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Coronavirus deaths are surging in rural Pa. | Morning Newsletter

And, the extended COVID-19 restrictions in Philly.

    The Morning Newsletter

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

Good morning. We hope you’re staying comfortable this “Christmas Eve Eve.”

First: While cities bore the brunt of the coronavirus in the beginning of the pandemic, it’s now surging in rural Pennsylvania as the virus latches onto the Achilles’ heel of rural areas.

Then: Philly has announced extended COVID-19 restrictions on indoor dining and an update on other businesses.

And: Congress’ coronavirus relief bill could bring some changes to PPP business loans. Here’s what to know, and how to apply.

— Ashley Hoffman (@_ashleyhoffman,

During the beginning of the first wave of infections in Pennsylvania, it was Philadelphia that had the highest fatality rate. But over the course of the pandemic, Pennsylvania’s urban core was earlier and tougher on rules vs. rural areas, where it’s predictably surging.

While it’s impossible to know how everyone combated the spread, prevention efforts seemed “frivolous” to some in towns that didn’t heed the dangers as much as the more densely populated areas did. Now, coronavirus death rates are rising in most of Pennsylvania’s counties this month. But there’s one tiny central Pennsylvania county that’s seen the highest coronavirus death rate, scaled for population, in the whole state.

That’s where we turned out attention. In unflinching detail, reporters Oona Goodin-Smith, Jason Nark and Dylan Purcell document the emotionally taxing work inside a Lewistown, Pa., funeral home. They also report on why some in the area may have underestimated this virus.

Philadelphia tacked a couple of weeks onto the indoor dining ban (it now will last through Jan. 15. Originally, it was going to be lifted on New Year’s Day.)

Health Commissioner Thomas Farley announced yesterday that the thrust of this extension on the ban on indoor dining and other indoor events is to get through the predicted spike that holiday gatherings will bring. As for the major blow to restaurants, the city is working on ways to help with ventilation so they can eventually reopen for meal service inside more safely. This pledge comes as Pa. orders the closure of 40 restaurants for breaking the rules.

But there’s a possibility that the city will be more permissive when it comes to other establishments, allowing gyms and museums to open when the statewide restrictions expire on Jan. 4. This possibility comes with a caveat. If cases spike as a result of Christmas revelry, things may change.

Click here for full guidelines and restrictions in Philadelphia.

The following activities will be banned through Jan. 15:

  1. Indoor dining

  2. Indoor gatherings and events

  3. Theaters

  4. Casinos

  5. In-person instruction for colleges

  6. Indoor organized sports

So far, the activities that are expected to resume operations with mandatory mask-wearing Jan. 4 include:

  1. Museums

  2. Outdoor sports

  3. Gyms

  4. In-person instruction for high schools

  5. Outdoor catered events

Check the latest coronavirus-related restrictions in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

Helpful COVID-19 Resources

  1. When can I get the vaccine? Can my boss require it? Is it safe? And more common vaccine questions.

  2. Here are the updated coronavirus case numbers as COVID-19 continues to spread across the region.

  3. Is it safe to travel this winter? If you are traveling, here’s a full breakdown on how to stay safer away from home wherever you stay and however you get there.

  4. What are the first symptoms of the coronavirus and what are the differences between COVID-19, the flu, a common cold, and allergies?

  5. Sign up to get free coronavirus news updates in your inbox three times a week.

What you need to know today

  1. Congress’ coronavirus relief bill brings promising changes to the old PPP business loans. Here’s what to know, and how to apply.

  2. An expert discusses how the fact that the new coronavirus variant spreads at a faster clip proves just how urgent it is that we get it under control before it evolves even further to potentially undermine the vaccination process.

  3. For those who test positive for COVID-19, does this mean they can get together with someone else who has it, too? Here’s the deal in response to a Curious Philly question.

  4. Overtime for Philly workers hit a record number in the millions this year. The plan to cut down on that is in its final stages.

  5. The Supreme Court’s ruling just drastically changed Philadelphia’s police department’s ability to search cars.

  6. “It’ll be difficult to pass legislation like this. Everything is difficult.” This is the long steep road ahead for Democrats under Biden.

  7. A Philly man died in state prison. His family says that corrections officers are responsible.

Through your eyes | #OurPhilly

Looks like a Santa stakeout to us, too. Thanks for sharing @walking_philly.

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

  1. 🎬 What’s it like on a movie set that’s not under Tom Cruise control these days? Camera on, goggles off. Movie and TV productions starring Adam Sandler and Kate Winslet came back to Philly this year, where film crews are adapting to a new way of life for the movie business.

  2. ✈️ While we’re feeling grateful, a plane will fly over Center City to thank health-care workers for everything they’ve been doing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  3. 🚍 SEPTA’s union is considering legal action against SEPTA for a quarantine policy that the union says has been incentivizing workers to report for work when they’ve been sick or potentially risked COVID-19 exposure.

  4. 🎸 Philly’s indie music venues just got their first shot at some relief.

  5. 🏀 Joel Embiid discussed his hopes for the season ahead of tonight’s game and Ben Simmons talked about those James Harden rumors.

  6. ⛪ Believers in a pair of Catholic schools raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to keep them open. But that wasn’t enough.


“I have seen unconscious bias play out in clinics and hospitals, so I have empathy for my patients who genuinely fear primary-care medicine. And, still, I believe in and am looking forward to receiving the vaccine, and want to help my patients feel like they should, too.” Cherry Hill Free Clinic founder and executive director Jubril Oyeyemi writes about being a Black physician who understands COVID-19 vaccine skepticism and will get the shots.

  1. Skewed Studies author Sally Kuykendall writes that what she learned as a critical-care nurse during the HIV/AIDS crisis can help us respond to the COVID-19 pandemic smarter and bend the curve.

  2. Commonwealth Foundation managing editor Charles F. McElwee writes that while the buzzy Appalachia movie Hillbilly Elegy doesn’t have a political agenda, there’s a notable gap between general moviegoers and the film critics.

What we’re reading

  1. New York magazine digs into the evolution of our perception of J.K. Rowling, who brought you the magic of the wizarding world and has drawn her fair share of controversy.

  2. A certain mascot the color of Tang has launched a petition to “Make Gritty Essential,” PennLive reports.

  3. Philly Mag covers how several thousand people say they’ll go to the Mummers march on New Year’s Day to march in a protest, not a parade. Here’s how that affects the city’s response.

When the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo were postponed until next summer, the current American indoor and outdoor record-holder was down but not deterred.

So track star Ajee Wilson kept on training around Philly. In Rio at the 2016 Summer Olympics, she finished 12th. Now she’s settling into a new home. She thought she’d “be a Jersey girl forever,” but she’s settling in Philly.

And she found a mentor. Here’s what she learned.