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The pandemic’s hidden toll | Morning Newsletter

And, our 76ers season preview is here.

    The Morning Newsletter

    Start your day with the Philly news you need and the stories you want all in one easy-to-read newsletter

Good morning.

First: COVID-19′s staggering death toll doesn’t include the multitudes who have died as an indirect result of the pandemic. Two especially vulnerable groups have suffered dire consequences in isolation. We analyzed the data.

Then: The Sixers officially begin their season tomorrow night. Check out our season preview package.

And: The second federal coronavirus relief package was approved by the House and Senate We’ve got the details on when help will be on the way.

— Ashley Hoffman (@_ashleyhoffman,

This has been, by standard metrics, a truly abnormal year for “excess deaths” — the gap between actual and expected deaths. And our analysis showed the vulnerability of those with diabetes or Alzheimer’s.

Many deaths aren’t directly linked to testing positive for COVID-19. But since the coronavirus took hold, they may have been indirectly associated with it. People with diabetes may have been cut off from access to exercise and their vital medications because of mail delays. As for people with Alzheimer’s, many were cut off from their routines and connection with family.

These are some distressing numbers in our region, and they track closely with what’s been happening across the country.

The 76ers open their season tomorrow at home against the Washington Wizards, and it wouldn’t be the Sixers without some drama lingering off the court.

New coach? Check. New president of basketball operations calling the shots? Check. Outside shooting ability? It looks like it. A looming trade of a franchise cornerstone in a bid to land one of the best players in the NBA? Yeah, it’s a lot to get to. Start with this breakdown of the story lines to watch for by beat writer Marc Narducci . You can find all of our Sixers coverage here.

Helpful COVID-19 Resources

  1. Check the latest coronavirus-related restrictions in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

  2. When can I get the vaccine? Can my boss require it? Is it safe? And more common vaccine questions.

  3. Here are the updated coronavirus case numbers as COVID-19 continues to spread across the region.

  4. Is it safe to travel this winter? If you are traveling, here’s a full breakdown on how to stay safer away from home wherever you stay and however you get there.

  5. What are the first symptoms of the coronavirus and what are the differences in COVID-19, the flu, a common cold, and allergies?

  6. Sign up to get free coronavirus news updates in your inbox three times a week.

What you need to know today

  1. Congress has finalized a second relief package that includes $600 stimulus checks for most Americans, plus an additional $300 a week in federal unemployment money if you’re not working. The package also includes more aid to businesses. My colleague Erin Arvedlund broke down the timeline and the details.

  2. This is what we know so far about the new variant of the coronavirus that has sparked concern that the mutation could infect Americans.

  3. Long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey will be part of the second wave of COVID-19 vaccination clinics. These pharmacies say they’re going to start giving shots in Pennsylvania and New Jersey on Dec. 28.

  4. Some of the landlords who didn’t participate in Philadelphia’s pandemic rental assistance program got turned off by red tape, money concerns and strained relationships with tenants, a new report shows. And some went in another direction entirely.

  5. Election Day went smoothly because people did their jobs. Now, after conspiracy theories, threats and harassment, some election officials are quitting.

  6. After transparency issues, Philadelphia prison officials pledged to release coronavirus test results for everyone on the inside. It’s going to take a while.

  7. The families of five Southeastern Veterans’ Center residents who died of COVID-19 filed a lawsuit in federal court yesterday, alleging that the state run nursing home’s operators failed to protect them and dozens of other residents who fell victim to the virus.

  8. There’s one single requirement you need to sit on Philadelphia’s school board nominating panel, and not everyone who most recently participated met it.

Through your eyes | #OurPhilly

Keep hanging in there, everyone. Thanks for sharing this winter spectator in Rittenhouse Square, @gerardrunsphilly.

Tag your Instagram posts or tweets with #OurPhilly and we’ll pick our favorite each day to feature in this newsletter and give you a shout-out!

That’s interesting

  1. ⛄ It’s an annual question around these parts: Will we get a snowy Christmas? It’s probably out of the cards this year. But our resident weather expert, Anthony R. Wood, poses a different question: Why do we care?

  2. 💸 My colleague Sam Wood writes about why medical marijuana is remarkably costly in Pennsylvania compared with other states.

  3. 🍬 How do artists of the world envision sugarplums dancing in your head? A robust collection of beautifully illustrated renditions of the nearly 200-year-old poem “The Night Before Christmas,” formally known as “A Visit From St. Nicholas” can help answer that question. Education reporter Susan Snyder has the story and how you can listen to any one of the 13 very special virtual readings of the classic bedtime tale.

  4. 📷 Raw emotion, a person in a bear costume thanking essential workers, and dancers in sparkly tutus at a drive-by recital. Browse our photographers’ 52 favorite photos of the year.

  5. 🌎 After more than two years in sanctuary, this couple danced out of a Philadelphia church yesterday and into their new deportation threat-free life.

  6. 🦅 It was a rough game for the Eagles on Sunday. But we boiled it down to the worst of it, and these are the five reasons they lost to the Cardinals.


COVID-19 has upended the holiday season, requiring people to stay far from friends and family at a time when we want their company most. We turned to two journalists separated from family this year to debate: Do Zoom holidays improve on your normal celebrations, or fail to measure up?

  1. Teacher Quinn O’Callaghan writes that we should hold onto literary classics. However distant, they can offer teachable moments that should still be explored thoughtfully, she writes after a debate about updating the canon popped up on Twitter again.

  2. Freelance writer Rachel Kramer Bussel, who’s helping her father grieve from afar, writes that the pandemic demands a lot of trust and honest communication from us.

What we’re reading

  1. Chef David Chang’s golden fried delivery-only return to Philly and a fine creamery scooping up eggnog ice cream with gingerbread cookie butter. Eater Philly lists these among three great ghost kitchens that have landed in Philly.

  2. WHYY runs down four ways the historic year is going to have an impact on the future, from reforms left unsettled to the meaning of Rizzo and Christopher Columbus getting evicted.

  3. It’s time for a chance encounter with a reindeer and a snow-covered forest. A photographer awaits the northern lights in the icy landcape of his home country of Sweden, and every single picture in this New York Times collection is a bracingly moving marvel.

Acts of generosity mean a lot more than they did before, given this year’s hardships.

And when we asked for examples of people helping others this holiday season, this region delivered. Case in point: the daily advent calendar-style surprises for the son of a neighbor who’s caring for someone out of town.

Another beautiful project: a community Christmas tree in Williams Park in Springfield that people quickly decorated with DIY messages and sweet remembrances of loved ones. Someone put it up after an anonymous stranger offered to buy a tough-to-find Playstation 5 from someone with one request: Pay it forward, and this one keeps on giving.

Here’s how people are saving the holidays for others who need a little Christmas, right this very minute.