Health and Medicine

The Pandemic’s Next Turn Hinges on Three Unknowns

By Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic

A potential winter surge is up to vaccines, variants, and us.

Winter has a way of bringing out the worst of the coronavirus. Last year, the season saw a record surge that left nearly 250,000 Americans dead and hospitals overwhelmed around the country. This year, we are much better prepared, with effective vaccines—and, soon, powerful antivirals—that defang the coronavirus, but cases seem to be on the rise again, prompting fears of another big surge.

How bad will it get? We are no longer in the most dangerous phase of the pandemic, but we also have not reached the end. So COVID-19’s trajectory over the next few months will depend on three key unknowns: how our immunity holds up, how the virus changes, and how we behave. These unknowns may also play out differently state to state, town to town, but together they will determine what ends up happening this winter.

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