Four reasons: social distancing, seasonality, seroprevalence, and shots.

Low-framerate animation of a coronavirus molecule rolling down a red line on a graph.
Low-framerate animation of a coronavirus molecule rolling down a red line on a graph.
Credit: The Atlantic/Getty Images

Editor’s Note: The Atlantic is making vital coverage of the coronavirus available to all readers. Find the collection here.

One month ago, the CDC published the results of more than 20 pandemic forecasting models. Most projected that COVID-19 cases would continue to grow through February, or at least plateau. Instead, COVID-19 is in retreat in America. New daily cases have plunged, and hospitalizations are down almost 50 percent in the past month. This is not an artifact of infrequent testing, since the share of regional daily tests that are coming back positive has declined even more than the number of…


Too many people imagine the fight against COVID-19 as a land war to be waged with sudsy hand-to-hand combat against grimy surfaces.

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Workers in Istanbul disinfect a mosque to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Six months ago, I wrote that Americans had embraced a backwards view of the coronavirus. Too many people imagined the fight against COVID-19 as a land war to be waged with sudsy hand-to-hand combat against grimy surfaces. Meanwhile, the science suggested we should be focused on an aerial strategy. The virus spreads most efficiently through the air via the spittle spray that we emit when we exhale — especially when we cough, talk loudly, sing, or exercise. I called this conceptual error, and the bonanza of pointless power-scrubbing that it had inspired, “hygiene theater.”

My chief inspiration was an essay


The new president must not repeat Obama’s mistakes.

A picture of Barack Obama’s face split in half, each on either side of a photo of Joe Biden.
A picture of Barack Obama’s face split in half, each on either side of a photo of Joe Biden.
Photo illustration: The Atlantic/Getty Images

When Franklin D. Roosevelt became president in 1932, the nation was facing concentric crises: the immediate, house-on-fire disaster of rolling bank closures; the broader economic depression; and, beyond that, deeply entrenched problems that the depression had highlighted, including elderly poverty. Roosevelt’s first 100 days addressed the first two crises with historic directness. He reopened the banks and directly employed thousands of Americans through measures such as the Civilian Conservation Corps. …


Nine months into the pandemic, government leaders can’t comprehend — or refuse to clearly say — what this virus is or how it spreads.

Overlapping red and blue speech bubbles with a coronavirus-shaped cutout over the overlap.
Overlapping red and blue speech bubbles with a coronavirus-shaped cutout over the overlap.
Photo illustration: The Atlantic; source: Getty Images

The United States has been overwhelmed by vectors of misinformation throughout the pandemic. But it’s not just Donald Trump, many Republican state leaders, and several thousand COVID-19 deniers who have waged a war against scientific comprehension. America’s virus illiteracy spans the partisan divide.

In Florida, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis chirped about his state’s superior performance and mocked COVID-19 worriers — only for Florida to become the site of one of America’s worst outbreaks several weeks later. Deep-red North Dakota similarly resisted commonsense measures such as mask mandates before it suffered an even worse outbreak.

Even if we narrow our focus…


U.S. COVID-19 statistics are about to look better — even though the reality is almost certainly getting worse. It’s time to hibernate.

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Dr. Joseph Varon hugs and comforts a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit during Thanksgiving at the United Memorial Medical Center on November 26, 2020, in Houston, Texas. Photo: Go Nakamura/Getty Image

Here is what we know about the state of COVID-19 as we approach the winter holiday season.

On Thanksgiving Eve, more than 1 million passengers cleared airport security, the highest single-day volume since the coronavirus reshaped American life in March. While airplanes are not likely settings for super-spreader events, everything before and after people step on a plane is somewhat risky. This includes parents shouting at their misbehaving kids in security lines; individuals munching on Auntie Anne’s pretzels, masks dangling from their chins, in departure-terminal crowds; and, most importantly, extended families swapping sweet-potato pie and invisible pathogens over the dinner…


Seven weeks ago, South Korea and the U.S. had the same number of virus deaths. Today, South Korea has fewer than 300, and the U.S. has more than 70,000.

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People walk through an alleyway in Seoul on Marh 24, 2020. Photo: Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images

On February 16, a Sunday, a 61-year-old woman with a fever entered the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu, South Korea. She touched her finger to a digital scanner. She passed through a pair of glass doors and proceeded downstairs, to the prayer hall, where she sat with approximately 1,000 other worshippers in a large windowless room. Hours later, she exited the building and left behind a trail of pathogens that would lead to thousands of infections, triggering one of the largest coronavirus outbreaks in the world.

By the end of February, South Korea had the most COVID-19 patients of…


The big will get bigger as mom-and-pops perish and shopping goes virtual. In the short term, our cities will become more boring. In the long term, they might just become interesting again.

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Photo: Joshua Dudley Greer

Last weekend, I walked a mile along M Street in Washington, D.C., where I live, from the edge of Georgetown to Connecticut Avenue. The roads and sidewalks were pin-drop silent. Movie theaters, salons, fitness centers, and restaurants serving Ethiopian, Japanese, and Indian food were rendered, in eerie sameness, as one long line of darkened windows.

Because the pandemic pauses the present, it forces us to live in the future. The question I asked myself walking east through D.C. is the question so many Americans are all pondering today: Who will emerge intact from the pandemic purgatory, and who will not?


For the college-educated elite, work has morphed into a religious identity — promising identity, transcendence, and community, but failing to deliver

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Photo: Chris WIndsor/Getty Images


Big tech companies now trade at one of the smallest premiums in history

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Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Getty Images

On September 28, 2018, tech died.

That’s according to a widely circulated eulogy prepared by Vincent Deluard, a strategist at INTL FCStone, a financial-services company. “If technology is everywhere, the tech sector no longer exists,” he wrote. “If the tech sector no longer exists, its premium is no longer justified.” When the Financial Times got its hands on the document, it leaned into the death thesis, declaring: “The tech sector is over.”

In news reports, death has several definitions. When it applies to a person, it means the end of life. When it applies to a company or industry, it…


The feature’s predictive powers make me feel … predictable, robotic, and un-singular

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Photo: NurPhoto/Getty Images

A specter is haunting Gmail — the specter of a completed sentence. My fingers tap out the beginning of a message, and a gray phantom appears, with eerie anticipation.

“Thanks for taking [a look!]”

“Tuesday’s no [good, sorry.]”

“Can’t tom[orrow but what about next week?]”

The spectral presence is a technology called Smart Compose. If you’ve used Gmail even once in the past few months, you’ve almost certainly noticed the function, even if you didn’t use it or know its name. Smart Compose is the more advanced kin of another new Gmail technology, called Smart Reply. That’s the name for…

Derek Thompson

Senior editor, business columnist @TheAtlantic. Adjunct @columbiajourn. Thursday afternoons @hereandnow. Metaphors. dthompson [at] theatlantic.

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