The Atlantic Daily: A Guide to Thinking About COVID-19 This Fall

Summer ends this week. Our second pandemic winter will be here before you know it.

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Each season of this pandemic raises its own batch of questions. This winter will be no exception. But we don’t have to wait until the first snowfall for answers.

Three Atlantic staff writers—Katherine J. Wu, Ed Yong, and Sarah Zhang—set out the rules that will define our second pandemic winter. Their report is worth reading in full. But if you’re short on time, you can find brief answers to three looming questions below.

Will the vaccines hold?

The vaccines remain very good at their original purpose: preventing hospitalization and death. But at this point, they aren’t likely to stop all infections. We need to change our expectations for the shots, my colleagues write.

Over time, “protection against infection is always the first to erode,” Katie, Ed, and Sarah explain. “Protection against symptoms goes next, but protection against severe disease is the most durable.” Immunity, it’s worth remembering, is a dimmer, not a light switch.

Who will be most at risk?

That will keep changing. For example, the spring’s vaccination campaign helped protect older Americans, and “shifted the virus’s burden down to uninoculated children.” Expect the relative risk of specific groups to keep shifting based on that particular moment.

Will the next variant be worse?

“There is no single ‘worst’ version of the coronavirus,” my colleagues point out. Delta’s traits set it up perfectly to sweep through unvaccinated populations. “But the ideal strategy, from the perspective of the virus, might look drastically different for a population with a lot more immunity,” they explain.

Read Katie, Ed, and Sarah’s guide to this coming winter.


The news in three sentences:

(1) Pfizer says its vaccine is safe, and works well, for 5-to-11-year-old kids. (2) The stock market tumbled on its worst day since May. (3) Ted Lasso and The Crown triumphed at the Emmy Awards (as did a quiet-but-powerful acceptance speech from I May Destroy You’s Michaela Coel).


What else is happening this week:

World leaders debate at the United Nations General Assembly (all week), a CDC committee meets to discuss booster shots (Wednesday and Thursday), and the fall equinox marks the official end of summer (Wednesday, sigh).

Tonight’s Atlantic-approved activity:

Go for a walk. “Walking is one of the best exercises we can engage in for health and happiness,” our happiness columnist, Arthur C. Brooks, writes.

A break from the news:

Gold teeth are beautiful on their own terms.


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.