9:08 PM - November 25, 2020
9:08 PM - November 25, 2020

Haddonfield schools will switch to online-only classes next week

The Haddonfield School District will switch to online-only classes starting next Monday for at least one week, Superintendent Chuck Klaus said in a letter to parents and staff.

The decision to switch was made because of “an expected surge [of COVID-19] after the Thanksgiving weekend and with an emphasis on the safety and wellbeing of our students, staff, and families,” Klaus wrote.

The district will re-evaluate the situation on Dec. 3 and then decide whether to continue online-only classes or return to hybrid instruction, Klaus said.

“The decision to take this intermediate step was not made lightly, but it was made with the hope that we can bring the students back to school later in December,” Klaus said.

— Robert Moran

6:40 PM - November 25, 2020
6:40 PM - November 25, 2020

Federal judge rules against halting Montco school closures

A federal judge on Wednesday denied a request by parents seeking an order to prevent all K-12 schools in Montgomery County from being closed for two weeks to prevent the fast-increasing spread of COVID-19.

The move comes just days after a Montgomery County judge made a similar ruling.

“We are pleased that the Court did not intervene in the Board of Health’s efforts to protect the health and welfare of Montgomery County students, teachers, and staff,” Dr. Valerie A. Arkoosh, Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, said in a statement.

“As we continue to fight the fall surge of COVID-19 in our communities, we remain committed to acting in the best interest of all Montgomery County residents,” Arkoosh said.

U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl denied the request for a temporary restraining order, noting that the Montgomery County Board of Health directive affects 11 days, and fewer actual school days. “I find that Plaintiffs cannot show irreparable harm caused,” the judge wrote.

However, he added that the matter can be revisited if the county continues to order a shutdown beyond the two-week window.

John Mark Niehls, the lead plaintiff and head of Coventry Christian Schools, expressed disappointment with the decision, but said in a statement that “the Judge’s decision makes clear that there is merit to the allegations underlying our complaint and emphasizes that, if Montgomery County chooses to extend the school closure order past December 6th, then the County should be prepared to face a renewed TRO and/or the constitutional allegations raised in our complaint on the merits.”

— Robert Moran

3:15 PM - November 25, 2020
3:15 PM - November 25, 2020

President-Elect Joe Biden calls on Americans to limit Thanksgiving plans, empathizes with families who will be celebrating without loved ones lost to the coronavirus

FILE - Nov. 24, 2020, file photo President-elect Joe Biden puts on his face mask in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Carolyn Kaster / AP
FILE - Nov. 24, 2020, file photo President-elect Joe Biden puts on his face mask in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

President-Elect Joe Biden addressed the nation Wednesday afternoon, calling on Americans to celebrate Thanksgiving with just a few family members and to remain optimistic despite the tragedy, pain, and anxiety that has marked the past nine months.

“Faith, courage, sacrifice, service to country, service to each other, and gratitude even in the face of suffering have long been part of what Thanksgiving means in America,” he said.

Biden called reducing the size of turkey dinners and continuing to follow public health guidelines “our patriotic duty as Americans.”

He said he and his wife, Jill, have called off their usual large family gathering and will instead be celebrating the holiday with just their daughter, Ashley, and their son-in-law, Howard, at the family’s home in Wilmington. Biden’s son, his grandchildren, and other relatives will be celebrating separately, also in small groups, he said.

The president-elect also expressed empathy with the 250,000 families across the country who will be celebrating the holiday for the first time without a loved one who died of the coronavirus. He said his family remembered how painful the first Thanksgiving was after his son, Beau, died of brain cancer in 2015.

“It’s really hard to care. It’s hard to give thanks. It’s hard to even think of looking forward. It’s hard to hope,” he said. “I’m thinking of every one of you at your Thanksgiving table, because we’ve been there.”

In spite of the suffering caused by the pandemic, Biden said there are reasons for hope -- promising news about coronavirus vaccines, the courage health-care workers and everyday Americans have displayed during this difficult time, and the possibility of a new less-divisive chapter beginning when he is inaugurated in January.

“There’s real hope, tangible hope, so hang on” he said. “Don’t let yourself surrender to the fatigue. … This will not last forever.”

— Erin McCarthy

2:00 PM - November 25, 2020
2:00 PM - November 25, 2020

Pennsylvania to start using national alert system for coronavirus updates

Pennsylvania said it would start using the national alert system that pushes emergency messages to cell phones for pandemic-related advisories.

The Wolf Administration planned to send the first message Wednesday, which would provide the ability to opt into alerts about specific regions of the state.

— Justine McDaniel

2:00 PM - November 25, 2020
2:00 PM - November 25, 2020

New Jersey discourages out-of-state travel, says people who go beyond neighboring states should quarantine

New Jersey on Wednesday said it would no longer use previous metrics to put states on its travel advisory, as “COVID-19 cases continue to rise at an alarming rate throughout our nation.”

Instead, the Garden State is discouraging all non-essential travel, officials said, and urging residents or visitors who enter New Jersey from any state except from New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Delaware to quarantine for 14 days.

The New Jersey Department of Health said it plans to release more information in the days to come.

— Erin McCarthy

1:00 PM - November 25, 2020
1:00 PM - November 25, 2020

Pennsylvania reports 6,759 additional coronavirus cases, surpasses 10,000 total deaths

Pennsylvania reported 6,759 additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 144 additional virus-related deaths on Wednesday, one day before a Thanksgiving that experts worry will exacerbate the current surge if people don’t limit gatherings and take precautions.

About 3,897 people are hospitalized with coronavirus complications as of Wednesday, officials said, and 826 of them are in intensive care units across the state. Only 734 of the state’s approximately 4,000 ICU beds remain available, according to state data.

In all, at least 327,829 Pennsylvanians have been infected with the virus since the pandemic, and 10,095 have died.

— Erin McCarthy

12:30 PM - November 25, 2020
12:30 PM - November 25, 2020

N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy says “it’s not too late to change your plans for tomorrow”

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday again urged people to rethink Thanksgiving gatherings.

”It’s not too late to change your plans for tomorrow,” he tweeted.

Public health experts and leaders, including those in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia, have for weeks urged the public to have Thanksgiving only with the people in their own households.

The virus spreads easily at gatherings, large or small, and the safest way to celebrate is to eat only with the people you already live with, experts say.

Pennsylvania on Monday issued a stay-at-home advisory “strongly” urging people to stay home and not to hold holiday get-togethers with people outside their households. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said Tuesday that he and his 80-year-old mother are forgoing their annual Thanksgiving dinner together.

”I know it’s difficult and heartbreaking to break with tradition,” Murphy said on Twitter, “but small gatherings this Thanksgiving are the best way to protect your loved ones and ensure we can gather safely in the years to come.”

— Justine McDaniel

11:30 AM - November 25, 2020
11:30 AM - November 25, 2020

Less than 10% of U.S. population has coronavirus-fighting antibodies

With nearly 13 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, the United States leads the world in the number of infections, surpassing more populous, less developed countries including India.

Despite that dubious distinction, less than 10 percent of the U.S. population has evidence of infection-fighting antibodies to the coronavirus, according to a study published online Tuesday in JAMA Internal Medicine.Experts say 60% to 70% of the population would have to develop immunity, either through infection or vaccination, to make disease spread unlikely. Such community-wide protection is known as “herd immunity.”

The new study, conducted by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the largest and broadest to estimate the national coronavirus seroprevalence, meaning how many people have protective antibodies to the virus in their blood.

Across the country, men and young adults had higher seroprevalence than women, children, and people over 65.

It is still unclear how quickly coronavirus antibodies wane in the blood, and whether other parts of the immune system are activated to ward off reinfection. Therefore, the researchers said, the study may be an “underestimation of immunity over time.”

— Marie McCullough

10:15 AM - November 25, 2020
10:15 AM - November 25, 2020

Temple football’s Saturday season finale canceled due to COVID-19

Temple’s American Athletic Conference game on Saturday with Cincinnati at Lincoln Financial won’t be played due to positive COVID-19 cases and the ensuring contact tracing of the athletes at both schools.

The AAC said the game will not be rescheduled and will be declared a no contest.

Because this was Temple’s season finale, it ends a miserable year, one marked by injury and many players throughout the year spending time in COVID-19 protocol. The Owls finished 1-6 both overall and in the AAC.

This was the fifth game canceled this year. All four of the Owls’ non-conference games were also canceled.

No. 7 Cincinnati is 8-0, 6-0, and was seventh in the College Football Playoff ratings so the Bearcats have plenty to play for.

“I have held firm that the health and safety of our student-athletes is the most important thing to me,” Temple coach Rod Carey said in a statement. “We were on the borderline of shutting down for the past few weeks but with an increase in COVID protocol cases in the past few days, the decision was made to shut it down.

“This COVID-19 pandemic is real and it affects us in many ways. I’m really proud of our team and this staff for all the work they put in to be ready to play each week. Our record is not indicative of how tough and relentless this group of young men are.

“I think it will be good to step away from football for a moment and let the players finish up the school semester strong. We all look forward to decompressing, learning from this experience, and coming back stronger in 2021.”

— Marc Narducci

10:00 AM - November 25, 2020
10:00 AM - November 25, 2020

CDC says small at-home gatherings are causing surges, disputing New York Times report

The director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has disputed a recent New York Times report that casts doubt on whether small gatherings are responsible for the latest surge in coronavirus cases as public officials have repeatedly suggested in the weeks leading to Thanksgiving. He said CDC data shows “household gatherings” are driving transmission.

“We’re of the point of view, from the data that we have, that the real driver of the pandemic now is not the public square,” Robert Redfield said in an interview on FOX News. “It’s really driven by the silent epidemic, the asymptomatic infections largely in individuals between, say, the ages of 12 and 35. Then we come home to the safety of our own setting, not wearing masks, this is where the inter-household transmissions occur.”

“Who would ever think rural North Dakota would be in the red zone? It’s all in the red zone,” he added. And “it’s really being driven by household gatherings.”

Pennsylvania’s director of testing and contact tracing said Tuesday that both large and small gatherings are contributing to the commonwealth’s surge.

“In both of those settings, disease spread can occur very easily,” Michael Huff said. “Certainly in small gatherings where we become a little bit too free with our movements and perhaps don’t social-distance as much. We’re less likely to wear masks. … [And] even more so in large groups where people are less likely to wear their masks because they think they’re social-distanced.”

In the Times article, several epidemiologists said they had not seen evidence to suggest a strong link between household gatherings and the uptick in cases, in part because increased community spread makes it harder to pinpoint where people became infected. The Times said its analysis of data from several states indicated long-term care facilities, food processing plants, prisons, health care settings, and restaurants and bars were still the leading sources of spread.

— Erin McCarthy

7:30 AM - November 25, 2020
7:30 AM - November 25, 2020

Federal government plans to distribute 6.4 million vaccine doses within 24 hours of clearance, which it hopes will come in mid-December

FILE - In this May 4, 2020 photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the first patient enrolled in Pfizer's COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.
/ AP
FILE - In this May 4, 2020 photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the first patient enrolled in Pfizer's COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

The federal government plans to send 6.4 million doses of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine to communities across the United States within 24 hours of regulatory clearance, with the expectation that shots will be administered quickly to frontline health-care workers, the top priority group, officials said Tuesday.

Gen. Gustave Perna, who oversees logistics for Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s effort to speed up treatments and vaccines, told reporters that state officials were informed Friday night of the allocation, which is based on each state’s overall population.

The amount would cover a portion of the nation’s 20 million health-care workers, let alone the U.S. population of 330 million. But Perna said “a steady drumbeat” of additional doses will be delivered as manufacturing capacity ramps up in each successive week.

With increased prospects that federal regulators will authorize the Pfizer vaccine on an emergency basis as early as mid-December, and the first shots administered before the end of the year, Operation Warp Speed has begun to release more details about the massive and complicated distribution effort to immunize tens of millions of Americans.

U.S. government officials are on track to have 40 million doses of vaccines from Pfizer and a second company, biotech firm Moderna, by the end of the year, enough to vaccinate 20 million people. (Each vaccine requires two doses). It is likely to be April before the general public begins to get vaccinated.

— Washington Post

7:00 AM - November 25, 2020
7:00 AM - November 25, 2020

Philly ban on alcohol at restaurants and bars begins tonight

Ana Holloway cleans up at the end of her shift at the Locust Bar on the last night of indoor dining prior to the start of renewed coronavirus restrictions, in Center City Philadelphia.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Ana Holloway cleans up at the end of her shift at the Locust Bar on the last night of indoor dining prior to the start of renewed coronavirus restrictions, in Center City Philadelphia.

The tradition of hanging at a bar with your friends on the night before Thanksgiving won’t happen this year.

In a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus, Health Secretary Rachel Levine ordered on-premises alcohol sales at bars and restaurants to shut down at 5 p.m.. Thanksgiving eve, one of the busiest nights of the year for service industry. The edicts set to expire at 8 a.m. Thanksgiving Day. Sales of cocktails to go will still be allowed.

The move will curtail six hours of alcohol sales. Under current state guidelines, on-site consumption of alcohol must end at 11 p.m., and all alcoholic beverages must be removed from patrons by midnight. Sales may resume at 8 a.m. daily.

“It turns out the biggest day for drinking is the day before Thanksgiving … I don’t like addressing that any more than anyone else does but it’s a fact. When people get together in that situation, it leads to the exchange of fluids that leads to the increase in infection,” Gov. Tom Wolf said on Monday.

— Erin McCarthy and Michael Klein

6:45 AM - November 25, 2020
6:45 AM - November 25, 2020

COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations rise sharply in Pennsylvania

A pedestrian wears a face mask to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in Center City Philadelphia on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
A pedestrian wears a face mask to reduce the spread of the coronavirus in Center City Philadelphia on Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020.

With the state under a stay-at-home advisory the day after the commonwealth tightened restrictions Tuesday, Pennsylvania reported 6,669 newly confirmed cases and 81 deaths.

Statewide, 3,897 were hospitalized with the coronavirus. Two months ago, fewer than 500 patients were hospitalized.

Pennsylvania is seeing the coronavirus spread at both small and large gatherings, hence the additional mitigation measure implemented this week “out of an abundance of caution,” Michael Huff, the director of testing and contact tracing, said Tuesday.

The number of virus patients in Philadelphia hospitals increased from 542 on Thursday to 672 on Tuesday. While that caseload is still well below local hospitals’ capacity to treat residents with the disease, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said the trend line is alarming.

New Jersey on Tuesday reported an additional 4,383 cases of COVID-19 and 48 deaths. Gov. Phil Murphy urged residents again to keep holiday gatherings small this week, and acknowledged that many are suffering from not only pandemic fatigue but also stress, loneliness and depression as a result of months of disruption and isolation.

“We are at a knife’s edge as a society,” he said. “We have to accept that there are no easy answers.”

Here’s where things stand in terms of new cases through Tuesday, according to an Inquirer analysis of data from each local health department:

  • Pennsylvania: Averaging 6,508 new cases a day, a 23% increase over last week’s average (5,265 a day) and 235% higher than last month’s average (1,939 a day).
  • New Jersey: Averaging 3,586 new cases a day, a 14% increase over last week’s average (3,586 a day) and 123% higher than last month’s average (1,305 a day).
  • Delaware: Averaging 442 new cases a day, a 26% increase over last week’s average (349 a day) and 234% higher than last month’s average (132 a day).

— Rob Tornoe

6:30 AM - November 25, 2020
6:30 AM - November 25, 2020

U.S. records highest number of daily deaths since early summer spike

Tuesday was the deadliest day in the coronavirus pandemic since early summer — a troubling sign that the worst is still on the horizon.

The country reported nearly 2,100 COVID-19 deaths Tuesday, according to data tracked and analyzed by The Washington Post. It’s the highest mark since May 6, when states reported a combined 2,611 virus fatalities.

The recent record is yet another reminder of the pandemic’s unrelenting toll. And after days of record-setting levels of new infections, experts fear the situation will only get more dire. Deaths are the last of three primary indicators of virus severity: First, cases rise; then hospitalizations; finally, a couple of weeks later, fatalities follow.

For weeks, rates of new cases and the number of coronavirus inpatients have increased dramatically. Tuesday was also the 43rd straight day that the country set a record in its seven-day average of new infections. Predictably, the number of people hospitalized for the virus has also risen to record highs and now stands at nearly 88,000. Deaths have begun a similar trajectory.

Nine states — including Missouri, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio — reported a record number of deaths Tuesday, according to The Post’s analysis.

Experts fear that increased levels of holiday travel, pandemic restriction fatigue and more time spent indoors will continue driving these metrics higher.

— Washington Post

6:15 AM - November 25, 2020
6:15 AM - November 25, 2020

Wednesday morning roundup: Kenney won’t see his mom on Thanksgiving

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney during a May press briefing.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney during a May press briefing.
  • Philadelphia Mayor Kenney said he is forgoing his annual Thanksgiving dinner with his 80-year-old mother. “I was trying to figure out how to tell her I wasn’t going to be able to come over,” Kenney said at a virtual news conference Tuesday. “She texted me over the weekend and said, ‘I think it’s a better idea that you don’t come.’ She said, ‘It’s only a dinner.’”
  • Thousands of Philadelphia service workers laid off due to the coronavirus pandemic would be first in line to get their jobs back when their employers recover under a package of bills approved Tuesday by a City Council committee.
  • The Baltimore Ravens are still set to play the Pittsburgh Steelers in a Thanksgiving Day matchup, according to the NFL, after at least four Ravens players were sidelined due to testing positive or being in close contact with a teammate who was. The team canceled practice Tuesday and conducted all meetings virtually.
  • YouTube suspended One America News Network, a right-wing TV news channel, after it uploaded a fake cure for COVID-19.
  • Based on current trends, Iowa hospitals are “a couple of weeks away from New York City-style collapse,” according to Eli Perencevich, professor of internal medicine and epidemiology at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.
  • The top epidemiologist in Sweden, the country that opted out of a coronavirus lockdown and became a case study for the controversial idea of combating the pandemic via herd immunity, said Tuesday “we see no signs of immunity in the population that are slowing down the infection right now.”
  • Zoom meetings and face masks have lead to increase in demand for plastic surgery during the pandemic.