1,000 US counties still have vaccination rates below 30% – particularly in the Southeast and Midwest, CDC says

covid vaccine
Maryland National Guard Specialist James Truong administers a Moderna coronavirus vaccine in Wheaton, Maryland, May 21, 2021.

  • 1,000 US counties have vaccination rates below 30%, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Thursday.
  • Coronavirus transmission will likely increase in these areas as the Delta variant keeps spreading.
  • But the US is struggling to put shots in arms: Vaccination rates fell 85% in the last three months.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Nearly half the US population is fully vaccinated, but rates still vary widely from state to state – and even more widely county by county.

Around 1,000 US counties currently have vaccination rates below 30%, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a White House press briefing on Thursday.

“These communities, primarily in the Southeast and Midwest, are our most vulnerable,” Walensky said. “In some of these areas, we are already seeing increasing rates of disease. As the Delta variant continues to spread across the country, we expect to see increased transmissions in these communities unless we can vaccinate more people now.”

Delta is the most transmissible coronavirus variant to date, and may be deadlier than its predecessors, so disease experts are particularly concerned about its spread among unvaccinated communities.

An analysis from Public Health England found that Delta was associated with a 60% increased risk of household transmission compared with the Alpha variant discovered in the UK, though more recent estimates suggest the difference is closer to 40%. The Alpha variant is already about 50% more transmissible than the original strain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

covid delta variant
A mobile COVID-19 vaccination center in Bolton, England, on June 9, 2021.

Researchers in Scotland also found that getting infected with the Delta variant doubled the risk of hospital admission relative to Alpha. (Previous studies have suggested that the Alpha variant may be 30 to 70% deadlier than the original strain.)

Vaccines, of course, significantly lower that risk for both variants. The Associated Press recently reported that around 99% of COVID-19 deaths in May were among unvaccinated people, based on government data.

But the US has struggled recently to convince more Americans to get vaccinated, even with incentives like cash prizes, gift cards, and tickets to sports games. Vaccination rates have fallen 85% in the last three months. As of Wednesday, the US was administering less than 430,000 daily doses, on average, compared to a peak of more than 3 million daily doses in April. The nation will likely fall shy of its goal to vaccinate 70% of adults with at least one dose by July 4 – 67% of adults have gotten at least one shot so far.

Meanwhile, Delta is expected to become the dominant strain in the US in a matter of weeks. It currently represents around 25% of the country’s reported cases, Walensky said. In some regions, she added, Delta already represents nearly half of new cases.

The spread of Delta has corresponded to a roughly 10% increase in weekly average of new coronavirus cases in the US. In the last two weeks, 19 states have seen their average daily cases rise. Missouri – where roughly four dozen counties have vaccination rates below 30% – has seen cases increase 55% during that time. In Arkansas – where more than 20 counties have vaccination rates below 30% – cases have risen 63%.

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The best iPhone cases in 2021 for style and protection

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The best iphone cases
  • The best iPhone cases provide extra style and protection.
  • Quality varies depending on the price, but there’s an option for every budget.
  • Our favorite iPhone cases come from brands like Smartish, Speck, Nomad, Otterbox, and others.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

A great iPhone case should serve a few different purposes. First and foremost, it should protect your iPhone from scratches, scuffs, and dirt.

But given the number of times most of us pick up our phones each day, it’s also important that your phone case is easy to grip. At the same time, a good case should also add some style to your device. At the very least, it shouldn’t hinder your device’s aesthetics or make it too cumbersome.

We’ve tested nearly two dozen products to find the best iPhone cases. Whether you’re looking for extreme protection, an attractive wallet case, or just a slim shell to prevent smudges, these are the best iPhone cases we’ve found.

The best iPhone cases:

Best general purpose cases: Speck cases

Speck’s iPhone cases are durable yet slim, which is why we like them
Speck Presido 2 Perfect Clear, Presidio 2 Armor Cloud, and Presido Pro

While some cases specialize in durability or sleekness, Speck‘s sweet spot is right in the middle.

Speck cases provide more heft and protection than cheaper covers, but aren’t quite as big and bulky as Otterboxes. 

That’s also reflected in the pricing: Speck’s cases certainly aren’t cheap, with some models costing about $60 at their regular price. But they’re also not as pricey as certain specialty cases.

Speck offers a variety of cases made to fit models as old as the iPhone 7 all the way through to the new iPhone 12 lineup. So no matter which iPhone model you have, there’s probably a case that fits. Speck cases come in many styles, from clear cases to ones with grips, printed patterns, and a glittery or ombre finishes. The options will vary depending on your phone model.

I love how the Presidio 2 Perfect Clear with Grips doesn’t add too much bulk to my iPhone but still feels protective. The grips are also perfectly placed, making it easy to hang on to my phone securely. But this case is more stiff than some others we’ve tested, making it more difficult to remove. 

The Presidio 2 Armor Cloud, meanwhile, claims to have air capsules that compress to suspend your phone on a cushion of air to prevent damage, although other companies have made similar claims. Regardless, the Speck cases we tested handled a 5-foot drop onto a marble floor with ease, showing no signs of damage. 

In our grease test, Speck’s Presidio 2 Perfect Clear and Armor Cloud cases picked up a seemingly normal amount of smudges, while the Presidio 2 Pro looked particularly greasy. Each case was easy to clean using a lightly dampened cloth with warm water, but the Presidio 2 Pro and Armor Cloud still show some streakage if you look very closely. 

Worth a look:

Presido 2 Perfect Clear with Grips (small)Presidio 2 Armor Cloud (small)Presidio 2 Pro (small)
Best for classy designs: Native Union cases

Native Union’s iPhone cases utilize materials like wood, leather, and fabric
Native Union Clic Card, Clic Wooden, and Clic Canvas

We love Native Union’s iPhone cases for their attractive designs made from materials like leather, wood, and fabric.

While protection is the main reason you may choose to put a case on your iPhone, style is important too. 

The cases are super slim, barely adding any extra heft to your device. And for how nice they look, they aren’t all that much more expensive than other cases on this list. The Clic Canvas fabric case for the iPhone 12 currently costs $30, while the Clic Wooden for iPhone 12 is priced at $40, and the Clic Card wallet case for iPhone 12 Mini costs $50. If you have a slightly older iPhone, the prices will be even cheaper. 

The downside about Native Union’s cases, however, is that the selection isn’t very big. They only sell cases for the iPhone 11 generation and higher. 

The Clic Wooden case also isn’t the most durable if your phone takes a hard fall. After being dropped from five feet onto a marble floor, the Clic Wooden case had a small chip near the bottom. But more importantly, the iPhone 12 it was protecting came away unscathed. 

These cases can also be more difficult to maintain depending on the model. The Clic Canvas requires an eraser to clean, and we were unable to find instructions for cleaning the Clic Wooden. But thankfully the Clic Card can be cleaned with a damp cloth and mild hand soap. 

The Clic Card and Wooden didn’t get unusually smudgy when we held them with dirty fingers, and the Clic Card looked good as new after following Native Union’s cleaning instructions. We used the same method to clean the Clic Wooden, but it still looks a little smudgy when the light hits in at certain angles. 

Still, these cases are a great choice for those who care about looks first and foremost, and they’re reasonably priced.

Worth a look:

Clic Card (small)Clic Canvas (small)Clic Wooden (small)
Best cases on a budget: Smartish cases

Smartish iPhone cases are among the cheapest available, but you wouldn’t be able to tell
Smartish Gripzilla, Kung-Fu Grip, and Wallet Slayer

Smartish’s cases are some of the cheapest you’ll find, but they don’t compromise on quality.

Smartish makes it hard to justify spending a lot of money on an iPhone case. Their cases typically cost $20 or less but don’t feel like it, and they come in a variety of colors and finishes. Smartish offers cases for iPhones as old as the iPhone 5S, making it one of the few companies still making cases for 5-year-old iPhones. 

I’ve been using the Gripzilla for the iPhone 12, a sturdy general-purpose case priced at $20. It’s not the most attractive case, but it feels well-built and is a great middle-ground between a slim case and a heavy-duty case. It’s also easy to put on and remove from the phone, which is always a plus.

The Kung Fu Grip is also a great choice for those who want a no-frills case for basic protection. It has a course finish that makes it easy to hold — as its name implies — and a flexible, jelly-like build that makes it easy to put on and remove from the phone. Best of all: it’s only $12. 

Smartish’s cases also provide enough protection should your phone take a tough fall. After dropping each case mentioned below from a height of five feet onto a marble floor, neither the cases nor the phones they were protecting showed any signs of damage. 

However, these cases attracted the most smudges and debris of all the cases we tested in our grease test. But they were also among the easiest to clean, and looked brand new after a quick wipedown with warm water and soap. 

Overall, Smartish’s cases prove that you don’t need to spend close to $50 for a quality case that checks the boxes when it comes to basic protection.

Worth a look:

Gripzilla (small)Kung Fu Grip (small)Wallet Slayer (small)
Best leather cases: Nomad cases

Nomad makes excellent looking genuine leather iPhone cases that won’t break the bank
Nomad Rugged case with MagSafe and Rugged Folio

Nomad’s leather iPhone cases impress when it comes to looks and protection, and they’re reasonably priced. 

Nomad’s iPhone cases may be pricey, but they’re made of high-quality Horween leather to back it up. You can even smell the leather upon unboxing the case. 

The company’s Rugged case is sleek yet protective, with the company claiming that it can withstand a 10-foot drop. While we didn’t test these cases in a 10-foot drop, the Nomad Rugged and Rugged Folio held up just fine when being dropped from five feet onto a marble floor. The MagSafe compatible cases also snap in place against my MagSafe Duo charger more easily than most cases I’ve used before.

Nomad’s iPhone cases are definitely on the high-end of the spectrum when it comes to price, but the difference in quality is certainly noticeable, especially when it comes to the Rugged Folio wallet case. It just feels more durable and premium than cheaper leather wallet cases we’ve tested. Each leather case also comes with a packet of leather conditioner to keep it clean.

Nomad’s cases attracted some mild smudging in our grease test, but I’m impressed with how easy they are to clean with soap and water. Although the cases looked a bit streaky while wet, they were back to normal after air drying for a few minutes. 

Nomad’s selection is better than that of some companies like Native Union, but it’s still fairly limited. It only sells iPhone cases for the iPhone XS/XR series, the iPhone 11 series, and the iPhone 12 series, so you’ll have to look elsewhere if you have an older phone. 

Worth a look:

Rugged Case MagSafe (small)Rugged Folio (small)
Best for extra durability: Otterbox cases

Otterbox’s iPhone cases are designed for serious protection
Otterbox Symmetry Series+ with MagSafe, Otterbox Defender Series, Otterbox Commuter Series

Otterbox has become synonymous with durability and rugged protection when it comes to smartphone cases, and that’s still true in 2021.

The company makes a wide selection of cases that vary when it comes to their level of protection, from relatively slim models to all-encompassing shells that come with multiple layers and pieces. Some newer models like the Symmetry Series + are also compatible with Apple’s new MagSafe charger. 

Otterbox also offers cases made to fit models as old as the iPhone 5, so there’s plenty of choice. Prices will vary depending on the case and phone model, but newer cases for the iPhone 12 tend to cost around $60 while older ones can be found for about $30. 

Although many other cases offer decent protection, part of what makes Otterbox stand out is its extra protection around the iPhone’s ports. Even cases like the Commuter Series, which is on the slimmer side for an Otterbox, include a cover for the Lightning port. The Symmetry Series +, which is considerably thinner than other Otterboxes, is also rated for three times as many drops as the military standard. 

The downside, however, is that Otterbox’s extra durable design means its cases can be difficult to remove. It takes a decent amount of prying and pulling to remove the Commuter Series case thanks to its protective yet stiff build. 

The Otterbox Defender rugged case also looks intimidating to remove, but once you get the hang of disassembling it it’s actually not so difficult.

Unsurprisingly, the Otterbox Defender, Symmetry Series Plus, and Commuter Series cases all passed our 5-foot drop test onto a marble floor with ease. They also showed minimal smudging in our grease test, and were among the easiest to clean with soap and water. Some Otterboxes come in multiple pieces, so just be sure to clean any debris that gets in any creases. 

Worth a look:

Pro Symmetry Series+ Case with MagSafe (small)Defender Series (iPhone 8/7) (small)Commuter Series Case (small)
Best for regular protection: Urban Armor Gear

Urban Armor Gear’s iPhone cases are built for protection, but aren’t as bulky or expensive as many Otterboxes
Urban Armor Gear Pathfinder, Plyo Crystal, and Lucent cases

Urban Armor Gear‘s (UAG) cases are generally more flexible and less expensive than Otterbox’s, while still providing an impressive level of protection. 

The company sells cases for the iPhone 6S and higher, making its selection a bit smaller than Otterbox’s and Smartish’s, but still wide enough to cover most iPhone owners. 

The Pathfinder is the case to go with if protection is your top priority. It comes with two layers of protection and meets military drop test standards, which is lower than the 3x military drop rating that Otterbox’s MagSafe-enabled $60 Symmetry Series + promises. 

But UAG’s Pathfinder is also considerably cheaper at $40 and provides enough protection for basic drops. During our five-foot drop test on a marble floor, the UAG Pathfinder successfully guarded the iPhone 12 it was protecting from scuffs and scratches. The thick edges even prompted the case to bounce upon hitting the floor.

If you don’t want a case that screams rugged like the Pathfinder, the $40 Plyo Crystal Series also offers decent protection in a much more subtle design. The clear case still has thick corners for impact resistance and meets military drop standards, but doesn’t have the Pathfinder’s Rugged look.

I also really enjoy the $30 Lucent Series case, which I’ve been using on an iPhone SE. It’s one of the easiest cases to install and remove, but its thin design means it isn’t the most protective for drops. While the Pathfinder and Plyo Crystal aced our drop test, I noticed some very minor scuffs at the bottom of the iPhone SE afterwards. 

These cases also picked up a normal amount of smudges during our grease test, but the fingerprints looked most noticeable on the Plyo Crystal. We were unable to find maintenance instructions on UAG’s website, but these cases were still among the easiest to clean. After a little soap and water, smudges cleared almost immediately. 

Worth a look:

Pathfinder (small)Plyo Crystal (small)Lucent (small)
Other we considered

TwelveSouth specializes in wallet style iPhone cases, but we preferred other case makers in this list
TwelveSouth BookBook Vol. 2, SurfacePad, and Journal

TwelveSouth: TwelveSouth makes leather wallet cases for the iPhone 12 series, iPhone 11 series, iPhone SE (2020), and iPhone 8, 7, and 6S Plus. While these cases are plenty spacious, we ultimately don’t feel like they’re  the best wallet cases available. The $70 BookBook Vol. 2, which resembles a leatherbound book, feels a bit too bulky to be practical. This case as well as the TwelveSouth’s SurfacePad and Journal provide a lot of storage, but aren’t as flexible as other wallet cases we’ve tested, which makes it difficult to use with one hand. TwelveSouth’s cases may serve a niche, particularly if you love the novelty of having an iPhone case that looks like a book. But for most people, we’d recommend the similarly priced Nomad Rugged Folio or a cheaper non-folio case with a card slot, like Smartish’s Wallet Slayer.

Survivor: We also considered the Survivor Extreme, which has a four-layer construction and is rated to protect against 16-foot drops, for our extra durability category. But this case is too difficult to uninstall to make it our top pick. While it’s common for rugged cases to have a multi-layer design that makes them challenging to install or remove, we had to use pliers to get this case off our iPhone 12.

How we tested

We tested nearly two dozen iPhone cases to find the best ones
The iPhone cases included in our guide from Speck, Nomad, Native Union, Otterbox, Urban Armor Gear, and Smartish.

For this guide, we judged iPhone case brands based on a variety of criteria to determine the best picks. A large part of the decision comes down quality of each brand’s cases, which we decide based on the following factors:

  • How durable the cases are
  • The build quality of the materials used in the case
  • Whether the case is easy to grip
  • How easy it is to put on and remove each case
  • How easily each case picks up dirt and grease
  • How easy it is to clean each case

We also evaluate each brand based on other factors including the selection of cases available and price. 

To test durability, we dropped a compatible smartphone wearing each case from a height of five feet onto a marble floor. We then examined the case and the phone for signs of damage.

In addition to protection, we also know looks can be important to a case’s overall value. That’s why we’ve tested how well these cases resist smudges from greasy fingers, and how easy they are to clean. To do this, we rubbed our hands in a bowl of one of the messiest (and most delicious) store bought snacks available — Nacho Cheese Doritos — and wiped our hands all over each case. We then cleaned each case by following the manufacturer’s guidelines unless specified otherwise.

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Trump officials gloated about pressuring the CDC to edit its COVID-19 reports: ‘Yippee!!!’

trump mask white house rally coronavirus
President Donald Trump takes off his face mask as he comes out on a White House balcony to speak to supporters gathered on the South Lawn in Washington, October 10, 2020.

  • Trump officials privately touted their efforts to alter scientific reports about the coronavirus.
  • A congressional probe found “political interference” in the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response.
  • The Washington Post reported on the investigation on Friday.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Health officials in former President Donald Trump’s administration gloated about their efforts to edit scientific reports on COVID-19 last year to fit Trump’s messaging, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post on Friday.

An investigation by a congressional subcommittee on COVID-19 found that a team of Trump appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services “engaged in a persistent pattern of political interference in the nation’s public health response to the coronavirus pandemic,” Democratic Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the subcommittee chair, wrote to two former officials, coronavirus advisor Scott Atlas and science advisor Paul Alexander.

According to The Post, emails reviewed by the panel show that Trump officials had been “overruling and bullying scientists and making harmful decisions that allowed the virus to spread more rapidly,” Clyburn wrote.

In one email sent on September 9, Alexander wrote to Michael Caputo, the then-assistant secretary for public affairs at HHS, touting a “small victory but a victory nonetheless and yippee!!!” about an alleged change to the first line of a CDC report on virus transmission among young people.

In another email sent on September 11, Alexander asked Atlas to help him “craft an op-ed” that would challenge an upcoming CDC report about COVID-19 deaths among young patients.

“Let us advise the President and get permission to preempt this please for it will run for the weekend so we need to blunt the edge as it is misleading,” Alexander wrote to Atlas, The Post said.

As the coronavirus spread across the country last spring, Trump and his allies frequently sought to downplay the severity of the outbreak. When states pursued lockdown restrictions to combat the spread of the virus, Trump urged governors to reopen the economy, going against the recommendations of his own COVID-19 advisors. The former president and those close to him would also often neglect following public health guidelines advised by the CDC.

“I know the President wants us to enumerate the economic cost of not reopening,” Caputo wrote in an email to Alexander on May 16. “We need solid estimates to be able to say something like: 50,000 more cancer deaths! 40,000 more heart attacks! 25,000 more suicides!”

“You need to take ownership of these numbers,” Caputo wrote in a subsequent email to Alexander, per The Post. “This is singularly important to what you and I want to achieve.”

House Democrats launched an investigation into Trump appointees potentially pressuring career officials to alter the language of scientific reports after Politico first reported on the issue on September 11, 2020. The subcommittee has requested interviews with Alexander and Atlas as well as additional documents to complete its probe, according to The Post.

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Previously untouched by the pandemic, Antarctica has reported its first cases of COVID-19

People walk along Orne Harbour, Antarctica, February 6, 2020. Picture taken February 6, 2020. Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino
People walk along Orne Harbour, Antarctica, on February 6, 2020.

COVID-19 has arrived on the most remote continent in the world.

Antarctica’s isolation had allowed it to ward off the pandemic for the last year, but this week the continent reported its first 36 cases on a Chilean base, local newspaper El Mercurio reported.

The cases include 26 Army personnel and 10 civilian contractors, according to the paper.

They have all since been evacuated to Punta Arenas in Chile and are in good condition, The Guardian reported.

The infected men are under “constant monitoring,” the Army said in a statement to El Mercurio.

The General Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme research station, where those infected were based, is one of 13 active Chilean bases in Antarctica, ABC News reported.

As of Tuesday, 77.5 million cases of the coronavirus have been reported around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

While nobody permanently lives there, the Associated Press previously reported that nearly 1,000 scientists and researchers work there over the winter.

The continent remained free of the novel coronavirus, and the need for social distancing practices, longer than any other place on Earth.

In September, the Associated Press reported that, for the most part, Antarctic researchers were allowed to live their lives as normally as they would under non-pandemic conditions. The main differences were fewer teams arriving and no interaction with tourists.

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