Pennsylvania schools will be closed through April 6 and New Jersey schools are closed indefinitely due to the coronavirus. Keeping people apart is an effective tool to slow the spread. My colleague Marie McCullough breaks down the numbers that show what happens when it’s not practiced.

But you don’t have to just sit inside and worry. People across the region are already helping their neighbors, and you can too. You can also figure out a new exercise routine, check out a virtual Philly drag show, or maybe pick up a relaxing video game from my list.

Philadelphia Parks and Recreation has posted many signs along the paths of Fairmount Park on Kelly Drive, asking people to practice social distancing while enjoying the park, because of the coronavirus, on March 23, 2020.
MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Philadelphia Parks and Recreation has posted many signs along the paths of Fairmount Park on Kelly Drive, asking people to practice social distancing while enjoying the park, because of the coronavirus, on March 23, 2020.

Schools will be closed longer in Pennsylvania and New Jersey because social distancing is the most effective way to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. But if you still doubt the importance of avoiding others, or if you think Philly’s “stay at home” order is excessive, we have some numbers for you to consider. Without the lockdown in Wuhan, China, the country would have seen as many as 16,000 more cases through February than it did, according to a new study.

Because people who don’t have symptoms can still spread the virus, cutting down human contact is important to prevent infections — and deaths. In Pennsylvania, the cases are increasing at an average daily rate of 34%. If nothing changes, we’ll see a surge in patients that will overwhelm doctors, nurses, and ventilators.

When Evan Piermont came back to Philly last week after spending the semester teaching in the United Kingdom, he and his partner did not hug. His partner is a physician who treats cancer patients at a Philadelphia hospital. She can’t risk transmitting the virus to her patients. And if she’s exposed at work, she doesn’t want to infect Piermont. They are committed to practicing social distancing, even if it means that Piermont has to live alone in an Airbnb in Center City.

This is an example of the painful choices health-care workers and their families are making during the coronavirus pandemic. These decisions have become more urgent as cases increase and it has become clear that doctors in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and around the world don’t have enough equipment to protect themselves on the job.

High school senior Jaseen Gill has been running a grocery delivery service to help seniors and families get the food they need as social restrictions intensify. Older people and those with underlying health problems are urged to stay in their homes due to the coronavirus pandemic. She, like many people across the region, felt called to help her neighbors.

“We should practice social distancing,” Gill said, “but now is also the time to come out and help.”

You can help your neighbors, too. You can donate to worker and business relief funds, buy a gift card to your favorite local shop, or even run errands like Gill and others already do. We have a full list of ways to help, along with tips on how to do it while protecting yourself and others.

That’s interesting

Through your eyes | #OurPhilly

This photo is beautiful. It’s always nice to appreciate the nature around us, especially in times like these. Thanks for sharing, @tlbtb.

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!

What you need to know today


“Now it turns out we need our parks like we need food: for basic survival. When the virus passes — and it will — let’s remember it was our parks that enabled us to endure this crisis.” writes architecture critic Inga Saffron on learning how to use public parks with social distancing.

What we are ... playing 🎮

To get out of my head and stop thinking about everything that’s happening right now, I’ve been playing a lot of video games. Games don’t have to be intense, competitive, or even expensive. If you’re looking for an escape and some relaxation, they’re a great way to do it. If you don’t believe me, a column in the New York Times says so, too.

Here are some of my go-to games to relax:

  • First, check out Stardew Valley. This game is about tending a farm, but you’ll be interacting with town inhabitants, too. There’s also a mine with hundreds of levels to explore. So you can pick your own adventure. It’s available on PC and consoles, and the full game is on iOS and Android.
  • Next, take a look at the Sims. It’s a life simulator. You create virtual people, called Sims, and then guide them through their lives. The sky is the limit. Become a billionaire, an astronaut or even a villain. You can get the Sims 3 or the Sims 4 right now.
  • Most recently, I’ve been playing a lot of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which was released for Nintendo Switch on Friday. In it, you head to a deserted island to live your best life. Literally. The point is to do whatever you want. Talk to your cute animal neighbors, catch butterflies or sit and listen to the ocean waves. It’s a great way to chill out.

Your Daily Dose of | The PupSide

For Karen Cortellino, Sophie the boxer is an irreplaceable member of the family, including serving as the “flower dog” at her daughter’s wedding. But Sophie was diagnosed with a condition that put her at risk for abnormal heart rhythms. If severe, they can cause sudden death. It wasn’t the end for her, though. She became the first dog in a program at Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine that uses a human-standard procedure to treat the same condition in boxers.