Region braces for new restrictions as COVID-19 cases soar
Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf asked people on Sunday to “buckle down,” though he has announced no new statewide restrictions yet. N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy called the latest data “alarming.”
The region is bracing against record counts of the coronavirus and the likelihood of new restrictions as officials attempt to slow the spread of the virus.
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.
Gov. Tom Wolf asked people by Twitter on Sunday to “buckle down,” though he has announced no new statewide restrictions yet.
“Simple steps can make all the difference,” he tweeted. “Please avoid crowds, telework if you can, and wear a mask when out in public.”
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.
Gov. Phil Murphy called the latest data “alarming.”
Deaths in both states are increasing, too, though at a much less dramatic rate. Pennsylvania reported a daily average of 42 deaths over the last week, and New Jersey 18. Pennsylvania’s daily average of deaths has more than doubled over the count a month ago, and New Jersey’s has tripled. Surges in death rates typically lag behind case counts.
This year, as of Saturday, Pennsylvania has reported more than 265,137 cases and 9,312 deaths. New Jersey has had 276,537 cases and 16,548 deaths.
Wolf and Murphy were expected to participate over the weekend in a virtual summit with other governors of New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Connecticut to discuss how the East Coast states could coordinate new restrictions, NJ.com reported. Sunday night, New York Cov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted a picture of a virtual meeting with a slightly different lineup of governors, the chief executives of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut. Cuomo said the meeting was “productive,” but mentioned no details of the meeting.
Public health officials have said small gatherings, including family get-togethers, sleepovers, and car pools, are causing the case increases.
Haddonfield became the most recent school district to end in-person classes Sunday. The board of education announced that students at Haddonfield Memorial High School would shift fully to virtual learning until at least Nov. 30 in an email to parents. School could remain closed longer depending on the state of the pandemic in two weeks.
The decision came as contact tracers have become overwhelmed with new cases, and an increase in what have not yet been confirmed, but appear to be, new positive cases within the district. A growing number of students have switched to virtual learning recently anyway due to quarantine restrictions recently, the memo states, and there had been calls for full virtual learning.
“We hoped to stay the course and continue to offer in-person instruction,” said the memo from Chuck Klaus, the district superintendent. "However, it became evident that the best course of action is to address the current spread by taking these precautionary steps.”
Philadelphia officials are expected to announce renewed restrictions to limit the virus' spread at a news conference Monday. Those could include barring indoor dining, shuttered theaters and gyms, a ban on indoor gatherings, and a request for companies to keep workers remote, according to people briefed on plans being considered by Mayor Jim Kenney.
Philadelphia reported more than 1,000 new cases on several days over the last week, and as of Nov. 13, the most recent data available, the daily average of new cases was 721, about five times as many cases as the city was reporting a month earlier.
Philadelphia’s school district last week nixed plans to begin in-person classes. The district will keep classes virtual indefinitely. Montgomery County is ending all in-person schooling.
Pushback to renewed restrictions has already begun. Planet Fitness, which operates 113 gyms in Pennsylvania, anticipated new restrictions by noting there isn’t evidence of anyone catching the virus at one of the company’s facilities.
Reports that the City of Philadelphia is considering a one-size-fits-all regulatory approach to bars, restaurants and fitness centers is not only misguided, but dangerous," Stephen Kindler Jr., president and chief executive of the company’s franchisee group National Fitness Partners, said in a statement. “Fitness centers are clean, highly regulated, and play a vital role in advancing the physical, emotional and mental health of hundreds of thousands of Philadelphians.”
Parents of Montgomery County students gathered Sunday outside the home of Val Arkoosh, chair of the county commissioners, to protest the decision to end in-person classes for two weeks starting Nov. 23.