Cherry Hill school district delays in-person classes after rise in student cases
The Cherry Hill school district, one of the largest in South Jersey, said Monday it would delay opening its buildings for in-person learning after three dozen students testified positive for COVID-19.
Superintendent Joseph Meloche said the district was following a recommendation from the Camden County Department of Health after positive cases were reported among children 7 to 18 at various schools in the district.
Meloche said the district has delayed its hybrid model until Nov. 30. Until then, students will attend classes remotely as they have since the beginning of the school year.
More than 11,000 students were scheduled to return to schools beginning Tuesday. The plan called for students to report to school Tuesday through Friday, with only half of the student body present physically at a time. Monday was designated as an all-remote learning day.
“I share in the disappointment many of you feel at this news,” Meloche wrote in a letter Monday to parents. "As a district, our schools and staff are prepared and ready to welcome students back. "
This is the second time that Cherry has delayed implementing its hybrid model of in-person and virtual classes. The district postponed a plan in September to open its 19 schools after parents and teachers raised health concerns. Meloche said at the time that the district had received a large number of leave of absence requests from teachers.
Elsewhere in South Jersey, Pennsauken School Superintendent Ronnie Tarchichi said Franklin Elementary School has shifted to remote learning after a staff member tested positive for the coronavirus. In-person classes are expected to resume November 19, he said.
Last week, two other schools in the district — Pennsauken High school and Carson Elementary also moved to virtual learning after staff members tested positive. The district’s eight remaining schools are on a hybrid schedule with students reporting to school every other day, he said.
Tarchichi said contact tracers believe the staff members were infected after they were exposed to someone with the virus outside of school. There have been a handful of other cases in the schools that did not require a quarantine, he said.
After COVID-19, nursing homes are in need of long-term care
In the Philadelphia region and nationally, the coronavirus pandemic has sharply reduced the number of nursing home residents, both because so many elderly have died and because families are warier than ever of placing loved ones in the facilities.
This dramatic drop has plunged the industry into an era of uncertainty over its future.
Even before the pandemic, Medicare and Medicaid, which pay for the majority of nursing home care, were pushing more care into the patients' homes to save money, but the pandemic is expected to hasten the reshaping of the industry, as some locations close and others get smaller or specialize.
The need for nursing homes will never disappear entirely, physicians, nursing home executives, and analysts said last week, but it could take years for nursing-home usage to rebound.
Trump election party draws scrutiny as Ben Carson tests positive
WASHINGTON — It was supposed to be a scene of celebration.
Instead, the Trump campaign’s election night watch party in the White House East Room — with few masks and no social distancing — is being eyed as a potential coronavirus super-spreading event and yet another symbol of President Donald Trump’s cavalier attitude toward a virus that is ripping across the nation and infecting more than 100,000 people a day.
Ben Carson, the secretary for Housing and Urban Development, is the latest attendee to test positive, a department spokesman confirmed. The event has been under scrutiny since another attendee, the president’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, contracted the virus, which has now killed more than 237,000 people in the U.S. alone.
Carson’s deputy chief of staff Coalter Baker said the secretary “is in good spirits” and “feels fortunate to have access to effective therapeutics which aid and markedly speed his recovery.”
New Jersey’s new coronavirus restrictions will go into effect Thursday
New restrictions on New Jersey bars and restaurants will go into place Thursday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced, as well as limitations on travel for indoor youth sports teams.
Restaurants will be barred from indoor service between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. The restrictions will also apply to casinos, which can maintain gaming operations but must stop serving food during those hours. Outdoor and takeout service can continue.
The rules will also apply to banquet halls, and Murphy advised those who have planned weddings or other events in the coming weeks to look into adjusting the timing to align with the new guidelines.
Citing a continued surge of cases that have grown by more than 2,000 daily since last week, Murphy said the restrictions were “surgical steps” aimed at mitigating the spread without resorting to the severe lockdown of the spring.
“We are acting with more precision-based actions on what we are seeing on the ground,” he said. ""We know that people are getting sloppy in and around bars as the night goes on."
New Jersey restaurants have only been allowed to serve indoors at 25% capacity since they were cleared to reopen in September. Bar seating will be prohibited, Murphy said, following the reports suggesting that bartenders and patrons who sit at bars are more vulnerable to infection than table servers and customers who sit at tables. However, he noted that restaurants can move tables closer than six feet apart if they install partitions between tables. The state will also allow enclosed outdoor “dining bubbles” if they are limited to one group of diners each.
“We have to get back into the mindset that saw us crush the curve in the spring,” he said.
Travel for games and tournaments for indoor youth sports are prohibited for the time being, Murphy said, noting that indoor youth hockey has led to cases.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association issued a statement welcoming Murphy’s announcement prohibiting interstate competition for indoor sports below the college level.
"NJSIAA already had restrictions in place related to interstate competition during the fall, and for the upcoming winter seasons. So, while today’s announcement doesn’t alter our current guidelines, it does support our limitations on indoor sports activities,” the association said.
New Jersey reported 2,075 more cases, 11 more deaths, and hospitalizations are on the rise. The positivity rate is 7.52% and the transmission rate is 1.24, meaning each infection is leading to more than one additional case.
State officials are distributing masks from the federal government to students, teachers and staff in schools.
Murphy implored residents to be patient over the coming months as they wait for a vaccine.
“This is not forever and always. We basically have a six month window to beat the fatigue back and beat the virus into the ground,” he said.
“This means that they should stay away from others who are not in their household and, if they absolutely have to be around others, give plenty of distance and wear a mask the entire time,” the city’s Department of Public Health said in a news release Monday.
Officials also recommend that residents who were in large crowds get a COVID-19 test seven days after they were last exposed to the crowd.
The guidance comes as new cases of COVID-19 continue to increase in the city. Philadelphia reported 1,772 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Monday, representing lab results returned since Friday.
Pa. doesn’t plan to shut down schools statewide, but it’s unclear whether other mitigation measures could be imposed as cases rise
As New Jersey announces plans to close indoor restaurants and bars early and prohibit out-of-state sports competition for school students, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Pennsylvania already has restrictions on bars, restaurants, and other businesses, as well as mask-wearing recommendations.
“In terms of mitigation, we already have mitigation orders in place,” she said. “We will continue those and we will continue to enforce them.”
She did not say whether the commonwealth had definitively ruled out additional restrictions as case counts, hospitalizations, and positivity rates increase.
On the future of schools amid the fall resurgence, she said, “we don’t plan to have a general school closure as we had in the spring.”
Officials are asking individuals and families to take some mitigation measures themselves, however, including by not gathering with multiple households for the upcoming holidays. Levine reiterated that small gatherings continue to be a place where the virus spreads as people let their guards down and shed their masks around relatives and friends.
“We want people to stay within their households for holidays and holiday gatherings," she said.
“I know that’s very difficult," she added, “but we are seeing small gatherings significantly contribute to community spread.”
President-elect Joe Biden says it’s time to take “bold action” on coronavirus, expand testing, and end the politicization of mask wearing
President-elect Joe Biden emphasized the need for “bold action” to curb the spread of the coronavirus as cases are increasing at an alarming rate across the country.
Biden pledged that his administration will make rapid testing “much more widely available,” and expand contact tracing efforts. Once a vaccine is available, he said, his administration will prioritize getting it to those most at risk, and will make sure the vaccine is free.
He plans to scale up the production of “life saving treatments and therapeutics,” he said, and increase the production of personal protective equipment. They will also issue “clear and detailed” guidance to small businesses, school and childcare centers on how to operate safely amid the pandemic, protecting both workers and the public. His administration, he said, will get “states, cities, and tribes the tests and the supplies they need” and address the health and economic disparities that have caused this virus to disproportionately affect minority communities.
Biden talked of increasing cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, saying the country is “still facing a very dark winter.” He urged Americans to stop politicizing mask-wearing, calling it the “single most effective thing” people can do to fight the virus.
“The goal of mask wearing is not to make your life less comfortable, or take something away from you,” Biden said. “It is to give something back to all of us: a normal life.”
Mask wearing, he said, should unite the country. Curbing the virus, he said will get kids back in school and help businesses grow.
“It’s time to end the politicization of basic responsible public health steps like mask wearing and social distancing. We have to come together to heal the soul of this country so that we can effectively address this crisis as one country,” Biden said. “We can save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask for the next few months. Not Democrat or Republican lives, American lives.”
Pennsylvania continues to see highest coronavirus case counts since pandemic began, and health secretary says peak is still coming
Pennsylvania health officials on Monday reported 3,402 additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus and noted a statewide percent positivity rate of nearly 7%, showing the fall resurgence of the pandemic is continuing to intensify to record-high levels. Health Secretary Rachel Levine said she believes the peak has yet to come.
“We are now seeing the highest case counts of COVID-19 across Pennsylvania that we’ve seen since the beginning" of the pandemic in March, she said. “This is a sobering look at our current reality as COVID-19 continues to impact our state and our country.”
There were also 2,909 additional confirmed cases reported Sunday, officials said, as well as nine additional deaths from coronavirus-related complications reported Saturday and Sunday.
The commonwealth is seeing a steady increase in hospitalizations related to the coronavirus. Over the past week, about 500 more people have been admitted to Pennsylvania hospitals due to the virus, for a total of about 1,734 patients hospitalized as of Monday, Levine said. But hospitals are not overwhelmed at this time, she added, though some in the northern part of the state are strained.
Last week, the percent positivity rate statewide increased from 6.1% to 6.9%, and 52 of 67 counties now have percent positivity rates of more than 5%. These include Philadelphia, where the percent positivity is 9.1%; Delaware County, where it’s 7.6%; Bucks, where it’s 6.2%; Montgomery County, where it’s 5.2%; and Chester County, where it’s 5.1%, according to state data. All those counties except for Chester have what officials call “substantial” amount of community spread.
“This is a call to action for everyone in Pennsylvania,” Levine said. “COVID-19 is right here and we are at a critical point. We all need to take steps to prevent the spread of this virus and if we don’t we put ourselves, our family, our communities, and our health systems at risk.”
Levine said she expects the case counts in Pennsylvania to get worse before they get better.
“I don’t think we’ve reached the peak,” she said, “which highlights the importance of the messages I’m trying to relay today.”
New Jersey to implement new restrictions on restaurants, bars, and sports
New Jersey bars and restaurants will be asked to stop indoor dining service by 10 p.m., and out-of-state travel for indoor sports for elementary and high school students will be canceled as the state attempts to control rising coronavirus cases.
Gov. Phil Murphy is expected to announce the restrictions at his regular news briefing this afternoon. Details were first reported by NJ.com and confirmed by Murphy’s office.
The tightening of the rules, which will not affect college or professional sports, will allow indoor youth sports teams to compete against each other within state lines, but ban travel outside of New Jersey.
Indoor bar seating will also be banned.
Murphy has said in past weeks that outbreaks have been linked to youth sports teams, noting that cases were not necessarily originating from the actual practices, but rather from out of school events.
The rules are expected to go into effect later this week. They come as the state is experiencing a surge in numbers of cases, leading state health officials to declare in recent weeks that “the second wave” of the pandemic has arrived.
The state added 2,043 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, and has topped 2,000 for several days since last week.
Markets were already sharply higher on the U.S. election result when Pfizer said that data shows vaccine shots may be 90% effective at preventing COVID-19, indicating the company is on track this month to file an emergency use application with U.S. regulators.
Any economic recovery depends on checking the pandemic, and investors pounced upon the news. Pfizer’s data is only preliminary and does not mean a vaccine is imminent. Getting the vaccine to billions of people will be a massive undertaking, even if it is approved.
Dow futures jumped 4.2% higher while those for the S&P 500 rose 3.1%.
New Jersey likely to impose new coronavirus restrictions Monday, Gov. Murphy says
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he was likely to impose some new coronavirus restrictions later today.
Asked on CNBC Monday morning about imposing restrictions again, Murphy said, “We’ll take some steps later today, but they won’t come close to what we were doing in the spring."
”This is not a lockdown, but this is tweaking our parameters around the edges," Murphy said. He cited three examples where he said officials may announce later Monday they were “going to shave at the edges:” Bars, late-night restaurants and multi-state high school indoor sport tournaments.
“My guess is later today we’re going to shave at the edges,” Murphy said. “For instance we’ve seen if you sit at a bar there’s a much higher likelihood of a transmission."
”Restaurants that stay open late," he said, have been associated with transmissions.
Also, he said, at “indoor sports, we’ve seen transmissions, [as well as at] multi-state tournaments. Those are the sort of things we’re looking at in the near term.”
Private settings also continue to be a problem, he said.
“Battle against that fatigue,” he said. “We have a six-month window basically to keep this thing at check.”
Pfizer says early data signals COVID-19 vaccine is effective
Pfizer says an early peek at its vaccine data suggests the shots may be 90% effective at preventing COVID-19, indicating the company is on track later this month to file an emergency use application with U.S. regulators.
Monday’s announcement doesn’t mean a vaccine is imminent: This interim analysis, from an independent data monitoring board, looked at 94 infections recorded so far in a study that has enrolled nearly 44,000 people in the U.S. and five other countries.
Pfizer Inc. did not provide any more details about those cases, and cautioned the initial protection rate might change by the time the study ends. Even revealing such early data is highly unusual.
“We’re in a position potentially to be able to offer some hope,” Dr. Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of clinical development, told The Associated Press. “We’re very encouraged.”
Authorities have stressed it’s unlikely any vaccine will arrive much before the end of the year, and limited initial supplies will be rationed.
Penn doctor joins Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force
President-elect Joe Biden on Monday announced the members of his coronavirus task force, a group made up entirely of doctors and health experts, signaling his intent to seek a science-based approach to bring the raging pandemic under control
One of the members of the task force is Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania.
Emanuel, the brother of former Chicago mayor Rahm and entertainment agent Ari, has been with Penn since 2011. The frequent New York Times contributor is one of the country’s foremost experts on COVID-19 policy and has been critical of President Donald Trump’s approach to the virus.
“You need a clear message,” says Emanuel, “with the president embodying the message,” as Biden does with mask-wearing. “It needs to be depoliticized with scientists and public health officials coming forward.”
2. There must be a management strategy, with the locus in the White House.
“You need to upgrade or even create the technology for testing, contact tracing, and vaccinations,” says Emanuel. In Taiwan, which has one of the best records in the world in fighting the virus, and hardly any deaths, the country issues electronic health cards that provide real-time data.
3. You need funding from Congress.
Emanuel says this is keyso the public isn’t tempted to break regulations and can afford to get tested.
4. Build public trust.
Although Trump has ramped up efforts to produce a vaccine, polls show the bulk of Americans might not take it because they don’t trust it will be safe. Emanuel says the process must be transparent and endorsed by top scientists.
Other members of the task force Include Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School who is a prolific author, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Julie Morita, who is based in Princeton.
Record-breaking wave of coronavirus cases continues to sweep the nation
A record-breaking wave of coronavirus cases continued across the United States on Sunday, and unsettled public health officials and politicians warned of a holiday season filled with increased hospitalizations and deaths.
It took only 10 days for the country to move from 9 million cases to what is expected to be its 10 millionth case Monday. By comparison, it took more than three months for the country to go from no cases to 1 million in late April.
The country’s seven-day new case average was more than 100,000 for the first time. In five of the past seven days, more than 1,000 deaths were recorded.
On Sunday, more than 107,607 cases were reported.
More than half of states reported a new high for their seven-day average of cases, including Maryland, for the first time since early May.
The virus has been spreading fastest in the Great Lakes and Mountain West states, with North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin leading the way. For nearly a month, Ohio has each day set a new high in its seven-day new case average.
“My biggest fear is that we’re dealing with a surge in our hospitals, in our emergency rooms, at the same time we’re trying to vaccinate,” Judith Persichilli, the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health, said during an interview that aired Sunday on 60 Minutes. "And the hospitals will have to spend their time taking care of people, and that will impact the staffing of vaccine sites within our hospitals, which we rely on.
New Jersey’s goal is to vaccinate 4.7 million people, roughly 70% of the New Jersey’s adult population, within six months after a vaccine is made available, Persichilli said. That means inoculating between 60,000 to 80,000 people a day.
Persichilli said the assumption is the state will initially receive about 100,000 doses of the first vaccine once its approved, enough to inoculate 50,000 people if it requires two doses. But that doesn’t come close to covering the 500,000 health care workers and high-risk individuate state has identified.
NJ’s Health Commissioner thinks the first batch of COVID vaccine from the federal government will be enough to inoculate 50,000 people in the state.
Another fear Persichilli has is people choosing not to receive the vaccine. She said in a recent survey of 2,000 health care workers, just 60% of physicians and 40% of nurses said they’d line up to be inoculated.
“There’s a lot of vaccine hesitancy,” Persichilli said.