Expect a moderate increase of a few degrees from yesterday, as temperatures are again expected to hit the mid-50s.

Today we continue our coverage of war in Ukraine from the perspective of a Philly-based, Ukrainian-born college athlete whose view of war from afar has become all-consuming.

And Philly’s new COVID-19 alert system, explained.

— Kerith Gabriel (@sprtswtr, morningnewsletter@inquirer.com)

‘This is a problem for the whole world’

In her senior year as a swimmer at Drexel University, the last thing Lera Nasedkina ☝🏽 should be thinking about is a brutal war happening nearly 5,000 miles away.

But just days after winning gold and silver medals in the pool at the Colonial Athletic Association Championships, she received a text from her mother informing of her hometown of Kyiv being under siege.

Since then, the war has been all-consuming, dimming Nasedkina’s hopes of competing for Ukraine as a swimmer and leaving her to despair over what’s going to happen to the country she left at 13.

“I haven’t slept much in the past two days or so,” Nasedkina said. “I was up the whole night talking, texting, and calling people trying to figure out if they were OK. … I just want people to know that all Ukraine is doing right now is trying to protect itself, nothing more. Ukraine has not done anything to Russia and yet it is being attacked for reasons known only to the Russian government.”

It’s a story by correspondent Ariel Simpson that shows the war’s impact on Ukrainians who are watching from afar.

Also today,

  • We bring you the story of Ukrainian and Russian dancers in the Philadelphia Ballet who referred to the war as “fighting against our own people.”

  • With oil prices surging over $100 a barrel, the United States and other countries decided to tap into worldwide reserves.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has gone from TV mogul to stoic wartime leader.

  • Also, our list continues to grow for where to donate to help Ukraine right now.

What you should know today

When it comes to COVID-19 unmasking in Philly, ‘there’s levels to this ….’

Little-known fact: Philadelphia just missed the threshold for unmasking this week under its own brand-new multitiered COVID-19 alert system.

Here’s how it works:

🚨 The city’s system assigns each week to one of four alert levels: Extreme Caution, Caution, Mask Precaution, and All Clear.

🚨 The city’s formula is designed, intentionally or not, to be very conservative and make it hard to unmask. That’s because the alert levels depend on COVID-19 hospitalizations and other COVID case metrics.

🚨 Over the last two years, hospitalizations would have never hit All Clear. That means the three other metrics need to perfectly align to produce an overall designation of All Clear and remove the mask mandate.

This week, the test positivity rate was 0.8 percentage points too high to consider lifting the mask mandate. But an Inquirer analysis found that under this new formula, the city would have hit the All Clear mark for only five weeks over the last two years.

And while past data don’t predict the future, this interactive from our reporters Kasturi Pananjady and Jason Laughlin explains what it’s going to take to definitively clear the bar.

🧠 Philly Trivia Time 🧠

Irish Potatoes are an annual tradition at this area candy company, which has been making them the same way – with the same machines – since “forever,” according to the company’s president. Today’s question: What’s the name of the factory that prides itself on making this sweet treat? Take a guess and find the answer here.

a. Goldenberg’s Candy Co.

b. Stutz Candy Co.

c. Shane’s Confectionery

What we’re …

🙏🏽 Hoping: That Sixer Tobias Harris really is OK with his reduced role since the arrival of James Harden.

🥶 Wondering: If attendees of this lavish winter wedding during a January snowstorm are finally thawed out.

🌎 Reading: This “dire warning” on the consequences of inaction when it comes to climate change.

🧩 Unscramble the Anagram 🧩

It’s a little off the beaten path, but for Philly street art lovers, it’s an oasis.

FIT RIP FIGARE

Think you know? Send your guess our way at morningnewsletter@inquirer.com. We’ll give a shoutout to a reader at random who answers correctly. And shoutout to Clayton Moser from South Philly who correctly guessed YA FAV TRASHMAN as Tuesday’s answer.

Photo of the day

Always a pleasure, Philly. ✌️