The gist: The rolling average of new coronavirus cases in Pennsylvania is climbing steadily as vaccinations plateau across much of the Philadelphia region. The fall surge was anticipated as summer ended and in-person school started, and cooler weather moves gatherings indoors, where the risk of transmission is greater. But high-risk groups are expected to become eligible for booster shots, providing an extra layer of protection, soon. Read on for the details, with our fresh new look.

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

COVID-19 booster shots coming soon to Pa. and N.J. for eligible groups

An FDA advisory panel voted unanimously Friday in favor of booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine eight months after a second dose for people who are 65 and older, who are immunocompromised, or who work in jobs that put them at high risk of exposure, including healthcare workers, emergency responders, and teachers. The group rejected giving shots to the general public. Here’s how Philadelphia-area health officials are preparing to distribute boosters, with official approval possible this week.

What you need to know:

🎒 Philadelphia health officials relaxed their guidance for when schools should temporarily shut down due to COVID-19 cases. Meanwhile, at least seven New Jersey schools have temporarily closed due to outbreaks.

😷 A deluge of requests for medical exemptions to school mask rules has led some Philly-area providers to push back.

👩‍⚕️ With new variants and cases spiking, many Philadelphia School District nurses say they are overburdened and lack critical supplies and adequate support to do their jobs.

🐒 A female ring-tailed lemur named Charlie became the first of 113 animals to receive a special vaccine against COVID-19 at the Philadelphia Zoo.

🏈 A West Philly football coach dedicated his life to his players. After his COVID-19 death, they’re dedicating their season to him.

💉 Employees of New Jersey childcare facilities must be vaccinated against the coronavirus by Nov. 1 or agree to weekly testing, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday.

🏥 The University of Pennsylvania Health System says 99% of its 38,000 employees have complied with its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, including about 760 who got exemptions for medical or religious reasons.

Local coronavirus numbers

📈 COVID-19 hospitalizations rose slightly in Philadelphia over the past week, but remain far below the levels experienced in December. Statewide, hospitalizations continue to rise. Track the latest data here.

Helpful resources

A dose of diversion: Peak peeping

Good news for leaf peepers: Veteran foliage trackers say thanks in part to all the moisture imported from the tropics by the remains of Fred, Henri, and Ida, the annual foliage show will prevail and could persist into early November in the Northeast. Recent trends argue for a late October peak around the Philadelphia region.

🚀 The force is with this father and son duo who record a Star Wars YouTube series and podcast in their King of Prussia home.

🍂 Goodbye summer, the autumnal equinox has arrived. Here’s what to know as Philly’s days grow shorter.

🍾 The PLCB is limiting sales of some alcohol. Here’s what to buy instead.

Enjoy getting our journalism through email? You can also sign up for The Inquirer Morning Newsletter to get the latest news, features, investigations and more sent straight to your inbox each morning Sunday-Friday. Sign up here.