10:22 PM - November 12, 2020
10:22 PM - November 12, 2020

Passengers show ‘assumptive’ positive coronavirus test results aboard first cruise in Caribbean

File photo of Miami-based luxury cruise line SeaDream ships. (SeaDream/TNS)
Handout / MCT
File photo of Miami-based luxury cruise line SeaDream ships. (SeaDream/TNS)

The first cruise in the Caribbean since March has halted its journey after passengers tested for COVID-19 “returned assumptive positive results” on Wednesday, yachting company SeaDream said in a news release.

The cruising yacht, the SeaDream I, returned to port in Barbados on Wednesday after administering rapid tests on all passengers as part of its routine testing protocol, which requires testing before and during the journey.

“Immediately after performing the preliminary rapid COVID test onboard and receiving the assumptive positive results, SeaDream advised local health authorities and set in motion its COVID response protocols to protect guests and crew,” SeaDream said in a statement. “The ship’s medical staff has tested all crew members and all tests have come back negative. SeaDream is currently re-testing all guests.”

— Washington Post

7:00 PM - November 12, 2020
7:00 PM - November 12, 2020

COVID-19 daily case count in U.S. tops 150,000

A record-breaking surge in U.S. coronavirus cases is being driven to a significant degree by casual occasions that may feel deceptively safe, officials and scientists warn — dinner parties, game nights, sleepovers and carpools.

Many earlier coronavirus clusters were linked to nursing homes and crowded nightclubs. But public health officials nationwide say case investigations are increasingly leading them to small, private social gatherings. This behind-doors transmission trend reflects pandemic fatigue and widening social bubbles, experts say — and is particularly insidious because it is so difficult to police and likely to increase as temperatures drop and holidays approach.

The White House coronavirus task force has been urging states that are virus hot spots to curtail maskless get-togethers of family and friends, saying in reports that asymptomatic attendees “cause ongoing transmission, frequently infecting multiple people in a single gathering.”

On Thursday, the nation passed another grim milestone in the pandemic, setting records for cases and hospitalizations, with 152,391 new cases and 66,606 people hospitalized. In Chicago, the mayor said that starting Monday, residents should leave home only to go to work or school, or for essential needs, such as seeking medical care or getting groceries.

This week, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) announced a 10-person limit on gatherings in private homes, calling them a “great spreader.” Similar restrictions have been imposed in states including Ohio; Utah; Connecticut; Colorado, where one recent cluster involved seven people infected while playing the dice game bunco; and Rhode Island, whose governor has pledged to fine violators. Oregon last week announced a “pause” in hard-hit counties on most groups larger than six people.

“Earlier in the outbreak, much of the growth in new daily cases was being driven by focal outbreaks — long-term care facilities, things of that nature,” said Nirav Shah, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Maine, where cases have soared in the past two weeks. “Now, the kitchen table is a place of risk.”

— Washington Post

6:27 PM - November 12, 2020
6:27 PM - November 12, 2020

Ivy League cancels basketball season

Penn guard Eddie Scott (13) dunks the ball in the second half of a game against Columbia at the Palestra in Philadelphia on Saturday, March 07, 2020.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Penn guard Eddie Scott (13) dunks the ball in the second half of a game against Columbia at the Palestra in Philadelphia on Saturday, March 07, 2020.

The Ivy League will not have a 2020-21 basketball season because of the spike in coronavirus cases, according to multiple sources. The decision was being communicated to coaches and athletes Thursday night.

The Ivies become the first NCAA Division I league to opt out of the basketball season, 13 days before the Division I campaign is permitted to start nationally.

Several weeks ago, Penn athletic director Grace Calhoun, asked about her degree of optimism or pessimism about having an Ivy League basketball season, had said, “The presidents have advised us from the early days of the pandemic —the virus will dictate what we are able to do.”

With several Ivy League campuses already considering not bringing all four classes back for the spring semester, the likelihood of having a full Ivy schedule seemed remote, and there had been consideration of whether a six-team league schedule could work. But those were October discussions, before COVID-19 statistics kept worsening.

— Mike Jensen

5:32 PM - November 12, 2020
5:32 PM - November 12, 2020

Montco chair says online-only classes needed in coming weeks

Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners, speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus at the county's emergency operations center in Eagleville, Pa., on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners, speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus at the county's emergency operations center in Eagleville, Pa., on Wednesday, March 18, 2020.

After seeing cases increase after Halloween, and the overall troubling fall surge of the coronavirus in Montgomery County, Val Arkoosh, the chair of the county commissioners, emphasized the need to switch schools to a virtual model for two weeks around Thanksgiving.

Hours after Montgomery County Board of Health pushed back a vote to decide whether to shut down schools in favor of virtual learning for two weeks, Arkoosh held a news conference to provide updates on the rising coronavirus cases and hospitalizations throughout the county. If students, teachers, and staff return to the classroom the week after Thanksgiving, Arkoosh said it “could trigger a very substantial outbreak within our schools.”

As of Wednesday, she said, 268 students tested positive for the coronavirus, a majority from the last couple weeks. This spread is primarily happening outside the school day at social gatherings, travel sports, and sports leagues. At least 100 staff at Montgomery County schools have also tested positive for the coronavirus.

If students return to the classroom after the Thanksgiving holiday, Arkoosh worries that students, teachers and staff could be asymptomatic spreaders of the virus, sicken each other, and effectively shut down the school anyway. Arkoosh said she has heard from superintendents that there are no more substitute teachers available to hire or additional certified bus drivers if teachers and staff are sickened.

Though she has repeatedly advised Montgomery County residents not to have indoor Thanksgiving gatherings with people outside their household, she has made the same warnings before other holidays that not everyone seemed to heed.

After Halloween, the county has seen a spike in cases. She expects people will continue to gather for Thanksgiving, despite the recommendations not to this year. The temporary virtual switch, Arkoosh said, would “protect” schools.

“We are not trying to close schools for the duration here,” Arkoosh said. “We are advising to take a pause for this Thanksgiving holiday and go to a virtual education in the hopes it will protect student the teachers and the staff so they can come back in person.”

— Ellie Silverman

5:22 PM - November 12, 2020
5:22 PM - November 12, 2020

Montco commissioner urges families to limit Thanksgiving celebrations

As coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are increasing across Montgomery County, Val Arkoosh, the chair of the county commissioners, urged residents not to have an indoor Thanksgiving celebrations with anyone outside their homes or “family bubble."

”We are at a fork in the road," Arkoosh said. “Please choose the path of making safe choices, believe that you are not the only person making sacrifices and have compassion for everyone in our community who is struggling right now.”

Arkoosh announced another 512 cases of the coronavirus reported since Nov. 10, bringing the county’s total to 15,817 positive cases during the pandemic. Three new cases are from long-term care facilities, but the overwhelming majority are from the general community. The positive individuals range in age from 7 months to 96 years old. There were no additional deaths.

The county’s 14-day average positivity rate, as of Saturday, was 5.45%, an increase from the 4.39% rate on Oct. 10. When the positivity rate is below 5%, Arkoosh said, it is considered suppression of the virus. Hospitalizations are also increasing, with 171 COVID-19 patients currently in Montgomery County hospitals, an increase of 70 people from last Wednesday, and a more-than-100-person increase from two weeks ago. Of those patients, 13% are requiring a ventilator.

The virus is spreading mostly through private social gatherings, sports and recreational activities, Arkoosh said. Many outbreaks among students and student-athletes can be traced to Halloween parties, sports-related parties, and sleepovers.

“I’m a parent. I understand the pressure to let your children participate in something that feels normal,” Arkoosh said. “But parents, these social events, they have to stop.”

— Ellie Silverman

4:20 PM - November 12, 2020
4:20 PM - November 12, 2020

Philly judge who wouldn’t wear a mask in his small, windowless courtroom has COVID-19

Common Pleas Court Judge James Murray Lynn, who refused to wear a mask while conducting in-person hearings in Family Court, has come down with coronavirus, The Inquirer learned Thursday.

The judge’s positive COVID-19 test set off a wave of health and safety concerns for the scores of people who appeared before the judge in recent days. Philadelphia’s coronavirus infection rate is skyrocketing with no signs of slowing, city health officials said Thursday.

Jane Roh, spokesperson for the District Attorney’s Office, said unit supervisors were notifying prosecutors, along with witnesses and law enforcement officers, who’ve appeared before Judge Lynn. Roh said at least six prosecutors will be notified, but that number could grow.

“We’re checking to see who had hearings there in the past few weeks,” Roh said.

Lynn did not immediately return a phone call from a reporter.

— Wendy Ruderman

3:15 PM - November 12, 2020
3:15 PM - November 12, 2020

Delco hospitals straining from COVID-19 surge

The number of COVID-19 cases in Delaware County has reached levels not seen since the pandemic’s outbreak in the spring, placing tremendous strain on the county’s hospitals and first responders, officials said in a news conference Thursday.

All five of the county’s hospitals were at capacity Monday, and had to divert new patients elsewhere, County Council President Brian Zidek said. As of Thursday, three of those hospitals were still diverting patients.

The hospital diversions have created a cascading effect, causing longer-than-normal wait times in emergency rooms. Simultaneously, emergency medical workers and staffers at the county’s Emergency Communications center are testing positive for the virus, deeply impacting how calls for service are being responded to.

At the height of the pandemic in the spring, Delaware County was seeing 232 new cases a day, officials said. On Wednesday, the county recorded 214 new cases.

Chester County Health Department Director Jeanne Casner said that many of these cases can be traced to “small spreader” gatherings that residents are attending with their close friends or family. Some, she added, came during rallies and watch parties amid the presidential election.

“If we don’t reflect right now and don’t take personal accountability into account, it will get out of hand again,” Casner said. “As much as it’s a difficult time, particularly during holiday season when we all want to be together…we have to take that serious look at who we’re gathering with and what we’re doing during the gathering.”

Casner said the guidance for mitigating the virus has not changed: Wear a mask when in public, maintain social distancing, and do not gather in groups. She stressed that there are no immediate plans for another lockdown in the county, but it could be a possibility in the future.

— Vinny Vella

3:01 PM - November 12, 2020
3:01 PM - November 12, 2020

Villanova cancels all in-person activities outside of classes due to rise in cases

Villanova banners along Lancaster Ave. in Villanova, Pa.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
Villanova banners along Lancaster Ave. in Villanova, Pa.

Villanova University has canceled all extracurricular and non-academic in-person activities for the next couple weeks, due to a rise in COVID-19 cases. Classes will continue.

“Similar to the spike we experienced in September, we are currently able to manage these cases and remain well-equipped and resourced to do so,” Tom DeMarco, dean of students, said in a message to the campus Thursday.

The university currently has 69 active cases, many of them coming in the last three days. There were 29 cases added on Thursday, 20 on Wednesday and nine on Tuesday, said Jonathan Gust, a university spokesperson.

DeMarco said there was no evidence of a super spreader event but rather that cases have appeared at various locations. They appear to be linked to groups of friends who have gathered, he said. The university also has noted an increase in reports of students not wearing masks when they are in classrooms or other spaces informally, he said.

The last day of classes is Monday, Nov. 23, and most students will finish out the semester at home after Thanksgiving.

The university, which has about 6,500 undergraduates, has had 320 cases of the virus since Aug. 17.

— Susan Snyder

2:48 PM - November 12, 2020
2:48 PM - November 12, 2020

What college students should do before going home for holiday breaks

Cynthia Greer

As some college students prepare to come home for holiday breaks, health officials in Pennsylvania said they should be tested three to four days before returning and follow other public health guidelines to mitigate the risk of infecting parents or other relatives.

Health Secretary Rachel Levine urged everyone to take the virus as seriously as ever, even if they don’t believe they would get sick or suffer complications if infected.

“We can control the spread of COVID-19 and it requires all of us to do our part,” she said Thursday. “COVID-19 does not discriminate, and no one is invincible when it comes to the potential negative effects of this virus.”

— Erin McCarthy

2:45 PM - November 12, 2020
2:45 PM - November 12, 2020

Pennsylvania surpasses 5,000 new COVID-19 cases for the first time as spike continues

As Pennsylvania surpassed 5,000 additional COVID-19 cases Thursday, a new daily high that far exceeds what the commonwealth experienced in the spring, Health Secretary Rachel Levine said there were no plans at this time for additional mitigation measures.

“We’ll be continuing to discuss that,” she said of the possibility of future restrictions, but noted that some of the mitigation measures recently implemented in neighboring states such as New Jersey are already in place in Pennsylvania.

“Mitigation isn’t without consequences, social and economic,” she added, and officials will take those consequences into consideration if they implement further restrictions.

Pennsylvania reported 5,488 new cases on Thursday, and is now averaging more than 4,000 cases a day for the first time during the pandemic. The number of hospitalizations continues to steadily climb, she said, with about 2,080 patients hospitalized as of Thursday.

“It is possible we might adjust those [guidelines] in the future,” she said. For now, “if you’re in a substantial range [for community spread], we want you to consider whether remote is best for your school district. ... It is up to the school district and the superintendent in the locality to make that decision.”

Bucks, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties are in the substantial range, according to state data.

Overall, 248,856 Pennsylvania residents have tested positive for coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, and at least 9,194 have died of virus-related complications with 49 additional deaths reported on Thursday. Levine said the belief by some that the virus is somehow less lethal or dangerous during this resurgence is flat-out false.

“There is absolutely no evidence the virus is less severe or virulent than it was before,” she said. “What we know is there is a lag time” between case increases and increases in hospitalizations, and then between increases in hospitalizations and increases in deaths.

— Erin McCarthy

2:18 PM - November 12, 2020
2:18 PM - November 12, 2020

Philadelphia reports 349 new cases, lower than previous days

Philadelphia reported 349 confirmed cases of COVID-19 Thursday, representing a lower number than in recent days as new cases surge in the city.

While Thursday’s case count was lower than in recent days, when the city hit all-time highs for cases reported, about 10% of tests were positive. Jim Garrow a spokesperson for the Department of Public Health, said that a figure consistent with other recent batches of lab results.

“We’ve been receiving more than 5,000 test results per day for a bit now, but today we received only 3,095 test results,” Garrow said.

Last week, Philadelphia contact tracers reached and received cooperation from just 17% of the 3,467 cases reported. An additional 19% did not have a phone number listed, 5% were not reachable, and 1% refused to participate. With cases surging, contact tracers did not even attempt to reach 59% of those cases.

There have now been a total of 50,885 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Philadelphia residents, and 1,904 deaths.

— Laura McCrystal

1:37 PM - November 12, 2020
1:37 PM - November 12, 2020

Murphy warns of ‘a long, dark winter’ if N.J. residents can’t avoid gathering indoors with friends

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks during a May coronavirus press briefing.
TYGER WILLIAMS / Staff Photographer
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy speaks during a May coronavirus press briefing.

As New Jersey bars and restaurants prepare to start closing indoor service early tonight under new coronavirus restrictions, Gov. Phil Murphy urged the public to take the state’s mounting infections more seriously.

“We can get a hold of this if we can get back to what worked in the spring and stick to it,” Murphy said, pleading with residents to wear masks, wash their hands and resist gathering indoors with unmasked friends.

Starting Thursday, bars and restaurants must end indoor service by 10 p.m., and bar seating will be prohibited. Murphy also said he would sign an executive order giving municipalities and counties the option to regulate the operating hours of non-essential businesses after 8 p.m. if they believe doing so would help prevent the spread of the virus. The thinking stems from anecdotal evidence that people’s behavior grows more casual as the night progresses.

“Our approach to this second wave is to act surgically within hotspot areas,” he said. “and that means giving local officials the ability to take act to prevent local hotspots from becoming COVID wildfires.”

The state added 3,517 new cases — for more than 10,400 since Monday — and 18 more deaths. The state’s positivity rate was over 12% last weekend, and the rate of transmission is 1.3, meaning each infection is leading to more than one new case. Hospitalizations, as well as ICU and ventilator use, are at the highest levels since the summer.

“Folks, let these numbers sink in,” Murphy said. “COVID is not done with us, not by a long shot. And unless we all recommit to the common sense measures that got us past the first horrendous months of this pandemic, we are in for a long, dark winter before a vaccine becomes broadly available.”

Halloween parties recently led to dozens of cases in Gloucester, Union, Cumberland, and Somerset Counties, said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. With Thanksgiving two weeks away, Murphy urged people not to gather with anyone outside of their family bubbles.

— Allison Steele

1:13 PM - November 12, 2020
1:13 PM - November 12, 2020

Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski tests positive for COVID-19

Corey Lewandowski, standing beside Pam Bondi, speaks during a press conference outside of the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Thursday, Nov. 5, where ballots were being counted in Philadelphia.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Corey Lewandowski, standing beside Pam Bondi, speaks during a press conference outside of the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Thursday, Nov. 5, where ballots were being counted in Philadelphia.

Corey Lewandowski, an adviser to President Donald Trump, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Lewandowski recently traveled to Pennsylvania to assist Trump’s efforts to contest the state’s election results. He said Thursday he believes he was infected in Philadelphia and he’s not experiencing any symptoms.

Lewandowski appeared with Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani at an event Saturday outside a landscaping company and lobbed unfounded accusations of voter fraud as the race was called for Trump’s challenger, now-President-elect Joe Biden.

Lewandowski was also at an election night party at the White House linked to several virus cases.

Numerous White House and campaign officials have tested positive in this latest wave of infections, including Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows.

— Associated Press

12:55 PM - November 12, 2020
12:55 PM - November 12, 2020

Montco pushes back decision on shutting down schools to Friday

After more than two hours of public comments — largely from angry parents adamant that schools should not be closed — the Montgomery County Board of Health on Thursday pushed back a vote on whether to shut down schools for two weeks.

The board will reconvene at noon Friday to consider the proposed shutdown order, which would close all K-12 schools in the county for two weeks starting Nov. 23, and put a halt to school sports and other extracurriculars.

“I think it would behoove us to recess and really think about everything that’s been said,” said Michael Laign, the board chair, at the end of a Zoom meeting that drew 500 people, the maximum that could participate.

The proposed order — which county health officials recommended as an effort to help mitigate the current surge in coronavirus cases — met with fierce backlash from parents, who flooded the Zoom chat with comments opposed to a shutdown. Dozens spoke out against the order, saying their local schools had been operating so far this fall without outbreaks, and expressed bafflement that schools would be closed before businesses like bars and restaurants.

“What you are proposing is causing irreparable damage” to parents and families, said Liz Weir, a parent in the Wissahickon School District, which has been offering in-person learning to younger children all fall. “It is the ultimate privilege for you to sit here and tell us you want to shut the schools down.”

Some school administrators also urged the board to not impose a blanket mandate.

“Can we get at the root cause another way?” said Barbara Russell, superintendent of the Perkiomen Valley School District. She asked the board to focus specifically on schools that were struggling with the virus, and said she worried that if all schools shift to a virtual model, the virus’s spread “could actually potentially increase,” pushing children into less-regulated settings.

County health officials said they were trying to reduce the virus’s spread, anticipating further infections as families gather indoors for Thanksgiving.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia PolicyLab on Wednesday advised schools across the region to revert to virtual instruction by Monday, saying current levels of community spread warrant closures and that hospitals run the risk of becoming overwhelmed if cases continue to rise.

— Maddie Hanna

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

Philly announces additional rental assistance for thousands of tenants

"RENT STRIKE CAN’T PAY WON’T PAY" spray painted on the University Ave. bridge in Philadelphia.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
"RENT STRIKE CAN’T PAY WON’T PAY" spray painted on the University Ave. bridge in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia tenants who qualified for pandemic rental assistance but didn’t get it because their landlords wouldn’t cooperate will be eligible for one-time payments, thanks to an additional $20 million in federal funding, the city announced Thursday.

Thousands of tenants who applied for federal funding could not get help with their rent because the PHLRentAssist program required landlords to apply too. The city estimates that an additional 4,000 households will receive payments with the new funding. Eligible renters will receive up to $9,000.

“We do not want landlords' lack of response or participation to prevent these families from getting the help they need to keep a roof over their heads,” Gregory Heller, senior vice president of community investment at Philadelphia Housin Development Corp., said in a statement.

Other phases of the program are assisting more than 14,000 households.

— Michaelle Bond

12:05 PM - November 12, 2020
12:05 PM - November 12, 2020

Pennsylvania surpasses 5,000 new COVID-19 cases for the first time as spike continues

Pennsylvania added 5,000 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, a new daily high as the rate of infections continues to surge well beyond what the commonwealth experienced during the spring.

Pennsylvania reported 5,488 new cases, and is now averaging more than 4,000 cases a day for the first time during the pandemic.

Overall, 248,856 Pennsylvania residents have tested positive for coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, and at least 9,194 have died, with 49 new deaths reported on Thursday.

Of the commonwealth’s deaths, 5,999 (about 65%) have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.

— Rob Tornoe

11:50 AM - November 12, 2020
11:50 AM - November 12, 2020

Philly to allow expanded outdoor dining though end of 2021

Tony Duk serves customers dining outside at his family's restaurant, Sophie's Kitchen, in South Philadephia on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Tony Duk serves customers dining outside at his family's restaurant, Sophie's Kitchen, in South Philadephia on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020.

Philadelphia City Council approved legislation Thursday to continue expanded outdoor dining options for restaurants through the end of 2021.

The two bills extending the relaxed outdoor restaurant dining regulations are aimed at helping restaurants continue to stay in business through the pandemic, while they are only permitted to operate at 50% capacity for indoor dining.

Council first expanded outdoor dining in June, allowing restaurants to apply for expanded sidewalk cafe space and permitting the approval of dining in parking spaces and streets. That legislation had been set to expire Dec. 31.

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley has said that outdoor dining remains safer than indoor dining, and last month the city released recommendations for continuing outdoor dining during the winter. This week, amid a surge of COVID-19 cases in the city, Farley said there was some evidence that spread of the virus was linked to indoor restaurant dining.

The legislation approved Thursday now goes to Mayor Jim Kenney for his signature. Kenney has been supportive of efforts to expand outdoor dining during the pandemic.

— Laura McCrystal

11:20 AM - November 12, 2020
11:20 AM - November 12, 2020

New Jersey to offer COVID-19 update as cases surge

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during a June coronavirus briefing in Trenton, N.J.
Anne-Marie Caruso / AP
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during a June coronavirus briefing in Trenton, N.J.

Gov. Phil Murphy and other New Jersey health officials will offer coronavirus updates on Thursday, as the state experiences a dramatic rise of COVID-19 cases.

“We’re getting into a neighborhood that is extremely concerning,” Murphy said during an interview on the Today show Thursday morning.

The press conference is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., and will be live-streamed on the governor’s Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts.

— Rob Tornoe

10:40 AM - November 12, 2020
10:40 AM - November 12, 2020

Camden County experiencing a 'tremendous spike’ in new COVID-19 cases

People walk around inside Cherry Hill Mall in Cherry Hill, N.J.
MONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer
People walk around inside Cherry Hill Mall in Cherry Hill, N.J.

Camden County is experiencing a “tremendous spike” in new COVID-19 cases higher than at any point during the pandemic, Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli, Jr. said during a press briefing Thursday.

Last week, Camden County reported more than 1,000 new cases, the most during any seven-day period, and is on pace to surpass that this week, Cappelli, Jr. said. The county is now averaging 187 new cases per day, and the test positivity rate is 7.7%, up from around 3% “just a couple weeks ago.”

Cappelli, Jr. said small private gatherings are the driving most of the spread in Camden County, which includes weddings and get-togethers with friends and family members. Echoing other local leaders and public health experts, Cappelli. Jr. urged caution around Thanksgiving gatherings, especially with people traveling from a different state.

“These are staggering and extremely concerning signs of where we are headed,” Cappelli, Jr. said. “We need to step up our game, double down or triple down on our efforts, or we’ll be headed for a long, dark winter.”

Cappelli, Jr. announced the county has opened a new drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in the parking lot of Camden County College’s Cherry Hill Campus. Tests are available by appointment to county residents who meet certain criteria — such as COVID-19 exposure, travel, or daycare requirements.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 856-968-7100 or email covid19swabsite@cooperhealth.edu.

— Rob Tornoe

9:45 AM - November 12, 2020
9:45 AM - November 12, 2020

Pennsylvania prisons face a deadly ‘full-blown resurgence’ of COVID-19

Inmates listen at the State Correctional Institution Dallas in October 2019. As of Nov. 10, the prison counted 67 cases of COVID-19 among prisoners and 27 more among staff.
Tim Tai / File Photograph
Inmates listen at the State Correctional Institution Dallas in October 2019. As of Nov. 10, the prison counted 67 cases of COVID-19 among prisoners and 27 more among staff.

Advocates and prisoners are ringing alarm bells about outbreaks in state prisons across Pennsylvania — and about a potentially dire situation at county jails where local administrators are releasing little, if any, information about infections.

“What we’re seeing is a full-blown resurgence of coronavirus across Pennsylvania and it’s being seen in Pennsylvania state prisons,” said Claire Shubik-Richards, executive director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, a nonprofit that advocates for humane conditions.

So far, 17 incarcerated people have died — six of them since mid-October, at si institutions around the state. By this week, the number of positive cases reported by the department stood at 442 prisoners and 244 staff.

“Twenty-one of the 23 state prisons have active cases. There has not been a single time during this pandemic that there have been that many — active cases," Shubik-Richards said.

— Samantha Melamed

8:45 AM - November 12, 2020
8:45 AM - November 12, 2020

More than 700,000 Americans seek jobless aid as pandemic escalates

A young woman peers through doors of Lord & Taylor on City Avenue in Bala Cynwyd, Monday, August 3, 2020.
ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / Staff Photographer
A young woman peers through doors of Lord & Taylor on City Avenue in Bala Cynwyd, Monday, August 3, 2020.

The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell last week to 709,000, a still-high level but the lowest figure since March and a sign that the job market might be slowly healing.

The figures coincide with a sharp resurgence in confirmed viral infections to an all-time high above 120,000 a day. Cases are rising in 49 states, and deaths are increasing in 39. The nation has now recorded 240,000 virus-related deaths and 10.3 million confirmed infections.

As colder weather sets in and fear of the virus escalates, consumers may turn more cautious about traveling, shopping, dining out and visiting gyms, barber shops and retailers. Companies in many sectors could cut jobs or workers' hours. In recent days, the virus' resurgence has triggered tighter restrictions on businesses, mostly restaurants and bars, in a range of states, including Texas, New York, Maryland, and Oregon.

The number of people who are continuing to receive traditional unemployment benefits fell to 6.8 million, the government said, from 7.2 million. That suggests that more Americans are finding jobs and no longer receiving unemployment aid. But it also indicates that many jobless people have used up their state unemployment aid — which typically expires after six months — and have transitioned to a federal extended benefits program that lasts 13 more weeks.

— Associated Press

8:00 AM - November 12, 2020
8:00 AM - November 12, 2020

New restrictions on restaurants and bars go into effect in New Jersey

Gov. Phil Murphy said he’s “very concerned” New Jersey is at a tipping point as new coronavirus cases continue to rise.

During an interview on the Today show Thursday morning, Murphy warned that “everything is going in the wrong direction” for the Garden State’s COVID-19 metrics. He also explained why the state is imposing new restrictions starting Thursday, such as requiring restaurants and bars to stop indoor dining service at 10 p.m.

“Restaurants were morphing as the night went on — not in name, but in substance — into clubs. Into lounges. People were letting their guard down, particularly in and around bars,” Murphy said. “We had a lot of bartenders come back testing COVID positive.”

Out-of-state travel for indoor sports for elementary and high school students has been canceled as part of the new restrictions, though college and professional sports aren’t impacted. Indoor seating at bars has also been prohibited.

Murphy said at the moment the state isn’t considering widespread lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus, especially since most new infections are being driven by people gathering together in private. But he warned that all options remain on the table if the situation continues to worsen.

“We’re getting into a neighborhood that is extremely concerning,” Murphy said.

— Rob Tornoe

7:00 AM - November 12, 2020
7:00 AM - November 12, 2020

Where cases are rising the most in Pennsylvania

Not one of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties saw a decline in COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks, according to an analysis of Department of Health data by the Inquirer.

Bradford County on the New York border saw the greatest spike in cases per capita, reporting 781 new cases per 100,000 residents (for sake of comparison, Philadelphia added 419 cases per 100,000 residents over the same time period). The county had a test positivity rate of 12.1% over the past week, according to the state’s Early Warning Monitoring System Dashboard, nearly double the state’s rate of 6.9%.

Toward the southeastern part of the commonwealth, Lebanon County has seen the sharpest rise in new cases relative to population, adding 530 new infections per 100,000 people. In the Philadelphia-area, Chester County fared the best, adding just 197 new cases per 100,000 residents.

— Dominique DeMoe and Rob Tornoe

6:45 AM - November 12, 2020
6:45 AM - November 12, 2020

Philadelphia’s weekly average for COVID-19 positive tests jumps 5-fold as cases surge in Pa. and N.J.

Kristine Solmen, left, Registered Nurse, assists Lawrence Jones, right, Principal of Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School, with a coronavirus test at a Jefferson Health testing site in the parking lot of Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School.
JESSICA GRIFFIN / Staff Photographer
Kristine Solmen, left, Registered Nurse, assists Lawrence Jones, right, Principal of Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School, with a coronavirus test at a Jefferson Health testing site in the parking lot of Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School.

Hospitalizations are up on both sides of the Delaware River and around the nation, positive tests are at pandemic highs, and on Wednesday a disheartening resurgence showed that the coronavirus has no intention of relenting, deep into its eighth month of redefining life in America.

“We are entering the most dangerous phase of this pandemic,” said Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, “and everyone — everyone — needs to take this seriously.”

Philadelphia’s weekly average of daily positive tests was more than 5½ times higher than it was two months ago, according to an Inquirer analysis of data available through Saturday.

And it is likely to be higher in future updates: In the last two days, the city reported more than 1,600 cases.

Pennsylvania reported 4,711 positive cases Wednesday, a pandemic high and surpassing the 4,000 mark for the second-consecutive day. New Jersey’s numbers, per capita, were similar: It added more than 3,000 positive tests for a second-straight day.

Here’s where things stand through Wednesday, according to an Inquirer analysis of data from each local health department:

  • Pennsylvania: Averaging 3,672 new cases a day, a 51% increase over last week’s average (2,427 a day) and 174% higher than last month’s average (1,339 a day).
  • New Jersey: Averaging 2,517 new cases a day, a 44% increase over last week’s average (1,752 a day) and 185% higher than last month’s average (882 a day).
  • Delaware: Averaging 241 new cases a day, a 48% increase over last week’s average (163 a day) and 84% higher than last month’s average (131 a day).

— Rob Tornoe and Anthony R. Wood

6:30 AM - November 12, 2020
6:30 AM - November 12, 2020

As coronavirus soars, U.S. hospitals forced to choose who gets care and who goes home

An attendant talks to a person waiting in their car at a coronavirus testing site at Ascarate Park on Oct. 31, 2020 in El Paso, Texas.
Cengiz Yar / MCT
An attendant talks to a person waiting in their car at a coronavirus testing site at Ascarate Park on Oct. 31, 2020 in El Paso, Texas.

The coronavirus pandemic is rolling across America like a great crimson wave.

In Illinois, the rate of new infections is so high that a group of doctors sent an urgent letter to the governor. “We’re having to almost decide who gets treatment and who doesn’t,” said one of its leaders.

In Ohio, the rapid spread of the virus has pushed the state health-care system to the brink. Expressing deep concern, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) vowed to enforce his statewide mask mandate and issued new restrictions on social gatherings. “We can’t surrender to this virus. We can’t let it run wild,” he said.

And in Iowa, where a record number of new infections in a day coincided with a record number of deaths, the White House coronavirus task force issued a dire warning about “the unyielding covid spread” throughout the state.

The number of new daily coronavirus cases in the United States jumped from 104,000 a week earlier to more than 143,000 on Wednesday, an all-time high. Nearly every metric is trending in the wrong direction, prompting states to add new restrictions and hospitals to prepare for a potentially dark future.

“We’re at a fairly critical juncture,” said Dave Dillon, a spokesman for the Missouri Hospital Association. The day will soon come when hospital staffing will fall below standards that are normally required, he said.

“While we have beds, those beds are only as good as the staff that you can place around them. There are hospitals at this point that have, at a given time, been unable to do admits,” Dillon said.

— Washington Post

6:15 AM - November 12, 2020
6:15 AM - November 12, 2020

Thursday morning roundup: More members of the White House test positive

White House Political Director Brian Jack, left, is the latest member of the Trump administration to contract COVID-19.
Alex Brandon / AP Photo
White House Political Director Brian Jack, left, is the latest member of the Trump administration to contract COVID-19.
  • Three more White House staffers, including White House political director Brian Jack, have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the latest outbreak among President Donald Trump’s aides and advisers to 12 people, according to the New York Times.
  • Rural hospitals can’t afford the ultracold freezers required to store Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, which must be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit. “It’s the wild west of the supply chain," Tim Size, the executive director of Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative, told STAT. "That’s not how you fight a pandemic.”
  • Coronavirus cases continue to soar across much of Europe as several countries struggle to contain surges in hospitalizations and deaths, according to the Washington Post.
  • New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal is quarantining at home after a member of his staff tested positive for COVID-19, a communications aide said Wednesday.