The gist: Plastic-glass shields separate the diners. Athletes, always masked and distanced, are tested daily. New coronavirus cases have reached a six-month highs in Japan, just two days before the Olympic opening ceremony in Tokyo, which is under a state of emergency. Fans are banned from all Tokyo venues, but athletes from the Philly area aren’t complaining: They say that organizers are taking Olympian steps to protect them.

In the United States, with underlying anxieties about the variants, officials continue to press their campaigns to increase vaccination rates, and the Philadelphia Zoo is planning even to inoculate at-risk animals. But one symptom of progress toward normality is evident in the economy. Consumers are spending, and prices are rising.

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

What you need to know:

💉 As have health-care centers, six Philly senior-living facilities are requiring staffers to get vaccinated. They join a growing national trend among health-care providers.

🏫 Experts say the $4.5 million that Philly schools are spending on air purifiers to curb COVID-19 might not be a wise investment.

⚾ When it comes to getting vaccinated, the Philllies roster is batting under .500, sources say. Coronavirus-related issues have forced some players to join the injury list.

🚕 Philly riders can now use Lyft’s cheaper carpooling option again. Drivers and riders have to wear masks, and pooling is limited to two passengers.

⛪ Catholics in the Philadelphia Archdiocese will be obligated to attend Mass in person starting on Sunday, Aug. 15.

📰 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.

Plastic-glass in the dining hall: Philly-area Olympians see a clear focus on safety

With the opening ceremony scheduled for Friday, dozens of Olympic athletes have tested positive for COVID-19, including U.S. basketball player Katie Samuelson and gymnastics-team alternate Kara Eaker — both of whom had been vaccinated. Organizers have undertaken intense precautions, such as separating diners by plastic-glass shields. Philly-area athletes say they have been impressed by the efforts, and as one rower remarked, “It has not once felt like a burden.”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday Tokyo reported 1,832 new cases of the coronavirus, the biggest bump in six months. “What we have worried about is now actually happening,” Japan Medical Association President Toshio Nakagawa said at a weekly news conference.

Families hit hardest by COVID-19 pandemic also struggle the most with medical debt

On top of illnesses, the pandemic has had profound economic impacts on working-age adults who have lost income and job-related insurance. The issues were further compounded for those who became ill with COVID-19 and have been burdened with medical bills. Those findings were included in a report by the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit health policy research organization, based on a survey of 5,450 adults, ages 19 to 54. Black, Latino, and low-income adults reported the highest rates of lost jobs, lost income, and medical bill problems.

Helpful resources

You got this: Where fun is a Shore thing for kids

At this writing, it’s looking like quite a decent beach weekend with generous sun both Saturday and Sunday and temperatures in the 80s. But for kids the Shore offers more than sun, sand, and calories. Several Shore towns, including Avalon, Sea Isle City, Ventnor, and Brigantine host off-beach playgrounds with plenty of diversions to postpone those inevitable requests for ice cream. Here are a few options.

🍕 Speaking of the Shore, our Amy S. Rosenberg ranked every pizza place on the Atlantic City boardwalk.

🚯 Tired of looking at the trash? Here’s how to organize a block cleanup.

🎭 Come fall, the popular “Fringe Festival” again will reopen the curtains.

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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