The Essential Ed Yong Reading List

A staff writer for The Atlantic since 2015, Yong is the recipient of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting.

An illustration of a virus protein
Getty / The Atlantic

In a series of definitive pieces that earned him the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting, The Atlantic’s Ed Yong anticipated the course of the coronavirus pandemic, clarified its dangers, and illuminated the American government’s disastrous failure to curb it.

Yong, who has been a staff writer at The Atlantic since 2015, began warning readers about the fragility of America’s pandemic preparedness long before COVID-19 emerged. In 2018, we published his prescient investigation, “When the Next Plague Hits.” He correctly predicted an interconnected set of dangers: breakdowns in international communication, chronic underfunding of public health, shortages of supplies and scientific expertise at the federal level, President Donald Trump’s inadequacies as a leader.

Here is some of Yong’s groundbreaking work over the past 16 months:

How the Pandemic Will End

The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.

March 2020

Everyone Thinks They’re Right About Masks

How the coronavirus travels through the air has become one of the most divisive debates in this pandemic.

April 2020

Our Pandemic Summer

The fight against the coronavirus won’t be over when the U.S. reopens. Here’s how the nation must prepare itself.

April 2020

Why the Coronavirus Is So Confusing

A guide to making sense of a problem that is now too big for any one person to fully comprehend

April 2020

America’s Patchwork Pandemic Is Fraying Even Further

The coronavirus is coursing through different parts of the U.S. in different ways, making the crisis harder to predict, control, or understand.

May 2020

COVID-19 Can Last for Several Months

The disease’s “long-haulers” have endured relentless waves of debilitating symptoms—and disbelief from doctors and friends.

June 2020

The Pandemic Experts Are Not Okay

Many American public-health specialists are at risk of burning out as the coronavirus surges back.

July 2020

Long-Haulers Are Redefining COVID-19

Without understanding the lingering illness that some patients experience, we can’t understand the pandemic.

August 2020

Immunology Is Where Intuition Goes to Die

Which is too bad because we really need to understand how the immune system reacts to the coronavirus.

August 2020

How the Pandemic Defeated America

A virus has brought the world’s most powerful country to its knees.

September 2020

America Is Trapped in a Pandemic Spiral

As the U.S. heads toward the winter, the country is going round in circles, making the same conceptual errors that have plagued it since spring.

September 2020

The Core Lesson of the COVID-19 Heart Debate

The new coronavirus seems so strange because it has our full attention in a way most viruses don’t.

September 2020

What Strength Really Means When You’re Sick

The metaphors that Trump and others use when talking about COVID-19 are making the pandemic worse.

October 2020

America Is About to Choose How Bad the Pandemic Will Get

If Donald Trump is reelected, he will continue to downplay the threat of the coronavirus, and more Americans will fall ill.

October 2020

‘No One Is Listening to Us’

More people than ever are hospitalized with COVID-19. Health-care workers can’t go on like this.

November 2020

Hospitals Know What’s Coming

“We are on an absolutely catastrophic path,” said a COVID-19 doctor at America’s best-prepared hospital.

November 2020

How Science Beat the Virus

And what it lost in the process

January/February 2021

Where Year Two of the Pandemic Will Take Us

As vaccines roll out, the U.S. will face a choice about what to learn and what to forget.

December 2020

What Happens When Americans Can Finally Exhale

The pandemic’s mental wounds are still open.

May 2021

The Fundamental Question of the Pandemic Is Shifting

We understand how this will end. But who bears the risk that remains?

June 2021