The Atlantic Daily: Four Pandemic Mistakes America Can’t Quit

We’ve learned so much about how to live with COVID-19. But we still can’t seem to get certain things right.

Woman putting a mask on
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In the film Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character can’t escape his nightmarish time loop until he realizes some serious personal growth. America likewise needs to shed its bad pandemic habits in order to break the cycle.

Even with all our hard-earned knowledge about masks, transmission, vaccines, and the coronavirus itself, certain things still elude us—not only as individuals, but as a society. Here are four mistakes we keep repeating.

1. We’re still wearing cloth masks.  

They were supposed to be a stopgap—not a permanent solution.

Some countries, such as France and Germany, “shifted their mask guidance away from cloth masks toward those offering higher protection a long time ago,” the science editor and writer Yasmin Tayag reports. “Why are we still strapping pieces of fabric to our face?”

2. We’re still neglecting ventilation.

We need to rethink how we circulate indoor air entirely, our staff writer Sarah Zhang reports. The reasons go beyond COVID-19: “We don’t drink contaminated water,” she writes. “Why do we tolerate breathing contaminated air?

3. We’re still clinging to vaccines as a cure-all.

We’re asking too much of the shots, which were designed to prevent severe disease—not to block infections entirely, my colleague Katherine J. Wu reminds us.

The notion that any vaccine can achieve perfect, permanent immunity is a biological myth, she reports.

4. We’re still not preparing for the next pandemic.

The Delta variant was a test. We flunked, my colleague Ed Yong writes. “How can a country hope to stay 10 steps ahead of tomorrow’s viruses when it can’t stay one step ahead of today’s?”


The news in three sentences:

(1) The Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen, testified before the Senate that the social network puts profits above safety concerns. (2) Johnson & Johnson asked the FDA to authorize a booster shot of its COVID-19 vaccine. (3) Congressional Democrats are still trying to sort out a compromise on President Joe Biden’s major proposed spending bill.

Today’s Atlantic-approved activity:

The Netflix survival drama Squid Game “suggests that humans are constantly in a state of indebtedness to a cruel system,” our assistant editor Morgan Ome writes.

A break from the news:

Today marks the end of “Fat Bear Week” at Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve. The process of actually weighing the bears is even trickier than it seems.


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.