The Atlantic
Syndicated stories from The Atlantic.

The virus is mutating as expected. We can still stop it.

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Image: The Atlantic

By James Hamblin

In the final, darkest days of the deadliest year in U.S. history, the world received ominous news of a mutation in the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Scientists in the U.K. had identified a form of the virus that was spreading rapidly throughout the nation. Then, on January 4, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a lockdown that began almost immediately and will last until at least the middle of February. …


Quarantine is turning you into a stiff, hunched-over, itchy, sore, headachy husk.

A person bending backwards and a person lounging on their back, all on a graphic background of different-colored triangles.
A person bending backwards and a person lounging on their back, all on a graphic background of different-colored triangles.
Illustrations: Hannah R. Anderson

The first time my hips locked up, the reason was at least a little bit glamorous. It was 2018, and I was returning from vacation in Sicily, which was the fanciest thing I’d ever done by several orders of magnitude. As I went through the motions — and, perhaps more important, the lack of motion — of international flight, my gait began to stiffen, and my stride contracted to a fraction of its former self. My body, settling into its mid-30s, rebelled against the hours spent in airplane seats, the nights in unfamiliar beds, the constant, awkward physicality of travel.

The same thing happened a few more times over the next year and a half, always after long-haul flights. I began to think of it as “airplane hip,” and the condition was annoying but temporary; I don’t spend much time on planes, and a yoga move called “pigeon pose” would stretch my stiff waddle back into a walk in a day or two. …


Low wages benefit employers at the expense of both workers and taxpayers.

A construction crane creating a vertical stack of quarters.
A construction crane creating a vertical stack of quarters.
Illustration: The Atlantic; source: Getty Images

The country’s very low minimum wage comes at a high cost. And for taxpayers, it adds up to more than $100 billion a year.

That number comes from a new analysis of safety-net usage by Ken Jacobs, Ian Eve Perry, and Jenifer MacGillvary of UC Berkeley’s Labor Center. …


Delaware’s congresswoman thought she might die in the riot at the Capitol. Then her Republican colleagues mocked her for handing out masks while they sheltered together.

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Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) pays her respects as the Representative John Lewis (D-GA) lies in state at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. on July 27, 2020. Photo: Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images

As a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on January 6, security guards hustled representatives into a secure location. Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester, Delaware’s sole member of the House, tried to convince several of her Republican colleagues to put on masks. They refused, and laughed at her — behavior that was captured in a viral video. In the days since, House Democrats Pramila Jayapal, Brad Schneider, and Bonnie Watson Coleman have tested positive for COVID-19. They blame their GOP colleagues’ carelessness for their diagnoses. On Tuesday, I asked Blunt Rochester to reflect on what happened, and why. She agreed to let me share the story as she told it to me, edited and condensed for clarity. …


Cloth masks are better than nothing, but they were supposed to be a stopgap measure.

Composite photo of three people wearing different styles and colors of masks.
Composite photo of three people wearing different styles and colors of masks.
Photos: Vincent Catala/Agence VU/Red​ux

By Zeynep Tufekci and Jeremy Howard

If you’re like most Americans, there’s a good chance you’re going to wear a cloth mask today. Doing so makes sense. It remains the official recommendation in the United States, and it is something we’ve both advocated since the beginning of the pandemic. Both of us wrote articles as far back as March urging people to wear homemade cloth masks. We’re also the authors (along with 17 other experts) of a paper titled “An Evidence Review of Face Masks Against COVID,” which was just published in peer-reviewed form in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. …


The federal government must release demographic data about vaccine recipients.

Red vials overlaid over a blurry black-and-white photo of a crowd.
Red vials overlaid over a blurry black-and-white photo of a crowd.
Illustration: The Atlantic; source: Getty Images

By Erin Kissane and Alice Goldfarb

A year into the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, we still lack a complete understanding of who is getting sick, and where, and when. Demographic data from many states are astonishingly incomplete, and even widely collected information, such as the age of patients at the time of diagnosis or death, is so inconsistently presented that it has been impossible to assemble into a clear national picture. The federal government is now making more demographic data available, but the information continues to emerge at a snail’s pace.

This has left government outsiders to try to assemble the data — groups like us, the COVID Tracking Project, which is housed at The Atlantic. For more than nine months, we’ve compiled data from states to create a composite national picture of the pandemic. Time and again, we have seen that a lack of federal support has left overburdened state public-health authorities to fend for themselves, resulting in incomplete reporting, incompatible data definitions, and inconsistent data pipelines. …


The business owners, real-estate brokers, and service members who rioted acted not out of economic desperation, but out of their belief in their inviolable right to rule.

A leather briefcase with a Trump sticker tucked under the flap, next to what looks like a canister of tear gas.
A leather briefcase with a Trump sticker tucked under the flap, next to what looks like a canister of tear gas.
Photoillustration: The Atlantic; source: Getty Images

They were business owners, CEOs, state legislators, police officers, active and retired service members, real-estate brokers, stay-at-home dads, and, I assume, some Proud Boys.

The mob that breached the Capitol last week at President Donald Trump’s exhortation, hoping to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, was full of what you might call “respectable people.” They left dozens of Capitol Police officers injured, screamed “Hang Mike Pence!,” threatened to murder House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and set up a gallows outside the building. …


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

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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 hospital beds than most other states — just 1.8 per 1,000 people, compared with 4.8 in South Dakota, which has the most beds in proportion to its population. California’s relatively few hospital beds are attended by relatively few nurses, compared with other states’ staffing levels. …


Aides are headed to the exits, and the president himself is disengaging.

The presidential desk with empty chairs facing it in the Oval Office. Black-and-white photo.
The presidential desk with empty chairs facing it in the Oval Office. Black-and-white photo.
Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters

Who is steering the American ship of state?

This isn’t a philosophical question; we’ve spent four years wondering about the roots and motivations of Trumpism. It’s a specific question: Who is in charge right now when the White House has to make a decision?

On paper, the answer is simple: Until noon on January 20, Donald Trump is the president. Then Joe Biden will be sworn in and become president. In practice, matters are less clear. Even by the low standard he has set, Trump is reportedly disengaged from the work of governance, and is instead mainlining television news and raging over his social-media defenestration. Some reports suggest that Vice President Mike Pence is making some decisions. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is back-channeling with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Unelected staff members may be wielding power in the executive branch. …


When have Americans been willing to admit who we are?

A blue rectangle with white stars with rows of people’s heads wearing red blindfolds, visually referencing the US flag.
A blue rectangle with white stars with rows of people’s heads wearing red blindfolds, visually referencing the US flag.
Photo illustration: The Atlantic; source: CSA Images/Getty Images

By Ibram X. Kendi

“Let me be very clear: The scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America. Do not represent who we are,” President-elect Joe Biden said during Wednesday’s siege.

“The behavior we witnessed in the U.S. Capitol is entirely un-American,” read a statement from a bipartisan and bicameral group of elected officials that included Senators Joe Manchin, Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, and Mark Warner as well as Representatives Josh Gottheimer and Tom Reed.

“We’re the United States of America. We disagree on a lot of things, and we have a lot of spirited debate … But we talk it out, and we honor each other — even in our disagreement,” said Senator James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma. “And while we disagree on things — and disagree strongly at times — we do not encourage what happened today. …

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