As the federal government rolls out coronavirus vaccines to states and cities in a phased vaccination programs, many people are wondering when they will be able to get the vaccine. Use this calculator to get an idea of when you might get a vaccination.
When Could I Get the Vaccine?
Answer the questions to calculate your risk profile and see where you fall in your county’s and state’s vaccine lineup. This estimate is based on a combination of vaccine rollout recommendations from the CDC and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
For a more detailed breakdown of who is included in each priority group, see this methodology.
Source: the Vaccine Allocation Planner for COVID-19 by Ariadne Labs and the Surgo Foundation
Interactive by Amy O’Kruk/NBC
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We plan to update this post as more information is released on the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.
Demand for coronavirus vaccines is high, but supply is still relatively low, leaving millions of Americans wondering when they can get their dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer products.
At the same time, logistical challenges and the holidays have led to a slow rollout and multiple states with doses in supply, not yet administering them to people. States and counties expect to increase their volume of doses administered in the coming weeks, and some have boosted their output already.
Still, after national leaders made promises of “warp speed,” many are anxious to get their shots, or at least prepare. But officials across our region say the average citizen will likely have to wait a few months.
“We know it’s difficult, I get many many emails a day, people really begging to get the vaccine, and I don’t blame them…,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said Monday. “Everybody will get vaccinated, we will have enough, it’s just a matter of time.”
Guiding the three states in our region – Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware – is the approach of the federal CDC, which breaks vaccination down into subgroups depending on their risk of spreading the virus, or of having serious illness or death. State and local governments are generally following the CDC’s suggested rollout, with some tweaks (bumping teachers further ahead in line, for example).
Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware have all focused on their highest-risk groups first, and officials in all three states say they’re still working their way through Phase 1A.
We’ve received several questions on our Facebook page and at our email address where we take questions, firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re answering some of the most common questions for you, and will refine this further as officials release more information on the rollout.
What’s my phase, and when is my turn?
As Philadelphia Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley pointed out last week, the CDC’s phases “are based on how we can maximize the number of lives we save.”
Across the country, health care workers are getting vaccinated first because of the high risk that comes from treating infected patients, and potentially spreading the virus to others. Nursing home patients are also in the first phase – because elderly people are at higher risk of death or serious illness.
Phase 1B includes frontline essential workers like first responders, who can contract the virus while out on a 911 call. Small groups of frontline essential workers are getting their vaccines now, but expect a larger push to vaccinate that group (which includes educators, U.S. Postal Service workers, grocery store workers, and more) in the coming weeks.
Leaders in our region say most people in Phase 1B will not receive a vaccine dose before late January or early February. Phase 1B includes people over 65 along with frontline essential workers, making it a large group. Depending on supply of doses, it will take longer to finish vaccinating this group. According to Delaware’s projected timeline for the vaccine distribution, phase 1B may not conclude until May.
Officials say they are able to start a next phase before another is finished.
Right now, it’s too early to give a specific date for when the general population will be vaccinated. Local officials are working with, in some cases, limited information from the federal government, limited doses, and difficulty projecting how many doses they’ll have at future dates.
“We have no idea how many doses we will receive on a weekly basis after January,” Farley said. “That uncertainty makes it very difficult for us to plan. Many people reasonably want to know when the vaccine will be available for them; it’s impossible for us to know when we don’t know how many doses we’re going to be getting.”
The size of the groups in your region varies by population. Check here to see your spot in line with our tool.
How do I make an appointment?
New Jersey already has a site for the general population to preregister, which you can access here. More than 1 million people in the Garden State have preregistered, Persichilli said Monday.
People who preregister will be notified when it’s time for them to make an appointment. The state asks for patience as the supply is still limited and priority is given to health care workers and first responders.
New Jersey health care workers and first responders can make an appointment right now at the facilities listed here.
Pennsylvania leaders are encouraging health care workers unaffiliated with hospitals to check for a vaccine provider here and make an appointment. The state’s map lists which providers have received dose shipments and which have not.
The group Philly Fighting COVID, which runs a mass vaccination site with the city health department, allows city residents to pre-register and get notified when it’s their turn for the vaccine.
Philadelphia residents can also sign up for a vaccination through the Black Doctors Consortium website or by calling 484-270-6200.
Delaware is reaching out to all health care workers who have not been vaccinated yet and will provide them with a link to reserve a spot. State officials said to expect more information in the coming weeks as they get ready to vaccinate wider populations.
“We do plan to make this super clear for people in the very near future,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the state’s Division of Public Health. “It’s not time yet for people over 65, but we promise that we will have instructions around those options.”
She suggested checking in with your primary care provider, who may be scheduled to receive vaccine doses.
What’s taking so long?
Health departments across our region have made similar statements regarding the number of vaccine doses they’ve received from the federal government so far. All have said in some form that their efforts will focus on health care workers and first responders until supply ramps up.
“We are excited that 1 million individuals have pre-registered for vaccination, and we don’t want to discourage anyone. But right now we have a situation where the demand is much greater than the supply,” New Jersey’s Persichilli said.
Officials have said there was lag time in getting vaccine facilities set up at first, and pauses due to the holidays. More facilities have come online in the new year, particularly as pharmacies working directly with the federal government established clinics at nursing homes.
Last month, we saw hospitals begin vaccinating their health care workers. Now the push is to finish out 1A and move more fully to 1B. Some states have been vaccinating first responders who are technically in 1B. But states in our region has moved onto the other key component of 1B: people over the age of 65.
Where will I be able to get a vaccine?
Many people are interested in mass vaccination sites, but officials have mentioned a wide variety of places where the vaccine will be offered. Pharmacies, general practitioners, even dentists may be able to provide the vaccine in the future, though their distribution of Pfizer doses will be limited if they don’t have access to ultracold storage.
New Jersey is distributing the vaccine at six mass vaccination sites, which are still for health care workers only. Here are the three in our area:
- Atlantic County: Atlantic City Convention Center
- Burlington County: Moorestown Mall
- Gloucester County: Rowan College of South Jersey, Sewell
Delaware has held vaccination clinics for health care workers and first responders only at its DMVs, and plans more on some weekends this month.
In Philly, a mass vaccination site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center is capable of vaccinating 1,200 people in one day. (The vaccine site is run by the health department and Philly Fighting COVID, and you can preregister for here or other sites to be announced at their website phillyfightingcovid.com.)
What’s the cost?
When it’s your turn to get the vaccine, you likely won’t pay anything.
Some locations may ask for an administration fee to cover their costs of running a facility. Insurance may cover this payment.
How many people have been vaccinated?
As of Tuesday, Jan. 12:
- In Pennsylvania, 281,305 first doses have been administered, and 30,172 people have received a second dose.
- In Philadelphia, a total of 50,529 people have received their first dose, and about 9,600 people have received their second dose.
- In Delaware, the state’s tracker shows 26,739 doses have been administered. Officials said this number was lower than the actual because several health care providers had issues sending numbers to the state’s DelVAX system. Rattay said the actual number could be 10,000 higher than what the tracker shows.
- According to Monday data from New Jersey, 199,293 people have received their first dose, and 14,984 people have received their second dose.
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NBC10 is one of dozens of news organizations producing BROKE in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push toward economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.
Home sale prices in Philadelphia rose dramatically in 2020, up nearly 13% overall and even moreso in neighborhoods not traditionally known for steep increases, according to the quarterly analysis by Drexel University economist Kevin Gillen.
In Southwest Philadelphia, for instance, average home prices rose 22% in the last year. In North Philadelphia, prices rose 17%. Outer neighborhoods far outpaced the city’s traditional areas for growth, like Center City, Fishtown and South Philadelphia.
“Historically speaking, every time I do this report, the greatest growth has been in Center City. The least growth has been farther away,” Gillen said of the city’s outer neighborhoods. “That growth has reversed. I’ve never seen appreciation in the outer neighborhoods as I’ve seen now.”
Still, taken as a whole, the 12% annual rise in home sale prices for the entire city outpaced the national average for American cities, and Gillen said he is impressed by the resilience of Philadelphia’s housing market during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re much more affordable than them. The New York, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles markets are very expensive already and they become less appealing, much so, during the pandemic,” he said of other large cities.
Two reasons fueling the skyhigh real estate prices are historically low inventory — the city usually has about 7,400 units on the market in any given month, but averaged about 2,500 in the last three months of 2020 — and still-low interest rates.
But the high prices that continued through the end of 2020, combined with already rising sales prices earlier in the pandemic year, have Gillen worried about the future.
There are several factors that give him pause:
- Real estate markets tend to rise in 5-7 year cycles, and the current cycle in Philadelphia is now in its ninth year.
- Sale prices that outpace increases to household income and a city’s population usually signal trouble ahead.
- The potential for a flood of foreclosures later this year after government-mandated moratoriums could dilute the overall housing market.
“I’m concerned that the price appreciation is not sustainable. Rising house prices can be a good or bad thing. If they are rising because fundamentals are improving, that’s a good thing,” Gillen said. “If house prices are going up, but incomes and population aren’t going up, then you’re either going to have a correction or you’re going to move to a permanent level of being a less affordable city.”
That latter outcome is what has happened in recent decades, most notably, in San Francisco and New York City.
“People won’t ever own homes or people will have to spend more of their income on housing,” Gillen said of the potential effect from rapidly rising home prices.
In West Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, the average home price went from $85,000 a year ago to about $120,000 in the newest survey.
It’s a stunning rise for a single year, particularly amid an unprecedented pandemic, Gillen said.
“Quite frankly, I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “If you asked me a year ago where the market would be today, I wouldn’t have predicted this.”
Million-dollar sales in Philadelphia also hit a record-high in the last three months of 2020, Gillen’s report found, joining a record-high for $1 million homes sold in the city’s suburbs the previous quarter. And the location of those sales in Philadelphia are more spread out than ever.
“I see them spreading out. If I showed you a map like that 5 years ago, they would be tighter in areas,” he said. “They’re a little more dispersed than they used to be.”
All told, it’s a seller’s market, and yet few homeowners appear willing to sell at the moment, Gillen said.
Realtors have told him that the small inventory may open up a bit as the coronavirus is tamed in the months ahead, and people are willing to let strangers and realtors into their homes to take a tour.
“If we hit that point by spring or summer, we could see inventory come up and restore some balance,” Gillen said.
A regulatory agency that’s responsible for the water supply of more than 13 million people in four Northeastern states voted Thursday to permanently ban natural gas drilling and fracking near a crucial waterway, asserting that gas development poses an unacceptable risk.
The Delaware River Basin Commission cited “significant immediate and long-term risks” from gas extraction, saying in a resolution that drillers have “adversely impacted surface-water and groundwater resources, including sources of drinking water, and have harmed aquatic life in some regions.”
The ban applies to two counties in Pennsylvania’s northeastern tip that are part of the nation’s largest gas field, the Marcellus Shale. Nearly 13,000 wells have been drilled elsewhere in the vast Marcellus formation, turning Pennsylvania into the nation’s No. 2 gas-producing state.
“The fracking ban in the Delaware River Basin is a momentous victory for public health, the environment, and against climate change,” said Kimberly Ong, an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Republican state lawmakers in Pennsylvania as well as a landowners group have filed lawsuits challenging the commission’s right to regulate gas development in the watershed. A lawyer for the GOP legislators accused the basin commission, which is controlled by Democrats, of trying to “game the system” by imposing a ban while the litigation is pending.
“Certainly my view is that DRBC took this step in direct reaction to what I presume is their fear about our lawsuit,” said the lawyer, Matt Haverstick. “I think the right thing for the DRBC to do would be to let the court actions play out, especially since it was content to do nothing for a decade.”
Thursday’s vote was 4-0, with the federal government’s representative abstaining. The other members of the commission are the governors of Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware, or their designees.
Drilling opponents have long contended that large-scale gas exploration could not be done safely so close to crucial waterways and renowned fisheries. The Delaware and its tributaries supply drinking water to Philadelphia, half the population of New York City and many other locales.
In making permanent a moratorium that had been in place since 2010, the commissioners said they worried about the possibility of uncontrolled methane migration through faults and fractures in the shale, surface spills of toxic fracking fluids and drilling wastewater, and well failures. Gas drillers have damaged at least 374 private water supplies since arriving in Pennsylvania more than a decade ago.
Business and industry groups condemned the ban as an affront to private property rights, and said it was foolhardy to constrain energy production, pointing to last week’s deadly blackout in Texas.
“It is quite clear the region and nation rely heavily on Pennsylvania’s resources to keep the lights on, and we must oppose any efforts to restrict the production and transmission of our natural resources,” said David Callahan, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group.
Industry officials pointed to studies by a neighboring regulatory agency, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission, that found no link between intensive gas drilling in the Marcellus and degradation of the watershed.
“There is no support to any claim that drilling results in widespread impacts to drinking water, rivers or groundwater,” said Gene Barr, chief executive of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry. “This was a political decision uninformed by science.”
Energy companies combine horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique that injects vast amounts of water, along with sand and chemicals, underground to break up the gas-bearing shale. The drilling methods spurred a U.S. production boom in shale gas and oil.
The basin commission had spent years developing environmental regulations for the gas industry before reversing course in 2017 and signaling it would enact a permanent ban.
Maya van Rossum, who leads the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, an environmental watchdog group, hailed Thursday’s vote as a “huge victory” but said more work remains.
The commissioners stripped out draft provisions that could have allowed the industry to draw water from the river and its tributaries for hydraulic fracturing outside the region, and to dispose of fracking wastewater within the Delaware watershed.
The commissioners, instead, ordered DRBC staff to develop separate regulations. Those regulations could turn into a prohibition, which is what environmentalists are pushing.
Conservation officials once estimated that gas companies had leased more than 300 square miles of Delaware River watershed land. The drillers have long since pulled up stakes because of the de facto ban, dismaying farmers and other landowners seeking a financial windfall.
A cargo of adorable cats and dogs escaping a cold snap in Southern states has touched down in Delaware, where the animals will hopefully soon find loving homes.
The first of what’s expected to be four groups of animals has already landed and includes cats and a nursing dog with her puppies from Georgia, the Delaware Humane Association said in a press release.
The DHA also expects to get more cats and dogs coming in from Virginia and Texas, after the animals were displaced due to a brutal snowstorm that gripped the region.
“DHA routinely rescues animals from high-traffic, open admissions shelters from across the country, and particularly focuses on animals who would otherwise be euthanized,” the group said.
The animals will undergo medical checks and behavioral screenings before they’re put up for adoption at the DHA’s Wilmington and Rehoboth Beach shelters.
A stretch of Roosevelt Boulevard in Northeast Philadelphia was closed in both directions late Friday morning into the afternoon after a box truck overturned and leaked oxygen.
The rollover caused the boulevard to shut down from Southampton to Comly roads. Drivers were advised to avoid the area before the crash was cleared around 1:30 p.m., NBC10 partner KYW Newsradio reported.
Fire, traffic and truck enforcement personnel were on the scene, Philadelphia Police Department spokesman Miguel Torres said.
A crash under an overpass on Interstate 95 had lanes closed and snarled traffic for hours in Center City Philadelphia on Friday.
The crash, which happened before the Washington Boulevard exit and near Interstate 676, caused five of the six lanes on I-95 to be shut down. Traffic was getting by on the far-right lane, but the crash caused a major backup from around 10:30 a.m. to shortly before 2:30 p.m.
A fire engine and multiple other emergency vehicles could be seen at the location. The cause of the crash was not immediately clear. Police did not immediately say if anyone was hurt.
Investigators are learning more about three suspects believed to have shot eight people in broad daylight last Wednesday near a bustling SEPTA hub.
Philadelphia Police on Friday released three new surveillance images depicting the suspects, who fired at least 18 shots that hit victims ranging from 17 years old to 71 years old.
“Only by the grace of God did everyone survive,” Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said in a news conference Friday. “…Let me be clear: this is not normal, and we should never allow ourselves to believe anything otherwise.”
Police also believe the men frequently drive an older-model blue Ford Explorer.
The men have not yet been identified. A $25,000 reward is available from the city and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive – if a tip leads to the arrest and conviction of a suspect or suspects.
One of the men was wearing a green mask and a dark-colored jacket with white stripes on its arms, and an emblem on the chest. The other two were wearing dark clothing.
“We know these males were brazen in shooting in Broad daylight on a crowded street,” a police news statement says. “Any information can be significant to the investigation.”
Information can be submitted to 911, 215-686-TIPS, calling Northwest Detectives directly at 215-686-3353, or submitting online at phillypolice.com.
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Philadelphia’s health department announced several changes to the city’s coronavirus restrictions Friday, potentially allowing fans at outdoor events and creating a path to fans in the stands for the Phillies’ home opener.
As of March 1, the city will follow Pennsylvania’s limits on events including 2500 people at outdoor sporting events at the largest stadiums. The maximum number of people is 500 at indoor sporting events, a number that includes staff and the players and may not allow for fans.
“Spectators will be allowed up to the state gathering limits…this is one step closer to us returning to normal,” Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said.
Farley said he still needs to have conversations with the city’s professional sports teams.
“They have proposed to have fans back in the stands. We have allowed that to the extent the state allows it,” Farley said. “If there’s more discussions to increase that number, they would have to get approval both from [the state] and from us.”
A statement from the Wells Fargo Center said fans would only be allowed in once Pennsylvania further lifts restrictions and the city followed suit. The venue is optimistic about fans returning in March.
Dining, theaters, stores, church
Other changes to restrictions will allow for more customers in stores, reopening senior centers, larger parties at outdoor restaurant tables.
Retail stores were previously limited to 10 customers per 1000 square feet. Now, they can allow up to 20 customers per 1000 square feet.
Senior centers can also reopen, but KN95 masks or double masks are required.
Religious services can now have 20% capacity, up from the previous limit of 10%.
Restaurants’ capacity for indoor dining will remain at 25%, or 50% with proper ventilation. But outdoor seating can now be for up to 6 people instead of the prior limit of 4 people, and there will no longer be a requirement that diners are from the same household.
And movie theaters can now serve food again, but groups must be no larger than 4 people.
Outdoor catered events are still allowed, with the maximum number of people boosted to 100, previously 50.
Indoor catered events are still prohibited. Farley said catered events are “the events we worry about the most” as they present high risk of spreading the virus, as people tend to mingle while eating and drinking, and thus not wearing masks.
“They interact, they move around, lots of potential exposures, many outbreaks have been associated with these settings,” Farley said.
Why ease coronavirus restrictions now?
“Philadelphia’s case rates are lower than the state as a whole and it’s been lower for awhile. And I’m optimistic about the fact that they’re falling and in addition to that, our vaccination rates are rising,” Farley said.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
A New Jersey man admitted Friday to coordinating a neo-Nazi group’s plot to vandalize two Midwestern synagogues and cause other damage across the country.
Richard Tobin, 19, of Brooklawn, pleaded guilty to conspiracy against rights, according to federal prosecutors in New Jersey. He faces up to 10 years in prison when he’s sentenced June 28.
Tobin admitted communicating online in September 2019 with other members of The Base, a neo-Nazi group, and directed them to vandalize synagogues in Michigan and Wisconsin. At the time, he told investigators that he had launched “Operation Kristallnacht,” a reference to the deadly pogrom in 1938 when Nazis looted and burned synagogues and Jewish-owned homes and stores in Germany.
Tobin also told FBI agents that he was “triggered by the state of the country” and recounted a time when he became enraged at seeing large crowds of Black people at a mall in Edison, New Jersey.
Tobin previously served as a volunteer firefighter, according to NJ.com.
During the brief plea hearing in federal court in Camden, New Jersey, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported, Tobin told U.S. District Judge Robert Kugler that he has undergone mental health treatment since his arrest in 2019, which has helped him manage his violent urges.
He said little else during the hearing, appearing via videoconference from his home, where he remains under house arrest until his sentencing.
When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, there’s no shortage of anxiety and confusion. For Beth Scolis, her concerns ramped up when she couldn’t get an appointment for her second dose.
Scolis and her husband got their first doses of the Moderna vaccine from 15toKnow in King of Prussia on January 20.
“It was smooth sailing. It was a well-oiled machine. You didn’t even have to get out of your car,” said Beth of her initial experience.
But scheduling the second dose hasn’t been so easy.
Her 42-day window for receiving the second shot, which is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is quickly approaching.
Scolis told NBC10 Responds, “We’re kind of feeling a little pressure because 15toKnow is stating that they don’t have the doses.”
The Challenge to Get the Vaccines
NBC10 Responds spoke with Mike Dershowitz, the CEO of 15toKnow.
“The challenge was that, you know, we’re dealing with a market that has a short supply of product and there’s a lot of demand. So every once in a while, a supply disruption is going to happen,” said Dershowitz.
He explained the company is working to get everyone their second dose as quickly as possible. 15toKnow said it’s counting on the state Department of Health to supply them with the vaccines.
Dershowitz said 15toKnow is contacting patients within 48 hours of when they can get shot number two.
“It’s going to be one of those situations where, hey, stay by your e-mail, stay by your text message. Because we send both emails and text. And when you get that appointment, you know, you’ve got to clear your calendar and come,” he said.
How Long Can You Wait?
NBC10 Responds asked Main Line Health’s interim Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Jon Stallkamp, about the second dose.
He said your vaccine will still be effective even if you have to wait beyond the CDC’s recommended 42-day window.
“If you’re at 45, I don’t think there’s really going to be much of a difference,” Stallkamp said. “The longer you wait, there may be some additional issues going forward, but if you get it within that next week, you should be totally fine.”
He believes we should see more vaccines become available in the next couple of weeks.
The CDC says if you go beyond the 42-day window there is no need to restart the vaccine series.
Two people were shot and taken to the hospital after a gunman opened fire in the parking lot of a Walmart in Lehigh County on Friday evening, police said.
The shooting occurred sometime after 7 p.m. outside the superstore on MacArthur Road in Whitehall Township, according to initial reports.
A tweet by Whitehall police a short time later said only that the shooting happened at the Walmart, and said a press conference might take place later.
“No further information will be released at this time as investigation is just starting,” police said.
The federal government is giving more than $8 million to two New Jersey towns to elevate flood-prone homes, including a Jersey Shore resort dealing with the effects of rising sea levels.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Friday said it approved more than $5 million for Fairfield in Essex County, and more than $3 million for Ocean City in Cape May County.
Elevating homes is one part of a many pronged approach vulnerable areas are employing in flood-prone areas. Other measures include constructing man-made and natural barriers, and buying out and razing buildings in areas that repeatedly flood.
“The elevation of flood-prone homes is an important part of New Jersey’s long-term resiliency efforts and provides families much-needed peace of mind,” said U.S. Sen. Cory Booker. “This federal investment will strengthen New Jersey communities, help mitigate against future disasters, and save lives.”
The Fairfield money will pay to elevate 22 homes, and the Ocean City funding will elevate seven multifamily buildings in the Ocean Aire Condominiums, totaling 52 units.
The money came from a grant application the city submitted in 2019 on behalf of the condominium association, Doug Bergen, an Ocean City spokesperson, said.
The units are all classified as “severe repetitive loss,” based on having flooded multiple times, he said.
Ocean City for decades has been dealing with flooding caused not only by coastal storms but also by rising sea levels.
From 2014 through 2025, the city will have spent more than $87 million on flood control and drainage projects.
It recently intensified an island-wide effort to improve drainage. That includes laying more drain pipes, building additional pumping stations, elevating roadways and sidewalks, and repairing bulkheads.
The city’s latest five-year plan will cost $25 million for six projects.
Elected to fight crime and weed out corruption, former District Attorney Seth Williams ended up on the other end of the law.
Williams served close to three years in federal prison, returning home last April.
Since then he’s been reengaging publicly, mostly through Twitter, speaking out against the city’s gun violence and need for criminal justice reform.
We sat down with Williams to discuss his crime, what he learned during his time behind bars, and why people should listen to him now.
“The lessons learned for me after June the 29th, 2017, I think have made me a much better person to talk with people about requisite changes, what’s necessary to be changed and transformative in our criminal justice system,” he said.
On that day in June 2017, Williams pleaded guilty to taking a trip to a resort in Punta Cana paid by a business owner. In return, according to the feds, the business owner asked Williams to help a friend avoid jail time.
It was one of 29 federal corruption charges.
“I accepted the responsibility. Pled to one count of violation of the Travel Act,” he said, referencing the official charge of travel and use of interstate facilities to promote and facilitate bribery.
As part of the plea deal, Williams admitted in court to the other 28 charges, which included other bribery charges, defrauding his mother’s nursing home, stealing from his campaign funds and using government vehicles for personal use.
But Williams still bristles at the bribery accusation.
“I wasn’t convicted of bribery, accepting bribes. But they are gifts, I should not have accepted. I should have reported all the gifts and I accept responsibility for that,” he said.
As an elected official, Williams had an obligation to report any gift worth more than $200.
“I recognize that I was living beyond my means, that that allowed me to make bad decisions. That I compounded those bad decisions with abusing alcohol,” he said. “And that I let down the citizens of Philadelphia.”
Seth Williams on Prison Life
In 2010, Seth Williams made history as Philadelphia’s first Black District Attorney. During his initial years in office, he had a number of successes, including helping reduce gun violence.
But his victories were wiped away in 2017 when he was locked up for corruption.
A federal judge sentenced him to five years in prison, shattering Williams’ political future. He had been previously talked about as a mayoral or U.S. Senate candidate.
“I flew on con air, handcuffed, the belly chain and leg irons on an airplane to Oklahoma City,” he said in an interview.
He was eventually transferred to a federal prison in West Virginia.
While he was in prison, Williams said he made some unlikely friends.
“You would think that this lawyer from Philadelphia has nothing in common with this meth dealer from Appalachia, where the reality is that, yes, we’re different in many ways. And he chose to numb himself from his problems in a different way than I did, but the underlying reasons and the root problems were the same,” he said.
Then there was S.K.
“A guy whose nickname was S.K. because he was a serial killer, but he just talked to me, gave me good advice,” he said.
Williams said he taught GED courses and classical poetry to other inmates.
He learned to play the saxophone and enrolled in a 13-month alcohol abuse treatment program, which allowed him to shave one year off his sentence.
“I had to learn healthier ways to deal with stress, healthier ways to deal with all of those issues,” he said.
Williams returned home last April.
He said he had a hard time finding a place to live and work.
“I couldn’t get an apartment because I have a felony record,” he said. “Many jobs I’m barred from trying to get, or people have problems with, because of a record.”
His first job after prison was stocking shelves overnight at a big box store.
Now, he’s working part-time at the Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network, using his professional experience and life behind bars to educate young people.
“The majority of what I do currently is with youth that are in diversionary programs and we have Zoom meetings and we try to talk to them. And so just a direct intervention,” he said.
He also has a little side gig as well: officiating weddings.
“I did a little online course and got certified,” he said. “It’s just a wonderful thing when people on a great day in your life, people are just happy just seeing people are happy.”
But he’s been garnering attention recently for his tweeting about gun violence and criminal justice.
“It would be wrong of me to see the level of gun violence that we see and not do something about it, to remain silent, despite me being a felon,” he said.
Seth Williams on Return to Civilian Life in Philly
Williams said that it’s a combination of being a former DA — especially during an era when the city’s homicides were at their lowest — and perspective he gained in prison that make him a credible voice on criminal justice reform.
“It took me to go to jail to really learn what I think are the ways that we have to go about preventing crime and reducing recidivism,” he said.
While in prison, he said he learned that locking people up isn’t the answer to preventing crime.
“Provide community based mental health care before people act out, not waiting for them to act out,” he said.
Williams says many of the people he met in prison lacked skills and ability to maintain legal employment.
“We have to do all that we can to teach people those work readiness skills, show up on time, conflict resolution, literacy skills, financial literacy skills,” he said. “It’s those types of things that make the difference.”
As district attorney, he sent to prison hundreds of people each year.
Now, he says he’s “ashamed” that he didn’t realize the collateral consequences of the criminal justice system.
In explaining that he didn’t know any better then, he quoted Maya Angelou: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
Williams is also working on his relationship with his family, particularly his daughters.
“They were hurt in ways that I can’t even imagine. And it breaks my heart,” he said. “I know the rest of my life, I’ll be trying to heal those relationships.”
His mother died in a nursing home shortly after he came back from prison. Because of COVID-19, he said he wasn’t able to see her in person but that they Facetimed.
“The nurses said, my mom said ‘Seth is home, he’s safe. I don’t need those, you know, life saving methods anymore. I know my little boy’s safe.’ And she died Tuesday, two days later,” he said.
He declined to go into detail about the charges he admitted to in court but now denies — that he defrauded his mom’s nursing home and took money meant for her, other than to say: “My mother knew the truth.”
“My mother knew what happened. And so my mother and I always had a wonderful relationship and she couldn’t wait till I got home.”
Williams plans to stick around Philly, his hometown and a place he says he loves.
He also has no plans to fade into the distance anytime soon. In fact, he is planning to write a book (the working title is Man of Conviction, he said) about his time as DA all the way through life behind bars.
He joked that if a movie is made about him, he wants Dwayne Johnson to play him.
But for now, he said his focus is crime prevention and criminal justice reform
“I can easily just go hide in a hole somewhere. Some people might like that,” he said. “But I think the best use of all that’s happened to me is to speak up and out about ways that we can help prevent crime.”
A Philadelphia man has been charged with robbery and kidnapping after police say he forced a postal worker into a mail truck and made her drive him around at gunpoint before he fled with several packages.
James Chandler, 54, was ordered to be detained until trial during a federal court appearance on Friday. A phone message left with attorneys at the Defender Association of Philadelphia was not returned.
The indictment alleges that Chandler robbed two uniformed postal workers in separate incidents in West Philadelphia on Jan. 11 and Feb. 4. During both incidents, he used a replica handgun to force the employees into their postal trucks and stole packages.
The kidnapping charge stems from the February incident, when authorities allege Chandler forced the postal worker at gunpoint to drive him for several blocks in her mail truck before stealing packages.
“While the carriers went about their job, delivering the many items that residents of the city depend upon, including medications, bills, benefits, and all the other items that help folks manage through this cold snowy winter and the pandemic a little easier, Mr. Chandler kidnaped them with what looked like a gun, and ransacked their postal trucks, looking for items he thought he could sell for a few dollars,” said Damon Wood, Postal Inspector in Charge of the Philadelphia Division.
The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison.
A Jersey City police officer was arrested for allegedly attempting to sexually assault a pair of underage girls after traveling over 100 miles to pick them up, state prosectors say.
Stephen Wilson, 34 and an officer of the Jersey City Police Department, was arrested Friday after driving to Atlantic City with the intention to pay other adults to gain access to two underage girls, a statement from prosecutors alleges.
Wilson was taken into custody in a parking lot where police say he allegedly agreed to meet up with the “adults who offered him access to the girls.”
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s office said the officer used an incest chat group where he made agreements to pay $200 to gain access to two girls, ages 10 and eight. Arresting officers recovered condoms and more than $500 in cash on Wilson.
Wilson faces charges for conspiracy to commit human trafficking, attempted aggravated sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child, prosecutors say. Pending his detention hearing, Wilson was being held in the Atlantic County Jail.
The investigation into the Jersey City officer was conducted by the New Jersey State Police, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations and the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice.
Attorney information for Wilson was not immediately known.
New Jersey’s recreational marijuana market is now voter approved and in effect under legislation signed last week by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy.
New Jersey residents voted by a 2-to-1 margin in November to join 14 other states and the District of Columbia with legal marijuana for recreational use. Only those 21 and older can legally possess and use the drug. But there are a lot of ins and outs to consider.
So what can you and can’t you do with marijuana?
Here’s a closer look at New Jersey’s emerging marijuana reality:
WHEN AND WHERE CAN I BUY MARIJUANA?
Nowhere just yet. Even though the laws Murphy signed took effect immediately, the new Cannabis Regulatory Commission has to set up rules and dole out licenses. All of that could take up to six months, according to the governor and industry experts.
SO WHAT’S LEGAL, THEN?
It’s no longer a violation of state law to have 6 ounces (170 grams) or less of marijuana or about three-fifths of an ounce (17 grams) of hashish. It’s not a crime any longer to be under the influence of marijuana or hashish, or to possess marijuana paraphernalia or to be in possession of it while operating a car. The state still has laws against driving under the influence of drugs.
WHAT IF I’M UNDER 21?
The first offense is a written warning. The law makes it clear that the person’s parent or guardian is not to be notified. The second offense is a written warning along with information on drug treatment services.
Police must provide a copy of the second warning to those under 18, along with a notice about the first offense as well.
The third offense carries a written warning again along with a referral to drug treatment services. Parents and guardians would also be notified of a third warning.
CAN I GROW MY OWN?
No. Home-grow was sought by advocates, but ultimately was left out of the final legislation. Murphy on Monday declined to back another measure that would authorize residents to grow the marijuana plant at home.
WHAT HAPPENS TO MY GUILTY PLEA OR VERDICT?
The decriminalization law Murphy signed assigns the Administrative Office of the Courts the task of vacating guilty verdicts, pleas and placements in diversionary programs in cases before Feb. 22, 2021, which was the day Murphy signed the legislation.
The law will also vacate convictions, remaining sentences, ongoing supervision or unpaid court fines for those convicted under previous law.
The attorney general’s office has a list online of the former crimes affected by decriminalization, including possession and being under the influence of marijuana.
WHAT IF MY CASE IS PENDING?
Prosecutors have to seek dismissals of any pending charges in cases involving the one-time crimes, under the attorney general’s guidance.
WHAT IS STILL ILLEGAL?
You can’t possess more than 6 ounces of marijuana in the state. If you do, it’s a fourth-degree crime, which could carry up to an 18-month sentence.
Distributing large amounts of marijuana is still criminal under New Jersey law.
Distributing 25 pounds (11 kilograms) or more of marijuana or 5 pounds (2.2 kilograms) or more of hashish is a first-degree crime, the most serious under state law. For distributing 5 pounds or more of marijuana or 1 pound (.5 kilograms) of hashish, you face second-degree charges. Distributing a pound of marijuana or 5 grams (.17 ounces) of hashish or less is a third-degree crime.
Sales of small amounts of marijuana — meaning an ounce or less — carry a written warning for the first offense. A second offense carries a court summons on the charge of a fourth-degree crime.
The City of Philadelphia on Saturday opened its third mass coronavirus vaccination clinic, with the aim of reaching traditionally underserved communities.
The newest clinic is located at the University of the Sciences in West Philadelphia, and the hope is to vaccinate as many as 500 people every Saturday. A second clinic at the same location is planned for when people need their second dose of vaccine.
“Getting the vaccine out to those at the highest risk is a top priority of the city, and we believe this clinic is yet another big step in helping provide easier access to vaccines to the residents right here in West Philadelphia and in the surrounding community,” Mayor Jim Kenney said Saturday during the unveiling of the University of the Sciences clinic.
The latest standing mass vaccination clinic is the third such clinic in Philadelphia. There are currently two others operating: one at the MLK Adult Center in North Philadelphia and another at the Community Academy of Philadelphia in Juniata.
Those who wish to get their shot must first fill out the city’s COVID-19 vaccine interest form to be contacted for an appointment.
Council member Jamie Gauthier, who represents much of West and Southwest Philadelphia, noted that communities of color have been disproportionately hurt by the virus and have received vaccines at a much lower rate than white communities in the city.
“Black and brown people have experienced mistreatment by the health care system over decades and have had less access to high quality health care, but it’s very important that we mobilize to get Black and Brown people in our city vaccinated,” she said.
As of Friday, the city had given a little more than 196,000 people their first shot and a little more than 96,000 people their second shot.
Another mass vaccine site, run by FEMA, is expected to open at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Centers City on March 3.
A man was shot in the hip but was able to walk down the street to a gas station for help in Philadelphia Saturday night, police said.
The 20-year-old man was shot once on the 2000 block of Kennedy Street in the Frankford neighborhood and then walked to an Exxon Mobile gas station on the corner of Torresdale and Harbison avenues around 11:40 p.m., Philadelphia police said.
Once there, police arrived and took the man to the hospital, where he was listed in stable condition.
Detectives could later be seen setting down various evidence markers in the area as multiple spent bullet casings lay on the ground.
Police did not immediately say what led to the shooting, and the suspect remained at large.
There are additional resources for people or communities that have endured gun violence in Philadelphia. Further information can be found here.
Four people were shot at an IHOP parking lot in Kent County, Delaware, early Sunday morning, police said.
The victims were shot at the IHOP location on S. Little Creek Road in Dover before being taken to the hospital, a Dover Police spokesman, Officer Hoffman, said. All were being treated for non-life-threatening injuries, he said.
Police did not immediately say what led up to the shooting or announce any arrests.
A woman was in critical condition after being stabbed in the head in West Philadelphia Sunday morning.
The woman was stabbed just before 2 a.m. on the 5500 block of Jefferson Street, in the Overbrook neighborhood, Philadelphia police said. She was taken to Mercy Catholic Medical Center for treatment.
Police said there was a large blood trail on the ground when they arrived, and they found bullet casings, as well. However, they didn’t get any reports of shooting victims.
It’s unclear what led to the stabbing. The suspect was still on the loose.
A man accused of having driven a teenage suspect away from a shooting at a bowling alley in Montgomery County that left one person dead and four others injured has been charged with hindering apprehension.
The Montgomery County district attorney’s office alleges that 20-year-old Raymir Johnson of Lansdowne was one of two men who accompanied the teenager on the evening of Feb. 20 as he entered Our Town Alley in East Norriton, which is about 23 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
Jamel Barnwell, 17, was charged earlier with murder, attempted murder and aggravated assault. Authorities allege that three minutes after he and the other two entered, they got into a fight with another group, and the youth pulled a firearm with an extended magazine from his jacket and began shooting.
Authorities said there there were about 50 to 75 people in the bowling alley at the time of the shooting, including several young children. The three suspects then fled, leaving behind three cell phones, one of which belonged to the suspect. A motive for the shooting remains under investigation.
Barnwell later turned himself in to police, accompanied by his parents, East Norriton Police Chief Brandon Pasquale told NBC10.
Prosecutors said Frank Wade, 29, of Philadelphia was found dead in the entrance to the bowling alley, which was formerly known as Facenda Whitaker Lanes. An autopsy the next day concluded that he died of multiple gunshot wounds and his death was ruled a homicide.
Syreeta Stanford told NBC10 she was Wade’s wife. She said he was a father and aspiring chef and that they had plans to open up a food truck together.
Four relatives of Wade — ages 19, 21, 26 and 31 — were wounded, but all were expected to recover.
Johnson was being held in lieu of $250,000 cash bail pending a March 8 preliminary hearing; a message was left Saturday for a county public defender representing him. The teenage defendant also has a separate preliminary hearing scheduled on that date.
A man has been arrested in a shooting in the parking lot of a Walmart store in the Lehigh Valley that killed a woman and wounded another person, authorities said.
Edward Joel Rosario-Jimenez, 23, was charged Sunday with criminal homicide, attempted criminal homicide and aggravated assault as well as a firearms offense, Lehigh County prosecutors and Whitehall Township police said.
Officers called to the Whitehall Township Walmart parking lot just before 7 p.m. Friday found two victims near a parked car with the engine still running. The county coroner’s office said the woman had one or more gunshot wounds to the body and was pronounced dead shortly after 7:30 p.m. Friday at Lehigh Valley Hospital Cedar Crest.
An autopsy is scheduled Monday. The woman’s name and other details weren’t released pending notification of relatives. No information was immediately available about the second victim.
Authorities said store surveillance video showed the victim’s vehicle arriving in an area of the merchandise pickup lot and within minutes a sport utility vehicle parking in front of that vehicle. A witness who told police she had gone to the parking lot to pick up her child, who is also the child of one of the shooting victims, said she and two other people arrived in the SUV, which was driven by the defendant.
The witness said the defendant got into an argument with one of the victims, and she heard gunshots and left in the SUV, but he remained in the lot, authorities said. Another witness reported seeing the defendant firing several gunshots at the victims. A handgun was found hidden in a snowbank nearby, authorities said.
A listed number for Rosario-Jiminez couldn’t be found Sunday; a message could not be left Sunday at at the county public defender’s office, which represented him in a previous case.
What to Know
- Irv Cross, the former NFL defensive back who became the first Black man to work full-time as a sports analyst on national television, died Sunday. He was 81.
- The Philadelphia Eagles, the team Cross spent his six of his nine NFL seasons with, said Cross’ son, Matthew, confirmed his father died near his home in Roseville, Minnesota.
- Cross joined CBS in 1971, becoming the first Black network sports show anchor.
Irv Cross, the former NFL defensive back who became the first Black man to work full-time as a sports analyst on national television, died Sunday. He was 81.
The Philadelphia Eagles, the team Cross spent his six of his nine NFL seasons with, said Cross’ son, Matthew, confirmed his father died near his home in Roseville, Minnesota. The cause of death was not provided.
“All of us at CBS Sports are saddened by the news of Irv Cross’ passing,” CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus said in a statement. “Irv was a pioneer who made significant contributions to the storied history and tradition of CBS Sports and, along with Phyllis George and Brent Musburger, set the standard for NFL pregame shows with `The NFL Today.’ He was a true gentleman and a trail blazer in the sports television industry and will be remembered for his accomplishments and the paths he paved for those who followed.”
From Hammond, Indiana, Cross starred in football and track and field at Northwestern. He was drafted in the seventh round by Philadelphia in 1961, was traded to the Los Angeles Rams in 1966 and returned to the Eagles in 1969 as a player coach for his final season.
The two-time Pro Bowl cornerback had 22 interceptions, 14 fumble recoveries, eight forced fumbles and a pair of defensive touchdowns. He also averaged 27.9 yards on kickoff returns and returned punts.
Cross joined CBS in 1971, becoming the first Black network sports show anchor. He left the network in 1994, and later served as athletic director at Idaho State and Macalester College in Minnesota. In 2009, he received the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award.
“Irv was one of the finest gentleman I’ve been with,” Musburger tweeted. “We met at Northwestern where Irv played both ways for Coach (Ara) Parseghian, He later became my go-to mainstay on the NFL TODAY. No one ever had a bad thing to say about Irv. He led the way for African Americans to host NFL and other sports shows. Rest in peace my friend.”
The eighth of 15 children, Cross is survived by wife Liz; children, Susan, Lisa, Matthew and Sarah; grandson Aiden; brothers Raymond, Teal and Sam; sisters Joan, Jackie, Julia, Pat, and Gwen.
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Philadelphia police are searching for a missing teen boy with mild autism.
Jalen Maxwell, 13, was last seen at his home in the Wissinoming section of the city on the 1700 block of Anchor Street on Friday at 6:45 a.m. He has been missing since then.
Jalen is a 5-foot-4 African American boy weighing 110 pounds with brown eyes and black hair. He was last seen wearing a green Children’s Place jacket with fur around the hood, red and black Adidas sneakers and a blue and black backpack with multiple zippers and pockets.
Jalen has mild autism, according to the principal of his school, St. Martin of Tours, and may not respond to strangers.
If you have any information on Jalen’s whereabouts, please call Northeast Detectives at 215-686-3153 or call 911.
Preparations for America’s 250th birthday party are well underway, and Pennsylvania’s planning commission is ahead of the crowd, the Philadelphia Business Journal reported.
The America 250 Foundation — the national organization handling the U.S. Semiquincentennial Celebration — on Friday announced its partnership with Pennsylvania’s planning arm, America250PA, reported PBJ.com. Pennsylvania is the first state to officially partner with the national organization.
Pennsylvania was also the first state to form its own 250th commission back in 2018. The America 250 Foundation is recommending that states and territories create commissions so they can begin planning for the nationwide birthday bash. The national organization has a goal for more than 100,000 programs to happen on the state and local levels during the celebration.
Though the Semiquincentennial won’t happen for nearly five years, the state is preparing for the potential tourism boom, said Cassandra Coleman, America250PA’s executive director. The celebration will help show not only the country, but the world, what Pennsylvania has to offer, she said.
PBJ.com talks to the chairman of the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission about this “incredible opportunity for Philadelphia.”
Teachers in New Jersey are being given access to doses of the coronavirus vaccine later this month.
On Monday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that Pre-K to 12th grade educators and support staff are among the next phase of workers who will become eligible for the vaccines on March 15.
Other groups also moving up in line to get access to the vaccine include child-care workers, transportation workers and others in public safety, the first-term Democrat said in a tweet.
More details are expected to be unveiled at Murphy’s 1 p.m. Monday COVID-19 news briefing. Click here for details on the state’s COVID-19 vaccine program.
The addition of teachers to the state’s vaccine program should extend to those working in colleges and universities, according to the group representing teachers in the state.
“The sooner educators are vaccinated, the sooner our entire state is safer,” New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) President Marie Blistan said in a news release following Murphy’s announcement. “We call on the administration to immediately extend that access to employees in higher education who are equally as exposed and equally as critical to fully reopening our state for in-person instruction.”
“At every level, New Jersey educators have worked tirelessly to educate our students and have advocated tirelessly to protect them and our communities throughout this pandemic by demanding high standards for health and safety,” Blistan continued while saying the NJEA will work with Murphy on vaccinating educators.
New Jersey has already administered more to 1.96 million vaccine doses, with more than 660,000 people having already gotten both doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. Health-care workers, first responders, older people and people with pre-existing conditions – including smokers – are among those currently qualified for vaccines in the Garden State.
Schools in New Jersey from the start of the school year have had the option of in-person, hybrid or entirely virtual education models. Vaccines could help in planning for in-person learning.
New Jersey has been loosening some coronavirus-related restrictions in recent weeks — including sporting events — as daily case counts and hospitalizations have been lower than earlier this year. To date, however, nearly 702,000 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed with PCR tests. Nearly 21,000 deaths are confirmed to be due to coronavirus-related complications.
A new zebra has arrived at a New Jersey zoo in hopes of coupling up with a lone stallion so that their species can continue on.
Lydia, a 1-1/2-year-old Grant’s Zebra, arrived at the Cape May County Zoo from the Como Park Zoo in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the Cape May Court House zoo announced Sunday.
The goal of adding Lydia to the herd is to get her to mate with Ziggy, a lone stallion, the zoo said in a news released.
“Programs, like the Species Survival Program (SSP) that the Cape May County Zoo participates in, are designed to optimize genetics through breeding and help ensure that these species won’t be threatened with extinction,” Dr. Alex Ernst, the zoo’s associate veterinarian, said.
Grant’s zebras are the smallest of the seven subspecies of African plains zebras, the zoo said. They have faced habitat loss and face population declines.
The zebras can grow to be hundreds of pounds and stand more than 4 feet tall.
What to Know
- Pennsylvania is easing restrictions on large gatherings and eliminating a quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers. State officials said Monday the changes take effect immediately and reflect a sustained slide in new COVID-19 cases.
- State officials say outdoor venues are now allowed to host events up to 20% of their maximum capacity, regardless of venue size. Indoor occupancy will be 15% of maximum capacity, regardless of venue size.
- For both indoor and outdoor events, venues must require masks and follow physical distancing guidelines.
More fans are being allowed in the stands as Pennsylvania eases coronavirus-related capacity restrictions on sports and other events.
Gov. Tom Wolf made the announcement expanding outdoor capacity to 20% and indoor capacity to 15% late Monday morning. The new rules apply for any size venue and apply to workers and attendees, Wolf said.
Mask wearing, physical distancing of 6 feet and proper hand hygiene are required as pert of the new measures.
Venues with fixed seating are also required to limit groups to 10 people from the same households, according to new health department guidelines.
On Friday, Philadelphia officials said it would allow events and gatherings to expand to state capacity, including sporting events.
Additionally, the state is doing away with a requirement that people who are traveling to Pennsylvania from another state, as well as Pennsylvania residents who are returning home from out of state, must test negative for the virus within 72 hours prior to arrival. Under the order, people who refused to be tested were required to quarantine for 14 days.
The changes take place immediately.
Wolf, a Democrat, said that decreases in daily cases, deaths and COVID-19 hospitalizations allowed for him to make the capacity changes.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel. COVID-19 cases are on the decline, and more are being vaccinated,” Wolf said. “Thank you for wearing masks, keeping your distance, planning for vaccines, and doing whatever it takes to slow the spread of COVID. Your actions are making a difference.”
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 933,000 confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported in Pennsylvania. More than 24,000 deaths have been reported. The number of daily cases, however, are down from the daily high less than three months ago.
Police are searching for three young men accused of brutally attacking and robbing a Norristown pizza shop owner.
Justin Cassidy, his brother Kevin Cassidy and Justin Croson, all 19 years of age, are each charged with robbery and assault. Justin Croson is also charged with aggravated assault.
Police said the three suspects robbed Mama Venezia’s Pizzeria on the 600 block of East Marshall Street, back on Feb. 19.
The owner, 56-year-old Ying Ngov, told NBC10 she was working at her business that night when she spotted the three young men looking into the pizza shop.
Two of the suspects went inside and stole a 12-pack and six-pack of beer, police said.
Ngov said she confronted the men who then surrounded her outside the shop. Surveillance video captured the men pushing her into a pile of snow and then onto the sidewalk.
The men then attack Ngov while she’s on the ground. The video shows a man trying to restrain one of the attackers. But no one checks on Ngov. The suspects then flee the scene.
Ngov told NBC10 she suffered bruising on her face.
“I just want them to be nice to everybody else,” Ngov said. “Don’t hurt the people like that.”
The Cassidy brothers are from Aston, Pennsylvania, while Croson is from Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania. If you have any information on their whereabouts, please call Detective CJ Leeds at 610-270-1476 or email NPDTips@norristown.org.
A few thousand Philadelphia public school students in kindergarten and first and second grades will return to in-person learning, starting Monday, March 8, city and school officials said today.
Superintendent William Hite Jr. described the initial return as the beginning of a way to “slowly phase in” in-person learning.
The in-person learning will be a hybrid model and will reopen classrooms for a portion of the school week at 53 city schools. Hite said the exact number of students returning March 8 is based on which students at the 53 schools signed up to be the first to return. He estimated it would be about 3,000.
Mayor Jim Kenney thanks teachers, school staff and administrators and an appointed mediator for drawing up the reopening plans that all sides, including teachers, have agreed on, he said at the announcement.
Kenney said the on-and-off-again reopening plans for roughly 9,000 students that played out over the last couple weeks was “very frustrating for parents and other caregivers.”
The city teachers’ union was the main antagonist in the battle with Hite and his administration over the reopening plan. The number of students is now going to be a third of that initial 9,000 that the district wanted to bring back, Hite said.
“We’re thrilled to get to this point,” Hite said, adding that he hopes that the return of the first 3,000 students will prove to other families that kids can return safely.
There is still a long way to go for the deficit-laden school district to get all students back in classrooms. One of the biggest issues is getting proper air ventilation systems in all buildings and classrooms.
Photos of window fans inserted into classrooms that were supposed to be the equipment for air circulation spread quickly on social media ahead of the district’s initial reopening date in February. Those photos caused an uproar within the teaching ranks, and caused two postponements of planned reopenings.
In the time during the scuttled reopenings, the city and school administrations prioritized teachers for receiving coronavirus vaccines, which also helped improve relations to the point of getting an agreed-upon return for the 3,000 students.
Hite said the district has put in place a plan to reopen more schools each Monday moving forward, with the hope that all students in kindergarten and first and second grades will return to in-person learning in a hybrid model by the end of March.
An NBC10 Investigators report last week found that the full-virtual learning approach in place in Philadelphia so far this school year has disproportionately hurt students of color.
Philadelphia tracks its attendance by measuring against 95% average attendance, which the district and others consider good attendance. In October 2019, a little more than 77% of white students met the 95% attendance goal. In October 2020, white students had actually improved their attendance to nearly 80%.
In October 2019, about 69% of Black and Hispanic students met the good attendance mark, but those numbers dropped to about 58% and 59%, respectively, in October 2020.
Experts say having an average attendance below 90% can be detrimental – potentially impacting reading level and increasing the chances that students fail classes and don’t graduating high school.
“The impact is going to be pretty, pretty grave when we look at who has been making progress this year and who hasn’t,” said Margie Wakelin, an attorney with the Pennsylvania Education Law Center.
A Philadelphia police officer and a detective are both recovering after they were injured during an altercation with a man at the Police and Fire Federal Credit Union.
The incident occurred Monday at 2:25 p.m. at the PFFCU building on 7500 Castor Avenue. Police said a man inside the building was under the influence of drugs and refusing to leave. A 2nd District Officer and a detective assigned to the Major Crimes Unit were both injured while responding to the man.
Both officers were taken to Frankford-Torresdale Hospital. The 2nd District officer is in stable condition and expected to be treated and released. The detective was placed under observation and is also expected to be treated and released.
The man was later apprehended and arrested. Police have not yet revealed his identity.
A man died after his car plunged into the Darby Creek at the Ridley Township Marina Monday afternoon.
The vehicle went into the water on 401 Swarthmore Avenue in Ridley Park. SkyForce10 was over the scene as crews worked to rescue the man trapped inside the vehicle.
The crews eventually pulled the car out of the water and a man was taken out of the vehicle. He was later pronounced dead. Officials have not yet revealed his identity or the cause of the crash.
Revised PA restrictions are one step toward fans at Sixers, Flyers games originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf on Monday announced revised COVID-19 restrictions that could clear a path toward fans attending games at Wells Fargo Center.
Wolf announced that the revised restrictions will allow for 20 percent of maximum occupancy at outdoor events and 15 percent of maximum occupancy at indoor events, provided at least six feet of distance can be maintained between all attendees and employees.
If the city of Philadelphia also was to ease restrictions, then it could open the door for the Sixers and Flyers to host fans for the first time since last March. Philadelphia health commissioner Thomas Farley said last month that the city was likely to ease attendance limits in March. He noted Philadelphia’s event limits cannot be less restrictive than the state’s.
A source told NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jordan Hall that, when fans are permitted to return, the official number will be determined by the arena, Sixers and Flyers.
Though the allowed maximum capacity for Wells Fargo Center increased last week from 250 to 500 people, that change did not immediately lead to the arena welcoming fans. In a statement, the arena said that more than 500 employees would be required to accommodate the return of fans.
COVID-19 has had a major impact on both the Sixers’ and Flyers’ seasons. The Flyers had four games postponed in February after multiple COVID-19 cases on the team, while the Sixers were shorthanded for several games in January after Seth Curry tested positive.
The same is very much true of the United States, where approximately 510,000 people have died from COVID-19, according to the CDC.
Before the NBA All-Star break, the Sixers have games at Wells Fargo Center Monday and Wednesday against the Pacers and Jazz, respectively. The Flyers will play three games in Pittsburgh before returning to Philadelphia on March 7 for a matchup with the Capitals.
Following approval from Wolf, the Penguins announced that they will reopen PPG Paints Arena at 15 percent capacity and have fans in attendance for Tuesday’s game against the Flyers.
A police officer in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, was justified in shooting and killing a man armed with a sword on the street in February, the county district attorney said Monday.
Upper Perk police were called shortly after 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9 by a relative who said a man armed with a sword was threatening to harm others in Pennsburg, a borough in northwestern Montgomery County, authorities said.
Officers found Trey Bartholemew, 27, of Pennsburg, with “a samurai-type sword” who ignored commands to drop the weapon and charged, after which an officer fired, prosecutors said.
A 23-inch sword was recovered next to Bartholemew, police said.
District Attorney Kevin Steele said Monday the shooting was a lawful use of force. He said police were told that the man had threatened to kill anyone he encountered, and the evidence after he encountered an officer was “that he tried to do just that.”
Steele said the officer acted to put a stop to a lethal threat, and the facts “support the use of deadly force.”
New Jersey school districts must incorporate instruction on diversity and inclusion under a bill Gov. Phil Murphy signed Monday.
The legislation goes into effect immediately, but calls for beginning in the 2021-2022 school year.
The bill aims to promote and highlight diversity, including economic, gender, sexual orientation and race.
The state’s education commissioner will give the state’s 600-plus districts sample activities and resources aimed at promoting diversity and inclusion.
The measures’ sponsors called it a “natural next stop” to promote diversity.
“Schools in New Jersey reflect the rich diversity of our state,” said the sponsors, Democratic state lawmakers Carol Murphy, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson and Anthony Verrelli, in a statement. “In health and physical education classes, students are taught to respect their individual and cultural differences to build healthy relationships both in and out of the classroom. The natural next step is to promote diversity, tolerance and respect for all. These are values students will take with them long after they graduate.”
What to Know
- Judge Esther Salas lost her 20-year-old son and her husband was gravely wounded when a gunman stormed into their New Jersey home over the summer and opened fire
- Federal authorities say disgruntled attorney Roy Den Hollander committed the attack before dying by suicide
- Following the attack, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a new law aimed at protecting judges’ personal information from being publicly accessible
The New Jersey federal judge who lost her son and saw her husband gravely wounded in a shooting ambush by a disgruntled attorney has returned to work.
Judge Esther Salas had vowed to use her personal tragedy to motivate her further to be the best judge and person she can be. She was back on the bench Monday, nearly eight months after a gunman named Roy Den Hollander, a “men’s rights” lawyer and frequent litigant, shot her husband Mark and son Daniel Anderl at their North Brunswick home.
Salas recalled that she was in the basement on July 19, talking to her 20-year-old son when the doorbell rang.
“Before I could tell him, ‘Let Dad handle it,’ he shot up the stairs,” Salas said in an exclusive interview with “Good Morning America” last year. “The next thing I hear is, ‘Boom!’ and then ‘No!”
Salas recounted hearing a series of gunshots and ran upstairs. She says she saw her son, lying perpendicular to the door holding his chest; her husband was on his hands and knees at the porch, after having crawled in an effort to get the license plate. Her husband screamed to call 911. She says she did that, then lifted her son’s shirt and saw the bullet hole that killed him. Authorities said Hollander was pretending to be a delivery driver.
Later investigators revealed Hollander had killed another lawyer in California days before the ambush in New Jersey. He was found dead by suicide the next day, with a list of what authorities believe were potential targets, including other judges. In a recent interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” Salas said Hollander also targeted Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
In the weeks after the shooting, Salas called for increased privacy for federal judges. She spoke out forcefully and heartfully, saying her son’s death would not be in vain.
Daniel’s Law, signed by Democratic New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy last year, imposes penalties on anyone who publishes personal identifying information such as home addresses or phone numbers for active and former federal, state, county and municipal judges and their family members, as well as prosecutors and law enforcement officers.
Similar legislation had been proposed in Congress that would apply nationwide. It failed to pass the Senate in December, but could be reintroduced this year.
What to Know
- The chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court plans to relinquish that title to a colleague in a few months but stay on the court until his full retirement at year’s end.
- Chief Justice Thomas Saylor said Monday the position of chief justice will be filled by Justice Max Baer on April 1.
- Voters will pick a replacement for Saylor later this year in a statewide election. Baer will become chief justice because Saylor’s departure will make him the court’s senior jurist.
The chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said Monday he will relinquish that title to a colleague in a few months but stay on the court until his full retirement at year’s end.
Chief Justice Thomas Saylor said the position of chief justice will be filled by Justice Max Baer on April 1.
Saylor has been the chief justice for six years. The court currently has a 5-2 Democratic majority, with Saylor and Justice Sallie Mundy the two Republicans.
Voters will pick a replacement for Saylor later this year in a statewide election. Baer will become chief justice because Saylor’s departure will make him the court’s senior jurist.
Baer, 73, a Democrat and former Allegheny County judge, was first elected to the state high court in 2003. He will hit mandatory retirement at the end of next year.
Saylor, 74, a resident of Camp Hill, has been on the court for 23 years, writing an estimated 400 main opinions.
Saylor was born in Meyersdale and has worked as a Somerset County prosecutor, for the attorney general’s office and in private practice. He was elected to state Superior Court in 1993.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s $44.8 billion budget proposal, unveiled last week, is a boon for labor and public sector pensioners, thousands of middle class residents and schools across the state.
Though, the spending plan must first go through the Democrat-led Legislature before it becomes law, the governor’s proposal by and large sets the boundaries for discussion. At nearly 9% bigger than the previous year, it represents a doubling down on Murphy’s commitment to use taxpayer dollars to fuel the state’s economy, which has been devastated by the COVID-19 outbreak.
To Republicans, it’s an obvious election year play, boosting funding as a way to build support for the governor’s reelection prospects. It’s also unaffordable, they contend, taking particular exception to borrowing of about $4 billion during the current fiscal year.
For Murphy, it’s hardly out of character. Since the 2017 campaign, he’s promised to increase public pension and school funding as a way to make good on years of missed payments by governors of both political parties, financed by higher taxes on the wealthy.
The budget is a political flash point, but it also a policy instrument that distributes billions of dollars to millions of people across the state.
The current fiscal year ends on June 30. Lawmakers are expected to begin holding public hearings on the governor’s proposal as soon as this month.
A closer look at some winners and losers under the first-term governor’s latest proposal.
TAX CREDITS AND REBATES
Nearly 800,000 residents will be getting up to a $500 tax rebate under the budget. That is poised to happen whether there’s an agreement between lawmakers and Murphy last year over raising taxes on those making more than $1 million a year.
Under the deal, couples making up to $150,000 a year with at least one dependent child would get back up to $500. The threshold for individual filers is $75,000 a year.
The child and dependent care tax credit threshold, currently capped at $60,000, would climb to $150,000 under the budget.
About 70,000 families currently get the credit. That would climb by 80,000 under the governor’s spending plan. The average value of the credit would climb by $110 for poorer families, reaching nearly $300. At the higher end of the income spectrum, the credit is estimated to be worth less than $100, according to budget documents.
PENSION PAYMENT BOOST
New Jersey’s public worker pension plan has been underfunded for decades, but lawmakers and former Gov. Chris Christie began a ramped-up payment plan. Murphy wants to supercharge that plan and reach full payment a year early under the budget.
The payment would climb by $1.6 billion over the current fiscal year. The payment doesn’t translate to a boost in pensions for retirees. But it meets what actuaries have determined is the amount the state must pay to carry its share of the cost of pension payments to hundreds of thousands of retirees.
Schools would get nearly $600 million more in funding, or a nearly 7% increase. Murphy’s predecessor declined to budget for the state’s school funding formula. Murphy estimated that led to about $9 billion over eight years. Murphy hasn’t closed the gap, but he’s arguing that boosting funding is better than keeping in flat. He’s also pitching school funding as property tax relief.
While state funding for schools has slowed the growth rate of local property taxes, they’re still up to an average of more than $9,000 a year—among the highest in the nation.
Murphy is seeking to keep NJ Transit fares flat — meaning no hike for riders — for a fourth year. Despite the fare hike, the governor’s proposal seeks to use $100 million from the transit agency’s capital budget to fund operations, a long-standing raid that goes back years. The governor had said he wanted find a dedicated source for NJ Transit, but this budget does not stablish one.
What to Know
- The Berks County Residential Center used by the U.S. government to detain asylum-seeking immigrants has released several families and is no longer holding children and parents. That’s according to activists and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.
- The facility outside Reading, Pennsylvania, was one of three family detention centers in the U.S. that held children and parents who are seeking asylum or who entered the country illegally.
- Activists have long called for the detention center’s closure.
A Pennsylvania facility used by the U.S. government to detain asylum-seeking immigrants has released several families and is no longer holding children and parents, according to activists and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.
The Berks County Residential Center outside Reading was one of three family detention centers in the U.S. that held children and parents who are seeking asylum or who entered the country illegally. Activists have long called for the detention center’s closure.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed Monday that no one is in custody at the facility.
Some 25 people, including 15 children, in seven or eight families were released last week, according to Bridget Cambria, executive director of the group Aldea, which represents families at the detention center in Leesport.
“They were released to their families in every corner of the United States where they were received with love, care and support and where they will continue their immigration process,” Cambria said.
The county-operated facility in Leesport, about 65 miles northwest of Philadelphia, has been under contract with immigration authorities since 2001.
Immigrant rights groups have long demanded an end to family detention, alleging medical neglect and other abuses. At one point, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services refused to renew the center’s license.
Casey, D-Pa., tweeted that he is “pleased that all the families held on the Berks detention facility have been released. This is a long overdue step to deliver justice to vulnerable migrant families, including children.”
What to Know
- Philadelphia and federal officials marked the opening of FEMA’s coronavirus vaccine site at the Pennsylvania Convention Center Tuesday.
- The site opens to the public for anyone in the 1A or 1B phases of Philadelphia’s vaccine rollout plan.
- Mayor Jim Kenney called out anyone who signed up for a vaccine after links were shared but don’t qualify, at this point. “Don’t try to jump the line and have some self respect… people who you are jumping the line on are old and sick and may die as a result of it,” the Democrat said.
As Philadelphia’s FEMA mass coronavirus vaccination site started giving out doses, the City warned that not everyone who signed up online would get a dose after some people jumped the line.
After links to the vaccine sign-up site were shared Monday among people who didn’t meet the qualifications for vaccination, at this point, the Philadelphia Health Department said that anyone not in the 1A or 1B groups, or who doesn’t live in Philadelphia, would have their appointment canceled.
The 1A group includes health care workers at a high-risk for exposure. The 1B group includes people 75 years or older, people with high-risk medical conditions, those who live in congregate settings, first responders and essential workers in public transit, child care, food service and other jobs.
Not everyone using the sign-up site said it was clear if they had met the criteria. Mayor Jim Kenney said Tuesday that it is up to people to “examine your conscience” and not jump ahead of others who need the vaccine more. He said the city is working on an IT solution to prevent ineligible people from using public sign-up links in the future.
Kenney joined Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and other officials for a tour of the facility Tuesday morning.
Mayorkas said the site should bring equitable access to those needed. “Your socio-economic status, race or your immigration status should not impact your ability to get vaccine,” he said.
FEMA last week revealed details about the operation of the coronavirus vaccination site, which opens to the public Wednesday at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Some eligible city, state and federal workers identified as frontline or essential were getting their vaccines already on Tuesday.
The vaccination site — which is set to run seven days a week for at least the next eight weeks — will run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., supported by uniformed military. The U.S. Army is coordinating and helping FEMA with the site.
This is a Tier 1 vaccination site, which can administer up to 6,000 shots per day. It will receive doses directly from federal supply, separate from the city’s allocation that’s spread out to pharmacies, health centers, and more. A Tier 2 site, which FEMA says can handle up to 3,000 vaccinations per day, opened in Juniata Park.
The city’s health department is scheduling appointments for the Convention Center site with people who filled out the vaccine interest form at phila.gov/vaccineinterest – or called 311 for assistance getting signed up.
The clinic will not take walk-ins or anyone without a scheduled appointment. The health department may give you an appointment at the mass site, or spot administering vaccines in the city.
The site will have on-site Spanish and American Sign Language translators, and signage in five total non-English languages. Interpreters for other language are available on-call.
U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection will not have enforcement at the site, according to FEMA.
Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said the Convention Center — where a previous site run by Philly Fighting COVID earlier gave out doses — was selected as a location because of its proximity to public transit and parking garages.
He said the groups selected for vaccines at the Convention Center will be “oversampled” from undervaccinated neighborhoods. At the beginning of vaccinating in Philly, many doses went to health care workers who live outside the city.
A racial disparity in the people who have received the vaccine has lessened since January but does not reflect the proportions of the city’s population overall.
Philadelphia will again loosen its coronavirus restrictions to allow for more capacity at indoor and outdoor events including sports games.
In a news release, the Wells Fargo Center said fans will be welcomed back to games beginning Sunday, March 7. The arena expects to host about 3100 fans for Flyers and Sixers games, NBC Sports Philadelphia reports.
Fans at the Wells Fargo Center will be expected to wear masks, answer a health assessment questionnaire and follow social distancing rules and other safety measures.
Philly’s change in restrictions came a day after Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration upped capacity limits in the state.
Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said the city is working with sports teams on this, but the rule change allowing more fans is “effective immediately.”
Farley said he met with managers in charge of Wells Fargo Center and Citizens Bank Park discussing their social distancing protocols, how the venues would enforce mask use.
The 76ers said the team is “looking forward to the return of 76ers fans to the building as we continue our quest toward an NBA title.”
The Flyers’ website indicates tickets will be first allocated to season ticket holders. Tickets will only be available in pods of two or four.
The Phillies say 8,800 fans will be welcomed at Citizens Bank Park under the restrictions – the home opener is in a month.
“The increasing number of cases in the region are absolutely a reason to be concerned,” Farley said during his announcement Tuesday. “We have not vaccinated enough people yet for the entire community to be protected against this epidemic.” He recommended continued masking and avoiding indoor social gatherings. Any social gatherings should be outdoors with masks to be safe, he said.
Last week, Farley explained that the city can’t be less restrictive than the state. The city only could match what state limits on gatherings allow.
“They have proposed to have fans back in the stands. We have allowed that to the extent the state allows it,” Farley said Feb. 26. “If there’s more discussions to increase that number, they would have to get approval both from [the state] and from us.”
The Sixers will conclude their first-half schedule with a game Wednesday vs. the Jazz. Their next home game is a March 14 matchup with the Spurs.
Citizens Bank Park has a capacity of approximately 43,000 for Phillies games. The team’s home opener is scheduled for April 1 against the Braves.
NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Noah Levick contributed to this story.
A man died after he was struck by a hit-and-run vehicle and then run over by a second vehicle that fled the scene in Philadelphia over the weekend.
On Saturday, at 11:52 p.m., a man was standing in the middle of the road near the 4700 block of 5th Street when he was struck by a red SUV that was traveling southbound.
The impact knocked the man to the roadway and he was run over by a silver vehicle that was traveling northbound.
The red SUV fled south on 5th Street while the silver vehicle continued northbound.
The first hit-and-run vehicle is a newer model red SUV, possibly a Toyota, that should have damage to the left side mirror.
The second vehicle is a two-door silver Honda Civic with a sunroof and possible damage to the left front headlight as well as old damage to the right side.
If you have any information on the crash or the whereabouts of the drivers and vehicles, please call the Accident Investigation Division at 215-685-3180 or 3181.
What to Know
- Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday that teachers will receive doses of the newly approved one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, under a plan his administration will release on Wednesday.
- He gave few details, but said he and a bipartisan legislative task force agreed that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should be set aside for teachers and then other workers considered to be essential, but who are not included in the first vaccination phase.
- State officials expect 94,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to arrive this week as school districts face pressure to bring students back to classrooms for in-person instruction.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday that teachers will receive doses of the newly approved one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, under a plan his administration will release.
In a news conference on a separate topic, Wolf said his administration’s plan will be released Wednesday.
He gave few details, but said he and a bipartisan legislative task force agreed that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine should be set aside for teachers and then other workers considered to be essential, but who are not included in the first vaccination phase.
“There’s some really important front-line workers who I think and I think the task force believes, on a bipartisan basis, should be included in that, like teachers and, not too far down the road, like child care workers, and police, and fire, grocery store workers, bus drivers,” Wolf said.
State officials expect 94,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to arrive this week as school districts face pressure to bring students back to classrooms for in-person instruction. Education groups say vaccinating school staff is an “absolutely essential” step toward reopening schools and keeping them open.
The state is still in Phase 1A of its vaccine plan, offering the shots to people age 65 and over and younger people with high-risk medical conditions — a population that numbers around 4 million.
Teachers currently are grouped in Phase 1B.
Photos of children dressed in blackface while wearing shirts that had “Black Lives Matter” written on the back during the Jewish holiday of Purim has sparked anger in a New Jersey community.
Children typically dress up as historical characters to celebrate the day commemorating the survival of the Jewish community in ancient Persia. However, the costumes — complete with Afro wigs — worn by what appeared to be four children in Lakewood has left many looking for answers as to why this happened.
“Listen, that took some effort. For you to have in dashikis, Afro wigs and blackface, that took effort,” Ocean County NAACP President Fred Rush said of the photos taken Friday.
A woman who lives in the town, which has a significant Jewish population, said she took the photos and posted them to Facebook. Rush drove over to the location where they were taken to see for himself, and talked to the parents to mention how the costumes made him feel.
“I just said this is offensive, and I would hope you would take the time to teach your kids because it’s offensive not only to me but to a lot of people,” he said. Rush added that the parents said they understood his objections, but it wasn’t clear if they had the children change.
The incident caused enough of a disturbance to force a virtual school board meeting on the subject. Michael Inzelbuch is the general council for Lakewood, and said that being Jewish, he understood why the children were dressed up for the holiday. But he said that he didn’t know the identities of the children involved or if they were from Lakewood, and made no excuses for having them dress that way.
“It’s unacceptable and we cant have something, even if it’s just one, or two, or three or four (kids) — we can’t have something, it shouldn’t happen at all,” Inzelbuch said.
While no one has been trying to defend the costumes, all seeming to agree that they were offensive and should never be worn again — especially to celebrate a holiday — the question that remains is: How can it be ensured that it doesn’t happen again?
Rush said it all comes down to education.
“Teach your kids, let them know what they do today could be offensive to other people. That’s what I do with my kids,” he said.
What to Know
- Pennsylvania’s Republican Party has expressed its disapproval of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey over his vote to convict Donald Trump during the former president’s second impeachment trial, but stopped short of issuing a more serious, albeit still symbolic, censure.
- Vote-counting wrapped up late Monday night, 128-124, with 13 abstaining, to approve a statement expressing disappointment with Toomey.
- Toomey’s vote and his earlier assessment that Trump had committed “impeachable offenses” in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol set off a wave of pro-Trump county party condemnations of Toomey.
Pennsylvania’s Republican Party has expressed its disapproval of U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey over his vote to convict Donald Trump during the former president’s second impeachment trial, while stopping short of issuing the more serious — albeit still symbolic — censure that some members had pushed for.
The vote counting wrapped up late Monday night, completing a five-hour remote video meeting last week that had to be continued because of technical problems, state committee members said.
The vote count was 128-124, with 13 abstaining, to approve a statement expressing disappointment with fellow Republican Toomey, but not a censure, state committee members said.
Toomey’s vote to convict — and his earlier assessment that Trump had committed “impeachable offenses” in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol — set off a wave of pro-Trump county party condemnations of Toomey in Pennsylvania.
A censure vote is a symbolic gesture that would have had no real effect on Toomey, who announced in October that he will not run again for office. Toomey appeared on the meeting call last week to defend himself — and Trump supporter U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, who showed up to defend the senator — but Toomey has not publicly backed down from his vote.
The state party brass have remained silent publicly about the meeting, and have yet to release any information about it.
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine became the 12th vaccine worldwide to gain approval, and the third in the United States to gain emergency authorization use on Americans seeking vaccination.
Unlike the other two already approved in the U.S., the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the J&J “Janssen adenovirus-replication-deficient COVID-19 vaccine” only take one shot to gain effectiveness at holding off serious illness by the coronavirus.
The secret ingredient is the adenovirus, which is a virus that causes the common cold. However, in the vaccine, it has been “inactivated.” More specifically, the adenovirus is called Adenovirus 26 and is of human origin, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Other vaccines already being used in other counties, including the Sputnik 5 in Russia, already uses Adenovirus 26, CHOP said in a blog post about the new vaccine last month. Meanwhile, still other vaccines, like one currently being used in India, uses Adenovirus 5. (Sputnik 5 also uses Adenovirus 5 as well as Adenovirus 26.)
Here’s how the Adenovirus 26 is used in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to J&J:
“It uses an adenovirus — a type of virus that causes the common cold, which has been inactivated — to carry a gene from the coronavirus into human cells. The cells then produce coronavirus proteins (not the virus itself) to mimic the virus, which helps prime the immune system to fight off later infection in the body encounters the coronavirus.”
The J&J vaccine received emergency authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last weekend, and federal health officials said the expectation was to have 3-4 million doses of it sent to states this week.
A Pennsylvania health official told reporters Tuesday that the state has yet to receive any J&J doses. She declined to give more details at the press conference about the rollout of the new vaccine to counties throughout the state, saying only that more information about the new vaccine would be available “later this week.”
The effectiveness of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is not as high as the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, according to clinical trials. Those are roughly 95% and 85% effective against severe illness caused by the coronavirus.
J&J tested its single-dose option in 44,000 adults in the U.S., Latin America and South Africa. Different mutated versions of the virus are circulating in different countries, and the FDA analysis cautioned that it’s not clear how well the vaccine works against each variant. But J&J previously announced the vaccine worked better in the U.S. — 72% effective against moderate to severe COVID-19, compared with 66% in Latin America and 57% in South Africa.
While that efficacy rate is not as high as Pfizer’s or Moderna’s, it is still generally higher than the seasonal influenza vaccine, according to experts.
Some advocates for equality among those receiving the vaccine are hopeful the one-shot vaccine will allow for local pharmacies to get involved in the vaccination process and reach more communities.
Meanwhile, fellow pharmaceutical giant and J&J’s rival, Merck, agreed in an unusual move to help Johnson and Johnson produce its vaccine. The agreement was facilitated by President Joe Biden’s administration, and will help speed up the rollout of the vaccine.
50.7 million people, or 15.3% of the U.S. population, have received at lease one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the CDC, while 25.5 million people have completed their vaccination, or 7.7% of the population.
According to data through March 1 from the COVID Tracking Project, the seven-day rolling positivity rate for testing in the U.S. went from 5.6 on Feb. 15 to 4.4 on Monday.
The Associated Press contributed reporting to this story.
Gene Connell, a SEPTA worker who supplies bus mechanics with equipment, erected a plastic barrier around the storeroom where he works to protect him from the coronavirus.
But his manager told him to take it down, Connell told NBC10 Investigators.
The SEPTA employee was one of 1,000s to file a COVID-19-related complaint, whether it was to managers where they work or by citizens with the City of Philadelphia’s 311 system between July and December last year, according to a review by the NBC10 Investigators.
“The six feet of social distancing wasn’t being enforced. The mask wearing wasn’t being enforced,” Connell said in an interview. He filed his complaint directly to SEPTA. “I’m not the Covid police, but who is? Who’s going to step in and enforce these policies so we can all go home to our families safely.”
SEPTA Deputy General Manager Scott Bauer said it’s his job to make sure all transit agency employees are following the rules.
“You’ll always find people who push it – who skirt the rules on all sides. Not just employees but managers too,” he said. “My job when I see those things is to correct them and I do.”
Nearly 2,000 complaints came into Philadelphia’s 311 system, which for years has been the place to send complaints and concerns in the city, that were related to the coronavirus. Many of them came from within the very buildings that house city workers.
Many other complaints involved SEPTA riders and employees.
The 311 system was set up to take concerns and issues from citizens and funnel those complaints to the correct city department that handles whatever type of issue is brought up in a 311 complaint.
From sanitation workers to emergency dispatchers, city workers shared grievances with their workplace situations during the pandemic.
Some of the complaints logged, according to the review by NBC10 Investigators include:
- Sanitation staff at the department’s headquarters for “not wearing masks.”
- Employees at the city’s Municipal Building across from the City Hall complaining of “positive cases” and that “the building is not properly cleaned and is always without soap.”
- Employees at the city District Attorney’s Office claiming there is “no regular cleaning or wiping down of high touch areas”; “no hand sanitizer for the general public”; and “ventilation is nonexistent in the waiting room.”
Deputy Mayor Rich Lazor said the city has paid $4.3 million for COVID-19-related cleaning and PPE in city buildings, and that he responds immediately to any concerns brought to his office’s attention.
“If there’s an issue that pops up, someone doesn’t have proper PPE or something’s an issue, we jump on it quickly,” Lazor said.