The gist: It’s all about masks once again this week, with Philadelphia set to reinstitute a mask mandate for indoor public places starting Monday. But, as you might have guessed, Philadelphians are split over that change, and no other cities have yet followed our lead. Meanwhile, the newest mask mandate comes amid news that the virus has now killed more than 5,000 Philly residents, hitting some neighborhoods harder than others. And over the bridge in New Jersey, schools have been plagued with chronic absenteeism throughout the pandemic.

📥 Tell us: How will the latest indoor mask mandate impact what you do in the city? Send us a note, and we’ll share some responses in next week’s newsletter. Please keep it to 35 words.

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

Philadelphia is first U.S. big city to reimpose indoor mask rules as COVID rates rise

After more than a month without masking requirements, on Monday, Philadelphia will once again institute a face-covering mandate in response to the recent rise in cases. That change made Philly the first large American city to go back to an indoor mask mandate, and so far, no other cities are following suit, even as cases are also rising elsewhere:

  • New York City, for example, never had its own indoor mask requirement, but was covered by New York state’s mandate — which expired in February. And in Washington, D.C., which ended its indoor mask mandate in March, the city says its current rate presents a low level of severity.

What you need to know

🏫 Chronic absenteeism increased 30% among New Jersey’s public school students in the 2020-21 school year, prompting one official to say “COVID crushed us.”

😞 COVID-19 has killed more than 5,000 Philadelphians, with neighborhoods with high shares of older residents and nursing homes bearing the brunt of its impact.

💩 In Philadelphia, the key to an early warning signal for coronavirus is coming from an unexpected — and pretty gross — place: Our poop.

👃 Researchers have a poor sense of what life is like after losing your sense of smell due to COVID-19 — but if you know, researchers at Thomas Jefferson University want to hear from you.

😠 In the early days of COVID, everyone wanted a dog. But now a lot of those pups are being surrendered, and the adopters aren’t coming back.

🏀 The Sixers’ Matisse Thybulle will miss games three and four of the teams series against Toronto because he is not fully vaccinated, and decided to remain so because of his holistic upbringing.

🔒 Like with everything else, the pandemic has change Philly’s restaurants — and while business is returning to pre-COVID levels, some of the marks it has left are permanent.

Local coronavirus numbers

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

Helpful resources

What you're saying

Last week, we asked how you feel about returning to wearing masks while indoors. Here’s what you told us:

😷 “I’m totally fine with putting masks back in place. I work in the school district and always wear my mask anyway. Not a big deal if some people can be protected!”

❌ “100% against mask mandates! Ridiculous!”

🤷 “I have no problem wearing a mask indoors. I continue to do so for a weekly event with about 100 people in attendance, as well as the theater performances in Philly where it has been required all season.”

😠 “Not happy about the mask return. This is really starting to mess with folks psychologically. I feel only if hospitalization cases rise then we should mask again. Otherwise it should be a choice.”

👍 “Return to wearing masks indoors? I never stopped.”

🙅‍♂️ “We need to progress in our thinking. Masks are bad for mental health. Bad for businesses. There was a time when it made sense. It doesn’t now.”

🫁 “My top priority is to stay healthy and protect those around me. If it means wearing a mask for the rest of my life, so be it.”

😔 “I do not think there will be the level of cooperation there has been before. People are tired of the separation the masks implies, a separation from Interaction with others.”

✅ “Just mask up when needed and enjoy when not needed. We’ll be OK in the long term if we just follow the guidelines.”

😡 “It is ridiculous to return to masks being mandatory. I am fully vaccinated and feel sick when I wear one.”

A dose of diversion: Four bones for Rittenhouse’s new dog ice cream shop

As the dog of Inquirer food critic Craig LaBan, Great Dane mix Buttercup is one picky pooch. But Salty Paws, the new ice cream parlor for pups near Rittenhouse Square, got her highest review last week — that is, an empty bowl. As Buttercup put it in her review, “Peanut butter. Cheddar. Blueberry. Maple … bacon?! Let’s do it!”

⚾ The Phillies are officially back, so we went down to their home opener and asked fans about their feelings on the season ... and that weird new peanut butter and jelly burger.

🎶 What do Beyonce, Metallica, U2, and Justin Bieber have in common? They’ve all prepped for big shows at this massive concert rehearsal studio in Lancaster County.

🍖 If you need to pick up some Dietz & Watson cold cuts and a marrow bone or tomohawk steak or two in the same place, there’s a revamped Port Richmond butcher shop for you.

A good thing: Philadelphia Orchestra is back in full for the first time since the pandemic started

September marks the start of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s 2022-23 season, and for the first time since the pandemic began, they’ll be back with a whole season of live concerts and full operations. New scores, tried-and-true standards, and reprises of works the orchestra first debuted decades ago — it’s all there. As Matías Tarnopolsky, president and CEO of the newly combined Philadelphia Orchestra and Kimmel Center Inc., put it: “We’re back.”