Hello, dedicated readers of The Inquirer Morning Newsletter. Hope you enjoyed the scorching hot weekend.

First: After the pandemic-induced slowdowns and shutdowns, there’s some “raw happiness out there.”

Then: Cases are finally down in the Philly suburbs, where officials are breathing a (cautious) sigh of relief.

And: Former president Donald Trump’s influence over tomorrow’s Republican primary for governor of the Garden State is looming large.

— Ashley Hoffman (@_ashleyhoffman, morningnewsletter@inquirer.com)

The mundane is fun again with reopening

While “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” by Celine Dion was not blaring everywhere for the post-pandemic bacchanal life that Wrigley’s commercial imagined, things feel different around here.

“It just seems like I’m seeing raw happiness out there,” Ceallaigh Corbishley, a 31-year-old manager and bartender at the International Bar in Kensington, told us.

Officially? The city lifted capacity and social distancing requirements for businesses and events Wednesday, and it appears that more people have perhaps never been more ready to get out there. What that’s like: “Philadelphia and its suburbs are being reconstituted, restored to a natural state of being after a surreal period of isolated confinement,” reporter Alfred Lubrano writes. But it’s not as simple as turning a page. For some, anxiety is still high.

Read on for his story about how the city is “on the cusp of big change.”

COVID-19 cases are dropping in Philly’s suburbs: ‘We are finally where we need to be’

Coronavirus cases have been dropping in recent weeks, thanks to high vaccination rates. For the first time in 16 long, anxious months, officials say they feel cautiously at ease about this window into what life could be like after the pandemic.

“I finally started to feel like, ‘OK, we’ve got it. We are finally where we need to be,’” Val Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, told us.

We crunched the numbers, and the weekly average number of new COVID-19 cases dropped faster in Chester, Montgomery, Bucks, and Delaware Counties from April to June than it did statewide, according to our analysis of Pennsylvania data. Counties with the highest vaccination rates in Pa. — including the four Philly suburbs — are seeing the sharpest declines in those case rates, but some counties with lower vaccination rates have seen similar case declines.

Read on for reporters Erin McCarthy and Justine McDaniel’s story on the latest, including the top 10 counties with the biggest case declines.

Helpful COVID-19 Resources

What you need to know today

  • Name-calling, bitter personal attacks, and false claims of a stolen election. The Republican primary for governor of New Jersey is getting more and more contentious as tomorrow’s election draws near. Trump is casting a large shadow over the Republican primary for the first leg of the race for governor of the Garden State.

  • The North Philadelphia Dunkin’ manager killed during a robbery was not supposed to be working alone, a colleague tells us.

  • As we talked about in the first story of this newsletter, people have been peeling off their masks. The amygdala, the region of the brain that processes emotions, might not be done with perceiving that — or a cough, or sharing personal space — as a threat. That mix of perceived threats is enough to make returning to the office an anxiety-stirring prospect.

  • Now planning her estate, a Chester County woman really wants to donate a Native American burial ground to Native Americans so that it’s preserved. Try finding a good steward for it, though.

  • Every PBS Passport holding Philly DA fan knows Larry Krasner’s campaign manager Brandon Evans. But he’s one of the lesser-known most influential behind-the-scenes players in Philadelphia politics. Get to know him.

Through your eyes | #OurPhilly

Thank you for sharing the kind of blink and you miss it art we are here for.

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

🏀 The Sixers lost to the Hawks in the Eastern Conference semis opener yesterday, and that first quarter was just the beginning of their problems.

🍦 Bensalem police are working an ice cream truck called the Copsicle Cruiser with free ice cream bars in an effort to share resources and focus on goodwill with the community.

🎵 Getting out of here? Have we got the road trip playlist for you.

Opinions

“Reviving the two-state idea, long declared dead, is a long shot, and will require successful pressure on the new Israeli government not to foreclose the option with new settlements and demolitions. That would be shaking up the status quo, indeed,” columnist Trudy Rubin writes of the five shifts in Israel and Palestine that challenge the status quo.

  • The latest revelation surrounding the history of the MOVE bombing sealed for many Black Philadelphians the disdain with which the city’s public officials have treated some of its residents, Intercept reporter Akela Lacy writes that Philly keeps revisiting that history because we never truly learned it.

  • Lower Merion suddenly has a walkable riverfront and a slice of history, thanks to the Pencoyd Landing development, which is more than just another generic development, architecture critic Inga Saffron writes.

What we’re reading

Your Daily Dose of | Stunting

The success story of this National Book Award finalist starts with a healthy relationship with something not everyone loves to hear: rejection. Meet the Pittsburgh author Deesha Philyaw who turned “no” into a lifestyle.