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Should I worry about variants if I’m vaccinated? | Coronavirus Newsletter

Plus, from trash delays to closed pools, Philly government is far from reopened

Nurse Hyun Lee (left) administers a COVID-19 vaccine to Stephen Zeng, 15, of Northeast Philadelphia during a pop-up vaccination clinic at the H Mart shopping plaza in Philadelphia's Olney section in June.
Nurse Hyun Lee (left) administers a COVID-19 vaccine to Stephen Zeng, 15, of Northeast Philadelphia during a pop-up vaccination clinic at the H Mart shopping plaza in Philadelphia's Olney section in June.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

The gist: This week, the Pennsylvania Department of Health updated its vaccination data and found it had over-counted by 500,000 shots, partly because the department couldn’t properly track people who got their doses in two different places. The news came at a time when the state and others are racing against a narrow window to boost vaccinations further to defend against more contagious variants of the COVID-19 virus.

These variants are battering unvaccinated people in hot spots in the United States and around the world. Vaccination remains the strongest protection against the variants, yet rates vary across the county and in the Philadelphia area. “We’re confident saying that there are some cases of delta variant COVID in Philadelphia,” health department spokesperson James Garrow said, “but it’s still rare, so there’s time to get your vaccine.”

— Kelly O’Shea (@kelloshea,

What you need to know:

👨‍🍳 While restaurants and bars once again are swarming with customers, many owners report they just can’t find enough staff. The Inquirer surveyed 190 workers to find out why. Here’s how they responded.

❓ A Montgomery County man’s COVID-19 death may have stemmed from an infection he caught in a hospital rehab center after undergoing hip surgery. How many other hospital-acquired COVID infections there are around the country is unclear.

👩‍🏫 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that schools fully reopen for in-person instruction this fall, but with masks for unvaccinated kids. Here’s what the means for Pennsylvania schools.

💰 The Department of Labor admitted it overcharged unemployed Pennsylvanians millions of dollars, estimating that the mistake affected roughly 250,000 people.

🤰 Baby boom or bust? The pandemic has had profound impacts on pregnancy and birth rates, as well as birth outcomes, and the long-term consequences could ripple through economies, education systems, and more.

📰 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 numbers

📈The Inquirer and Spotlight PA are compiling geographic data on confirmed coronavirus cases, deaths caused by the virus, and vaccinations to curb the spread. Track the latest data here.

So far, the world’s leading vaccines, including the three authorized for use in the United States, have lost little of their protective power even against the four major variants. (However, people who skip the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines are still vulnerable, as they’ve reduced their risk of symptomatic infection only by a third.) And while “breakthrough infections” occasionally occur in fully vaccinated individuals, these are generally mild and not easily spread. The bad news is that all four variants, and particularly the alpha and delta strains, spread much more easily, primarily in droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or just talks and breathes. Currently, the CDC and FDA have said booster shots are not necessary for fully vaccinated Americans, because the vaccines are providing good protection from the variants.

Trash collection is routinely behind schedule. Many neighborhood libraries and pools remain closed. Some SEPTA routes are offline or limited. People can once again walk into City Hall but might need appointments for services. Despite Philadelphia’s coronavirus safety restrictions being lifted and local government offices reopening, a range of city services might not return to pre-pandemic levels until the fall. Deana Gamble, a spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney, said the city hopes to quicken the pace of reopening in September, when students return to school and more companies bring workers back to offices. Each of the services struggling to get back on track faces its own obstacles. Here’s what you need to know.

Helpful resources

  1. Do I need a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot to protect from variants?

  2. If I’m vaccinated but was exposed to COVID-19, do I need to quarantine?

You got this: How to thrive

As we emerge from 15 months of pandemic survival mode, what it means to “thrive” is so much more complicated than sipping piña coladas in first class. Thriving is about enjoying the daily journey to personal joy, something that feels so much richer than it did pre-pandemic, my colleague Elizabeth Wellington writes. Here’s how to thrive right now, according to Philly creatives and entrepreneurs who are doing it.

🥪 The best hoagies in Philly to eat right now. (Plus our top vegan and vegetarian hoagie picks)

🏖️ Free things to do at the Jersey shore this summer.

🎥 From drive-in movies to pop-up storytime, here are the best kid events in Philly this week.

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

What we’re paying attention to

  1. As more kids go down the “deep, dark tunnel” of long COVID-19, doctors still can’t predict who is at risk, Stat reports.

  2. The Atlantic explains why lumping together all breakthroughs cases — those in vaccinated people who still get infected — regardless of symptoms, miscasts what our COVID-19 vaccines can do.

  3. Red state, blue state, twin outbreak: Kaiser Health News has the story behind Wyoming and Colorado’s anomalous COVID-19 spikes.

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