COVID-19 is not going away. The virus that causes it is on track to become endemic, like the ones that cause the common cold. You’ll probably encounter it at some point, if you haven’t already.
That doesn’t mean you should stop taking precautions. We can still buy ourselves time—time to vaccinate more people and avoid deadly hospital surges. But the virus will be part of our lives in the long term.
“We need to prepare people that [the current wave of cases is] not going to come down to zero,” one psychologist warned my colleague Sarah Zhang.
The virus itself could still get worse. “Delta could continue to ratchet up its rate of spread, or it could be ousted by another super-infectious variant,” our staff writer Katherine J. Wu warns. “There is no playbook for evolution.”
Global inequities could worsen as the virus transitions to endemicity. “The human and economic costs of new diseases are borne by all, but unequally,” the historian Kyle Harper reminds us.
But eventually, the coronavirus will become a less worrisome part of life. “When everyone has some immunity, a COVID-19 diagnosis becomes as routine as diagnosis of strep or flu,” Sarah reports.
The news in three sentences:
(1) Fifteen hundred Americans remain in Afghanistan, as the United States enters the final days of evacuations from the country. (2) COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continue to rise. (3) Delta Air Lines will charge unvaccinated employees $200 a month, noting that the average COVID-19 hospitalization costs the company $40,000.
What to read if … you’re looking for practical advice on how to manage your risk in light of the Delta variant:
If you’re vaccinated, your risk of a symptomatic breakthrough case remains very low—just 0.01 to 0.29 percent of fully vaccinated people will experience one, according to one estimate. And if you do get COVID-19, your immune system is better prepared to handle an infection than it would have been without the vaccine.
The CDC recommends fully vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings in communities with “substantial or high transmission.” That’s most of the country right now.
Have questions about the virus or this pandemic moment? Ask us.
Tonight’s Atlantic-approved activity:
Discover new music. Our culture writer Spencer Kornhaber rounds up five summer albums that he’s had on repeat.
A break from the news:
This otherworldly creature has legs that can taste, smell, and breathe.