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Illustration by Aubrey Hirsch for TIME
Hirsch is the author of Why We Never Talk About Sugar, a short-story collection. Her stories, essays and comics have appeared in Vox, the New York Times, the Nib and elsewhere

People across the United States are ditching their masks, resuming their lives, and celebrating the end of COVID-19. But for millions of Americans, the pandemic is far from over. An estimated 40% of U.S. adults have at least two conditions that put them at increased risk for severe COVID-19, and parents of young children are still waiting for a vaccine.

Now that so many people are moving on from the pandemic, these vulnerable populations face even bigger challenges. With vaccines and masks no longer required in most public spaces, including public transportation and airplanes, they will have to make difficult sacrifices to protect their health. And others will have no choice but to put themselves at risk.


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