5:45 AM - March 19, 2020
5:45 AM - March 19, 2020

Read the latest Philadelphia-area coronavirus updates here

Annually, Philadelphians have a constant to look forward to: free Rita’s Water Ice. But this year, the regional staple will be not be doing their annual first day of spring giveaway due to the spread of the coronavirus. Additionally, the virus has hit Philadelphia’s homeless population hard, and unemployment claims have spiked.

3:07 AM - March 19, 2020
3:07 AM - March 19, 2020

A bouquet for Philadelphia. Florists give away 2,000 flowers intended for events canceled due to the coronavirus

On a bright day during a dark time, florists brought a dose of unexpected wonder to Rittenhouse Square park Wednesday by giving away a thousand flowers to strangers — and by decorating around the square with a thousand more.

“We just want to make people smile,” said Robinson.

But they did so much more.

As unsuspecting pedestrians turned the corner and saw thousands of roses, daisies, tulips, and lilies strewn across the ground at the 19th Street entrance to the park, they were overcome with emotion.

— Stephanie Farr

1:35 AM - March 19, 2020
1:35 AM - March 19, 2020

How to apply for unemployment benefits in Pa. amid the coronavirus shutdown

As businesses and restaurants shut down Monday to slow the spread of the coronavirus, thousands of Philadelphia’s low-wage service workers are effectively jobless — and it’s unclear how long this period will last.

If you lost your job during the pandemic, file your unemployment claim online. Only do it by phone (1-888-313-7284) if the online form won’t work; it will probably take a long time to get through.

You’re likely eligible if anything about the coronavirus crisis has stopped you from working, and the benefits in Pennsylvania range from $68 per week to $561 per week.

— Juliana Reyes

12:18 AM - March 19, 2020
12:18 AM - March 19, 2020

Before coronavirus closed the U.S. border, a woman raced home from Philly to Canada

Signs Hang on the entrance way to Canada via the Rainbow Bridge, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in Niagara Falls N.Y., President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have agreed to close the U.S Canada border to non-Essential travel in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but trade will not be affected. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)
Jeffrey T. Barnes / AP
Signs Hang on the entrance way to Canada via the Rainbow Bridge, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in Niagara Falls N.Y., President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have agreed to close the U.S Canada border to non-Essential travel in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus, but trade will not be affected. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

Shaun Sanders was supposed to move back to her native Canada in April, after she finished her postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience at Temple University.

Then the coronavirus outbreak happened. Amid concerns that the United States might close its northern border, she packed her life into two suitcases, made her way through an eerily empty Philadelphia airport, and flew home Monday night.

“It was very crazy and emotional and scary and surreal,” she said. Yet when she woke up Wednesday morning to the news that the U.S.-Canadian border was closed to all nonessential travel, she was grateful she’d made the decision.

— Erin McCarthy

11:00 PM - March 18, 2020
11:00 PM - March 18, 2020

N.J. may use empty college dorms, pop-up tents to treat coronovirus patients, Gov. Murphy says

New Jersey may begin using pop-up tents and the dormitories of closed universities to treat people infected with COVID-19, as the number of cases across the state rapidly increases and potentially outnumbers the supply of hospital beds, Gov. Phil Murphy said in an appearance on CNN with Don Lemon Wednesday night.

Murphy said he met with the Army Corps of Engineers Wednesday, and will meet with them again Thursday, to begin identifying spaces to expand healthcare services, including wings of hospitals and entire facilities that have been closed. He said they may build pop-up tents and use empty dormitories of closed colleges for people with minor symptoms.

—Ellie Rushing

10:00 PM - March 18, 2020
10:00 PM - March 18, 2020

Bucks, Delco report new coronavirus cases

Bucks County reported three new coronavirus cases Wednesday night, bringing the total in the county to 12. All are adults with mild symptoms isolating at home, county officials said.

Delaware County reported five new coronavirus cases Wednesday night, bringing its total to 14.

Delaware County Council approved an agreement at its Wednesday meeting that would allow the Chester County Health Department to take the lead on the pandemic response in Delaware County, which has no health department, Council Vice Chair Monica Taylor said in a tele-town hall meeting Wednesday evening.

The agreement also must be approved by the commonwealth and was being reviewed by the Department of Health. Delaware County said the two counties would “announce authorization” for Chester County to take over at a news conference Thursday morning.

Delaware County officials were also asking for volunteers to help the county’s Citizen Corps staff call centers and help with operations.

—Justine McDaniel

8:42 PM - March 18, 2020
8:42 PM - March 18, 2020

How do the coronavirus drive-through testing sites work?

Testing for the coronavirus is critical, but doctors, clinics, and even most hospitals can’t actually do the test. Drive-through sites are being erected across the region as part of a growing effort to make testing safer, faster, and more available. Here’s how they work.

— Astrid Rodrigues

7:56 PM - March 18, 2020
7:56 PM - March 18, 2020

ICE to stop most immigration enforcement inside U.S., will focus on criminals during coronavirus outbreak

U.S. immigration authorities will temporarily halt enforcement across the United States, except for its efforts to deport foreign nationals who have committed crimes or who pose a threat to public safety. The change in enforcement status comes amid the coronavirus outbreak and aims to limit the spread of the virus and to encourage those who need treatment to seek medical help.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said late Wednesday that its Enforcement and Removal Operations division will “delay enforcement actions” and use “alternatives to detention” amid the outbreak, according to a notification the agency sent to Congress.

ICE told members of Congress that its “highest priorities are to promote lifesaving and public safety activities.”

— The Washington Post

10:33 PM - March 18, 2020
10:33 PM - March 18, 2020

2 Congress members test positive

Two members of Congress have tested positive for the coronavirus. Over the weekend, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R., Fla.) developed a fever and headache, and received notice “a short while ago” that he tested positive for the virus, the Congress member said in a statement Wednesday.

After voting in Washington on Friday, Diaz-Balart said that he chose to self-quarantine in the Capitol rather than put his wife, who has pre-existing conditions, at risk in South Florida.

“I want everyone to know that I am feeling much better,” Diaz-Balart said. “However, it is important that everyone take this extremely seriously and follow CDC guidelines in order to avoid getting sick and mitigate the spread of this virus. We must continue to work together to emerge stronger as a country during these trying times.”

On Wednesday night, Rep. Ben McAdams, a Democrat from Utah, announced that he also had tested positive and was now self-quarantined.

— Oona Goodin-Smith

6:57 PM - March 18, 2020
6:57 PM - March 18, 2020

What are the first symptoms of the coronavirus?

Medical staff wash their hands before putting on gloves and between visitors at a drive through corona testing site located at 10th and Sansom Streets. People can get tested at this site with a referral from a doctor, more information is available on the jeffconnect app or visit jeffconnect on the web for further information. The coronavirus has been spreading across the globe since January, and now has been identified in the Philadelphia region.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Medical staff wash their hands before putting on gloves and between visitors at a drive through corona testing site located at 10th and Sansom Streets. People can get tested at this site with a referral from a doctor, more information is available on the jeffconnect app or visit jeffconnect on the web for further information. The coronavirus has been spreading across the globe since January, and now has been identified in the Philadelphia region.

By now, we all should have memorized the key symptoms of the new coronavirus that public health officials have hammered home: fever, cough and trouble breathing.

But how does this disease start? Knowing the early symptoms would help people know when to isolate themselves even more and talk to their doctors about testing.

Symptoms can be subtle, with infected people feeling only slightly under the weather for a few days, said Daniel Mueller, an infectious disease doctor at Temple University Hospital. And unlike the flu, which announces itself suddenly with fever and muscle aches, the early stages of COVID-19 can go on for a few days.

— Stacey Burling

6:47 PM - March 18, 2020
6:47 PM - March 18, 2020

Lansdale, Atlantic City distilleries switch from making spirits to hand sanitizer

You’d probably have better luck finding a winning lottery ticket than a bottle of hand sanitizer at your local grocery or drug stores. While there’s none to be found there, since Tuesday, the folks at Boardroom Spirits Distillery in Lansdale have been making the stuff by the batch and giving it away by the bottle — for free.

“There’s a shortage, we saw the need, and as a manufacturer, we can produce it. It’s a way to help out the community,” Boardroom co-owner Marat Mamedov said Wednesday.

Boardroom, which has operated as a tasting room for five years, still makes whisky, rum, vodka and other spirits, which it sells by the bottle. They got their hand sanitizer recipe, which is about 68 percent alcohol, from the CDC website. The CDC recommends buying sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol. Close to 60 people stopped by Wednesday to fill up their bottles, said Mamedov, who added that that does not include the five liters the Norristown Police Department picked up earlier in the day. The Abington Police Department is expected to send someone to get five liters Thursday, he said.

Meanwhile, in Atlantic City, the Little Water Distillery, known for its craft spirits in the “prohibition unfriendly” seaside resort, including Liberty and Prosperity Rum and Rusted Revolver Gin, says it has also been approved to begin making limited amounts of sanitizer to help alleviate shortages.

The additional ingredients needed are glycerol and hydrogen peroxide, said Guy Zompa, director of operations at Little Water. The ethanol will be distilled on site.

The spirits will still be in full supply. “We have plenty of Rusted Revolver to go for a long time,” said Zompa. “We just made a few hundred gallons this week.”

Distilleries all over the country, including in Georgia, Oregon, and North Carolina, have started lending a hand to filling the gap created by the sanitizer shortage. Eight Oaks Farms Distillery in New Tripoli, Lehigh County, has also been cranking out hand sanitizer, owner Chad Butters said on Facebook this week.

How long will Boardroom be in hand sanitizer brewing business?

“Until this goes away,” Marat said.

— Mensah Dean, Amy Rosenberg

6:30 PM - March 18, 2020
6:30 PM - March 18, 2020

Camden County will host a virtual coronavirus town hall meeting on Facebook Live

Camden County’s Freeholder Board will host a virtual town hall meeting Thursday at 3 p.m. to address the public’s coronavirus concerns on Facebook Live.

The town hall event, streamed through the county’s Facebook page, will allow the public to use the live chat feature to ask officials, including U.S. Congressman Donald Norcross, questions about how the government is responding to the virus’ spread throughout the community.

“Fortunately, we have the infrastructure to gather virtually and hopefully in doing so, reduce some of the anxiety our residents face in this unprecedented moment in history,” said Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr.

— Ellie Rushing

6:29 PM - March 18, 2020
6:29 PM - March 18, 2020

Pa. Supreme Court orders all county courthouses to close

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court declared a statewide judicial emergency and ordered all county courthouses closed to the public until April 3.

Though some core court functions — such as arraignments, bail and protection from abuse hearings and emergency civil proceedings — will continue, members of the public will be barred.

The court’s justices acknowledged the step they were taking was extreme in light of the standard presumption that the legal system should be open to the public, but they cited advice from the state’s Department of Health.

“This court is cognizant of the nature of court proceedings, during which individuals who may be carrying the virus with or without symptoms — including court staff, attorneys, litigants, other court participants and members of the public — may come into proximity with other persons,” the court wrote in its order.

— Jeremy Roebuck

6:00 PM - March 18, 2020
6:00 PM - March 18, 2020

Greek Orthodox Church cancels services due to coronavirus

The Greek Orthodox Church, which has a heavy presence in the Philadelphia region, said Wednesday that all liturgical services are canceled through at least March 29 at its parishes in New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania because of the coronavirus.

In a letter to priests that was shared with parishioners through emails and phone calls, Metropolitan Evangelos Kourounis said a decision on whether to reopen churches would be made at the end of March.

Churches would remain open only for private prayer, according to a separate letter from church leaders that was disseminated to parishioners at St. Luke Greek Orthodox Church in Broomall.

At the end of March, Kourounis wrote in a letter that went out to St. Sophia’s parishioners in Jeffersonville, “based on the status of the Pandemic a new directive will be issued in regards to the future celebration of the Divine Services.”

The decision to suspend all liturgies and events inside its churches comes in the middle of Greek Orthodox lent and heading into Easter services next month, viewed as the holiest holiday of the year for Greek Christians.

— Maria Panaritis

5:52 PM - March 18, 2020
5:52 PM - March 18, 2020

Gov. Wolf: Stay home, stay away from others

Governor Tom Wolf speaking to reporters.
Commonwealth Media Services
Governor Tom Wolf speaking to reporters.

Gov. Tom Wolf asked all Pennsylvanians to stay home and stay away from others after the commonwealth’s first coronavirus death in Northampton County, saying the spread of the virus across the state is “increasing at an exponential pace.”

In a live-streamed address Wednesday evening, he said the only way to save lives as the pandemic worsens in Pennsylvania is for nonessential businesses to heed his request to close shop and for people to stay home.

“Today’s is just the first death of what will become many,” Wolf said, “and our only hope is to keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed.”

The address, which Wolf gave from an office rather than at a news conference, was the state government’s starkest acknowledgment yet that the virus is now set to spread rapidly across the state.

Officials had hoped to prevent its spread, but the coronavirus is “difficult to control,” he said. “With the knowledge of how quickly and easily this disease spreads, I ask all Pennsylvanians to stay home.”

He said it was “essential” to keep as many people as possible away from each other, even though it was “incredibly difficult” to tell businesses to close for days.

“Every day that goes by that people continue to freely interact is a day that the virus continues to unknowingly affect more and more people,” he said.

He did not provide any information about the person who died in Northampton County.

— Justine McDaniel

5:38 PM - March 18, 2020
5:38 PM - March 18, 2020

Several Penn Medicine health care providers test positive for coronavirus

Several Penn Medicine health care providers have tested positive for the new coronavirus, the health system said Wednesday. A spokesperson refused to say which hospitals or facilities were affected.

St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Inspira Health in South Jersey have also had providers test positive for the disease since it began to spread in the Philadelphia area.

Read Penn’s full statement:

Over the past day, Penn Medicine became aware of several healthcare providers who practice across our health system who have tested positive for COVID-19. As the prevalence of the virus continues in our region, all hospitals will be forced to deal with these issues. We are uniquely well-prepared to quickly take the steps necessary to ensure the safety and protection of patients and staff during this fast-moving and challenging time. We have worked to swiftly identify and contact both patients and staff who may have been exposed to these individuals while they were working, to provide instructions for precautionary measures and self-monitoring. These providers are in quarantine at home and are adhering to all precautions recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

— Sarah Gantz

5:34 PM - March 18, 2020
5:34 PM - March 18, 2020

Camden re-declares state of emergency, closes all playgrounds and self-serve food stations

Camden County re-declared a state of emergency, its freeholders announced Tuesday, extending mandatory closures for all playgrounds, public bathrooms, and self-service food and beverage stations.

Parks locations will remain open as outdoor-only facilities during regular operating hours. Self-serve stations include coffee stations, fountain drinks, roller grills, bakery cases, soup and salad bars, and condiment bars. Retailers may continue to sell food and beverage items, but an employee must hand it directly to the customer.

“In the past week, we have not seen people taking this threat seriously enough,” Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr. said in a news release. “Crowded playgrounds and shoulder-to-shoulder lines pouring coffee at Wawa and 7/11 are not acceptable if we are going to get through this.”

New Jersey had 427 positive cases of coronavirus as of Tuesday afternoon, and five people have died. Camden has eight confirmed cases. Camden originally declared the state of emergency on Monday to reduce governmental operations to only essential functions and allowing non-essential employees to work from home through March 31.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy ordered the closure of all schools and non-essential businesses, including casinos, beginning Tuesday. The state is also discouraging all non-emergency travel between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. Restaurants can only serve take-out and delivery.

— Ellie Rushing

5:20 PM - March 18, 2020
5:20 PM - March 18, 2020

Grocery store workers are on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak, and they’re anxious

Empty frozen vegetable shelves at the Wegmans in Towne Place at Garden State Park, in Cherry Hill.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Empty frozen vegetable shelves at the Wegmans in Towne Place at Garden State Park, in Cherry Hill.

At grocery stores, which have been deemed essential businesses and can remain open, thousands of workers are suddenly on the front lines of a public health crisis, contending with personal struggles beyond the terse crowds and barren shelves amid panic-buying.

These workers, with no unions to support them, have reported feeling anxious for their own personal health, criticized the absence of hazard pay and expressed discomfort over the lack of assurance of guaranteed pay should their stores close.

Whole Foods announced that starting Monday, employees would receive a $2 increase to their hourly wage and that, nationally, it would hire for 100,000 full- and part-time jobs to fulfill a spike in demand from customers who wanted online grocery deliveries.

— Katie Park

5:17 PM - March 18, 2020
5:17 PM - March 18, 2020

Burlington Township identifies first coronavirus case

Burlington Township Mayor Brian J. Carlin said in a statement this afternoon that the Burlington County township has its first confirmed case of the COVID-19 virus. There have been other confirmed cases in Florence, Evesham, and Delanco Townships, all in Burlington County, the statement said.

“The infected individual is under the care of the appropriate physicians and medical personnel,” the statement said, adding that due to privacy regulations, no further information was being released about the person.

— Julie Shaw

5:04 PM - March 18, 2020
5:04 PM - March 18, 2020

Sixers players tested for coronavirus

After the Sixers-Pistons game, the last game played at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Wednesday, March 11, 2020.
STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
After the Sixers-Pistons game, the last game played at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Wednesday, March 11, 2020.

The 76ers players were tested on Monday for COVID-19, according to multiple sources.

The news comes after the team announced last Thursday that it was organizing for players and staff members, who recently came in contact with players who tested positive for the disease, to be tested. At least some of the Sixers staff members are still waiting to be tested.

The tests for the players came two days after it was announced that Detroit Pistons post player Christian Wood tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Sixers defeated the Pistons, 124-106, on March 11 at the Wells Fargo Center, moments before the NBA suspended the season due to the virus.

— Keith Pompey

4:49 PM - March 18, 2020
4:49 PM - March 18, 2020

Pa. gun background check system crashes due to heavy volume

A line of people wait outside of the Philadelphia Gun and Archery Club, in South Philadelphia.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
A line of people wait outside of the Philadelphia Gun and Archery Club, in South Philadelphia.

The Pennsylvania Instant Check System for gun purchases crashed for seven hours Tuesday because of heavy volume. Still, the system processed 4,342 instant checks compared with 1,359 in the same day a year ago. “I know they’re really busy,” Pennsylvania Trooper Brent Miller said Wednesday.

That action was apparent in a strip of industrial buildings in Southampton, Bucks County, where a line of 75 men and women, some in face masks, formed outside the Classic Pistol store Wednesday afternoon to purchase guns in the face of the coronavirus outbreak.

“I’m not sure what they’re scared of, but they’re scared,” said Ed Hartzel, Classic Pistol’s manager.

— Bob Fernandez

4:29 PM - March 18, 2020
4:29 PM - March 18, 2020

St. Christopher’s Hospital opens new pediatric intensive care unit, resumes trauma service

St. Christophers Hospital, in Philadelphia, March 16, 2020. The coronavirus has been spreading across the globe since January, and now has been identified in the Philadelphia region.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
St. Christophers Hospital, in Philadelphia, March 16, 2020. The coronavirus has been spreading across the globe since January, and now has been identified in the Philadelphia region.

St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children on Tuesday opened a new eight-bed pediatric intensive care unit and resumed its level 1 trauma service.

The hospital closed its ICU to new patients and shut down level 1 trauma services on Friday, after a doctor tested positive for the new coronavirus. The new intensive care unit, called PICU East, is in a separate section of the hospital. The rest of the hospital also remains open.

All patients, families and staff who may have been exposed to the doctor have been instructed to self-quarantine at home for 14 days, according to a statement by Tower Health, which operates St. Christopher’s. The hospital is jointly owned by Tower and Drexel.

— Sarah Gantz

4:25 PM - March 18, 2020
4:25 PM - March 18, 2020

Pennsylvania announces first death from coronavirus

Pennsylvania has announced its first coronavirus death, “an adult from Northampton County,” according to the Wolf administration.

The individual was being treated at a hospital, the administration said.

— Sarah Anne Hughes

4:18 PM - March 18, 2020
4:18 PM - March 18, 2020

Senate passes multibillion dollar emergency coronavirus package

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a multibillion-dollar emergency coronavirus package Wednesday afternoon, sending the measure to President Donald Trump for his signature.

The plan, already approved by the House, requires private health insurers to cover free coronavirus testing and creates a temporary paid sick leave and family leave program for workers who have been affected by the virus or are caring for family members. The program applies to workers at companies of 500 people or fewer. It also provides $1.3 billion in emergency food aid, among other provisions.

The bill passed 90-8. Every senator from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware supported the measure.

Approval of the bill clears the way for lawmakers to turn to an economic stimulus package that could top $1 trillion. The package is expected to include direct payments to Americans as soon as April. It would include aid for airlines and other hard-hit businesses.

The vote came after the Senate blocked an amendment co-sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) that would have expanded the existing unemployment insurance program instead of creating a paid-leave program. The amendment received 50 votes in support, and 48 against, but needed 60 to be approved.

— Jonathan Tamari

3:53 PM - March 18, 2020
3:53 PM - March 18, 2020

Philadelphia area hospitals conserving blood amid nationwide donation shortfall

Allyson, of Philadelphia, gives a whole blood donation to the American Red Cross at the blood donation center on Wednesday. Allyson found out about the blood donations from a text alert she signed up for from Philadelphia OEM. “I just thought about the people that are sick that might need it,” she said. “I’m concerned about my parents in their early 70s and I want someone to take care of them if they needed it.”
TYGER WILLIAMS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Allyson, of Philadelphia, gives a whole blood donation to the American Red Cross at the blood donation center on Wednesday. Allyson found out about the blood donations from a text alert she signed up for from Philadelphia OEM. “I just thought about the people that are sick that might need it,” she said. “I’m concerned about my parents in their early 70s and I want someone to take care of them if they needed it.”

The American Red Cross and the medical facilities it supplies are experiencing a massive blood shortage as an “unprecedented” number of blood drives have been canceled regionally and across the country as workplaces and schools have closed.

More than 200 blood drives have been canceled over the last eight days in southeastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, resulting in a shortfall of more than 7,000 blood donations, said Alana Mauger, communications manager for Red Cross Blood Services for the Penn Jersey region.

Local hospitals are working to conserve the blood supplies they have, and officials are urging healthy residents to donate blood as soon as possible.

— Anna Orso

3:46 PM - March 18, 2020
3:46 PM - March 18, 2020

Cape May County asks travelers to stay home after visitor tests positive for coronavirus

Cape May County Department of Health says a 30-year-old man from New York City tested positive at a local health care facility for the coronavirus disease while visiting Cape May County.

“This information is a vivid reminder that out-of-state visitors should stay home and not travel to the County during this pandemic outbreak,” the release said. “Now is not the time to travel, but to remain vigilant in following recommendations for social distancing and isolation.”

— Amy Rosenberg

3:42 PM - March 18, 2020
3:42 PM - March 18, 2020

One-year-old boy among new coronavirus cases in Montgomery County

Val Arkoosh, left, chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners, speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus at the county's emergency operations center in Eagleville on Wednesday. The county is no longer conducting contact tracing on infected individuals and is opening a drive-through testing center.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Val Arkoosh, left, chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners, speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus at the county's emergency operations center in Eagleville on Wednesday. The county is no longer conducting contact tracing on infected individuals and is opening a drive-through testing center.

A 1-year-old boy in Royersford is among eight new coronavirus patients in Montgomery County, bringing the county total to 42, Val Arkoosh, Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, said Wednesday.

The boy is hospitalized, Arkoosh said. She also said there were also 512 people in quarantine as of this morning.

The county will be opening at drive through testing site in Upper Dublin Township on Temple’s Ambler campus, Arkoosh said, with priority testing for first responders. This is not open today and more details were not immediately available.

Other cases announced today include:

  • A 51-year-old man from Lower Pottsgrove Township who is hospitalized.
  • A 67-year-old man from Lower Providence Township who is not hospitalized and is being monitored at his Lower Providence home.
  • A 46-year-old woman who is not hospitalized and is being monitored at her Lower Merion Township home.
  • A 59-year-old man from Montgomery Township who is hospitalized.
  • A 44-year-old woman who is not hospitalized and is being monitored at her Perkiomen Township home.
  • A 57-year-old woman who is not hospitalized and is being monitored at her Lower Merion Township home.
  • A 35-year-old man who is not hospitalized and is being monitored at his Springfield home.

The county is also the first in the state to move to a community spread model in tracking cases. This means they will not longer be tracing exactly how someone caught the virus because people may now get it from just “normal activity,” Arkoosh said.

There are about 5 or 6 people now where officials are not exactly sure how they became sick with the new coronavirus.

Arkoosh also said she will also stop referring to cases as “presumptive” positives, and instead simply a positive case. “This shift is not unexpected and is consistent with the progression of a highly communicable disease like COVID-19."

— Ellie Silverman

3:19 PM - March 18, 2020
3:19 PM - March 18, 2020

Pa. Dems ask Supreme Court to halt evictions, foreclosures during coronavirus pandemic

Twenty members of the state Senate Democratic Caucus Wednesday sent a letter to the state Supreme Court asking for an order halting evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 outbreak. The letter, signed by all seven Philadelphia senators, noted that evictions have already been halted in Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties.

”We are requesting that you issue a statewide judicial order postponing all evictions and mortgage foreclosures until this pandemic has passed. This order will give many Commonwealth citizens the peace of mind they need during a confusing and scary period,” read the letter, which was addressed to Chief Justice Thomas Saylor.

“At this time of crisis, no individual or family should have to worry about whether or not they will be able to stay in their home or apartment,” they added.

Stacey Witalec, spokesperson for the Supreme Court, did not return a call seeking comment.

Meanwhile, the virus has hit the home of Supreme Court Justice David N. Wecht.

“Upon returning from overseas studies, one of Justice Wecht’s children tested presumptively positive for COVID-19, the result of which was first reported to him late Mon., March 16,” Witalec said in a statement. “As a result, based on medical advice, the Justice has self-quarantined along with his family.”

— Mensah M. Dean

3:08 PM - March 18, 2020
3:08 PM - March 18, 2020

New Jersey adds hospital beds, testing sites as coronavirus cases increase

Two more people have died due to the coronavirus in New Jersey, bringing the statewide death toll to five, Gov. Phil Murphy said Wednesday. He noted an additional 162 people have tested positive, bringing the state’s total positive coronavirus cases to 427.

“This is increasing with a pretty steep curve,” Murphy said, “as we had expected.”

Both individuals who died were women over 60 and had pre-existing health problems, state Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said. One was from Hudson County, the other from Essex.

Bergen saw 27 more people test positive for the disease, the highest for any county in the state. Five people have tested positive in Camden and Burlington Counties, with four in Ocean County and three in Atlantic. Twenty-seven people are still awaiting county assignments, Persichilli said.

Murphy said the Trump administration is looking into his request to bring the Army Corps of Engineers to New Jersey to help build temporary hospital facilities. Murphy will meet with officials from the Corps Thursday.

Persichilli said New Jersey will add 260 beds to the state’s capacity Wednesday, and 227 more beds will “be online” within the next three to four weeks. Officials are also expecting to reopen Underwood Memorial Hospital in Woodbury, which would add 300 more hospital beds.

“As cases continue to increase,” Persichilli said, “our concern about the health care systems capacity also grows.”

She also said a mobile testing site, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in Bergen County will open by Friday. Priority will be given to individuals who show coronavirus like symptoms, especially if they are healthcare workers. Another site in Monmouth County should be operational next week.

— Pranshu Verma

3:03 PM - March 18, 2020
3:03 PM - March 18, 2020

Gov. Wolf asks feds for more financial support for Pennsylvania’s small businesses

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a press conference, which confirmed the first two presumptive positive cases of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Pennsylvania and reminded residents that the commonwealth is prepared to respond to community spread of this virus, inside PEMA headquarters on Wednesday, March 4, 2020.
Commonwealth Media Services / Commonwealth Media Services: Natalie Kolb
Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a press conference, which confirmed the first two presumptive positive cases of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Pennsylvania and reminded residents that the commonwealth is prepared to respond to community spread of this virus, inside PEMA headquarters on Wednesday, March 4, 2020.

Gov. Tom Wolf has asked the federal government to provide more financial support to Pennsylvania’s small businesses and nonprofits as they weather the economic fallout of the coronavirus.

Wolf has requested the U.S. Small Business Administration implement a disaster declaration, which would allow small businesses and eligible nonprofits to apply for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

The loans offer up to $2 million in assistance to small businesses without credit elsewhere, and can be paid back for as long as 30 years with an interest rate between 2.75% and 3.75%.

— Erin McCarthy

2:25 PM - March 18, 2020
2:25 PM - March 18, 2020

Pennsylvania coronavirus cases growing at faster pace, officials say

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania has grown to 133, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Wednesday afternoon.

All infected people are in isolation or in hospitals, she said. As of Wednesday afternoon, 1,187 people have tested negative. As the number of cases grows, the state is “less able to specifically track all of these exposures,” Levine said. There are some cases where the source of the infection cannot be traced, but that is not widespread.

”We do expect sustained community spread will happen in Pennsylvania,” Levine said, adding that’s why social distancing is essential. She later added that the “exponential curve is being seen in Pennsylvania,” meaning cases are beginning to rise at a faster pace.

Levine said the state has strong mitigation efforts in place, but is also “preparing with hospitals and health systems and health care providers for the potential and likely surge of patients over the next few weeks.”

Levine also reminded Pennsylvanians who are returning from countries under a Level 2 or Level 3 travel advisory as defined by the CDC: “You are to quarantine at home and monitor your symptoms. If you become sick, please call your health care provider for testing."

"Stay calm, stay home, and stay safe,” Levine said.

— Sarah Anne Hughes

2:16 PM - March 18, 2020
2:16 PM - March 18, 2020

Philly officials ask police to shut down Franklin Mills mall

A man peeks in the window after reading a sign on the locked door at Franklin Mills Mall in Phila. just after 3pm on March 18, 2020. The coronavirus has been spreading across the globe since January, and now has been identified in the Philadelphia region.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
A man peeks in the window after reading a sign on the locked door at Franklin Mills Mall in Phila. just after 3pm on March 18, 2020. The coronavirus has been spreading across the globe since January, and now has been identified in the Philadelphia region.

Philadelphia officials have asked the police and city inspectors to shut down the Philadelphia Mills mall, formerly Franklin Mills, which has remained open despite a city order that nonessential businesses needed to shut down by Monday.

While the city is sending letters to other nonessential businesses that remain open, they took the step of sending inspectors and police to Philadelphia Mills “given the size of that property and frankly the irresponsibility of keeping a large gathering spot open like that,” city Managing Director Brian Abernathy said. “If you can’t be responsible we will be responsible for you,” Abernathy said.

Alyssa Dinger, marketing director at Philadelphia Mills, said she could not comment. Neither the mall’s owner, Simon Properties, nor a public relations firm working for the company could be reached immediately for comment.

Simon also owns the King of Prussia Mall.

Philadelphia Mills’ website says it has modified operating hours to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, but that hours for individual stores and restaurants might vary.

The notice on the website cites supporting “our retailers, employees and local community, and in accordance with the latest CDC guidelines regarding COVID-19” as the reasons for “temporary” operating hours. “We are closely monitoring the rapidly evolving situation with federal, state and local health officials.”

At the same time, the King of Prussia Mall’s website notes Gov. Wolf’s previous recommendation that all non-essential retail in Montgomery County close.

“Accordingly, we expect that all non-essential retail tenants of King of Prussia adhere to and comply with Gov. Wolf’s recommendation effective immediately,” the notice says. “We are closely monitoring the rapidly evolving situation of COVID-19 with public health officials and will provide updates as they become available.”

A man who said he was manager of At Against All Odds, a fashion accessories store at Philadelphia Mills, said the store was open Monday and Tuesday, but that he was not sure how long it would remain open. He then rushed off the phone saying, “I have to go take care of a customer.”

Update, 2:59 p.m.: Simon Property Group, the owner of properties like the King of Prussia and Philadelphia Mills malls, announced later today it will close all of its U.S. retail properties from 7 p.m. Wednesday until March 29.

“The health and safety of our shoppers, retailers and employees is of paramount importance and we are taking this step to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” David Simon, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of Simon said in a news release.

— Ellie Silverman, Anna Orso

2:09 PM - March 18, 2020
2:09 PM - March 18, 2020

Students on federal work study may be able to keep grants

College students on federal work study may be able to keep their grants.

Temple University said it appears that at least some students who work campus jobs won’t lose their money, given that the campus has moved to online instruction and told employees to work at home. About 1,000 Temple students get the grants.

“I can share that informal guidance that we have received and formal guidance we believe is forthcoming should enable us to continue the deployment of federal work-study grants,” said Shawn L. Abbott, vice provost for admissions, financial aid and enrollment management.

But university spokesman Ray Betzner said it’s unclear how many students would be affected. Some work on campus, and some work at community organizations, Abbott said.

— Susan Snyder

1:49 PM - March 18, 2020
1:49 PM - March 18, 2020

As the world adjusts in pandemic, Media church adjusts with it

Rev. Ernie Galaz (left) of the Christ Episcopal Church in Media set up a drive-by and walk-by communion station.
Mike Jensen
Rev. Ernie Galaz (left) of the Christ Episcopal Church in Media set up a drive-by and walk-by communion station.

As the world adjusts, the Rev. Ernie Galaz, rector of the Christ Episcopal Church in Media, adjusts with it. Wednesday, the church set up a drive-by and walk-by communion station in the back parking lot.

This was the first time, just a half hour, got four customers, Galaz said.

He’ll do it again Sunday. They’ve also started live-streaming Sunday’s 10 a.m. service.

“We’ll also open up the church for private prayer,’’ the priests added. “Of course, we have the appropriate sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer and directions for keeping distance.”

Just before the church closed up shop, the only folks walking by were a couple of dog-walkers.

“Would you like communion?” Galaz asked.

— Mike Jensen

1:42 PM - March 18, 2020
1:42 PM - March 18, 2020

Bucks County business owner opens parking lot to truckers in coronavirus pandemic

The owner of a Bucks County technology firm is opening his parking lot to give truck drivers carrying supplies across Pennsylvania’s roadways a little relief.

Matthew Kane, the CEO of Riteload, put out a public call for drivers coming to the Philadelphia area to take a break at his office, located about five miles off the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Willow Grove exit at 75 James Way in Southampton.

Kane said he found the state’s decision to close down rest stops “idiotic.” He knows the demands placed on drivers firsthand: His company, which launched last year, is a technology platform that connects companies directly with trucking firms.

“Understanding very well all of the hoops and hurdles and rings of fire that truck drivers have to deal with on a regular basis,” he said, “Pennsylvania is still expecting these products to be hauled and for shelves to be refilled, but they’re not willing to give them a place to rest, go the bathroom, get something to eat?”

Kane estimates he has enough room to comfortably fit about 12 to 14 trucks. He also made arrangements for porta-potties with hand sanitizer to be set up in the parking lot. “I will do this for as long as necessary,” Kane said.

“If we’re supposed to pull together at times like these in this county, this is me doing my part.”

Drivers interested in parking at Kane’s lot are asked to call 267-333-8844.

— Vinny Vella

1:30 PM - March 18, 2020
1:30 PM - March 18, 2020

PATCO ridership may have ‘bottomed out,’ additional schedule modifications in effect

Eastbound PATCO commuters ride on trains with fewer passengers than usual during the late-day rush hour Mar. 17, 2010. The transit agency reported about a six percent reduction in ridership last week and has made changes to its weekday service because of the coronavirus as the region begins social distancing and directives to work from home
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Eastbound PATCO commuters ride on trains with fewer passengers than usual during the late-day rush hour Mar. 17, 2010. The transit agency reported about a six percent reduction in ridership last week and has made changes to its weekday service because of the coronavirus as the region begins social distancing and directives to work from home

PATCO is now seeing a dramatic drop in ridership, an inevitable ripple effect from social distancing measures that have shaken normal daily commutes for many.

Ridership on the High-Speed Line was down about 74% percent Tuesday and about 61% Monday from its year-to-date weekday average. The drop has continued to worsen since PATCO began to feel a slight impact amid the coronavirus just last week.

“I am inclined to believe that ridership has bottomed out," said John Hanson, CEO of the Delaware River Port Authority, which runs PATCO. Falling ridership, and consideration for “the sustainability of the PATCO operations” fueled the decision to further modify PATCO’s schedule from initial changes riders saw Tuesday, Hanson said. The adjustments allow for appropriate social distancing, keeping operators healthy, and less need for maintenance.

Trains will arrive every 15 minutes from 5 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. as part of the changes.

Roads are lighter, too. On Tuesday, crossings on DRPA bridges fell by about 35 percent from year-to-date weekday averages. The DRPA operates the Ben Franklin, Walt Whitman, Commodore Barry, and Betsy Ross Bridges.

“The advice from all the public health officials is people should stay in if they can, and I support that," Hanson said. "People should stay in, and by extension, that means don’t go out if you don’t have to, don’t use mass transit if you don’t have to.”

— Patricia Madej

1:22 PM - March 18, 2020
1:22 PM - March 18, 2020

Philadelphia ‘clearly in a rapid growth phase of this epidemic’ as confirmed coronavirus cases double in one day

Mayor of Philadelphia Jim Kenney speaks during a press conference about the coronavirus at City Hall in Philadelphia, Pa. on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Confirmed cases of the coronavirus are escalating across the country, including presumed positives in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
Mayor of Philadelphia Jim Kenney speaks during a press conference about the coronavirus at City Hall in Philadelphia, Pa. on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Confirmed cases of the coronavirus are escalating across the country, including presumed positives in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the city of Philadelphia doubled in a day to 34, and city officials expect that figure to continue climbing.

“We are clearly in a rapid growth phase of this epidemic,” city Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said, “and I expect that to continue.”

Of those cases, 19 were people age 20 to 39, 10 were age 40 to 59, and five are over the age of 60. Of the 34 patients, five were hospitalized, he said.

Farley said testing capabilities continue to improve and said 700 people were tested Tuesday at new sites throughout the greater Philadelphia area.

He also confirmed officials are developing a testing site near the stadiums in South Philadelphia they hope to open “soon.”

— Anna Orso

1:15 PM - March 18, 2020
1:15 PM - March 18, 2020

White House takes steps to allow faster shipping of ventilators, masks amid coronavirus pandemic

President Donald Trump speaks during press briefing with the Coronavirus Task Force, at the White House, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in Washington. Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma is at left, Vice President Mike Pence is at right. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci / AP
President Donald Trump speaks during press briefing with the Coronavirus Task Force, at the White House, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in Washington. Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Seema Verma is at left, Vice President Mike Pence is at right. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The federal government took additional steps on Wednesday to speed up its response to the coronavirus outbreak that had killed more than 100 people and sickened more than 7,500 as of Wednesday afternoon.

President Trump said he has invoked the Defense Production Act, which could allow medical supplies including ventilators and masks to be produced and shipped out more rapidly, and has activated FEMA’s highest level of response nationwide. Hours after he announced the closure of the U.S.-Canadian border, Trump said they planned to close the border with Mexico, as well.

Two Navy hospital ships, the Mercy and the Comfort, will be deployed on the east and west coasts in preparation for an influx of patients at hospitals. The Comfort will be stationed in New York and the Mercy will dock somewhere on the west coast “in the next week or so depending on the need,” Trump said during an hourlong press conference.

He also said health officials may soon be able to do “self swab” tests, though he didn’t indicate when that might be or how that would help deal with the testing shortage.

For people worried about paying their rents or mortgages, he said the Department of Housing and Urban Development would suspend evictions and foreclosures through the end of April.

While announcing these measures, the President doubled down on his insistence on calling the coronavirus “the Chinese virus” despite criticism that the wording is racist, encourages bigotry toward Asian Americans, and is unfair given that the virus affects everyone.

When Trump was asked by a reporter why he has used that language this week, he said: “It comes from China. That’s why. I want to be accurate.”

— Erin McCarthy

12:57 PM - March 18, 2020
12:57 PM - March 18, 2020

New Jersey closes One-Stop Career offices to prevent coronavirus spread

The New Jersey Department of Labor said it has closed all One-Stop Career Center offices to the public in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 and safeguard the health of state employees and customers.

The office offers services including job search assistance, training and education assistance, and technology resources to those seeking employment.

"NJDOL is experiencing extraordinarily high online volume and longer than usual call wait times,” the state website says. Operations are expected to reopen March 30, according to the state’s website. For now, the department is urging Jersey residents who need to file for unemployment or other benefits to apply online at MyUnemployment.nj.gov or MyLeaveBenefits.nj.gov.

Before applying, customers should check to see if they are eligible to apply for Unemployment Insurance, Temporary Disability or Family Leave Insurance, or Workers’ Compensation. Here’s a guide.

Though all existing appointments are canceled, state Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo assured customers that a department staffer will contact them in the future to reschedule.

— Wendy Ruderman

12:28 PM - March 18, 2020
12:28 PM - March 18, 2020

Nursing homes are running out of protective equipment amid coronavirus pandemic

In this Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, photo, workers pack surgical masks at a factory in Suining city in southwest China's Sichuan province. The number of confirmed cases of the new virus has risen again in China on Saturday, as the ruling Communist Party faced anger and recriminations from the public over the death of a doctor who was threatened by police after trying to sound the alarm about the disease over a month ago. (Chinatopix via AP)
AP
In this Friday, Feb. 7, 2020, photo, workers pack surgical masks at a factory in Suining city in southwest China's Sichuan province. The number of confirmed cases of the new virus has risen again in China on Saturday, as the ruling Communist Party faced anger and recriminations from the public over the death of a doctor who was threatened by police after trying to sound the alarm about the disease over a month ago. (Chinatopix via AP)

A national organization that represents nursing homes and assisted-living facilities said Wednesday there already are sporadic shortages of protective equipment for staff and that 20% of facilities say they could run out of masks and gowns next week. Another 20% would run out the week after that, according to the American Health Care Association.

The group is calling for people who do not currently need protective equipment to share their inventories with medical providers and it lauded dentists in Ohio for doing so. It also said it has talked with the CDC about stretching supplies by doing things like wearing masks for a longer period of time.“We need to really take drastic action to conserve masks and gowns going forward,” said David Gifford, the organization’s chief medical director.

Based on news reports, Gifford said he was aware of 20 to 30 facilities that have had cases of the new disease. He said facilities should “assume it’s in your community and take action now.”

— Stacey Burling

12:17 PM - March 18, 2020
12:17 PM - March 18, 2020

Atlantic County identifies first case of coronavirus

Health officials at the Jersey Shore have reported that an Atlantic County man in his 60s with underlying health conditions has tested positive for COVID-19, the first confirmed case in Atlantic County. The patient is currently being treated at home while health officials conduct further investigations, according to a release from Atlantic County.

Direct contacts will be notified and asked to self-quarantine for 14 days as directed by the guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control.

A commercial lab confirmed the positive test results late Tuesday, the county said.

“While this is unfortunate news, it is not unexpected,” County Executive Dennis Levinson said in the release.

Local officials at the shore have asked second home owners not to ride out the pandemic at their shore homes, but many continued to do so Wednesday.

— Amy Rosenberg

12:13 PM - March 18, 2020
12:13 PM - March 18, 2020

Pa. deems agriculture as vital, says farmers should keep working but with extra caution

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has deemed farms, greenhouses, orchards, and other food-related businesses as essential and need to continue to operate amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The list includes agriculture equipment businesses, veterinary services, food inspectors, and transportation services that bring food from processors to manufacturers to grocery stores.

In a statement, state agriculture secretary Russell Redding urged those in the agriculture industry to follow safety protocol to mitigate the risk of coronavirus transmission. All farms should establish contingency plans — which the state referred to continuity of business plans — if the virus interrupts normal operations. Officials said small farms could face more difficulties if they have just one owner or limited staff.

If a farm worker contracts coronavirus and needs to be hospitalized or quarantined, the state said the farm should have written documentation that asks neighbors or family to assume farm operations.

The announcement emphasized farms should be vigilant about cleaning, from washing trucks after leaving each place it travels to and sanitizing drop-off receptacles.

— Katie Park

12:10 PM - March 18, 2020
12:10 PM - March 18, 2020

Pennsylvania to join the N.Y., N.J. and Conn. coronavirus 'coalition,’ Cuomo says

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that Pennsylvania would join his “coalition” indicating statewide social restrictions that apply to New York would also apply to Pennsylvania, as well as New Jersey and Connecticut.

“None of these measures work unless you have a large enough geographic basis,” Cuomo said at a press conference. “People will just move ... The geographic footprint, by definition, is essential for this to work.”

In the same press conference, Cuomo mandated that no non-essential business can have more than 50 percent of its employees working outside their homes. It was not immediately clear whether that applied to Pennsylvania businesses, as well.

— Erin McCarthy

11:45 AM - March 18, 2020
11:45 AM - March 18, 2020

Where coronavirus testing is available in the Philly area

If you are experiencing coronavirus symptoms, which can include a dry cough and fever, and think you should be tested, you may be able to get a test in your area. But you can’t just show up to the testing sites. First, call your primary care doctor or schedule a virtual consultation if that option is available. They will evaluate your symptoms and determine whether to refer for a test. Here are the locations of testing sites:

City

  • West Philadelphia (Penn Medicine)
  • Center City (Jefferson Health)
  • Northeast Philadelphia (Jefferson Health)
  • South Philadelphia by the stadiums (coming soon)

Pa. suburbs

  • Two sites in Radnor (Penn Medicine and Main Line Health)
  • Newtown Square (Main Line Health)
  • Abington (Jefferson Health)
  • Ambler (Temple University campus; coming soon)

South Jersey

  • Jefferson Health
  • Camden County College in Blackwood (coming soon)
  • Cherry Hill (Cooper Health)

Again, you must consult a doctor and get a referral before being tested. Here are some ways you can start the process: Penn Medicine patients can call 215-615-2222 or use the MyPennMedicine app. Jefferson Health patients can go to hospitals.jefferson.edu/jeffconnect. Main Line Heath patients can call 866-225-5654.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy said residents can now call 2-1-1 for questions and concerns about the coronavirus. He said residents can still call the original COVID-19 hotline at 1-800-962-1253 or 1-800-222-1222. Residents can also text NJCOVID to 898-211 to receive updates on their phones.

— Erin McCarthy, Pranshu Verma, Allison Steele

11:30 AM - March 18, 2020
11:30 AM - March 18, 2020

Penn State postpones graduation in face of pandemic

Pennsylvania State University has joined a growing number of schools regionally and nationally that have postponed commencement and moved instruction online for the rest of the semester due COVID-19 outbreak.

"Graduation is a significant milestone for our students and while it may not be the same as our traditional ceremony, we are committed to finding the best way possible to recognize the achievements of our graduates,” Penn State President Eric J. Barron said in a statement to the campus. “However, as the world works together to slow the spread of COVID-19, these decisions must be made with public health at the forefront along with the health and wellness of our students, faculty, staff, their families, and our local communities.”

The state’s flagship university soon will announce a schedule for students to return to campus and retrieve their belongings. The University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College and La Salle University also have announced they will have no on-campus commencement, but are planning alternatives.

— Susan Snyder

10:30 AM - March 18, 2020
10:30 AM - March 18, 2020

Philly teachers told to halt remote instruction due to equity concerns

Philadelphia teachers may no longer offer remote instruction to students, according to a memo sent by the Philadelphia School District to principals Tuesday night.

“To ensure equity, remote instruction should not be provided to students, including through the internet, technology at home, by phone or otherwise,” said the memo, which was obtained by The Inquirer.

“Students should not be required to complete new assignments or homework activities. Schools may not make independent decisions to provide remote instruction at this time. As guidance and circumstances continue to unfold, we will provide updates as necessary.”

It was unclear how many students would be affected by the edict.

The memo was signed by Naomi Wyatt, the superintendent’s chief of staff, and by Malika Savoy-Brooks, the Chief Academic Support Officer, and cited recent guidance from the state and federal education departments.

“...We may not offer remote instruction to some students unless we can serve all children,” Wyatt and Savoy-Brooks wrote. “As we all know, some of our students have special instructional needs, some lack access to a computer, and some will have responsibility for taking care of younger siblings or older relatives while their parents are at work. As a result, the district is not able to provide remote instruction during the period of school closures to all children.”

Teachers at some Philadelphia schools had been offering optional remote instruction on their own before the edict went out; there was no formal program of instruction. Instead, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. has encouraged parents to engage children in learning activities during the coronavirus shutdown, and has made learning guides available to families through the district’s website.

— Kristen A. Graham and Maddie Hanna

10:30 AM - March 18, 2020
10:30 AM - March 18, 2020

Regional law enforcement agencies grapple with how to respond amid pandemic

Law enforcement agencies in the region are coming to grips with how to handle crime amid the coronavirus pandemic by changing policies on issues such as dealing with minor crimes and how to patrol neighborhoods without coming in close contact with residents.

In New Jersey, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal on Monday issued guidelines to law-enforcement agencies across the state, telling agencies to consider delaying the filing of charges in cases not imminently impacting public safety.

New Jersey State Police stations are being cleaned twice daily and have glass partitions in station lobbies to protect troopers and visitors, Grewal said. He urges local departments to do the same.

Meanwhile, Camden County Police Department Chief Joseph Wysocki, posted on Facebook that there will be increased police presence at several Camden grocery stores to ensure the areas around them are safe, and that the stores can manage the flow of residents.

Officers will also continue to patrol neighborhoods, address crime and public safety, respond to calls for assistance from residents. But, he said, they will implement new safety measures that might require residents to meet police outside.

In suburban counties surrounding Philadelphia, prosecutors and law enforcement leaders are stressing that the coronavirus response has not disrupted how crimes are dealt with, only altered it slightly.

Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub met with police chiefs and health department officials to create policies on how to share manpower and keep first responders safe.

“We’re all human beings first, we’re all in this together, but we need to maintain order,” Weintraub said. “And we need to give the public confidence that order is being maintained, especially in a time of crisis like this.”

Dispatchers in Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware Counties, will handle minor incidents that are not in progress, such as thefts or fraud, over the phone. Officers will only be dispatched if needed and will maintain a safe distance from callers outside their homes.

“The bottom line is to try to use common sense to stay safe and let people know that the police are still answering calls,” Weintraub said.

Julie Shaw and Vinny Vella

10:13 AM - March 18, 2020
10:13 AM - March 18, 2020

Trump announces border closing with Canada

The U.S.-Canadian border will temporarily close to non-essential travel to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, President Trump announced Wednesday.

“We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic,” the president tweeted. “Trade will not be affected. Details to follow!”

It was not immediately clear when the border restriction would go into effect or what travel would be considered essential.

9:55 AM - March 18, 2020
9:55 AM - March 18, 2020

Mobile COVID-19 testing site to open at Camden County College

A mobile coronavirus testing site will open at Camden County College in Blackwood shortly, according to Camden county spokesperson Dan Keashen.

The exact date won’t be known “until we get the necessary equipment,” Keashen said. Officials are awaiting personal protective equipment and testing kits. Camden County Freeholder Director Louis J. Cappelli Jr. has noted in previous days these are in short supply.

The site will be county run, and individuals will be required to show symptoms and have a referral note from their doctor to get tested at the site, Keashen said. This comes as mobile testing sites are being propped up across the region by providers like Penn Medicine, Jefferson Health and Main Line Health so more people can get tested as the coronavirus spreads. The stadium complex in South Philadelphia also is in line to get a test site.

— Pranshu Verma

9:50 AM - March 18, 2020
9:50 AM - March 18, 2020

Stock markets fall at opening

Stocks fell again Wednesday as the coronavirus outbreak continues to take a toll on the economy.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 1,300 points overnight, while the S&P 500 fell 5%. Amid this public health crisis, Wall Street experienced its worst day in decades on Monday, with the Dow Jones dropping 3,000 points.

It rebounded Tuesday as the Trump administration unveiled a $1 trillion stimulus plan, which included sending $1,000 checks to Americans, in an attempt to bolster the economy as business grinds to a halt due to social restrictions.

— Erin McCarthy

7:45 AM - March 18, 2020
7:45 AM - March 18, 2020

Known worldwide coronavirus cases surpass 200,000 mark

The number of coronaviruas cases has surpassed 200,000 globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 8,000 people have died.

This news come as cities around the United States, including Philadelphia, increase social restrictions in an attempt to slow the virus’ spread. As of Wednesday morning, nearly 6,500 cases had been reported in all 50 states, and 114 people had died. 17 people have recovered.

— Erin McCarthy

6:30 AM - March 18, 2020
6:30 AM - March 18, 2020

Police Commissioner Outlaw: We are not ‘turning a blind eye to crime’

Philadelphia police commissioner Danielle Outlaw answers questions outside the Police Administration Building during a news conference in Philadelphia, PA on March 18, 2020. Commissioner Outlaw discussed the released internal memo about policing under the coronavirus.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Philadelphia police commissioner Danielle Outlaw answers questions outside the Police Administration Building during a news conference in Philadelphia, PA on March 18, 2020. Commissioner Outlaw discussed the released internal memo about policing under the coronavirus.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw moved early Wednesday to clarify a temporary policy on delaying arrests in non-violent cases during the coronavirus pandemic, saying the Police Department is not “turning a blind eye to crime.”

“Persons who commit certain non-violent offenses will be arrested at the scene,” she said. "Once their identity has been confirmed, they will be released and processed via arrest warrant.

“This is similar to the ‘summons process’ that is utilized in many other counties throughout the Commonwealth,” Outlaw said. “An officer still has the authority to utilize discretion, and take an offender into physical custody for immediate processing, if the officer and supervisor believe the individual poses a threat to public safety.”

She said a number of plainclothes officers are being put back into uniform to increase the visible police presence.

“To reiterate, criminal offenders will be held accountable for the crimes they commit,” she said.

The Fraternal Order of Police issued a statement supporting the policy, which is aimed at protecting the health of officers and the public and to manage jail crowding. The policy covers narcotics offenses, thefts, burglary, vandalism, prostitution, stolen cars, economic crimes, such as bad checks and fraud, and any existing bench warrants.

— Joseph A. Gambardello

5:15 AM - March 18, 2020
5:15 AM - March 18, 2020

Work underway to open testing site at stadium complex in South Philly

What is believed to be a testing site for the coronavirus is set up by the Pennsylvania Task Force One by Citizen Bank Park. This is on Citizens Bank Way on the west side of the ballpark.
CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
What is believed to be a testing site for the coronavirus is set up by the Pennsylvania Task Force One by Citizen Bank Park. This is on Citizens Bank Way on the west side of the ballpark.

Officials are busy setting up what is expected to be a coronavirus testing site at the stadium complex in South Philadelphia.

Among those working at the site is Pennsylvania Task Force One, one of FEMA’s 28 Urban Search and Rescue Teams, whose members include Philadelphia Fire Department firefighters and medics.

Philadelphia City Councilmember Mark Squilla said he had been briefed on plans by city, state and federal officials to set up a drive-through testing site in a parking lot at the complex.

He said it is expected to open this week.

— Joseph A. Gambardello

5:00 AM - March 18, 2020
5:00 AM - March 18, 2020

As the coronavirus spreads, Pa. and New Jersey race to add hospital beds, testing

Officials across Pennsylvania and New Jersey on Tuesday took steps to confront a likely surge in coronavirus cases and the spread of the illness throughout communities despite dramatic new restrictions constraining daily life and limiting human interaction.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy proposed reopening closed hospitals and enlisting the Army Corps of Engineers to build temporary medical centers, while the state’s congressional representatives pressed the federal government to send emergency medical supplies.

Pennsylvania leaders, too, were preparing for an increase in demand for hospital beds, and city and state officials raced to set up drive-through testing facilities in the Philadelphia region. Delaware County, which does not have a health department, took the unusual step of asking the state to let neighboring Chester County run its response to the pandemic.

Justine McDaniel

4:45 AM - March 18, 2020
4:45 AM - March 18, 2020

Why the coronavirus has no cure

A depiction of the Wuhan coronavirus.
scientificanimations.com
A depiction of the Wuhan coronavirus.

People hospitalized with severe symptoms are given medicine to bring down the fever and fluids to keep them hydrated, generally by intravenous tube. Some patients are connected to a ventilator: a mechanical device that helps them breathe.

This menu of treatments is called supportive care, and despite the lukewarm-sounding name, there is no question that it saves lives.

But as for waging a direct attack against this virus, and most other viruses, there are no drugs. The human immune system is on its own.

— Tom Avril

4:00 AM - March 18, 2020
4:00 AM - March 18, 2020

Front Page: Closed Down, Ramping Up

Inquirer front page, Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
Philadelphia Inquirer
Inquirer front page, Wednesday, March 18, 2020.