Moderna launches pivotal coronavirus vaccine trial; officials expect results by November
As Moderna Inc.‘s experimental coronavirus vaccine sprinted into the final phase of human testing on Monday, company and U.S. officials described rosy prospects for winning regulatory approval by the end of the year and producing hundreds of millions of doses in 2021.
Under “Operation Warp Speed,” the U.S. government is helping to underwrite the development and production of several promising vaccine candidates. But Moderna is the first to launch the pivotal 30,000-subject study required to assess safety and effectiveness by comparing the immunization to a placebo.
Even if the optimistic timetable is realistic — and some experts are skeptical — Moderna’s novel vaccine is not expected, or required, to be highly effective at preventing COVID-19. To win the U. S Food and Drug Administration’s blessing, it has to be at least 50% effective — on a par with the seasonal flu vaccine. The trial is aiming for 60%.
Seven SEPTA employees — Ted Nixon, Michael Holt, Phil Williams, Yolanda Woodberry, Terrance Burton, Michael Hill, and Steve McFadden — have died of coronavirus complications. The authority has had more than 300 confirmed employee coronavirus cases, and about 240 people have since returned to work. The authority has about 9,500 workers.
Philly is stepping up enforcement of coronavirus rules for outdoor dining
At the Rhawnhurst Cafe in Northeast Philadelphia, city inspectors found 53 people, including a DJ, enjoying prohibited indoor dining as employees and customers mingled without masks.
Employees and customers also weren’t wearing masks at the Black Taxi in Fairmount, according to an inspection report, and there was a crowd at the takeout window.
And at Golf & Social on Delaware Avenue, inspectors found the staff was not enforcing social distancing or limiting the number of people inside.
The three restaurants were among seven establishments that Philadelphia Health Department inspectors shut down earlier this month as it enforced coronavirus regulations. All three have since been inspected again and permitted to reopen. And they offer insight into the challenges city officials face as they attempt to limit the spread of the virus while allowing outdoor dining and other business activities to resume.
Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said last week that many restaurants are following guidelines, and that the city only issued seven orders to cease operations out of a few thousand inspections. But he urged owners and residents to take the guidelines seriously, reminding them that tables must be spaced so diners themselves are seated six feet apart — as opposed to placing the tables six feet apart and leaving chairs closer together.
Philly unveils racial equity plan for fighting COVID-19
In response to glaring race disparities in COVID-19 cases, the Philadelphia Department of Health plan to add more test sites, improve access to food and housing for individuals who need to quarantine after testing positive, and make essential workers more aware of their rights.
The findings in Philadelphia echo national data that suggest Black and Latino individuals are at greater risk of contracting the virus because they hold a disproportionate number of “essential worker” jobs. What’s more, higher rates of underlying health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, put minority patients at greater risk of developing severe complications from COVID-19. A few highlights from the health department’s plan:
Improve access to testing: Increase number of testing sites from 56 to 75, and work with Federally Qualified Health Centers, Black Doctors’ Consortium, other community partners to focus on expanding testing in communities of color.
Improve COVID-19 data: Include race, ethnicity, and age data in daily COVID-19 updated posted at phila.gov/covid. Public health analysts say the data is essential for narrowing race gaps in COVID-19.
Expand contact tracing: Philadelphia continues to add more contact tracers and had 114 as of July 3. Hiring efforts will emphasize racial and ethnic diversity in an effort to establish greater trust in communities of color and better represent city residents who are contracting the virus. About half of the 114 current tracers are Black, as are 43% of tracing program managers.
Protections for essential workers: New marketing campaign aims to inform workers of their rights (businesses provide masks to workers and install shields at registers) and workplace requirements (capacity limits), and encourages people to report violations.
Minimize community spread: More messaging about the importance of face coverings; greater collaboration with congregate settings, such as churches, for infection control; more housing for high-risk individuals experiencing homelessness.
Rittenhouse Hotel reports increased cleaning for COVID-19 after outbreak with Marlins players
The Rittenhouse Hotel — where it appears that some of the Miami Marlins are staying after more than a dozen players and coaches tested positive for the coronavirus — will continue to implement increased cleaning and sanitation measures, the hotel said in a statement Monday.
Though “the Rittenhouse does not comment on guests or their health,” the statement said, the hotel continues to participate in Hersha Hospitality Management’s “Rest Assured Program,” which outlines its cleaning protocol, including more frequent sanitation of the hotel’s public spaces, disinfection of “high-touch areas” like elevator buttons and counters, and cleaning techniques using UV light technology and air filtration.
Residents of the building’s condo unit — which is physically separated from the hotel — have private elevator access separate from the hotel’s, the statement said.
An email from the condo residents’ organization obtained by the Inquirer also reassured its residents that the ventilation systems within the condominium units are not shared with the hotel
Cheltenham schools could go all-virtual in September
Cheltenham School District students will begin school fully remotely in September if its school board signs off, the superintendent announced Monday, citing an “alarming increase in cases in Pennsylvania and across the country.”
Wagner Marseille, schools chief of the district of about 4,000 students, said in a note to the community that he could “live with the recommendation to open in a fully virtual model. I can’t live with returning our students and staff too soon and risking jeopardizing their lives.”
Though Montgomery County’s infection rate is currently below 5%, neighboring counties are higher, “making COVID-19 related instruction disruption a matter of ‘when,’ not ‘if.’”
The 100% digital start to the school year may be temporary.
Marseille said Cheltenham could re-open in a hybrid in-person and virtual instruction model or fully face-to-face “depending on the mitigation of COVID-19.”
Marseille said he did not make the recommendation lightly, “and I understand the significant challenges many of you face because of it” with childcare, socialization and managing virtual instruction.
The Cheltenham school board is scheduled to consider the reopening plan Aug. 3.
N.J. officials urge young people to take more caution when socializing
In the wake of a party on Long Beach Island that infected 35 attendees with COVID-19, New Jersey state officials implored young adults to take more caution when socializing with friends.
”If you’re going to have a group over, gather in your backyard. Wear face coverings. Don’t be on top of each other,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. “It’s not that you can’t gather … You’re playing with fire if you gather indoors without face coverings, without social distancing. There’s no good that will come from this.”
New Jersey’s transmission rate is back up to just over 1, Murphy said, though officials last week said that testing delays were affecting the numbers. Hospitalizations are down.
In recent days, authorities have responded to several reports of large gatherings, including a 700-person house party that was held at an Airbnb in Jackson. It took five hours for police to break up the crowd, and Col. Patrick J. Callahan of the state police said he believed people were gravitating to indoor house parties because bars remain closed.
”Although they don’t experience what we would call severe illness as often, young people still can transmit COVID-19 to people they love,” Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said. “We need them to take this public health threat seriously.”
Attend a church conference in Delaware recently? Get tested, the state says.
The Delaware Division of Public Health is urging anyone who recently attended a church conference in Dover to get tested for coronavirus.
Three members of the Destiny Christian Church in Dover tested positive for COVID-19, two of whom attended recent services, the health department said in a statement. The church held two three-day conferences recently — one over the weekend, and one from July 17 to July 19. The conferences drew a few hundred people, according to officials.
“Knowing your COVID-19 status is one of the most important things you can do to prevent spread of the virus,” said Karyl Rattay, the director of the Division of Public Health. “Based on the timing of when the positive individuals received their test results, their last exposures to others in the congregation, and the large weekend events, we strongly recommend anyone who has been at this church over the last two to three weeks get tested.”
Philadelphia announced 500 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Monday, representing the total number of new cases reported since Friday.
Officials said the high number of new cases was “at least partially” due to expanded testing and the test positivity rate remained steady at about 5%.
Last week, officials warned that new cases of the coronavirus in Philadelphia residents were rising, with an average of about 139 cases per day.
The city announced two additional deaths due to the coronavirus. A total of 1,678 Philadelphia residents have now died of COVID-19, and the city has reported a total of 29,803 confirmed cases of the virus.
Marlins players appear to be quarantined in Rittenhouse Hotel in Center City
More than a dozen Miami Marlins players and coaches have tested positive for the coronavirus and are expected to quarantine in Philadelphia, and it appears at least some of the team remains holed up in the Rittenhouse Hotel in Center City.
The hotel didn’t confirm that it is where some Marlins players are isolating following their teammates’ positive test results, but Rittenhouse Condominium Owners Association told residents in an email obtained by the Inquirer that 13 hotel guests “who are a part of a professional sports team” tested positive for COVID-19. The condominiums and the hotel are physically separated at the Rittenhouse.
The message relayed to residents said the group was being tested daily while on the property and that all the individuals who tested positive are no longer in the hotel.
The remaining “group members,” the message said, are being tested today and expect results within a few hours. “The group” also offered to test all hotel employees.
The message also reassured condominium residents that the ventilation systems within those units are not shared with the hotel. It also stated the hotel said “they are reviewing whether to accommodate future sports teams.”
City officials have said they are working with both the Marlins and the Phillies organizations to mitigate further spread.
City working with Phillies, Marlins to minimize risk of additional spread in Philadelphia
The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has been working closely with both the Phillies and Marlins to minimize the risk of additional spread, agency spokesperson James Garrow said. The Marlins are helping to identify and notify all people who may have been exposed to the infected players so they can take proper precautions.
Garrow issued a statement from the department as follows:
We support the decision by the Marlins to shelter in Philadelphia in response to the positive tests. Members of the Marlins organization who have tested positive are in isolation in the team hotel, which is taking all of the recommended precautions to protect staff, including no-touch food delivery. We are in consultation with the Phillies organization to ensure that they are following MLB safety and testing protocols with players and staff. Per those protocols, the Phillies have been in frequent contact with the Health Department providing updates on both the Phillies and Marlins staffs and teams. The Marlins are conducting contact tracing as is described in the MLB protocol and have also been in contact with the Health Department.
The risk to others outside the hotel and ballpark is "extremely low," the statement continued.
"As the pandemic continues to infect more than a hundred Philadelphians every day, we recommend that people maintain at least six feet of distance from others, wear masks, and wash their hands frequently," the health department said.
Asked about the status of the remaining baseball season, Garrow said the agency had no comment.
Arthur Caplan, a prominent medical ethicist at NYU School of Medicine, tweeted that the Marlins episode suggests that major-league sports cannot proceed safely unless players are isolated in a bubble, like the NBA is doing in Florida:
Pennsylvania reported 839 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday, continuing a surge of new cases that began in the middle of June. The commonwealth is now averaging more than 930 new cases a day over the past seven days, more than double the 400 a day it was averaging around the middle of June
Younger people continue to drive up Pennsylvania’s case counts. In the southeastern part of the state, 19% of all new cases in July have been among people 19 to 24 years old, compared to just 5% in April.
The Department of Health said 159,495 coronavirus tests were administered between July 20 and July 26, with 6,398 positive cases — a positive test rate of about 4%.
At least 7,122 Pennsylvania residents have now died after contracting coronavirus, with 4 new deaths reported Monday Of the state’s deaths, 4,851 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.
About 25 Avalon lifeguards quarantining after at least one tests positive following a party, beach patrol chief says
About 25 members of Avalon’s beach patrol have been quarantining after a party in a house several guards shared in Stone Harbor led to at least one testing positive for the coronavirus, Capt. Murray Wolf said Monday.
Two guards experienced symptoms, said Matt Wolf, another beach patrol official and Murray Wolf’s son. Neither became seriously ill, he said.
“We’ve had a couple that have been symptomatic but many are asymptomatic,” he said. “Nobody’s been seriously ill. We haven’t traced anything back to activities outside.”
In Ocean City, meanwhile, spokesperson Doug Bergen said one guard has tested positive, and two others are out as a precaution.
All the Avalon guards who had come into contact with those testing positive were put on a 14-day quarantine, Capt. Wolf said, prompting Avalon to hire 10 more to fill in on staffing.
Wolf said the borough had taken precautions with its beach patrol, separating them on lifeguard stands and requiring masks, but that after hours were a different story.
“We don’t follow them at night,” Wolf said. “There was one party we can track everything to it.”
On Friday, officials in Harvey Cedars and Surf City said about two dozen members of the beach patrols who had been at a house party together had tested positive and were quarantining at home.
Phillies-Yankees game tonight postponed following coronavirus outbreak
Tonight’s game between the Phillies and New York Yankees at Citizens Bank Park has been postponed following a coronavirus outbreak suffered by the Miami Marlins, according to sources.
The Marlins remain in Philadelphia, quarantined in a hotel after postponing their home opener tonight against the the Baltimore Orioles. More than a dozen Marlins players and coaches have tested positive for COVID-19, with seven players and two coaches testing positive Sunday, according to ESPN.
“We have conducted another round of testing for our players and staff, and our team will all remain in Philadelphia pending the results of those tests, which we expect later today,” Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said in a statement Monday.
Major League Baseball has called a meeting today to discuss the outbreak, and how to move forward.
Planet Fitness, which has dozens of locations across the region, said its new mask policy, effective Saturday Aug. 1, will help prevent outbreaks at their facilities.
“Wearing a mask in public is proven to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, and we’re committed to doing everything in our power to ensure that you can gym safely and confidently,” Planet Fitness said Monday in a statement, which was emailed to members and posted on its website. “This added safety precaution also helps us to remain open to serve you and keep you healthy and moving.”
If a member forgets their mask, gym staff can provide one, the company said. If someone is unable to wear a mask for medical reasons, Planet Fitness said they should reach out to their local club and freeze their membership until masks are no longer required.
Even in other states where people aren’t required to wear masks in public, masks will be required at Planet Fitness locations there. “Only stricter local requirements will be enforced above and beyond our mask policy,” the company said.
South Jersey gym owners arrested for violating coronavirus restrictions
The owners of Atilis Gym were arrested Monday morning, and the entrance to the gym was boarded up, putting a temporary end to the months-long standoff between the defiant small business and the state of New Jersey.
Ian Smith, 33 and Frank Trumbetti, 51, co-owners of the Bellmawr gym that was operating against the state’s coronavirus closure orders, were arrested by the Camden County Sheriff’s office around 5 a.m. and taken to the Bellmawr Police Department, Trumbetti said. The charges are not yet known, as Trumbetti said the police could not find the charges in their system while they were at the station.
Smith and Trumbetti were charged with fourth-degree contempt, obstruction, and violation of a Disaster Control Act, both disorderly persons summons, the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office said.
The Camden County Sheriff’s office arrived around 5 a.m. to arrest the owners when they continued to operate their business after a judge issued a contempt order against them on Friday.The two refused to leave the gym when asked, leading to the charges, the prosecutor’s office said in a press release.
Trump’s national security adviser tests positive for coronavirus
President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien has tested positive for the coronavirus — making him the highest-ranking official to test positive so far.
The White House confirmed that O’Brien has mild symptoms and “has been self-isolating and working from a secure location off site,” adding that: “There is no risk of exposure to the President or the Vice President” and that the “work of the National Security Council continues uninterrupted.”
A personal valet to the president and the vice president’s press secretary previously tested positive for the virus, which has now infected more than 4 million people nationwide.
Senior White House staff and anyone who comes into close contact with the president and vice president are tested for the virus every day.
More than a dozen Marlins players and coaches have tested positive for COVID-19, with eight players and two coaches testing positive Sunday, according to ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan.
Eight more players and two coaches with the Miami Marlins have tested positive for COVID-19, as an outbreak has spread throughout their clubhouse and brought the total of cases in recent days to at least 14, sources familiar with the situation tell me and @JesseRogersESPN.
The annual competition, which dates back to 1929, features beach patrols from Brigantine to Cape May Point facing off in events featuring swimming, rowing, paddleboarding and the surf dash. The event is run by the South Jersey Lifeguard Chiefs’ Association, which oversees lifeguarding in 15 patrols along the Shore.
“All the (beach patrol) chiefs got together on Zoom, and we decided it was wisest to cancel everything for the year, just to be cautious,” Sandy Bosacco, the president of the association, told the newspaper. “The safety of the competitors and spectators is what’s important. It was a tough decision. The South Jersey Championships might be the oldest lifeguard event in the country. But there are hundreds and sometimes thousands of people who come to lifeguard races.”
Also canceled are several August events, such as the Margate World War II Memorial Lifeguard Races, the Bill Howarth Women’s Lifeguard Invitational and the John T. Goudy Memorial Rescue Races, according to the Press of Atlantic City.
Murphy: We’re not seeing a lot of spread from people going to beaches, parks
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said on CNN Monday morning that he continues to believe beaches are safe, and that recent spikes, including two dozen lifeguards on Long Beach Island, have been traced to indoor parties.
“The evidence we have is beaches, parks, the peaceful protests outdoors, folks have handled themselves really well. and we don’t see a whole lot of spread from any of that activity,” Murphy said, speaking from his home in Middletown, where a recent house party led to 20 teenagers testing positive.
"Apparently, there was a party where a bunch of lifeguards in Long Beach Island had attended," he said. "We are seeing it indoors, lack of ventilation not wearing masks. Mostly young people. We are seeing the virus flare up there, and that's a concern for us."
He said New Jersey continues to pause on additional openings like indoor dining and gyms. "The evidence is overwhelming that the virus is a lot more lethal indoors, particularly when you're sedentary, lack of ventilation, taking your mask off by definition to eat or drink," he said.
“We also saw what was happening in other states where the virus is raging, most of that from indoor activity. Our restaurants are getting crushed but we didn’t think we were there yet in terms of doing it responsibly.”
He said contact tracers would not be asking about activities unrelated to coronavirus spread. Some of the Middletown teenagers had initially been reluctant to talk to contract tracers, which Murphy said was apparently because they had been drinking at the party underage. "I think we've cracked through that," he said.
As for the stimulus bill proposed by Republicans not including aid to states, Murphy warned that layoffs of firefighters, teachers, EMS workers, and others “at the front lines,” were coming, “at our darkest hour of need.”
“It’s completely irresponsible,” he said. “I don’t know what country they’re looking at It isn’t a blue state issue. It’s an American issue. States red and blue are getting crushed. Our revenues have fallen off the table.
"The one smart thing we can do as a country is to inject a lot of cash into states," he said. "It's unfathomable that they would have a bill that does not include that."
He said he’s “made the case forcefully,” to the Trump administration.
“This is not abstract,” he said. “At both the state level, and county and local level people will lose their jobs at exactly the moment we can least afford to have them lose their jobs.”
Recycling collection temporarily suspended as Philly focuses on trash
Recycling collection in Philadelphia will be suspended Monday and Tuesday this week to allow crews to prioritize trash collection, according to the Streets Department.
The department said residents can resume putting out their trash on their normal collection day beginning Monday. Residents can also drop off their trash or recycling at six Sanitation Convenience Centers, which are open seven days a week between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Marlins delay departure from Philly after apparent coronavirus outbreak among players
The Miami Marlins on Sunday delayed their departure from Philadelphia by a day and are now slated to fly home to Miami only hours before their home opener Monday, amid concerns over a coronavirus outbreak among several members of their team.
The Marlins reportedly had three players receive word of positive tests Sunday morning, including pitcher Jose Urena, who was scratched from his scheduled start Sunday and placed on the injured list for undisclosed reasons. Per Major League Baseball guidelines, the Marlins have not revealed the names of players who have tested positive. According to reports, first baseman Garrett Cooper and outfielder Harold Ramirez were the others; catcher Jorge Alfaro previously had tested positive and was placed on the injured list Friday.
Rather than fly home Sunday following their win over the Phillies, the Marlins planned to stay overnight in Philadelphia and fly home Monday morning — although the players who tested positive would remain under quarantine in Philadelphia, according to Manager Don Mattingly. The Marlins host the Baltimore Orioles at 7:10 p.m. Monday at Marlins Park.
Since late June, Cape May County has reported 261 “nonresident” cases. Avalon has recorded 76 nonresident cases, and Sea Isle 76.
“A lot of those cases are younger kids who haven’t done social distancing,” said Cape May County spokesperson Denis Brown. “It’s just basically kids if they have a house together, or are having a party, or whatever it is that they’re doing, they’re not doing proper social distancing.”
As for the beach itself, Brown said: “I don’t think that has been a major source of issues. These outdoor activities are safer. Some beaches in New Jersey have some capacity issues. Generally, we have fairly wide beaches. There’s certainly places to go and not be on top of one another.”
Tim Donohue, the Middle Township mayor, notes that even with the county’s ballooning summer population, cases have not similarly increased. The county has about 900 total cases. Last week, the local hospital reported just two COVID-19 patients, none in ICU.
The beach may give visitors the bit of normalcy they crave, but, says Sea Isle Mayor Desiderio, “most people that I’ve spoken to are just hoping to get to 2021.”
Florida reported 9,300 new coronavirus cases Sunday, and has now overtaken New York in total cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. New York has recorded more than 32,000 deaths, far more than Florida, which has reported more than 5,800 deaths.
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