Happy Thursday! We're officially one week away from Thanksgiving.

☀️ Sunny with a high of 70 today. Enjoy that weather while it lasts.

Situational awareness: Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole warned Wednesday that the city may be on the verge of another COVID-19 wave as infection rates begin to creep up.

Today's newsletter is 958 words, a 4-minute read.

1 big thing: Overdose deaths rose in pandemic

Unintentional overdose deaths in Philadelphia
Data: Substance Use Philadelphia; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

An estimated 497 Black residents died of unintentional overdoses in Philadelphia last year, the sharpest increase of any racial group.

Driving the news: A total of 1,214 people died from unintentional overdoses in the city in 2020, a 5.5% jump over the previous year, according to the Philadelphia Public Health Department's annual report released this week.

Of note: The vast majority — nearly 86% — of all overdose deaths in the city last year involved opioids, driven by the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Flashback: In 2018, Mayor Jim Kenney declared a disaster in the Kensington neighborhood, the epicenter of Philadelphia's opioid epidemic.

The big picture: National overdose deaths rose 28.5% over a 12-month period ending in April 2021, exceeding 100,000 for the first time, according to CDC estimates released this week.

  • Overdose deaths in Pennsylvania rose an estimated 13% during that period, to 5,410. Although, those figures are underreported because of incomplete data, the CDC noted.

Zoom in: There was a demographic shift among those who died of unintentional overdoses in Philly in 2020, the report found.

  • Overdose deaths among Black people rose 29.4% last year, compared to 2019.
  • Meanwhile, overdoses among white residents dropped nearly 10% in 2020, but the demographic still accounted for the most overdose deaths last year (511).

Between the lines: While white people have traditionally accounted for the majority of overdose deaths in the city, that trend has been reversing in recent years.

  • White residents accounted for 54% of overdose deaths in Philadelphia as recently as 2018. Last year, that number dropped to 42%.

What they're saying: Prevention Point executive director José Benitez, who leads the city's only needle exchange, cited isolation caused by COVID-19 and the increased use of fentanyl.

  • But he added that the lack of available medically-assisted treatment options, or barriers to access them, also played a role.

Full story

2. New corn co-op coming to town

Cristina Martinez and Ben Miller preparing to launch their co-op, Masa Cooperativa, with fellow workers, volunteers and Rodale Institute staff. Photo courtesy of Ben Miller

South Philly Barbacoa chef Cristina Martinez and her restaurateur husband Ben Miller are getting ready to launch a new Philadelphia co-op focused on masa — maize dough made from nixtamalized corn.

State of play: Masa Cooperativa is designed to allow unauthorized immigrants to work legally and have ownership of their business, Miller told Axios.

  • "We've been in the activism world advocating for chefs to [step up] for undocumented workers' rights. If we're all collectively owning it, then everybody's making money from the business, rather than just getting a paycheck," he said.

The big picture: There are more than 823,000 undocumented entrepreneurs nationwide, according to New American Economy.

How it works: The co-op plans to sell small quantities of masa to households and wholesale to other restaurants in the area.

What's next: Martinez and Miller are hosting a soft launch tonight at The People's Kitchen. Grab some free treats made from corn and a sample of the masa at 6pm at 1149 S 9th St.

  • Masa Cooperativa will open for retail in early 2022.

3. Henon gives up committee roles after conviction

Philadelphia Councilmember Bobby Henon speaks during an event at the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5 on Aug. 31, 2017. Photo: Bastiaan Slabbers/Getty Images

Disgraced Councilmember Bobby Henon has relinquished his roles on legislative committees following his conviction on public corruption charges, according to an internal memo.

Driving the news: Council President Darrell Clarke told council members in a memo Wednesday that Henon decided to step down from four committees, according to the document obtained by Axios.

  • The move comes two days after Henon was found guilty of bribery and conspiracy charges in a federal trial alongside union boss John Dougherty.

Context: Henon, a Democrat who represents District 6 in the northeast, was serving as chair of the Public Property and Public Works and Licenses and Inspections committees.

  • He was also vice chairperson of the Finance and Public Health and Human Services committees.
  • Henon is not required to resign from office until the time of his sentencing, which is set for February.

What's next: Clarke will consult with Democratic leadership to fill the vacancies, according to the memo.

4. More hurdles for aspiring Black homebuyers

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Aspiring Black homebuyers get denied mortgage loans in Philadelphia more frequently than their white counterparts, according to a report released this month.

  • And if they do manage to get a mortgage, they're competing with cash buyers — largely investors — in their neighborhoods.

Why it matters: Philadelphia has a long history of people of color, particularly Black people, being excluded from the mortgage market, tracing back to redlining in the 1930s.

  • Anti-discrimination laws like the Fair Housing Act of 1968 have helped make strides, but disparities persist.

Between the lines: Residents who live in majority non-white and lower income neighborhoods have higher denial rates compared to white borrowers, according to Philadelphia's Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data gathered by the Reinvestment Fund.

  • Black borrowers tend to get government-issued loans, which are usually more expensive than the conventional loans that require more money upfront.
  • But even then, Black applicants' denial rate for a government loan in 2020 was 11.9%, compared to 6.9% for white applicants.

Zoom in: Cash transactions largely from investors dominate the housing market in large swaths of North and West Philadelphia.

  • These are areas with large populations of Black and Hispanic non-white people.

What they're saying: "The report is a lot of bad news for aspiring Black homeowners, and when you think of using homeownership to close the racial wealth gap, it's not good," said Michael Froehlich, a legal aid lawyer at Community Legal Services.

Keep reading

5. Philly weekender: Marathon edition

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

👟 Philadelphia's marathon weekend kicks off Friday, with the big 26.2-mile race taking over the city Sunday.

🦁 LumiNature transforms the Philadelphia Zoo into a winter wonderland, starting today.

🎥 Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival is wrapping up its last week, with showings through Saturday.

🎟️ Mike is booking his tickets to bring his toddler to LumiNature at the Philly Zoo.

🧀 Taylor bought more of the cranberry-infused cheese from Aldi. It's her new favorite snack with Wheat Thins.