Selena Simmons-Duffin

For older people and people with disabilities, solving everyday practical problems can be the difference between being able to live at home or being forced to move to an institution. Sometimes people need help getting dressed or making meals. Sometimes they need help managing medications or shopping for groceries.

Erica Cuellar's dad wasn't worried, even if she was.

It was still the early days of the coronavirus pandemic — March 2020 — and Cuellar and her husband were becoming anxious about whether they could afford the $1,200 rent for their house in Houston. She'd lost her job as a home health aide for a boy with autism, and the news made it sound like most businesses were about to shut down, which would likely mean her husband would be getting fewer hours at the pipe yard where he works — or maybe even be laid off.

Americans have fallen way behind.

The rent's overdue and evictions are looming. Two-thirds of parents say their kids have fallen behind in school. And one in five households say someone in the home has been unable to get medical care for a serious condition.

These are some of the main takeaways from a new national poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

If you have a baby at home or are expecting one in the next few months, you might be on edge for all sorts of reasons, but particularly because of COVID-19. The delta variant of the coronavirus has turned nearly every community in the country into a bright red hot spot of viral infection. Babies can't get vaccinated against COVID-19 yet — and the youngest age included in current vaccine clinical studies is 6 months old.

Tensions are high right now. As the delta variant spreads like wildfire across the U.S., vaccination rates are still low in many places and parents and school staff are anxiously wondering what will happen when schools start up again. Should there be more mask mandates? Will businesses have to close again? Will big gatherings be banned?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a lot of ways to pick up on COVID-19 outbreaks, but those methods often take a while to bear fruit.

Not so with the Provincetown cluster that started around July 4th weekend. "We triggered the investigation as people were getting symptomatic," says Demetre Daskalakis, a deputy incident manager for CDC's COVID-19 Response. "Pretty amazing — it is warp speed."

If you are uninsured or you've been on unemployment benefits this year, new financial help — passed by Congress this year — means you might be eligible for free health insurance.

Updated October 13, 2021 at 11:05 AM ET

When the delta variant took off around the U.S., the federal government updated its masking guidelines for fully vaccinated people.

The current COVID-19 surge in the U.S. — fueled by the highly contagious delta variant — will steadily accelerate through the summer and fall, peaking in mid-October, with daily deaths more than triple what they are now.

Updated July 29, 2021 at 12:05 PM ET

This story has been updated throughout to reflect new research.

New data on the delta variant is coming in, and it's not looking good. The currently authorized vaccines are still very protective, especially against hospitalization and death. But when it comes to getting an asymptomatic or mild case of COVID-19, they may not be quite as protective as they were against earlier strains.

Updated August 4, 2021 at 12:50 PM ET

With the highly contagious delta variant surging ferociously, Americans are once again grappling with pandemic anxiety.

The surge has prompted a flurry of new mask mandates, vaccine mandates and other steps to try to get the coronavirus back under control.

There are more than 2 million people across the United States who have no option when it comes to health insurance. They're in what's known as the "coverage gap" — they don't qualify for Medicaid in their state, and make too little money to be eligible for subsidized health plans on the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges.

Perhaps the only respite pandemic closures brought to my family — which includes two kids under age 6 — was freedom from the constant misery of dripping noses, sneezes and coughs.

Here's one (more) sign the COVID-19 pandemic is on the decline in the United States.

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