The Atlantic Daily: Our Collective Approach to the Pandemic Is Over

The U.S. is exiting COVID crisis mode. But are we moving in the right direction?

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Mask on the ground
Christopher Furlong / Getty

Recently, certain very-online corners of America have begun discussing a looming “vibe shift” in popular culture. A similar reset is under way on Capitol Hill. And as caseloads continue to fall, there’s been a marked change in the vibes pertaining to the virus that need not be named, a rising optimism codified by the CDC loosening its pandemic guidelines on Friday.

But as Katherine J. Wu writes, relaxing mask mandates has precipitated another shift, away from an emphasis on the communal good in favor of personal preference. As Americans once again pack bars and restaurants and the Biden administration pursues the new COVID strategy previewed during last night’s State of the Union address, our writers assess this latest turning point in the pandemic.

  • The burden has shifted to the vulnerable. “Those most susceptible to serious cases of COVID-19—those who have borne the virus’s burden the most—are now being asked to bear another load more,” Katie argues.

  • COVID will be more like smoking than like the flu. “The pandemic’s greatest source of danger has transformed from a pathogen into a behavior,” the physician Benjamin Mazer contends. “Choosing not to get vaccinated against COVID is, right now, a modifiable health risk on par with smoking.”

  • Restaurants learned the wrong lessons. Businesses “around the country have largely stuck with pandemic tweaks that are pointless or even counterproductive,” my colleague Saahil Desai reports. Instead of revamped ventilation, we’re stuck with QR-code menus.

Collage of sports and Putin's face
Alexei Nikolsky / TASS / Getty; Eric Alonso / Getty; Robbie Jay Barratt / AMA / Getty; The Atlantic

What to read for the latest on Russia’s war on Ukraine:

Find all of our coverage of the Ukraine crisis here.

What to read if … you’re still processing last night’s State of the Union address:

President Joe Biden made a play for centrist America, David A. Graham writes.

Tonight’s Atlantic-approved activity:

Revisit a decade-old book with continued relevance: China Miéville’s The City & the City is a sci-fi crime novel that’s a parable of American society.

A break from the news:

Maggie Mertens explains what you find when you leave your job.


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.