The gist: Happy to bring you a glimmer of good news. Officials believe we hit the current surge’s peak two weeks ago. Of course, we’ve been through enough drops in case counts and hospitalizations to know that mitigation tools, such as masking and at-home testing, will be key moving forward. The other bit of good news is more of these tools are headed our way.

Tell us: What’s bringing you hope right now? 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.

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— Ximena Conde (@XimenaReports,

At-home COVID-19 tests could be a passport to normalcy. But they can also give us false confidence.

With residents in the region slated to receive their free, government-issued rapid tests this week, it’s worth remembering PCR lab tests remain the gold standard. A negative rapid test doesn’t mean individuals should ignore symptoms like a sore throat or cough. Read more about how to best use your at-home tests.

What you need to know

📉 The declining omicron surge is a promising sign for Pa. and N.J. hospitals, but officials warn ‘it’s not over yet.

😷 What we know about the 400 million N95 masks the federal government is distributing.

💉 Most N.J. teachers have been vaccinated following Gov. Phil Murphy’s October mandate.

👩‍⚕️ About 20% of Pennsylvania nursing home workers haven’t been fully vaccinated. A federal mandate has facilities playing catch-up on vaccinations and boosters.

📝 Meanwhile the vaccine mandate for Philadelphia city employees keeps getting delayed due to labor disputes.

💊 Fluvoxamine, a 40-year-old drug that costs a fraction of the pricey new treatments for COVID-19, looks as if it might help.

🚫 Pharmacies are turning away immunocompromised patients seeking a fourth COVID-19 shot, contradicting CDC recommendations.

Local coronavirus numbers

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

Helpful resources

A dose of diversion: Viewers are loving this sitcom set in a fictional Philly public school

Ratings are growing for Quinta Brunson’s Abbott Elementary on ABC. The show is a love letter to Philly and its teachers who make the best out of the limited resources available to them. While locals are loving the nods to our local foods, obsessions, and slang, millions of others have taken note. (Catching up? Check out this local teacher’s review.)

🍽️ Couldn’t go to Iannelli’s Bakery during the 15 days a year it’s open? Now you can get your tomato pie shipped.

🏀 Sultan Shabazz was a hoops superstar at Lower Merion before Kobe Bryant, but selling crack cost him his basketball career. This is how he turned his life around.

🧶 Whether you’re learning how to knit or are a pro, here’s a list of the best craft stores in Philly.

A good thing: Philadelphia-area Latinos and groups we’re celebrating

As we wrap up another pandemic year, The Inquirer took a moment to highlight the work Latino organizations and individuals. With roots from Mexico to Colombia and Puerto Rico to the Dominican Republic, these community leaders and organizations represent a portion of the region’s cultural fabric.

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