The gist: In yet another holiday season shadowed by the coronavirus, the city is urging people to avoid large gatherings and is adding new protocols for the new year. At all indoor-dining venues in the city, including the Wells Fargo Center and the suites at the Linc, proof of vaccination will be required. From Jan. 3 to Jan. 17, people can show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from the previous 24 hours. Starting Jan. 17, only vaccination proof will be accepted.

— Anthony R. Wood (@woodt15, health@inquirer.com)

Philadelphia discourages holiday gatherings, will require vaccine proof for anywhere food is served indoors

City officials cite rising cases and hospitalizations blamed in part on indoor Thanksgiving gatherings for the new guidance discouraging holiday gatherings and mandate requiring proof of vaccination to enter an establishment where food is served indoors. Plus the omicron variant is raising fresh concerns. “This winter looks like it could be very difficult,” said Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole. “We have to do something to slow the spread now before it’s too late.”

What you need to know

⚕️After quite an eventful year, Alison Beam is stepping down as Pennsylvania’s acting health commissioner.

🏀 Hundreds of Philadelphia’s student-athletes could end up getting benched for reasons unrelated to performance as a result an abrupt change of rules.

🏫 After the state Supreme Court struck down Pennsylvania’s mask mandate, school districts are taking varied approaches to the face-covering quandary.

🏥 Hospitals say they are getting more crowded these days with a rise COVID-19 cases and the COVID-related backlog of other medical needs that were pushed off or worsened when elective procedures were delayed. Then there’s the flu season.

💰 The coronavirus and its fallout are raising profound questions about the future of the economy, and not just about the fate of all that empty commercial office space.

Local coronavirus numbers

📈 Cases numbers have been trending upward throughout the region. Track the latest data here.

Helpful resources

What you’re saying

Last week we asked whether you had received a booster shot. Here is a sampling of what you told us about why you did:

👍 “Would not pass up the opportunity to be vaccinated and to live a normal life”

👍 “I received the booster because I want long-lasting protection. Protection to safeguard my mom who is 80, and high risk and my friends.”

👍 “The right and responsible thing to do.”

A dose of diversion: If you can bear-r-r the cold

More people prefer drinking ice water to plunging into it, informal surveys show. Yet annual “polar bear plunges” do draw crowds and several of them will be held during the new year in easy driving distance from Philly, including two on New Year’s Day at the Jersey Shore.. All of them are charity fund-raisers, not that it will make the water any warmer. Here are some options.

💐 Think warm: You can buy tickets to the Philly Flower Show in June.

🥃 Cheers! Craig Laban’s offers his candidates for the best whiskey gifts.

🐟 Here’s where to find places offering “Feast of the Seven Fishes” feasts on Christmas Eve.

A dash of cheer: Holiday spirit reviving in Philly

Crowds are filling the Christmas Village ... people are smiling in front of City Hall’s sparkling tree. The pandemic endures, but the holiday spirit has made a comeback in Philly. As one Dilworth Park visitor said Saturday: “This year, we’re actually able to get out and enjoy Christmas.”

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.