We hope that 2021 will see the United States gain a decisive upper hand in its fight against COVID-19. The country is currently engaged in an unprecedented race to vaccinate as many people as possible while using public-health measures to minimize deaths in the short term. The situation is dire—more people died in the United States from COVID-19 in January 2021 than died in the last two years from the flu.1 Even as we work through the challenges of this ongoing tragedy, we argue that it is reasonable to hope that the first half of 2021 can be a bridge to what we term “normalcy”—when many aspects of social and economic life can resume without fear of excess mortality (when overall mortality exceeds its long-term average). The great news is that vaccines appear effective—seeing “shots go into arms” is heartening. The less great news is that new challenges are emerging by the day, including more contagious strains of the virus and a slow start to vaccine rollout.
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