The gist: Crowd limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings in New Jersey will increase next month, Gov. Phil Murphy announced, citing declining coronavirus case numbers and a steady pace at which people continue to get vaccinated. Hesitancy over COVID-19 vaccination is understandable: The immunizations are new and the coronavirus is mutating to evade them. But understandable is not the same as reasonable, given the devastating human, economic, and emotional toll of the pandemic.

— Kelly O’Shea (@kelloshea, health@inquirer.com)

What you need to know:

🏠 As vaccine providers across Pennsylvania continue to see increased appointment availability, Gov. Tom Wolf said the commonwealth is shifting its focus to getting shots to people who are homebound.

📉 COVID-19 cases continue to decline in Pennsylvania as more residents get vaccinated. The test positivity rate and hospitalizations are also down.

☎️ Philadelphia seniors can now call to schedule an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination. The toll-free vaccine hotline (1-800-424-4351) will be available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.

🤰 The CDC on Friday issued official guidance that pregnant people should get vaccinated, following a preliminary study that found “no obvious safety signals.” Here’s how Philadelphia-area obstetricians are helping their pregnant patients make a decision.

✈️ American tourists who are fully vaccinated will be able to visit the Europe Union again, more than a year after travel was restricted to the 27-nation bloc.

📰 What’s going on in your county or neighborhood? We organize recent coverage of the pandemic by local counties and Philly neighborhoods to make it easier for you to find info you care about. Sign up here to get those local headlines sent directly to your inbox on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Local coronavirus cases

📈The coronavirus has swept across the Philadelphia region. The Inquirer and Spotlight PA are compiling geographic data on tests conducted, cases confirmed, and deaths caused by the virus. Track the spread here.

N.J. loosens restrictions on some gatherings and events

Crowd limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings in New Jersey will increase May 10, Gov. Phil Murphy announced, citing coronavirus case numbers that are trending down and a steady pace at which people continue to get vaccinated. Indoor private gatherings, like weddings and school proms, can increase to 50% or a maximum of 250 people — that’s up from 150 people. Dance floors can also return, provided that attendees wear masks and keep distanced. Outdoor events can go from 200 to a maximum of 500 people, and outdoor venues with 1,000 fixed seats or more can welcome up to 50% capacity. Murphy signaled that the limits would lift further as the numbers continue trending down.

COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy: Understandable and irrational

The pandemic has claimed about 570,000 lives in the United States, or nearly 1 in every 600 people. Yet surveys show big swaths of the American public are reluctant or flat out refuse to get one of the three authorized vaccines. Hesitancy over COVID-19 vaccination is understandable: The immunizations are new, the coronavirus is mutating to evade them, and no medical interventions are perfect. But understandable is not the same as reasonable, given the devastating human, economic, and emotional toll of the pandemic. Do the math and you’ll see that the risk of dying of COVID-19 after vaccination is .0001%, or about 1 in a million. The CDC estimates you are more likely to get struck by lightning in a year. Read more here.

Helpful resources

You got this: A night to remember

Prom 2021 in Pennsylvania and New Jersey includes social distancing, outdoor venues and no dancing. It’s all in a bid to avoid disappointing kids by canceling the tradition for a second straight year. From the Elmwood Park Zoo to bedazzled Crocs, here’s how Philly area high schools are getting creative to make prom happen.

🪄 From magic shows to gardening, here are the best kids events in Philly this week.

🎥 A Villanova grad out of South Jersey won an Oscar at the Academy Awards. Read more about his 25-minute documentary.

🍸 Center City Sips, the Wednesday happy-hour promotion that would have begun in June at 100-plus bars and restaurants, is canceled again.

Have a social distancing tip or question to share? Let us know at health@inquirer.com and your input might be featured in a future edition of this newsletter.

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