The gist: As new case counts continue to rise, we revisit the city’s mask mandate and look at whether Philly made the right call in rescinding it (again) four days after reinstating it. Plus, a new study has found that Center City is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels of jobs and foot traffic, but that recovery could be short-lived. And our city parks, it turns out, are underfunded compared to other major cities — a problem that has deepened amid the pandemic.

📥 Tell us: Are you worried about Philly’s rise in cases? Send us a note, and we’ll share some responses in next week’s newsletter. Please keep it to 35 words.

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— Nick Vadala (@njvadala, health@inquirer.com)

Philly’s COVID cases are up since the mask mandate ended. Did the city make the right call?

Since Philadelphia’s indoor mask mandate ended yet again late last month, COVID-19 case counts have steadily risen. Hospitalizations and deaths, however, have not gone up in lockstep with cases — a trend that is appearing not only in Philadelphia, but nationally. So, was ending the mask mandate after four days the correct decision? The city’s health department believes so, but for some experts, there’s still “a hold-your-breath sort of feeling.”

What you need to know

🪦 The World Health Organization says COVID-related deaths have risen to nearly 15 million globally, and 1 million in United States. Experts say the true toll may never be counted.

📈 Center City is almost back to pre-pandemic levels of jobs and downtown foot traffic — but the recovery could be short-lived.

🏞️ Philadelphia’s parks are underfunded compared with those in other major cities, according to a new report, a problem that was worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.

👪 More than 20 Philly child-care centers shut their doors for a day to demand local and federal leaders offer a lifeline to a struggling industry that has been heavily impacted by the pandemic.

Local coronavirus numbers

📈 Coronavirus cases are decreasing in Pennsylvania and increasing in New Jersey. Track the latest data here.

Helpful resources

What you're saying

Last week, we asked how your life is different at this point in the pandemic. Here’s what you told us:

👪 “The pandemic made me realize what was a want versus a need. I may have wanted to continue keeping things normal. I learned that I needed to keep myself and my family safe.”

🏫 “I retired from teaching because of poor HVAC and cleanliness in school buildings. Also, being older and taking care of nonagenarian parent makes me very cautious about being around others. And lonely.”

😢 “I lost my 48-year-old son to double pneumonia and COVID. This is how my life is different. He was the love of my life and I got a call from him on Thanksgiving, crying, because he was so sick. He had no prior issues and after that call, I could not get a hold of him because he was dying.”

🎓 “I have two boys. This week I am headed to my younger son’s college graduation. In 2020 my older son came home in March and his graduation was canceled in May.”

🦠 “I have a new habit: hand sanitizer. There’s a dispenser in every room and one in the car.”

A dose of diversion: A Philly mother helped others overcome struggles and buy a house. Then she did the same for herself.

Two months ago, Syrita Powers was facing eviction, unsure if she’d have to move her family — including three daughters with disabilities — into a homeless shelter. Last week, she sat in her new living room in West Philadelphia and shook her head in wonder: “Every morning, I wake up and pinch myself — this belongs to me,” she told the Inquirer. “I feel like we hit the lottery.”

🥯 In the mood for a good bagel? Here’s more than a baker’s dozen spots to check out for your next breakfast sandwich, flavorful schmear, or dose of classic lox.

🏀 The city currently has Sixers fever, and Adam Sandler is stepping it up with a new trailer for his latest movie, the Philly-filmed, basketball-centric Hustle — and there are quite a few 76ers in it, too.

🌿 Yes, marijuana is legal in New Jersey now. Unfortunately, you can’t (legally) bring it back to Pennsylvania with you. Here’s why.

A good thing: Ala Stanford hopes to bring Philly lessons across state lines

Ala Stanford, the founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, became the the U.S. Health and Human Services regional director for Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia late last month. Now, in that position, she hopes to use her expertise to make an even bigger impact than she could as a physician in Philly in the fight for equity in health care.