The gist: The Philadelphia region is averaging a record number of cases, prompting some hospitals to limit visitors and some schools districts to consider going remote. The winter surge comes as people reconcile coronavirus risks and virus fatigue, just as we’re set to celebrate a new year. Even if vaccinated and boosted, experts urge people to use caution this final holiday.

📪 Tell us: What’s a new tradition, holiday or otherwise, that you’ve made during the pandemic? Send us a note, and we’ll share some of the most interesting responses in next week’s newsletter. Please keep it to 35 words.

— Ximena Conde (@XimenaReports, health@inquirer.com)

Philly is averaging more new COVID-19 cases than at any other point in the pandemic

New coronavirus cases in Philadelphia, its suburbs, and South Jersey have hit record seven-day averages this month with the highly transmissible delta and omicron variants fueling the surge. Experts say we likely won’t know the full extent omicron has on area hospitals until mid-January, though promising research from other countries suggests the new variant is less likely to result in illness that leads to hospitalization.

What you need to know

😷 The CDC says people who have tested positive for the coronavirus but remain asymptomatic for five days can leave quarantine, so long as they use a mask for another five days.

🏥 FEMA “strike teams” coming to strained Pennsylvania hospitals and nursing homes.

🎒 The School District of Philadelphia plans to resume in-person learning Tuesday. But other districts are considering going virtual.

✈️ A surge in coronavirus cases among airline workers has hampered travel, though Philadelphia International Airport has been largely spared.

🤒 If you can’t find a coronavirus test, health officials say act as though you’re positive until you can find one if you’re experiencing symptoms. They also ask to avoid seeking tests at emergency rooms.

🧑‍⚕️ The Philly area’s mental health backlog persists nearly two years into the pandemic.

💉 Demand for boosters has been rising in the Philly suburbs, but many still haven’t received their third shots.

Local coronavirus numbers

📈 Coronavirus cases continue to trend upward throughout the region. Track the latest data here.

Helpful resources

What you’re saying

Last week, we asked how you’re navigating restaurants now. Here’s what you told us:

🍽️ “We have not eaten in a restaurant or any food places since March 2020. ... Yes we are all vaccinated and boosters but we still do not trust others.”

🥡 “Take-out only.”

🍳 “I’ve always considered dining out a lazy man’s vanity. I did it seldom before COVID & not at all since. Know what? The world didn’t come to an end.”

A dose of diversion: Restaurants opening in 2022

Whether you’re comfortable with a dine-in situation or prefer to grab a plate to go, Michael Klein’s 2022 preview has something for everyone.

🌽 A collective that is owned by immigrants and has South Philly ties provides corn for tortillas.

👗 Watch this 3-minute video of Philly fashion icon Joan Shepp who’s celebrating 50 years in business.

💍 An engagement ring lost, then found, thanks to the magic of McGillin’s Olde Ale House.

A good thing: Philly’s gonna Philly

We may be ending 2021 on uneven footing, but this year we sure had plenty to laugh, brag, and yell about. Here’s a top 10 list of the region’s weirdest moments. 🎉See ya here for more next year.

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