Philly public schools will stay all-online at least until November, sources say
Philadelphia public school students will not return to classrooms until November at the earliest, according to multiple officials with knowledge of the situation, after plans for a hybrid model of in-person and online instruction sparked fierce opposition.
Under the new plan, the school year would begin fully virtually for 125,000 Philadelphia School District students in September, as confirmed coronavirus cases rise in the region and other districts also opt to start the year without face-to-face instruction.
Instruction would happen via computer at least through the first marking period, which ends Nov. 17.
A school district spokesperson didn’t immediately comment Tuesday. An official announcement is expected Tuesday afternoon.
Pa. health secretary defends decision to allow Marlins to play in Philly
Days after Pennsylvania prohibited the Toronto Blue Jays from playing in Pittsburgh, why were the Miami Marlins, which hail from a significant coronavirus hotspot, permitted to play in Philadelphia?
On Tuesday, as the Florida team remained quarantined in Center City due to an outbreak, Health Secretary Rachel Levine stood by the commonwealth’s decision to allow the squad to come in the first place. She said Philadelphia’s cases were not surging at the same rate as Pittsburgh’s.
“The Blue Jays were not asked to not come to Pittsburgh because they were from Toronto,” she said. “It was just another team with more players, more staff that would be in Pittsburgh, an area that has been challenged in terms of a rising incidence of COVID-19 in terms of new cases.”
“So it had nothing to do with Toronto,” she added. “It had everything to do with yet another group of people who could present a challenge. In some ways, the fact that the Marlins tested positive, it validates our decision not to add another team” to the environment in Pittsburgh.
Delaware leaning toward a mix of in-person and remote learning, with elementary students in school
Barring a drop over the next week in the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus, Delaware schools will reopen in the fall with a mix of in-person instruction and remote learning.
According to criteria outlined by Gov. John Carney on Tuesday, the percentage of people who test positive needs to drop below 3% in order for the state to fully reopening with in-person instruction. Over the past week, the state has averaged 4.3%.
Carney said the final decision will be made next week, and predicts the state will end up recommending a hybrid model that encourages elementary students to attend in-person, while older kids would learn with a mix of in-person and remote instruction. Carney said Delawareans have a week to wear masks and abide by social distancing restrictions if they want their kids to have a better chance of attending school in the fall.
“We can take our destiny in our own hands by flattening that curve more. That’s what we’re suggesting today,” Carney said. “For the benefit of our economy, and for the benefit of our school children.”
In order to drive the state’s numbers down more, Carney warned that a revision to the state’s executive order mandating masks might be required to hold people accountable when they refuse to wear face coverings.
“Our objective is not to close down businesses — it’s to open them up and to allow them to stay open, and stay open safely,” Carney said. “We would encourage you to help by wearing a face mask and practice social distancing.”
Pa. says nursing facilities have tested all staff, patients
Pennsylvania’s skilled nursing facilities have now tested all of their staff and patients, in compliance with the commonwealth’s universal testing mandate, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Tuesday.
”This was an essential step to further protect residents and staff inside these vulnerable communities,” she said. “Our goal with implementing universal testing in nursing homes was to rapidly detect asymptomatic residents and staff to prevent further spread.”
By completing the testing, Levine said, these facilities are closer to being able to allow visitors and resume communal dining and other group activities halted due to the pandemic.
But Levine hedged when asked to estimate how long it might be before Pennsylvanians could visit their loved ones in nursing homes again. If no one at a facility tested positive, visitation will be allowed to resume more quickly, she said. But if there were positive cases, re-testing is required, she said, and the process will be slower.
She encouraged families to call a specific facility to ask when they may allow visits again.
”It’s a balance,” she said. “At the same time we want visitors to be able to see their loved ones and we want the loved ones in these facilities to see their families … we know how COVID-19 enters the facility is primarily through asymptomatic or presymptomatic people.”
Philly Archdiocese plans to bring elementary students back to school buildings
Even as other school districts prepare for fully remote starts to the school year, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is planning on bringing most elementary school students back into buildings five days a week when school begins this fall, officials said Tuesday.
High school students will split their time between in-class instruction and digital learning at home, with real-time instruction provided by teachers in school with cameras in their classrooms.
Provisions will be made for families who wish to keep their elementary or high-school aged children at home full-time, the Archdiocese said.
For the parish grade school guidance, “the plan is based on several key principles, cohorting — students remain with the same classmates throughout the day, social distancing, strategic use of masks, enhanced cleaning, a modified attendance policy, situational virtual learning, and an enhanced partnership with parents,” said Andrew M. McLaughlin, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Secretary for Elementary Education.
Students in the archdiocese’s schools of special education will attend school five days per week, as well.
Officials said the plans were subject to change based on COVID-19 conditions.
”I would say overall the risk to Philadelphia residents from this is small,” Farley said. “The greater issue, though, is Major League Baseball had very thorough safety protocol that should have prevented this from occurring.”
Farley said he has not heard of any cases in Philadelphia-area residents as a result of contact with the Marlins, and said Marlins players should not have come into contact with Philadelphia residents if they were following property safety guidelines.
But the team is still working through contact tracing, he said, and Phillies players will need to be tested for a few days in order to determine whether they were infected.
Farley said he had been assured by Major League Baseball that players and visiting teams “effectively were in quarantine.”
”If they get into this and they tell us that was different, then that’s a problem,” he said.
Mayor Jim Kenney said that he was disappointed when he learned about the Marlins’ coronavirus outbreak. He also did not realize that the Phillies game against the Yankees had been postponed until he tried to watch it Monday.
”It’s not the highest thing on my list, but I was disappointed when I found out it was postponed,” Kenney said.
The Phillies’ scheduled game against the New York Yankees on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park — as well as their games Wednesday and Thursday nights at Yankee Stadium — has been postponed, according to multiple sources, wiping out the four-game series between the teams in the aftermath of the Miami Marlins’ coronavirus outbreak in Philadelphia last weekend.
Rapid-response tests taken Monday by Phillies players, coaches and staff didn’t reveal positive tests among players, another source said. Regardless, team personnel was expected to return — in staggered shifts — to Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday for another round of saliva testing before going back home without gaining access to facilities at the ballpark.
Test results-permitting, the Phillies won’t play again until Friday night, when they are the road team at Citizens Bank Park for the opener of a three-game series against the nomadic Toronto Blue Jays.
‘I have no room in my heart for hatred': Pa. health secretary responds to harassment
Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine on Tuesday responded publicly to the harassment she’s faced since becoming the face of the commonwealth’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
In recent weeks, the Bloomsburg Fair mocked the secretary, the first transgender person appointed to the Pennsylvania cabinet, and a central Pennsylvania tavern named a derogatory menu item after her.
“Your actions perpetuates the spirit of intolerance and discrimination against LGBTQ individuals, particularly transgender individuals,” Levine said. “To the perpetrators of these actions, if your apologies are sincere, then I accept your apologies. But an apology is the beginning of a conversation, not the end.”
The harassment does not just affect her but many residents across the state, she said, which prompted her to speak out.
Levine became emotional when encouraging young Pennsylvanians who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning that “it’s OK to be you.”
“As for me, I have no room in my heart for hatred and frankly I do not have time for intolerance,” she said. “My heart is full with a burning desire to help people and my time is full with working towards protecting the public health of everyone in Pennsylvania from the global pandemic COVID-19.”
Philly ban on indoor dining extended until at least Sept. 1
As new cases of the coronavirus continue to increase in Philadelphia, city officials have extended a ban on indoor dining until at least Sept. 1, and are instructing residents to avoid visits to the Jersey Shore as well as 25 states with high rates of infection.
“The epidemic is likely to be worse before it gets better,” in Philadelphia, said Health Commissioner Thomas Farley.
Farley reported 142 new cases of the coronavirus in Philadelphia residents Tuesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to just shy of 30,000.
The city had an average number of 164 cases per day in the past week, Farley said, noting that the average is likely still to increase as lagging test results are reported. The prior week had an average daily total of 141 cases, he said, and the daily case count averaged 111 in the week before that.
Farley attributed the rising case count in part to increased testing, and said the positivity rate of tests in the past week was 5.2%. But, he added, recent spikes in the virus in other states appear to have spread to the Philadelphia region.
As the city attempts to contact trace new cases of the virus, Farley said that a number of residents reported trips to the Jersey Shore, where they participated in social gatherings. He also said many residents take mask wearing and social distancing seriously when shopping or at work, but not around family and friends.
“We all tend to trust our relatives and our friends so those are times when people neglect use of masks or neglect to distance from people, even if they’re sick,” he said.
Pennsylvania reported 1,120 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday as the state continues to see a surge in infections. The commonwealth is now averaging more than 930 new cases a day over the past seven days, according to an Inquirer analysis, more than double the 400 a day it was averaging around the middle of June
118 of those new cases came from Delaware County, which has experienced a sharp rise in new coronavirus cases since the end of June. Over the past seven days, according to data from the state’s health department, Delaware County has averaged about 85 new coronavirus cases a day; between June 24 and June 30, the county averaged about 21 new cases a day.
The Department of Health said 162,937 coronavirus tests were administered between July 21 and July 27, with 6,526 positive cases — a positive test rate of about 4%.
At least 7,146 Pennsylvania residents have now died after contracting coronavirus, with 24 new deaths reported Monday Of the state’s deaths, 4,857 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.
New Jersey adds three more states, Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico to its travel advisory
There are now 36 states and territories on New Jersey’s travel advisory list, including Washington D.C., meaning that travelers coming from those places into the Garden State are being asked to quarantine for 14 days.
As of this week, the list also includes Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Puerto Rico. The travel advisory applies to any person arriving from a state that has been deemed to have a high rate of community spread: those with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, or a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average.
Travelers from the states on the list are asked to self-quarantine at home or a hotel, and to get tested for COVID-19.
New Jersey announces more relief funding for small businesses
Another $15 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding is being made available for small businesses in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced.
The money will boost an existing grant program through the state Economic Development Authority, which has been providing up to $10,000 to struggling companies around the state.
“Our small businesses are the backbone of our economy. More New Jerseyans work for a small business than anywhere else,” Murphy said at a news conference held in the parking lot of a North Brunswick hair salon. “Strong and resilient small businesses need a strong and resilient economy.”
The EDA is administering millions in funding to support businesses during the pandemic. According to Murphy’s administration, more than 10,600 businesses have been approved for grants totaling more than $44 million.
The EDA will use this latest round of funding to fulfill applications that are already in the pipeline, particularly those in counties that have not already received direct help from the federal government.
No in-person classes for Norristown students in the fall
Norristown public school students will not attend in-person classes at least through January, officials announced Tuesday.
Norristown’s decision follows other large suburban districts that have recently announced they won’t be bringing students back to schools in the fall. Downingtown and Cheltenham both made that call recently.
Students in the 7,000-plus pupil district will have fully virtual instruction five days a week, including non-core academic subjects and high school electives. Teachers will deliver synchronous instruction every day; students will receive Chromebooks; meals and health services will be provided.
“I will not be the superintendent who puts anyone — not one child, not one staff member — in harm’s way,” superintendent Christopher Dormer said. “I cannot, in good conscience, allow any reopening model that increases the risk of infection, illness or someone dying.”
If health conditions permit, students would shift to in-person instruction in January.
Dormer said in a letter to the community that shifting guidelines — state, county, Centers for Disease Control — was the most difficult part of a tough decision making process.
Wolf calls on Republicans to extend $600 week unemployment benefit
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf visited the PA CareerLink York County Tuesday morning to spotlight the organization’s virtual resources and services available to job seekers in response to record rates of unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The fight against COVID-19 has required sacrifices from all of us, and for many people these challenging months have left them in search of a new job,” Wolf said. “PA CareerLink has transitioned to offer more services online to help people find family-sustaining jobs for the long term.”
The virtual services include adult education classes, career counseling, employer services, job search assistance, training programs, resume assistance, and youth programming, and are free and accessible through PACareerLink.pa.gov.
Wolf acknowledged there is room for improvement in getting unemployment checks to applicants, but noted the Department of Labor and Industry is facing three times the demand for initial unemployment claims it faced in 2008-2009.
“I acknowledge and recognize the challenges that this has created for individual families out there, but I want you to know that everybody at Labor and Industry is working really, really hard to address that challenge,” he said.
No one loves the smell of trash wafting through the air. And unfortunately in Philadelphia, it’s become a near daily aroma for residents citywide. Let’s call it our city’s own pandemic perfume.
Until the Streets Department gets collection schedules back on track, there are centers where you can dispose of your own garbage. They’re called Philadelphia’s Sanitation Convenience Centers. There are six of them located throughout the city.
You’ll need to cart your own trash there. But drop-offs are free, and public hours were recently expanded. You can now swing by daily, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. If you want to avoid crowds, Warren recommends going before 8 a.m. or after 5 p.m., but even if there’s a line when you arrive, the process is typically quick. Warren says you can expect to spend five to ten minutes moving through the drop-off process.
Philly and some suburban counties seeing increase in infections
Philadelphia and several suburban counties in Southeastern Pennsylvania are experiencing an increase in coronavirus cases. The uptick comes as the state continues to experience a surge in new cases, fueled by a spike in Allegheny County.
Anthony Fauci responds to Trump tweet: ‘I have not been misleading the American public’
Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, defended himself Tuesday after President Donald Trump retweeted a message suggesting Fauci has misled people about the coronavirus.
“I have not been misleading the American public under any circumstances,” Fauci said during an interview on Good Morning America Tuesday.
“I’m just going to certainly continue doing my job. We’re in the middle of a crisis with regard to an epidemic, a pandemic, this is what I do, this is what I’ve been trained for my entire professional life, and I’ll continue to do it,” Fauci added.
It’s not the first time Fauci’s credibility has been attacked by the White House. Earlier this month, White House trade adviser Peter Navarro wrote an op-ed in USA Today attacking Fauci. Prior to that, the White House released what reporters described as “opposition research” seeking to discredit Fauci, who has been the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.
Lawmakers agree on stimulus checks, but cuts to unemployment remain an issue
Senate Republicans have unveiled their proposal for a new $1 trillion coronavirus relief bill, setting the stage for a showdown with congressional Democrats in the coming days.
The legislation would temporarily reduce emergency unemployment benefits from $600 to $200 a week, while also authorizing a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks. Those checks would be sent to largely the same set of people as the first round of checks, but Republicans have tweaked the eligibility of dependents so they can access the $500 supplement even if they are older than 17.
House Democrats’ package also calls for another round of $1,200 stimulus payments. Democrats’ legislation would make the benefit bigger by providing families with an additional $1,200 for each child for up to three children, whereas the initial bill approved in March gave families only $500 per child.
The Republican proposal also includes a significant amount of funding for unrelated issues — most notably, allocating $1.75 billion for a new FBI headquarters.
The prospects for a bipartisan deal remained far from certain as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) met late Monday with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to begin formal negotiations.
Popular Shore bar to reopen after employee tests positive
A popular Tiki bar at the Jersey Shore said it will reopen Tuesday after an employee tested positive for coronavirus over the weekend.
The Captain’s Inn in Forked River announced on Facebook it will reopen at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday after having been closed for several days because an employee tested positive for COVID-19 due to an “outside influence.” The bar did not say when the employee last worked, but did note the worker was asymptomatic.
A Jersey Shore tiki bar was forced to shutter Sunday when one of its workers tested positive for coronavirus — a day after the watering hole was packed with a number of maskless patrons.https://t.co/s62IUObqNe
700-person mansion party leads N.J. officials to plead with people to stay outdoors
Officials on Monday pleaded with people to stay outdoors, keep distanced, and wear masks if attending social gatherings. Citing a Long Beach Island party where at least 35 attendees were infected with the virus, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said people can get together but should do it outside.
“You’re playing with fire if you gather indoors without face coverings, without social distancing. There’s no good that will come from this,” Murphy said Monday.
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.”