The Atlantic Politics Daily: Which Version of the Pandemic Will You Experience?

Any given Americans’ experience will be determined by a mix of a sort of demographic predestination—and purely random chance. Plus: Why the U.S. is short on masks.

It’s Friday, April 10. In today’s newsletter: After the pandemic, two Americas. Plus: Why the U.S. is running out of masks.


(Getty / The Atlantic)

Tale of Two Pandemics

Some will emerge from this crisis disrupted and shaken, but ultimately stable. Others will come out of it with much more lasting scars.

Which of these two pandemics any given American will experience will be determined by a morbid mix of a sort of demographic predestination—shaped strongly by inequality—and purely random chance, Joe Pinsker reports:

Two important predictors of an American’s well-being right now, other than whether that person has COVID-19, are the answers they and others in their household would give to two questions: Are you still able to work? And if so, can you work without risking exposure to the virus?

For a rapidly growing portion of the country, the answer to the first question is no. Three weeks ago, some 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in a single week, a record-breaking total that was nearly five times as large as the previous recorded high. The following week, the number of new claims was twice as high—6.9 million. Still another 6.6 million claims were filed last week, bringing the recent three-week total to nearly 17 million—an enormous figure that likely still understates how many Americans are actually out of work right now.

Read Joe’s full story.



The most important holiday on the Christian calendar feels foreign and unfamiliar this year, Emma Green writes. “But perhaps there’s theological insight to be gleaned from a painful Easter.”


Among the related questions displayed on Google’s search-results page for the word are “Is ‘normalcy’ a real word?” (HOSSEIN FATEMI / PANOS PICTURES / ​REDUX)

+ A recent uptick in Google searches for the term signals a longing for the usual state of affairs. Our resident linguist writes about how normalcy went from misnomer to safe word.

+ Attempting to translate your old social habits to Zoom or FaceTime is like going vegetarian and proceeding to glumly eat a diet of just tofurkey, Ashley Fetters argues. Stop trying to replicate the life you had, virtually.

+ Joe Biden’s minimalist version of the presidency could be a blessing in disguise, Nathan Schneider argues:

The imagination phase of the 2020 presidential campaign was interesting, but so too might be the ascent of Biden-esque minimalism. It might be just what American politics needs. It might even be good for the imagination of the American left.

+ The United States’ secretive medical stockpile was prepped for a bombing, not a pandemic. We’re running out of masks.

You can keep up with The Atlantic’s most crucial coronavirus coverage here.


Today’s newsletter was written by Kaila Philo, a Politics fellow. It was edited by Shan Wang, who oversees newsletters.

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