Pa. coronavirus recovery: Philadelphia eclipses 25,000 cases

More than three months after the state began to shut down, Pa. is slowly returning to a new normal, but painful reminders of the outbreak’s toll remain.

A person wearing a protective face mask and gloves as a precaution against the coronavirus walks through Love Park, in Philadelphia, Monday, April 13, 2020. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

A person wearing a protective face mask and gloves as a precaution against the coronavirus walks through Love Park, in Philadelphia, Monday, April 13, 2020. (Matt Rourke/AP Photo)

Updated: 4:49 p.m.

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Philadelphia eclipses 25,000 cases

Philadelphia passed a somber milestone Monday as the city announced it has now confirmed more than 25,000 cases of COVID-19.

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“Some may think that the pandemic is no longer a big deal,” said Mayor Jim Kenney in a statement. “But passing this 25,000 mark is a sobering reminder that COVID-19 remains a serious threat.

Since the coronavirus outbreak began, 1,526 Philadelphians have died from the disease and 25,116 have contracted the illness. Kenney said the number of actual cases is likely higher than the number of confirmed cases.

However, the pace of new infections has slowed substantially since late April. Philadelphia logged 275 new cases over the weekend.

The city plans to move to the “green” phase of reopening on July 3. When it does, the city will allow indoor shopping malls, gyms, colleges, and restaurants to reopen — although social distancing protocols will limit customer capacity.

Over 18 billion paid in unemployment since pandemic began

Pennsylvania has paid out over $18 billion in unemployment compensation since March 15, the Department of Labor and Industry announced Monday.

Of that $18 billion, about half are payments made through the state’s normal unemployment compensation, said Jerry Oleksiak, Secretary of the Department of Labor and Industry. Another large chunk — $7.4 billion — has come through a federal program that allots an extra $600 per week to unemployed Americans. That federal program runs through July 25.

The sudden spike in unemployment claims back in March has caused bureaucratic headaches and backlogs. As of mid-June, Oleksiak said, over 90% of eligible claimants have received payments. His department has nearly doubled the number of staffers working at its service center in an attempt to clear the remaining claims and address lingering questions.

“We’re very proud of those numbers, but not satisfied,” said Oleksiak. “We still have work to do.”

Fashion District and other local malls to reopen soon

The company that owns the Fashion District — along with several other malls around the region — announced Monday that all of its sites will reopen soon.

PREIT — which runs Willow Grove Park, Springfield Mall, Plymouth Meeting Mall and Exton Square — said all of its suburban malls will open next Monday, June 29. The Fashion District — formerly known as the Gallery — will follow suit on July 3.

PREIT said in a press release that it will “make available masks for customers and will provide safety recommendations for shoppers and tenants.”

Retail spending increased dramatically from May to June as many parts of the country reopened businesses. Those increases, however, were not steep enough to make up for massive drops in spending during March and April, according to the Associated Press.

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Slow return to ‘normal’

More than three months after the state began to shut down, Pennsylvania is slowly returning to a new sense of normal.

Beginning Monday, the Philadelphia Parking Authority will again enforce metered-parking restrictions throughout the city. By this time next week, residential permit restrictions will be back in play.

On Sunday, SEPTA also reopened some subway stations along its Market-Frankford and Broad Street lines that were closed for long stretches during the pandemic. The reopened stations include the Tioga, Somerset, Dilworth Park and 2nd Street stations along the Market-Frankord Line — and the Spring Garden and Lombard-South stations on the Broad Street Line.

Still, painful reminders of the outbreak’s toll remain.

At 11 a.m., the Philadelphia Police Department will hold funeral services for Sgt. Jose M. Novoa, who died due to complications caused by COVID-19. The 62-year-old spent 27 years on the city’s police force and died in early June.

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Hospitalizations dropping in Montco

In another sign that the spread of COVID-19 has slowed in the Delaware Valley, Montgomery County has just 85 people hospitalized with the illness, officials announced Monday.

That’s “the lowest number seen to date since the pandemic began,” said Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.

Since the outbreak started, 781 county residents have succumbed to the illness. Of those 781, more than 80% were residents of long-term care facilities.

Montgomery County will enter the “green” phase of its reopening plan on Friday, another indicator that officials feel the virus has waned. Arkoosh warned, however, against complacency — citing rising case numbers in states that reopened four to six weeks ago. People should not, she stressed, view the green phase as a tacit suggestion that social distancing is unnecessary.

“COVID-19 is not over,” Arkoosh said. “Green does not mean going back to the old normal.”

Close to 500 new cases in Pa.

Pennsylvania announced 456 new, confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Monday, for a total of 82,186 cases.

That’s slightly more than the state added last Monday (339) and the Monday before (423).

The state has reported 6,426 deaths from COVID-19.

“As we move closer to having the entire state in the green phase, we must remain committed to protecting against COVID-19,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said in a statement.

Another twelve Pennsylvania counties are scheduled to enter the least restrictive “green” phase on Friday, although one of them, Philadelphia, will keep some local guidelines in place until July 3rd.

As of Monday, Philadelphia had 25,116 confirmed cases and 1,526 deaths.

Only Lebanon County has not been given the go-ahead by state officials to move to green. The Wolf administration cited rising case counts in Lebanon County, which it blamed on a “partisan” decision to reopen some businesses before the state gave its blessing.

Some Lebanon County officials have hit back, urging local leaders to defy state guidance and accusing the Wolf administration of political gamesmanship.

Bensalem casino plans to reopen

On the same day New Jersey announced plans to lift some restrictions on casinos, the Parx Casino in Bensalem said it will reopen on June 29.

The Bucks County casino said it will check the temperature of all guests — refusing entry to those with a temperature over 100.4 degrees. It will also require guests to wear masks and will close for six hours each weeknight — between 3 a.m. and 9 a.m. — for cleaning.

Bucks County is one of twelve Pennsylvania counties scheduled to enter the ”green” phase of reopening on Friday.

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