Read the latest Philadelphia-area coronavirus updates here
The Wells Fargo Center will be closed on Thursday, less than 12 hours after the NBA suspended its season over coronavirus concerns. It is unclear when it will re-open, or what impact that may have on upcoming concerts and games. Meanwhile, the European Union has condemned President Trump’s travel ban, and schools across the region are preparing for long-term closures.
Tom Hanks says he and his wife have tested positive for coronavirus
In a social media post Wednesday night, actor Tom Hanks announced he and his wife Rita have tested positive for coronavirus.
The couple are currently in Australia and said they will be “tested, observed, and isolated for as long as public health and safety requires.”“We felt a bit tired, like we had colds, and some body aches,” Hanks wrote.
“Rita had some chills that came and went. Slight fevers too. To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the Coronavirus, and were found to be positive.”
Trump suspends travel from Europe, except United Kingdom
All travel from Europe to the United States will be suspended for the next 30 days beginning on Friday to reduce the spread of coronavirus, President Donald Trump announced from the Oval Office Wednesday night.
The travel restrictions will not apply to the United Kingdom. “We took life-saving, early action with China,” said Trump. “Now we must take the same action with Europe.”
Trump criticized the European Union for not securing its borders quickly enough and said that the cases in the U.S. were “seeded” by European travelers. He said the United States would monitor the situation to determine if travel can be opened earlier.
Trump said that “trade will in no way be affected by the 30-day restriction on travel from Europe. ... The restriction stops people not goods,” he tweeted shortly after his address.
As expected, Trump did not declared a national emergency.
He did urge Congress to provide financial relief to small businesses that could be impacted by the virus, asking Congress to pass $50 billion in funding for low-interest loans and “immediate payroll tax relief.”
Temple ending classroom instruction and will offer classes online
Temple University announced Wednesday night that it will end in-person instruction on all its campuses Friday and offer classes online for its 39,000 students for the rest of the semester, starting Monday.
Students are being asked to leave campus by 5 p.m. March 21. Those who need to remain on campus can request an extension, the school said. The university also is encouraging students who live off campus to return home.
“We are focused on ensuring the health and safety of our community members, and on the successful completion of our students’ spring semester,” President Richard M. Englert and Provost JoAnne A. Epps wrote to the campus.
School districts brace for potential coronavirus extended closings
School districts across the region are creating online lesson plans and sending students home with packets of assignments as they brace for the prospect of the spreading coronavirus causing extended school closures.
“I realize how scary this is for all of us."
Washington Township Superintendent Joseph Bollendorf
More than a dozen districts serving thousands of students said they would preemptively close in the coming days to give administrators and teachers time to plan how best to deliver instruction to students in the event that schools are shut down. Others have been asking families whether they lack internet access, or have been mapping out the number of state-required instructional days and how coronavirus closures would fit in.
In one Abington elementary school students were sent home with a folder Wednesday with 10 days’ worth of work — labeled “Student Assignments for Just in Case.”
“I realize how scary this is for all of us," Washington Township Superintendent Joseph Bollendorf wrote in a letter to parents Wednesday, announcing early dismissals next week for teachers to be trained on the remote learning lesson plans. "We will continue to do what must be done to be prepared.”
N.J. hospitals work up uniform, more-restrictive patient visitation rules
In a rare and possibly unprecedented move, New Jersey’s hospitals have decided as a group to create new, standardized visitor restrictions to protect vulnerable patients and hospital employees from the coronavirus.
The state’s hospitals and health systems worked with the New Jersey Hospital Association to formulate the new voluntary rules. Kerry McKean Kelly, the association’s vice president for communications and member services, said she could not remember hospitals ever working together in this way, including during outbreaks of the H1N1 and SARS viruses.
Under the new rules, all potential visitors will be screened for fever, cough, sneezing, runny nose, and difficulty breathing; recent travel to nations with high coronavirus activity; and contact with individuals who have been diagnosed with the virus or are “under investigation.” They will not be allowed to visit if any of those conditions or factors apply to them.
Only two visitors at a time will be allowed per patient, and hospitals will prohibit visitors under age 12. “These standards are the result of the collective leadership of healthcare CEOs in New Jersey,” said “Our top priority is to protect patients, but we all agreed that a statewide approach also provides consistency during a time of uncertainty and anxiety over coronavirus,” NJHA President and CEO Cathy Bennett said in a written release.
City Council taking precautionary measures at meetings
City Council on Thursday will adopt new procedures for its weekly meetings aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus.
Audience members will be asked to leave a seat between each other, the number of Council staff members present will be limited, and speakers at public comment will be encouraged to stand three feet away from the microphone.
Additionally, an agenda-setting meeting before council known as caucus, which is usually held in a smaller room with no separation between council members and observers, will instead be held in the Council chambers.
“Each of these steps are being taken to protect the public, Council members and staff from exposure to the coronavirus,” Council President Darrell L. Clarke said in a statement. “Let’s stay calm, trust the experts, and follow the science.”
Visitors and staff to be screened at Montco prison
The Department of Corrections will begin screening staff and visitors to the State Correctional Institution Phoenix for COVID-19, Corrections Secretary John Wetzel said in statement Wednesday.
The focus on screening there is due to its proximity to the high concentration of cases in Montgomery County, and the large number of volunteers and visitors, as well as a frequently churning prison population that includes parole violators and new commitments.
The screening protocol includes a temperature check and a questionnaire. Anyone who is symptomatic and has recently been exposed, or anyone who refuses screening will be denied entry.
"We understand the value of inmate visits, and we also understand that it’s likely that COVID-19 will eventually be present at one of our facilities — that is why we are enhancing our screening processes and sanitization statewide,” said Wetzel. The DOC’s complete pandemic protocols are confidential, a spokesperson noted, citing security concerns.
While hand sanitizer is available through dispensers in some common areas of the prisons, it is not permitted in inmates’ personal property — a cause for concern among many incarcerated people. “We are focusing on access to anti-bacterial soap for inmates,” spokesperson Maria Finn said in an email.
Joe Biden names Penn prof to coronavirus advisory committee
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Wednesday announced a committee to advise his campaign on how “to minimize health risks for the candidate, staff, and supporters.”
“The campaign’s top priority is and will continue to be the health and safety of the public. Members of the committee will provide ongoing counsel to the campaign, which will in turn continue to update the public regarding operational decisions,” said a news release from the former vice president’s campaign.
The announcement comes a day after Biden canceled a planned rally in Cleveland in favor of a smaller event in Philadelphia, and a day before he is scheduled to make his own remarks on the national response to the virus. At a Monday rally in Detroit, campaign staff standing by the doors applied hand-sanitizer to every reporter who entered.
The advisory committee members include Zeke Emanuel, the vice provost of Global Initiatives and professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania. (He’s also the brother of Rahm Emanuel, the former Chicago mayor and chief-of-staff to President Barack Obama).
Meanwhile, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency in the nation’s capital. That gives her the power to order mandatory medical quarantines and make price gouging illegal, the Washington Post reported.
The NCAA announced Wednesday that this year’s Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments will be played behind closed doors, with “only essential staff and limited family” in attendance.
NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement that the decision was made based on advice from public health officials and the NCAA’s advisory pane on the coronavirus.
"While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States,” Emmert said. “This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes.”
Emmert’s announcement came not long after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered men’s tournament games in the state to be played behind closed doors. That includes the opening round, set for next Tuesday and Wednesday in Dayton; and first- and second-round games in Cleveland on March 20 and 22.
Other early-round sites are Albany, N.Y., Spokane, Wash., Tampa, Fla. and St. Louis on March 19 and 21; and Greensboro, N.C., Omaha, Neb., and Sacramento on March 20 and 22. The regional round sites are Indianapolis and Los Angeles on March 26 and 28, and Houston and New York on March 27 and 29. Atlanta hosts the Final Four on April 4 and national championship game on April 6.
In the women’s tournament, first- and second-round games are hosted by the top four seeds in each region. This year’s regional round sites are Greenville, S.C., Fort Wayne, Ind., Portland, Ore., and Dallas. The Final Four is in New Orleans.
The number of presumptive or confirmed coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania is now up to 16, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said at a Wednesday afternoon briefing.
The state has identified 173 individuals for testing; 100 of those tested negative and the rest are pending. Hundreds more people are being monitored, but have not been tested, officials said. "We anticipate that community spread will occur," Levine said, describing the emergence of cases not linked to a known source.
She said the spread most likely would occur in southeastern Pennsylvania, given the population density and the number of cases seen so far. Levine said the Health Department is not recommending the closure of public schools, but commended universities that have moved to online learning and organizers that have canceled events as helpful steps to mitigate that spread.
Sixers cancel scouting trips, encourage some fans to not attend games
The 76ers have canceled all of their scouting trips due to concerns about the coronavirus, according to multiple sources. The team has pulled their advanced scouts, pro personnel scouts, and college scouts.
The Sixers have decided to adjust their travel policies while monitoring the public health situation. That included limiting scouting, which falls under non-essential travel.
The team said its Wednesday game against the Detroit Pistons would proceed as scheduled at the Wells Fargo Center, but asked some groups to not attend, even if they do not have symptoms of the infection:
A New Castle County man who is “associated with the University of Delaware Community” has tested positive for the coronavirus, the state announced Wednesday.
State health officials said the man is “over 50,” and was exposed to a confirmed case of the virus in another state. He self-quarantined as soon as he got symptoms. He is “not severely ill” and is “doing well,” they said.
BalletX has postponed its Spring Series performances, which had been scheduled to run March 18 to 29 at the Wilma Theater.
The program of three world premieres, including one from its 2020 choreographic fellow Nicole Caruana, is now being planned for July. Pennsylvania Ballet’s performances of La Bayadère are still scheduled for Thursday through Sunday at the Academy of Music
The Eagles confirmed Wednesday that their coaching staff will not attend college pro days in preparation for the NFL draft, scheduled for April 23 to 25 in Las Vegas.
Scouts will still attend as scheduled, the team said. The team said a variety of factors, not just the concern over the coronavirus, contributed to the decision, including the fact that some of the coaches are new to the staff and are learning the schemes, and preparations for NFL free agency next week.
College pro days are a big part of draft prep; the Eagles have 10 picks this year, their largest haul since 2010.
CDC awards millions to Pennsylvania, New Jersey for coronavirus response
The Centers for Disease Control Wednesday awarded more than $16 million to Pennsylvania and more than $15 million to New Jersey to bolster the state response to the coronavirus outbreak.
New Jersey will receive $15,610,160.20, while Pennsylvania will receive $16,904,048.40 from the federal government, according to a White House spokesperson. Philadelphia will receive an additional $3,500,000.
"These funds will allow public health leaders to implement critical steps necessary to contain and mitigate spread of the virus in communities across the country,” CDC Director Robert R. Redfield said in a statement.
University of Pennsylvania shifts all classes online for rest of semester
The University of Pennsylvania becomes the second college in the region to shift to online instruction for the rest of the semester.
West Chester University announced a similar move on Tuesday.
Penn said it will extend spring break for one week and begin virtual classes on Monday, March 23. Virtual instruction, including final exams, will continue through the end of the semester.
The university is asking all students, who are currently on spring break and out of town, not to return to campus. Those on campus should leave by Sunday. Some clinical rotations will continue, the university said.
“Many details are still being finalized, so we ask for your patience as we work through the myriad issues involved in this major temporary change,” said an email from Penn President Amy Gutmann and Provost Wendell Pritchett.
Philadelphia charter school closes for coronavirus precaution
A Philadelphia charter school says it is closing Thursday and Friday because several students traveled out of the country in recent weeks.
The closure of Mastery Clymer Elementary in North Philadelphia for cleaning is precautionary, the charter said in a statement. It said it was not confirmed that the students were directly exposed to geographic areas containing the coronavirus.
Still, the school “will be cleaned with a more aggressive disinfectant over the next several days,” Mastery CEO Scott Gordon said.
Lower Providence Township employee tests presumptive positive for coronavirus
A Lower Providence Township employee has received a presumptive positive test result for coronavirus, according to a release from the municipality.
“The Montgomery County Office of Public Health is currently working to determine which individuals, including other township staff and members of the public, this individual came into contact with while infected and before starting a self-isolation period,” the statement said. “This comprehensive process, known as contact tracing, is labor-intensive and takes time to complete. The Office of Public Health will directly notify any at-risk individuals. All necessary precautions are being taken.”
Montgomery County officials are expected to provide more updates on the outbreak this afternoon.
SEPTA preparing for drop in riders or absent employees
As SEPTA steps up its cleaning efforts, the transit agency is also preparing for a potential drop in ridership or increase in absent employees due to the coronavirus.
SEPTA announced a revamped cleaning procedure last week. SEPTA’s maintaining normal cleaning efforts, but crews are sanitizing highly touched areas like turnstiles and kiosks at least three times a day. Vehicles are getting a full wipe-down every 14 days instead of every 30 days.
Efforts are system-wide, but a lot of attention has been turned to high-trafficked areas like City Hall and 69th Street Stations.
SEPTA is preparing for scenarios that could arise from a dip in ridership or uptick in employee absenteeism, said Scott Sauer, SEPTA assistant general manager of operations.
"Nothing is off the table at this point,” he said. “We’re taking it as it goes, it’s ever-changing ... minute by minute so we’re watching but we’ll have plans if we had to, to reduce service. We’ll have plans, if we had to, to scale back, if we have employees that suddenly take ill, then we’ll plans for that as well.”
State officials said two of New Jersey’s newest presumptive positive cases of the coronavirus may indicate “community spread” in the Garden State.
“Simply put, community spread is defined as person-to-person transmission without exposure to a confirmed case,” Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. “Community spread indicates that the coronavirus is amongst us. We have an expectation that that may be the case.”
Right now, state officials would not say which counties these two cases are in, but if community spread is confirmed, officials may have to step up their mitigation efforts, and enact precautionary measures like widespread school closures, Persichilli said. (edited)
“Where’s that watershed moment … I don’t know where that turn is,” Persichilli said.
“But I know the epidemiologists will tell you we wanna respond sooner than later. We will know when it’s time to take our mitigation strategies to the next level.”
Persichilli said it could be that community spread happens in one area of the state, and not the other. Individuals who live in an area with community spread are at a higher likelihood of exposure to the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The state announced eight new presumptive positive cases Wednesday, bringing the state total up to 23. Four of the people are from Bergen County, two are from Monmouth County, and two are from Middlesex County. Five are male, while three are female. Patients range in age from 17 to 66 years old, Persichilli said. Further details weren’t available.
No community spread in Bucks County 'that we know of,’ officials say
The two infected people in Bucks County caught the virus out-of-state at a gathering where two other people there were later confirmed to have coronavirus, health department director David Damsker said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference.
“There’s no community spread here in Bucks County that we know of,” said Damsker.
The county has contacted people who may have been exposed to the two cases and asked them to quarantine for 14 days.
The county will be starting to implement measures to help protect the elderly and people in long-term care facilities, Damsker said, including halting all visitation to Neshaminy Manor starting Wednesday. The county will have a conference call with all long-term care facilities to discuss minimizing exposure of residents.
The infected people are “doing fine” and resting at home, Damsker said. He declined to say what municipality they were located in, saying there was no public health reason to do so. He said the two positive cases “have no impact on any school closures or any students in the schools.”
San Francisco, Ohio, Washington state ban large gatherings, including sporting events
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Wednesday the state will prohibit events of more than 250 people in three Seattle-area counties to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The restrictions apply to concerts and sporting events — including the Seattle Mariners, Seattle Sounders FC, and the XFL’s Seattle Dragons.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed has put in place a similar ban that would cancel all public gatherings that draw crows of 1,000 people or more — including the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco Giants.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday afternoon he will issue a statewide ban on mass gatherings, meaning the NCAA Tournament’s First Four in Dayton next week will be played in front of empty seats (though parents and “others essential to the game” will be able to attend).
The moves come after Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the NBA and other leagues should play games without fans present to help slow the spread of the virus.
“We would recommend that there not be large crowds. If that means not having any people in the audience when the NBA plays, so be it,” Fauci said during a hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
Philadelphia health-care executives have been planning since January for how to accommodate any surge in patients infected with the coronavirus, both by amassing supplies and exploring ways to treat non-critical patients outside the hospital.
Yet there is one type of resource shortage that the hospital executives cannot do much about: when the doctors and nurses themselves get sick.
That topic was a focus Wednesday morning at a health care forum hosted by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
With many facilities operating near capacity, providers sometimes feel compelled to work even when sick, said Jessica Caum, the department’s manager for public health preparedness.
Bad idea, she said.
"Stay home when you’re sick,” she said. “In health care, we sometimes forget that these rules apply to us, too.”
CHOP has not said when he began to experience symptoms, but the patients and their families have been urged to quarantine themselves at home and be on the lookout for signs of illness, the hospital has said.
In addition to infecting patients, sick doctors and nurses can expose their colleagues, leading to the need for quarantines that make the staffing crunch even worse, hospital executives said at the health department forum Wednesday.
"Staffing is a big challenge in health care even outside of challenges such as this," said Jonathan L. Gleason, chief quality officer for Jefferson Health.
Villanova, Penn State, Lehigh, Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore announce shifts to online learning
More colleges are announcing moves to online learning.
Villanova will suspend in-person classes beginning on Monday and instruction will move online. Classes will meet Thursday and Friday this week so that professors can talk with students about how the new learning mode will work, the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, Villanova’s president, said in an email to the campus.
The university will decide by April 3 whether to resume in-person instruction this semester, he said. The university, he said, is continuing athletics, but all on-campus contests will be held without spectators, at least through April 14.
Penn State, which is on spring break this week, will move to remote learning for three weeks, starting on Monday.
Penn State President Eric Barron said all students are “strongly discouraged” from coming to campus, off campus apartments or fraternity houses during that period.
Lehigh University in Bethlehem will teach all classes online, also beginning on Monday, President John D. Simon said in an email to campus. Students are being asked to return home or remain home at least through the next two weeks.
Meanwhile, Swarthmore announced it would extend spring break through March 20 and resume classes online March 23. That will continue as least through April 3, an arrangement similar to the one announced by Haverford.
Bryn Mawr College also will offer all courses in a remote format from March 16 though April 3, at least, the school announced.
“We hope that we can return to in-person instruction this semester,” said Bryn Mawr President Kim Cassidy. “We will also prepare, however, to continue with remote learning if necessary.”
Additionally, Arcadia University will shift to online instruction, beginning Thursday and running through March 27.
Philadelphia opens Emergency Operation Center to handle coronavirus
Philadelphia opened its Emergency Operation Center to deal with the coronavirus Wednesday.
Representatives from various departments are working together in the center, which the city typically activates for emergency situations, including snowstorms and other weather events. It “brings city departments and external stakeholders together face-to-face in one room,” the city announced in a news release.
More than 15,600 people have opted in to receive text message updates from the city about COVID-19, officials said.
City Councilmembers, meanwhile, expressed concern about the potential seriousness of the virus.
“Philadelphia’s preparation to address a global pandemic is about to be tested in real time,” Councilmember Cherelle Parker said in an interview Wednesday, after chairing a committee meeting about the city’s 911 call center.
The hearing included testimony from dispatchers about the city’s lack of training for or debriefing after emergencies such as the 2015 Amtrak derailment or the police standoff in North Philadelphia over the summer. Parker said it highlighted issues that must be addressed — especially as the city makes plans for handling coronavirus.
“I am not interested in stoking fears into Philadelphians into thinking that our 911 call center is not prepared to handle an increase in volume,” Parker said. "We expect there to be some sort of standard operating procedures in place.”
Councilmember Curtis Jones Jr. said the city is “dusting off the books” because it has not dealt with a pandemic since the 1918 influenza.
Eight more people have tested presumptive positive for the coronavirus in New Jersey, bringing the state total to 23, Gov. Phil Murphy said on WCBS Radio Wednesday.
“Clearly this is something that is iterative,” Murphy said. “We are doing all we can to stay out ahead of this.”
Of the 23 people who have tested presumptively positive for the coronavirus in New Jersey, twenty are hospitalized, while two are in self-quarantine, Murphy said. One man — a 69-year-old from Little Silver in Bergen County — died Tuesday, becoming the New Jersey’s first death due to the coronavirus.
Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver and Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli will provide more details at a 2 p.m. press briefing.
World Health Organization declares coronavirus a pandemic
The World Health Organization has officially classified COVID-19 a pandemic, acknowledging the virus is likely to spread to every country on the planet.
"Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, said in a briefing Wednesday.
Coronavirus cases may force city to reopen Hahnemann
Philadelphia officials have considered reopening Hahnemann University Hospital, should the city see a surge of coronavirus cases, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Wednesday.
The debt-ridden safety-net hospital was shut down last year after its owner, American Academic Health System, filed for bankruptcy.
However, reopening Hahnemann would be a last resort, Farley said Wednesday during a symposium about the virus with leaders of all major health systems in the city as well as Independence Blue Cross.
“It would not be a simple task by any means. Our hope is that we never get to that point,” Farley said.
The hospital has been decommissioned and it has no staff or supplies. But the city has been in touch with the people who control Hahnemann. It would be a public facility that would be a shared overflow space for all hospitals in the city, he said.
Before closing, the 496-bed hospital saw about 150 emergency department patients daily. The idea came as a result of conversations with PJ Brennan, Penn Medicine’s chief medical officer.
Philadelphia arts groups begin canceling performances
Upcoming performances at the Annenberg Center have been called off to limit risk of exposure to coronavirus, the group announced Wednesday.
The White Lama in its world-premiere performances March 13 and 14 will go on. But after that, all events on the schedule through April 15 have been postponed. These include appearances by the Crossing Choir, Trinity Irish Dance Company, Daedalus Quartet and Arcana New Music Ensemble.
The Curtis Institute of Music has also announced that it is curtailing and adjusting activities over the next few weeks. Audiences at concerts at the school between March 23 and 31 will be limited to Curtis students, staff, and faculty, but concerts will be streamed live via YouTube and Facebook.
Curtis expects that concerts from April 1 through the end of the semester will be re-opened to live audiences, though the school cautioned that those plans may change.
The Annenberg Center said in a statement that The White Lama performances will come with “extra measures to maintain a healthy environment for audiences, staff and artists, including bolstering housekeeping efforts and implementing new procedures for our ushers and concessions staff.”
The center is working on setting new dates for all of the affected performances, though it is possible some will be canceled altogether, an Annenberg spokesperson said. The center is offering fee-free ticket exchanges to anyone feeling ill or concerned about attending; people can call 215-898-3900 for information.
Haverford College moves classes online amid coronavirus spread
Haverford College will move its classes to virtual learning, at least until April 6, President Wendy Raymond announced.
The college is on spring break this week and will move to online courses at some point next week. Faculty, on a course-by-course basis, will contact students to make arrangements for virtual instruction, readings and assignments, she said.
Raymond acknowledged that there will be challenges.
“We don’t pretend to have all the answers yet to the many questions before us,” she said in a message to the university community. “From access to course materials in ways that are safe and effective, to plans for lab and studio and other experiential work currently in progress, there is much for us all to identify, engage, and plan for."
Students who are unable to go home can continue to live at the college but will be asked to practice social distancing, she said.
Pa. health secretary: ‘It is important for residents to know the commonwealth is prepared and to be prepared themselves’
As Pennsylvania’s reported number of coronavirus cases continued to grow Wednesday, Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine said it is “important for residents to know the commonwealth is prepared and to be prepared themselves.”
“Right now, you have a higher chance of testing positive for COVID-19 if you have traveled to a country or state with known community outbreaks or have come in contact with someone who has the virus,” Levine said. “We are working with the health care community across Pennsylvania to keep them informed, consult on patient testing and ensuring they have the resources they need to care for patients.”
Nasdaq picks Philly’s Navy Yard as backup if coronavirus empties financial districts
Nasdaq, the giant securities-trading group, has prepared a backup trading floor and secure data facility at the Philadelphia Navy Yard business center in South Philadelphia, just in case the coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic leaves Wall Street systems as vulnerable as a hurricane or terrorist attack.
Industry sources say Nasdaq has stepped up training in recent days to add dozens of personnel at its League Island Boulevard center if needed. The back-up prep work was later confirmed by Nasdaq officials in New York.
“The health and safety of our employees and members is paramount, and we take very seriously our place in the U.S. financial infrastructure,” said Joe Christinat, a spokesman for Nasdaq. “If our main trading floor were to become inaccessible, Nasdaq can operate our trading floor facility in an secondary location, at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.”
Swarthmore to close NCAA tournament game to fans over coronavirus concern
Swarthmore College announced Wednesday that Saturday’s NCAA Division III tournament game hosted by the school will be closed to fans. Refunds will be made if tickets already were purchased for the third-round game against Whitworth. The 5 p.m. game can be watched on YouTube.com/user/SwarthmoreAthletics/live.
“While there are no suspected cases of COVID-19 at Swarthmore College, the epidemic continues to expand, and the college has a responsibility to act in the best interest of the well-being of Swarthmore students, faculty, and staff, as well as the broader community,” the school said in a statement.
Bucks County Community College closes for deep cleaning
Bucks County Community College will close Friday through next week for a deep cleaning. Like other colleges, the school says it has had no cases but wants to take precautions. The closure overlaps with spring break and affects all of the campuses.
Philly health commissioner skips coronavirus conference for cough
At a coronavirus conference held Wednesday morning by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, attendees were greeted by the news that the department head would not attend in person.
“I have a mild cough,” health commissioner Thomas Farley said through a speaker phone, though he quickly pointed out that symptom is normal for this time of year.
“I thought it would be better under the circumstances to be careful,” he told health care providers and others at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Center City.
His presentation was then delivered in person by deputy health commissioner Caroline C. Johnson, who said there was no indication yet that the virus was circulating at a level that the city should close schools and churches.
Johnson urged people with underlying health problems to stay home from all public events. “That’s a firm recommendation,” she said.
Coachella postponed; WXPN nixes audiences for Free at Noon concerts
Both the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and the Stagecoach Country Music Festival are officially postponed over coronavirus concerns, promoter Goldenvoice announced late Tuesday.
“While this decision comes at a time of universal uncertainty, we take the safety and health of our guests, staff and community very seriously,” Goldenvoice said in a statement. “We urge everyone to follow the guidelines and protocols put forth by public health officials.”
The festivals were scheduled to take place at the Empire Polo Club grounds in Indio, Calif., across several weekends in April, have been rescheduled for October. Coachella has been moved to the weekends of Oct. 9 and 16, while Stagecoach will take place the weekend of Oct. 23.
In the Philadelphia area, the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Del., organized by Goldenvoice parent company AEG Presents, has remained largely silent about whether concerns over the coronavirus might influence its upcoming June 18 to 21 run. A spokesperson for the festival did not immediately respond to request for comment.
On Tuesday, however, the festival began a countdown to the start of this year’s event via its social media profiles, noting that the kickoff was 100 days away. In one message, the festival noted that “yes, we are counting down.”
WXPN, meanwhile, has announced that its Free at Noon concerts will be closed to the public through April 17. That change will start Friday with a concert from Jonathan Wilson, and comes following the University of Pennsylvania’s call to suspend events with 100-plus attendees. The radio station said on its website that it is working to broadcast the live performances amid its audience limitations.
In North Jersey, the coronavirus has forced the cancellation of The Fest for Beatles Fans, the celebration of all things John, Paul, George and Ringo scheduled for March 27 to 29. The Fest, which began in 1974, is billed as the largest and longest-running gathering of Beatles aficionados in the world.
All previously purchased tickets will be honored when the Fest is rescheduled, organizers said.
The four employees, two from the Philadelphia newsroom and two from Spotlight PA in Harrisburg, have agreed to self-quarantine themselves after attending the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting conference in New Orleans last week.
Inquirer publisher Lisa Hughes told employees they were encouraged to work from home if possible and if their managers approved.
“No Inquirer employee has reported symptoms consistent with coronavirus,” she said. “This is a precautionary measure and is not mandatory.”
She said professional crews would be brought in for “thorough, top-to-bottom cleanings of our facilities.”
“We have the ability to report, edit and publish remotely and in fact are doing so as we speak,” said Gabriel Escobar, Inquirer editor and vice president. “While this presents some challenges, we are confident we will be able to keep the public informed online and in print.”
More than 1,000 people attended the New Orleans conference and other news organizations have also told employees they can work from home. WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR affiliate, tweeted that three employees had also attended the conference and were in self-quarantine.
3 WHYY journalists who attended a conference last week are in self-quarantine after conference organizers reported that one of the 1,000-plus attendees had tested positive for coronavirus.
Coronavirus testing is expanding, but likely not fast enough to contain undetected spread
Contrary to President Trump’s claim that anyone who wants a coronavirus test can get it, U.S. testing has been rationed both because of the federal government’s limited supply of test kits and because it has advised doctors to restrict the test to certain patients.
That is starting to change — slowly.
With the blessing of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, at least three big commercial diagnostic companies are now offering coronavirus testing. That should boost the meager capacity of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health labs, which had done fewer than 6,000 tests through last week, according to health officials.
Kenney on canceled Philly St. Patrick’s Day Parade: ‘We appreciate their willingness’ to take health, safety into account
Late Tuesday night, organizers of the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade canceled the Sunday event after a case of the coronavirus was reported in the city and officials urged spectators not to attend.
“We understand that this was a difficult decision, and we appreciate their willingness to take the health and safety of the marchers and the attendees into account,” Mayor Jim Kenney tweeted shortly after the parade cancellation was announced.
The St. Patrick's Day Observance Association has decided to cancel Sunday’s parade. We understand that this was a difficult decision, and we appreciate their willingness to take the health and safety of the marchers and the attendees into account. https://t.co/0MBqs2sCUb
City officials had been grappling with what to do about the parade against an unnerving historical backdrop: The decision just more than a century ago to go ahead with a World War I Liberty Loan parade on Broad Street during the 1918 flu pandemic. Epidemiologists now view that parade as a classic blunder that led to a spread of a disease that claimed 12,000 lives in Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania isn’t releasing details on coronavirus cases because of a decades-old law
At frequent media briefings on COVID-19 over the last week, Health Secretary Rachel Levine has not provided the public with the total number of samples tested, the number of people quarantined after possible exposure, or the exact ages of infected people in Pennsylvania.
As of Wednesday morning, fourteen presumed positive coronavirus cases have been identified in Pennsylvania. Local cases include eight in Montgomery County, two in Bucks County, one in Delaware County, and one in Philadelphia. The city reported its first case Tuesday.
The state health department has released only the number of positive cases, as well as general information about the source of the infection, whether the infected individuals are adults, and which county they live in.
Officials are citing a 1955 law authored in the heyday of syphilis for withholding information.