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U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has a message for schools across the country ahead of the new school year: Students need to be in classrooms.

"That's where students learn best," Cardona told NPR's A Martínez. "Schools are more than just places where students learn how to read and write — they're communities. They're like second families to our students."

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Mask up, America. Now, that could have been a catchy slogan. Instead, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered confusing guidance this past week. Vaccinated Americans in some parts of the country should mask up indoors again.

Records have been set nearly every day lately in Tokyo, but not all of them have been by athletes competing in the Olympics.

Japan's capital has exceeded 4,000 coronavirus infections for the first time — 4,058 cases, to be exact. That's a record high and nearly four times as many cases were reported just a week ago.

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This weekend, 80,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines will expire in Arkansas. There simply weren't enough people in the state willing to get their jab — even though cases and deaths from the delta variant are rising there at an alarming rate.

"Prior to the vaccine, I was heartsick because people died and we couldn't help them. Now, they don't get the vaccine and we can't help them," says Tammy Kellebrew, a pharmacist who travels to rural hospitals across the state. "And so after every death, I go back to the pharmacy and I cry, and then I go back to work."

When revising its mask guidance this week to urge even vaccinated people to wear masks indoors in much of the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was criticized for not citing data in making that move.

Now it has — and the data is sobering.

Japan extended a state of emergency to areas around the capital, Tokyo, and to its second largest city, Osaka, on Friday, following a record-setting surge in COVID-19 cases.

For a while there, it seemed like things were finally heading back to normal. Now, not so much.

In the span of just a week, plans for a September return to the office have been pushed back. Mask mandates have made a comeback. And a growing number of employers, including the federal government, are laying down the line on vaccines.

More than a year and a half after the coronavirus was first detected in China — followed by the world's first big wave of COVID-19 — the country is again battling to stem the spread of new cases attributed to the more infectious delta variant of the virus.

Australian soldiers are joining local police in New South Wales to enforce a coronavirus lockdown in and around Sydney as authorities try to tamp down the latest outbreak of cases linked to the more infectious delta variant.

Even as new coronavirus cases surge in Tokyo to rates not seen since the pandemic began, Japan's prime minister says the Olympics are not causing the spike.

Officials on Thursday confirmed 3,865 new cases in Japan's capital, the highest daily tally reported, just as the Tokyo Olympics near their halfway point.

All guests two years and older at Disney theme parks in the U.S. will once again be required to don face masks along with their optional mouse ears while indoors — a precaution against the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus.

Updated August 2, 2021 at 11:36 AM ET

With the delta variant taking off around the U.S., the federal government updated its masking guidelines for fully vaccinated people last week.

Masks are again required for members of the House side of the U.S. Capitol amid a nationwide rise in coronavirus cases.

Under the reimplemented mandate, members, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, must wear a "well-fitted, medical grade, filtration face mask" in House office buildings, during meetings and while in the House chamber.

Under the order from Dr. Brian Monahan, Congress' attending physician, the new rule doesn't affect members of the Senate.

The return of masks in the House comes a month after the requirement was first lifted for vaccinated members.

Dr. Leana Wen advises that you should think of your COVID-19 vaccine like a very good raincoat: If it's drizzling or you're in a rainstorm? You're well-protected. "But if you're going in and out of thunderstorms every single day and now there's a hurricane — at some point you're going to get wet," she says.

In some people, COVID-19 symptoms can linger for months after they've recovered from the worst of the illness, even after they've tested negative for the coronavirus. The National Institutes of Health refer to these long-term symptoms as post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2, or PASC.

Paullette Healy isn't sure yet where her 13-year-old son, Lucas, will go to school this fall.

She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and says New York City school buildings are in "disarray," with overcrowded classrooms and windows that barely open. She worries about classroom ventilation and social distancing.

PARIS — France's parliament approved a law early Monday requiring special virus passes for all restaurants and domestic travel and mandating vaccinations for all health workers.

Both measures have prompted protests and political tensions. President Emmanuel Macron and his government say they are needed to protect vulnerable populations and hospitals as infections rebound and to avoid new lockdowns.

A lot of Americans may feel this week like someone who's run a long race, sees the finish line and begins to counts each step and breath to the end, only to hear as we get close, "Oh, sorry. You've got another mile or two to go."

Alba Feliz is a little nervous about getting the vaccine. At 17, she's the first person in her immediate family to seriously consider getting it. "In my house, they never really trust the vaccine," she says. Social media has been her main source of information, and the contradictory messages have been confusing.

Bob Sinner, a specialty soybean producer in North Dakota, has a major problem on his hands: He has plenty of beans, but he's struggling to ship them to his customers overseas, and his deliveries are running at least a month and a half behind schedule.

"We've had customers in Asia that have had to stop their operations waiting for supply," Sinner says. "Our farmers need to get their storage facilities emptied because we have a new crop that's coming in September, October. We have to get this product moving."

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.

While the delta variant of the coronavirus has quickly become the dominant strain in the United States, it's not the only variant circulating in the population.

The summer surge in COVID-19 cases is an unwelcome surprise for health officials and experts who thought, for a brief period, that the U.S. had the coronavirus pandemic largely under control.

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.

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