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, morningnewsletter@inquirer.com)

The untold toll of the pandemic on people with Alzheimer’s or diabetes

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.

All eyes are on Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons

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

What you need to know today

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

Opinions

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?

What we’re reading

Your Daily Dose of | Spirit

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.