Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

The C.D.C.’s sudden change in policy caught everyone off guard.

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This is the Coronavirus Briefing, an informed guide to the pandemic. Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox.

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The variant first detected in India is swiftly spreading in Britain.

Uruguay had the highest Covid-19 death rate per capita in the world over the past week.

Retail sales were flat in April after a buoyant March.

Get the latest updates here, as well as maps and a vaccine tracker.

A new maskless reality?

On Thursday, as you know if you read this newsletter, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dropped a bombshell: Fully vaccinated Americans can stop wearing masks and maintaining social distance in most settings — both indoors and outdoors.

In the 24 hours since, experts struggled to understand what the massive change would mean. Businesses weighed whether to take down “masks-required” signs. People heading to the office had a new calculus to consider. And surprised state and local officials, including some who withstood months of protests and lawsuits to keep mask orders in place, said they needed time to evaluate the new guidance.

“The change sends a message: Vaccination means the end of the Covid crisis, for individuals and ultimately for society,” David Leonhardt wrote in The Morning, our sister newsletter. “If you’re vaccinated, Covid joins a long list of small risks that we have long accepted without upending our lives, like riding in a car, taking a swim or exposing ourselves to the common cold.”

The C.D.C.’s advice is now, finally, consistent with the current scientific consensus: Vaccinated people are at virtually no risk of serious disease and have only a minuscule risk of spreading the coronavirus to others.

“This shows tremendous confidence in how well the vaccines work,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious-disease specialist and a clinical professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health. “The C.D.C. does have data to support this decision. It’s not like they’re operating on the fly.”

On Thursday, some states, including Michigan, Kentucky and Oregon, said fully vaccinated people could go out maskless. But mask mandates remain in force for New York, New Jersey and California.

Local regulations still trump C.D.C. guidance. In Minnesota, for example, the statewide mask mandate is over, but in Minneapolis, the state’s largest city, face coverings are still required.

Businesses and organizations are also offering perks for fully vaccinated people. At Fort Bragg, for example, vaccinated soldiers can work out together at a gym where no masks are required.

A 10-day challenge

My colleagues over at Well are embarking on a project designed to help you get your mojo back.

The project is an opportunity for a “fresh start,” an idea based on research from Katy Milkman, a professor at the Wharton School and author of the new book “How to Change: The Science of Getting From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be.

“We have this opportunity with this blank slate to change our health habits and be very conscientious about our day,” Milkman told my colleague Tara Parker-Pope. “What is our lunch routine going to look like? What is our exercise routine? There’s an opportunity to rethink. What do we want a work day to look like?”

The project, called Fresh Start Challenge, begins on Monday. To sign up, text “Hi” (or any word) to 917-809-4995 for a link to join. The Times will text you daily tips to prompt moments of mindful reflection, build stronger connections and take small steps toward developing healthy new habits.

Vaccine rollout

Singapore announced new restrictions after several vaccinated airport employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

Gleyber Torres, the Yankees’ two-time All-Star shortstop, as well as three coaches and four support staff members tested positive this week, after they had been fully vaccinated.

Thanks to vaccines, the U.S. avoided a variant-fueled spike in cases — for now.

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

What else we’re following

New Delhi has stabilized its oxygen shortage and will start sending its surplus around India.

On Thursday, the White House outlined its plans to spend $7 billion to expand the public health work force to respond to the pandemic and prepare for future outbreaks.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said he would pardon Florida residents who had violated mask or social-distancing mandates.

In New York City, a rise in gun violence may outlast the pandemic.

Target temporarily suspended sales of Pokemon trading cards, citing safety concerns, after the pandemic sent demand into overdrive.

What you’re doing

Our son was around 7 months old when we decided to care for him while working from home because of the pandemic. Over a year goes by, me and my husband get fully vaccinated. We decide enough is enough. We’re emotionally and physically drained. He needs to see other kids, and supposedly the virus doesn’t affect kids too much. On a Monday, at 20 months old, day care Day 1 arrives. Tuesday night, runny nose. Wednesday night, fever. Thursday, cough. Sunday, breathing distress and we arrive in the P.I.C.U. Is it Covid? No, it’s his first cold. He’s never been sick. Three days later after many different oxygen machines, nasal suctions, albuterol puffs and medicine, we come home, and are like, “What just happened?” — Carolyn Farbman, Westminster, Colo.

Let us know how you’re dealing with the pandemic. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

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