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Wednesday, Feb 24, 2021
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What the Pandemic Has Done to Casual Friendships

What the Pandemic Has Done to Casual Friendships

There’s a reason you miss people you didn’t even know that well. Plus: Is it okay to ask someone to pull up their mask?

Americans are just trying to get by. The country now sits in vaccine purgatory, a new phase of the pandemic that, unfortunately, retains many of the painful parts of the last.

*  Fears that vaccinated people will abuse their freedom are misplaced. “Everyone’s focus needs to be on getting the highest-risk people vaccinated as quickly as possible, not on faulting vaccinated people for a few unmasked hugs,” the epidemiologist Julia Marcus writes.

*  There’s a reason you miss people you didn’t even know that well. No water-cooler chats. No small talk with your local barista. The pandemic “evaporated entire categories of friendship,” Amanda Mull writes.

*  Anthony Fauci gets candid about his time under President Trump. “The thing that got me through it was, I did not let that bother me,” America’s chief scientist told our White House correspondent Peter Nicholas.

*  Having a tough day? Spend time with this photo gallery of some canine first responders: the dogs trained to sniff out COVID-19.

One question, answered: An anonymous reader from Georgia asks if it’s wrong to tell an employee at the local pharmacy to pull up their mask.

I’m a 65-year-old art teacher who has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and rheumatoid arthritis. … Not wanting to be considered a “Karen,” I’ve kept my concerns to myself. How should I say something?

James Hamblin responds in his latest “Ask Dr. Hamblin” column:

Unlike asking to speak to someone’s manager because he forgot to hold the pickles, there’s a moral case for speaking up. …

Ideally, if you have a rapport with this person, there’s a way to explain your position to her. You’re a high-risk individual and you’d really appreciate it if she could pull her mask up. Statements of genuine concern followed by a request for help are generally more effective than anything that feels like scolding.

Read the rest. Every Wednesday, James takes questions from readers about health-related curiosities, concerns, and obsessions. Have one? Email James at paging.dr.hamblin@theatlantic.com.

Tonight’s Atlantic-approved isolation activity:


Immerse yourself in the cinematic world of the year’s first big single: Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License.” The song implies a world of characters—and inspires listeners to role-play as them, our critic Spencer Kornhaber writes.

Today’s break from the news:


Genetic genealogy has cracked cases that have been cold for decades. But, as an Atlantic analysis found, this new tool has been used disproportionately for cases in which both the victims and the suspects are white.

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