The Atlantic Daily: Delta and the School Year Have Converged in the Worst Possible Way

The Delta variant may spoil the school year, our reporter warns.

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This time, things were supposed to be different. Instead, the 2021–22 school year is kicking off with more of the same: confusion and fear.

Kids are flooding hallways right as Delta drives pediatric hospitalizations to an all-time pandemic high. Schools are opening, only to close. Tens of thousands of students are already isolating or quarantining. And once again, parents are stuck with impossible choices.

  • The school year will be a mess yet again. “The risk the coronavirus poses to an individual child is still very low,” my colleague Sarah Zhang reports. “But Delta will make for a bumpy school year even without very sick kids.”

  • Parents are not okay. “[We] aren’t even at a breaking point anymore,” the writer and father Dan Sinker explains. “We’re broken. And yet we’ll go on because that’s what we do.”

  • Squabbles continue over masks. Some states require students to wear them. Others have banned such mandates. Parents are left to worry, Olga Khazan reports.

  • And over mandatory vaccines for educators. The country’s largest teachers’ union doesn’t back blanket legal mandates. Our writer Emma Green pressed the organization’s president on why.

An aircrew assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron assists evacuees aboard a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in support of the Afghanistan evacuation.
Taylor Crul / U.S. Air Force / Getty

The news in three sentences:

(1) Pfizer’s shot became the first COVID-19 vaccine to get the FDA’s official stamp of approval. (2) President Joe Biden is considering pushing back the August 31 deadline for U.S.-troop withdrawal from Afghanistan as evacuations continue. (3) An internal police investigation cleared the officer who shot and killed Ashli Babbitt during the January 6 riot.

What to read if … you’re looking for practical advice on how to manage your risk in light of Delta:

Tonight’s Atlantic-approved activity:

The Chair is Netflix’s best drama in years.

A break from the news:

Caitlin Flanagan reflects on what she's learned about cancer—and the pressure to stay positive—in the 20 years since her diagnosis.


Atlantic Movie Club

All August, our movie critic David Sims is revisiting some of the most celebrated films of 2001 and examining how they shaped today’s cinema.

For our final week, we’re looking to have some fun. Which of these four 2001 comedies should we watch together?

  • Wet Hot American Summer

  • Moulin Rouge

  • Bridget Jones’s Diary

  • Shrek

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

If you’re just tuning in, catch up on what we’ve discussed so far.


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.