TL;DR: Congress is nearing the finish line on a second relief package that includes $600 stimulus checks, plus supplemental $300-a-week federal unemployment benefits if you’re not working. A 21-year-old Temple student contracted mild COVID-19 in October, but two months later, she was diagnosed with heart failure brought on by complications of coronavirus.

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

What you need to know:

📉 Pennsylvania is starting to see “a plateau” in its coronavirus surge, Secretary of Health Rachel Levine said Monday, while reiterating pleas urging Pennsylvanians to avoid gatherings and not to travel for the holidays.

💉 On live video Monday, President-elect Joe Biden received his first COVID-19 vaccine at Christiana Hospital in Newark, Del. “I’m doing this to demonstrate that people should be prepared, when it’s available, to take the vaccine,” he said.

🦠 Officials in the United Kingdom said a fast-spreading mutation of the coronavirus was identified, but American public health experts say the variant is not any more dangerous than others already detected in the United States.

🚚 Shipments of a second coronavirus vaccine, developed by Moderna, are set to arrive in Pennsylvania and New Jersey this week.

📚 The pandemic has had the biggest impact on economically disadvantaged school districts like Camden, where about 25% of students are not showing up for virtual classes. Principals wonder if their students are safe.

🧓🏽 A federal advisory panel recommended that people age 75 and older and essential workers like firefighters, teachers, and grocery store workers be next in line for COVID-19 vaccines.

🩺 Temple University and other area colleges say interest in medical school, nursing, and other public health-related fields are soaring as a result of the pandemic.

📰 What’s going on in your county or neighborhood? We organized recent coverage of the coronavirus pandemic by local counties and Philly neighborhoods mentioned in the stories to make it easier for you to find the info you care about.

Local coronavirus cases

📈The coronavirus has swept across the Philadelphia region and cases continue to mount. The Inquirer and Spotlight PA are compiling geographic data on tests conducted, cases confirmed, and deaths caused by the virus. Track the spread here.

Pandemic stimulus aid is on the way. Here’s what we know so far.

Congress is nearing the finish line on a second relief package with $600 stimulus checks, plus supplemental $300-a-week federal unemployment benefits if you’re not working. The same Americans who got stimulus checks in March should be eligible for this second round — individuals making less than $75,000 and married couples making less than $150,000 in adjusted gross income. Checks should go out a few weeks after President Donald Trump signs the relief bill. If you file taxes and receive refunds electronically or via direct deposit with the IRS, your stimulus money may arrive sooner. Read more here.

Temple student thought her COVID-19 was mild. Then came heart failure.

Maddie Neville, 21, contracted COVID-19 in October while living in an apartment off-campus near Temple University. She developed only mild symptoms — coughing, plus she couldn’t smell or taste anything. But over the next two months, her condition worsened. In December, doctors at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania diagnosed her with congestive heart failure brought on by complications of COVID-19. Neville shared her story to “serve as a reality check” to those complaining about wearing masks, shortened business hours, or other inconveniences because of the pandemic.

Helpful resources

You got this: Spread Christmas cheer

Despite a pandemic, it’s still the season of giving. When asking for examples of people helping others this holiday season, my colleague Erin McCarthy was bombarded with heartwarming requests and uplifting stories. Read how some Philadelphians are safely spreading cheer and why they say helping others is more important than ever this year.

🔓 From grocery stores to transit, pharmacies, and more, find out what’s open and what’s closed in the Philly area on Christmas Day.

💻 Two journalists debate: Are Zoom holidays an upgrade on family gatherings or obnoxious substitute?

🎅 For Philly families, there’s a sweet variety of things to do for Christmas week.

Have a social distancing tip or question to share? Let us know at health@inquirer.com and your input might be featured in a future edition of this newsletter.

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