Your Hiatus Briefing for August 8

Delta spreads, and masks return. The Olympics wrap up. Wildfires rage in California.

Thanks for being a part of Hiatus. Here’s what’s new in the world since our last briefing…

As the Delta variant of coronavirus continues its rapid spread. The Centers for Disease Control released new guidance recommending that people where masks indoors in most of the United States, based on research that suggest that unvaccinated people are becoming infected with and spreading the the variant at much higher rates than the original Alpha variant.

In particular, the CDC cited an outbreak in Provincetown, Mass., during two weeks of summer celebrations at the beach town in early July. Here’s the full CDC report, citing a number of people who became infected despite being vaccinated.

Infections in vaccinated people still appear to be generally mild compared to those in unvaccinated people, and rates of hospitalization and death remain much lower for the vaccinated than the unvaccinated. About 70 percent of U.S. adults are vaccinated; that’s about 50 percent of the total population (including children who are not yet eligible for the vaccine). However, in some regions, that number is much lower. These regions in particular are facing climbing case rates and hospitalization rates that could fill up local hospitals. Here’s a look at vaccination rates by state, via The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, schools are reopening for the new school year. The CDC is recommending that schools stay open even in situations where cases are rising in the community this year, an acknowledgement that remote learning was extremely burdensome on children, parents and school employees last year, and that children are still at lower risk for serious symptoms than adults are. Most school districts are mandating or strongly recommending mask-wearing in school buildings, and federal rules are requiring masks on school buses.

Here’s a look at the case surge in the U.K. and U.S., compared to other countries around the world:

The Summer Olympics in Tokyo has come to an end. Simone Biles, the renowned American gymnast, took home a bronze medal after opting out of most of the Olympic events due to a case of the twisties, which CNN describes as “a mental condition in which gymnasts lose the sense of where their bodies are in midair.”

"I had no idea where I was in the air. You can literally see it in my eyes in the pictures, like I was petrified." – Biles on the Today show

The U.S. men’s and women’s basketball teams both won gold, and the U.S. women’s soccer team won bronze. Japan’s baseball team beat the United States for the gold. The U.S. led the field in both gold medals and total medals.

This was the first Olympics in which openly transgender women athletes competed – New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard and Canadian archer Stephanie Barrett.

Thanks to a new court ruling allowing NCAA athletes to earn money from endorsements, 18-year-old gold-medal-winning gymnast Sunisa Lee is heading to college at Auburn in the fall. Most past winners chose to skip college because it previously prevented them from earning money from their post-Olympic fame.

Covid cases are up in Japan, which has a very low vaccination rate, but are still lower per capita than in the U.S. and U.K.

Wildfires are raging around the western U.S., including the Dixie Fire in California, which destroyed the mountain town of Greenville and is now the second-largest fire in the state’s history. Yesterday, Denver had the worst air-quality index in the world due to smoke from the fires in California. Here’s a look at the current fire and smoke status in the west (interactive version is here):

The pandemic-era moratorium on evictions briefly expired. After protests from progressives, including Missouri Congresswoman Cori Bush, the CDC reinstated a version of the moratorium that is limited to only counties with a high rate of Covid spread – in practice, that covers the vast majority of the U.S. population.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been accused of sexually harassing or assaulting 11 women, according to a new report released by the state’s attorney general. Many of the allegations were already public, but the report is the most complete and official presentation of the allegations so far. At least one woman is filing criminal charges against Cuomo, and high-profile Democrats, including President Biden, have called for Cuomo to resign. (Cuomo is a Democrat.) Cuomo denies wrongdoing and says he will not resign. The state legislature is planning impeachment proceedings in the coming weeks.

The Taliban is taking control of major cities in Afghanistan. American forces have mostly left the country, and the U.S. is encouraging American citizens to leave as soon as possible. President Biden says the plan to end the American military presence in the country remains unchanged.

California sued Activision Blizzard, one of the largest video game companies, alleging widespread sexual harassment of women in the workplace and a “pervasive ‘frat boy’ culture.” Employees protested with a daylong walkout, and the president of Blizzard, a major subsidiary, stepped down.

The American unemployment rate dropped to a 16-month low. However, the numbers represent trends prior to the recent surge of Delta variant infections. Workers are benefiting from the tight labor market by commanding higher wages, including in lower-wage industries like fast food and higher-wage industries like law.

Congress advanced a bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes about $1 trillion in new funding. The Senate is also considering an amendment that would significantly increase regulation and reporting requirements related to the use and transfer of cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin.

Until next time, enjoy your Hiatus.