The gist: The list of coronavirus “variants of concern” keeps growing. These have one or more worrisome mutations that are suspected or known to increase transmission and disease severity. In the greater Philadelphia area — where vaccination has driven a steep decline in COVID-19 cases since the January peak — genetic sequencing suggests new infections are “all variants now,” University of Pennsylvania microbiologist Frederic Bushman said.

Experts see vaccination as the only hope for getting these variants under control yet fewer and fewer people are rolling up their sleeves. “My guess is it will come back in the fall in vaccine ‘deserts,’” Bushman said.

— Kelly O’Shea (@kelloshea, health@inquirer.com)

What you need to know:

🤩 Philadelphia gave doctors of color a starring role in six PSAs designed to boost the city’s vaccination rates, particularly among iBlack and Hispanic residents.

🏠 After being hospitalized for more than 200 days with COVID-19, 60-year-old Michael Santucci was welcomed home to cheers in his Fox Chase neighborhood.

🎓 Vaccination on college campuses remains a hot debate, with some mandating the shots for students, faculty and staff, while others aren’t requiring vaccines at all. One thing’s clear: another experiment is in the making.

📈 Another toll of the pandemic on kids: Researchers across the country are reporting that pediatric obesity and Type 2 diabetes have spiked, particularly among Black, Hispanic, and low-income children.

🧓🏼 Fall-related deaths among Pennsylvania seniors reached near-highs in 2020. Inactivity and isolation during the pandemic may have eroded seniors’ strength and overall health, making the situation even worse.

📰What’s going on in your county or neighborhood? We organize recent coverage of the pandemic by local counties and Philly neighborhoods to make it easier for you to find info you care about. Sign up here to get those local headlines sent directly to your inbox on Tuesdays and Thursdays

Local coronavirus numbers

📈The Inquirer and Spotlight PA are compiling geographic data on confirmed coronavirus cases, deaths caused by the virus, and vaccinations to curb the spread. Track the latest data here.

The coronavirus Delta variant is in the Philadelphia area

Since January, University of Pennsylvania microbiologist Frederic Bushman and his team have sequenced 1,651 respiratory samples from people who tested positive for COVID-19 in Pennsylvania and South Jersey, most of them patients of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. “The United Kingdom strain is dominant in our area, and the New York variant is the second most abundant,” Bushman told my colleague Marie McCullough. The worrisome Delta variant, which is more transmissible and predicted to become dominant in the United States within a few months, has been identified only four times in Bushman’s sequencing. “We’re just starting to see the Delta strain,” he said. “So it’s definitely here. I have to assume it’s widely seeded.”

How many people in Pa. got vaccinated and still got COVID-19? The state isn’t counting.

As other states report data that indicate nearly all their cases now are found in unvaccinated residents, the Pennsylvania Department of Health told The Inquirer it could not say what proportion of new coronavirus infections has occurred in those who aren’t immunized or what share of people hospitalized with the virus had been vaccinated. New Jersey, Delaware, and Philadelphia, which runs its pandemic response independently of the state, are tracking their cases. In all three places, more than 98% of recent cases have been in unvaccinated people. The findings support a growing national body of data that suggests nearly all severe coronavirus cases could be prevented if the whole country got vaccinated. Experts said this data could be key to persuading people who don’t feel an urgency to get vaccinated.

Helpful resources

You got this: Moving forward

If last year was characterized by connecting with each other even when we were supposed to remain apart, these powerful images by our staff photographers convey our region’s reopening and depict life now that we no longer have to have distance, six feet or otherwise. Here’s how we’re moving forward.

🏊 Waterslides, changing rooms, lap lanes: Here are the best pools in Philly to cool down this summer.

🇺🇸 Your ultimate 2021 July 4th guide to Philly.

🎆 But leave the pyrotechnics to the professionals: Fireworks injuries hit 20-year high during pandemic.

🦖 Animatronic dinosaurs and other fun kids events in Philly this week.

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