The state’s hyperefficient health-care system runs pretty well — unless a pandemic strikes.

A patient rests in a corridor waiting for a room at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center in Tarzana, California on January 3, 2021. Photo: Apu Gomes/AFP via Getty Images

Everyone’s worst pandemic nightmare is happening in Los Angeles. Intensive-care units are overflowing with patients gasping for breath, and there might not be enough ventilators to go around. If a patient has virtually no chance of survival, ambulances have been told not to bother transporting them to a hospital at all. People experiencing a heart attack or kidney stones can’t count on a bed being available for them.

But perhaps it should be no surprise that California’s hospitals are full to bursting: the state has one of the highest COVID-19 hospitalization rates in the country, and it has relatively fewer…


Many states have quarantine requirements for visitors, but only one really enforces them: Hawaii.

People enjoy the beach at the Kapahulu groin in Waikiki on October 16, 2020, in Honolulu, HI. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

If you flew into Honolulu International Airport anytime after the start of the pandemic, you would have had a different experience from most Americans who have traveled elsewhere this year. In the days following your arrival, you would not be wading into the azure waters of Waikiki Beach. You would not be climbing the soaring crest of Diamond Head to gaze upon the Pacific Ocean. A noble sea turtle might be floating in the bay, ready to swim alongside you, but you would not be able to join him. …


More than 80 percent of Republicans think Trump is doing a great job with the pandemic. Here’s why.

The far-right group Super Happy Fun America protests in Boston on October 18. Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images

Kurtis, a young accountant in McKinney, Texas, likes the thing that many people hate about Donald Trump: that the president has left the pandemic response almost entirely up to local officials.

“He left it up to each state to make their own decision on how they wanted to proceed,” Kurtis told me recently. Most experts think the absence of a national strategy for tackling the coronavirus has been a disaster. But Kurtis argues that North Dakota, for example, shouldn’t have to follow the same rules as New York City. …


As the weather gets colder, many Americans have no idea whether hanging out with other people inside is risky. That’s a big problem.

Family group washing dishes in the kitchen after a Thanksgiving meal, shot from outdoors through a picture window at night.
Family group washing dishes in the kitchen after a Thanksgiving meal, shot from outdoors through a picture window at night.
Photo: Patricia Toth McCormick/Moment/Getty Images Plus

For months now, Americans have been told that if we want to socialize, the safest way to do it is outdoors, the better to disperse the droplets that spew from our mouths whenever we do anything but silently purchase grapefruit. But in many parts of the country, this is the last month that the weather will allow people to spend more than a few minutes outside comfortably. And next month, America will celebrate a holiday that is marked by being inside together and eating while talking loudly to old people.

Federal and local officials have offered little guidance on whether…


As their goosebumps have long suggested, women perform better on tests of cognitive function at toastier room temperatures

Photo: Hero Images/Getty Images

If “I told you so” had a sensation, it would be the sweet cocoon of an 80-degree workspace. For years, women have been saying that the AC is on too damn high. We’ve dragged not one but two sweaters to the office in the summer: one for our slowly numbing legs, and one for our shivering shoulders. Scientific studies have already shown that offices are set for men’s frostier preferred temperatures.

Now a new paper confirms what many of us have long suspected. Women don’t just prefer warmer office temperatures. They perform better in them, too.

For the study, published…


Companies are racing to develop real chicken, fish, and beef that don’t require killing animals. Here’s what’s standing in their way.

Photo: milanfoto/Getty Images

The thought I had when the $100 chicken nugget hit my expectant tongue was the one cartoon villains have when they entrap a foreign critter and roast him over a spit: It tastes like chicken.

That’s because it was chicken-albeit chicken that had never laid an egg, sprouted a feather, or been swept through an electrified-water bath for slaughter. This chicken began life as a primordial mush in a bioreactor whose dimensions and brand I’m not allowed to describe to you, for intellectual-property reasons. Before that, it was a collection of cells swirling calmly in a red-hued, nutrient-rich “media,” with…


Nurses spend 16 hours on the phone, medications take months to arrive, and patients suffer as they wait

Graphic: Moonrock/Swill Klitch/Shutterstock/Katie Martin/The Atlantic

Lynn Lear finished her final round of chemotherapy for breast cancer in December. To help keep the cancer from coming back, Lear’s doctor told her about a new medication she could take called Nerlynx. Lear, who is 46, wanted to do everything she could to remain healthy, so she asked her doctor to order the drug for her.

Unlike, say, an antibiotic or an antidepressant, a Nerlynx prescription can’t be filled at a neighborhood CVS or Walgreens. Instead, Nerlynx is dispensed either through certain doctors’ offices or through specialty pharmacies, which exist specifically to process expensive drugs for difficult conditions…


Doctors’ bills play a role in 60 percent of personal-bankruptcy filings

Photo: Billion Photos/Shutterstock/The Atlantic

In April 2016, Venus Lockett was about to give a speech at an event she volunteered for near her home in Atlanta. She was already stressed. The previous night, she had stayed up late making her presentation, and then deleted it by mistake. As she stepped up to the podium to give her remarks, she noticed that her words were slurring. She tried to speak into the mic, but the words that came out didn’t make sense.

A friend walked up and grabbed Lockett by the arm. A few people, noticing something wasn’t right, walked Lockett to another room and…


The ancient Eastern religion is helping Westerners with very modern mental-health problems

Photo: Annatamila/Shutterstock/Katie Martin/The Atlantic

By Olga Khazan

Dressed in flowing gold robes, the bald female meditation teacher told us to do nothing. We were to sit silently in our plastic chairs, close our eyes, and focus on our breath. I had never meditated, but I’d gone to church, so I instinctively bowed my head. Then I realized, given that this would last for 15 minutes, I should probably find a more comfortable neck position.

This was the first of two meditation sessions of the Kadampa Buddhism class I attended this week near my house, in Northern Virginia, and I did not reach nirvana. Because…


Science suggests that there are two types of people who tolerate the cold well. Sadly, I’m neither.

A man harvests iceoutside Yakutsk, which has some of the coldest temperatures on Earth. Photo: MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images

I do not know if “winter people” actually exist. All I know is that I’m definitely not one.

I view this wretched season’s icy winds, frozen slush, and musty parkas not as a natural and unavoidable part of life in the American North, but as a personal attack on me. To be clear, this is not darkness-induced seasonal affective disorder, or sad. This is me being MAD that it’s not 80 degrees out. I do not ever feel hygge. There’s usually a day in mid-January when I grouse that the weather forecast is, yet again, “38 and raining,” and angrily…

Olga Khazan

Writer for The Atlantic

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