Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

America’s Delta divide,

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The Delta variant now accounts for more than half of the infections in the U.S. As it spreads, cases, hospitalizations and deaths are rapidly increasing in places with low vaccination rates.

To understand the path the virus might take in the coming months, my colleagues Apoorva Mandavilli and Benjamin Mueller drew on data from overseas, particularly in Britain. They found that the highly infectious variant will widen the gap between the American communities where most people are vaccinated, and those where most are not.

“If you are unvaccinated, you are at great risk from Delta,” Apoorva said. “Delta is extremely contagious and we’ve seen it tear through country after country, and it will do the same wherever there are pockets of unvaccinated people in the United States.”

Here are more takeaways:

Spikes, but with fewer deaths: As in Britain, the variant may cause a surge in cases, but hospitalizations and deaths are likely to be much lower in the U.S. than with previous outbreaks. That’s because the average age of those infected has shifted downward, and younger people tend to have mild symptoms.

Surges in red areas: The U.S. vaccination divide largely tracks political and social divisions, with much higher vaccination rates in communities that voted for President Biden than in those that voted for Donald Trump. “We really need Republican leaders to step up and give the message that getting vaccinated is important,” Apoorva said, “because otherwise, short of vaccine mandates, people are not going to overcome their resistance.”

Sporadic outbreaks: Strategies that contained previous variants may not work with Delta because of its transmissibility — it’s up to 60 percent more contagious than the earlier Alpha variant, which itself was at least 50 percent more contagious than the original form of the virus. That could lead to outbreaks in the U.S. for the foreseeable future.

Hospitals under pressure: Some Delta-plagued areas are already seeing a rise in hospitalizations. Even if those numbers remain small compared with last winter’s, they will strain hospitals in states like Oregon, which are already at maximum capacity as a result of the recent heat wave.

Peace of mind for the vaccinated: While reports of infections by the variant among vaccinated people in Israel may be alarming, data indicates that the vaccines are powerfully protective against all existing variants of the virus when it comes to severe illness, hospitalization and death.

Some risk remains: Cases are rising rapidly in counties where less than 30 percent of residents have been fully vaccinated. That trend is likely to accelerate as the weather cools and people head indoors, where the virus thrives. If that happens, even vaccinated people could be at risk of infection, though not of serious illness.

“Overall, we’re not going to see anything like what we saw last winter,” Apoorva said. “But we will see a lot of cases and we will definitely see a rise in hospitalizations and deaths.”


As diners return to reopened restaurants, many seem to have forgotten their manners.

“People are always rude to restaurant workers, but this far exceeds anything I’ve seen in my 20 years,” said Brandi Felt Castellano, the co-owner of Apt Cape Cod in Brewster, Mass. “I would say that it is its own epidemic.”

In one recent incident, a man berated a young employee for not taking a breakfast takeout order before the restaurant opened, prompting the restaurant to close its doors to treat its employees to a “day of kindness,” which then went viral on Facebook.

Some customers might have assumed that the restaurant industry would immediately return to business as usual after reopening, but did not grasp that restaurants were still grappling with staffing and supply shortages.

“I think we just need to remind people that we are all doing the best we can with the resources that are available to us right now,” said Dale J. Venturini, the president and chief executive of the Rhode Island Hospitality Association. “I think it’s pent-up demand. People do not have the same patience that they may have had in the past, and I’m hoping that’s going to change.”


See how the vaccine rollout is going in your county and state.



One year ago, this page published my note describing how, during the early months of stay-at-home orders, my 33-year-old son was tutoring me from afar on the music of Phish. Through it all, the tutoring and listening continued, and my appreciation for the pure joy in this music only grew. I’m thrilled to now have tickets to my first live Phish show in October, here at the ripe old age of 66. It turns out you can teach an old dog a trick or two.

— Bill Green, Napa, Calif.

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