors...

Posted by Andrew Lloyd Webber on Thursday, August 13, 2020

— Rob Tornoe

9:55 AM - August 14, 2020
9:55 AM - August 14, 2020

New Jersey has better coronavirus numbers than most states. So why can’t schools reopen in person?

Olivia Chan's father helps her with a new mask she received during a graduation ceremony for her Pre-K class in front of Bradford School in Jersey City, N.J.
Seth Wenig / AP
Olivia Chan's father helps her with a new mask she received during a graduation ceremony for her Pre-K class in front of Bradford School in Jersey City, N.J.

During an interview on CNN Friday morning, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was pressed on why the state is moving to allow schools to reopen remotely despite coronavirus metrics more favorable than most other states.

As host John Bermann noted, New Jersey’s positivity rate of 2% puts it in the “green zone” for school reopening, according to guidelines outlined on Thursday by Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The state is also at the lower end of the “yellow zone” in terms of the number of cases per 100,000 people.

“If you can’t do it in New Jersey, given where you are — which is in the low end of cases right now — how can we open schools anywhere?” Bermann asked.

Here’s Murphy’s response:

Two comments. One is we’ve gone through hell to get to where we are… The last thing I want to do, or any of us want to do, is to go back through hell again.
Secondly, there’s no question the overwhelming richness of the in-person educational experience… While we can give districts flexibility, the objective is clear — in-person education safely, responsibly, and let’s not forget equitably. Not every family’s circumstances are the same. Not every family has a range of choices. And we’ve got to keep that in mind in every step.

— Rob Tornoe

9:40 AM - August 14, 2020
9:40 AM - August 14, 2020

Pa. issues recommendations to schools about what to do when students or teachers test positive

Rows of school buses are parked at their terminal in Zelienople, Pa.
Keith Srakocic / AP
Rows of school buses are parked at their terminal in Zelienople, Pa.

Pennsylvania’s Education and Health departments have provided school administrators with recommended procedures about how to respond when students or employees with confirmed coronavirus cases have been on school property

In areas with low spread and just one case inside a school building over a 14-day period, the advice is to keep schools open and clean areas where the infected person has been and get public health agency assistance tracking their contacts.

With a few more cases over the two-week period and moderate infection spread in the county, schools are advised to clean, trace contacts and close for five to seven days.

Schools that get five or more cases should close down for two weeks and the entire building should be cleaned, the Education and Health departments suggested.

The guidance says shutting down facilities “allows public health staff the necessary time to complete case investigations and contact tracing, and to provide schools with other appropriate public health advice like cleaning and disinfecting.”

In areas where COVID-19 is considered to be at the “substantial” level of community spread, the agencies say schools should shut their doors and operate with a “full remote learning model.”

— Associated Press

8:00 AM - August 14, 2020
8:00 AM - August 14, 2020

New Jersey’s election will be held mostly by mail, Gov. Murphy says

Ashley Power of Burlington County, New Jersey votes at the ballot dropbox set up outside the Medford Twp Public Safety building at 91 Union St. Medford, NJ on election day, July 7, 2020.
Alejandro Alvarez / File Photograph
Ashley Power of Burlington County, New Jersey votes at the ballot dropbox set up outside the Medford Twp Public Safety building at 91 Union St. Medford, NJ on election day, July 7, 2020.

New Jersey’s election in November will be mostly mail-in due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy announced on CNN Friday morning.

Murphy said every active registered voter in the state will be mailed a ballot, which they can either mail back or drop off in secure drop boxes across the state. A limited number of polling places will also be open to voters on election day.

Murphy said there were small problems that occurred during a local May election in Patterson, where four men — including a city councilman — have been charged with fraud. According to the Washington Post, 19% of ballots cast in that race were disqualified. But overall, Murphy said, the hybrid approach with an emphasis on mail-in ballots was successful during the state’s primary election in July.

“Overwhelmingly, this was successful,” Murphy said. “You never can say you bat 1.000, but I’m pretty sure that we have a higher probability of being struck by lightning than we do uncovering voter fraud.”

New Jersey’s move comes after the Postal Service warned that some mail ballots in Pennsylvania might not be delivered on time due to the state’s deadlines, which has prompted election officials to seek an extension from the state’s Supreme Court to prevent voters from being disenfranchised.

Murphy said the state saw evidence of mail slowdowns beginning in March, with many postal workers sidelined when the pandemic was at its peak in the state. But he said his administration expects the Postal Service to handle the increase in mail-in ballots.

“We’ll stay on them hard, as we have been,” Murphy said. “And it’s in everyone’s interest that it function as well as possible.”

President Donald Trump, who has repeated false attacks on mail voting, acknowledged on Thursday he is opposed to giving the Postal Service funding to help with the delivery of ballots because he thinks it will hurt his re-election changes. Despite those attacks, both the president and First Lady Melania Trump have requested mail-in ballots for Florida’s primary election next week, according to CNN.

New Jersey residents can check their voter-registration status at https://voter.svrs.nj.gov/registration-check.

— Rob Tornoe

7:40 AM - August 14, 2020
7:40 AM - August 14, 2020

Pa. officials warn of community spread in Philly, Delco as new cases begin to tick up again

Despite overall progress in lowering the number of new coronavirus cases, “significant” community spread remains in Pennsylvania, including in Philadelphia, Delaware, and Allegheny Counties, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Thursday.

The nearly 1,000 additional cases reported by the state Thursday was “increased from what we’ve had over the last two weeks,” Levine said, with “no particular data dump that’s responsible.”

Pennsylvania officials on Thursday also defended their recommendation to halt high school sports, saying it was based on evidence from scientists and experts and on the same factors that have caused college athletic conferences such as the Big 10 to call off their fall seasons.

Levine said the move was preemptive: “Kids aren’t back at school, and they’re not in school sports, so I can’t have the data about [outbreaks] until it would happen.”

And, she added, “The idea that children are somehow immune from this disease is untrue. That they can’t have serious side effects from this disease is untrue,” she said. “Children don’t live in a vacuum. They come back to their parents, who are adults who could get very sick. And then they have contact with other family members.”

— Justine McDaniel, Erin McCarthy, and Laura McCrystal

7:20 AM - August 14, 2020
7:20 AM - August 14, 2020

Philly neighborhood renting trucks to handle recycling pickup delays

A City of Philadelphia Sanitation worker tosses trash into a trash truck along the 1700 block of Diamond Street near the Temple University campus on Monday, August 3, 2020.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
A City of Philadelphia Sanitation worker tosses trash into a trash truck along the 1700 block of Diamond Street near the Temple University campus on Monday, August 3, 2020.

Philadelphia sanitation crews dedicated Monday to picking up recycling that hadn’t been collected for weeks, and city officials said this week that they are mostly caught up.

But that’s not the case in every neighborhood. In parts of South Philadelphia, recycling hasn’t been collected for four weeks. So the West Passyunk Neighbors Association is taking matters into its own hands. The group will rent two trucks from Home Depot this weekend to get some of that recycling to one of the city’s sanitation centers.

James Gitto, president of the association, said volunteers will pick up recycling for residents who are elderly, disabled, or don’t have their own cars.

“Our goal is not to clean up the neighborhood in any kind of large-scale way,” he said. “We’re really focused on people who are not able to take care of the trash.”

Sanitation crews have struggled to keep up with trash and recycling pickup during the coronavirus pandemic. The city has blamed staffing shortages from workers calling out sick and an increased volume of waste because residents are staying home. Recent weather, including Tropical Storm Isaias, has caused further slowdowns.

— Laura McCrystal

7:00 AM - August 14, 2020
7:00 AM - August 14, 2020

Friday morning roundup