TL;DR: Pennsylvania officials are weighing a new ban on indoor dining and the closure of gyms and casinos, and a decision is likely within days, according to a source not authorized to speak publicly. Here are the current COVID-19 restrictions in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. And, how Bucks County’s Health Department director David Damske has stood apart from, and sometimes at odds with, most health experts throughout the pandemic.

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

What you need to know:

😷 Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has tested positive for the coronavirus.

📈 Health officials in Philadelphia blame Thanksgiving gatherings for a renewed spike in COVID-19 cases.

🏥 Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are seeing significant spikes in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania.

🚇 SEPTA is considering service cuts and layoffs as it predicts an operating budget shortfall of at least $622 million through the end of fiscal year 2023. SEPTA also will indefinitely close its trolley tunnel overnight beginning Monday.

🛍️ Nine months into the pandemic, 26 businesses — almost all locally owned — have shut down in Old City or relocated from the neighborhood, and 16 shops have opened.

🧁 Out of the coronavirus doldrums, a Queen Village middle-schooler created her own pastry business.

📚 Lower Merion high schools are going virtual as many students stay home.

📰 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. considers new indoor dining ban, closures as COVID-19 cases continue to surge

Pennsylvania officials are weighing a new ban on indoor dining and the closure of gyms and casinos, and a decision is likely to come within days, according to a Capitol source with knowledge of the administration’s planning but not authorized to speak publicly about it. Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, also confirmed Wednesday that the state has been discussing additional restrictions. A spokesperson for Gov. Tom Wolf said no decisions have been finalized. Here are the current COVID-19 restrictions in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Philadelphia.

From COVID-19 data to in-person school, Bucks County’s health department goes its own way

When health experts recommended six feet of social distancing within schools, Bucks County’s Health Department director David Damsker settled for three feet. He has advocated for in-person instruction while some experts recommended virtual school, and his health department has stopped providing public data on the pandemic’s spread, while residents in other counties can easily see local information on COVID-19 cases and deaths. These are just some examples of how Damsker has stood apart from, and sometimes at odds with, most health experts throughout the pandemic, my colleagues Jason Laughlin and Maddie Hanna report. Read more here.

Helpful resources

You got this: Send these Philly food gifts this holiday season

Even though the pandemic is stopping many of us from being able to visit loved ones this holiday season, you can still send them a piece of Philly. My colleague Grace Dickinson rounds up all the Philly food, like cheesesteaks, whoopie pies, make-your-own pretzel kits, and more, you can ship nationwide.

🎄 See an un-corporate neighborhood light show.

🍪 Try these five holiday cookie recipes to end the year on a sweeter note.

🥡 Here’s where to get holiday takeout for Hanukkah, Christmas Day, the Seven Fishes, and New Year’s Eve.

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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