A week of public health reversals from the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has left Americans with pandemic whiplash, sowing confusion about coronavirus vaccines and mask-wearing as the Delta variant upends what people thought they knew about how to stay safe.
Vaccines remain effective and highly protective against hospitalization and death, even among those infected with the extremely infectious Delta variant. Mask-wearing prevents transmission of the virus to those most at risk.
But the crisis President Biden once thought he had under control is changing shape faster than the country can adapt. An evolving virus, new scientific discoveries, deep ideological divides and 18 months of ever-changing pandemic messaging have left Americans skeptical of public health advice.
“While we desperately want to be done with this pandemic, Covid-19 is clearly not done with us, and so our battle must last a little longer,” Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the C.D.C., told reporters on Monday. “This is hard. This is heavy. But we are in this together.”
Monday was another day with a dizzying jumble of news stories and divergent announcements. In Louisiana, a state with one of the lowest vaccination rates, Gov. John Bel Edwards reinstated an indoor mask mandate, as did health officials in San Francisco and six other Bay Area counties. But in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to do so, even though such a move would have been in line with C.D.C. guidelines.
Nationally, caseloads continued to climb. The country reported a daily average of nearly 80,000 new infections on Sunday, up from about 12,000 in early July, according to a New York Times database. A spate of scary news stories about unvaccinated people dying from Covid-19 appears to have accomplished what Mr. Biden could not: The nation finally reached the White House’s target, initially set for July 4, of having 70 percent of American adults at least partially vaccinated.