The gist: The vaccine mandate for indoor dining in Philadelphia is officially no more (at least for now) thanks to a newly instituted system, but the city’s mask mandate for public spaces is still here. So far, the reaction from both diners and restaurateurs is mixed. The vaccine mandate is being lifted as cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from the omicron surge subside, but could return if numbers worsen again.

📥 Tell us: What do you think about the vaccine mandate for indoor dining ending? 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)

Philadelphia ends vaccine mandate for indoor dining

The Philadelphia Department of Public Health announced Wednesday that the city’s vaccine mandate for indoor dining is no longer in effect, but its mask mandate remains. That news came alongside the announcement of a new three-tier system that helps determine what COVID-19 safety mandates are needed. Right now, Philly falls into the mask-precautions-only category.

What you need to know

💉 Despite opposition from the firefighters union, Philly’s vaccine mandate for city workers has taken effect after months of delays.

🏫 Following a series of “threatening statements” made over masking, a Chester County high school temporarily shut down to keep students safe.

🏥 Philly Fighting COVID CEO Andrei Doroshin will repay $30,000 to city vaccine services and delete residents’ personal data.

💰 A record $125 million gift to Penn will go toward offering free tuition to nurse practitioners to work in underserved communities.

✈️ Passenger traffic at Philadelphia International Airport is still down over 40% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

🦶 In addition to impacting public health, the economy, and our daily lives, COVID-19 has even ruined our feet.

Local coronavirus numbers

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

We’ve overhauled our coronavirus tracker, which provides a real-time look at how the pandemic is impacting Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Stats include how hospitals in the region are being impacted, local vaccination rates, how cases are changing over time, and how your area stacks up against the rest of the state.

Helpful resources

What you're saying

Last week, we asked how you feel about mask mandates ending. Here’s what you told us:

😷 “I go to concerts, films, museums and shopping because there is a mask mandate. Except for grocery shopping I would curtail these visits if masking not enforced.”

🏫 “Study after study has shown that the benefit to wearing masks in school is too small compared with the harm to our kids — such as mental health and social/language delays. We need to start protecting our kids’ social, emotional, and academic wellbeing and consider that these may outweigh masking.”

📈 “Rather than an all or nothing approach, I would like to see a more nuanced approach to masking in the future, targeted for any highly transmissible disease during peak transmission periods, especially in vulnerable settings.”

😢 “Our middle school granddaughter wears her mask all the time. She even double masks for dance 6 days a week. She cried when she heard about ending the mask mandates. She wants to continue wearing her mask in school, but is now afraid that she will be made fun of and bullied.”

🔥 “They needed to end a long time ago! And if they are ending now, Thank God!”

🥪 “I think food prep and service workers definitely should continue to wear masks, even after it is deemed safe to repeal the mandate for the general public.”

📈 “Last time we lifted restrictions very quickly, and we all learned that it was too soon. It won’t hurt to continue mandates for a few more months. It will be awful to throw us right back into trouble, and start another wave all over again!”

💉 “Should be up to the individual, especially if you’re vaccinated.”

📉 “It’s a good idea as rates go down, with the caveat that if numbers go back up, it could change.”

😷 “While mask mandates may be ending, I plan on wearing one inside public spaces where the vaccination status of strangers is unknown.”

A dose of diversion: Tattoo artist climbs Mount Kilimanjaro ... for Delco?

Delaware County-based tattoo artist Roddie Cooper, owner of Olde Media Tattoo, spent eight days climbing the highest peak in Africa last year with one goal in mind: To proudly fly the Delco flag at its top. Why? As Cooper put it, he just wanted everyone to know that “Delaware County was here.”

❤️ If you’re as obsessed with the Philly-centric Abbott Elementary as we are, you’ve got to meet the local teacher who inspired Quinta Brunson to create the show.

🍽️ Philly’s Vietnamese-inspired offerings have never been more dynamic — and that’s all thanks to a younger generation leading the charge.

💧 With Ben Simmons (finally) gone from the Sixers, Philly has officially entered the new era of the James Harden drip.

A good thing: Philly’s dining scene isn’t slowing down

Few industries were hit as hard by COVID-19 as food in hospitality, but in the Philadelphia area, our dining scene isn’t slowing down. And as the local food scene continues to shake off the doldrums of the pandemic, there are 40 restaurants scheduled to open over the next 60 to 90 days. Here’s where — and when — we can look forward to stuffing ourselves this year.