The gist: This week, we’re featuring the stories of five medical professionals who have continued their longtime health-care careers throughout the pandemic, despite enormous challenges. Plus, in South Jersey, a spike of cases is being fueled by a new omicron subvariant — news that comes as a federal officials warns that while COVID-19 treatments are plentiful, it may not always be that way.

📥 Tell us: How can we help prevent health-care worker burnout? 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)

5 medical professionals on why they stay as hospital workers flee post-COVID

Throughout the pandemic, the news has been full of stories of medical professionals walking away from their longtime careers due to fatigue, grief, and disillusionment. But many have stayed at the hospitals where they work. Here are five of their stories, and why they kept working, despite the challenges they face.

What you need to know

🦠 South Jersey is seeing a spike in cases due to BA. 2.12.1, a new omicron subvariant, which has yet to become dominant in other areas of the country.

😷 Philly schools are instituting a “mask to stay” policy to allow those exposed to COVID to stay in school if they follow certain procedures.

💉 A federal Health and Human Services official said COVID-19 treatments, once scarce, are now easy to get. But more funding is needed to keep it that way.

⚖️ Nearly 90% of people held at Pennsylvania state prisons are vaccinated, but some COVID restrictions that further isolate incarcerated people remain in place.

🌲 With the pandemic-induced rise of working from home, two towns in rural Pennsylvania are giving remote workers free housing for a month, in the hopes they’ll stay longer.

🏋️ Philly-area gym owners say they feel they have weathered the pandemic as memberships rebound to nearly pre-COVID levels, and clients return.

💉 As one of Philly’s first vaccine ambassadors, Dominai Taylor speaks to people experiencing homelessness about the importance of getting vaccinated.

🎶 After running as a virtual-only event for two years during the pandemic, the Philadelphia Folk Festival will return in-person for its 60th anniversary.

Local coronavirus numbers

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

Helpful resources

What you're saying

Last week, we asked if you are worried about Philly’s rise in cases. Here’s what you told us:

🤷 “I’m not too worried about cases rising as long as hospitalizations and deaths stay where they are.”

🤪 “Someone said ‘insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result.’”

😷 “When masks are mandated, case counts go down. When the mandate is lifted, case counts rise. Let’s just plan on wearing the masks long term to stop spread and mutation of the virus.”

🙅‍♂️ “Folks — this just in — COVID isn’t going away. Ever. Cases will rise. Cases will fall. If people want to remain largely out of the public setting, wear masks, move to deep Alaska…… that’s fine”

🏥 “No I am not concerned because the cases I know of personally have symptoms less than a cold. It is not the number of cases that matter, only hospitalizations.”

😔 “I am concerned about the rise in COVID cases in Philadelphia, because COVID kills and it has impacted every aspect of how people live, feel and their finances. People are no longer stable mentally and peace has decreased.”

A dose of diversion: The best restaurants for dogs in Philly

If you ended up with a pandemic puppy like so many of us, you don’t have to leave them at home when you go out to dine al fresco — at least in Philly. Inquirer food critic Craig LaBan — dog dad to lovable Great Dane mix (and huge ice cream fan) Buttercup — has the rundown on where to eat out with your pooch as the weather warms up. After all, LaBan writes, pet-friendly service is another sign of hospitality.

🌿 Marijuana is legal in New Jersey, which has left some Pennsylvanians wondering: Can your employer drug test you for weed? Here’s what you need to know.

📐 Any Ben Franklin Parkway regular knows Iroquois, the iconic 40-foot, red-orange sculpture across from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Now, it’s getting a facelift.

🎓 In group homes, Philly student Nathaniel Gordon fell behind in school. Then he discovered a program and got himself into Penn.

A good thing: The Italian Market Festival is back

After a pandemic hiatus, the Italian Market Festival returns to South Philly this weekend. This year, there’s more than 40 spots to grab food — including from market mainstays like Cappuccio’s (grilled sausage, anyone?), Isgros (take the cannoli), and Talluto’s (don’t miss the meatballs). Here, we’ve got the full rundown of what to expect at this year’s festival.