What's the deal with herd immunity?

Email sent: May 3, 2021 6:03pm

Vaccine hesitancy and viral variants are complicating America's path to herd immunity; with US troops pulling out of the country, the Afghan government's grip on power is looking tenuous. 


Tonight's Sentences was written by Gregory Svirnovskiy.

Why achieving herd immunity looks unlikely even as more people get their shots
Susan Walsh/Getty Images
  • Reaching herd immunity as a country is becoming increasingly unlikely in the United States. Covid-19 variants that make the disease up to 60 percent more transmissible mean more than 80 percent of the population would need shots for the US to achieve herd immunity. High levels of public vaccine hesitancy make that an uphill task. [NYT / Apoorva Mandavilli]
  • Instead, the virus will likely evolve into a lesser threat, an endemic illness, but it will always be with us. Scientists are wary of future variants that could break through a wall of vaccinations. [The Hill / Joseph Choi]
  • The country is too big; it has too many people to achieve blanket herd immunity. Instead, different regions and cities with varying vaccination rates will enjoy different degrees of immunity and, therefore, freedom. But they’ll still be at the mercy of neighboring Covid-19 hot spots. [Boston Herald / Erin Tiernan]
  • The severity of future outbreaks will likely wax and wane in response to continued vaccinations and global variant spread. But last week, White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci told an audience at a virtual event that people should see a “turning around of the dynamics” “literally within weeks.” [CNBC / Berkeley Lovelace Jr.]
  • Well over half of all adults, 56 percent, have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, including 82 percent of the population over 65. And almost a third of the entire population is now fully inoculated as the country continues to lurch forward into relative safety. [CDC Vaccine Tracker]
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Afghanistan facing "bad passive outcomes," admits Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley
  • The United States is following through on President Biden’s commitment to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. But many worry that without American help, the Afghan government will be easily overrun by militant Taliban insurgents. [NYT / Thomas Gibbons-Neff]
  • On Sunday, Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley admitted Afghanistan could be facing “bad possible outcomes” in the wake of Biden's call to leave. "Which one of these options becomes reality at the end of the day, we frankly don't know yet and we have to wait and see how things develop over the summer,” Milley told reporters. [CNN / Oren Liebermann]
  • Violent attacks on civilians are surging, up 38 percent in the six months since peace talks began between the Taliban and the Afghan government in September. The US State Department has ordered government employees to leave the American embassy in Kabul if their work can be completed anywhere else. The Taliban is believed to be driving these increased attacks and incidents of violence. [NBC News / Saphora Smith]
  • The Taliban previously warned of a violent reaction if American troops weren’t out of the country by May 1, a deadline agreed to by former President Donald Trump. Now, the group is acting out. On Monday, insurgents killed at least seven people at an army post in southwest Afghanistan. [Reuters]
  • And as the Taliban gains militarily, Afghanistan’s central government looks weaker and weaker. Its president, Ashraf Ghani, is becoming increasingly isolated, swept aside as the US and the Taliban configure Afghanistan’s future from opposite ends. [NYT / Adam Nossiter]
The Biden administration will begin reuniting some of the families separated at the border by the administration of former President Donald Trump. Four families will be reunited this week, "just the beginning" of a long process of reconciliation and apology.

[AP / Elliot Spagat]

  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now seeing the consequences of a national Covid-19 crisis he's tried to ignore. His party lost in a spate of elections Sunday, most notably in the populous state of West Bengal. [NBC News / Amy Sood]
  • Manchester United fans stormed Old Trafford while protesting the club’s ownership Sunday, delaying a highly anticipated match between ManU and Liverpool. They were responding to the club's involvement in the European Super League, an ill-fated venture that could have stripped money and support away from most of Europe’s domestic teams. [CNN / John Sinnott]
  • Critics are calling Australia’s threat to jail its own citizens for returning from India “racist” and a violation of rights. Those accusations have been dismissed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Cabinet, who say they are valuing public safety over politics. [BBC]
  • Unemployment is down, but the pandemic is still affecting first jobs, as youth unemployment continues to trend higher and more young people are putting off college. It’s evidence that the nation's economic recovery still has a long way to go. [AP / Erica Pandey]
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"The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading THE BIG LIE, turning their back on the rule of law, and poisoning our democratic system."

[Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) on Twitter Monday, responding to a written statement by former President Donald Trump in which he asserted that the 2020 election was fraudulent]

How to be wrong less often

Vox's Dylan Matthews talks with Julia Galef, host of the podcast Rationally Speaking and author of The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don't. They discuss how we can overcome the ways our own minds deceive us and change the way we think to make more rational decisions. [Spotify]

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