An evolving virus and 18 months of ever-changing pandemic messaging have left Americans angry, exhausted and skeptical of public health advice.

By Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Michael D. Shear

A week of public health reversals from the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has left Americans with pandemic whiplash, sowing confusion about coronavirus vaccines and mask-wearing as the Delta variant upends what people thought they knew about how to stay safe.

Vaccines remain effective and highly protective against hospitalization and death, even among those infected with the extremely contagious Delta variant. Mask-wearing prevents transmission of the virus to those most at risk.

But the crisis President Biden once thought he had under control is changing shape faster than the country can adapt. An evolving virus, new scientific discoveries, deep ideological divides and 18 months of ever-changing pandemic messaging have left Americans skeptical of public health advice. So although the White House had promised a “summer of joy,” the nation is instead caught in a summer of confusion.

“While we desperately want to be done with this pandemic, Covid-19 is clearly not done with us, and so our battle must last a little longer,” Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the C.D.C., told reporters on Monday. “This is hard. This is heavy. But we are in this together.”

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