As the spread of the coronavirus continued Thursday, Gov. Tom Wolf made another effort to slow it down. He ordered all Pennsylvania businesses that aren’t “life-sustaining” to close — allowing for just a select group to remain open. Meanwhile, experts are warning people not to expect things to return to “normal” any time soon. Their recommendation: think of the fight against coronavirus in terms of months, not weeks.

And normalcy has been elusive for Lower Merion basketball coach Gregg Downer. He hasn’t been able to feel whole since the death of his beloved friend Kobe Bryant.

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a press conference, which confirmed the first two presumptive positive cases of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Pennsylvania.
Commonwealth Media Services / Commonwealth Media Services: Natalie Kolb
Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during a press conference, which confirmed the first two presumptive positive cases of 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Pennsylvania.

On Thursday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced that he would extend his shutdown order to all businesses in Pennsylvania except those that are “life-sustaining.” It marks the state’s latest effort to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Wolf previously asked nonessential businesses to close. Now, he plans to enforce the order and will only allow physical operations for a selected group of businesses, which includes gas stations, farms, health-care facilities, and transit systems.

And for hospitals across the state, health researchers project that if the coronavirus outbreak peaks quickly over six months, Pennsylvania’s intensive care units will need many more beds than they can likely make available.

Experts say a return to “normal” life will not be smooth, and it won’t happen soon. The concept of social distancing is beginning to feel as familiar to many as it is disruptive and economically dreadful.

Public officials have called for a two- or three-week hiatus before reassessing the situation posed by the spread of the coronavirus. But experts have been running computer simulations and are now offering a reality check.

According to experts, no matter what steps are taken to fight the coronavirus now, COVID-19 will come roaring back when people resume their normal routines. And for workers across Philadelphia, their normal routines may be forever changed, as closures have left thousands of people jobless.

Get nightly updates on the coronavirus sent to your inbox by signing up for our free newsletter.

Since the death of Kobe Bryant, Lower Merion coach Gregg Downer has struggled to get used to his new reality. In fact, for the first time in 30 years of coaching, Downer missed several practices and skipped watching film before a game. He had to attend the memorial services for Bryant and his daughter Gianna in Los Angeles.

Downer has seen a lot of amazing sports moments, but none stacks up to what he witnessed over 20 years from Bryant — the man he regards as his idol and hero.

My colleague Mike Sielski touched base with Downer to give him an outlet to open up about his “beloved Kobe.” He now feels he has a game plan for his life off the court thanks to lessons Bryant taught him.

That’s interesting

Through your eyes | #OurPhilly

Can’t think of anything cuter than a daydreaming pup 🐶💭. Thanks for sharing, @noahpoobear_thepup.

Tag your Instagram posts or tweets with #OurPhilly and we’ll pick our favorite each day to feature in this newsletter and give you a shout out!

What you need to know today

Opinions

Friday, March 20.
Rob Tornoe / Staff
Friday, March 20.

“To deny any child access to education for any reason is a human rights violation. Holding one child back to advance another is nonfeasance. And that should be a non-starter for the 21st century.” — Jennifer Stefano of the Commonwealth Foundation and Broad + Liberty, on embracing innovation and choice while schools are closed.

What we’re watching ▶️

Need a break from binging shows on your streaming platform of choice? If you’re looking for some local storytelling that illuminates the spirit of our region, check out some of the work our visual journalists have been producing lately.

  • Have you wondered what life is like for Uber, Lyft, and taxi professionals with so many people staying home? My colleagues Patricia Madej and Raishad Hardnett examine this time of heightened anxiety for rideshare drivers. ▶️WATCH
  • My colleagues Stephanie Farr and Lauren Schneiderman team up to highlight some Philly florists who lifted spirits by giving away thousands of flowers set aside for events canceled due to the coronavirus. ▶️WATCH
  • Despite mounting cancellations, the coronavirus did not shut down the wedding of one Montgomery County couple whose love shined brightly even in this dark time. Stephan Salisbury shares the story with a video from Astrid Rodrigues and Miguel Martinez. ▶️WATCH

Your Daily Dose of | Art

A traveler looks at Kambel Smith's cardboard sculptures, which are now on display in terminal A at Philadelphia International Airport.
Philadelphia International Airport
A traveler looks at Kambel Smith's cardboard sculptures, which are now on display in terminal A at Philadelphia International Airport.

Germantown artist Kambel Smith — who suffers from autism — is thrilled that his large-scale, intricate cardboard sculptures will now grace Philadelphia International Airport. And through this arrangement, he made a valuable connection that will further support his work.