March 09, 2020
The Philadelphia region has been battling the coronavirus since early March, when the first COVID-19 cases were reported in the area.
Here's a list of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey case totals and a timeline of response efforts, last updated at 8:15 a.m. on Friday, May 29.
Though most COVID-19 cases are mild, the virus has proven deadly, killing more than 355,000 people throughout the world. More than 10,000 Americans have died. The elderly and people with underlying health conditions are most at risk.
Coronavirus symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. They do not include a runny nose. The incubation period is 2-14 days.
Pennsylvania announced its first two coronavirus cases, including one in Delaware County, on Friday, March 6.
Philadelphia followed four days later. The news prompted the cancellation of the St. Patrick's Day parade. City and state officials steadily increased mitigation efforts and restrictions until all non-life-sustaining businesses were closed and the entire state was under a stay-at-home order.
Pennsylvania began easing restrictions in 24 counties in the northwest and north-central portions of the state on Friday, May 8. But a lot happened in the weeks beforehand.
Here's a timeline of events:
Bucks County announced its first cases on Tuesday, March 10.
On Wednesday, March 11, The University of Pennsylvania and West Chester University became the first colleges in the area to shift to online classes for the duration of the semester.
The mitigation efforts began in Montgomery County on Thursday, March 12, when Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all schools to close for two weeks and called on gyms, community centers and entertainment venues to close. The county had reported its first cases on Saturday, March 7 – and they quickly escalated.
Philadelphia reluctantly closed its schools on Friday, March 13 – shortly before Wolf announced that schools would close throughout the state. Philly officials had sought to keep their schools open, arguing that closing them would disrupt much of the city and that students were safer there. But closures in Montgomery and Delaware counties created staffing shortages within the School District of Philadelphia, forcing their hand.
Wolf also directed all Delaware County retailers to close. Chester County announced its first case on Friday, March 13.
Wolf called on all bars and restaurants to close in the four suburban Philly counties on Sunday, March 15. The next day, Philly ordered its bars and restaurants to do likewise – an hour before Wolf enacted the restrictions across Pennsylvania. Additionally, the University of Pennsylvania called off The Penn Relays for the first time in the event's 125-year history.
Penn Medicine opened the first two coronavirus testing sites in the region on Monday, March 16. Patients needed a doctor's referral to get tested.
Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania to close indefinitely on Thursday, March 19. Those that failed to comply faced fines, citations or license suspensions – the first time Wolf had put teeth behind his mitigation efforts.
Philadelphia officials opened the city's first public, drive-thru testing site– outside Citizens Bank Park. It was restricted to people older than 50 or health care workers, but a doctor's referral was not required.
Mayor Jim Kenney ordered residents to stay at home except for essential trips– like those to the grocery store or pharmacy – or essential work.
Montgomery County reported the first coronavirus-related death in Southeastern Pennsylvania on Sunday, March 22.
Rite Aid opened a drive-thru testing site for emergency responders and health care personnel in Philadelphia's West Oak Lane neighborhood on Monday, March 23. The city postponed the Broad Street Run until October. Gov. Tom Wolf placed all residents in the four suburban Philly counties under a stay-in-place order.
Pennsylvania officials put aside $50 million to be used to purchase medical equipment and supplies, including beds, ventilators and respirators, on Thursday, March 26. They said they expected a surge of coronavirus cases.
The next day, Philly officials announced plans to use Temple University's Liacouras Center as a makeshift hospital if city hospitals became overwhelmed.
Bucks County announced its first COVID-19-related death on Saturday, March 28.
On Monday, March 30, Wolf announced schools and non-life-sustaining businesses would remain closed indefinitely. He also extended his stay-in-place order, which grew to include 26 counties, to April 30. President Donald Trump declared Pennsylvania a major disaster, paving the way for additional federal funds.
Wolf placed the entire state under his stay-in-place order on Wednesday, April 1.
State health officials advised all residents to wear cloth masks in public in anticipation of new federal guidelines, which were announced later on Friday, April 3. The Philadelphia prison system announced it was supplying all inmates with masks and mostly restricting them to their cells to prevent COVID-19 spread.
Chester County announced it would begin offering COVID-19 antibody tests to workers on the front lines, becoming the first in Pennsylvania to do so, on Monday, April 6. Additionally, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania began enrolling patients in clinical trial evaluating the drug hydroxychloroquine as a potential COVID-19 treatment.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House COVID-19 task force coordinator, identified Philadelphia as a potential hotspot on Wednesday, April 7, but city officials reported a modest dip in new cases, a hopeful sign. Vice President Mike Pence urged Philly residents to practice social distancing "now more than ever." Wolf signed an executive order allowing state officials to redistribute personal protective equipment to hospitals.
On Thursday, April 9, Wolf announced schools would remain closed through the academic year.
In anticipation of a potential surged of hospitalized patients, Montgomery County officials said on Friday, April 10, that they would establish a temporary, 40-bed facility at Suburban Community Hospital in East Norriton Township. They also said the county's COVID-19 testing site would shift from Temple's Ambler campus to Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell. Wolf announced the creation of a $450 million loan program for financially-strapped hospitals.
Pennsylvania joined six other states, including New Jersey, in forming a multi-state council to develop a plan to reboot the Northeast economy while mitigating spread of the virus, on Monday, April 13. Kenney sent a letter to Congress asking for personal protective equipment and rapid COVID-19 tests.
Philly officials reported the first inmate death in the city's correctional facilities, on Tuesday, April 14.
Some Philadelphia hospitals neared capacity in their intensive care units on Wednesday, April 15, though ICUs across Southeastern Pennsylvania still had 27% of their beds available. Wolf ordered all Pennsylvania residents to begin wearing masks while shopping at grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses still open. He also expanded business safeguards – like temperature screenings – designed to protect essential workers.
Wolf announced the framework of his plan to reopen Pennsylvania on Friday, April 17, saying state officials would take a regional approach based on scientific evidence. But he offered no specific timetable.
On Monday, April 20, Wolf extended the statewide stay-at-home order through May 8, reiterating that reopening would occur on a regional basis. Pennsylvania also began offering curbside pickup at 176 state liquor stores – a test to determine whether similar arrangements could be safely conducted at retail outlets closed by his executive order.
Wolf unveiled a detailed version of his reopening plan on Wednesday, April 22. The three-phase plan would gradually relax business and social restrictions in regions where new COVID-19 cases fall below a certain threshold. But it appeared the Philadelphia region would likely be among the last to emerge from the stay-at-home order.
On Monday, April 27, Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said the city appeared to be 'past the peak' of the COVID-19 crisis, but stressed the city was a long way from hitting the case thresholds needed to reopen according to Wolf's plan. State officials gave hospitals the go-ahead to resume elective procedures and announced golf courses, marinas, guided fishing trips and privately-owned campgrounds could reopen beginning May 1.
Philly officials said the makeshift hospital at the Liacouras Center would close once its current patients recovered because city hospitals had the capacity to handle COVID-19 cases.
On Friday, May 1, Wolf announced that coronavirus-related restrictions would be eased in 24 counties located in northwest and north-central Pennsylvania beginning May 8.
Philadelphia made COVID-19 testing available to anyone with symptoms, greatly expanding the criteria for testing at its public site, on Monday, May 4. Testing previously was restricted to older residents and health care providers.
On Friday, May 8, Wolf formally extended his stay-at-home order through June 4, excluding the 24 counties that had begun moving through his reopening plan. He also announced another 13 counties, all in western Pennsylvania, would advance to the next phase on May 15. SEPTA announced it would resume most regular transit schedules beginning May 17 and 18.
Health officials rolled out a plan to make COVID-19 testing widespread at longterm care facilities, which had been hard hit by the coronavirus, on Tuesday, May 12.
The next day, health officials announced 1,200 doses of remdesivir, which had shown some effectiveness in treating COVID-19 patients, was being distributed to 51 hospitals. Philly officials announced there would be a sharp reduction in polling places for the June 2 primary. And School District of Philadelphia officials revealed plans for a virtual commencement ceremony.
Philadelphia marked a grim milestone on Thursday, May 14 – more than 1,000 people had died of COVID-19. CVS Health announced it would open five testing sites in Southeastern Pennsylvania as part of a national effort to ramp up testing.
Philly surpassed 20,000 coronavirus cases on Tuesday, May 19. Gov. Wolf urged Pennsylvanians to avoid going to the beach, despite their openings. The next day, he relaxed restrictions to permit some limited real estate activity. And, on Thursday, May 21, Wolf signed a bill permitting restaurants and bars to serve takeout cocktails amid the pandemic.
On Friday, May 22, Wolf announced Philadelphia and its four suburban counties would enter the yellow phase of his reopening plan. At that point, all 67 Pennsylvania counties will have exited the red phase. Seventeen counties are set to enter the green phase on May 29.
Philly lifted restrictions on food trucks on Tuesday, May 26, and also began permitting restaurants to conduct walk-up services. On Wednesday, May 27, Wolf gave the green light for restaurants to begin outdoor dining in the counties that advance to the yellow phase of his reopening plan. Still, Philly officials said outdoor dining may be delayed when it reaches the yellow stage on June 5.
New Jersey announced its first coronavirus case on Wednesday, March 4. Its total cases have grown rapidly since then.
Most of the state's cases are currently in North Jersey, which alongside New York City, is one of the hardest-hit areas in the United States.
Gov. Phil Murphy has ordered all residents to stay at home, a directive that requires all non-essential businesses to close and prohibits gatherings of any size. Restaurants and bars can remain open for takeout services. The order followed a series of social distancing efforts Murphy enacted in hopes of halting the spread of COVID-19.
The first South Jersey case, in Camden County, was announced Friday, March 6. Three days later, Princeton University became one of the first colleges in the United States to shift its classes exclusively online.
On Thursday, March 12, Murphy urged the cancellation of all gatherings greater than 250 people, including parades, concerts and sporting events. His decision came the day after the first NBA player tested positive for coronavirus, prompting the cancellation of the basketball season.
Murphy enacted an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew on Monday, March 16, urging residents to avoid travel between those hours. He ordered any schools that were still open to close and directed all gyms, race tracks and casinos to close. Murphy also banned gatherings of more than 50 people. The state's cases nearly doubled, jumping from 98 to 178.
On Thursday, March 19, Murphy instructed all personal care businesses that could not implement social distancing recommendations to close. That included barber shops, spas, hair salons and tattoo parlors.
Two days later, Murphy enacted the stay-at-home order that banned gatherings of any size.
Camden County reported the first death caused by COVID-19 in South Jersey on Sunday, March 22.
On Monday, March 23, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal pledged "serious legal consequences" for businesses and individuals that do not abide by the state's social distancing guidelines. That includes people hosting house parties. The Diocese of Camden called off all in-person Holy Week services.
Burlington County reported its first three deaths – all elderly residents of Laurel Brook Rehabilitation and Healthcare in Mount Laurel – on Wednesday, March 25. Murphy announced the state was opening three makeshift hospitals, including one at the Atlantic City Convention Center, to increase bed capacity. Additionally, Ocean City was among several Jersey Shore towns that closed its beaches.
President Donald Trump declared New Jersey a major disaster on Thursday, March 26, clearing the way for additional federal assistance. Murphy announced all schools would remain closed through at least April 17. Gloucester County reported its first coronavirus-related death.
Murphy announced on Monday, March 30, that New Jersey would receive 300 ventilators from the federal government's stockpile but insisted the state needed more. The state received additional shipments of ventilators and personal protective equipment later in the week.
On Saturday, April 4, Murphy gave counties and towns the authority to ban short-term rentals, a move aimed at protecting the Jersey Shore towns from an influx of people.
New Jersey received approval to use beds on the USNS Comfort, which initially offered relief to New York City hospitals, on Monday, April 6. Murphy said he was hopeful New Jersey had begun to flatten its curve, noting the increase in daily cases had become less steep.
Murphy ordered all state and county parks to close on Tuesday, April 7, because too many groups were gathering there.
On Wednesday, April 8, Murphy mandated that all residents wear masks or face coverings when shopping in retail stores. Businesses were directed to limit capacity to 50%. The state also halted non-essential construction projects.
Murphy provided some hopeful news on Thursday, April 9, saying New Jersey may be flattening its curve of infections. The rate that COVID-19 cases had been doubling has considerably slowed, but he warned of a long road ahead.
On Friday, April 10, New Jersey officials said they would release some nonviolent inmates who have high-risk of COVID-19 from state correctional facilities, a move that followed a similar release of inmates from county jails.
New Jersey joined six other states, including Pennsylvania, in forming a multi-state council to develop a plan to reboot the Northeast economy while mitigating spread of the virus on Monday, April 13.
Murphy sign legislation expanding the state's paid family leave law to include care of those with COVID-19 on Tuesday, April 14. Two new testing sites were getting underway in South Jersey – one in Gloucester County, another in Camden County.
On Thursday, April 16, Murphy extended school closures another four weeks. At the earliest, students would return to class after May 15, though he was not optimistic about that timeline.
New Jersey became the first state to issue emergency medical licenses to foreign doctors willing to assist its coronavirus relief efforts on Friday, April 17.
New COVID-19 cases showed signs of stabilizing on Monday, April 20, offering hope that its infection rate was flattening, Murphy said.
On Wednesday, April 22, Murphy claimed New Jersey would be forced to make "draconian cuts" to critical state programs without additional funding from the federal government.
New Jersey announced it would expand the saliva-based testing system developed by Rutgers University to its five developmental centers for adults with intellectual disabilities on Thursday, April 23. The COVID-19 testing system already was being used by health systems and testing sites. Murphy said state officials intend to expand its capacity to additional state workers and vulnerable residents.
On Monday, April 27, Murphy unveiled a six-point plan to reopen New Jersey, but he gave no firm timetable for it to begin. The plan called for sustained reduction in COVID-19 cases, expanded testing, more robust contact tracing, safe isolation spaces, a responsible economic restart and appropriate levels of personal protective equipment and medical supplies.
Murphy met with President Donald Trump at the White House on Thursday, April 30. Murphy told Trump that the state needed more than $20 billion in federal aid to stay afloat due to expenses stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. Murphy later announced that all inmates and prison staffers would receive COVID-19 testing.
After keeping the possibility of reopening schools open for weeks, Murphy announced they would remain closed through the academic year, on Monday, May. 4. In South Jersey, COVID-19 hospitalizations had begun to level off.
On Tuesday, May 5, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal launched an investigation into the way longterm care facilities handled the coronavirus outbreak, with the possibility of holding some people or facilities responsible for the massive amount of fatalities that have occurred within nursing homes. The next day, Murphy deployed 120 National Guard members to assist at longterm care facilities.
Some Shore towns, including Wildwood and Ocean City, had begun reopening beaches and boardwalks to limited activities on Friday, May 8. Murphy announced that two North Jersey testing sites would begin testing asymptomatic people.
On Tuesday, May 12, Murphy unveiled plans to hire 1,000 people as part of its a contact tracing program necessary to reopen the economy and described efforts to boost COVID-19 testing to 25,000 tests per day by July. The next day, he loosened rules on non-essential businesses, permitting them to soon begin offering curbside pickup services.
With Jersey shore towns expecting beaches to open by Memorial Day, Murphy ordered social distancing rules be put in place on beaches and boardwalks. They included limiting beach capacity and keeping amusement parks and arcades closed. Restaurants and bars were restricted to pickup and delivery options.
Murphy rolled out a multi-step reopening plan to gradually open businesses and expand social activities on Monday, May 18. The plan was a more detailed approach than the broader outline he released in late April, incrementally loosening restrictions on restaurants, personal care services and entertainment activities.
Auto dealerships and bike shops got the go-ahead to begin resuming in-person sales on Wednesday, May 20. Murphy relaxed social distancing restrictions to permit groups of less than 25 people to gather in outdoor settings.
As the end of May approached, New Jersey hit its goal of doubling COVID-19 testing capacityto at least 20,000 tests per day.