The hope that we’ll eventually return to normal life is in sight now. But local officials say how well we can curb the spread of the coronavirus is going to come down to how individuals take it from here. As cases and hospitalizations across the country rise, science-backed precautions can be lifesaving for public health.
To understand how we can do our part right now, Lauren chatted with our health and science reporter Tom Avril about the latest round of coronavirus updates, both encouraging (vaccine news) and concerning (fatigue).
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The week ahead
A federal judge yesterday threw out President Trump’s last remaining legal challenge that tried to invalidate Pennsylvania’s election results. In a last-ditch legal effort to stop this week’s certification of Pennsylvania’s election results, one of Trump’s biggest boosters in the state filed a long-shot lawsuit seeking to disenfranchise at least 2.6 million voters by throwing out every mail ballot cast in the 2020 election.
The Philly candidates for Washington jobs under Joe Biden’s incoming administration are obvious. And the Democratic fund-raisers who helped pave the way for Biden’s victory are now in a position to push their preferences. Here are several Philly-area corporate leaders who could take jobs in Biden’s Washington.
This is how to approach (and not approach) Thanksgiving, per the latest warning from public health officials. And, here are some of the things you can (and shouldn’t) do during Thanksgiving this year. For example, you can create a sense of togetherness even if you and your loved ones are in different places.
The coronavirus and the pandemic of 1918 seem to share one thing in common. People were in denial. That deadly flu was catastrophic, but it didn’t stop the country from celebrating Thanksgiving that November. Thanksgiving 2020 doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s what we can learn from Thanksgiving 1918.
Creativity took center stage for museums and performing arts centers when they offered a glut of online programming to engage people during the first coronavirus surge. But these new restrictions are particularly tough on this uniquely fragile sector.
This week’s most popular stories
Behind the story with Tom Avril
Each week we go behind the scenes with one of our reporters or editors to discuss their work and the challenges they face along the way. This week we chat with health and science reporter Tom Avril, who covers health and science in Pennsylvania.
There’s been a surge in COVID-19 cases in the Philly area. What exactly has been going on?
Cases are unfortunately on the rise here and across much of the United States, and multiple factors seem to be at work. More people may be gathering indoors, whether at work, school, or restaurants and bars. Some may be letting down their guard due to the same dreary COVID-19 fatigue that we’re all feeling. Also, there is evidence that the virus may spread more readily in cooler, drier air.
Is this better, worse or about the same as the first surge in March and April?
We’re seeing the number of infections surpass the levels of the spring, yet so far the number of deaths remains lower, fortunately. Some of that is because the people getting infected now tend to be younger, whereas the brunt of infections early on was borne in nursing homes.
What is the best thing individuals can do right now?
The infectious-disease experts say we should keep following the same advice they’ve been hammering since the start: Avoid crowds, especially indoors. Wear masks. Remain at least six feet away from those outside your “bubble.”
What’s going on with a vaccine? Is there a chance one could be available to the public soon and how much would it help?
The vaccine news this month is great, with candidates from Pfizer and Moderna both seeming to reduce the risk of illness by more than 90%. If the FDA gives the OK, the companies will be able to start distributing the drugs to a few million essential workers and vulnerable people by the end of the year, but most of us will likely have to wait until at least March.
How do you evaluate new coronavirus studies as they surface? Science is an evolving process, so what makes a study more or less consequential?
Oh boy, that’s a complicated one with many parts. You can check this guide for a fuller understanding of evaluating scientific studies.
What are you continuing to look for or keep an eye on as you continue to cover the pandemic?
I and many others remain puzzled by how this virus causes such a wide range of issues. A small minority of people get very sick, while some people develop few or no symptoms at all. Age and underlying health conditions play a role, but plenty of old people seem to recover just fine, for reasons that are not yet fully understood.
Why did you become a journalist and what drew you to the health beat?
I majored in engineering in college, and I’ve always enjoyed writing, so I sought out a career that would allow me to combine those interests. I have been covering science-related topics at the Inquirer since 2001, and in biotech-rich Philadelphia, that often means writing about health and medicine.
Through Your Eyes | #OurPhilly
Get into this shot of the twinkling tree against the melon pink sky. Thanks for sharing, @wooder_ice.
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!
Eating: Feasts prepped by these spots that are happy to make the stuffing and turkey and all the fixings in between. Ditch your oven and leave the Thanksgiving meal to the pros.
Drinking: Beer from these breweries, which are all about prioritizing diversity for anyone who loves a good pint.
Talking about: This online Thanksgiving history discussion. In honor of Native American Heritage month, the Penn Museum is presenting a free conversation about the myths associated with the first Thanksgiving and the encounters between Native Americans and settlers.
Watching: These 5-minute-long BalletX films. One of them takes place in front of three murals around Philly, and the choreographer coached Beyoncé for one of her world tours.
Listening to: Santa Claus. He’s making a special pit stop in Chestnut Hill to read the classic bedtime tale ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas during a free Chestnut Hill event.
Comment of the week
“Wonderful story! The outpouring of concern and donations shows me there is still kindness in our divided country. I’ll bet no one asked their political views before contributing to this couple. Good for you Massachusetts and those others that did this.” — bigly yuuge on A struggling older couple was shamed for their aging house. Hundreds of people stepped in to help spruce it up.
Your Daily Dose of | Play
For one golden hour and a half every single Thursday, kids from the Bridgeton, N.J., community’s Mexican and Latinx families come to play soccer with pro coaches. (To play it safe, coaches and adults wear masks and families watch the action at a distance from the side.) The goals are family fun, a dose of physical activity and social interaction, and most important of all: endeavoring to build trust between the city’s large Spanish-speaking immigrant community and local police.