A drive-by parade of well-wishers surprised Sal Castro for his 95th birthday on Sunday, but it was the World War II veteran who offered words of hope and encouragement to everyone struggling in the pandemic.
“Hang in there," he advised in a phone interview. "Good days are coming ahead. Most of us will survive this.”
About 35 cars carrying 75 people cruised past Castro’s Levittown home, the celebration organized by his fellow honor guardsmen from the Washington Crossing National Cemetery in Upper Makefield Township, Bucks County. All wanted to recognize the Army veteran, who served in the South Pacific.
“It was fantastic. Big surprise,” Castro said. "But it’s a terrible thing, this coronavirus.”
Bob Craven, president of the Guardians of the National Cemetery, an all-volunteer support committee of which Castro is a member, called him “the guy we all wish our grandfather was.” The idea to celebrate Castro’s birthday came to him a few days ago. If not for the pandemic, he said, Castro may not have allowed it, never being one to seek attention.
“[Sal’s] a humble man,” Craven said. “He’s very bright, very well-spoken family man.”
On Sunday, the Philadelphia region passed a quiet Mother’s Day, with so many people unable to visit their families because of the pandemic. Stay-at-home orders kept people apart — and many have been forever separated by the ever-rising death count.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey reported more cases and more fatalities on Sunday, and the United States continued to lead the world in both categories with more than 1.3 million people diagnosed and more than 79,000 dead, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The Keystone State reported an additional 1,295 cases, raising the total to 56,611, and 19 more deaths, increasing that toll to 3,707. Nearly 540 long-term care facilities have had outbreaks. Their residents account for 23% of all cases and 68% of all deaths.
The updated figures came as 24 Pennsylvania counties reopened and 13 others prepare to do so. The Philadelphia region will remain under a stay-at-home order until June 4.
City officials reported that 330 more people had tested positive, for a total of 18,211, and three had died, raising the city toll to 894.
The story was the same across the river on Sunday.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy reported 1,503 more cases, for a total of 138,532, and 140 fatalities, increasing the coronavirus-related death toll to 9,255. More than 4,300 New Jersey residents are hospitalized, with 1,338 in critical care.
New Jersey is among seven states scheduled to receive a federal shipment of the drug remdesivir, which may help patients recover faster, according to the U.S. Health Department. There was no immediate word on whether the medicine also would be sent to Pennsylvania.
A U.S. government study of the drug’s effectiveness showed promising results, but an analysis published in a reputable British medical journal showed contradictory findings.
At the Jersey Shore on a sunny, windswept Sunday, the mayors of Ocean City, Sea Isle City, and Upper Township said they had opened beaches for exercise, surfing and fishing, but were keeping bans on sunbathing, congregating in groups, and playing group sports.
“We will continue to take a measured approach and work with the governor’s office on a plan to safely reopen different parts of the city,” Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian wrote on the city website. “Please continue to take personal responsibility for following social-distancing guidelines and other safe practices.”