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Overdoses killed 1,214 Philadelphians in 2020 | Morning Newsletter

And, the arts need relief to bounce back.

    The Morning Newsletter

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

Hello, dedicated readers of The Inquirer Morning Newsletter.

First: 2020 marked Philly’s second-highest drug death toll.

Then: It looks as if Philly is just not as invested as other big cities in helping the arts recover from the pandemic.

And: Attention, campers! Summer recreation is humming.

P.S. Here’s what’s possible weather-wise tonight.

— Ashley Hoffman (@_ashleyhoffman,

Overdoses killed 1,214 people in Philadelphia in 2020, marking the city’s second-highest drug death toll on record, and one likely worsened by quarantining during the pandemic, city officials said.

Just as they were hit disproportionately by coronavirus-related deaths, Black Philadelphians were hit hardest by overdose deaths, a demographic shift in drug fatalities that began before the pandemic started and only got worse in 2020.

For years, the majority of the city’s fatal overdoses have taken place in private homes, and city officials say the lockdown only made that trend worse, too.

Jewell Johnson, a city substance use epidemiologist, says pandemic-related unemployment among Black Philadelphians may be associated with the high overdose death toll in 2020. Read on for reporter Aubrey Whelan’s story on the possible factors.

As the pandemic drew the curtain on live shows and shuttered museums, Philadelphia’s vibrant arts scene withered. Theaters and other public venues sat empty, and the traditional exchange between artists and audiences was on indefinite pause. Advocates say the financial hit that arts groups took over the course of the pandemic eclipses that of the Great Recession.

But in Philly, they say, the city government has done precious little compared with Chicago, San Francisco, and New York, which are trying to help arts programs rebound as a part of daily life. A few new ideas “have been floated for potential city action, and then have floated away.” Advocates are clamoring for the city to provide more financial relief and more innovative support.

Reporters Stephan Salisbury and Peter Dobrin have the full breakdown on how the city is investing — or not investing -- in the arts in the city.

Helpful COVID-19 Resources

  1. Track the latest data on cases in the region.

  2. No, you shouldn’t ask for someone’s vaccination status. Here’s what to do instead.

  3. Symptoms of COVID-19, flu, common cold, and allergies can overlap. How to tell the difference.

  4. Side effects mean your COVID-19 vaccine is working. But what if you don’t have a reaction?

  5. Your social guide to reopening.

What you need to know today

  1. How do Pa. lawmakers spend millions in tax dollars every year? This bill would force the numbers to be posted online for the first time.

  2. School mask requirements are heating up the debate as parents ramp up pressure on districts.

  3. A Philly judge was suspended for six months for “blatant and inexcusable” misconduct including “failing to be impartial” on the bench.

  4. Free swimming lessons at pools, elevated PlayStreets, and summer camps with looser rules: Welcome to Philly’s summer 2021 recreation reopening.

  5. Know anyone looking for a J-O-B? Philly Shipyard is looking for workers to usher in a new generation of apprentices and it’s offering training.

  6. Here’s how to mark Immigrant Heritage Month in Philly.

Through your eyes | #OurPhilly

Good call, Chuck. And this photo is a wonder.

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

🔔 🔔 🔔 🔔 Can Craig LaBan put on his LaBib and get critical already? Are restaurants ready for the return of his restaurant reviews? Is he?

🍩 Dunkin’ Donuts is also a restaurant. People of all ages should be rewarded with free dessert, and a fake food holiday is the primo opportunity. Get your free doughnut for National Donut Day.

🎭 One of the most valuable players on Mare of Easttown was indisputably the Ross family’s best representative, Moira Ross, played by Upper Bucks County’s own Kassie Mundhenk. So of course Ellen Gray had to talk to the young actor about her unforgettable performance.


“It’s time to stop criminalizing people because of who they are,” writes Mike Hinson, the president and chief operating officer of SELF Inc., about cautiously welcoming meaningful and intentional engagement with the police at LGBTQ+ Pride events and in his North Philadelphia neighborhood.

  1. We need to ensure full inclusion and participation for all, including our residents with disabilities. Our Parks and Recreation systems need to provide meaningful access for people with diverse disabilities, writes advocate Anna Perng, cofounder of the Chinatown Disability Advocacy Project.

  2. It’s Pro/Con time: Will a new proposed law to tackle hate crimes make Asians in America safer? A sociologist debates a lawyer.

What we’re reading

  1. How to throw a block party, as is Philly tradition, in Philly Mag.

  2. Scalawag has a comprehensive report on laws targeting trans sex workers in Louisiana.

  3. BuzzFeed lists 30 shows with prominent LGBTQ+ characters to stream on Netflix for Pride month, including the one with the first black lesbian superhero swooping in onscreen.

  4. What cold hard facts can we expect when it comes to how many aliens are living among us with the coming UFO report from the Pentagon?

  5. Also this month in outer-space shenanigans, it’s time to get ready for the super strawberry moon, and PopSugar can help.

  6. Fall in love with percussion in five minutes, thanks to your favorite disc jockey, the New York Times.

Your Daily Dose of | Fighting back

As the saying goes, when the bell rings, you come out swinging. Jim Raffone has been fighting to find a cure for his 12-year-old son Jamesy’s rare genetic disease for years. Now he’s lacing up his boxing gloves and stepping into the ring for a five-round bout, televised live from Atlantic City, to raise money and awareness.