The gist: The virus continues to wreak havoc in our already-strained medical and education systems. Area schools and hospitals are facing staffing shortages as employees contract the illness and the unvaccinated continue to make up the majority of hospitalizations and deaths. Meanwhile, hospitals and schools are trying to prevent major interruptions to services while they wait for this winter surge to subside. Some officials are expressing hope that relief could be coming soon.

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COVID-19 strains continue, but Philly and N.J. officials say peak of the omicron surge could be near

The rate of coronavirus transmission has slightly dipped in Philadelphia and New Jersey, but it’s too soon to tell if we’ve reached the height of the winter surge. Health officials say there’s room for cautious optimism, but they’re not ruling out reaching an omicron peak as late as February in the region. Read more here on the latest surge.

What you need to know

🏫 Here’s an updated list of schools that have gone virtual in Philly and South Jersey.

🎒 Some schools districts in Philly suburbs are not requiring masks, despite recommendations from the CDC and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

🚌 The Biden administration is sending more COVID-19 tests to schools to keep them open.

📓 Area colleges are taking different approaches to coronavirus mitigation this semester.

🤒 A FEMA-run testing site is now open at Cibotti Recreation Center in Southwest Philadelphia.

📝 New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy reinstated a public health emergency but did not announce new restrictions.

💉 A vaccine deadline for Philly city workers is set for Friday, but thousands have yet to meet the mandate.

🏥 As more health-care workers contract the virus, one Delco emergency room will temporarily close on Friday.

💸 Insurers must cover up to eight at-home COVID-19 tests per month starting Saturday.

Local coronavirus numbers

📈 Coronavirus cases have dropped slightly in Philadelphia and New Jersey, while deaths continue to surge. Track the latest data here.

Helpful resources

A dose of diversion: A Philly icon says goodbye to the night owls

Nothing lasts forever, and after 40 years of being the face of late-night news on 6ABC, Jim Garder gave his final 11 p.m. dispatch Tuesday. Fret not, Gardner fans, you can catch the anchor delivering the 6 p.m. news before he completely retires in 2022 (and making a cameo in ABC comedy Abbott Elementary).

🍽️ Center City’s Restaurant Week is featuring outdoor dining and takeout through Jan. 21.

🐄 The Pennsylvania Farm Show returns with hooves, potatoes, and vaccines.

❤️ Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Here’s a list of ways you can safely volunteer this year.

A good thing: The show went on

After canceling its 2020 season, The Nutcracker came back in 2021 with significant success, selling 35,000 tickets. Of course, there were adjustments as orchestra members tested sick, but Philadelphia Ballet put on its 25 planned shows.

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