TL;DR: A federal vaccine advisory committee recommended this week that health care workers be top priority for receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, but doctors and nurses at Philadelphia-area hospitals are unlikely to be required to receive an immunization, at least initially. Lauren Carter, 18, works for the Montgomery County Office of Public Health and underwent training to be a contact tracer, the process of identifying who has been infected, their close contacts, and advising them to quarantine. Public health experts have said this is crucial to stop the spread of COVID-19, and Carter walked the Inquirer through her day.

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

What you need to know:

📈 Amid a surge in new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, Pennsylvania is opening free testing clinics in 61 counties, including Delaware County. Find COVID-19 testing locations in Philly, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

⚕️ British officials have authorized the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.

🏥 The Pennsylvania Auditor General confirmed botched coronavirus efforts at a veterans’ nursing home and called on Gov. Tom Wolf to finish the investigation.

😷 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that some two-week quarantine guidelines can be cut to 10 or seven days.

🦠 A COVID-19 outbreak has infected more than half of the inmates at a Pennsylvania prison for the elderly and infirm.

📰 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.

Vaccines will go to health workers first. Will they be required to get them?

A federal vaccine advisory committee recommended this week that health care workers be top priority for receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, yet surveys suggest many of them do not want to be among the first to receive an immunization. Philly-area hospitals told my colleague Marie McCullough that they don’t plan to mandate the vaccine for employees, and will instead make it a voluntary option. Read more here.

A day in the life of a Philadelphia-area contact tracer

Lauren Carter, 18, works for the Montgomery County Office of Public Health, through VNA Community Services, a visiting nurse association, and underwent training to be a contact tracer, the process of identifying who has been infected, their close contacts, and advising them to quarantine. Public health experts have said this is crucial to stop the spread of COVID-19, and Carter walked the Inquirer through her day and the conversations she has with people.

Helpful resources

You got this: Get your Christmas tree delivered

If you don’t want to go out in a crowd to pick out a Christmas tree this year, check out these local businesses that will bring a tree straight to your doorstep. My colleague Grace Dickinson includes pricing and an overview of the services they provide, like setting up the tree for you or contactless delivery. Read more here.

🎄 Prefer to cut your own Christmas tree? Here are farms near Philadelphia.

😷 What to know about buying, washing, replacing, and wearing face masks.

👐 Use this checklist before seeing people again after having COVID-19.

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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