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,

In rural Pa., largely untouched by COVID-19 in the spring, deaths are now surging: ‘It’s just scary’

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.

Philly to extend indoor dining ban, but may allow some activities to resume Jan. 4

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:

  • Indoor dining

  • Indoor gatherings and events

  • Theaters

  • Casinos

  • In-person instruction for colleges

  • Indoor organized sports

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

  • Museums

  • Outdoor sports

  • Gyms

  • In-person instruction for high schools

  • Outdoor catered events

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

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“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.

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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.