The Atlantic Daily: The Pandemic Is Finally Softening

The seven-day average of cases is down a third from its mid-January peak. But the U.S. needs to quickly distribute vaccines before another surge begins.

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After weeks of brutal expansion, the pandemic is finally beginning to let up. The seven-day average of cases is down a third from its mid-January peak. But the U.S. needs to quickly distribute vaccines before another surge begins.

The Biden administration faces what my colleague Robinson Meyer terms “a race of vaccination versus variants.” On one side: a country trying to halt the outbreak through vaccination. On the other: a virus swiftly accumulating mutations that could allow it to move even faster.

He explains: “The winner of this race will depend on three unknowns: mitigation, evolution, and vaccine distribution.”

1. Mitigation efforts (such as social distancing)

“Those high levels of ongoing infection make the standard tools of mitigation—social distancing, masks, and work-from-home orders—even more important to avoid continued deaths. Yet the allure of vaccination is beginning to stymie mitigation policy in some places.”

2. The evolution of the virus itself

“The most immediate risk is that these new variants cause another surge of infection, and death, before mass vaccination can increase the number of Americans with protective immunity.”

3. How quickly vaccines are distributed

“The U.S.’s vaccine supply … is uneven at the moment, although the Biden administration has vowed to invoke the Defense Production Act to strengthen the supply and distribution operation.”

Keep reading Rob’s piece.

illustration of a child crying

One question, answered: An anonymous reader from New York writes that their child is near tears from virtual school every day.

After his day is done, we let him watch TV until my wife or I can stop working, which is around 5 o’clock most days. This means that one of us has about an hour with Caleb before bath, dinner, and bedtime …

My wife thinks it is okay for us to spend that hour with Caleb essentially doing nothing, while I think we should use that time to at least try to cover some of the academics that Caleb is missing this year. Should we do what my wife says is better for Caleb (cuddling, playing with Legos), or should we make sure to read with him and introduce math concepts? Obviously, hanging out and relaxing is easier, but I don’t want Caleb to struggle in the future because of the disaster that is this year.

Abby Freireich and Brian Platzer respond in their debut “Homeroom” column:

Children in remote school are surely not learning as much this year as they would have in a non-COVID world, full stop.

The lack of joy in our students’ lives is equally apparent … Kids need both.

Keep reading. Every Tuesday, Abby and Brian take questions from readers about their kids’ education. Have one? Email them at

Tonight’s Atlantic-approved isolation activity:

Buy yourself a balloon or two. “Life is heavy, heavy, heavy,” James Parker writes in his ode to them. “Bring on the balloons.”

Today’s break from the news:

Psst. Bridgerton is a bellwether. “The new era of gossip has arrived—as a storytelling device, and as a new normal of pandemic life,” Shirley Li argues.