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It is hard to overstate the scale of the pandemic in America. On many days, a quarter of a million Americans become newly infected with the coronavirus, and four thousand die—numbers that dwarf the deadliest moments of last spring. The country’s covid-19 death toll has passed four hundred thousand and, according to Joe Biden’s chief of staff, will reach half a million in February; at any given time, more than a hundred thousand Americans are hospitalized with covid-19, and health systems are running out of space, equipment, and personnel.

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