• Significant developments

  • Read the latest Philadelphia-area coronavirus updates here.

  • Dozens of presumed positive cases of the virus have been reported in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

  • School-closing lists swell from fallout of coronavirus cases in Montgomery County, where all schools, community centers, gyms and entertainment venues will be shut down for two weeks in a sweeping “social distancing” action.

  • Sports leagues including the NHL, NBA, and MLS and have suspended their seasons, while the MLB will delay opening day High school basketball tournaments have been suspended, and the NCAA tournament has been canceled.

  • Philadelphia officials are banning any public gathering of more than 1,000 people for 30 days and Philly schools have postponed all trips, sports, and concerts.

  • Pennsylvania’s bishops say the state’s faithful are released from their obligation to attend Sunday Masses.

  • What are the symptoms of coronavirus and what should you do if you think you have it? Read answers to frequently asked questions here.

Read the latest Philadelphia-area coronavirus updates here

// Timestamp 03/13 08:55am

Penn Medicine has banned most hospital visitors, Delaware has introduced a drive-through test for coronavirus, American Airlines has suspended more flights between Philadelphia and Europe, and events throughout the region continued to be canceled.

» TODAY’S LIVE COVERAGE: Penn Medicine bans most hospital visitors amid coronavirus spread; Philly closes 63 schools

Mastery, Philly’s largest charter network closes schools for Friday

// Timestamp 03/12 11:10pm

Mastery Charter Schools, the largest charter network in Philadelphia, announced late Thursday night that all of its schools would be closed Friday “to prevent a chaotic and potentially unsafe situation tomorrow” because of the impact of Montgomery County school closures.

Officials said they expected to re-open Mastery schools on Monday, but noted that “the situation is fluid” and that decision will be re-evaluated over the weekend.

— Kristen A. Graham

PGA shuts down tour for the next three weeks

// Timestamp 03/12 11:10pm

The PGA Tour has decided to scrap the rest of the Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and shut down its other tournaments for three weeks because of growing concerns over the spread of the coronavirus.

In a statement, the PGA said that "it is with regret we are announcing the cancellation of ... all events through the Valero Texas open.

— Associated Press

63 Philly schools to close; district cites Montco coronavirus cases

// Timestamp 03/12 10:20pm

The School District of Philadelphia announced that 63 schools will be closed Friday amid the spread of the coronavirus due to staffing shortages as a result of mass closures in Montgomery County. Superintendent William Hite said in a statement that the school district’s goal was to “safely keep our doors open as long as possible,” but “the current set of circumstances make it difficult for us to keep all of our schools open.”

The Montgomery County coronavirus issues also moved the neighboring Tredyffrin-Easttown School District in Chester County to close its eight schools until at least March 26. About 25 percent of the staff live in Montgomery County, the district said.

The Philadelphia announcement came just hours after Hite said during a news conference that city schools would not close as a result of the outbreak. But on Thursday afternoon, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered sweeping closures in Montgomery County, where about half of the state’s presumptive positive coronavirus cases are. All schools in the county are closed for two weeks, as are community centers, theaters, and gyms. The governor also strongly recommended closing nonessential retail spaces.

Of 18,000 School District of Philadelphia employees, about 2,100, or 11%, live in Montgomery County, the district said in a statement Thursday. The anticipated staffing impact means it’s “unlikely” those schools could “effectively meet the needs of students.”Principals will report to the schools in the morning, and reporting details for the other staff will be provided by each principal.

Students at the following schools should not report to school:

Amy At James Martin; Amy Northwest; Baldi Middle School; Barton, Clara School; Building 21; Cayuga School; Central High School; Comly School; Jay Cook Elementary School; Day, Anna B. School; Dobbins, Murrell High School; Dobson, James School; Duckrey, Tanner School; Edmonds, Franklin S. School; Ellwood School; Emlen, Eleanor C. School; Engineering & Science High Sch; Fels, Samuel High School; Feltonville Arts & Sciences; Feltonville Intermediate; Finletter, Thomas K. School; Fitler Academics Plus; Frank, Anne School; Franklin, Benjamin Elem School; Girls, Phila High School For; Greenberg, Joseph School; Henry, Charles W. School; Hopkinson School; Houston, Henry H. School; Howe, Julia Ward School; Jenks Academy Arts & Sciences; Juniata Park Academy; Kenderton Elementary; King, Martin Luther High Sch.; Lankenau High School; Lingelbach, Anna L. School; Loesche, William H. School; Logan, James School; Mastbaum, Jules E. High School; Mccloskey, John F. School; Moffet, John School; Moore, J. Hampton School; Northeast High School; Olney Elementary School; Parkway-northwest High School; Pennell, Joseph Elementary; Pennypack House School; Pennypacker, Samuel School; Philadelphia Military Academy; Potter-thomas School; Randolph Technical High School; Rhawnhurst School; Richmond School; Rowen, William School; Roxborough High SchoolSaul, Walter B. High School; Shawmont School; Solis-cohen, Solomon School; Vaux Big Picture High School; Wagner, Gen. Louis Middle Sch.; Washington, Grover Jr. Middle; West Philadelphia High School; Wilson, Woodrow Middle School.

» READ MORE: Montgomery County schools shutdown brings relief, stress — and forces 63 Philly schools to close

— Anna Orso

Montco EMS provider, 22 others under quarantine

// Timestamp 03/12 09:58pm

An Upper Merion Township EMS provider is presumed to have the coronavirus and 22 EMS and fire personnel who had contact with him have been placed under quarantine, police in the Montgomery County township said Thursday evening.

The EMS worker first had symptoms on Tuesday and went home to self-quarantine. After he leaned that he was a presumed positive case on Wednesday, police said that 22 fire and EMS personnel were also quarantined “out of an abundance of caution.”

The man with the virus transported a patient on Saturday who was presumed to have the coronavirus, police said.

“At this time we do not know how the EMS provider contracted the virus,” Police Chief Thomas Nolan said in a news release. “While there is cause to believe he contracted it during the transport of the COVID-19 patient, we have no medical certainty of this fact.”

The EMS worker is recovering a home, Nolan said, and Upper Merion’s fire department is still fully staffed. Ambulances and facilities have been sanitized and EMS providers are receiving daily refresher courses on use of protective equipment, Nolan said.

— Laura McCrystal

Report: Over 100 at Penn had contact with someone who tested positive

// Timestamp 03/12 09:43pm

More than 100 Penn students, faculty, and staff were notified by email Thursday that they had been in contact with someone who had tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian, the campus newspaper.

Ashlee Halbritter, director of Campus Health, told the paper that most of the email recipients were considered to be a “low-risk” level. Halbritter added, “There were no high-risk levels on our campus — everything that got sent out today was out of an abundance of caution.”

Low-risk cases would includethose who might have spent a brief period in a room with someone who had the coronavirus. Penn offered no information on the person who tested positive.

— Anthony R. Wood

Comcast encouraging parents affected by school closings to stay home

// Timestamp 03/12 09:10pm

Comcast, the cable giant that is one of the region’s biggest employers, is allowing workers with children affected by school closures to work from home, and telling those who can’t to take paid or unpaid time off.

If they opt for the latter, the absences won’t count against them, according to an email sent to workers by Bill Strahan, the head of human resources at Comcast’s cable unit.

“The health and safety of our employees is always our top priority,” Strahan wrote.

The email was sent to employees at the Comcast Center campus in Philadelphia, as well as the Downingtown and Oaks locations.

— Christian Hetrick

Willow Grove, Plymouth Meeting malls close in Montco

// Timestamp 03/12 08:28pm

The Plymouth Meeting and Willow Grove Park Malls will be closed for two weeks starting Friday, the mall’s owner Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust announced Thursday night.

Early in the day Gov. Tom Wolf said he would “strongly recommend” closing all “non-essential” retail businesses in Montgomery County, which has the highest number of presumptive coronavirus cases of any county in the state.

“The health and well-being of our shopper and tenant community is our top priority,” Joseph F. Coradino, the CEO of PREIT said in a news release.

— Ellie Silverman

SEPTA, PATCO see slight drops in ridership

// Timestamp 03/12 07:55pm

SEPTA and PATCO ridership has taken a dip as the region responds to mounting cases of coronavirus.

From Monday through Wednesday, SEPTA was down about 3% on buses, subways, and trolleys from its average year-to-date figures, while PATCO saw about a 6% reduction during the same period.

Both have boosted cleaning efforts and are prepared to reevaluate service should ridership continue to fall.

It was unclear how much of the drop was the result of concerns about the virus or event cancellations.

— Patricia Madej

» READ MORE: SEPTA, PATCO see slight drop in ridership amid the coronavirus

1,000 self-quarantined in Philadelphia, official says

// Timestamp 03/12 07:05pm

Philadelphia has 1,000 people under self-quarantine due to travel or known contact with a coronavirus patient, Caroline Johnson, Acting Deputy Health Commissioner, told the city Board of Health during its Thursday meeting.

Many of them are not showing symptoms, Johnson said, but the city has been in touch with all but a few of them.

“We’re talking about big numbers of people that are being quarantined.”Only 45 of the individuals have been tested for the virus and are awaiting test results, which Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said have been slow to come back.

Meanwhile, the Board of Health voted to implement new regulations that would allow the city to legally enforce quarantine and isolation. Quarantines thus far have been voluntary, and residents have been willing to comply, said James Garrow, a spokesperson for the Department of Health.

But under the new regulations, if individuals do not comply with health orders, the city could request a court order. The regulations take effect immediately.

— Laura McCrystal

Montgomery County voters advised to cast ballots by mail due

// Timestamp 03/12 07:05pm

Montgomery County is recommending that county residents vote by mail in the April 28 primary.

Twenty-two of Montgomery County’s polling locations are at senior facilities where in-person voting could put an already vulnerable population more at risk of the coronavirus.

The county’s poll workers also tend to be retired and elderly, said Kenneth E. Lawrence Jr., the chair of the Montgomery County Election Board, said at a news conference Thursday.

With 13 presumptive cases, Montgomery has the highest number of any county in the state.

“We were already planning a process for the election on April 28. Of course this outbreak has changed that dramatically,” Lawrence said. “At this point we would favor going to mail in voting for this primary election.”

— Ellie Silverman

Comcast offering free internet for low-income customers

// Timestamp 03/12 06:50pm

Comcast is offering low-income customers 60 days of free internet service during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Philadelphia cable giant is also boosting speeds for its low-income broadband program, called Internet Essentials, which is available for $9.95 per month for qualifying households.

Starting Monday, customers who sign up for Internet Essentials will receive 60 days of complimentary service, said Dana Strong, president of consumer services for Comcast’s cable unit. There is no term contract or credit check, and no shipping fee for the cable modem.

To qualify for Internet Essentials, customers must be eligible for public assistance programs such as the National School Lunch Program, Medicaid, or SNAP.

Customers can sign up for the service by visiting www.internetessentials.com or call 1-855-846-8376 for English and 1-855-765-6995 for Spanish.

— Christian Hetrick

Six Chester County police officers quarantined

// Timestamp 03/12 06:29pm

Chester County officials announced late Thursday that six police officers in the county have been preemptively quarantined after coming in contact with a Montgomery County officer who has tested positive for the virus.

Four officers from West Goshen Township and two from the county sheriff’s K-9 unit responded to a bomb threat at the Arbour Square retirement community in West Goshen on Sunday. There, they were assisted by a K-9 officer from Lower Providence Township, who days later tested positive for the disease.

None of the Chester County officers have shown symptoms, and there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the county.

— Vinny Vella

Montco merchants puzzled by Wolf comments on closing businesses

// Timestamp 03/12 06:21pm

Groups representing Montgomery County merchants said they were caught off guard by Gov. Tom Wolf’s comments that he would “strongly recommend” closing all “non-essential” retail businesses in the county.

"We have a lot of questions,” said Ryan Rosenbaum, executive director of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.

Officials with the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and the King of Prussia Business District said they weren’t sure how to interpret the governor’s remarks.

District director Eric Goldstein, said his group doesn’t make the decisions for the merchants. “Restaurants are reporting that people are still making dinner reservations,” Goldstein said. “But we don’t know what the retailers are going to do. Each of the retailers has to make the decision themselves.”

Ben Fileccia, director of operations and strategy at the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, said he was dismayed the governor didn’t offer guidance for restaurants, which of course aren’t retail or supermarkets.“Restaurants should stay open,” Fileccia said. “They feed people."

Simon Properties, which owns the King of Prussia Mall, has hired a crisis management agency to field all questions from the media. The agency did not respond to phone calls, texts messages and emails asking.

The Department of Health said it would issue guidance later on Thursday night.

— Sam Wood

Kimmel Center canceling shows through at least April 11

// Timestamp 03/12 05:37pm

The Kimmel Center is going dark. Philadelphia’s major arts venue and presenter is open but canceling shows at all of its venues through at least April 11.

“With the health and safety of our patrons, artists, staff, and volunteers top of mind, the Kimmel Center Cultural Campus is complying with the issue ordered the City of Philadelphia has issued to cancel gatherings” of 1,000 or more, a statement from the center said.

The Kimmel - which is home to eight resident companies and a major presenter of Broadway shows - will work to reschedule all performances that had been set to take place in Verizon Hall, the Academy of Music, Perelman Theater, the Merriam and its smaller spaces between March 13 and April 11.

— Peter Dobrin

76ers players to get coronavirus testing

// Timestamp 03/12 05:37pm

After Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert and guard Donovan Mitchell tested positive for the coronavirus, a 76ers official confirmed Thursday that the team is organizing for players and staff to receive testing.

The Sixers also advised their players, coaches and select support staff to begin a temporary self-quarantine. The Sixers learned that the NBA season was being postponed shortly after Wednesday’s 124-106 win over the Detroit Pistons at the Wells Fargo Center.

Detroit had played Utah on Saturday. The Sixers said in a statement that the team supported the NBA’s decision to suspend the season and the “health and well-being of our fans, players, staff members, partners and communities are of the utmost importance.”

» READ MORE: NBA suspends season after Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert reportedly tests positive for coronavirus

— Marc Narducci

Biden closes field offices to public, directs staff to work from home

// Timestamp 03/12 05:21pm

The Biden campaign will close all field offices and its headquarters in Philadelphia to the public, according to an internal campaign memo obtained by the Inquirer.

All of Biden’s staff will work from home starting this weekend and the campaign will coordinate travel home for staff members wishing to return to their permanent residences.

“Our campaign will continue to organize voters across the country through phone banking, text messaging, virtual events, and other distributed organizing models,” the memo read.

The campaign will continue to hold smaller events like round-tables, house parties, and press statements, where public health officials advise they are permitted, as well as virtual events, like Friday’s virtual town hall. All fundraisers will also become virtual fundraisers.

At least two local lawmakers are also putting limits on visits to their offices.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) said his seven state offices will remain open, but “for the time being” will not accept walk-in visitors or participate in large, public events.

The offices of Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon, of Delaware County, will also stop accepting in-person meetings. “Our team has worked diligently to prepare for situations like this and we have implemented necessary technology to serve our constituents in the community and remotely,” Scanlon wrote on Medium.

— Julia Terruso and Jonathan Tamari

Montgomery County and New Jersey postpone all jury trials due to coronavirus

// Timestamp 03/12 04:40pm

All new jury trials in New Jersey state courts will be suspended, effective immediately, until further notice to help minimize community exposure to the coronavirus, the New Jersey Courts announced Thursday.

Jury trials in progress will continue, and grand juries will continue pending further communication with county prosecutors and the attorney general, the statement said.

State courts will also take immediate steps to stagger schedules for landlord/tenant, small-claims, and other non-jury court proceedings to avoid bringing together large numbers of people in confined areas, the statement said. The court system is also preparing to conduct motions, nonjury trials, and certain hearings remotely using video and telephonic equipment, the statement said.

Separately, in an emergency order issued, Montgomery County Court Administrator Michael Kehs declared that all jury trials in the county, both criminal and civil, are postponed until March 27.

The order also suspends all jury duty through that date, and restricts visits at the county jail. Video visitation will be made available.

— Julie Shaw and Vinny Vella

NCAA cancels basketball tournaments due to coronavirus

// Timestamp 03/12 04:22pm

March Madness has been officially canceled.

The NCAA announced Thursday that it has canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

The decision comes as the NBA and MLS have suspended their seasons, and many Division I conferences stopped men’s basketball tournaments, which started this week.

On Wednesday, the NCAA announced all of its winter championship events — basketball, wrestling, ice hockey and others — were to be played without fans in attendance. Now the organization has pulled the plug entirely on basketball.

» READ MORE: NCAA cancels men’s and women’s basketball tournaments due to coronavirus

— Jonathan Tannenwald, Mike Jensen, and Joe Juliano

All Philadelphia school trips, sports, concerts postponed amid coronavirus spread

// Timestamp 03/12 04:19pm

Philadelphia officials on Thursday said 45 people are “under investigation” for having the new coronavirus, though only one person in the city has tested presumptively positive.

Still, city officials announced a citywide ban on any public gathering of more than 1,000 people, a prohibition that will last for 30 days. They also recommended the cancellation or postponement of any gathering of more than 250 people.“More people will get sick,”

Commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Health Thomas Farley said, “and we have to expect that there will be deaths as a result of this.”Farley said limited testing availability -- which is a nationwide problem -- has made it difficult to identify cases and take action to slow the spread of the virus. Philadelphians who were in contact with known patients in Philadelphia and Montgomery County were showing symptoms of the virus, he said, but the city had not received any test results Wednesday or by 4 p.m. Thursday.

“Our ability to contain this infection rests right off the bat on our ability to identify cases as quickly as possible," he said.As for the recommendation on eliminating gatherings of 250 people or more, Farley said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named events of 250 people as a potential cutoff point for limiting gatherings, and noted that San Francisco now has the same ban and guidelines as Philadelphia.Smaller gatherings that are not canceled should include social distancing measures,

Farley said, such as having attendees only sit in every other seat and encouraging people who have any symptoms of illness to stay away.Farley also said city officials are not recommending schools in the city close. He said “schools are central to the functioning of a society” and pointed out that about half of children who attend city schools have a single parent.School District of Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite said all school-sponsored trips will be postponed, as will all school-based activities where large groups of students and community gather, including athletic events, plays, concerts and fundraisers.All athletic facilities will also be closed to outside organizations until further notice.

Hite said after-school clubs and athletic practices will remain as scheduled.Hite said if circumstances change, the district is prepared to evaluate closing individual schools on a case-by-case basis.He added that if parents want to keep their children home due to concerns over the spread of the virus, they can do so without producing a doctor’s note (which is currently required for extended absences).

— Anna Orso and Laura McCrystal

Pennsylvania bishops: Faithful not obligated to attend Mass as coronavirus spreads

// Timestamp 03/12 03:57pm

Pennsylvania’s Roman Catholic bishops announced Thursday that they were releasing the state’s faithful from their obligation to attend Sunday Masses as the coronavirus continues to spread.

But all regularly scheduled Masses in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will remain open to the public for those who wish to go, Archbishop Nelson Pérez said in a tweet.

“I assure you of my prayers for all during this uncertain time especially the sick, suffering, & their caregivers,” the archbishop wrote.

— Jeremy Roebuck

Wells Fargo Center postpones all events, games through March 31

// Timestamp 03/12 03:53pm

The Wells Fargo Center is postponing all events at the arena that were scheduled through March 31, said Comcast Spectacor, the arena’s parent company.

That includes Friday’s sold-out concert where Grammy Award-winning singer Billie Eilish was scheduled to perform. The concert will be rescheduled, Comcast said.

In addition, all Philadelphia Flyers, 76ers, and Wings games at the arena are postponed until further notice, as the NBA and NHL have suspended their seasons.

“We recognize that fans and event-goers will have questions regarding their ticket purchases,” the company said in a statement. “We are asking fans to hold their tickets as we determine plans to reschedule events. We thank our fans for their patience and understanding during this time. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and will share information as it becomes available.”

Earlier Thursday, the company said it closed to the arena to undergo extensive cleaning, and announced the Dan + Shay concert set for Thursday night would be postponed to September.

» READ MORE: Wells Fargo Center cancels Billie Eilish, all March events amid coronavirus fears

— Christian Hetrick

Montgomery County has largest number of coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania

// Timestamp 03/12 03:42pm

As of Thursday, there are four more presumptive positive coronavirus cases in Montgomery County, Valerie Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, said at a news conference. This brings the county total to 13, the largest number of cases per county in the state.

The four additional cases announced Thursday include:

  • A 35-year-old from Skippack Township who is being monitored at home because his symptoms don’t require hospitalization. He had direct contact with a previously identified presumptive positive individual in Montgomery County.

  • A 58-year-old man and a 53-year-old woman from the same Lower Merion household who are also being monitored at home because their symptoms. They both traveled to a location inside the U.S. where the coronavirus is known to be active. Officials are not releasing where they traveled in order to maintain their anonymity, Arkoosh said.

  • A 58-year-old from Conshohocken who is also being monitored at home because her symptoms don’t require hospitalization. This individual had direct contact with a previously identified presumptive positive individual in Montgomery County.

Contact tracing, meaning identifying all the people or places these individuals have been in contact with, is still underway, Arkoosh said.

Officials have still been unable to trace how a previously announced presumptive positive case, a 70-year-old from Cheltenham Township, became ill, Arkoosh said.

If officials are not able to pinpoint her case back to another presumptive positive individual, it would represent Montgomery County’s first instance of community spread.

— Ellie Silverman

Philly to ban events with 1,000 or more people due to coronavirus

// Timestamp 03/12 03:19pm

Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration is planning to ban all events with 1,000 or more attendees and encourage residents to skip those that will have more than 250 people, according to an email obtained by The Inquirer.

To enforce the 30-day ban, the city will use “their legal health code authority,” according to the email from an official with the business district.

The official had participated in a city conference call that laid out Kenney’s plan, the email said.

Previously, Kenney had encouraged Philadelphians to avoid events of 5,000 or more. Philadelphia magazine first reported the planned ban on large events, which Kenney is expected to announce at a 4 p.m. news conference.

A Kenney spokesperson declined to comment.

The legal authority to shut down events is in the city’s health code. For emergencies or epidemics of quarantinable diseases, the city may “forbid congregation of persons at schools, theaters, swimming places, or any public place where such measure is necessary to prevent the spread of such disease,” according to city law.

— Sean Collins Walsh, Laura McCrystal

MLB delays opening day over coronavirus

// Timestamp 03/12 03:15pm

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Major League Baseball announced it would suspend spring training effective at 4 p.m. Eastern Time and delay the start of the regular season by at least two weeks.

The decision came after MLB conducted a conference call with all 30 team owners and while several teams, including the Phillies, were on the field for Grapefruit League games. The Phillies were facing the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte, Fla., a 100-mile bus ride from their facility in Clearwater, Fla.

According to a news release, the league will provide guidance to clubs “in the coming days” about daily operations and workouts. Multiple sources said Thursday that players and essential club personnel likely will be advised to remain in Florida and Arizona, where teams could continue to hold informal workouts. It’s unclear, though, whether players will be permitted to go home.

MLB’s decision was influenced by the NBA’s suspension of play after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert reportedly tested positive for coronavirus. The contagion infiltrated baseball on Thursday when Gobert’s teammate, Donovan Mitchell, confirmed a positive test. Mitchell’s father, Donovan Mitchell Sr., works in the New York Mets’ front office and reportedly has been in spring training since watching his son play in New York last week.

— Matt Breen, Scott Lauber

Penn students start the move out process after classes are moved online

// Timestamp 03/12 02:58pm

Students at the University of Pennsylvania began packing up their belongings and moving out of their dorms Thursday, less than 24 hours after the university announced it would transition all classes to remote learning and that students must be moved out of their dormitories by Sunday to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Penn is currently on spring break, but as the March 15 deadline to move out looms, the mayhem of the short-notice announcement will likely worsen, particularly for international students with limited ability to fly home.

» READ MORE: Colleges are going completely online amid coronavirus spread. How will that even work?

Nicole Harrington, 18, pushed a large red cart filled with her clothes and toiletries across the brick walkways and loaded up her grandmother’s Honda Civic. For this freshman, the short notice closure wasn’t too jarring, as she is originally from West Philadelphia and can get home easily.

Katie Murray’s father, Bernie, drove eight hours last night from Cleveland to get to Penn by Thursday morning. She said that she was sad that campus was closing, bringing a swift end to her freshman year.

Students fortunate enough to book last minute flights were balancing four suitcases through their dormitory entrance. “This feels like the last day at camp!” one female freshman shouted to her friends as they loaded up their bags and hugged goodbye.

— Ellie Rushing

As coronavirus spreads, N.J. health officials assigns counties ‘risk category’

// Timestamp 03/12 02:55pm

Six more people have tested presumptively positive for the coronavirus in New Jersey, bringing the state total up to 29, New Jersey Lt. Gov Sheila Oliver said Thursday.

Thirty-seven additional people are under investigation statewide, Persichilli said. She did not have an update on two cases mentioned Wednesday that make health officials believe the coronavirus may be spreading throughout New Jersey.

Health officials are now giving each New Jersey county with a presumptive positive coronavirus case a risk category, Persichilli said.

Burlington County, which has two presumptive positive cases, is rated as none to minimal risk. Camden County, which has one presumptive positive case, is rated the same.

Bergen County, which has the state’s highest total of 13 cases, is rated as moderate risk. Monmouth County, with five, is rated as “above minimal, but not quite moderate.”

Thursday’s cases in New Jersey include a 23-year-old male from Bridgewater, in Somerset County. This person may have been exposed to coronavirus from a Pennsylvania resident deemed presumptively positive, officials said.

Other cases include a 16-year-old female from Englewood who is hospitalized at Englewood Medical Center. Her result was tested at a private lab, therefore “very little information” is known by state officials.

A 66-year-old female from Montclair Township, in Essex County, has also tested presumptively positive for coronavirus, as well as a 15-year-old from Morris County.

Additional cases include a 53-year-old from Monmouth County, and a female from Teaneck in Bergen County, who may have contracted coronavirus at a carnival at her synagogue on March 1, officials said.

— Pranshu Verma

Coronavirus testing in Pa.: state lab is not following CDC guidelines to get more people tested

// Timestamp 03/12 02:49pm

Days after federal officials directed the nation’s physicians to order coronavirus testing for anyone they think needs it, Pennsylvania’s public health lab is denying doctors access to tests deemed vital to containing the spread of the illness.

A Pennsylvania Department of Health spokesperson confirmed Thursday that the state lab is still using testing criteria that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated on Sunday. The earlier instructions limited testing to symptomatic people who had traveled to an outbreak hotspot or were exposed to a confirmed case.

Now, the CDC is directing physicians to “use their judgment” to order testing for anyone with symptoms, especially older adults who are at greatest risk of serious complications and even death.

» READ MORE: Coronavirus testing in Pa.: state lab is not following CDC guidelines to get more people tested

— Marie McCullough

Wawa is cleaning its touch screens more often in light of coronavirus

// Timestamp 03/12 02:46pm

Wawa has ramped up cleaning of its touch-to-order screens, door handles, and other frequently-touched items to every hour in light of the coronavirus, store officials said Thursday.

Wawa also implemented a policy that requires any staffer who traveled to the high-risk countries listed by the CDC to self-quarantine for 14 days, and is making Red Cross tip sheets and hand sanitizer available for customers.

While other stores across the region are running low on goods, Wawa said it is still fully stocked with all of its items — including Wawa iced tea and chocolate milk — and officials do not expect stores to face any shortages.

In a time of uncertainty, spokesperson Lori Bruce said Wawa hopes to remain a steadfast presence in customers' lives.

"These are rapidly ever-changing times but we are planning and putting preparations in place to support our associates and customers and be there when people need us."

— Stephanie Farr

A Philly teacher had known exposure to a coronavirus patient. The district isn’t notifying parents.

// Timestamp 03/12 02:37pm

A Philadelphia School District teacher gave the grim news this week: A relative had tested positive for the coronavirus, and he had been in close contact with the family member recently.

The Randolph High School teacher informed his students on Wednesday, then the principal sent the teacher home to isolate for two weeks.

What followed was panic: Staff had questions, students had questions, but it seemed no one could provide answers.

Students panicked, some donning rubber gloves, many asking if school should be closed. Eventually, most of the student body walked out.

But parents were never notified about the close contact the Randolph teacher had with the coronavirus patient, a daughter-in-law who had recently traveled in Japan and is now hospitalized locally with Covid19. The district sent a cleaning crew to scrub the school Wednesday night, but has taken no further action and the school was never closed.

» READ MORE: A Philly teacher had known exposure to a coronavirus patient. The district isn’t notifying parents.

— Wendy Ruderman, Kristen A. Graham

N.J., Pa. governors.: Cancel all large public gatherings

// Timestamp 03/12 02:20pm

Both New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced Thursday that they recommend all public gatherings of more than 250 individuals be canceled.

“Based on guidance we have received from the Commissioner of Health, we are recommending the cancellation of all public gatherings throughout New Jersey of more than 250 individuals, including concerts, sporting events, and parades,” Murphy said in a statement. “These measures are being taken as part of our coordinated response to the continued outbreak and to aggressively mitigate the spread of the virus.”

The announcement comes a day after officials said they are worried the coronavirus may be spreading within the community, based on two new people that have tested presumptively positive with no known contact to anyone with the coronavirus or history of travel to an area where the disease is spreading.

At a Thursday news conference, Wolf also said all gatherings of more than 250 people should be canceled or postponed statewide.

— Pranshu Verma, Anna Orso

All Montgomery County schools, community centers, gyms, entertainment to close for 2 weeks due to coronavirus

// Timestamp 03/12 02:04pm

All Montgomery County schools, community centers, gyms and entertainment venues will close for two weeks in a sweeping “social distancing” action taken by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf Thursday amid the spread of the new coronavirus.

The mitigation efforts in Montgomery County will begin Friday, Wolf said. Supermarkets, pharmacies and gas stations will remain open, and essential services including police, fire and EMS will remain available.

In addition, Wolf “strongly recommended” closing all non-essential retail facilities in Montgomery County. He also said all gatherings of more than 250 people should be canceled or postponed statewide.

The news came as Pennsylvania state officials announced new presumptive positive cases of the new coronavirus Thursday, bringing the statewide total to 22 cases. About half of those cases are in Montgomery County.

“So that is the epicenter of this epidemic at this point,” Wolf said.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said 219 Pennsylvanians have been identified for testing and, of those, 116 have tested negative and 81 tests are pending.

— Kristen A. Graham, Anna Orso

NHL suspends season due to coronavirus

// Timestamp 03/12 01:39pm

The NHL has followed the NBA’s lead and suspended the season, the league announced Thursday.

There were 10 games scheduled for Thursday night that are now on hold, including the Flyers at Tampa Bay.

The Flyers are in the midst of a dramatic turnaround and are one point behind the Capitals for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Philadelphia has 13 regular-season games remaining, including seven at home.

» READ MORE: NHL suspends season amid coronavirus outbreak

— Ed Barkowitz

Council Rock elementary school closes for coronavirus exposure

// Timestamp 03/12 01:35pm

An elementary school in the Council Rock School District closed early today after school officials learned a symptomatic person who may have been exposed to coronavirus had been at the school.

Sol Feinstone Elementary was dismissed this morning to “thoroughly disinfect the school building,” Superintendent Robert Fraser wrote in a message to families. He said the district was informed by the Bucks County Health Department that it was evaluating “a symptomatic person who may have been exposed to COVID-19, and who was present” at the school. The health department requested that the person be tested and quarantined at home until results are received.

The district said it would update families Thursday evening.

— Maddie Hanna

Kenney seeks up to $85 million in emergency funding as coronavirus pandemic hits Philadelphia

// Timestamp 03/12 01:15pm

Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration is seeking City Council approval for up to $85 million in emergency funding to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The money, which would be transferred from the city’s fund balance, is not yet earmarked for any specific purpose, Kenney spokesperson Mike Dunn said. Instead, the administration is seeking spending approval now in case the city needs to take costly emergency measures as the disease spreads in Philadelphia.

“This is being done out of an abundance of caution, given the uncertainties the City faces as a result of COVID-19,” Dunn said. “This request does not mean we are certain to spend the funds. Rather, having these funds at the ready will allow the Managing Director to quickly access additional services as conditions warrant.”

One costly project the city could use the funds for is the reopening of Hahnemann Hospital. City officials previously floated the possibility of reopening the North Broad street institution, which was shut down this summer after its owner, American Academic Health System, filed for bankruptcy.

Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez on Thursday introduced the funding legislation on the administration’s behalf.Council President Darrell L. Clarke said that, as it is written now, the bill would direct the funds to the Managing Director’s Office, which oversees all city agencies.

“When you have this type of appropriation, you may need to be nimble, you may need to be flexible because you’re responding to some level of uncertainty in terms of where you need to have that money,” Clarke said.

— Sean Collins Walsh

Philadelphia Orchestra cancels upcoming performances amid coronavirus spread

// Timestamp 03/12 01:12pm

With the news of coronavirus growing more intense Thursday and the city discouraging large gatherings, the Philadelphia Orchestra called off upcoming performances.

The orchestra has canceled all of its concerts through March 23. The decision was made in anticipation of the city’s recommendation that all large gatherings be suspended to limit community transmission of COVID-19, an orchestra spokesperson said.

The cancellation comes just as the orchestra was beginning its Beethoven symphony cycle — a month of concerts led by music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. The first, with Beethoven’s symphonies No. 5 and 6, was to have been performed Thursday, Saturday and Sunday in Verizon Hall, and repeated Friday at Carnegie Hall.

The New York concert, along with dozens of others at Carnegie, has also been scrapped.

One group of orchestra fans did get to hear the orchestra’s Beethoven. Thursday morning, about 650 students and chaperones from 12 area schools like West Windsor-Plainsboro High School and Franklin Learning Center attended an open rehearsal in Verizon Hall with Nézet-Séguin leading the orchestra.

Groups from another 13 schools either canceled or didn’t show up.

— Peter Dobrin

Coronavirus patient hospitalized at Temple University Hospital-Jeanes Campus

// Timestamp 03/12 01:08pm

A coronavirus patient is being treated at Temple University Hospital-Jeanes Campus in Northeast Philadelphia.

Temple University Health System issued the following statement Thursday:

One patient who tested positive for COVID-19 is currently hospitalized at Temple University Hospital-Jeanes Campus. While collecting information about the patient, including their work history, we learned that they worked on a per-diem basis as a healthcare provider on the Jeanes Campus for a single day, treating 3 patients in a self-contained unit.
We are taking all necessary steps, including strict adherence to the CDC’s Infection Prevention and Control protocols, to ensure the health and safety of all patients, visitors and staff. Local health officials, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the patient’s employer have been conducting contact tracing to locate and notify others who came into contact with or may have come into contact with the patient.
We will continue to work closely with all relevant health officials, including the CDC, PA Department of Health and Philadelphia Department of Public Health, to address and monitor this case and provide high quality and safe care to all of our patients.

— Oona Goodin-Smith

City Council proposes measures to ensure people won’t lose homes over the coronavirus

// Timestamp 03/12 00:49pm

Proposals in City Council could put pressure on courts and the Sheriff’s office to ensure the coronavirus, and the loss of income it may cause, won’t result in people losing their homes.

A resolution, introduced Thursday by Councilmembers Helen Gym and Kendra Brooks, recommended utilities participate in a temporary moratorium in any evictions, foreclosures, tax liens, or utility shutoffs. Another resolution introduced Thursday by Brooks would request the city ensure a continuity of health and paid time off benefits for workers, funds for emergency cash grants, and clarification from the Office of Labor on worker rights and the enforcement of worker complaints.

City Council does not have the power to directly order courts or utilities to cease those moves, but the resolution could put pressure on the entities to act, officials said.

“It’s a powerful message from City Council that we don’t want to make the pandemic worse by threatening homelessness for hundreds of low income owners and renters,” said Mike Froehlich, from Community Legal Services, which offers legal consultation to the city’s poor.

— Jason Laughlin

Two Philly judges self-quarantine for potential coronavirus exposure

// Timestamp 03/12 00:48pm

Two judges handling criminal cases at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas are under self-quarantine due to potential exposure to the coronavirus, people familiar with the situation told the Inquirer. The sources declined to be named because they are not authorized to speak.

Neither judge has symptoms of COVID-19.

One judge had traveled from Spain and had been asked to stay home until March 23; some of his cases were being handled by phone and others were reassigned to other courtrooms. The other judge had been in contact with a person who may have been exposed during a conference; his docket was being handled by another judge this week.

A First Judicial District spokesperson could not confirm whether there were additional changes to court procedures Thursday.

— Samantha Melamed

PIAA suspends state basketball tournaments for at least two weeks

// Timestamp 03/12 00:33pm

The PIAA has announced the suspension of the boys’ and girls’ basketball state tournaments for at least two weeks as a precautionary measure because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The organization, which oversees high school sports in Pennsylvania, also said the state boys’ and girls’ Class 2A swimming and diving championships would be suspended for at least two weeks.

“PIAA, by enforcing a two-week hiatus from our basketball and AA swimming and diving championships, believes this action will allow schools time to perform self-assessments and make decisions to promote optimal heath conditions in their communities,” the PIAA said in a statement.

PIAA executive director Robert Lombardi said in the statement, “The Board of Directors are committed to promoting an environment of healthy athletic competition that is consistent with current health department and the Center for Disease Control guidelines.”

The PIAA sports medicine committee will meet this week for further discussions, the organization said.The Class 3A swimming and diving championships are expected to finish Thursday at Bucknell University with “limited spectators,” the PIAA said.

» READ MORE: PIAA suspends state basketball tournaments for at least two weeks

— Phil Anastasia

Temple basketball tournament canceled, A10, Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, other conferences cancel amid coronavirus spread

// Timestamp 03/12 00:25pm

The American Athletic Conference, of which Temple is a member, has canceled its men’s basketball tournament due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. The tournament was to begin today. Temple was in Forth Worth for the tournament and was supposed to play SMU in the tonight’s first-round game.

The A10, Big Ten, SEC, Big 12, AAC and Conference USA have canceled basketball tournaments Thursday because of the coronavirus concerns.

The news comes after 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.

The Colonial Athletic Association also canceled the remainder of 2020 CAA Women’s Basketball Championships and all spring sports contests have been suspended until further notice. Drexel and Delaware were both supposed to play women’s basketball quarterfinal games Thursday in Elon, North Carolina.

The Big East became the last major men’s basketball conference to cancel its conference tournament, calling off the event at halftime of Thursday’s game between St. John’s and Creighton at Madison Square Garden.

Villanova was to play DePaul Thursday night at 7 p.m.

In another Temple matter, the school has canceled the Fan Fest on April 4. That is the final day for spring practice for the football team and while the Owls don’t hold a spring, game, that is a time for fans to see the team in an open practice.

In addition, varsity sports in non-championships seasons, will be suspended for at least the next two weeks. That includes the football team’s spring practice. Temple has had two practices, Tuesday and Wednesday.

The University of Delaware announced that due to the outbreak of the coronavirus along with four confirmed positive tests as of now on the campus, has decided to suspend all sports competition and practice until further notice.

— Mark Narducci, Jonathan Tannenwald

Upper Dublin School District to close Friday for coronavirus cleaning

// Timestamp 03/12 00:12pm

The Upper Dublin School District will close Friday for cleaning amid continued spread of the coronavirus.

Superintendent Steve Yanni said in a message Thursday that the district would conduct “continued deep cleaning” and anticipates reopening schools on Monday.

Information about the coronavirus is “rapidly changing,” Yanni said. He said the district would provide a “status update” by 3 p.m. Sunday.

The district previously announced that it would cancel all school travel through Memorial Day, and would also cancel all meetings, concerts, shows, and indoor events.

— Maddie Hanna

Philly schools bought hand sanitizer with no alcohol to fight coronavirus. Teachers are concerned.

// Timestamp 03/12 00:09pm

Teachers and staff at the Philadelphia School District are worried that the district bought a less effective, non-alcohol-based hand sanitizer in bulk as part of its effort to cope with the threat of coronavirus.

Leaders of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, the union for teachers, said the district had newly equipped facilities with a sanitizer, foamyiQ Lemon Blossom, that is not alcohol-based, even though the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of alcohol-based products.

The district said going with an alcohol-based product posed risks of it own.

» READ MORE: Philly schools bought hand sanitizer with no alcohol to fight coronavirus. Teachers are concerned.

— Craig R. McCoy, Kristen A. Graham

Montgomery, Chester counties to restrict jury pools, stagger court proceedings amid coronavirus spread

// Timestamp 03/12 00:07pm

In response to the high number of presumptive positive cases of coronavirus in Montgomery County, new, more restrictive policies are being implemented at the county courthouse in Norristown.

The policies were announced in an internal memo distributed to county employees late Wednesday. They go into effect immediately, according to the memo, obtained by The Inquirer.

Under the new rules, jury pools will be limited to 90 people, and jury selection will take place in the same courtroom. Judges are also directed to implement a “uniform continuance request policy” and allow that cases have their first or second listings continued by e-mail or phone, with 48 hours notice and consent of the opposing party.

Starting March 23, most court proceedings will be staggered hourly to avoid larger groups of attorneys and other parties from assembling in the courthouse.

The memo also recommends conducting probation-violation and orphans’ court hearings remotely.

These new policies also affect courthouse staff, who are advised not to attend off-site conferences or training and either reschedule all meetings or hold them virtually.

In Chester County, President Judge John L. Hall on Thursday issued a similar order to restricting certain procedures in the county courthouse.

Hall’s memorandum recommended staggering proceedings, holding jury selection in larger courtrooms and conducting as much business as possible remotely.

But he took the precautions a step further, and gave county sheriffs the discretion to decline transporting inmates from the county jail or any state prison to the county courthouse if they appeared sick or had been in contact with anyone who had been exposed to the coronavirus in the last 14 days.

—Vinny Vella

University of Delaware students, researcher, test positive for coronavirus

// Timestamp 03/12 11:55am

Two graduate students and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Delaware have tested positive for COVID-19, the school announced Thursday.

“All three had close contact at an off-campus social event in February with the faculty member who tested positive on Wednesday,” said Dennis Assanis, the president, in an email to the campus.

All four individuals are quarantined and receiving medical care, the president said.

On Wednesday, the university suspended classes for the week and announced it would move online for the rest of the semester after spring break.

— Susan Snyder

Lower Merion schools to dismiss early, close after parent exposed to coronavirus

// Timestamp 03/12 11:45am

The Lower Merion School District is dismissing students early Thursday and closing Friday due to a district parent’s exposure to coronavirus.

The district said Thursday it had been notified that a parent of two students — one at Welsh Valley Middle School, the other at Penn Valley Elementary School — was exposed to a person with coronavirus, and “out of an abundance of caution the Montgomery County Office of Public Health has placed the family under quarantine.”

Elementary schools, which already had early dismissal today, will dismiss at 12:25, while high schools will dismiss at 1 p.m. and middle schools, 1:35 p.m.

This is the second coronavirus-related closure of the week for the district, which canceled school Tuesday due to potential exposure of two students and a staff member to the virus during a visit to a Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia facility where a healthcare provider was infected.

» READ MORE: Coronavirus sends CHOP-King of Prussia cardiologist to Philadelphia hospital

The district had already planned to dismiss middle and high schools early on Friday to give staff time to prepare remote learning plans, in the event of long-term closures.

— Maddie Hanna

Major League Soccer suspends season because of coronavirus; Union home opener postponed

// Timestamp 03/12 11:28am

Major League Soccer is following the NBA’s lead and suspending its season, according to several sources.

U.S. men’s and women’s national team games scheduled for March and April have also been canceled, according to Yahoo! Sports.

» READ MORE: Major League Soccer suspends season because of coronavirus; Union home opener postponed

— Jonathan Tannenwald

Acme limits purchases on cleaning supplies, toilet paper, pantry staples amid coronavirus spread

// Timestamp 03/12 11:20am

Acme Markets, a supermarket chain that operates throughout the Philadelphia region, is limiting some customer purchases on popular items as cleaning supplies, toilet paper and pantry staples fly off the shelves.

The grocery stores, like ShopRite, Target, and others, are limiting customers to five items of anything that the store can’t restock quickly enough, said Dana Ward, an Acme spokesperson. Public health officials have generally recommended against stockpiling items.

Target Corp. officials said in a statement earlier this week that the big-box store is taking some steps to limit purchases. “As demand for cleaning products, medicine, pantry stock-up items and more remains high, we’re sending more products to our stores as quickly as possible,” CEO Brian Cornell said in a statement.

Customers at local Target locations encountered limits of six items on products including disinfects and sanitizers for both hands and surfaces.

David Damsker, director of Bucks County health department, said Wednesday that people should buy the things they normally buy, because otherwise it causes a domino effect that then leads to more stockpiling.

» READ MORE: Philadelphia-area grocery stores limiting some purchases amid coronavirus panic-buying

— Anna Orso

Philadelphia health board to vote on quarantine procedures

// Timestamp 03/12 11:16am

Philadelphia’s Board of Health is expected to vote Thursday evening on a new regulation that would formalize quarantine procedures.

The proposed regulation states that patients infected with the virus must stay isolated at home or in a hospital, and that “persons who had close contact” with them will also be quarantined and monitored by the city’s Department of Health. It also includes guidance for disinfecting rooms where patients have been treated.

The regulation would take effect immediately, due to a “declaration of extraordinary circumstance” that Mayor Jim Kenney signed Wednesday, allowing the city to forgo the typical 30-day waiting period for new regulations that relate to the coronavirus outbreak, said James Garrow, a spokesperson for the Department of Health.

— Laura McCrystal

As travel grinds to a halt, hospitality industry ‘very concerned’ for hourly employees

// Timestamp 03/12 10:58am

The spread of the coronavirus has created a dire situation for Philadelphia’s hotel and hospitality industry, which is in many ways powered by hourly workers who are already seeing reductions in work amid canceled events and a European travel ban.

More than 70,000 people work in the hotel and food service industry in Philadelphia, many of whom could feel the squeeze as travel grinds to a halt and events are canceled or postponed.

Ed Grose, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, said Thursday morning that he’s been speaking for hours with general managers at hotels across the region who “are very concerned for their team members that are hourly employees.”

He said workers used to working 40 hours per week could see their days cut, as much as to one day a week.

“They are doing their best to make sure that their folks are taken care of,” he said, “but there is not much they can do when you’re looking at rock-bottom occupancy rates."

He said member hotels are working out contingency plans, and “the possible scenarios are getting extreme.”

Dermot Delude-Dix, a research analyst with Unite Here Local 274, which represents about 4,000 hotel, airport and food service workers, said Thursday morning that some members of the union have seen hours cut to zero, or were told they are simply “on-call” for the week. He said members employed at hotels and at the airport are seeing hours slashed and workers sent home early, while some service employees at the Wells Fargo Center are awaiting news from the NHL regarding the remainder of the hockey season. The NBA on Wednesday suspended the rest of the season after a player tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Workers are really concerned,” he said, “about basically, how are they going to be able to pay the bills?”

President Trump has said his administration plans to seek some sort of relief for hourly wage earners affected by the coronavirus.

— Anna Orso

Kenney, Philadelphia City Council in talks over emergency funding for coronavirus

// Timestamp 03/12 10:49am

— Sean Collins Walsh

St. Joseph’s University extends spring break, moves classes online

// Timestamp 03/12 10:36am

St. Joseph’s University is extending spring break through March 18 and moving all advising, classes, studios and labs to a virtual online format beginning March 19, the school announced. The virtual format will continue at least through April 9. The campus and residence halls will remain open, the university said.

“Students who can go home and have access to the needed technology for online learning and engagement are encouraged to do so,” the university said. Intercollegiate athletic activities will continue will continue “with limited or no spectators,” the school said.

» READ MORE: Colleges are going completely online amid coronavirus spread. How will that even work?

— Susan Snyder

U.S. Capitol closing to public until April amid virus scare

// Timestamp 03/12 10:31am

Congress is shutting the Capitol to the public until April in reaction to the spread of the coronavirus, officials announced Thursday, a rare step that underscores the growing gravity with which the government is reacting to the viral outbreak.

In a statement, the House and Senate sergeants at arms said congressional office buildings and the Congressional Visitor Center, through which tourists enter the Capitol, were also being shuttered.

Only lawmakers, staff, journalists and visitors with official business will be permitted to enter the buildings.

» READ MORE: U.S. Capitol closing to public until April amid virus scare

— Associated Press

Dan + Shay concert at the Wells Fargo Center postponed until September

// Timestamp 03/12 10:09am

Tonight’s Dan + Shay concert at the Wells Fargo Center has been canceled and rescheduled after the arena closed Thursday to undergo an extensive cleaning amid coronavirus concerns.

“Today’s Wells Fargo Center events will be rescheduled. Tickets will be honored for a later date or will be refunded at the point of purchase,” the Wells Fargo Center said in a statement.

On their social channels, Dan + Shay said the concert in Philadelphia has been rescheduled to Sept. 28.

» READ MORE: Wells Fargo Center closed for cleaning amid coronavirus fears

It is unclear when the Wells Fargo Center will re-open. Grammy Award-winning singer Billie Eilish is scheduled to perform in front of a sold-out crowd on Friday.

— Rob Tornoe, Michael Klein

Trading halted on Wall Street after stocks plunge 7% at open

// Timestamp 03/12 9:57am

An early plunge of 7% on Wall Street triggered a trading halt as a sell-off slamming global markets continued.

The Dow Jones industrials dropped more than 1,600 points, or 7%, the S&P 500 fell a similar amount.

Trading resumes after 15 minutes. The rout came after President Trump imposed a travel ban on most of Europe and offered few new measures to contain the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Benchmarks in Europe fell more than 7% even after the European Central Bank announced more stimulus measures. World markets are enduring violent swings amid uncertainty about how badly the outbreak will hit the economy.

» READ MORE: Trading halted on Wall Street after stocks plunge 7% at open

— Associated Press

Pa. senator to introduce bill to nix standardized testing amid coronavirus spread

// Timestamp 03/12 9:42am

A Pennsylvania state senator from West Chester said he will introduce legislation to eliminate standardized testing requirements for school districts as the coronavirus continues to spread.

“Given the rapid spread of this virus, we must rethink the systems we have in place to deal with meeting school day requirements, as they will be quickly overwhelmed in the event of extended closings,” said Sen. Andy Dinniman, who serves as minority chair of the Senate Education Committee. “My aim to is free up our school districts from burdensome requirements and bureaucratic processes, so they can protect students, teachers, and staff, while continuing to educate students to the top of the curriculum. The time to act is now.”

If passed, the state’s PSSA and Keystone exams would be canceled for this year and the state education department would ask for a waiver from federal regulations.

A second bill to be introduced by Dinniman would give school districts the ability to move ahead with online learning plans with waiting for approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and it calls on the department, within two weeks, to establish alternative plans for school districts that don’t have the resources to move to online learning.

— Susan Snyder

Atlantic City mayor on coronavirus: ‘It’s definitely going to have an economic impact’

// Timestamp 03/12 9:29am

Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small Sr. said the ongoing fallout from the coronavirus was likely to take its toll on the seaside casino city.

“It’s definitely going to have an economic impact once people start cancelling shows and or room nights,” Small said in an interview. “First and foremost, our goal is to make sure that all the residents and visitors alike are safe.”

Some performers, like Adam Sandler, who was scheduled to be at Hard Rock this weekend, have canceled upcoming shows. The Metro-Atlantic Athletic conference tournament, being played at Boardwalk Hall, announced it would no longer let in fans beyond immediate family.

The casinos have instituted enhanced cleaning protocols and flexible cancellation policies.

“Ocean Casino Resort continues to enhance customer & team member safety--more hand sanitizers units and cleaning efforts!!” the casino wrote on Twitter, posting photos of black-gloved staff wiping down slot machines and escalator rails.

MGM Resorts, which owns the Borgata, put out a statement outlining various steps for coronavirus precautions, including “placing additional hand sanitizer dispensing stations in high-traffic areas ... and proactive cleaning.”

— Amy Rosenberg

Carnival suspends Princess Cruises line for 60 days

// Timestamp 03/12 9:23am

Carnival’s Princess Cruises line with suspend all operations for two months over concerns about the coronavirus, the company announced Thursday morning.

The Diamond Princess was quarantined in Japan last month after an 80-year-old passenger tested positive for the coronavirus. More than 700 people ultimately become infected by the virus, and at least seven people have died.

» READ MORE: Coronavirus quarantine: A Pennsylvania man's day-by-day diary aboard a cruise ship

Earlier this month, the Grand Princess was forced to wait off the coast of California for several days so passengers could be tested for the coronavirus. At least 21 tested positive, including 19 crew members. The ship docked in Oakland on Monday, and passengers have been sent to quarantine sites and regional hospitals.

» READ MORE: Princess Cruises halts operations for 60 days

— Rob Tornoe

La Salle extends spring break, moves to remote learning

// Timestamp 03/12 9:09am

La Salle University will extend its spring break by one week and resume classes with remote learning on Monday, March 30 through April 3.

Faculty will work on course preparation for online the week of March 23, said president Colleen Hanycz.

“Face-to-face instruction on campus will resume no earlier than Monday, April 6,” the university said.

— Susan Snyder

St. Christopher’s doctor may have been exposed to coronavirus

// Timestamp 03/12 8:48am

In a statement issued Wednesday to Tower Health employees, the company said “as of yesterday evening, Tower Health has had two presumed positive patients and one possible exposure situation."

The possible exposure situation involves St. Christoper’s Hospital, where officials said they learned Tuesday that an independent physician, who had recently returned from travel overseas performed three procedures at the hospital two weeks ago.

The physician was not symptomatic but began to feel ill the next day, the statement said.

It was not clear from the statement whether the doctor had actually been tested for coronavirus.

“In an abundance of caution we have communicated this to employees and medical staff at St. Christopher’s and provided talking points to staff to assure visitors,” the statement said. “We have no evidence of COVID-19 at St. Christopher’s among staff or patients.”

— Bethany Ao

Wells Fargo Center closed for cleaning

// Timestamp 03/12 8:26am

The Wells Fargo Center will be closed on Thursday, less than 12 hours after the NBA suspended its season over coronavirus concerns. NBC Sports Philadelphia employees, whose office is inside the Wells Fargo Center, were notified early Thursday morning that the Wells Fargo Center will be closed for a deep cleaning, according to a memo sent to NBC Sports Philadelphia employees.

“I got word today that the Wells Fargo Center is closed today for cleaning. So don’t come in, basically,” 97.5 The Fanatic host Marc Farzetta, a multi-platform host for NBC Sports Philadelphia, said on his show Thursday morning.

It is unclear when the Wells Fargo Center will re-open.

In a statement, Comcast Spectacor said:

“In light of the ongoing coronavirus situation and out of an abundance of caution, the Wells Fargo Center’s facilities are undergoing an extensive cleaning and sanitization on Thursday, March 12. To facilitate this, non-essential Wells Fargo Center employees are working from home today.
Today’s Wells Fargo Center events will be rescheduled. Tickets will be honored for a later date or will be refunded at the point of purchase.
The health and safety of our employees and guests is our highest priority. We will continue to closely monitor the coronavirus situation and will share more information as it becomes available.”

The Wells Fargo Center was scheduled to tonight host country music duo Dan + Shay. The artists haven’t made any announcement regarding the show, nor have their representatives returned request for comment. Representatives for Grammy Award-winning singer Billie Eilish, set to perform Friday, similarly have not responded to requests for comment.

Philadelphia city officials earlier this week asked residents to avoid large gatherings to tame the spread of the new coronavirus.

But events remained scheduled as usual at the Wells Fargo Center, which was set to, over the course of a week, host four Flyers games, three Sixers games, a professional lacrosse game, and two concerts, including a sold-out show on Friday featuring Grammy Award-winning singer Billie Eilish.

The Flyers game drew a crowd of nearly 20,000 people Tuesday night and officials said events remained -- they asked anyone who felt ill to consider not attending. But the calculus changed late Wednesday, when the NBA announced it has canceled the remainder of its season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the virus. The NHL is expected to make an announcement today regarding the future of the season.

» READ MORE: Coronavirus makes public events and even private gatherings risky, experts say

— Rob Tornoe, Anna Orso, Christian Hetrick

Pence: Government expects ‘thousands more cases of coronavirus’

// Timestamp 03/12 7:41am

Vice President Mike Pence appeared on all three major morning shows Thursday morning, where he said the government expects “thousands more cases of coronavirus” and was pressed on aspects of the administration’s response, including the lack of widespread testing compared to other countries.

“We think the key is going to be what we call “commercial laboratories” like LabCorp and Quest, who are already spinning up production… on tests that can be available on a broad basis in the days ahead,” Pence said.

“Anyone that feels they may have contracted the coronavirus should call their doctor,” Pence added. “Their doctor can contact the state lab and determine where testing can take place today in all 50 states.”

Pence also said this on CNN: “Americans coming home will be funneled through 13 different airports. They’ll be screened, and then we’re going to ask every American and legal resident returning to the United States to self-quarantine for 14 days." He didn’t specify which airports.

— Rob Tornoe

EU condemns Trump travel ban from Europe as virus spreads

// Timestamp 03/12 7:34am

The European Union on Thursday lashed out at President Donald Trump’s “unilateral” decision to restrict travel from Europe to the United States over the coronavirus, saying that the illness does not respect borders.

Trump announced that all European travel would be cut off, but U.S. officials later clarified that restrictions would apply only to most foreign citizens who have been in Europe’s passport-free travel zone at any point for 14 days prior to their arrival to the United States.

“The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation,” EU Council President Charles Michel and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a joint statement.

“The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action,” the two said.

They rejected Trump’s suggestion that Europe is not doing enough to combat COVID-19, saying that the 27-nation bloc “is taking strong action to limit the spread of the virus.”

» READ MORE: EU condemns Trump travel ban from Europe as virus spreads

— Associated Press

In the event of long-term coronavirus closures, here’s how Philly-area schools plan to instruct thousands of students

// Timestamp 03/12 7:17am

As coronavirus spreads throughout the Philadelphia region, the potential for closures is forcing districts to confront a variety of challenges without clear answers. Public schools provide free meals for poor students, and services for children with special needs. Many are grappling with how they would continue to fulfill those roles in the event they had to close for prolonged periods.

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.

» READ MORE: How area schools are planning to instruct thousands of students in the event of long-term coronavirus closures

— Maddie Hanna, Kristen A. Graham