Breaking News

COVID-19 death toll climbs in Pa. as hospitals fill in Delco and South Jersey

9:56 PM – 11/20/20

9:56 PM – November 20, 2020

West Chester public school switching to online-only classes on Nov. 30

The West Chester Area School District will switch to online-only classes from Nov. 30 through Dec. 11, Superintendent Jim Scanlon announced Friday.

“We anticipate returning to Hybrid Learning on Monday December 14. We will also suspend sports and all afterschool activities during this time,” Scanlon said in a statement.

“Our administration and School Board have carefully deliberated this very difficult decision. We have kept health and safety, as well as our ability to operate, at the forefront of our decision making,” Scanlon said.

His full statement is here.

— Robert Moran

9:40 PM – 11/20/20

9:40 PM – November 20, 2020

Judge rules against emergency request to lift indoor-dining ban in Philly

David Angelini, center, and Margherita Angelini, right, made a point to come to Moriarty's, on the last night of indoor dining prior to the start of renewed coronavirus restrictions, in Center City Philadelphia, Thursday, November 19, 2020.

A federal judge on Friday ruled against immediately lifting the indoor-dining ban imposed this week by Mayor Kenney in response to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

U.S. District Court Judge Nitza I. Quiñones Alejandro denied an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order and injunction filed by Philadelphia Restaurant Owners Against Lockdown, LLC, which claims to represent a group of owners in the city.

The judge wrote that granting a temporary restraining order may result in more transmission of the virus and more cases of illness and death, thus “the potential harm to the public is significant and not outweighed by the irreparable harm Plaintiff might suffer.”

Quiñones also noted that the “precise question of when restrictions on particular social activities should be lifted during the pandemic is a dynamic and fact-intensive matter subject to reasonable disagreement.”

The lawsuit was filed Thursday against Kenney and alleges that his order to prohibit indoor dining violates their constitutional rights and will devastate them financially.

The 11-page complaint argues that Kenney’s restrictions, which were announced on Monday and took effect on Friday, are arbitrary and not supported by evidence that they will help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Individual restaurant owners were not identified in the lawsuit.

Brian E. Fritz, the attorney who filed the complaint, could not be immediately reached for comment Friday night.

» READ MORE: Philly restaurant owners sue Mayor Kenney on indoor-dining ban

— Robert Moran

7:28 PM – 11/20/20

7:28 PM – November 20, 2020

Montgomery County judge denies parents’ effort to stop health board’s order to shut down schools

Organizer Kaitlin Derstine speaks in a megaphone during a rally held outside of the Montgomery County Human Services Center in Norristown, PA on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. Montgomery County voted to make all schools go virtual for two weeks due to the increasing spread of the coronavirus. The rally was organized by Derstine and the Parents for In Person Education (PIPE) Facebook group.

A Montgomery County judge Friday rejected a request by parents seeking an order to stop a county board of health directive that all K-12 schools be shut down for in-person instruction for two weeks starting Monday.

But the battle may not be over.

Shortly after Judge Richard Haaz denied the parents’ petition, which alleged the county violated Pennsylvania’s open public meetings law, John Niehls, a parent and head of school at Coventry Christian Schools in Pottstown, promised a second lawsuit — this one challenging the merits of the shutdown order.

Parents sent “a message to the county that we are not going to stand by and just accept them shutting down our schools … without supporting evidence,” Niehls said in a Facebook post responding to Haaz’s ruling. “Certainly, they got that message.”

» READ MORE: Montgomery County judge denies parents’ effort to stop health board’s order to shut down schools

— Maddie Hanna

6:22 PM – 11/20/20

6:22 PM – November 20, 2020

Donald Trump Jr. tests positive for coronavirus

In this file photo, Donald Trump Jr. gestures during a news conference in Atlanta.

A spokesman says President Donald Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has been infected with the coronavirus.

The spokesman says the younger Trump learned his diagnosis earlier this week, has no symptoms and has been quarantining.

Trump Jr. is the latest member of the president’s family to become infected with the virus.

The president, the first lady and their son Barron have recovered from the virus.

» READ MORE: Trump’s eldest son tests positive for coronavirus

— Associated Press

5:40 PM – 11/20/20

5:40 PM – November 20, 2020

Cherry Hill public schools returning to online-only classes

After allowing students to return to school this week for the first time this year, the Cherry Hill school district is shifting to virtual classes beginning Nov. 30, Superintendent Joseph Meloche announced Friday.

Meloche said the decision came after Camden County health officials notified superintendents that the county will likely reach the “red/very high risk” level by Thanksgiving as COVID-19 cases continue to mount here and around the region. The county on Friday announced eight additional virus deaths and 404 confirmed new infections.

Because in the surge, Meloche said the district will shift to remote only learning for Cherry Hill’s 11,000 public school students and will continue virtual instruction until at least Jan. 15, 2021. Students currently enrolled in the hybrid model for next week may switch to remote learning for Nov. 23-25, he said.

”We are optimistic that a community wide effort to maintain everyone’s health and safety will lead to a successful Hybrid Model re-launch in January,” Meloche wrote in a letter to parents Friday. “Please stay safe.”

Cherry Hill began the hybrid learning model this week with about half of its students reporting for in-person classes two days. The district started the school year in September with virtual instruction.

Elsewhere in South Jersey, Deptford School Superintendent Arthur Dietz notified parents Friday that the Gloucester County district would shift from hybrid learning to remote only for a week after its Thanksgiving and winter holiday breaks, in an attempt to curb the virus’ spread. Schools would return to hybrid instruction Jan. 12, he said.

— Melanie Burney

4:12 PM – 11/20/20

4:12 PM – November 20, 2020

Pa. lawmaker claims Capitol unsafe after fifth member tests positive for COVID-19

HARRISBURG — A state lawmaker has filed a formal complaint against the Pennsylvania House alleging unsafe working conditions, citing potential exposure risks after another member tested positive for the coronavirus.

Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler (D., Philadelphia) said the move was prompted by another rise in COVID-19 cases and concerns about Republican lawmakers refusing to wear face masks or social distance on the floor or during committee meetings.

“This drastic step reflects the high stakes that we face in protecting the health and safety of all staff and members who step foot in the building, as well as their families and communities at home,” Fiedler said in a statement.

» READ MORE: Pa. lawmaker claims Capitol unsafe after fifth member tests positive for COVID-19

— Cynthia Fernandez

3:54 PM – 11/20/20

3:54 PM – November 20, 2020

Eagles not required to wear face coverings for home game

The Eagles will not have to wear face coverings that prevent the spread of the coronavirus for their Nov. 30 home game against the Seattle Seahawks.

A spokesperson for Gov. Tom Wolf said in a statement that “wearing a mask in addition to a mouth guard and a helmet would likely create a medical issue for the athlete.” The statement cited the CDC, which says “wearing a mask with these types of protective equipment is not safe if it makes it hard to breathe.”

”According to Section 3, the athlete would be asked to work through alternatives that would reduce or eliminate the respiratory droplets that would impact others in proximity,” the statement continued. “If the sport, equipment, or exertion level does not allow for face covering to be worn safely, then the athlete should not wear a face covering.”

The Eagles players will be required by the NFL to wear protective face shields attached to their helmets during practice to limit the risk of exposure.

Eagles tight end Caleb Wilson (83) wears a mouth shield, required to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, during practice at the NovaCare Complex in South Philadelphia on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020.

The league is requiring every team to follow intensive protocols for the rest of the season, effective Saturday. The Eagles have four players on the COVID-19/Reserve list as of Friday, with at least two of those players having tested positive.

Philadelphia Union soccer team players also are exempt. “If the sport, equipment, or exertion level does not allow for face covering to be worn safely then the athlete should not wear a face covering,” the spokesperson for Wolf said.

The Union play their playoff opener Tuesday night at Subaru Park in Chester (8 p.m., ESPN), against an opponent that will be determined by play-in round games Friday night.

— EJ Smith and Jonathan Tannenwald

2:20 PM – 11/20/20

2:20 PM – November 20, 2020

Philly reports more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases ahead of new restrictions

Philadelphia reported 1,054 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 Friday as the city prepared to implement new restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.

The city also announced a continued increase in hospitalizations in the city, with 602 patients in city hospitals. Of those patients, 60 were on ventilators Friday. During the spring wave of the pandemic, city hospitalizations peaked with more than 1,000 patients, and health officials have expressed concern in recent days that the current wave could exceed that number.

Seven additional deaths were reported Friday. A total of 1,952 residents have now died of the coronavirus.

— Lauren McCrystal

1:35 PM – 11/20/20

1:35 PM – November 20, 2020

Philly prison center on lockdown as COVID-19 cases balloon, lawyer says

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases at the Philadelphia Federal Detention Center has ballooned in recent weeks to 171 prisoners and 28 staff, some of the most vulnerable may be released on bail. A federal judge has ordered all prisoners and their lawyers be notified “of the ability to request judicial review of the detainee’s continued custody based on any medical condition” known to heighten the risk of a severe infection.

Judge Anita Brody, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, issued the order in a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of prisoners at FDC.

“The facility is locked down: no attorney visits permitted; no social visits either. Communications are extremely limited. Inmates are out only three times a week for 30 minutes to shower and make monitored calls,” Linda Dale Hoffa, a lawyer with Dilworth Paxson, said in an email. Hoffa said the communication blackout has left families panicked as cases climb.

Hoffa, who is representing the FDC prisoners in conjunction with the Public Interest Law Center, said the FDC this week established a centralized email address so lawyers can access medical records — an improvement but not an ideal solution, she said. “We have been asking from the very beginning of our litigation brought last spring that the FDC identify the detainees and sentenced prisoners at their facility who are considered to be at high risk for cover. The government has refused to do that.”

The spokesperson did not provide details specific to the FDC, which along with Fort Dix in New Jersey now has one of the largest outbreaks in the federal system.

The situation mirrors an outbreak that has spread rapidly across the state prison system, where there are now 824 prisoners and 421 staff infected according to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Twenty state prisons currently have one or more units under “enhanced quarantine,” meaning prisoners may get as little as 15 minutes, twice a day, out of their cells.

— Samantha Melamed

1:20 PM – 11/20/20

1:20 PM – November 20, 2020

As new cases continue to climb, Murphy said N.J. residents can still change the trajectory

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during a June coronavirus briefing in Trenton, N.J.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said that without another stimulus package, shutting down small businesses again would be “blood on our hands in a different respect.”

“You’re basically putting a bullet in them,” Murphy said, and pleaded with Senate leaders to pass another federal aid bill. He said he hoped a combination of targeted restrictions, such as limiting the hours of indoor dining, and pleading with residents to take responsibility will be effective.

New Jersey reported 3,635 new cases and 23 additional deaths. But Murphy said that residents could still change the trajectory if they stop gathering in groups, start wearing masks and follow other public health recommendations.

“It is going to get unequivocally worse,” he said. “That includes everything from cases per day to hospitalizations. Can behavior impact that curve? You betcha.”

New Jersey could get its first shipment of about 130,000 doses of the first vaccine by the end of next month, Murphy said, if Pfizer’s request for emergency use is approved. More information will be announced next week.

— Allison Steele

1:10 PM – 11/20/20

1:10 PM – November 20, 2020

New Jersey committed to keeping school buildings open, Murphy says

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he was committed to keeping schools open for in-person classes, and said contact tracing and testing are preventing widespread outbreaks among students and staff.

“The growing body of medical research shows that the path we are on with regard to in-person instruction is the right one,” he said. “It is the safe one. And were also seeing the increasing evidence of the importance of time in school on a child’s mental health and learning.”

The New Jersey Education Association this week accused Murphy and state officials of downplaying the threats of in-person instruction, and have questioned the data.

“We agree wholeheartedly that in-person learning is the best possible scenario for all children, but only when that is safe. In too many places, it is simply not safe now,” said a statement released by NJEA’s leadership.

But Murphy said behavior and social gathering outside of schools is driving cases. He said state officials would continue working with district leaders to ensure they stay safe. As of this week, there have been 56 instances of in-school transmission, leading to 239 cases.

“If you look at where the safe places are in the state, and where contact tracing is as good as it gets, outside of our hospitals and healthcare systems, it’s the schools,” he said.

» READ MORE: As COVID-19 cases surge, should schools stay open? Around the Philly region, approaches vary wildly.

— Allison Steele

1:00 PM – 11/20/20

1:00 PM – November 20, 2020

Why COVID-19 vaccines seem to work better than expected

Months ago, U.S. government regulators called for COVID-19 vaccines to have an efficacy of at least 50%, meaning the drugs would reduce the risk of illness by half.

Manufacturers Pfizer and Moderna designed their vaccine trials on the assumption that the drugs would work a bit better than that, preventing disease in 60% of those exposed to the coronavirus. And during the summer, infectious-disease chief Anthony Fauci was even more optimistic, hoping for 70% or 75% efficacy.

So how is it that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines seem to prevent disease more than 90% of the time?

The answer, with the two companies planning to seek emergency approval Friday to distribute the drugs, involves the “spike” protein: the little protrusions that form a “corona” on the surface of each virus particle.

But some questions remain, according to infectious disease experts from Drexel University College of Medicine and Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children.

» READ MORE: Why the vaccines seem to work better than expected

— Tom Avril

12:20 PM – 11/20/20

12:20 PM – November 20, 2020

Pennsylvania reports more than 100 new COVID-19 deaths for third straight day

Pennsylvania added more than 100 new COVID-19 deaths for the third-straight day Friday as the virus continues to spread unabated across the commonwealth.

The Department of Health reported 108 new deaths on Friday, and the commonwealth is now averaging 65 reported deaths a day, the highest rate since early June. Overall, at least 9,689 Pennsylvanians have died, with 6,179 deaths among residents from nursing or personal care facilities.

Pennsylvania reported 6,808 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, and is now averaging more than 5,900 new cases a day over the past seven days, according to an Inquirer analysis. Overall, 295,786 Pennsylvania residents have tested positive for COVID-19.

— Rob Tornoe

11:45 AM – 11/20/20

11:45 AM – November 20, 2020

U.S. borders with Canada, Mexico will remain closed through Thanksgiving

The U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico will remain closed through at least Dec. 21, Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday.

“Our decisions will continue to be based on the best public health advice available to keep Canadians safe,” Canada’s Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair wrote on Twitter Thursday.

Both borders were closed to everything except essential traffic in March. While the decision is made on a month-to-month basis by the U.S. and Canadian governments, the border likely won’t reopen again until the surge of new infections in all three countries starts to slow down.

“The pandemic seems to be escalating in both of our countries. That would seem to suggest that these measures are with us for a while,” Kirsten Hillman, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., said during an interview Tuesday on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

— Rob Tornoe

10:55 AM – 11/20/20

10:55 AM – November 20, 2020

A negative coronavirus test doesn’t mean it’s safe to see your family for Thanksgiving

A nurse holds a nasopharyngeal swab (left) and the sample tube (right) during a coronavirus (COVID-19) test at CAMcare Health Corp. 817 Federal St., Camden, N.J. on Nov. 16, 2020.

We’re a week out from Thanksgiving, and while experts advise skipping in-person celebrations this year, many are wondering how they can gather in a way that’s safer.

First, it should be noted that due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, all public and private indoor gatherings are banned in Philadelphia through the New Year. The city also recently announced that food and drink are prohibited at outdoor gatherings. And statewide, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine encourages residents not to hold holiday gatherings with anyone outside their household.

If you’re thinking about getting together anyway, can testing save the day? If every guest gets a test, how much will that lower the risk of spreading coronavirus among your family or friend group? The answer is complicated, but in short: Testing isn’t foolproof.

» READ MORE: Sorry, but a negative coronavirus test doesn’t mean it’s safe to see your family for Thanksgiving

— Grace Dickinson

10:20 AM – 11/20/20

10:20 AM – November 20, 2020

Philly restaurants batten their hatches for new coronavirus restrictions

As coronavirus cases rise in Philadelphia, the city’s latest restrictions will go into effect at 5 p.m. Friday.

Restaurants will no longer be permitted to offer indoor dining, so many spent Thursday preparing to close up shop or move more diners out to the sidewalks.

Inquirer photographers spent the day with several restaurant owners and loyal patrons to document how they’re preparing for these new rules.

— Inquirer staff photographers

9:50 AM – 11/20/20

9:50 AM – November 20, 2020

Pennsylvania could run out of ICU beds in December, health secretary warns

A sign that reads”Hang in there world” is seen in the windows of the enclosed walkway at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pa. on November 19, 2020.

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations across Pennsylvania are growing at exponential rates. Hospitalizations leaped from about 500 patients a month ago, to three times that many two weeks later, to 2,900 on Thursday — more than at the peak in late April, according to the state health department.

Pennsylvania hospitals have a total of about 3,800 critical care beds, but two-thirds of those beds are typically occupied. The number of available ICU beds has steadily fallen from 1,200 in mid-June to 780 on Wednesday, state data show.

The implications are so worrisome that Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Rachel Levine on Tuesday sent an unusually blunt memo to the executive officers of the state’s 250 hospitals and health systems.

“Current national modeling projections indicate that Pennsylvania is at risk of having our health care system become overwhelmed,” Levine wrote. “Pennsylvania will run out of ICU beds in December,” according to one forecast.

Levine foresees an unprecedented increase in numbers. “Unfortunately,” she wrote in the memo, “even with a decrease in the percent of patients hospitalized, this second surge is much larger than the initial spring surge.”

Levine cited modeling by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. While Pennsylvania hospitals are projected to have enough medical-surgical beds statewide, regions with few hospitals may fall short before the demand peaks in January — and ICUs will be full in December. The prediction doesn’t factor in seasonal flu, which could further deplete availability, or a possible vaccine debut.

Levine’s bottom line: If hospitals can’t “effectively manage the situation,” the state will intervene again to require hospitals to cancel or postpone elective procedures.

» READ MORE: Pandemic fatigue and the holidays threaten to swamp Pa. hospitals with COVID-19 cases

— Marie McCullough

9:15 AM – 11/20/20

9:15 AM – November 20, 2020

U.S. reported more than 2,000 COVID-19 deaths and 187,000 new cases on Thursday

White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx speaks during a news conference with the coronavirus task force at the White House in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020.

The United States reported 187,833 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and is on pace to surpass 200,000 cases a day next week as the virus continues to spread unchecked across the country, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Overall, over 11.7 million Americans have contracted the virus, by far the highest of any country.

Due to the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging all Americans to avoid travel at Thanksgiving and not spend holiday with those outside of their household.

The United States also reported more than 2,000 new COVID-19 deaths on Thursday for the first time since May, adding 2,015 deaths nationally. The country is now averaging more than 1,300 new coronavirus deaths a day over the past seven days, and at least 252,564 Americans have lost their lives to the virus – surpassing the White House’s worst predictions made at the end of March.

— Rob Tornoe

7:45 AM – 11/20/20

7:45 AM – November 20, 2020

New COVID-19 restrictions, ban on indoor dining go into effect in Philly today

Nicholas Regester moves a model for The Life Before the Dinosaurs exhibit at the The Academy of Natural Sciences. The exhibit was supposed to open on Saturday, but because of the new city restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, the exhibit will not open until the museum reopens.

New COVID-19 restrictions in Philadelphia that ban indoor gatherings, close gyms, museums and other venues, and shut down indoor dining go into effect Friday at 5 p.m., and will remain in place until at least Jan. 1, city officials said.

The guidance closes indoor restaurant dining, gyms, and museums starting on Friday, in addition to banning indoor gatherings. It also requires high schools and colleges to hold classes virtually, bans fans at sporting events, and requires office workers to operate remotely except when impossible. Outdoor restaurant dining can continue, but diners can only eat with members of their own households.

Barber shops and salons, retail stores, and hotels will be permitted to remain open, with safety measures in place such as reduced capacity and mask requirements. Construction work can continue, and elementary and middle schools and day cares can operate in-person. Religious institutions will be permitted to remain open with reduced density, but online-only services are encouraged.

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley urged surrounding counties in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey to join Philadelphia in enacting similar measures, saying earlier this week, “We all use the same hospitals. We all interact with each other.”

The new restrictions come as new COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia continue to be higher than at any point in the past eight months. The city averaged 849 new cases per day last week, far exceeding any other week’s daily average since March. Farley said Thursday the city also had the highest positivity rate of COVID-19 tests since May, at 11.7%

“If we do this right, our businesses will recover faster because the epidemic wave will subside sooner,” Farley said, later adding: “A vaccine will be available in the coming months. We simply need to tide ourselves over until then.”

» READ MORE: These are the current Philadelphia coronavirus guidelines

— Justine McDaniel and Laura McCrystal

7:30 AM – 11/20/20

7:30 AM – November 20, 2020

Hospitals filling with COVID-19 patients in Pa. and South Jersey

Alarms sounded around the region Thursday. Hospitals are filling in Camden County as cases rise in South Jersey, officials said. Delaware County hospitals are diverting patients, and county leaders asked the state to enact stricter mitigation measures.

A total of 2,952 Pennsylvania residents were hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Thursday, according to state data, an increase of more than 750 patients compared to last week. About 500 patients were hospitalized two months ago, and the previous high was 2,800 on April 27.

Across the river, New Jersey reported 2,471 COVID-19 hospitalizations as of Thursday, up from 1,827 this time last week and 852 last month, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. In Delaware, 165 people were hospitalized with the virus, up from 106 this time last month.

Pennsylvania also reported 116 deaths on Thursday, the highest amount since late May and the second day in a row above 100.

» READ MORE: Pandemic fatigue and the holidays threaten to swamp Pa. hospitals with COVID-19 cases

— Rob Tornoe

7:15 AM – 11/20/20

7:15 AM – November 20, 2020

Cases continue to soar in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware

Aubrey Backues, Student Nurse at Community College of Philadelphia, conducts the COVID-19 test on someone at Mifflin Square Park with Philadelphia Flight and SEAMAAC in South Philadelphia, Pa., on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020.

Pennsylvania reported more than 7,000 new cases Thursday, breaking its record for the third-straight day. In just two weeks, the commonwealth has gone from an average of 2,500 new cases a day to 5,700 cases a day, according to an Inquirer analysis of state data.

Case numbers in Pennsylvania have skyrocketed: The commonwealth reported more than 3,000 new cases in one day for the first time on Nov. 6, more than 4,000 the next day, more than 5,000 five days later on Nov. 12, and more than 6,000 on Wednesday before topping 7,000 Thursday.

New Jersey on Thursday reported 4,320 new cases and 38 deaths. The Garden State has averaged 3,858 additional cases per day over the last seven days, and 2,471 people were hospitalized there as of Thursday.

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

  • Pennsylvania: Averaging 5,732 new cases a day, a 42% increase over last week’s average (4,041 a day) and 270% higher than last month’s average (1,549 a day).
  • New Jersey: Averaging 3,824 new cases a day, a 35% increase over last week’s average (2,824 a day) and 262% higher than last month’s average (1,056 a day).
  • Delaware: Averaging 372 new cases a day, a 45% increase over last week’s average (256 a day) and 170% higher than last month’s average (138 a day).

— Rob Tornoe

7:00 AM – 11/20/20

7:00 AM – November 20, 2020

Philadelphia restaurant owners sue Mayor Kenney on indoor-dining ban

Ariana Ortiz, Jolee Moffett and Brianna Rodriguez at the Mayfair Diner at the end of the day on Nov. 19, 2020. The were the last to dine that day. At 5 PM on Friday Nov. 20, Philadelphia’s restrictions on indoor dining go into affect during the pandemic.

A group of Philadelphia restaurant owners on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit against Mayor Jim Kenney alleging that his order to prohibit indoor dining because of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases violates their constitutional rights and will devastate them financially.

The 11-page complaint argues that Kenney’s restrictions, which were announced this week and take effect at restaurants on Friday at 5 p.m., are arbitrary and not supported by evidence that they will help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

“COVID-19 does not distinguish between the indoor airspace of other businesses that Defendants, Mayor Kenney and the City of Philadelphia, are allowing to remain operational, such as national big-box chain retailers (e.g. Walmart; Target; Home Depot), and small mom-and-pop businesses, such as barber shops, salons, and day-care centers, in addition to other indoor businesses such as banks, real estate operations, and the Philadelphia court system,” the complaint says.

“The edicts of the ‘Safer at Home’ policies have no relation to nor bearing upon the conduct of business, liberty, and other constitutional rights,” the lawsuit says.

Attorney Brian E. Fritz, who is representing the restaurant owners, said he would make an additional filing on Friday seeking emergency relief.

“We hope a hearing on that will be scheduled promptly. We should have a better sense tomorrow,” Fritz said in an email Thursday evening.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit is identified as “Philadelphia Restaurant Owners Against Lockdown, LLC.” Individual restaurants and owners are not named.

Deana Gamble, spokesperson for Kenney, said in an email: “We are still reviewing the lawsuit. But the prohibition on indoor dining is a critical part of our strategy to slow the spread of COVID-19 at a time when infection rates are surging and hospitalization rates are dangerously spiking. As Dr. Farley noted today, these restrictions are temporary. Death is permanent.”

» READ MORE: Philly restaurant owners sue Mayor Kenney on indoor-dining ban

— Robert Moran

6:45 AM – 11/20/20

6:45 AM – November 20, 2020

Friday morning roundup: Fauci says COVID-19 deniers will be a ‘real problem’

  • Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said it will be a “real problem” convincing people who believe COVID-19 isn’t a threat to get vaccinated. “Despite a quarter million deaths, despite more than 11 million infections, despite 150,000 new infections a day, they don’t believe it’s real,” Fauci said Thursday during a conversation with The Hastings Center
  • Newark, New Jersey’s largest city, will issue a lockdown for 10 days beginning next week in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, Mayor Ras Baraka said on WBGO 88.3 FM on Thursday.
  • Pfizer will ask U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine, starting a process that could bring first shots as early as next month.
  • California has issued a nightly curfew on all nonessential activities at 10 a.m. in most counties in an attempt to combat the spread of the virus within the state. The limited stay-at-home order will last until at least Dec. 21. The move came as Los Angeles County reported 5,031 new cases, the biggest one-day increase on record.
  • Hospitals in at least 25 states are critically short of nurses, doctors, and other staff as coronavirus cases surge across the United States, according to the industry’s trade association and a tally conducted by STAT.

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