TL;DR: Although expanded indoor capacity began earlier this month for restaurants in the rest of the state, Philadelphia won’t increase its indoor dining capacity to 50% until Friday. Outdoor dining still remains the safest option, health experts say, and many local restaurateurs are adding heaters. My colleague Marie McCullough explains how even though antigen tests are less accurate, experts say they could still fill the significant need for a coronavirus surveillance tool.

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

What you need to know:

🗳️ Voting during a pandemic: What you need to know about voting by mail or in person in New Jersey or Pennsylvania.

😷 Jefferson Health and the City of Philadelphia will open a new COVID-19 test site in Northwest Philadelphia on Thursday to offer free, twice-weekly testing for the next six months.

📈 New cases are rising in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey, where officials are worried about a spike in Ocean County. Pennsylvania health officials are most concerned about cases rising among college-age students and worried about “long haulers,” people who contracted the virus months ago but still have symptoms.

💦 Philadelphia won’t shut off water to residents and is waiving late fees and penalties through spring 2021.

🇺🇸 During Tuesday’s debate, President Donald Trump downplayed masks and contradicted scientists.

📰 What’s going on in your county? We organized recent coverage of the coronavirus pandemic by local counties 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.

Dining out during a pandemic: More indoor seating, outdoor heaters and how to address people breaking the rules

Although expanded indoor capacity began earlier this month for restaurants in the rest of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia won’t raise its indoor dining capacity to 50% (rather than 25%) until Friday. Still, many restrictions remain: Tables must be six feet apart, servers need to wear masks and face shields, no bar seating is allowed, and only four people can be seated per table. Outdoor dining remains the safest option, health experts say, and many local restaurateurs are adding heaters as seasons change. “We want only household members to be dining together,” Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said. Curious what to do if you see people breaking rules at restaurants? Here’s a guide.

The potential and limits of rapid screening tests

Antigen tests are different from the well known molecular diagnostic tests. They have the potential to detect a possible infection even before it causes symptoms and can deliver results within 15 minutes. My colleague Marie McCullough explains how even though these tests are less accurate, experts say if they are given often enough to a group of people, like college students or nursing home residents, then the frequency will offset the inaccuracy. Read more how this rapid test could fill the significant need for a coronavirus surveillance tool.

Helpful resources

You got this: Go ‘forest bathing’

Forest bathing, which originated in Japan where it is called shinrin-yoku, is described by my colleague Rita Giordano as “a practice whose proponents believe spending time immersed in nature is beneficial to our mental, spiritual, and even physical health.” Read about how two local women made forest bathing the most popular part of their health and wellness programs — and how you can do it too.

🍴 Tofu’s having a moment. Here’s how to use it.

🍳 Get it while it’s hot: An Israeli-style steak sandwich from Mike Solomonov and Pat’s King of Steaks.

❄️ Need HVAC help for cool weather? Here’s how to pick a new heating system wisely.

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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