The gist: Is it beginning to look a lot like last year? Along with driving up case numbers and reviving mask protocols, the aggressive behavior of the delta variant is ratcheting up anxieties in a region — and nation — battling to recover from pandemic fatigue. A document leaked from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that the variant is highly contagious and can be transmitted as easily by vaccinated people as it is by those who are unvaccinated. Fresh findings moved the CDC to broaden its mask guidance. Meanwhile, a handful of cases of a new variant, dubbed “delta plus” are appearing.

New Jersey health workers, including those who work in long-term care and assisted-living homes, will soon be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo frequent testing, as will all teachers and other staff members of the Upper Merion Area School District, in Montgomery County. And as case numbers spike again, some Philadelphia restaurants are requiring proof of vaccination.

— Anthony R. Wood (@woodt15, health@inquirer.com)

What you need to know:

🏭 Can bosses mandate vaccines? Yes, but that depends on workplace policies. Also, some exemptions must be honored.

😷 Philly is recommending — but not requiring — face masks. Acting Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole says the city wants to keep restrictions “to the minimum that’s necessary” for public safety.

🥡 Planning on dining out in Philly? Here are restaurants that require proof of vaccination.

🏠 The CDC has extended the eviction moratorium, aimed at keeping vulnerable renters from getting thrown out of their lodgings during the pandemic, until Oct. 3.

💉 Nearly nine of every 10 Asian Americans in Philadelphia have been vaccinated, but the figures for the rest of Pennsylvania are puzzling.

📰 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.

Philly region seeing a ‘substantial’ spread of COVID-19, expanding the area where indoor masks are recommended

With the rapidly moving delta variant, Montgomery, Delaware, and Bucks Counties have seen substantial increases in the transmission of the coronavirus. Most of the region now falls under federal recommendations to wear masks in public indoor places. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday reclassified the infection rate in those counties from “moderate” to “substantial,” bringing the entire region except Chester County into the elevated category.

The agency’s nationwide masking recommendation, announced last week, is based on counties’ transmission levels and applies only to those with substantial or high spread of the virus. The delta variant now makes up the majority of new cases. Recent days have seen renewed calls for masking and added urgency to the push for vaccinations.

Delta variant’s outdoor transmission is still unclear. Here’s how Philly experts are thinking about COVID-19 risk.

As the delta variant pushes COVID-19 case counts upward again, people are being more careful about wearing masks and distancing indoors. But what about the outdoors?

Outdoor transmission of earlier virus strains has been “extremely low,” says one expert, but the fact that the delta variant appears to be more transmissible remains a cause of concern. And virologists still are trying to figure out what it is that makes the variant so contagious. Here’s what local experts say.

Helpful resources

You got this: Take your pick — and eat it, too

If you’re really in the market for truly fresh fresh fruit and all types of produce, you’re living in the right place. The Philadelphia region is rich in pick-your-own farms, and you’d have to look long and hard to find the likes of peaches and tomatoes that emerge around her this time of year. Here are some suggestions.

🌭 Meet the wiener meister behind “Bubba’s Dogs,” a Sea Isle City hotspot.

🎃 Spookley the Square Pumpkin is among our suggestions for entertaining the kids.

🥵 The heat is coming back, and here’s how to beat it.

Have a 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.

What we’re paying attention to

  • The corporate world is split over vaccine requirements. Walmart and others are insisting on shots, others are opting for incentives, so says the Wall Street Journal. Vanguard, incidentally, is offering employees $1,000 to get vaccinated.

  • “Sitting behind a screen simply isn’t the same,” says Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. He wants schools reopened, The New York Times reports.

  • You’re familiar with drug-sniffing dogs. Well, check out this Smithsonian magazine item on COVID-sniffing canines in Massachusetts.

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