7:29 PM - November 16, 2020
7:29 PM - November 16, 2020

Philly museum officials discouraged by city virus restrictions, ask for community help

Visitors enter the north entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in September.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Visitors enter the north entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in September.

In a joint statement, leaders of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, the Barnes Foundation, Eastern State Penitentiary, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts struck a note of dismay and resignation at news of the new city COVID-related restrictions.

“It is extremely discouraging to close our doors at a moment when, during a normal year, we would be preparing to welcome even more visitors for the holiday season,” the statement says. “We understand that it is vitally important to ensure the safety and well-being of our staff, visitors, members, and volunteers and we support the efforts of our government and medical professionals in reducing the spread of the virus. As cultural and educational institutions, we take our civic responsibility very seriously, and as we work to defeat the pandemic together, we also firmly believe that our cultural institutions will play a central role in the city’s ultimate recovery. We encourage our community to support our institutions in other ways during the season of giving, so that we can emerge from this period and welcome our visitors in the new year.”

Larry Dubinsky, head of the Franklin Institute, said separately that the closure will wreak havoc on the institute’s financial situation.

“The financial impact of closing our doors at this time is absolutely devastating,” he said. “We anticipate a loss upwards of $500,000 over the next six weeks, on top of an already financially-shattering year.”

R. Scott Stephenson, president and chief executive of the Museum of the American Revolution, took the long view of the closure. Stephenson said that “we are facing crisis” with the surging pandemic. “History can give us strength, reminding us that we are here because many generations before us showed strength and perseverance. Museums and cultural institutions keep the memory of our achievements alive, and we hope that our community will support these institutions and their vital missions during this challenging time.”

— Stephan Salisbury

6:23 PM - November 16, 2020
6:23 PM - November 16, 2020

Philly gyms say new closures are another setback

People work out at Maleek Jackson Fitness Boxing Gym in Northern Liberties in October. Plastic barriers hang from the ceiling along with social distancing markers on the floor as safety precautions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
People work out at Maleek Jackson Fitness Boxing Gym in Northern Liberties in October. Plastic barriers hang from the ceiling along with social distancing markers on the floor as safety precautions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Gyms and fitness centers across Philadelphia were already limited to operating at 50% capacity because of COVID-19. Now they will be shuttered for at least six weeks.

Brian Terpak owns and operates the Steelworks Strength Systems, a fitness center on Girard Ave. in the city’s Brewerytown section.

“It’s an unfortunate situation that is gripping not only my business but millions of others,” said Terpak, a former high school history teacher. “But if that’s what I have to do to help the rest of the world, then so be it.”

With the city-ordered closure, he plans to offer outdoor classes when the weather permits and rent out fitness equipment.

Gyms and fitness centers across the city issued statements in the wake of the shutdown order. City Fitness, a chain of six gyms, announced it was suspending all billing. Sweat Fitness, another chain with six locations, said it too would suspend membership dues beginning on Friday.

“We feel as though we provide a safe environment for working out during this pandemic but we understand the required closure and want to do our part to help flatten the curve,” the company said in an online statement.

Terpak said he was aware of gyms who have resisted closing or limiting the number of clients over the summer. He sympathized with their frustration, but Terpak feels closing down is the right and only thing to do now.

“I understand others' viewpoints. It’s their baby,” Terpak said. “At the same time we have rights, we all have responsibilities.

“Right now the focus should be defeating the virus and reducing case counts so the doctors, the nurses, and other front line workers aren’t getting smashed. It’s the least we can do.”

— Sam Wood

6:01 PM - November 16, 2020
6:01 PM - November 16, 2020

Philly performing institutions scramble to deal with new city restrictions

The Philadelphia Orchestra in a Digital Stage presentation.
Jeff Fusco
The Philadelphia Orchestra in a Digital Stage presentation.

More performing arts groups in Philadelphia Monday scrambled to determine what the city’s new COVID restrictions meant for operations.

Philadelphia Orchestra officials were conferring with the city as well as other experts to determine whether musicians will continue to perform for the orchestra’s series of online-only concerts.

The Philly Pops had planned to record material Dec. 4 for both a free online Christmas show as well as a related presentation for troops in the U.S. and overseas.

Regardless of the new restrictions, a Christmas show will be recorded — even if it means recording the orchestra outside of the city, said Pops chief operating officer Karen Corbin.

The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society will no longer be able to host 25 socially distanced live listeners at its concerts. But the society does have approval from the city’s public public health department to keep performing live for digital broadcast, and it will continue presenting those concerts online for November, said PCMS artistic director Miles Cohen. The group’s concerts in December would proceed upon further permission from the city.

Pennsylvania Ballet has not been performing this season, and was already operating its school online-only as of Monday. Training had been a mix of online and in-person starting in the fall, but as infection rates rose, the school had already decided to move its 150 students entirely online before the city’s new guidelines were announced.

“Our safety measures are working. We have not had one case since opening up in September,” said Pennsylvania Ballet executive director Shelly Power.

Peter Dobrin

5:40 PM - November 16, 2020
5:40 PM - November 16, 2020

Chesco Health Dept. holds off on matching new Philly restrictions

Despite a request from Philadelphia on Monday that surrounding suburban counties mirror its new coronavirus restrictions, the Chester County Health Department, which also serves Delaware County, said that it was not yet implementing new limits.

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Thomas Farley urged suburban counties in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey to join the city in enacting similar measures. “We all use the same hospitals,” he said. “We all interact with each other.”

In a statement, the Chester County Health Department said it “continues to watch data closely regarding COVID-19 and consider additional mitigation measures that may be needed, but County health officials are not announcing any new restrictions at the moment."

The department added, "For now, County officials are asking residents — individually and collectively — to please adhere to wearing masks, social distancing and washing hands. This remains paramount in Chester County, especially in the run up to Thanksgiving and as we enter the full holiday season.”

— Robert Moran

5:13 PM - November 16, 2020
5:13 PM - November 16, 2020

N.J. high court suspends jury trials amid surge of COVID-19 cases

The New Jersey Supreme Court on Monday ordered a suspension of jury trials in criminal and civil cases in response to the surge in coronavirus infections.

Limited in-person proceedings were allowed to resume in September, including socially distanced jury trials and in-person grand juries. Restrictions that had been in place since March are now reinstated.

“The increasing rates of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths make it impracticable and unsafe for certain in-person court events to continue at the level reached during the past few months,” the high court wrote in an order signed by Chief Justice Stuart Rabner.

In-person grand jury panels can switch to online-only, and existing virtual grand jury panels may continue to convene, under the order. Virtual grand juries have been established in all 21 counties.

One in-person jury trial in progress will be allowed to continue, the high court said.

— Robert Moran

4:51 PM - November 16, 2020
4:51 PM - November 16, 2020

Philly restrictions will have little impact on colleges that are already scaled back

A sign posted on Broad Street and Montgomery Avenue at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa. on September 3, 2020. The university announced they will go to virtual classes as Covid-19 cases spiked.
DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
A sign posted on Broad Street and Montgomery Avenue at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa. on September 3, 2020. The university announced they will go to virtual classes as Covid-19 cases spiked.

The new coronavirus restrictions in Philadelphia won’t have much impact on city colleges, most of which had already gone largely virtual for classes.

And those that are still holding in-person classes had already planned to move to virtual instruction as of the Thanksgiving holiday.

“This just means that we will need to accelerate those plans,” said Angela Showell, a spokesperson for Jefferson University.

At St. Joseph’s University, about 1,700 students live on campus and three quarters of classes for its 4,200 undergraduates have had an in-person component. It will move to remote instruction a few days earlier than planned as result of the order.

“We are simply shifting classes to online on Friday evening” and for the following Monday and Tuesday, said spokeswoman Marie Williams. “The university remains open and operations continue to serve our students and fulfill our mission.”

At Temple University, about 95 percent of instruction already was virtual. And the school had planned to end the vast majority of the rest of the in-person instruction on Friday, said spokesperson Ray Betzner.

— Susan Snyder

4:37 PM - November 16, 2020
4:37 PM - November 16, 2020
4:33 PM - November 16, 2020
4:33 PM - November 16, 2020

Museum exhibits on hold due to new Philly restrictions

The contemporary Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) on North Broad Street.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
The contemporary Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) on North Broad Street.

The museum at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts had scheduled three new exhibitions to open Thursday, but with the new city prohibitions on museum visitation, that won’t be happening.

“It’s a real pity,” said museum director Brooke Davis Anderson. “But as well as being nimble and disappointed, we also have to be optimistic. If the museum reopens after the new year, in the first week of January, these exhibitions would still have a three-month run, we’d still get a good solid three months out of them.”

The academy’s school has been running a hybrid schedule, part virtual, part in person. All will go online now.

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is also faced with postponing a major exhibition. “Permian Monsters” had been set to open Saturday.

Scott Cooper, president of the academy said that the exhibition is now on hold and would open in January, if the city gives the all clear.

“Here at the Academy, we do believe that museums are very safe environments for people to be in, and the data supports that,” he said. Cooper said the shutdown should not have lasting negative results financially.

— Stephan Salisbury

4:23 PM - November 16, 2020
4:23 PM - November 16, 2020

Half of people with infection don’t know where they got it, Philly health chief says

About half of people with the coronavirus in Philadelphia now don’t know how they got it, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said, marking what he called a concerning shift in its rapid spread.

“This is the thing that is maybe the biggest worry of mine, is it’s spreading a little bit everywhere,” Farley said Monday.

After Philadelphia began contact tracing COVID-19 cases this summer, Farley said for months that the virus was primarily spreading among household members, at small social or family gatherings, and at parties among college students.

But cases of the virus are now rising exponentially, and exceeding the city’s ability to trace every case. From the tracing efforts that are still being done, Farley said that people report getting the virus from small gatherings, carpools, brunches with friends, birthday parties, weddings, funerals, baby showers, offices, and restaurants.

But about half of the people interviewed do not know who may have spread the virus to them, Farley said.

“We know that people are generally very active right now,” he said. “They get around, they shop, they work, they visit, they meet, they interact with others in many different settings.”

Farley said that while smartphone data shows that people’s movements have returned to “pre-pandemic levels” — and signals the need for residents to stay home as much as possible.

— Laura McCrystal

4:15 PM - November 16, 2020
4:15 PM - November 16, 2020

Biden says transition cooperation urgent or ‘more people may die’ from COVID-19

President-elect Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, arrives to speak about economic recovery at The Queen theater, Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Andrew Harnik / AP
President-elect Joe Biden, accompanied by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, arrives to speak about economic recovery at The Queen theater, Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President-elect Joe Biden said immediate cooperation on a transition from President Donald Trump’s administration is urgent for dealing with the pandemic or “more people may die” from COVID-19.

Answering reporters' questions on Monday, Biden said progress on a vaccine is important, but of little use until people are vaccinated.

“So how do we get over 300 million Americans vaccinated? What’s the game plan?” Biden asked. “It’s a huge, huge, huge undertaking to get it done, prioritize those greatest in need, and working our way through it. And also cooperate with the World Health Organization and the rest of the world in dealing with this.”

He added, “If we have to wait until January 20th to start that planning, it puts us behind over a month and a half. So it’s important that it be done, that there be coordination now, now or as rapidly as possible.”

— Robert Moran

3:46 PM - November 16, 2020
3:46 PM - November 16, 2020

Philly officials plead for residents to limit Thanksgiving gatherings

The new restrictions Philadelphia officials announced Monday to slow the spread of the coronavirus reinforced the message from public-health experts nationwide that residents should not celebrate Thanksgiving with anyone outside their own household.

Public or private indoor gatherings of any size are banned as of Friday, under the new guidance, and food and drink are prohibited at outdoor gatherings. The new Philadelphia restrictions will be in effect at least through Jan. 1, so the guidance applies to the entire holiday season.

James Garrow, spokesperson for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, reiterated Monday that even outdoor Thanksgiving gatherings are discouraged.

“While outdoors may be safer than indoors, being around people from other households is more dangerous than only being around people in your household,” he said. “And sitting with people from other households with no masks on is the most dangerous.”

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley has urged residents for weeks to only celebrate the holidays with members of their own household, and Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine has also already asked residents to cancel Thanksgiving gatherings with anyone outside of their own household.

But as COVID-19 cases surge in Philadelphia, Farley laid out a scenario Monday that he said is “a little grim if we don’t take strong action.” Officials acknowledged that slowing the rapid spread of the virus will require residents to voluntarily follow guidelines, as they did in the spring.

“The bottom line is that if people don’t follow it and it doesn’t work, we’re going to be in the situation longer than we need to be,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “So it will be a self-fulfilling problem if people won’t cooperate and refuse to follow what we’re asking them to do and the case count goes up.”

— Laura McCrystal

3:31 PM - November 16, 2020
3:31 PM - November 16, 2020

Lower Merion public schools switching to online-only classes tomorrow

The Lower Merion School District is switching to all-virtual instruction Tuesday — four days before Montgomery County’s school closure order takes effect — due to rapidly increasing cases of the coronavirus, including among students and staff.

“Based on the information we are receiving, we can no longer say with certainty that we are not experiencing school-based transmission…of COVID-19 in our schools,” Superintendent Robert Copeland said in a message to parents Monday. He said that due to the surge in cases in the community, the Montgomery County Office of Public Health “cannot keep up with contact tracing in a timely manner,” and county testing sites “have informed us that they are overwhelmed.”

The county board of health last week ordered all K-12 schools in the county to revert to virtual instruction from Nov. 23 through Dec. 6. While other suburban counties have not followed suit, some school districts there are being challenged by rising cases.

Among them is Chester County’s Octorara Area School District, which announced Sunday that it would close its Junior Senior High School for in-person instruction as administrators investigate an increase in cases.

Superintendent Michele Orner told the school community that the county’s contact tracing efforts have “become complicated because of the increase in the number of potential cases reported by Octorara to the health authorities.” The school is closed until after Thanksgiving break.

— Maddie Hanna

3:16 PM - November 16, 2020
3:16 PM - November 16, 2020

Performing arts leaders in Philly react to new city restrictions

Performing arts leaders around the city reacted to news that Philadelphia officials are implementing new restrictions due to rising cases of the coronavirus.

Most theaters in the city have not mounted a show indoors since the beginning of the pandemic. LaNeshe Miller-White, executive director of Theatre Philadelphia said the new restrictions would most likely affect “folks who were doing rehearsals indoors” and those who were planning outdoor events. “What’s 10% of a park?” she said. “I feel like people have been leaning on the outdoors as a safe bet.”

Brad Grossman, co-owner of Helium Comedy Clubs, said the order to close the Philadelphia club closing won’t be the first for Helium, which has seven clubs in seven states. “We’re starting to get shut down everywhere,” starting last week with Portland, Ore.

In Philadelphia, the comedy club reopened, with reduced capacity, on Sept. 17.

There was “100% fresh air being pumped in constantly,” he said. “We actually felt really confident about our Philadelphia location.”

Grossman’s hoping help for live venues will come from Congress, where the bipartisan Save Our Stages Act has been incorporated into another proposal for COVID-19 relief. “The biggest problem is that we can’t do takeout comedy...people aren’t necessarily interested in paying for content online right now. They have their Netflix and Disney Plus subscriptions...and to be honest, the online shows don’t necessarily work without an audience.”

The Philadelphia Film Society’s two indoor venues, the Roxy and the Philadelphia Film Center, haven’t been open during the pandemic, so the new restrictions mean “no immediate change,” executive director J. Andrew Greenblatt said, but “I wouldn’t say [the closure] hasn’t been affecting us.”

He said 70% of the society’s annual income is “earned” — through ticket sales, concessions, membership, and onscreen advertising, and the pandemic’s taken a toll, even with the addition of streaming films and the PFS Drive-In at the Navy Yard.

On the bright side, for the Philadelphia Film Festival, which wrapped on Nov. 2 and included a mix of streaming and drive-in presentations, “we had 92 feature films and 28 short films, which was as big as any festival we’ve ever done,” he said. “We had a good deal of support” from sponsors and from “foundations that stepped up that we are incredibly grateful to.”

The drive-in will remain open through the end of the year and there are plans to bring it back next year, Greenblatt said. As for the theaters, “I do agree with everything that was said today. It hurts, but we have to do the right thing to be safe and get past the pandemic. Unfortunately, that means we can’t be open right now.”

— Ellen Gray

2:47 PM - November 16, 2020
2:47 PM - November 16, 2020

Restaurant owners see Philly’s new indoor-dining ban as the final blow

A masked pedestrian walks by a boarded up Food & Friends with a message that says "Don't Take What You Have For Granted" in Center City Philadelphia on Wednesday, April 29, 2020.
Heather Khalifa / File Photograph
A masked pedestrian walks by a boarded up Food & Friends with a message that says "Don't Take What You Have For Granted" in Center City Philadelphia on Wednesday, April 29, 2020.

Restaurateurs have spent thousands of dollars retrofitting their dining rooms and building outdoor seating areas to balance the rules governing safety against the need for commerce.

And now they have been told that this is not enough.

On Monday, Nov. 16, city officials announced that they would roll back the modest concessions granted over the last several months, effective Friday, Nov. 21, eliminating indoor dining altogether and limiting outdoor tables to parties of four people who live in the same household.

The city’s move, according to many restaurateurs, will spell doom to a business that has been battered by eight months of restrictions prompted by COVID-19. Few believe that the city’s rollback will end after six weeks, as cases of coronavirus likely will spike over the holidays. January, always the slowest month for restaurant revenue locally, promises to be extra bleak as takeout and delivery will be the only real option.

— Michael Klein

2:35 PM - November 16, 2020
2:35 PM - November 16, 2020

Fans will no longer be allowed at Eagles games this season due to tightened city restrictions

Fans sit among the cut out fans at the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. on November 1, 2020.
TIM TAI/ Staff Photographer
Fans sit among the cut out fans at the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa. on November 1, 2020.

For a brief stretch of three games, Oct. 18 through Nov. 1, the Eagles were able to host at least a few thousand fans for home games at Lincoln Financial Field, but that won’t be the case going forward.

The city of Philadelphia tightened restrictions on gatherings Monday, in response to the recent surge in coronavirus cases. The city said its new “Safer at Home” guidelines are intended “to help flatten the epidemic curve, prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed, and reduce the number of COVID-19 deaths.” They are in effect through Jan. 1. The Eagles' final regular-season game is scheduled for Jan. 3, at home against Washington.

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Tom Farley specifically said no fans would be allowed at football games under the new restrictions.

In a letter to season ticketholders, the Eagles said that as a result of the restrictions, “we will not be able to host fans at our stadium under this government order.”

— Les Bowen

1:36 PM - November 16, 2020
1:36 PM - November 16, 2020

Additional restrictions possible in New Jersey if people keep spreading the virus at indoor gatherings, Gov. Murphy says

A sign sits on the sidewalk near the Browning Road Tennis Courts in Pennsauken Township, New Jersey on Friday, May 22, 2020.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
A sign sits on the sidewalk near the Browning Road Tennis Courts in Pennsauken Township, New Jersey on Friday, May 22, 2020.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he hoped not to impose additional restrictions on indoor dining, sports or other businesses, but acknowledged it was possible if people continue spreading the virus through indoor gatherings and house parties.

“I think there’s some notion that when you’re in your house, that you’ve passed through some magic doorway,” he said. “That’s just not true.”

Police issued 15 citations to bars and restaurants in Camden, Essex, and Hudson counties last weekend for compliance violations, and Murphy said more inspections would continue.

Murphy said testing capacity would also continue to increase. Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said she was concerned about renewed outbreaks in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, which were ravaged by the virus last spring. There were 241 facilities with outbreaks as of Monday, and she recommended against visiting older relatives or taking them out of their homes for holidays. She said facilities must develop plans for holidays that include quarantining residents who have been taken outside for family visits.

“No state crushed this curve like New Jersey,” said Murphy, imploring residents to take extra precautions over the next few months. “We’ve just gotta do it again.”

Allison Steele

1:21 PM - November 16, 2020
1:21 PM - November 16, 2020

Philadelphia to shut down indoor dining, gyms, and museums, and ban public and private gatherings through Jan. 1

An empty North Broad Street in Philadelphia is photographed on Tuesday evening, March 24, 2020, when a stay-at-home order had been issued due to the spread of COVID-19.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
An empty North Broad Street in Philadelphia is photographed on Tuesday evening, March 24, 2020, when a stay-at-home order had been issued due to the spread of COVID-19.

Philadelphia will close indoor restaurant dining, gyms, and museums starting on Friday and will require office workers to work remotely in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus as new cases surge.

The new restrictions will last through Jan. 1, and include limits on outdoor gatherings and a ban on public and private indoor gatherings — making it a violation of city regulations for residents to hold holiday gatherings with anyone outside their own households.

“There’s no doubt these changes are necessary,” said Mayor Jim Kenney.

Philadelphia had an average of more than 650 new cases of COVID-19 per day in the week that ended Saturday, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said — the highest weekly average since the start of the pandemic. Farley said case counts are doubling every 17 days, hospitalizations have doubled in the past 11 days, and the positivity rate of tests is rapidly increasing.

Farley also urged surrounding counties in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey to join Philadelphia in enacting similar measures. “We all use the same hospitals,” he said. “We all interact with each other.”

The new regulations will not permit fans at sporting events and will limit capacity of all outdoor gatherings.

They also require high schools and colleges to hold classes virtually. Day cares, elementary schools, and middle schools will be permitted to continue in-person instruction. While the School District of Philadelphia has put a return to in-person classes on hold, dozens of private schools in the city have resumed in-person instruction.

The new measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 are not as stringent as the citywide shutdown implemented in March as the pandemic reached the city. But the new rules are the strictest regulations since June, when reopening began.

Outdoor restaurant dining can continue, Farley said, but the number of people permitted to eat at one table will be reduced from six to four people, and diners can only eat with members of their own household. Barber shops and salons, retail stores, and hotels will be permitted to remain open under the city’s new regulations, with safety measures in place such as reduced capacity and mask requirements. Construction work will also be permitted to continue. Religious institutions will be permitted to remain open with reduced density, but online-only services are encouraged.

— Laura McCrystal

12:56 PM - November 16, 2020
12:56 PM - November 16, 2020

As coronavirus cases surge, Pennsylvania has no plans for further restrictions at this time, health secretary says

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus in Philadelphia's Franklin Square on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020.
TIM TAI / Staff Photographer
Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine speaks during a news conference about the coronavirus in Philadelphia's Franklin Square on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020.

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine said the commonwealth has no plans to go back to “red, yellow, green, or any other type of schema” to implement new coronavirus restrictions, even in light of a fall surge that is far surpassing spring numbers in terms of the seven-day rolling average of new cases.

On Monday, Pennsylvania reported 4,476 additional confirmed cases, and 5,199 cases were reported Sunday. Hospitalizations are also continuing their steady climb, with 2,440 people hospitalized with the coronavirus and 531 patients in intensive-care units for virus-related complications as of Monday, Levine said. Over the weekend, 51 additional virus-related deaths were reported.

The statewide positivity rate has increased to 9.6%, from 6.8% last week, according to state data, and Philadelphia and all its collar counties are seeing high-levels of community spread.

Pennsylvania on Monday added Delaware and Maryland to its list of neighboring states to which nonessential travel is discouraged, and added Virginia to its long list of states where a 14-day quarantine is recommended upon return.

While New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday announced stricter restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings in the Garden State, which is faring relatively better than it did in the spring, Levine said there were no plans at this time to institute additional mitigation measures for Pennsylvania. She said as of now decisions on whether schools would operate in-person, with a hybrid model, or virtual-only would be made by municipalities.

She encouraged residents to stay home as much as possible, but did not go so far as to issue any formal recommendations.

“We want people to stay within their households as we approach the holidays,” Levine said. As for talks among Wolf, Murphy, and other Northeast governors about a coordinated response to this fall surge, she said “nothing concrete yet [has come] from those multi-state] discussions.”

— Erin McCarthy

12:30 PM - November 16, 2020
12:30 PM - November 16, 2020

‘More and more people are fighting for their lives’: Murphy gives more details on N.J.'s new restrictions

New Jersey recorded the top two highest-ever daily counts of new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, Gov. Phil Murphy said, and 5% of the state’s total cases since the pandemic hit in March were reported in the last four days.

Murphy cited the continued rise in cases as the reason for tightening restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings this week, saying small group gatherings are driving up not only new infections but also hospitalizations.

“What we’re doing today we know will cause some people to readjust their Thanksgiving plans,” Murphy said of the order to limit parties to 10 people. “We’re urging everybody to keep their Thanksgiving plans as small as possible. The smaller the gathering is, the less likely it is that someone is infected.”

Limits on outdoor activities will go into place on Nov. 23.

The state reported 2,232 cases and 14 deaths on Monday. The rate of transmission is 1.4, meaning each infection is leading to more than one new case.

More than 60% people who are reached by contact tracers now refuse to cooperate, Murphy said. “Maybe you think people aren’t getting sick anymore or dying anymore,” he said, speaking specifically to younger people. “These are the cold facts. More and more people are fighting for their lives against COVID-19 as we sit here, and we are now seeing an increase in the numbers of people who are dying.”

The restrictions on indoor gatherings go into effect Tuesday at 6 a.m. Exemptions will be made for religious services, political events, weddings and funerals, which must be limited to 25% of a room’s capacity or less than 150 people.

Indoor sports practices or competitions are allowed to exceed the 10-person limit for players, coaches, and referees. Murphy said health officials are continuing to receive reports about non-compliance from indoor hockey players and parents.

“Hockey is in our crosshairs,” he said. “Unless we see better compliance or lower levels of infection, we will take action.”

—Allison Steele

11:00 AM - November 16, 2020
11:00 AM - November 16, 2020

Fauci calls news on Moderna vaccine ‘a really strong step forward’

Anthony S. Fauci, the nation's top-ranking infectious-disease doctor, in an address to the Thomas Jefferson University medical community.
Screenshot via Zoom
Anthony S. Fauci, the nation's top-ranking infectious-disease doctor, in an address to the Thomas Jefferson University medical community.

The nation’s top infectious disease expert on Monday said he was optimistic about “striking” early data about Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine, which appears to reduce the chance of illness by 94.5%. Last week, Pfizer said its vaccine also seemed to reduce the rate of disease by more than 90%.

“It is something that foretells an impact on this virus,” Anthony Fauci said Monday on Today. “Now we have two vaccines that are really quite effective. So I think this is a really strong step forward to where we want to be in getting control of this outbreak.”

President-elect Joe Biden called the news about the second vaccine “a further reason to feel hopeful,” but encouraged continued vigilance as cases surge nationwide.

“What was true with the first vaccine remains true with the second: we are still months away,” Biden said in a tweet. “Until then, Americans need to continue to practice social-distancing and mask-wearing to get the virus under control.”

— Erin McCarthy

8:22 AM - November 16, 2020
8:22 AM - November 16, 2020

New Jersey to limit indoor and outdoor gatherings as cases spike

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy covers his face with a face mask at the end of the coronavirus briefing in Trenton, N.J. Monday, June 15, 2020.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy covers his face with a face mask at the end of the coronavirus briefing in Trenton, N.J. Monday, June 15, 2020.

New Jersey will implement new restrictions, prohibiting indoor gatherings of more than 10 people and outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people, Gov. Phil Murphy said. Previously, 500 people could gather outside and 25 could get together indoors.

“We think those are steps that will help,” Murphy said in an interview on Good Day Philadelphia, “and we reserve the right — unfortunately, sadly — to take more steps if we need to.”

The move comes as cases are rising rapidly in the Garden State. Daily case tallies on Saturday and Sunday reached record highs, though the state is faring better than Pennsylvania. Murphy called Camden County “a hot spot,” and said Burlington County’s numbers were also of concern.

The surge is due in part to an uptick in transmission at private gatherings, such as Halloween parties, Murphy said, “behind closed doors, where it’s really hard to enforce compliance."

He said his announcement of new gathering restrictions was not related to a virtual coronavirus response summit that was attended by Murphy, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Delaware Gov. John Carney, and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont over the weekend. But Murphy said the meeting yielded “really good discussions.”

“We are going to try to do as much as we can regionally,” he added. “Our steps may not be exactly the same in each of the states, but the overall thematic approach is very consistent across the states.”

New Jersey’s move also come less than two weeks before Thanksgiving, which many health officials have urged people to celebrate with immediate family only.

Murphy said he’s keeping his turkey dinner small — just him; his wife, Tammy; and their four children.

“We can’t afford to do anything else, and I would beg people to be small this year," he said. “God willing, we can be big again next year.”

— Erin McCarthy

8:07 AM - November 16, 2020
8:07 AM - November 16, 2020

Philadelphia braces for new coronavirus restrictions

An unidentified man eats a the restaurant counter, during the first day of reopening indoor dinning at the Melrose Diner in Philadelphia, Pa. Tuesday, September, 8, 2020.
JOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer
An unidentified man eats a the restaurant counter, during the first day of reopening indoor dinning at the Melrose Diner in Philadelphia, Pa. Tuesday, September, 8, 2020.

Philadelphia city officials are set to announce new restriction on activities like indoor dining and gyms Monday at a 1 p.m. news conference.

Philadelphia officials on Friday were weighing new restrictions that could stop indoor dining, close gyms and theaters, ban indoor gatherings, and ask companies to return office employees to remote work, according to people briefed on a potential plan by Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration Friday.

Retail stores, barbershops, and salons would be permitted to remain open — with enforcement of mask-wearing and limited capacity — and construction work would also continue. But the city would prohibit public and private indoor gatherings of any size.

The potential restrictions would not be as strict as the spring lockdown, but they would be the first to come after a gradual reopening that gave residents some freedom to return to restaurants, bars and fitness facilities, resume SEPTA commutes, venture back to offices, and gather with others.

Kenney administration spokesperson Lauren Cox acknowledged Friday that officials had shared proposals with stakeholders, but said plans are not yet final. The city has scheduled a news conference for Monday afternoon.

— Laura McCrystal, Erin McCarthy

7:20 AM - November 16, 2020
7:20 AM - November 16, 2020

Second coronavirus vaccine appears to be nearly 95% effective

Registered Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a blinded study experimental vaccine for COVID-19 developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc. at the United Health Services facility, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y.
Hans Pennink / AP
Registered Nurse Kath Olmstead prepares a blinded study experimental vaccine for COVID-19 developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc. at the United Health Services facility, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Binghamton, N.Y.

Dramatic early results for a second COVID-19 vaccine were announced Monday, with manufacturer Moderna Inc. saying the drug appeared to reduce the chance of illness by 94.5%.

The findings come a week after Pfizer Inc. said its vaccine seemed to reduce the rate of disease by more than 90%. Both companies say that within weeks, they intend to seek U.S. government approval to distribute their products on an emergency basis to the broader public. Enough doses would be ready to administer to the first few million recipients by the end of the year, with hundreds of millions more on the way in 2021, government and company officials said Monday in a joint press briefing.

Moderna, based in Cambridge, Mass., had projected that it would need at least 151 cases of illness to tell if its vaccine was working, based on an initial estimate of 60% efficacy. But the results as of Monday, based on just 95 cases, were so clear-cut that the drug maker announced them sooner, as dictated by a protocol filed in advance with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

— Tom Avril

7:00 AM - November 16, 2020
7:00 AM - November 16, 2020

Hospitalizations rising in Pennsylvania and New Jersey as new COVID-19 cases soar

All servers including Mia Martino wear face shields and masks as they wait tables that are separated by clear partitions at Chickie’s and Pete’s in South Phila. on Nov. 15, 2020.
ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer
All servers including Mia Martino wear face shields and masks as they wait tables that are separated by clear partitions at Chickie’s and Pete’s in South Phila. on Nov. 15, 2020.

Pennsylvania’s daily average has increased every day since mid-October, but in November the number has soared. The state averaged 4,892 cases a day over the last seven days. Just a week ago, that rolling average was 2,994.

Hospitalizations have been rising, too, with the state reporting a daily average of 2,066 hospitalized people over the last week, a 183% increase from a month ago. At the height of the spring surge of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations peaked at 2,763.

New Jersey is seeing more cases, too, though that state has fared better. Its latest seven-day daily average of 3,165 cases is still less than the state’s highest case counts in April. Its increase in hospitalizations is also less significant than Pennsylvania’s, with a 65% increase in the most current daily average compared with a month ago.

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

  • Pennsylvania: Averaging 4,892 new cases a day, a 63% increase over last week’s average (2,994 a day) and 242% higher than last month’s average (1,428 a day).
  • New Jersey: Averaging 3,554 new cases a day, a 66% increase over last week’s average (2,139 a day) and 289% higher than last month’s average (912 a day).
  • Delaware: Averaging 314 new cases a day, a 49% increase over last week’s average (211 a day) and 127% higher than last month’s average (138 a day).

— Jason Laughlin and Rob Tornoe

6:45 AM - November 16, 2020
6:45 AM - November 16, 2020

U.S. surpassed 11 million COVID-19 cases on Sunday. The latest million took just six days.

More than 11 million cases of the coronavirus have now been reported in the United States, with the most recent million coming in less than a week.

Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker reached 11 million on Sunday. It had topped 10 million cases on Nov. 9.

It took 300 days for the United States to hit the 11 million mark since the first case was diagnosed in Washington state on Jan. 20.

COVID-19 is spreading more rapidly across the United States than it has at any time since the pandemic started. Deaths are also on the rise, though not at the record high numbers reached in the spring. The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths was more than 1,080 as of Saturday, more than 30% higher than it was two weeks earlier.

COVID-19 has now killed more than 246,000 people in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins.

Worldwide, more than 54 million coronavirus cases have been reported with more than 1.3 million deaths. The United States has about 4% of the world’s population, but about a fifth of all reported cases.

— Associated Press

6:30 AM - November 16, 2020
6:30 AM - November 16, 2020

States across the country are ordering new COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions

Senor Moose server and bartender Phil West confirms there is indoor brunch seating for a married couple on Sunday, shortly after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's executive orders to stop indoor restaurant dining in coming days to combat COVID-19.
Ken Lambert / AP
Senor Moose server and bartender Phil West confirms there is indoor brunch seating for a married couple on Sunday, shortly after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's executive orders to stop indoor restaurant dining in coming days to combat COVID-19.

Coronavirus cases reported in the United States passed 11 million on Sunday, as the nation shatters records for hospitalizations and daily new infections and as leaders turn to new, painful restrictions to stem the pandemic’s long-predicted surge.

States are reenacting stay-at-home orders and store closures. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) on Sunday announced sweeping new limits on gatherings for three-weeks — including a ban on indoor dining at restaurants and bars, and a halt to in-person classes at high schools and colleges. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) also laid out a slew of new rules, which prohibit indoor social gatherings with people outside one’s household and indoor service at restaurants, bars and more.

State and local officials nationwide are reinstating restrictions to fight the virus. New Mexico and Oregon on Friday ordered extensive new statewide shutdowns, while the Navajo Nation — devastated early on by the virus — reissued its stay-at-home order for at least three weeks. The Navajo Nation said cases threaten to swamp the health system on the southwestern reservation without immediate action.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) on Friday issued a statewide mask mandate and new capacity limits on businesses, less than a week after Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert (R) announced a similar mask order in the face of overwhelmed hospitals warning that they might have to ration care.

— Washington Post

6:00 AM - November 16, 2020
6:00 AM - November 16, 2020

Weekend roundup: Germany hails couch potatoes as heroes of the pandemic

  • Germany praised couch potatoes who are “lazy as raccoons” as heroes of the coronavirus pandemic in a new government advertisement. “Our couch was the front line and our patience was our weapon,” the narrator proclaims.
  • Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said the public’s health would be better served if Trump administration health officials could start working with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team. “As you know, I’ve been through multiple transitions now, having served six presidents for 36 years. And it’s very clear that the transition process that we go through … is really important in a smooth handing over of the information as well as it’s almost like passing the baton in a race,” Fauci said on CNN Sunday. “You don’t want to stop and then give it to somebody, you want to essentially keep going.”
  • Despite the stalled transition due to President Donald Trump’s refusal to acknowledge he lost the election, President-elect Joe Biden’s scientific advisers will meet with COVID-19 vaccine makers in coming days, according to the Associated Press.
  • Doctors are calling it quits due to the stress of the pandemic, according to the New York Times. Thousands of medical practices are closing, as doctors and nurses decide to retire early or shift to less intense jobs.