Social Distance

Journalists from The Atlantic document the first 15 months of the COVID-19 pandemic through regular phone calls. Listen in as Dr. Jim Hamblin, producer Katherine Wells, and comedian/writer Maeve Higgins ask journalists, experts, and friends about the news and science behind the pandemic, get some advice, and learn how to apply it. 

Health & Fitness
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2 min
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The Atlantic's new show on all things happiness, featuring Arthur Brooks
2 min
Is It Over?
Though the pandemic continues around the world, the end appears in sight in the United States. At the same time, this episode will mark the last one for Social Distance.
29 min
Breakthrough Infections and Lonely Puppies
Things are starting to look up, at least in the U.S., but we're looking ahead at potential future worries
38 min
It's Time to Tango
Lots of your questions about the future after COVID-19 get answered, and one listener gives us a little history lesson.
33 min
Dealing With Post-Pandemic Trauma
The Atlantic's Ed Yong talks with James Hamblin and Maeve Higgins about the ways, large and small, we've all suffered.
40 min
Share the Vaccine 'Recipe'
What difference could the U.S. waiving vaccine patents make around the world?
33 min
Long COVID Questions Answered
A long COVID patient and an immunologist help us understand the mysterious condition.
43 min
The Consequences of Vaccine Nationalism
While wealthier countries reopen, India and the rest of the world face a terrifying new peak in the pandemic.
34 min
When Can I Take Off My Mask?
The rules need to change after vaccination. But carefully.
36 min
The Johnson & Johnson Pause
Should the ‘pause’ in Johnson & Johnson vaccine worry us? And with many experiencing strong reactions to their second doses, how should people think about their shots?
36 min
We Need to Vaccinate Kids
Children may mostly be spared the worst of COVID-19, but we’re still relying on them to reach herd immunity.
34 min
No Shirt. No Shoes. No Shots. No Service.
Vaccine passports are almost certainly in our near future. But what are they exactly? And how should they be implemented?
39 min
A History of Pandemic Xenophobia & Racism
A medical historian explains how we got to this point — and where we need to go from here
40 min
Have Case Numbers Plateaued?
Alexis Madrigal explains why testing remains important—and why the numbers have begun to worry him despite his longer-term optimism.
39 min
It’s Been A Year
What have we learned after a year of the pandemic?
43 min
Is One Vaccine ‘Better’ Than Another?
A virologist answers our questions about vaccines, transmission, trials, and more.
39 min
Infections, Vaccinations, and Other Questions
Listeners with mild COVID-19 cases call in to ask for Jim’s advice.
32 min
‘A Disaster for Feminism’
Why have the economic and psychological stresses of the pandemic hit women harder—and what can we do about it?
37 min
A Forever Pandemic
Vaccines are a public good. And if we don’t make a lot more of them, COVID-19 may never really go away.
38 min
Can You Get Reinfected?
The Brazil variant raises a scary question — and reminds us that herd immunity needs to cross borders.
47 min
Have We Turned the Corner?
Or is it still risky to be optimistic?
36 min
Who Gets The Next Shot?
A bioethics expert on the moral questions facing our vaccine rollouts.
35 min
How bad are the new COVID mutations, really?
37 min
How Badly Is Vaccination Going?
Operation Warp Speed pledged to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of 2020. We fell far, far short of that. Should we be worried?
37 min
The Vaccine is Here! What Now?
We're very relieved, but now entering the strange time of vaccine purgatory.
36 min
Americans Are Going Hungry
How could we have let people go so long without help?
32 min
Misinformation Mailbag
Jim and Katherine answer listener questions about pandemic misinformation.
33 min
How to Cancel Thanksgiving (Because You Should)
Jim and Katherine answer listener questions about the holidays, and explain how to say no.
36 min
A 90% Effective Vaccine
Jim and Katherine get sent to the principal (the lead principal investigator of the Pfizer vaccine trial).
33 min
‘A Long Misunderstood Region’
America hit 100,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time today. Unlike the wave in the spring, this one is spread across the country and especially hitting rural communities.
25 min
After the Vote
Could the election shape the course of the pandemic?
28 min
People Need Help
Americans now face a third wave of the coronavirus. New lockdowns may soon follow—this time, without economic support.
35 min
Is COVID-19 a Pre-Existing Condition?
What happens if we lose the Affordable Care Act during a pandemic?
40 min
So Trump Has COVID
What happened? What now?
30 min
What Does COVID Do to the Heart?
As colleges send student-athletes back on the field, we’re learning more about how COVID could have serious and long-lasting impacts on hearts in even the healthiest among us.
42 min
How Bad Will Winter Get?
Your cold-month questions answered.
33 min
Fires Outside, Virus Inside
How wildfires make the virus more dangerous
35 min
Is Faster Better?
We want vaccines. We want rapid tests. But when is fast too fast?
38 min
Herd Immunity is Not a Strategy
With news that a White House pandemic adviser reportedly pushed a “herd immunity strategy,” Katherine and Jim ask an expert about what that would mean. Dr. Howard Forman, a Yale professor and emergency radiologist, explains why Sweden isn’t the example people think it is—and why many people are talking about “herd immunity” all wrong.
42 min
Plasma and Immunity
Writer F.T. Kola had COVID-19 in March, and she’s still dealing with the aftermath. She calls to ask about whether she should donate plasma, and if she should worry about “reinfection.” Then, senior editor John Hendrickson talks about disability at the DNC.
47 min
The Comedy and Tragedy of Virtual Live Events
When live events went online, they lost something indescribable. But did some gain something new? Maeve Higgins explains why comedy needs a crowd. James Fallows argues that politics might be better on Zoom.
38 min
Millennials Are Buying COVID Cars
How the pandemic is changing how we move—and could alter cities permanently
41 min
This Episode Has Not Been Peer-Reviewed
Jim explains the terms Katherine hears in news about scientific studies — and why the pandemic may be changing science. And Ed Yong joins to discuss how American healthcare needs to change to beat the coronavirus.
37 min
Birding Outside the Home
A cheap, easy excuse to be in nature
26 min
The Tree Army
A Civilian Conservation Corps for the pandemic
16 min
'The Most Magical Place on Earth'
Inside the quasi-authoritarian city-state in Florida where people are happily complying with the rules
21 min
How Immunity Works
Zombies, villagers, and Navy SEALs. An expert explains the immune system.
28 min
$600 a Week
In a few days, 30 million Americans will lose the $600 in unemployment insurance they’ve depended on every week. What happens next?
22 min
A New Definition of “Clean”
The upsides and downsides of sterilizing ourselves
23 min
CDC Data Goes Dark
The White House mandated hospitals stop sending data to the CDC. Why?
28 min
Is it Safe To Fly?
How to assess risk when you have to travel
17 min
Our Deadliest Pandemic Mistake
Over 40 percent of all coronavirus deaths in America have been linked to nursing homes. How did it happen, and how bad could it get? Staff writer Olga Khazan joins to explain.
26 min
What Will It Take To Get To Herd Immunity?
What we need to slow down the pandemic
19 min
The Sun Belt Spike
Are we back to where we were in March?
27 min
The Stock Market is... Up?
Why Wall Street's doing great while everything else is not
25 min
Why the World Can’t Reopen If Schools Can’t
A case for universal childcare
22 min
How the Coronavirus Affects Kids
The latest on a mysterious syndrome hitting kids — and what it means for schools.
27 min
How Is College Going To Work?
The good and bad plans for higher education
25 min
The Ethical Calculus of Reopening
A medical ethicist weighs the options.
26 min
The Air Conditioning Question
Is indoor air safe? And do I even want to know what a toilet plume is?
18 min
People Are Panic Moving
Will the virus remake big cities?
26 min
Serenity Now
As the virus continues to spread, how do we reckon with the reality of ongoing death and disruption?
28 min
Should I Be Taking Something?
Supplements and vitamins claim to “boost your immune system.” Jim explains why this is nonsense.
28 min
An Extremely Bizarre Plan to Play Basketball
Rising case numbers, an empty theme park, and 22 teams in quarantine. What could go wrong?
29 min
Can We Sing?
And other questions from listeners.
23 min
Why the Virus Is Spreading So Unevenly
The pandemic isn’t going away, and its spread is hard to predict.
25 min
Would Defunding Police Make Us Safer?
Police departments have enormous budgets. Are we getting what we pay for?
31 min
How Limiting Protests Will Spread the Virus
18 min
Fighting the Machine
The health effects of racism are usually less obvious than murder.
34 min
Sometimes, Things Can Change
A historian shares lessons—and warnings—from the New Deal.
27 min
Is America Going to Make It?
James Fallows gives us some historical perspective.
28 min
Is Anyone Else Not Showering?
There's good cleaning and bad cleaning. Jim attempts to explain.
20 min
It’s a Small World Health Organization
After all
24 min
Is There a Vaccine Shortcut?
Should we speed up the development of a vaccine by deliberately exposing volunteers to the virus?
27 min
Am I Depressed?
Or is the world just depressing?
23 min
The Comforting Appeal of Conspiracy Theories
Why false narratives can sometimes outrun facts
26 min
Have the Uncomfortable Conversation
It’s hard to talk about end-of-life care. You should do it anyway.
25 min
The Racial Contract
The structures of “The Before” shape the present.
24 min
Have You Seen 'The Wretched'?
Hollywood is on hiatus. What do we watch while we wait?
25 min
Will You Merge Bubbles With Me?
How we reopen dating
27 min
Don’t Worry About a ‘New Strain’
At least not yet.
21 min
High Risk
Caitlin Flanagan on navigating Stage IV cancer during a pandemic.
18 min
So The Economy is a Disaster
But maybe we're at least nearing the bottom?
17 min
‘Things Can Change In an Instant’
Lessons from the last time a virus changed us
25 min
The Georgia Experiment
Can reopening ever really be voluntary?
22 min
You Are Worthy of Sleep
Katherine is worried Jim is endangering himself and needs to sleep more, so she’s holding an intervention.
29 min
Is Human Touch Necessary?
What does a pulse oximeter do? And answers to your other questions.
18 min
Will the Restaurants Come Back?
And what will your neighborhood look like if they don’t?
25 min
How Much Does It Cost to Get COVID-19?
What is the financial toll on those who get sick? And will the pandemic change our healthcare system? Dr. Howard Forman, a Yale professor of public health and economics, joins Jim and Katherine to explain the costs of American medicine and what it would take to bring those costs down.
28 min
Are the Celebrities Okay?
A culture in quarantine
21 min
Why Do Some People Get Sicker?
Jim explains why COVID-19 can be fatal for some and mild for others.
22 min
‘You Think of Things You Shouldn’t’
Perspective can change a lot in a month.
28 min
Immunity Passports
Will we need them to restart the economy?
21 min
Text Your Ex?
A guide to new dating realities
19 min
What Will the Summer Be Like?
And how do we make the best of it?
24 min
Are These Tweets Real?
James has been getting a lot of strange replies on social media. McKay Coppins joins to talk about modern propaganda, the history of disinformation, and where these comments might be coming from.
22 min
Something Less Bad
The thing you’re looking forward to will happen again.
23 min
Where the Curve Has Flattened
What's been the difference in the parts of the country that haven't seen as bad an outbreak? Staff writer Russell Berman talks about how officials on the West Coast responded to the problem.
22 min
What It’s Like to Have COVID-19
F.T. Kola and Karan Mahajan talk about their contrasting experiences of illness and recovery.
35 min