7:58 AM - March 17, 2020
7:58 AM - March 17, 2020

Read the latest Philadelphia-area coronavirus updates here

As the coronavirus tightens its grip on the Philadelphia region and throughout the U.S., colleges have been pressured to move to online learning and encourage students to leave campus and return home. But as school resources shut down, vulnerable, low-income students are being left behind. And, in the wake of instating a statewide curfew and other unprecedented steps to limit the spread of the coronavirus in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy said today that "this is no time to panic,” but, "It’s also no time for business as usual.”

10:08 PM - March 16, 2020
10:08 PM - March 16, 2020

Two Burlington County adults who attended public events have tested positive for coronavirus

Two adults who attended public events last week in Burlington County – a Mass in Mount Holly, and an orchestra concert at Moorestown High School – have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the county health department.

The health department said anyone feeling mild symptoms who attended the 11:30 a.m. Mass on March 8 at Sacred Heart Church or Thursday night’s concert should self-isolate at home until they are fever-free for 72 hours. For more-severe symptoms, they should contact their doctors.

—Anthony R. Wood

9:23 PM - March 16, 2020
9:23 PM - March 16, 2020

A special election in Bucks County won’t be delayed because of coronavirus, judge rules

A judge on Monday night denied Bucks County officials’ request to delay a special election in Bensalem that is scheduled for Tuesday despite Gov. Tom Wolf’s directive to close all nonessential businesses and public spaces in the county due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ruling was a win for House Speaker Mike Turzai (R, Allegheney) who has insisted on holding the election for Pennsylvania’s 18th state House District over the objections of Wolf and local officials.

“We were left with no choice but to file suit,” Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, chair of the commissioners as well as the county’s Board of Elections, said in a statement before the ruling. “The risk is too great. Nothing is more important than the health and safety of our residents.”

—Sean Collins Walsh, Justine McDaniel

9:13 PM - March 16, 2020
9:13 PM - March 16, 2020

‘Everyone’s panicking,’ as Atlantic City’s casinos lock their doors

At Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, the casino floor was emptying out as displays told of the shutdown.
Amy Rosenberg
At Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, the casino floor was emptying out as displays told of the shutdown.

All of Atlantic City’s nine casinos locked their doors Monday as night fell on a wind-snapped Boardwalk, leaving only a security guard or two peering out through locked glass doors, and a recording of Guy Fieri on loop outside Bally’s.

By the deadline of 8 p.m., casinos had taped up hastily printed out signs informing stragglers to try again at some time yet to be determined. Brinks trucks circled all day picking up cash.

″Everybody’s panicking," said Hoang Nguyen, a waiter, as he walked out of Resorts Hotel Casino, not sure when he would return. “It’s pretty crazy. It’s like a ghost town. It’s pretty wild. It’s the first time I’ve seen it like this.”

The shutdown brought both relief and fear as casino workers, cabdrivers, bartenders, junket tour managers, beer festival organizers, valets, even the rolling-chair operators who have roamed the Boardwalk for a century contemplated a 24-hour town without its economic engine.

Ordered by Gov. Phil Murphy as part of a vast curtailing of businesses to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, the closures mark the fifth time in the 42-year history of legalized gambling in Atlantic City that the casinos have been shuttered.

The uncertainty was palpable. Casinos said they would pay two weeks salary and cover health care through June 30 for the city’s 27,000 workers.

“I’m upset about it,” said one table-game supervisor at Resorts shortly after word of the shutdown began to trickle into the casino and where the front desk had stopped checking in people. “Who’s going to pay my bills?"

—Amy S. Rosenberg

8:40 PM - March 16, 2020
8:40 PM - March 16, 2020

Gov. Phil Murphy announces third New Jersey death from coronavirus

A third person in New Jersey has died from the coronavirus, Gov. Phil Murphy said in a tweet Monday night.

The individual was a man in his 90s being treated at Hackensack University Medical Center in Bergen County.

At least 178 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the Garden State, with 80 new cases reported Monday.

—Pranshu Verma

7:45 PM - March 16, 2020
7:45 PM - March 16, 2020

Schedule changes for PATCO riders begins Tuesday

PATCO is making changes to its weekday service beginning Tuesday because of the coronavirus outbreak, according to the high-speed line’s website. Riders will see adjustments to frequency. From 6 a.m. until 9 a.m., trains will arrive every 10 minutes, and then every 15 minutes between 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

During the late-day rush hours, trains are scheduled every 10 minutes from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. and every 15-20 minutes between 6 p.m. until 11:59 p.m.

Last week, PATCO reported a slight dip in ridership as the region began to hear calls for social distancing and directives to work from home, for those able. Its most recent ridership figures were not immediately available.John Hanson, CEO of the Delaware River Port Authority, which runs PATCO, said at the time that PATCO was prepared to reevaluate service “if things continue to increase in severity.”

It’s not clear how the changes will last. The modified schedule can be found on PATCO’s website.

7:14 PM - March 16, 2020
7:14 PM - March 16, 2020

Viewings, funeral for slain Phila. police officer ‘indefinitely postponed’

The funeral and viewings for slain Philadelphia Police Cpl. James O’Connor IV have been “indefinitely postponed” because of coronavirus crowd restrictions, a police union spokesman said Monday evening.

The funeral Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Center City had been scheduled for noon Friday preceded by viewings Thursday evening at the John F. Givnish funeral home in NortheastPhiladelphia and Friday morning at the cathedral.Police union spokesman Mike Nelion provided no further details.On Monday, President Trump recommended that gatherings should be limited to 10 people for the foreseeable future.

A memorial event scheduled for Tuesday evening in honor of O’Connor and in general support of the police has been postponed. O’Connor, 46, was shot last Friday morning in the 1600 block of Bridge Street when he and other Special Weapons and Tactics officers, along with members of the homicide fugitive task force, entered a rowhouse searching for Hassan Elliot, 21, who was wanted on a homicide warrant.

— Robert Moran

7:11 PM - March 16, 2020
7:11 PM - March 16, 2020

Jim’s Steaks, empty!? Scenes we never thought we’d see

Jim's Steaks is shown on empty streets of South Street, Philadelphia. Monday, March 16, 2020.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Jim's Steaks is shown on empty streets of South Street, Philadelphia. Monday, March 16, 2020.

The reality of Mayor Jim Kenney’s order for all nonessential businesses to shut down by 5 p.m. Monday was starkly evident on South Street outside one of the region’s signature food stops.

The grills were fired up, but Jim’s Steaks was open for takeout only. Asked how business was going, an employee answered, “It’s going.”

Restaurants will be allowed to offer ony take-out and delivery service. Most retail stores will shutter through at least March 27.

— Anthony R. Wood

6:55 PM - March 16, 2020
6:55 PM - March 16, 2020

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission suspends use of cash, credit cards

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is suspending the use of cash and credit cards as a “temporary safety measure” beginning Monday night.

Motorists without an E-ZPass are temporarily encouraged to keep driving through toll booths. Charges will arrive to the registered car owner in the mail through its “TOLL BY PLATE” program.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike
Laurence Kesterson / File photo
The Pennsylvania Turnpike

“This temporary measure is critical to enable us to support the Commonwealth in its efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” said PA Turnpike CEO Mark Compton in a statement. “I want to be clear that we will return to normal toll-collection operations as soon as it becomes practical.”The change, intended to limit person-to-person interaction amid the coronavirus outbreak, starts at 8 p.m.

— Pat Madej

6:35 PM - March 16, 2020
6:35 PM - March 16, 2020

Penn, Main Line Health offer ‘drive-through’ coronavirus testing

Penn Medicine and Main Line Health on Monday became the latest health systems to announce “drive-through testing” for coronavirus infection.

To get patients’ samples, Penn has set up collection sites in parking lots at two facilities, one in West Philadelphia and the other in Radnor.

Healthcare workers wearing protective equipment including face masks and gloves will take nasal or throat swabs, or both, as patients with symptoms such as fever and cough remain in their cars.

Penn will then perform a molecular analysis to look for coronavirus DNA in its own high-complexity lab, using kits created with a commercial company, according to chief medical officer P.J. Brennan.

That gives Penn the ability to bypass or supplement the limited testing offered through the Pennsylvania health department’s public health lab.

The drive-through service and the test is being offered only to patients referred by their Penn doctors; it is free, even to uninsured patients, a Penn spokesperson said.

Main Line Health opened two drive-through testing centers in Newtown Square and Radnor for patients who have been referred for a test by a Main Line doctor.

Tests are being processed by Quest, and results are typically available in three-to-five days, a Main Line Health spokesperson said.

Patients who do not have a referral from their doctor will not be able to get tested at the Main Line locations. People who are experiencing respiratory illness symptoms and think they should be tested for coronavirus should contact their primary care doctor.

—Marie McCullough, Sarah Gantz

6:17 PM - March 16, 2020
6:17 PM - March 16, 2020

As shutdowns begin across the region, photos show the start of life in the age of the coronavirus

6:04 PM - March 16, 2020
6:04 PM - March 16, 2020

Penn is canceling commencement and will hold a virtual ceremony

The University of Pennsylvania has taken the extraordinary step of canceling on-campus commencement, saying it will move to virtual ceremony.

The news is likely to be a crushing blow to seniors who were looking forward to celebrating their accomplishments and already have to take the rest of their classes online this semester.

“Based on the recent recommendations of the CDC and leading public health experts, who are now directing against any public gatherings of more than 50 people for the next two months, we cannot responsibly plan to bring thousands of people to campus for our traditional Commencement and Alumni Weekend in May,” President Amy Gutmann said in an email to the campus.

Penn becomes the first university in the region to state it will not hold commencement.

“Given the uncertainty of when it might again be safe to bring such large groups together, and the rapidly changing scale of the pandemic, we know that this change is the only action we can take,” Gutmann said.

The campus is exploring holding some type of celebration for students in the fall. The virtual ceremony will take place in mid-May.

—Susan Snyder

5:59 PM - March 16, 2020
5:59 PM - March 16, 2020

Krasner tells Police Department to focus on ‘dangerous offenses’ amid pandemic

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner speaks with an Inquirer reporter inside the DA's office in Center City, Philadelphia on Tuesday, June 18, 2019.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner speaks with an Inquirer reporter inside the DA's office in Center City, Philadelphia on Tuesday, June 18, 2019.

Hours after the courts closed for two weeks on Monday, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner outlined a series of emergency measures he said will preserve public safety without crowding the jails.

“We intend to charge where we deem appropriate and that will, of course, be all serious offenses especially violent felonies,” he said in an interview. “We also expect to more forcefully move toward a system where we either are seeking to have people held on very substantial bail or we are seeking for them to be out on [their own recognizance]. I think the pandemic requires that.”

Those measures will include delaying prosecution in some cases and releasing those charged with nonviolent offenses, leaving space in the jails for those charged with violent felonies and other serious crimes.

In a statement outlining the policy, Krasner’s office made clear it has asked the police department to join the effort and “use their discretion and prioritize dangerous offenses for arrest.” Similarly, prosecutors will “request no-bail detention only for people who present a net safety risk to the public.”

Cases that required closer examination, including domestic violence cases, could be held in jail for review by a judge, he said in an interview, noting that only judges and not bail magistrates have the authority to impose enforceable stay-away orders and electronic monitoring.

A press release by the office raised concerns about the Police Department’s failure to adapt so far.

“Preliminary data show that arrests remained constant last weekend, the first since emergency response measures were announced in Philadelphia,” it noted. “Among the dozens of non-violent misdemeanor arrests made: four people were arrested for unlicensed selling of liquor.”

—Samantha Melamed

5:39 PM - March 16, 2020
5:39 PM - March 16, 2020

Bucks County is asking a judge to postpone Tuesday’s special election

The Bucks County Board of Elections filed an emergency petition asking a judge to postpone Tuesday’s special election for Bensalem’s seat in the Pennsylvania House, which Speaker Mike Turzai has declined to halt.

“We were left with no choice but to file suit,” said Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, chair of the Bucks County Board of Commissioners and chair of the Board of Elections. “With the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania declaring a state of emergency and under advisement of our county’s Department of Health, we believe that tomorrow’s special election must be postponed. The risk is too great."

The race for House District 18 in Bensalem pits Republican K.C. Tomlinson against Democrat Harold Hayes. They are vying to replace Republican Gene DiGirolamo, who resigned to become a county commissioner.

The commissioners’ move is the latest twist in a contentious behind-the-scenes back-and-forth between officials over the special election. Gov. Tom Wolf on Friday said that he felt it was a bad idea to hold an election in an area affected by the coronavirus and that he was hopeful state leaders would come together to delay it.

Wolf needed the cooperation of Speaker Mike Turzai, however, and on Saturday the Republican House leader announced all special elections scheduled for Tuesday would proceed as planned.

—Justine McDaniel, Sean Collins Walsh

5:23 PM - March 16, 2020
5:23 PM - March 16, 2020

New Jersey may prosecute social distancing violations, Gov. Phil Murphy says

Gov. Phil Murphy said New Jersey residents could be cited for a “disorderly persons offense” if they violate the social distancing measures he outlined in an executive order Monday.

Murphy noted the Attorney General’s Office has already briefed county prosecutors on how to enforce the measure, and said they will deal with infractions on a case by case basis.

“Everyone should assume it will be enforced,” Murphy said. “If we see there is willful disregard for what we’ve put in place, we reserve the right to ratchet up the pressure.”

Murphy’s orders include a ban on all public gatherings of over 50 people in New Jersey. He is also strongly discouraging all non-essential, non-emergency travel from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily for New Jersey residents.

In addition, he has ordered all bars and restaurants in New Jersey to suspend eat-in services as of 8 p.m. Monday. After 8 p.m, they will be open for take out or delivery services only until further notice from state officials.

Effective 8 p.m., casinos will close, along with non-essential businesses like movie theaters, gyms, nightclubs, racetracks. These businesses will stay closed until further notice, Murphy said.

Online gaming will continue, he said. Essential businesses like supermarkets, gas stations, pharmacies, and medical offices will remain open, Murphy said.

Pranshu Verma

5:03 PM - March 16, 2020
5:03 PM - March 16, 2020

No new cases in Delco; council to hold virtual meetings

Delaware County reported no new coronavirus cases on Monday but said it is taking further precautions. Council’s public-agenda meeting on Tuesday, and its full meeting on Wednesday will be held virtually.

The meetings will be streamed on the council’s YouTube page. Public comments that would have been made during the allotted period during the meetings can be emailed to the council in advance at PublicComment@co.delaware.pa.us or called in to 610-891-4931.

The comments will be read into the record, and councilmembers will have the opportunity to respond to them. Most judicial functions at the county courthouse in Media were suspended Monday and will continue to be Tuesday.

One notable exception is applications for temporary protection from abuse orders, for which a judge will be on hand.

—Vinny Vella

4:50 PM - March 16, 2020
4:50 PM - March 16, 2020

A 2-year-old girl in Montgomery County has been diagnosed with coronavirus, officials say

Montgomery County has reported its first pediatric case, that of a 2-year-old New Hanover Township girl.

She was diagnosed after contracting the virus from a family member who had contact with a previous Montgomery County case, Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners, said at a news conference.

The girl is being treated at home.

A 43-year-old man from Worcester Township has also been hospitalized with the virus, and officials have been unable to determine his contact source.

A 36-year-old woman from Lower Providence, whose contact source is also unknown, is stable and being treated at home.

“We expected at some point we would see community spread,” Arkoosh said. “That further enforces the need for mitigating measures.”

Arkoosh said that 416 people are in quarantine, with 17 showing symptoms, up from 229 on Friday. Some of those are a result of contact tracing that has been done for patients who tested positive.

“You can see how rapidly expanding this situation is in Montgomery County,” she said. Arkoosh said she and anyone else who works in the county operations building in Norristown is having their temperature checked.

On Monday, reporters attending the daily news conference received temperature checks. Plans are in the works to implement temperature checks for other county employees in the days to come, she said.

—Ellie Rushing

4:41 PM - March 16, 2020
4:41 PM - March 16, 2020

All Pennsylvania liquor stores are closing Tuesday night indefinitely

All 600 liquor stores in Pennsylvania will close indefinitely beginning at 9 p.m. Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board announced Monday.

The closure includes service centers that provide wine and spirits to liquor licensees like bars and restaurants. In addition, online sales will cease at 5 p.m. Monday.

All stores and licensee service centers in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties will be closed Tuesday, in accordance with earlier plans to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in those counties. The PLCB will re-evaluate its operations “toward the end of the month.”

Public officials on Monday announced a statewide shut-down of nonessential business and ordered restaurants and bars to halt all dine-in service.

PLCB workers will still be paid throughout the next two weeks, said Wendell Young IV, president of union UFCW Local 1776, which represents liquor store workers across the state. He said it’s unclear what will happen thereafter.

—Anna Orso, Juliana Reyes

4:16 PM - March 16, 2020
4:16 PM - March 16, 2020

SEPTA adjusts Regional Rail schedules amid coronavirus, offers refund information for riders

Commuters at the East Falls Regional Rail SEPTA Station, where people have not yet begun to use the SEPTA key cards to board regional rail heading into the city, but some use the key cards to board regional rail from center city stations, in Philadelphia, November 11, 2019.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Commuters at the East Falls Regional Rail SEPTA Station, where people have not yet begun to use the SEPTA key cards to board regional rail heading into the city, but some use the key cards to board regional rail from center city stations, in Philadelphia, November 11, 2019.

SEPTA is adjusting its Regional Rail schedules and offering refund options for some riders, the transportation authority announced Monday.

A severe weather service plan will be in effect Tuesday and until further notice to “accommodate changing ridership levels." Credits will be extended for valid unused and partially used passes.

Customers with March monthly passes and passes for the weeks of March 9 and 16 on Key cards can contact the SEPTA Key Call Center at 1-855-567-3782. A pro-rated refund will be added to riders’ Travel Wallet.

— Patricia Madej

4:08 PM - March 16, 2020
4:08 PM - March 16, 2020

Cherry Hill closes township buildings, encourages social distancing

In Cherry Hill, township officials have been closed its buildings, effective immediately until March 29, including Municipal Court. The public library will close on Sunday. Playgrounds and recreational fields have been closed, too, while parks and trails will remain open.

Residents are encouraged to practice social distancing. The township said it would not monitor playgrounds and asked residents not to call police for violations.

— Melanie Burney

3:49 PM - March 16, 2020
3:49 PM - March 16, 2020

New Montgomery County coronavirus patients include 2-year-old girl

Six new presumptive positive cases of coronavirus, including the diagnosis of a 2-year-old girl, were discovered in Montgomery County, officials announced Monday, bringing the county’s total cases to 30.

The county’s first pediatric case, a 2-year-old girl from New Hanover Township, was diagnosed after contracting the virus from a family member who had contact with a previous Montgomery County case, Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners, said at a press conference. The girl is being treated at home.

A 43-year-old man from Worcester Township has also been hospitalized with the virus, and officials have been unable to determine his contact source. A 36-year-old woman from Lower Providence, whose contact source is also unknown, is stable and being treated at home.

A 58-year-old woman of Lower Providence contracted the virus from someone outside the country and is being treated at home. A 30-year-old male of Lower Moreland and a 50-year-old man of Limerick Township are also being treated at their separate homes, after contracting the virus from another positive case in the county. Arkoosh said that 416 people are in quarantine, with 17 showing symptoms, a stark increase from the 229 who were in quarantine on Friday. “You can see how rapidly expanding this situation is in Montgomery County,” she said.

Arkoosh emphasized that non-essential businesses should be closed, and that eating and drinking in bars is now prohibited. Restaurants should only be using take-out, delivery and drive-thru services, she said, emphasizing that the county is prepared to go to court to enforce this order.

— Ellie Rushing

3:30 PM - March 16, 2020
3:30 PM - March 16, 2020

White House task force: Avoid all social gatherings of more than 10 people

The White House coronavirus task force is recommending all Americans avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people, President Donald Trump announced on Monday afternoon.

The task force also recommends schooling from home when possible and for all Americans to avoid eating and drinking at bars, restaurants, and public food courts.

“Each and every one of us has a critical role to play in stopping the spread and transmission of this virus,” Trump said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Diseases, said the guidelines will be reconsidered after 15 days. Trump suggested the coronavirus outbreak could last until July or August, depending how serious Americans heed the guidelines.

"We’ll see what happens,” Trump said.

— Rob Tornoe

3:27 PM - March 16, 2020
3:27 PM - March 16, 2020

Comcast offers unlimited data as more people work, study from home amid coronavirus spread

With more people working and studying from home due to the coronavirus outbreak, Comcast is giving customers unlimited data for no additional charge and making its vast network of Xfinity WiFi hotspots free for everyone.

The Philadelphia media giant also pledged that it won’t disconnect a customer’s service or impose late fees if they can’t pay their bills during the pandemic, which has shut down some industries and put many out of work. In addition, the company is offering new low-income customers 60 days of free internet service and boosting their broadband speeds.

The commitments come after Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai urged internet service providers to keep consumers connected during the coronavirus outbreak. Comcast, the nation’s largest home internet provider, was one of dozens of companies that agreed to waive late fees and service cancellations and open WiFi hotspots to all Americans for the next 60 days.

— Christian Hetrick

3:25 PM - March 16, 2020
3:25 PM - March 16, 2020

Delaware restricts gatherings, limits restaurants to take-out and delivery only

Delaware has joined Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and other states in restricting gatherings of more than 50 people and tamping down restaurant and bar service to take-out and delivery only in efforts to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The ban, enacted Monday, also closes gaming activity in the state’s casinos.

— Oona Goodin-Smith

3:17 PM - March 16, 2020
3:17 PM - March 16, 2020

Camden mayor declares state of emergency, all nonessential business to close

Camden Mayor Frank Moran.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
Camden Mayor Frank Moran.

All nonessential businesses in the city of Camden must close in an effort to tame the spread of the new coronavirus, Camden Mayor Frank Moran announced Monday.

Also effective Monday, Moran said City Hall and all municipal buildings will be closed to the public. Essential services including public safety, sanitation and payroll will continue, but city employees who can work from home will be encouraged to do so.

All community centers will be closed, including those for youth and the elderly. They will remain closed until further notice.

Moran said he declared a municipal state of emergency.

— Anna Orso

3:17 PM - March 16, 2020
3:17 PM - March 16, 2020

Ohio governor seeks to move presidential primary as coronavirus spreads

Ohio’s governor recommended that Tuesday’s presidential primary be moved to June due to the spread of coronavirus.

“It is clear that tomorrow’s in person voting does not conform, and cannot conform with these CDC guidelines. We cannot conduct this election tomorrow," said Gov. Mike DeWine.

DeWine does not have the power to order the move on his own — he is going to court to seek that change.

— Rob Tornoe

2:53 PM - March 16, 2020
2:53 PM - March 16, 2020

New Jersey’s National Guard mobilized to help fight coronavirus

Gov. Phil Murphy has mobilized the New Jersey National Guard to assist in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

“I can’t sit here today and give you an exact recipe of what they’ll be doing,” Murphy said. “I promise you they’ll be doing a lot.”

Murphy said he could see the National Guard assisting in such issues like reopening a closed hospital wing to house positive patients, or aiding with testing efforts, or distributing food to students who are at home from school.

Adjutant General Jemal Beale said he is looking to other states that have mobilized National Guard for guidance on how to best to help.

“Please know we are monitoring best practices,” Beale said. “Wish us luck and please wash your hands on a regular basis.”

As of Monday afternoon, Murphy said an additional 80 residents have tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 178. Thirty-two of the new cases are in Bergen County. Burlington, Camden and Ocean Counties each have one new case, with patients ranging in age from five to 93 years old.

— Angela Couloumbis

1:26 PM - March 16, 2020
1:26 PM - March 16, 2020

Philadelphia workers can use sick time during coronavirus pandemic

Philadelphia workers covered under the city’s sick leave law can now use their sick time during a public health emergency, like the current coronavirus pandemic, the Mayor’s Office of Labor announced Monday.

That means that workers can use their sick time if they have to stay home due to quarantine, business closures, or to care for a child because of a school closure.

All employees who work in Philadelphia are covered by the sick leave law. Employees who work for companies with more than nine employees can accrue up to five days of paid sick leave, while employees who work for smaller companies can accrue up to five days of unpack sick leave.

— Juliana Reyes

1:02 PM - March 16, 2020
1:02 PM - March 16, 2020

Philadelphia court trials suspended, jury service postponed

Philadelphia’s First Judicial District announced Monday it would suspend all non-emergency court proceedings for the rest of the month, citing public health concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

All civil and criminal trials will be postponed, as has jury service, until at least April 1, court administrators said. Also delayed are most pre-trial hearings, diversion programs, and in-person reporting requirements for people on court-ordered probation.

The suspensions affect Common Pleas, Municipal, and Family Courts.

Despite the adjustment, judges will remain on-hand to handle bail hearings and emergency protection from abuse orders. In Municipal Court, video hearings will be held for individuals incarcerated in the Philadelphia prison system. The court’s traffic division will remain open for three days each week for individuals seeking to retrieve impounded vehicles.

An emergency judge will remain on duty daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to handle emergency civil matters including legal issues related to medical and health crises, public safety and emergency guardianship appointments, court administrators said.

— Jeremy Roebuck

12:39 PM - March 16, 2020
12:39 PM - March 16, 2020

Philly orders shutdown of nonessential businesses

Philadelphia will order all nonessential businesses shut down by 5 p.m. on Monday, and will also be shutting down all nonessential city services this week, officials said, in the city’s most aggressive steps yet to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

City Managing Director Brian Abernathy said the city is halting all nonessential city operations and all city government buildings will be closed to the public, effective Tuesday. Staff members should still report to work unless otherwise instructed.

Restaurants will have to be take-out only. City government offices will be closed to the public starting Tuesday and only essential government employees will report.

Essential businesses include grocery stores, big box stores, pharmacies, electronic stores, hardware stores, day cares and laundry facilities.

Abernathy said the business order will last through “at least” March 27 and only essential commercial establishments should remain open.

“We are well aware of the potentially devastating effect this will have on the businesses and workers of this city,” Kenney said.

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said Philadelphia officials now recommend canceling or postponing any event with more than 50 people, in accordance with a guidance put out Sunday night by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

— Sean Walsh, Julia Terruso, Anna Orso

12:06 PM - March 16, 2020
12:06 PM - March 16, 2020

Murphy: N.J. schools, colleges to close Wednesday

Gov. Phil Murphy is ordering all schools, colleges and universities in New Jersey to close starting Wednesday in an effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus, Murphy announced on Twitter Monday.

“The time for us to take our strongest and most direct actions to date to slow the spread of the coronavirus is now,” Murphy said.

Schools, colleges and universities will remain closed until health officials deem they are safe to reopen, Murphy said.

The announcement comes shortly after Murphy has joined with the governors of New York and Connecticut to enact a series of regional measures to encourage social distancing.

All gatherings of 50 or more people will be banned in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. This comes a day after the CDC issued guidance to limit public gatherings to under 50 people.

All nonessential, non-emergency travel for residents of the the three states will strongly be discouraged between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. each day, Cuomo said. All bars and restaurants in New Jersey will also suspend eat-in services as of 8 p.m. Monday. After 8 p.m, they will be open for take out or delivery services only. Essential businesses like supermarkets, gas stations, pharmacies, and medical offices will remain open, Murphy said.

Effective 8 p.m., casinos will close, along with nonessential businesses like movie theaters, gyms and racetracks. These businesses will stay closed until further notice, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. Online gaming will continue, Murphy said.

The announcement comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans to cancel or postpone events with 50 of more attendees over the next eight weeks to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

— Pranshu Verma, Oona Goodin-Smith

11:53 AM - March 16, 2020
11:53 AM - March 16, 2020

Penn Relays canceled amid coronavirus spread

The organizers of the Penn Relays have canceled this year’s edition of the track carnival at Franklin Field.

This year’s Relays were to be the 126th edition, and the 100th with historically black colleges and universities participating.

Last week, the Jamaican government announced that its country’s high schools would not travel to Philadelphia. It would have been the first Relays without Jamaican high schools since 1963.

Penn officials said they hope to organize some kind of track event in May or June if circumstances allow.

“We cannot host an event in late April without putting our participants, spectators, officials, volunteers, and staff at risk,” Penn athletic director Grace Calhoun said in a statement. “The University of Pennsylvania has hosted the Penn Relays for 125 consecutive years through the World Wars and other world-wide health issues. This spirit of perseverance and resiliency will continue as we plan for a track meet later in the year when the health and safety of our community is more certain."

Penn said that ticket orders would by default be credited toward the 2021 event; but refunds for the sale price of 2020 tickets are “available by request.” Ticket and order processing fees will not be refunded.

—Jonathan Tannenwald

11:48 AM - March 16, 2020
11:48 AM - March 16, 2020

Philadelphia city offices remain open, but unusually quiet

City offices in Philadelphia were open Monday, but City Hall was unusually quiet. Security officers wore gloves as they checked in the small number of visitors and performed security screenings. One woman said she was in town from Eric County to get a copy of her marriage license so she could obtain a Real ID.

At the Municipal Services Building, a small number of residents — some wearing gloves or masks — still arrived to pay tax bills.

An unusually quiet Philadelphia City Hall, pictured on Monday, March 16, 2020.
LAURA MCCRYSTAL / Staff
An unusually quiet Philadelphia City Hall, pictured on Monday, March 16, 2020.

In seats where residents typically await their turn at the counter, signs in every other chair reminded visitors to not sit next to one another. A cleaning crew wiped down countertops, elevator buttons, and other surfaces in the building’s lobby.

— Laura McCrystal

11:16 AM - March 16, 2020
11:16 AM - March 16, 2020

Here’s how coronavirus testing is supposed to work

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Ted S. Warren / AP
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

In Philadelphia and across the country, there is a lament that sums up public confusion about coronavirus testing: “My doctor won’t test me.”

Doctors, clinics and even most hospitals can’t do the test. Their role in the testing process is to collect patients’ nasal and throat swabs to ship to a high-complexity lab where molecular analysis is done to look for coronavirus DNA.

Here is how testing is supposed to work, and the obstacles to it:

  • Collecting specimens: A patient with symptoms should call ahead and alert the doctor’s office. When the patient arrives, they should be given a face mask and put in room away from other patients, and the healthcare worker taking the swabs should wear protective gear. But many patients don't call, or go straight to an emergency room, and many offices don't have masks and protective equipment, so they're refusing to take samples. Drive-by or dedicated specimen collection stations may improve the situation, but are only beginning to be an option in a few places. Telemedicine services can help evaluate patients, but sample collection can’t be done through a telephone or computer.
  • Ordering a test: Until last week, the Centers for Disease Control and state public health labs were the only ones approved by the Food and Drug Administration to do the laborious, exacting molecular test for the new coronavirus. At least four big commercial labs (LabCorp, Quest, Roche, Thermo Fisher), are now approved to test for the virus, so doctors can order a test without state permission. But the initial slow response has left doctors unable to order testing. Government lab tests have been mostly limited to people with known sources of infection, and providers who call their state lab are often told “the patient doesn’t meet the criteria.” Doctors can now order a test without state permission directly from some of the commercial labs. But they still have to collect and ship specimens. Commercial labs have limited capacity, and turnaround time for results can be lengthy.

— Marie McCullough

11:02 AM - March 16, 2020
11:02 AM - March 16, 2020

Supreme Court suspends oral arguments for first time since 1918

The Supreme Court announced Monday it will suspend upcoming oral arguments due to the spread of the coronavirus. The building in Washington, D.C., will remain open for official business.

The upcoming session, scheduled to begin on March 23, will now take place on an unspecified date in the future.

“This is the first change in the way the Supreme Court does business in 102 years,” NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams reported on Monday morning. “The last time the Supreme Court pushed off oral arguments was during the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918 when it was scheduled to begin its normal term in October, and didn’t start it until November.”

— Rob Tornoe

10:59 AM - March 16, 2020
10:59 AM - March 16, 2020

Kenney on Philadelphia bars, restaurants: ‘We will have different advice today’

As officials in Pennsylvania and nationwide take steps shutting down bars and restaurants amid the coronavirus crisis, Philadelphia will be providing new guidance Monday afternoon, Mayor s Kenney said. Asked at Tilden Middle School in Southwest Philadelphia about his comments this weekend encouraging people to go out to restaurants, Kenney said he made those remarks “two days ago.”

“The issue is evolving every hour,” Kenney said, flanked by Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. and standing amid tables of paper bags with food for students to pick up. “We will have different advice today at 1,” when the city will hold a news conference.

He said that previously this weekend, “we were in line with most major cities.”

New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut have ordered bars and restaurants to close for dine-in services, while on Sunday, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all restaurants in Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery counties to close their dine-in facilities for 14 days. The order allows carry-out and delivery to continue.

Kenney’s comments Monday came as the school district works to distribute food to needy students—a challenge of the school closures underway across Pennsylvania.

Hite said about 40 grab-and-go bags had been picked up so far this morning at Tilden, one of 30 schools across the city distributing food.

Among those who had picked up a bag were Albert Graham and Anitra Hyden and their daughter, first-grader Aljaya Graham.

“We’re basically trying to make sure we don’t get affected,” Albert said, by “staying clean and keeping your environment clean.”

They’ve also been instructing Aljaya to wash her hands. As for the two weeks of school closures ahead, the family has “just got to play by ear” on what happens next, Albert said.

— Maddie Hanna

10:56 AM - March 16, 2020
10:56 AM - March 16, 2020

Bucks County cancels jury duty, suspends trials

All jury trials in Bucks County have been suspended through April 3, according to county officials. Jury duty has been canceled as well.

County leader finalized the decision early Monday after discussions with President Judge Wallace H. Bateman, according to county court administrator Stephen Heckman. Coincidentally, no jury trials had been scheduled this week. Monday’s decision continued all trials scheduled for the judicial term starting March 23 and ending April 3.

The county followed the lead set last week by Delaware and Montgomery Counties.

— Vinny Vella

10:52 AM - March 16, 2020
10:52 AM - March 16, 2020

N.J. mandate marks fifth time Atlantic City casinos have been shuttered

People on the casino floor at Caesar's in Atlantic City, which remained open on Sunday.
Amy Rosenberg/Staff
People on the casino floor at Caesar's in Atlantic City, which remained open on Sunday.

The closings of New Jersey’s “nonessential” businesses, including casinos, marks the fifth time in the 42-year history of legalized gambling in Atlantic City that the casinos have all been shuttered. Previously, the casinos shut down for five days during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, for three days as Hurricane Irene approached in 2011, during Hurricane Gloria in 1985, and for a state government shutdown in 2006 that closed the casinos for three days, causing a loss of about $55 million.

Atlantic City’s nine casinos —Tropicana, Caesars, Bally’s, Resorts, Hard Rock, Ocean, Borgata, Harrah’s and Golden Nugget — employed 26,761 people in December, according to data from the N.J. Division of Gaming Enforcement.

The move followed days of speculation and hesitation by Gov. Phil Murphy, who said over the weekend that officials were operating on the idea that the large casino floors could accommodate social distancing with the proper precautions.

Some casinos, like Bally’s, removed chairs from blackjack tables. But at Caesars on Sunday, gamblers were shoulder to shoulder around craps tables and cocktail servers carried trays of drinks around the casino floors.

Some casino workers worried about their health and possible exposure, especially with customers typically coming down from Pennsylvania and New York, while others worried about the financial implications for their families. “We are not six feet from customers,” tweeted one Caesars employee. “Why is our health unimportant?”

But others fretted: “more worried about paycheck, how to pay property taxes etc.,” said one casino worker, posting on Facebook. “We wash our hands constantly. We mostly take every precaution.”

— Amy Rosenberg

10:39 AM - March 16, 2020
10:39 AM - March 16, 2020

New Jersey enacts statewide curfew, closes ‘nonessential business,’ limits gatherings to less than 50 people

The governors of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut have agreed to a joint set of social distancing measures to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

All gatherings over 50 people will be banned in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. This comes a day after the CDC issued guidance to limit public gatherings to under 50 people.

All nonessential, non emergency travel for residents of the the three states will strongly be discouraged between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. each day, Cuomo said.

All bars and restaurants in New Jersey will also suspend eat-in services as of 8 p.m. Monday. After 8 p.m, they will be open for take out or delivery services only.

Essential businesses like supermarkets, gas stations, pharmacies, and medical offices will remain open, Murphy said.

Effective 8 p.m., casinos will close, along with nonessential businesses like movie theaters, gyms and racetracks. These businesses will stay closed until further notice, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. Online gaming will continue, Murphy said.

The announcement comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans to cancel or postpone events with 50 of more attendees over the next eight weeks to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

— Pranshu Verma, Oona Goodin-Smith

10:10 AM - March 16, 2020
10:10 AM - March 16, 2020

Suburban Philadelphia state parks close to mitigate coronavirus spread

JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer

Thought you’d be able to self-isolate in a park in suburban Pennsylvania to escape coronavirus contact? It’s going to get a bit trickier. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is closing its facilities at all 121 state park and 20 state forest districts in the commonwealth for two weeks. Initially, secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said the closures would only impact parks in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties. However, officials expanded the closures Monday night. That means all restroom facilities and parking lots will be closed, and any scheduled programs canceled. Hiking trails will remain open, and fishing is allowed. Dunn noted that park rangers and park managers will continue to work to ensure security and public safety.“People will have access to state-owned open spaces to continue to enjoy the healthful benefits of recreation and being outdoors,” Dunn said. In Bucks and Chester Counties, the facilities closures include:

  • Delaware Canal
  • Marsh Creek
  • Neshaminy
  • Nockamixon
  • Ralph Stover
  • Tyler
  • Washington Crossing
  • White Clay Creek
  • Goat Hill Serpentine Barrens.

In Delaware County, Ridley Creek is closed. And, in Montgomery County, Evansburg, Fort Washington, and Norristown Farm Park are closed. DCNR spokesman Terry Brady said that trails remain open because there’s simply no way to erect barriers to close off the extensive network. The DCNR is suggesting that people heading to outdoor spaces remain at least 6 feet apart and avoid forming groups. Because the situation is evolving, the DCNR is updating its website and Facebook page.

— Frank Kummer

10:05 AM - March 16, 2020
10:05 AM - March 16, 2020

Philadelphia working on economic ‘relief package’ for businesses

The Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. and the city’s Commerce Department are working on an economic “relief package” for businesses, Commerce Department spokesperson Lauren Cox said Monday.

PIDC, a nonprofit partnership between the city government and the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia, emailed a link to an online “business impacts” survey over the weekend seeking guidance on the package from Philadelphia-based enterprises.

Information sought included estimates of business-losses due to the virus.

Cox was unable to share any details of what the relief package may entail, saying it was still being developed.

— Jacob Adelman

9:40 AM - March 16, 2020
9:40 AM - March 16, 2020

Dow drops 2,250 points, trading halted

The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened Monday morning down 2,250 points, forcing an automatic 15 minute shutdown as investors remain unnerved about the coronavirus outbreak and its impact on the economy.

The drop comes after the Federal Reserve took dramatic action on Sunday, cutting interest rates to essentially zero and saying it will purchase $700 billion worth of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities. According to Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, the moves were designed to motivate banks to support businesses.

The Nasdaq dropped about 6 percent to open trading on Monday, while the S&P 500 was down around 8 percent.

By 10 a.m. trading resumed. The drop comes after the Federal Reserve took dramatic action on Sunday, cutting interest rates to essentially zero and saying it will purchase $700 billion worth of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities. According to Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, the moves were designed to motivate banks to support businesses.

— Rob Tornoe

9:31 AM - March 16, 2020
9:31 AM - March 16, 2020

M. Night Shyamalan pumps brakes on filming Philly-based series

M. Night Shyamalan has put the brakes on filming the second season of his Apple TV+ series Servant.

“Love this cast and crew. They’re Family. Sending them all home this evening,” Shyamalan announced via social media on Friday. “We’ll all be back together in Philadelphia very soon telling our dark little tale.”

The series initially began filming its second season in the area in late January. Production company Uncle George Productions said at the time that filming would take place around the 2100 block of Spruce Street through the spring.

Servant’s first season premiered on Apple’s streaming service in November, and was renewed for a second season before its initial debut. The show follows a wealthy Philadelphia couple who use a lifelike doll to cope with the trauma of losing their newborn child amid other mysterious events.

— Nick Vadala

9:22 AM - March 16, 2020
9:22 AM - March 16, 2020

As much of region shuts down due to coronavirus, Philadelphia jury duty goes on

Much of the region had shut down Monday to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but jury duty at the Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice in Center City continued.

Dozens of potential jurors clutching jury summonses filed into a courthouse devoid of its usual Monday morning bustle. Sheriff’s deputies and janitorial staff wearing face masks were scrubbing down metal detectors and other surfaces, while the elevator bay – usually teeming with attorneys, defendants and spectators jostling to reach courtrooms on the upper floors – stood emptier than usual as the deputies limited five people to an elevator. Still, a steady trickle of court staff, lawyers, defendants and potential jurors moved through the courthouse lobby Monday morning.

“It should be closed,” said Jim Fletcher, of Germantown, as he filed into the main jury waiting room, summons in hand. Asked if he was taking any precautions to protect himself while at the courthouse for jury service, he shook his head and replied: “Let’s hope they’re doing it for me.”

Unlike courts in Montgomery and Delaware Counties and federal courts around the region which have suspended all new jury trials, Philadelphia’s First Judicial District continued to summon jurors and prepare for proceedings despite the government recommendations to avoid crowds of more than 50 people. Court administrators took some steps Monday to mitigate potential spread. Many hearings deemed nonessential were postponed. Only 200 potential jurors were told to report Monday morning. And in the central jury waiting area, the crowd of roughly 120 that showed up sat with two empty chairs between them.

By 8:30 about 50 prospective jurors had been chosen and were sent up to a courtroom for further vetting. Within half an hour, the rest were excused for the day, said two of those summoned who declined to give their names, saying they’d been asked by court staff not to talk to reporters but told they could if they wanted to.

A Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office employee approached an Inquirer reporter interviewing people in the lobby and told him he could only do so outside of the courthouse, a public building.

“People already don’t want to be here,” said the sheriff’s deputy who did not give her name. “Asking questions only adds to that.”

A spokesperson for the First Judicial District did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

— Jeremy Roebuck

9:06 AM - March 16, 2020
9:06 AM - March 16, 2020

Pennsylvania distillery to switch from making spirits to hand sanitizer

A Pennsylvania craft distillery said it’s shifting its focus from making spirits to making hand sanitizer.

Eight Oaks Farm Distillery, located in Tripoli in the Lehigh Valley, announced Sunday that it has shifted all its crew and resources to begin making hand sanitizer and cleaning products as demand for disinfectants skyrocketed as the coronavirus spreads through the region. The distillery, which typically makes whiskey, vodka and rum, is working to make the sanitizer and cleaning products available “within the next week or so,” the company posted on Facebook.

Grocery stores across the region have run out of cleaning products and sanitizer as people stock up and isolate in their homes.

— Anna Orso

9:02 AM - March 16, 2020
9:02 AM - March 16, 2020

Staffing issues prompt Regional Rail train cancellations

Some trains are delayed as shown on the information board at Suburban Station, in Philadelphia, March 16, 2020.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Some trains are delayed as shown on the information board at Suburban Station, in Philadelphia, March 16, 2020.

Staffing issues for SEPTA caused about a dozen Regional Rail cancellations early Monday morning.

Trains on its Media/Elwyn, Lansdale/Doylestown, Chestnut Hill East, and Paoli/Thorndale lines were affected, according to SEPTA’s website.

Regional Rail trains are operating on a normal weekday schedule morning, with new spring schedules that went into effect earlier this month.

SEPTA spokesperson Andrew Busch said he couldn’t say whether all the call-outs were related to the coronavirus, but said “many employees are impacted by school closures, the need for childcare and other issues.”

In addition to sweeping “social distancing” measures in Montgomery County, Gov. Tom Wolf Gov. announced Chester and Bucks Counties would be subject to shutdown orders over the weekend.

SEPTA is seeing an impact on its ridership related to the coronavirus. Last week, it saw dips on its buses, subways and trolley systems, while Regional Rail ridership was down 16 percent Friday compared to weekday averages through last week.

While there have been many calls for social distance, there’s been no explicit command to avoid public transportation entirely from Philadelphia officials.

On Friday, SEPTA said it would reinforce best practices to its conductors and workers from Edens Corp., who act as ambassadors and ticket agents on the Regional Rail system, on taking tickets and validating SEPTA Key cards.

— Patricia Madej

8:31 AM - March 16, 2020
8:31 AM - March 16, 2020

How Philly-area bars and restaurants are changing course to cope with coronavirus shutdown

Empty chairs and barstools are the unimaginable side-effect of a 14-day government ban on dining rooms and bars, starting March 16, designed to combat the coronavirus.

Although Gov. Tom Wolf’s order applies to businesses in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties, many operators there and in Philadelphia had been making moves over the weekend. (Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney so far has not followed the lead of cities such as New York and Los Angeles, as well as Ohio, Illinois, and Massachusetts.)

Businesses that offer carry-out, delivery, and drive-through food and beverage service may continue to operate. Bars themselves will be largely silent, though they may sell beer to go, including growlers. Alcohol to go in open containers is not allowed in Pennsylvania.

Rather than simply shut down, the restaurateurs are adjusting the way they do business so they can retain employees and keep the lights on. In most cases, that means pivoting to carry-out or takeout. Even posher restaurants are offering meal deals.

— Michael Klein

8:04 AM - March 16, 2020
8:04 AM - March 16, 2020

With Philly schools closed amid coronavirus outbreak, here’s where students can pick up meals

With Philadelphia Schools closed through March 29, the district has released a list of 30 meal pickup locations for families who depend on school-provided breakfast and lunch service.

The city also will be opening 50 locations, in recreation centers and other city-owned facilities, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday to “provide safe spaces where students can drop-in for activities.” The locations will serve meals at 3 p.m.

— Sean Collins Walsh

7:52 AM - March 16, 2020
7:52 AM - March 16, 2020

Pope Francis blesses an empty St. Peter’s Square

Pope Francis delivers his blessing from inside the Apostolic library at the Vatican, Sunday. Pope Francis has praised people who could risk contagion to help the poor and the homeless even as fears of coronavirus spread prompts ever more countries to restrict ways of everyday life. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some, it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems.
AP
Pope Francis delivers his blessing from inside the Apostolic library at the Vatican, Sunday. Pope Francis has praised people who could risk contagion to help the poor and the homeless even as fears of coronavirus spread prompts ever more countries to restrict ways of everyday life. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some, it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems.

St. Peter’s Square, normally overflowing with tens of thousands of visitors, was eerily empty on Sunday as Pope Francis delivered his weekly blessing from inside the Vatican Apostolic Library.

"In this situation of pandemic, in which we find ourselves living more or less isolated, we are invited to rediscover and deepen the value of the communion that unites all the members of the Church,” the Pope said, adding praise for the medical personnel and many volunteers helping the elderly, the poor, and the homeless.

— Rob Tornoe

7:40 AM - March 16, 2020
7:40 AM - March 16, 2020

Philly theaters have lost $1.2 million already as coronavirus cancels performances

On Friday afternoon, Theatre Philadelphia, the umbrella marketing organization for regional theater companies, launched a membership survey.

“Things are changing constantly,” said Katherine Clark, marketing manager for the group. “We wanted to find out how much impact there has been, how much revenue has been lost.”

By Sunday afternoon, 29 theaters had responded with 72 percent canceling performances and 78 percent reporting financial losses. Not everyone provided a dollar figure, but the total from those who did amounts to $1.2 million.

"However, a significant number of respondents said they "are still working on the numbers,'" Clark wrote. "I wouldn't hesitate to double that amount based on the responses."

Theaters are asking patrons to donate when they can’t attend a performance. "That’s the only way the theater companies will stay afloat.”

— Jane M. Von Bergen, For the Inquirer

7:40 AM - March 16, 2020
7:40 AM - March 16, 2020

Pa. officials are backing aggressive coronavirus containment measures. Philly Mayor Jim Kenney isn’t.

Mayor Jim Kenney speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus at the fire department headquarters in Philadelphia on Saturday, March 14, 2020. The state health department announced Saturday another case of the coronavirus in Philadelphia.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Mayor Jim Kenney speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus at the fire department headquarters in Philadelphia on Saturday, March 14, 2020. The state health department announced Saturday another case of the coronavirus in Philadelphia.

As the coronavirus has taken root in Southeastern Pennsylvania, many officials have encouraged people to avoid each other and warned them not to underestimate the threat.

But Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has taken a different approach.

Throughout the crisis, which had hit 65 confirmed cases in Pennsylvania and eight in Philadelphia as of Sunday, Kenney has stood out for his reluctance to adopt aggressive measures to slow the virus, or “flatten the curve" of growth in new infections. Such policies are designed to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed by waves of sick patients, which strains resources and drives up mortality rates.

— Sean Collins Walsh

7:33 AM - March 16, 2020
7:33 AM - March 16, 2020

Pa. hospitals are rationing protective gear as the number of coronavirus cases grows

Hospitals across Pennsylvania are drastically limiting the use of key protective gear out of fears that a dramatic increase in coronavirus cases could diminish reserves and cause a dangerous shortage.

The rationing comes as the state Department of Health maintains that it has personal protective equipment available and is working with health systems to make sure they have what they need. Still, the head of an advocacy organization for the state’s emergency room physicians said there’s fear the situation could rapidly change.

The gear includes eye protection, gowns, and N95 respirators, which are essential in preventing a health care worker from breathing in infectious particles when in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Nationwide, the public has rushed to buy these masks, although they need to be specially fitted to work, and health authorities say people who are not sick don’t benefit from wearing them or less protective surgical masks.

Hospitals are using “conservation techniques” based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state health department, said Mark Ross, vice president of emergency management at the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania.

That guidance includes using surgical face masks rather than N95 respirators in most situations.

— Brett Sholtis of WITF