The gist: COVID-19 cases are inching up in Philadelphia, and the city’s indoor mask mandate could return as early as next week. Plus, vaccine providers can no longer be reimbursed for vaccinating the uninsured, and Senate negotiators have reached a slimmed-down spending plan to help combat the pandemic. And, parents in the Philly region discuss the realities of raising a newborn during COVID, while experts wonder how babies born in 2020 — who have spent their first two important developmental years in a pandemic — will be impacted.

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

Philly’s indoor mask mandate likely to return next week, as city COVID cases creep upward

As cases of COVID-19 have started to rise again in Philadelphia, it’s likely that the city will reinstate its indoor mask mandate next week, health department spokesperson Jim Garrow told The Inquirer. Both COVID case counts and the percent increase of cases now meet the city’s benchmarks to move from the current “All Clear” COVID-19 response level to “Mask Precautions.” But the data are not alarming enough to warrant an immediate change in the city’s mask policy.

What you need to know

🔒 Parents in the Philadelphia region share the realities of raising a newborn in a pandemic, and experts discuss how starting life in a deadly pandemic might impact babies born in 2020.

🔒 Philly-area health systems took a big financial hit from last year’s COVID surge — up to a five-fold increase in spending in the University of Pennsylvania Health System’s case.

💉 Vaccine providers across the Philly region — and the country — can no longer be reimbursed for vaccinations given to people who are uninsured.

💰 Senate negotiators have reached a $10 billion agreement for a spending package to help counter COVID-19, slimming the plan down from its original $22.5 billion cost.

🤒 New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy recently tested positive for COVID-19, but is asymptomatic. His infection came as the BA.2 subvariant contributed to an increase in new cases in the state.

😷 A Chester County judge has reinstated West Chester school board members he ousted over failing to answer a petition from masking opponents.

👃 A group of local doctors is treating the loss of smell associated with COVID-19 by sticking plasma-soaked sponges up people’s noses.

❓ After closing down two years ago due to the pandemic, Social Security offices around the country reopen this week — a move that is expected to bring crowds and confusion.

✈️ Plane tickets will likely be more expensive this summer, thanks to increasing jet fuel costs and more folks being willing to travel compared to earlier in the pandemic.

🤢 A New Jersey police officer had a foot-long blood clot that was as thick as a finger — and caused by the coronavirus — pulled from his lungs.

Local coronavirus numbers

📉 Coronavirus cases are declining in Pennsylvania and increasing in New Jersey. Track the latest data here.

Helpful resources

What you're saying

Last week, we asked what you think is ahead in the pandemic. Here’s what you told us:

💉 “The virus will significantly increase and the reason is the poor vaccination rate among the public. Society needs to be 95% fully covered, not 65%. Unfortunately, far too many people are dead set against it for political reasons.”

🦠 “Pretending the pandemic is over prolongs it.”

😷 “The various mutations of virus causing the Covid-19 respiratory disease will still develop and give the base for further infections.”

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