Is it too soon to celebrate?
For the Fourth of July, President Biden has invited 1,000 military personnel and essential workers to a party on the South Lawn of the White House to celebrate “independence from the virus.”
But my colleague Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports that some experts fear that such celebrations send the wrong message “when wide swaths of the population remain vulnerable and true independence from the worst public health crisis in a century may be a long way off.”
White House officials argue that the president is not declaring victory, but rather celebrating the country’s achievements. It’s certainly true that the U.S. has made significant progress against the virus. New daily cases are steady at about 12,000, the lowest since testing became widely available and down from about 200,000 on Inauguration Day. For the first time since March 2020, the country is averaging fewer than 300 newly reported deaths per day, a decline of about 20 percent over the past two weeks. Hospitalizations are also dropping.
But the advances have been uneven, with a large portion of cases emerging in a handful of hot spots, particularly where vaccination rates are low. Those places include Las Vegas, rural Utah, rural Arkansas, Cheyenne, Wyo., and the Missouri Ozarks.
Nationally, the vaccination campaign is plodding along, with about a million shots administered each day. Biden had hoped that 70 percent of adults would be at least partly vaccinated by July 4, but the number stands at about 67 percent.
A truer measure of protection, experts say, is whether people are fully vaccinated — a status that only 46 percent of Americans can claim.
At the same time, experts fear that if the Delta variant continues to spread, it will mutate in a way that leaves even the vaccinated vulnerable.
White House officials are not requiring guests at the July 4 party to be vaccinated, although they will be asked to provide proof of a negative coronavirus test.
“We’re still in the middle of this marathon,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University. Despite considerable progress, he said, it remains too early to “unfurl the ‘mission accomplished’ banner.”
Pandemic silver linings
Last week, we asked readers to tell us about the positive things in their lives — if any — that came out of the pandemic. We received hundreds of responses and will be running some of them here on summer Fridays.
Many people highlighted one hidden benefit to an incredibly difficult time: extra time with loved ones.
“The pandemic allowed my husband and me to spend more time with our teenaged children — who would otherwise have had much cooler things to do than hang out with mom and dad,” wrote Carolyn Gandy from Atlanta. “We shared old family recipes and our favorite movies and books with them and they taught us a lot, too. We made TikTok recipes and watched anime together. I will always treasure the unexpected time we got to spend with them.”
Before the pandemic, Debbie Rhoades from Woodbine, Md., said she saw very little of her husband during the week. He had a demanding job and long commute, and when they both began working from home, she saw it as “a very unexpected ‘experiment’ to see if we would drive each other nuts during retirement.”
But during the last year, Debbie reported, “We got lots of rest and discovered we still really like each other after 36 years of faithful marriage and raising three sons.”
David Klein from Suffern, N.Y., started taking care of his 1-year-old grandson while the boy’s parents worked.
“Reuben and I went from crawling on the ground together to running together. We went from pops monologue, to Reuben and pops dialogue. We had exciting excursions to the airport to watch planes and our daily stroll to the corner to watch cars and trucks go by,” he wrote. “I look at those 6 months as a blessing in a very dark time.”
Nancy Hembree Flynn, from Los Gatos, Calif., whose father in North Carolina was battling lung cancer, said the pandemic gave her a little extra time.
“I probably would not have been able to take as much time to go back and be with my father through all of his surgeries and treatments without being able to work from his home,” she wrote. “He died last December and I treasure all of those days I was able to spend with him.”
Do you have a pandemic silver lining? Tell us about it by filling out this form.
What else we’re following
The U.S. jobs report for June showed a gain of 850,000, better than analysts expected.
New York City’s Covid caseload remains low even as the Delta variant gains ground.
Portugal is imposing a curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. in Lisbon, Porto and other tourism spots to fight a Delta-driven surge.
The Delta variant now accounts for a third of all new cases in France, and the country’s health minister said that the variant could “ruin” summer holidays.
Millions of Americans have decided to retire early since the pandemic began.
What you’re doing
On June 23 we celebrated midsummer and it was the first party I went to since the pandemic began. It was a gathering of close friends and family at my sister’s lakeside house. Leading up to the party, I was so afraid to be close to so many people again that I had my mask in my pocket just in case. It ended up being the best night I’ve had in the last 1.5 years! We played games and danced while not being two meters apart! After going to bed I realized that during the party, Covid did not even once cross my mind. With the soles of my feet still aching from all the barefoot dancing, there is just one thing I wanna remind people — get vaccinated, it feels amazing!
— Õnne Allaje, Tartu, Estonia
Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.
We’ll be off Monday for the Fourth of July. See you on Tuesday.
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