Jane Greenhalgh

The Delta variant, which was first detected in India, now accounts for more than 6% of all infections in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And this highly transmissible variant may be responsible for more than 18% of cases in some Western U.S. states.

Since the pandemic began, pregnant people have faced a difficult choice: to vaccinate or not to vaccinate.

The risk of severe disease or even death from COVID-19 — while small — is higher during pregnancy. More than 82,000 coronavirus infections among pregnant individuals and 90 maternal deaths from the disease have been reported in the U.S. as of last month.

It's been more than a year since I've seen my mother. Like many families, we live a fair distance apart and the pandemic has put a stop to our visits. I was supposed to visit last April to celebrate her 90th birthday, but instead we shared a toast over the phone and tightly crossed our fingers that by summer things would be better. They weren't.

It's supposed to be the happiest time of the year, but this year it doesn't really feel like it. With many of us hunkered down at home, some having lost jobs, others having lost friends and family members to COVID-19 or other illnesses, it's tempting to give this holiday season a miss.

But it's important to find joy and meaning in the midst of this dark winter — and carrying on with favorite holiday traditions can help. NPR checked in with medical researchers to figure out how risky our favorite customs are, and highlight ways we can all celebrate more safely.

It has become the battle cry of public health officials around the world: "Wear a mask to slow the spread." Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new evidence supporting this advice.

Researchers analyzed coronavirus infection rates in Kansas following a statewide mask mandate. They found that counties that chose to enforce the mandate saw their cases decrease. Counties that chose to opt out saw their cases continue to rise.

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