The Atlantic Daily: 3 Key Tenets for the Pandemic’s Next Chapter

Delta is a menace—but we can still help keep it at bay with tools we’ve been using for the past year and a half.

Black and white image of someone getting a band-aid after a shot
Adam Glanzman / Bloomberg / Getty

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The pandemic has entered a new chapter. The highly contagious Delta variant is driving upticks in infections and hospitalizations. Vaccinated people are being asked to once again cover up in public indoor spaces.

What hasn’t changed, though, is the bottom line on the vaccines, and the many other ways we can guard ourselves. The virus may have gained an unwelcome edge; that doesn’t mean dropping our defenses. Here are three key tenets to guide you through the next stretch.

Vaccinated people can spread the virus. But that doesn’t mean they spread it as often as the unvaccinated.

A growing body of data, including some released by the CDC on Friday, hints at an unfortunate reality: Vaccinated people can be contagious with the coronavirus. That’s a shift in messaging from May, when the CDC said that the immunized were very unlikely to pass on the virus, and could eschew masks in most indoor settings.

Delta is especially good at building up in people’s airways and has messed with that math. But not by a lot. The vaccines are still doing an excellent job at raising immune barriers, keeping the virus’s levels down, and driving it out of the body faster. Vaccinated people are still less likely to get infected and sick. That means they still pose far less of a transmission risk than those who haven’t gotten their shots.

We have the tools we need to fight Delta.

We’ve spent the past year building up an arsenal of tools against the virus. None have been rendered obsolete. Vaccines fortify the body’s defenses from the inside out. Masks reduce the amount of virus we each have to tussle with, and send back out into the world. And experts last week reminded me of the importance of physical distancing, spending more time outdoors, and ventilation to reduce the virus’s spread.

Vaccines are still the most sustainable solution for ending the pandemic.

Every vaccine given improves the immune defenses of the person who receives it. The final results might vary from person to person, but all vaccinated people can expect to be better protected against the virus than they were before—they’ll likely get less sick, and transmit far less, than they otherwise would have.

Vaccines are also built to last long-term. They’re not an accessory we have to don and doff daily, or an air-flow dial we have to adjust on the regular. They train our bodies to remember the virus and fight it; the more people who get them, the better off everyone is. A vaccine doesn’t have to be perfect to end a pandemic. Just good enough to slow the virus, until it has nowhere left to go.

Atlantic Movie Club

Twenty years ago, Wes Anderson introduced us to the dysfunctional Tenenbaum family and Harry Potter took the Hogwarts Express for the first time on-screen. This August, our movie critic David Sims will revisit some of the most celebrated films of 2001, and examine how they shaped modern cinema.

And we want you to participate. Each week, we’ll pick a genre and have you pick a film for David to discuss. This week, we’re looking at the art-house films of 2001. Which movie should we watch together?

  • Mulholland Dr.

  • Monsoon Wedding

  • Amélie

  • Sexy Beast

Vote on Twitter or by replying to this email with your choice. Check back Friday to see the winner and read David’s thoughts.

Tonight’s Atlantic-approved activity:

Amazon’s ​​The Pursuit of Love, based on Nancy Mitford’s beloved 1945 novel, is not your average period drama.

A break from the news:

The bobos—highly educated, liberal professionals—are at the center of America’s class struggle, David Brooks argues.

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.