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Seems like last year, but this was Thursday in Orlando. Photo: Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP

The Biden administration's handling of the Delta surge has left Americans confused and frustrated, fueling media overreaction and political manipulation.

Why it matters: The past year and a half have left Americans cynical about the government's COVID response, and — in many cases — misinformed or uninformed. We're getting fog and reversals when steady, clear-eyed, factual information is needed more than ever.

The past five days were a mess. On Tuesday, the CDC updated its guidance to say vaccinated people in hot spots should wear masks in indoor, public settings — without an easy, definitive way to know if you're in a hot spot.

  • This was a reversal from the CDC's announcement on May 13 — 75 days earlier — that fully vaccinated people could shed masks in most indoor settings, which President Biden called "a great day for America in our long battle with the coronavirus."
  • On Thursday, the Washington Post obtained a CDC deck that included the eye-opening line: "Delta variant is as transmissible as: - Chicken Pox."
  • Yesterday, a CDC report showed the reversal was driven partly by a cluster of COVID cases in Provincetown, Mass., on Cape Cod, in which three-quarters of the infected people were fully vaccinated. Only a few people were hospitalized, and no deaths were reported.
  • The resulting lead headline of today's print New York Times: "IMMUNIZED PEOPLE CAN SPREAD VIRUS, THE C.D.C. REPORT." The online version adds the vital qualifier: "Though Rarely."

The alarmist coverage irritated the White House. A senior Biden administration official told CNN's Oliver Darcy: "The media's coverage doesn't match the moment ... It has been hyperbolic and frankly irresponsible in a way that hardens vaccine hesitancy."

  • Ben Wakana of the White House COVID Response Team tweeted: "VACCINATED PEOPLE DO NOT TRANSMIT THE VIRUS AT THE SAME RATE AS UNVACCINATED PEOPLE AND IF YOU FAIL TO INCLUDE THAT CONTEXT YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG."

Between the lines: Administration officials are awkwardly dancing around the fact that they've run out of politically palatable ways to try to convince people to get their shot.

  • Delta is getting out of control, and becoming angry or coercive with the unvaccinated could go badly.

The bottom line: If you're vaccinated, sure, be more careful — but don't stress out. If you're unvaccinated and you can get a shot, go get it.

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Go deeper

Sep 21, 2021 - Health

D.C. school employees required to get vaccinated

Photo: Jacquelyn Martin-Pool/Getty Images

All D.C. school and daycare employees — public, private, and charter — must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1 with no option to test out, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced today.

  • Student athletes over the age of 12 will also be required to get vaccinated in order to participate in after-school programs, the mandate says. 

United Airlines says 97% of U.S. employees fully vaccinated against COVID-19

Photo: James D. Morgan via Getty Images

United Airlines said Wednesday that over 97% of its U.S.-based employees are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a company memo obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: United announced in August that it would require its 67,000 U.S.-based employees to get vaccinated by Sept. 27 or face termination. It's one of several airlines that set vaccine requirements even before President Biden issued his own vaccine mandate for employers with over 100 workers.

Sep 22, 2021 - Health

FDA approves Pfizer boosters for high-risk individuals, people 65 and up

Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus booster shots for people at high risk of severe COVID-19 and people 65 years and older.

Driving the news: The approval comes just days after an FDA advisory panel recommended boosters for the two groups but overwhelmingly voted against the third shots for younger Americans.