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