The gist: This week, it’s all about masks (again) — namely, the schools that are dropping or keeping their masking restrictions as mandates continue to roll back. Plus, Philadelphians aren’t as vaccinated as previously reported. That update comes as local officials end regular COVID-19 briefings. Meanwhile, a new bill passed by City Council may require Philly employers to have paid leave for coronavirus-related absences.

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— Nick Vadala (@njvadala, health@inquirer.com)

Philly public, Catholic schools officially go mask-optional

As of today, students and teachers in the Philadelphia School District and city Catholic schools can go maskless. District students and staff from kindergarten through 12th grade now have the option of wearing masks if they choose, but kids in prekindergarten and Head Start programs must keep masking. Philly schools aren’t the only ones dropping mask mandates in the region:

What you need to know

💉 Due to data errors, it turns out Philadelphians — both kids and adults — are far less vaccinated than the city’s health department previously reported.

📣 Citing a desire to “move forward,” officials in New Jersey and Philadelphia have ended their regular COVID-19 briefings.

💸 A bill passed by City Council will require Philly employers to offer paid leave for COVID-19 absences through 2023.

🏥 Delaware County, the most populous Pennsylvania county without a health department, will officially get one next month.

🥳 After a slew of cancellations due to the pandemic, Philly’s convention scene is now on the rebound.

🚙 The Philadelphia Auto Show returned for its 120th edition this month after COVID-19 put it on the back-burner last year.

🏠 The Philadelphia region is seeing fewer open houses than before the pandemic due in part to continued COVID wariness, but they are on the rise.

🐕‍🦺 Scientists have found COVID-19 in more than two-dozen kinds of animals, which some say is a cause for concern.

Local coronavirus numbers

📈 Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are declining in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Track the latest data here.

Helpful resources

A dose of diversion: Inside the New Jersey farm that’s home to more than 600 rescue animals

Down in Mays Landing, N.J., there’s a farm that hundreds of rescue animals call home, including 11 dogs, 20 goats, 15 horses, a skunk, and two llamas. Known as Funny Farm Animal Rescue, it’s a longtime project of graphic designer and founder Laurie Zaleski — and yes, you can go visit.

🚘 Looking for a road trip without going too far? President Joe Biden’s adopted hometown of Wilmington has plenty of food, fun, and history just 45 minutes south of Philly.

🎉 March is Women’s History Month, so we’ve rounded up more than a dozen ways to celebrate the occasion right here in Philly.

🪲 Having suffered an unsolved $40,000 heist in 2018, Philly’s bug museum, the Insectarium, now has its own true crime series. Here’s a look back at its wild history.

A good thing: Identical twins’ pandemic catering venture goes full-blown restaurant

Identical twins Kala and Maya Johnstone had identical career paths as (now retired) principals in the School District of Philadelphia. But at the height of the pandemic, the pair started up a part-time catering company that has since grown into a full restaurant called FoodChasers’ Kitchen in Elkins Park. And with options like shrimp and grits, biscuits and gravy, and French toast, it’s decidedly not a low-cal experience — but it is delicious.