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This is a terrible week for American democracy. And it marks the worst week of the pandemic so far. Today, we’re looking at these crises playing out in tandem.

Scenes from the Capitol on January 6, 2021
Stephanie Keith / Reuters

The Fallout in D.C.

The deadly occupation of the U.S. Capitol provided fresh, disturbing imagery of the ongoing assaults on the country’s political system.

Now Americans must consider where we go from here.

This wasn’t just an attack on democracy. “It was an attack on multiracial democracy, which is younger than most members of the Senate,” Adam Serwer argues.

Abroad, America’s friends were horrified. “There is no way to overstate the significance of this moment, no way to ignore the power of the message that these events send to both the friends and the enemies of democracy, everywhere,” Anne Applebaum argues.

Don’t let Trump’s enablers pretend it didn’t happen. “The health of the republic depends both on what swift consequences come—for Trump and for others—and also on how people remember the participants’ actions later on,” David A. Graham writes.

Maze superimposed on a vaccine needle
Getty / The Atlantic

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Around the country, the coronavirus outbreak continues to reach new heights.

More than 4,000 Americans died today. That stark and most reliable metric, hospitalizations, is again at a peak. “There are now more than 132,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States—more than were hospitalized at the peak of the spring and summer surges combined,” our colleagues at the COVID Tracking Project report.

America botched so many aspects of its pandemic response. Now the vaccine rollout is stumbling. The epidemiologist Peter Hotez offered a dire warning: “Our last hope now is to vaccinate our way out of this, and there is no plan to vaccinate the American people,” he told my colleague Adrienne LaFrance. “We have to make it an incredibly simplified system. And we have to communicate to the American people. Because that is not happening now.”

The initial campaign is already “not going as planned,” our staff writer Sarah Zhang reports. Even Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top public-health expert, characterized the start as “slow,” chalking it up to the holidays.

The next phase will be even harder—and more logistically complicated, Sarah warns.


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