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New mask and vaccination rules start at midnight | Coronavirus Newsletter

Plus, COVID-19 vaccines for kids under 12 are months away from approval

Shoppers exit Walmart while wearing face masks on Wednesday.
Shoppers exit Walmart while wearing face masks on Wednesday.Read moreJOSE F. MORENO / Staff Photographer

The gist: Confronting a middling vaccination rate and a coronavirus case increase that doesn’t show signs of abating, mask and vaccine mandates are ramping up in the region.

Philadelphia announced Wednesday an indoor mask mandate for all businesses, unless they require proof of vaccination for employees and patrons. On Tuesday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Pennsylvania’s first vaccine mandate, ordering health-care workers at state-run facilities to be vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. Meanwhile, Philadelphia City Council became the first branch of city government to require shots for its 190 workers.

However, in schools, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are moving in opposite directions on the mask debate, with Gov. Phil Murphy ordering students and staff in grades K-12 to wear masks and Wolf saying the decision should be made by local districts.

— Kelly O’Shea (@kelloshea,

What you need to know:

💉 Philadelphia’s 15 least-vaccinated zip codes at the beginning of the summer remain the most under-vaccinated now. An Inquirer analysis found that at the current pace, it would take almost a year for those zip codes to reach 80% vaccination, a benchmark for widespread protection.

🏥 The current delta-fueled COVID-19 surge is sending more children to hospitals locally and across the nation. Doctors said that’s a sign that adults need to do a better job of protecting kids, especially those under 12 who cannot get vaccinated.

🤰The CDC urged all pregnant people to get the COVID-19 vaccine as the number of infections among this group has risen in the past several weeks. The updated guidance comes after new safety data showed no increased risks of miscarriage for those who received the shot.

🎡 To raise the vaccination rate in Pennsylvania, state officials, health systems, and community groups are sending text messages, making house calls, and setting up clinics at county fairs.

🏠 An order issued by Philadelphia Municipal Court will halt evictions for tenants with “complete” rental assistance applications.

👨‍🏫 The Community College of Philadelphia is the first public college in the region to require vaccines for all staff and students.

📰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.

Philadelphia’s new mask rule, requiring masks in all indoor businesses or institutions unless all staff and patrons verify that they are fully vaccinated, will take effect at midnight. This means all indoor businesses — including offices and other indoor gathering spaces — not just restaurants. Masks are also required at non-seated outdoor events with more than 1,000 people. The city said businesses can be fined for not following the COVID-19 safety requirements. Acting Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said the new restrictions are an effort to slow the spread of the delta variant. The rate of new cases in the city has doubled three times in the past month, Bettigole said, with a current rate of 200 new cases per day. Read answers to your questions about the new rules here.

My colleague Tom Avril talked to two North Jersey kids who are among thousands of children under 12 to enroll in the latest stages of the vaccine trials. While it remains true that children are at less risk of severe consequences from COVID-19 than adults, they can get very sick. Since the start of the pandemic, thousands have been hospitalized. That’s why, in the eyes of public health experts, the FDA’s authorization of the vaccines for kids under age 12 cannot come soon enough. Beyond ensuring the health of children, the broader goal is protecting society at large, as kids can spread the virus to those who are older and more vulnerable, even to those who are vaccinated. Read more to learn how the current trial for children is different from the study Pfizer conducted in adults.

Helpful resources

  1. The delta variant might mean it’s time to upgrade your mask.

  2. These are the Philadelphia performance venues and restaurants that require proof of vaccination.

  3. How to get a replacement vaccine card.

  4. How to wear a face mask in hot weather.

You got this: Get answers from the ‘nerdy girls’

Dear Pandemic, the popular online platform where no COVID-19 question was too basic or embarrassing and answers are backed by science, has lots of Philadelphia ties. Started by a Penn researcher, the project was intended as a temporary public service, but it quickly ballooned from an Instagram account to include Facebook, YouTube and a website with tens of thousands of followers. Read more about the Philadelphia women scientists — self-proclaimed “nerdy girls” — who help answer questions.

🤩 The best free and cheap things to do for college students in Philadelphia.

🍽️ Center City District Restaurant Week returns with a price increase. But it’s still a bargain.

🚴🏾 From Cape May to Atlantic City: Where to rent a bike for your trip down the Shore.

Have a social distancing tip or question to share? Let us know at and your input might be featured in a future edition of this newsletter.

What we’re paying attention to

  1. Don’t want a COVID-19 vaccine? Be prepared to pay more for health insurance, Kaiser Health News writes.

  2. “We’re in trouble”: Politico explains why rural America can’t escape the delta variant.

  3. Health-care workers are fuming about this “optional” COVID-19 surge, a New York City doctor writes for The Atlantic.

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