Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox.

JAN BUCHCZIK

With two weeks left in the year, the pull of home is especially strong for many Americans. But long before the first snowflakes fell, we knew this winter would be a difficult one. And now, with coronavirus cases setting records, gatherings are riskier than ever.

At risk of adding to your rule fatigue (sorry!), we’ve compiled four December Don’ts to help keep you and your loved ones safe as you navigate these final weeks of the year.

1. Don’t underestimate this surge.

Yesterday, coronavirus deaths were 24 percent higher than at the height of the spring outbreak. My colleagues at the COVID Tracking Project break down another record-setting week.

2. Don’t gather—wait until March.

Hang on for three more months, Zeynep Tufekci proposes: “If your loved ones can stay healthy a few months longer, they might be much likelier to survive the disease—or to avoid contracting it entirely.”

3. Don’t self-isolate emotionally during end-of-year festivities.

Our happiness columnist, Arthur C. Brooks, warns that “doing so is one of the classic maladaptive coping strategies people employ when they are unhappy.” Instead, he encourages people to leverage technology to keep in touch with loved ones.

4. Don’t skimp on holiday cheer.

Amanda Mull, a staff writer who celebrates Christmas, bought her first tree this year. The purchase, she writes, triggered “the type of pure-hearted Christmas joy I had not experienced since childhood.”

CAITLIN OCHS / REUTERS

One question, answered: Today, an FDA committee signed off on a second vaccine, this one from Moderna. What’s different about this particular vaccine?

I asked Sarah Zhang, our staff writer who covers vaccines, to explain:

Moderna’s vaccine doesn’t need to be frozen as cold as Pfizer’s, so it’s a little easier to distribute to rural areas. But other than that, they’re pretty similar. They’re both mRNA vaccines, they both require two doses, and they both end up at about 95 percent efficacy.

Now all that’s left to do is wait. Read Sarah on this new vaccine purgatory.

What to read if … you’re looking to better understand the current state of the outbreak:

Tonight’s Atlantic-approved isolation activity:

Here are the 16 best albums of 2020, according to our staffers. You can also follow their picks as a playlist on Spotify.

Today’s break from the news:

Astronomers are now obsessed with a particular gas on Venus.


Thanks for reading. This email was written by Caroline Mimbs Nyce, a pop-music fiend who listened to a lot of Dua Lipa during this year’s isolation.

Did someone forward you this newsletter? Sign up here.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.