Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

Preparing for another pandemic winter.,

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ImageDaily reported coronavirus cases in the United States, seven-day average.
Daily reported coronavirus cases in the United States, seven-day average.Credit…The New York Times

The second full winter of the coronavirus is on the horizon, and soon, many of us will be headed indoors where the risk of transmission of the virus is greater.

This year, things look different — we have multiple vaccines that offer powerful protection from the virus. But the more contagious Delta variant is still a threat, and we have yet to live with it under winter conditions.

To help us prepare for the colder months, including holiday planning, I checked in with Tara Parker-Pope, the founding editor of Well.

As we head into fall and winter, where we are in the pandemic?

The pandemic isn’t over, but I also think, if you’re vaccinated, you should be able to do the things that are most important to you by taking reasonable precautions. I’m an optimist. We have the tools we need — vaccines, boosters, masks, home tests, even air cleaners — to help lower risk and get back to life.

How should we prepare for the colder months?

To start, get vaccinated, get your booster if recommended, get eligible kids vaccinated, get a flu shot and upgrade your mask. I really like the KF94. We still have to take precautions, but it’s so much better than last fall and winter when nobody was vaccinated. I still avoid crowds, indoors and outside, and wear a mask while shopping. It’s always safer to socialize outdoors, but I don’t think we all have to freeze outside in order to see each other this year. If everyone at your small indoor gathering is vaccinated, symptom-free and taking precautions in daily life (like wearing a mask), you should trust your vaccine to protect you. If someone in your group is medically vulnerable, ask everyone to screen with a home test and use a portable air cleaner to further lower risk.

What lessons from last fall and winter should we keep in mind?

I think it’s important to remember that even if you’re vaccinated, risk is cumulative. Decide your priorities — keeping your kids in school, seeing family during the holidays, spending time with close friends — and skip the less important stuff. Budget your risk. Don’t go to a crowded holiday party two days before you visit grandma.

What are your plans for the holiday season?

I plan to travel for Thanksgiving and will wear my mask full time on the plane except to drink water. I’ll skip the airplane meals, and my small group of five will use home tests to make sure no one is infectious.

What are curveballs that would make you reconsider your winter plans?

Think about Covid as you would the weather. You’d change your travel plans during a snowstorm, and a significant spike in Covid cases this winter may be a reason to rethink travel too.

But it really depends on the personal health risk of everyone involved. Vaccines protect us, but they’re not 100 percent. I think if we’ve learned anything during this pandemic, it’s that things can change by the month, the week and the day. Go ahead and make plans, but be ready with a Plan B (like driving instead of flying or moving the gathering outdoors) in case the forecast changes.

We should probably talk about unvaccinated relatives …

Many of us have relatives who refuse to get vaccinated. It’s the unvaccinated people in the group who are at highest risk of getting Covid, but breakthrough infections can happen, especially to those who are medically vulnerable. If everyone at the gathering isn’t vaccinated and you must go, try to move it outside. Ask everyone in the group, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, to take a rapid home test to make sure no one is infectious.

More from Tara:


We asked readers how they’re approaching the next few months, including the holiday season. A huge thanks to everyone who wrote in. Here’s a selection:

“I won’t cancel my annual Christmas party. Instead we’ll scale back and request vax or testing. We need to maintain connection, be merry together and celebrate life. I’m ready to acknowledge that Covid is the new reality we must live with.” — Jyoti Jani Patel, Seattle.

“I am literally grasping at straws at this point. Last week I ordered a doughnut pan thinking that I would teach myself how to make doughnuts as a way to cope with yet another pandemic winter. I don’t even like doughnuts, so obviously I’m losing what’s left of my mind. I’m not sure which potential winter coping strategy I’ll explore next (maybe soap making?), but I’m sure that it will also reflect my current level of desperation.” — Molly, Maine

“Last year my anti-vax family continued to gather through the entire holiday season while I chose not to gather to save their lives. Even after being hospitalized with Covid this past May, they still won’t get vaccinated. So what changed? Last year I wanted to gather with my family. This year I don’t want to. And, I don’t think I will ever again.” — Melody Marler, Orange County, Calif.

“This year I will functionally act as though the pandemic is over, aside from Covid testing after known exposures. As a transgender woman who derives social well-being and comfort primarily from rave spaces and gay social gatherings, the pandemic forced a recognition of how important social contact was for my mental health, and for the health of my community. It was impossible not to notice the uptick in suicides among trans women last year, which even in normal times are extremely elevated. My social joy, and the social joy of those around me, is not frivolous. It is quite literally lifesaving. I will not abandon that again.” — Julia R, Brooklyn

“We are a Navajo and Mexican heritage family, with a son who is 7, so we’re maintaining stringent winter precautions until our kiddo can access a vaccine. We’ve added outdoor heaters to our patio and are grateful for mostly mild winters in New Mexico. Our attitude remains the same as last year, since our child is still vulnerable as a member of two cultures that are disproportionately impacted by Covid-19.” — Jennifer Cruz, Albuquerque

“We’re going to the Metropolitan Opera thirty times.” — Vincent DePasquale

“I feel pretty defeated. I am single and I live alone. Last winter, I powered through on the pride and strength of knowing that I was helping other people. The loneliness has become a little overwhelming now, though. I plan on being cautious this winter — that won’t change — but I am worried that I won’t weather it well at all. You start to question your actions and choices because they are different from a lot of people around you, and that just adds to the feeling of isolation and loneliness. Unlike what the poster in my window says, I don’t think “We are all in this together.” — Joanna Miller, Louisville, Ky.

“I am approaching the pandemic winter with boundless love. My husband and I were married in his native country shortly before we even heard of Covid-19. After wrangling with immigration during the pandemic, a bout of digital romancing via Zoom and WhatsApp, we were reunited this past summer in my adopted state of California. Hunkering down indoors for a second winter seems to be an opportunity for us to have the honeymoon we missed out on.” — Honey Obeng, Victorville, Calif.


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