TL;DR: As the region prepares for a possible surge in coronavirus cases, Temple’s Liacouras Center was transformed into a makeshift hospital site. Gov. Tom Wolf has also closed the state’s schools and nonessential businesses indefinitely while extending the stay-at-home order in 26 counties until at least April 30. This comes as President Donald Trump has extended guidelines encouraging social distancing through the end of April.

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— Ellie Silverman (@esilverman11, health@inquirer.com)

What you need to know

🏥 Pennsylvania now has more than 4,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and Wolf requested that Trump declare it a “major disaster area." More than 1,000 of those cases are in Philadelphia.

🛑 Wolf announced that Pennsylvania’s schools and nonessential businesses are closed indefinitely The stay-at-home order in 26 counties is extended until at least April 30.

🔓New Jersey gun stores can reopen tomorrow after they were deemed “essential” by federal regulators.

👐 Trump extended guidelines encouraging social distancing through the end of April.

Local coronavirus cases

📈 As of Monday, there are more than 2,700 reported cases in the Philadelphia area. Track the spread here.

  • PHILADELPHIA: 1,072 confirmed cases (up 182 since yesterday)
  • SUBURBAN PA: 1,235 confirmed cases (up 142 since yesterday)
  • SOUTH JERSEY: 456 confirmed cases (up 64 since yesterday)

Gov. Tom Wolf ordered today that Pennsylvania schools and nonessential businesses will be closed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic indefinitely. He also extended the stay-at-home order that’s in place in 26 counties until at least April 30, my colleague Justine McDaniel reported.

Officials hope to have an alternative learning plan in place for students by the start of next week. Here is a full list of what you can and can’t do under the stay-at-home order and which businesses are allowed to remain open.

“We’re going to keep our schools and businesses closed as long as we need to keep them closed to keep Pennsylvania safe,” Wolf said. “I know this isn’t easy to hear... [but] if we want to save lives we must continue to distance ourselves from each other.”

The peak of the coronavirus outbreak in Pennsylvania is “a moving target,” and he hopes people staying home could give hospitals a chance to provide life-saving treatment to those who are ill.

"We know that these prolonged mitigation effects have been difficult for everyone, but it is essential that everyone follows these orders and does not go out unless they absolutely must,” Health Secretary Rachel Levine said in a statement.

Temple University’s Liacouras Center has been made into a makeshift hospital site, my colleague Aubrey Whelan reports. Officials are preparing for a potential surge of coronavirus patients, and though they hope they never need to use the more than 200 beds in this arena, it’s an option.

The center’s transformation happened days after the city’s negotiations to reopen the vacant Hahnemann University Hospital for quarantine space had failed. Its owner, Joel Freedman, asked the city for nearly $1 million a month to rent the building, which Mayor Jim Kenney chastised, saying Freedman was “trying to make a buck” off the crisis.

Adam Thiel, the city’s fire commissioner and director of emergency operations, said it is unclear if the arena would be used for COVID-19 patients or other patients who still need hospital care, but with less-pressing issues.

Readers were captivated yesterday by this story about people on the front lines of the coronavirus — from healthcare workers to taxi drivers. If you have a story to share (or one you want to read) let us know at health@inquirer.com.

Helpful resources

Let’s take a quick break

✈️ After 39 years and more than 30,000 hours in the air, a pioneering female pilot retires.

👮A Philly woman was in prison for life. Villanova students, and one weird coincidence, helped get her out.

📸 Inquirer photographer explores a history paved over in Philadelphia.

Social distancing tip of the day: Start a garden

“During stressful times, nature can be a peaceful refuge,” my colleague Grace Dickinson writes. Even while stay-at-home orders are in place, you’re allowed to go outside to your backyard or a small garden plot. Here is a guide for how to garden, indoors or outdoors, including what to plant, where to get seeds, what to do if you don’t have a yard or green space, and how to grow from table scraps.

Have a social distancing tip or question to share? Let us know at health@inquirer.com and your input might be featured in a future edition of this newsletter.

What we’re paying attention to

It’s not all horrible

Gabriel, 3, dances with his parents, Lexy and Patrick Madden as they participate in “neighborhood karaoke" organized by Whitney Covalle for some coronavirus-mandated socially-distanced 'stoop' singing” on the 2200 block of Saint James Place.
TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Gabriel, 3, dances with his parents, Lexy and Patrick Madden as they participate in “neighborhood karaoke" organized by Whitney Covalle for some coronavirus-mandated socially-distanced 'stoop' singing” on the 2200 block of Saint James Place.

This Center City block reimagined karaoke and found a way to have fun as a community while staying at home. About 25 neighbors, and their dogs, had a night of “stoop singing" and dancing to songs like the “Cupid Shuffle," the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive,” the Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” and Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” Watch the video of them singing and dancing from my colleague Tom Gralish.

News about coronavirus is changing quickly. Go to inquirer.com/coronavirus to make sure you are seeing the newest information.