TL;DR: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf still plans to lift some coronavirus restrictions on Monday, allowing indoor dining, gyms, casinos, and theaters, to resume operations. My colleague Tom Avril spoke with three researchers “for a crash course in Viral Mutation 101” to find out what we need to know about the new, COVID-19 “mutant” strain that was identified in a Colorado man this week, signaling it is likely already spreading in the United States. Read more here.

There won’t be a coronavirus newsletter on Friday, but we’ll be back in your inbox Monday. Have a safe and happy New Year!

— Ellie Silverman (@esilverman11, health@inquirer.com)

What you need to know:

📉 The rate of new COVID-19 cases has begun to decline in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, but experts expect another spike due to Christmas gatherings.

🏒 New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced he will lift the state’s indoor sports moratorium as scheduled on Saturday.

🏥 At the current pace of vaccinations, it could take months just to get vaccines to health workers, Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine says.

🎉 2020 is slated to end with more rain that could give a damp start to any rogue Mummery. Though Mayor Jim Kenney has canceled Friday’s Mummers Parade because of the pandemic, some Mummers are vowing to host one anyway.

💰 A second round of coronavirus stimulus checks of $600 are starting to be deposited in the bank accounts of many Americans. Deposits will continue into next week.

✈️ More than 1 million people have traveled each day for the last four days, against public-health guidance.

📰 What’s going on in your county or neighborhood? We organized recent coverage of the coronavirus pandemic by local counties and Philly neighborhoods mentioned in the stories to make it easier for you to find the info you care about.

Local coronavirus cases

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

Pa. will lift tougher restrictions on indoor dining and casinos

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf still plans to lift temporary coronavirus restrictions that were imposed in mid-December at 8 a.m. on Monday, allowing indoor dining, gyms, casinos, and theaters, as well as in-person sports and extracurricular activities at schools to resume. “While the number of hospitalizations and deaths remain entirely too high in Pennsylvania, it appears that the number of new cases reported each day has plateaued,” Wolf said. “That means that our mitigations efforts over the past several weeks have done what they were intended to do.” The move will not affect restaurants in Philadelphia, which last week extended its indoor dining moratorium to Jan. 15.

Why the new COVID-19 mutations may not spread as fast as you fear

My colleague Tom Avril spoke with three researchers “for a crash course in Viral Mutation 101,” to find out what we need to know about the new, COVID-19 “mutant” strain was identified in a Colorado man this week, signaling that it is likely already widespread in the United States. So far, scientists say there is no proof this new strain is more transmissible, and human behavior and random chance could also explain the sudden emergence. Read more here.

Helpful resources

You got this: Pa.’s weird New Year’s Eve ball drops

There are still very weird, very Pennsylvania New Year’s Eve ball drops happening, despite the public health precautions we all need to take this year. Countdowns, including the dropping of a giant bologna and a 400-pound marshmallow Peeps Chick, will be live streamed, allowing you to watch from your home. My colleague Grace Dickinson rounds up what is happening across the state.

🍽️ Inquirer readers remember the Philly-area restaurants the pandemic has shuttered.

☀️ From the Inquirer’s Elizabeth Wellington: The best advice I heard in 2020, that will help me get through 2021.

🎉 Your complete guide to New Year’s 2021 in Philly.

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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