Life is feeling a little more normal in the Philly region as case counts continue to plummet. Vaccines are working, and more and more people are getting them — including children. Nationally, we dropped below 30,000 daily cases for the first time in 11 months. This time last year, you may not have believed this time would come, but we’re a little closer to normal, at least for now.

And, as more and more people leave the house, I chatted with transportation reporter Thomas Fitzgerald about his work and what he’s looking forward to this year.

— Lauren Aguirre (@laurencaguirre, morningnewsletter@inquirer.com)

The week ahead

  • Kids are lining up for COVID-19 vaccines in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as parents experience both relief and hesitancy.

  • Following in Penn Health System’s footsteps, the founders of Philly’s Kline & Specter law firm are requiring vaccines for employees, and they think other firms should do it, too.

  • Police have arrested a man suspected in a series of sexual assaults over the past week in Philadelphia.

  • The Sixers are hosting the Wizards in Philly today for the first round of the NBA playoffs. Here’s why Coach Doc Rivers is the real 76ers MVP.

  • You can now get a mental health screening at CVS Pharmacy locations in Pa. and N.J.

  • In one of the first efforts of its kind, Philly’s community college and the housing authority are going to offer housing for students without a secure place to live.

Marking Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Biden signed a bill to counter the spike in anti-Asian hate crime

President Joe Biden signed legislation on Thursday to address a dramatic rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. The new law will expedite Justice Department reviews of hate crimes by putting an official in charge of the effort. Federal grants will be available to help local law enforcement agencies improve their investigation, identification and reporting of bias-driven incidents, which often go underreported. Some activists opposed the legislation’s reliance on law enforcement.

Opinion: Leo Wang, University of Pennsylvania resident physician and bioengineer, shared how the “model minority” stereotype oversimplifies Asian American stories — including his.

Ways to celebrate:

  • Support artists from South and West Asia at Twelve Gates Arts in Philly. One exhibit there from Qasim Riza Shaheen called The Beetroot Robe opened in May and runs through mid-August.

  • Join a Chinatown scavenger hunt from the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation this weekend. You can participate through all of June, too.

  • Grab a #NotPizza box from Hardena for Indonesian cuisine ready for pickup.

This week’s most popular stories

Behind the story with Thomas Fitzgerald

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 reporter Thomas Fitzgerald about his work covering transportation in the region.

Can you describe your coverage area as a transportation reporter?

I cover mobility, how society and its stuff get around. It affects everyone. The beat involves everything from self-driving trucks to Philadelphia’s deadliest roads to filthy SEPTA stations. In what ways does public policy, such as the city’s parking laws, shape transportation, and what are the politics behind those decisions? It’s about how transportation works — or doesn’t.

What are you watching out for on your beat in the near future?

Two big storylines: As the pandemic eases and “normal” returns, will people resume commuting, and if so, will they return to SEPTA or drive? And the coming political battle in Harrisburg over a new state funding source to keep SEPTA running, often a tough sell in a legislature dominated by rural interests.

What are a few stories you’ve worked on recently that you are proud of?

A piece on neurological research to figure out how to make SEPTA’s confusing directional signs make sense. And a story with colleague Aubrey Whelan on addiction and homelessness overwhelming the Market-Frankford Line in Kensington.

What is something you’ve learned from your work?

Public urination in train stations costs U.S. transit systems millions annually. It can disable elevators, and many attempts to prevent damage with sealants and clever detection systems have failed. Who knew?

What’s one thing you wish people better understood about your job?

Reporters rely on you. Let me know what’s happening out there, and send me your questions about transportation. I’m at tfitzgerald@inquirer.com.

What are you looking forward to this year outside of work?

A big family wedding in July. Normally that would be a routine, if happy, event. Now, it’s also a celebration of our all being together for the first time in more than a year. Party on.

Email Thomas Fitzgerald at tfitzgerald@inquirer.com and follow him on Twitter at @tomfitzgerald.

Through Your Eyes | #OurPhilly

Love to see the pretty lights shining on Boathouse Row.

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!

Your post-vaccine safety guide

As more and more people in the region are vaccinated and much of the region is set to fully reopen, you might be wondering what’s safe to do after you’ve gotten the shots. We asked seven experts to rank the risks of going to a movie, traveling by plane, taking an Uber, and more.

What we’re…

Question of the week

What songs do you play outside in the summer? With the warmer weather, we asked our Instagram followers for some more summer jams. Here’s some suggestions from them:

🎵 “Ocean Avenue by Yellowcard and Doin’ Time by Sublime.”

📻 “Girls like you, Maroon 5. 💋 😂”

🔉 “AC/DC, Highway to Hell.”

🎶 “Heart, All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You ❣️ ❣️”

Follow us at @PhillyInquirer on Instagram so you can answer the next question.

Your Daily Dose of | Staying Power

“Staying Power” is an exhibition of five newly conceived monuments or memorialsOn the Day They Come Home among themnow sprinkled through the archipelago of parks in Philly. In different ways, each artwork honors resiliency, creativity, and patience — those human elements that undergird the notion of “staying power.” The exhibition will remain on view into July.