Skip Navigation

‘Sneaky’ virus demands tough restrictions, Gov. Wolf says

Cornavirus restrictions aren't going away soon

  • Joseph Darius Jaafari
A pedestrian walks past a boarded up Wine and Spirits store in Philadelphia, Friday, March 20, 2020.

 Matt Rourke / AP Photo

A pedestrian walks past a boarded up Wine and Spirits store in Philadelphia, Friday, March 20, 2020.

We’re into week 2 of coronavirus home confinement, Contexters. It’s hard to think that staying home to Netflix and chill is accomplishing much of anything, but the fact is that we’ll get through this mess faster if more people stay home and practice social distancing. As an extroverted millennial, this past week has been tough — I live and die by seeing people, going out, and spending my money on avocado toast. My secret to staying sane? I’ve been taking advantage of some serious online fitness. By the end of this, I’m gonna be so in shape. Tell us how you’re keeping your sanity. —Joseph Darius Jaafari, staff writer

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

A pedestrian walks past a boarded up Wine and Spirits store in Philadelphia, Friday, March 20, 2020. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf directed all “non-life-sustaining” businesses to close their physical locations late Thursday and said state government would begin to enforce the edict starting early Saturday. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

  • Gov. Tom Wolf issued a stay-at-home order for Philadelphia and its suburbs yesterday, as well as Allegheny County out west and Monroe County in the northeast. Our partner news site, Spotlight PA, has a story on what the order means. For parents, the short answer is: No school until the second week of April, at the earliest. PennLive breaks the order down as well.

  • Walking back a decision: The federal Bureau of Prisons said it would halt all inmate transfers into Pennsylvania facilities. Not but two weeks later, it’s gone back on that decision and passed the blame onto another federal agency. Inmate advocates, prison union officials and legislators are all saying the bureau is putting communities and inmates at risk. You can read my story here.

  • Peduto asks for more help: There’s been little forward movement on what is being done to help laid off employees and small businesses in the state. The slow motion is causing more anxiety as the first of the month comes up and rents are due. The Post-Gazette reports how Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is calling on federal relief for his city’s residents. Meanwhile, n the face of inaction, people in the gig economy, such as Uber drivers or food delivery workers, continue to put their lives at risk to make sure bills are paid. VICE reports that in other parts of the country, Uber drivers are simply sleeping in their cars.

  • Treatment challenge: What happens when coronavirus gets inside a substance abuse treatment center? Spotlight PA‘s Aneri Pattani reports that treatment centers are looking for solutions to the problem of quarantining addicts in their care. But it won’t be easy: “[T]reatment centers are not equipped like hospitals with negative pressure rooms that isolate the contaminated air from a sick individual. And even keeping certain rooms empty for quarantine could become challenging as the treatment facilities fill up.”

What’s happening across the nation:

  • Advise and consent and yell: It was a day of anger and emotion in the U.S. Senate on Monday, as Democrats again blocked a massive coronavirus bailout bill. Republicans say the delay is unconscionable, given the dire state of the economy. Democrats say the GOP cooked up a giant free lunch for big business at the expense of workers and failed to do much for the ailing health care system. The inquirer looks at what Pennsylvania’s senators — Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R) — have been saying about the bailout.

  • Checks and balancesPolitico reports this morning that negotiations over the bailout bill continued overnight and a deal could be close.

  • What Uncle Sam could do: In western Pa., Rep. Conor Lamb (D) is urging the Trump administration to invoke wartime powers under which the government would order factories to produce needed health care supplies. “The (federal) government could call up right now, and order billions of masks, and that would be an order of the size that would actually get these companies moving at a rate we need them at,” he said.

  • 15 Days: The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and David E. Sanger explain the discrepancy between public health officials’ calls for more strict measures, and the president’s take that the economy is being hurt because his administration is letting scientists manage the public health crisis.

  • No, they’re not doing that: Trump said last week that automakers are currently making ventilators to make up for the nation’s severe shortage. AP did a fact-check on that. Turns out, that’s not true at all. “No automaker is anywhere close to making medical gear such as ventilators and remain months away — if not longer. Nor do the car companies need the president’s permission to move forward.”

  • Who IS doing that? A small western Pa. company is helping fill the backlog of personal protective equipment for health care workers, the Post-Gazette reports.

Best of the rest

A police officer walks across an empty 7th Avenue in a sparsely populated Times Square due to COVID-19 concerns, Friday, March 20, 2020, in New York. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is ordering all workers in non-essential businesses to stay home and banning gatherings statewide. “Only essential businesses can have workers commuting to the job or on the job,” Cuomo said of an executive order he will sign Friday. Nonessential gatherings of individuals of any size or for any reason are canceled or postponed. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

  • The Great Empty: In a striking photo essay for The New York Times, we get a peek into some of the world’s most populated places, but much less populated. Seeing Times Square completely empty is something I’d never think I’d ever witness outside of an apocalypse movie.

  • Learning from past mistakes: It’s not just coronavirus. For The Atlantic, my friend Jim Downs, a history professor at Connecticut College, wrote about how America also was slow to react to past epidemics like AIDS. He writes: “The lesson of past outbreaks of infectious diseases is that public officials must take them seriously, communicate honestly, and tend to the most vulnerable. If the United States has not always lived up to that standard, we now have the perfect opportunity to apply the lessons of our past mistakes.”

  • A history of reforms, based on tragedy: Remember “The Jungle,” the Upton Sinclair muckraking novel that exposed the unsanitary and dangerous working conditions in meatpacking warehouses? (Refresher: workers would lose fingers and throw them in with the meat grinders.)  Or what about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire that killed 146 people in New York, mainly women? Those quality of life conditions in workplaces that resulted in deaths lead to some serious workplace reforms. TeenVogue asks, will coronavirus do the same for the workplace now?

  • Viral weapons: Yahoo! News reported on a Federal Protective Service report that described how alt-right / white supremacy groups are collectively trying to weaponize coronavirus against police and people of color. The agency said there were talks of leaving saliva on door handles, spitting on elavator buttons and focusing on “non-white neighborhoods.”

  • Chinese Americans and bigotry: Americans of Chinese heritage are expressing growing fear amid reports of targeted harassment from around the country. From the top of this story: “In interviews over the past week, nearly two dozen Asian-Americans across the country said they were afraid — to go grocery shopping, to travel alone on subways or buses, to let their children go outside. Many described being yelled at in public — a sudden spasm of hate that is reminiscent of the kind faced by Muslim-Americans and other Arabs and South Asians after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.”

Public health reads:

  • COVID-19’s young victims: To know what really happens inside hospital rooms, we need to speak with doctors. But, as many reporters have found out, it’s hard to get them on the record. What’s been especially difficult is showing how COVID-19 affects the young. ProPublica published a harrowing and jaw-dropping first-hand account of a doctor who explains what he’s seeing in his otherwise healthy and fit patients. See also this piece: The Covid-19 risks for different age groups, explained.

  • It takes time: From The InquirerWhy a coronavirus vaccine may take 18 months.

  • Media fail? A reddit user who specializes in technology UX made an interesting point on how we have failed to properly explain “social distancing.” He explains that, simply, public health officials and news outlets need to be clear. So, here is what the order means, generally: Stay home, but continue to go grocery shopping once a week. And let your dog out for walks.

  • Sex and the virus: Last week, the NYC Department of Health issued a warning that made Twitter do a collective double-take. One of the department’s recommendations? Practice onanism. The loneliness of coronavirus-isolation is going to cause people to seek out affection and company. As Them Magazine reported, queer people who use dating apps say the coronavirus has caused anxietyThe New York Times published an essay about people, ahem, turning to their phones for relief.

Subscribe to The Contextour weekday newsletter

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »

Support for WITF is provided by:

Become a WITF sponsor today »

Up Next

trusting news test