The Atlantic Daily: Our Future With COVID

Coronavirus cases are on the rise again in the United States. Here’s what we know.

Not this again. As U.S. coronavirus cases creep upward once more, you might feel a justified sense of déjà vu. We still don’t totally know where this pandemic is headed—too many variables are too hard to measure—but a second winter surge remains a distinct possibility. All that’s left to do is wait and see (and, of course, take precautions where applicable).

The news in three sentences:

(1) A jury found the organizers of the deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville liable for the injuries of counterprotesters. (2) The jurors in the trial for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery began deliberating. (3) Jon Batiste, Olivia Rodrigo, and Billie Eilish are among those nominated for the 2022 Grammy Awards.

One question, answered: If I had COVID, before or after I was vaccinated, am I extra-protected from future infections?

“Maybe,” our staff writer Katherine J. Wu explains, “but assuming so is an inherent gamble.”

First: People who have been both infected and vaccinated (in whichever order) do seem to mount really, really good immune responses. Researchers even have a term for it—“hybrid” immunity—and it might be one of the best defenses people can get. If you’ve already had all your vaccine doses (maybe even a booster), plus an infection in there, you may very well be extra-protected. Keep in mind, though, that no combination of infections and injections will ever offer 100 percent protection.

Infections are also not interchangeable with vaccinations—and if you haven’t yet been fully vaccinated, or are in the market for a booster, a past brush with the coronavirus is not a reason to skip a shot. The main reason is that the quality and durability of protection left behind after infection is quite variable. Studies have shown, for example, that people with particularly mild illness don’t always have detectable antibodies after they recover.

Obviously, infection isn’t something anyone should be seeking out. But as the virus continues to stay with us, more and more vaccinated people will encounter it. It’s maybe a silver lining that these infections will offer the immune system occasional “reminders” to take SARS-CoV-2 seriously, and keep arming the body against it.

Have pandemic-related questions? Ask us.

Today’s Atlantic-approved activity:

Stop self-deceiving, Arthur C. Brooks writes. “To be really happy, we must learn to be completely honest with ourselves.

A break from the news:

Some birds fake their own death.