The gist: There are both positive signs and worries about how the Philadelphia region will fare this fall against the coronavirus, as the delta variant spreads, students return to classrooms, and more gatherings move indoors.

So far, there’s good news: While the region’s rolling average of new cases per capita increased in August, data show the number of infections appears to have leveled off recently in Philadelphia, its collar counties, and South Jersey. At the same time, the rate of administration of first vaccination doses continues to increase modestly, due mostly to returns to school or mandates by employers.

Meanwhile, though Pennsylvania Gov. Tom’s Wolf’s mandatory school masking order went into effect Tuesday, it didn’t put an end to the drama surrounding masks in some suburban Philly districts. Some teachers reported kids were fine with masks in classrooms, prompting one principal to declare, “It feels like an adult problem.” In New Jersey, districts experienced a smoother start with masks.

— Kelly O’Shea (@kelloshea, health@inquirer.com)

What you need to know:

💰Nearly 500,000 Pennsylvanians will be impacted by the sudden end to enhanced federal unemployment benefits. Here are the pandemic assistance programs that can still help.

😷 Montgomery County residents should wear masks outdoors, the county health department recommended, going a step further than the CDC as virus transmission remains high.

🧑‍🏫 This time last year, many area colleges and universities went virtual due to high case counts. Here’s how local campuses are faring against COVID-19 so far this year.

😥 An estimated 40,000 children in the United States have lost a parent because of COVID-19. And there is much at stake for children who do not learn how to process their grief.

🩺 The pandemic has disrupted preventive health care including cancer screenings and blood pressure checks. Here’s how to get back on track.

🤰 Another limited but reassuring study finds that COVID-19 vaccines do not increase the odds of miscarriage in pregnancy.

💻 Philly City Council announced late last week that it will continue meeting online as the delta variant spreads.

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.

For long COVID-19 patients with neurological symptoms, a Penn program seeks answers

For patients with long COVID, those with symptoms that continue for weeks or months, among the most distressing lingering symptoms are the neurological ones: headaches, dizziness, and brain fog. Doctors still don’t know why patients are having these symptoms, but Penn is among a small number of hospitals and health systems that have specialized clinics just for people with cognitive issues. The clinic’s goal is to standardize treatment and testing for such patients and study the results. Read more here about the patients and what their doctors are hoping to learn.

She was hospitalized with COVID-19 while pregnant. Now she’s urging others to get the vaccine.

It started with sniffles in early May. A week later, she was on a ventilator at Virtua Voorhees Hospital, fighting for her life – and the life of her unborn child. She shared the harrowing details of her COVID-19 ordeal because she now believes pregnant people should do what she did not do — get vaccinated. The highly contagious delta variant is fueling a small but noticeable increase in unvaccinated, severely ill pregnant COVID-19 patients across the country. And that trend, not seen in previous pandemic surges, is changing the difficult balancing act faced by expectant parents.

Helpful resources

A dose of diversion: Motivation to move

When the pandemic hit, Siddeeq Shabazz bought a bike to stave off cabin fever. Since April 2020, the Southwest Philly resident has logged 6,500 miles, graced the cover of Bicycling magazine, and become an advocate for cultural diversity in cycling. “I see how far you can go in a year and I’m not telling people this as some cheesy motivational tactic, it’s because I’m living it,” he said. Read Shabazz’s inspiring story here.

❤️ Where to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks in the Philly region.

📚 Ten great new books to add to your September reading list.

🏋️ Ready to become a workout whiz? Here are three exercises that should have a permanent spot in your fitness routine.

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.

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