Your Thursday Briefing

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Long lines for South Korean vaccines

Once a model in fighting the pandemic, South Korea has been slow to vaccinate. Supply problems plague the vaccine campaign, and the country only started inoculating people in their 50s against the coronavirus this month.

“There are 401,032 people waiting in front of you,” a government website informed one person who shared on social media the ordeal of booking an appointment. “Your expected waiting time: 111 hours, 23 minutes and 52 seconds.”

As the country faces its worst wave of infections, South Koreans are more desperate than ever for shots. The country recorded its highly daily case count on Wednesday.

Background: In November, when people accused the government of being slow to secure vaccine doses, officials told them not to worry, given South Korea’s success in controlling the spread of Covid-19. The country started vaccinations in late February, but in late June, its stockpile began to run out as a handful of vaccine makers struggled to meet global demand.

Your Monday Briefing

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The Olympics begins

The Tokyo Games opened on Friday to a sea of empty seats and a somber opening ceremony that tried to project a world moving on from the worst of Covid-19. Naomi Osaka, Japan’s most famous athlete, lit the Olympic cauldron.

The Japanese public is widely opposed to the Games. In quieter moments throughout the ceremony, protesters outside the stadium could be heard yelling “Stop the Olympics” through bullhorns. And NBC says that only 17 million people watched the opening ceremony, a record low for a Summer Olympics.

For Japan itself, its diverse Olympic stars, like the multiracial athletes Osaka and Rui Hachimura, are helping to redefine what it means to be Japanese. But they are often still seen as outsiders.

Over the course of the next two weeks, more than 11,000 athletes from 205 different Olympic teams are expected to participate. Here are live updates and our medal count.

More Red-State Trouble

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The spread of the Delta variant in relatively unvaccinated parts of the U.S. is getting worse.

Nationwide, the number of new Covid-19 cases is holding steady. But that steadiness hides two dueling realities, in two different Americas.

In many urban and suburban communities, Covid continues to plummet. The rate of new daily cases has fallen below three per 100,000 residents in large cities like Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Washington. As a point of comparison, the national rate of new daily cases peaked last winter above 75 per 100,000 people.

But in less populated areas — which tend to be more politically conservative and skeptical of vaccines — the virus is now surging, largely from the contagious Delta variant. The states with the worst outbreaks are Arkansas and Missouri (each with more than 16 new daily cases per 100,000 people) followed by Florida (10), Nevada (10), Wyoming (nine) and Utah (eight).

If these outbreaks were concentrated among younger people, it would be less worrisome, because Covid, including the Delta variant, is overwhelmingly mild for children and young adults. Yet even many middle-aged and older adults are not vaccinated in parts of the U.S. They are catching the virus as a result, and some are dying.