19 December 2021 ⚡️ Omicron is here. Complacency is not an option.
Even before Omicron hits our hospitals, the US death rate from COVID-19 is 13x worse for the unvaccinated. The case rate is 5x as great.
The New York Times published a fodder-for-the-antivax-movement story on Sunday. Factual but easily distorted. Moreover, reporter Stephanie Nolen failed to explain why most of the world’s population have #COVID19 vaccines that use “older methods of triggering an immune response.”
There were lots of news stories fall 2020 about mRNA vaccines as a developed world response. More expensive to produce than traditional vaccines. Far more expensive to distribute. Leaving this salient information out of a fear mongering story is tantamount to journalistic malpractice.
According to the NYT, “a preliminary effectiveness study in Britain found that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine showed no ability to stop Omicron infection six months after vaccination.”
“The sheer scale of infection will overwhelm health systems, simply because the denominator will be potentially so big,” [Stephen Morrison, director of the Global Health Policy Center at the Center for International and Strategic Studies] said.
“If you have a burst of infection worldwide, a shock, what does the world look like on the other side of it? Is it, ‘The war is over,’ or, ‘The war has just entered another phase’? We haven’t begun thinking about any of that.”
People with breakthrough cases may experience only asymptomatic infection or mild illness, but they can pass the virus to unvaccinated people, who could fall more severely ill and become a source of new variants.
The boosted in the US who have recently tested positive (not necessarily for Omicron) include Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) as well as Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO). Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was the first U.S. Senator to report a breakthrough case back in August.
Where there is community spread, Omicron is doubling every 1.5 to 3 days. As a reminder, the World Health Organization designated Omicron as a variant of concern on 26 November 2021. Slightly more than three weeks ago. But now it’s at least three percent of all US cases.
I cannot overstate the risk to America’s hospitals, doctor’s offices, emergency services, pharmacies, businesses. From NY Magazine:
Even before Omicron, half as many Americans were already dying of COVID-19 as did during our peak winter surge; in fact, that many Americans have been dying every day for three months now…
[A]s Trevor Bedford has argued, the variants are also sufficiently distinct that they may not really be in direct competition with one another, meaning that each variant could progress in parallel — two waves at once…
Beyond the question of virulence, the new variant’s speed throws all of our inadequate prep and policy into similar disarray. Even in a best-case scenario, the country is almost certainly going to be overwhelmed, very soon, by new cases. Perhaps they will be overwhelmingly mild. The economist Tyler Cowen recently described this scenario — the optimistic one, keep in mind — as “pure chaos,” because we do not have pandemic policy in place designed to respond to case numbers well beyond the highest we’ve seen so far in the pandemic.
In the UK, Sunday’s reported case rate of 646 per 100,000 is the worst since the start of the pandemic. Vaccines used in the UK: BioNTech/Pfizer (mRNA), Moderna/NIH (mRNA), Oxford/AstraZeneca (recombinant).
New infections in New York City have tripled compared with last month; on Sunday, the seven-day average was 5,731. New York state reported 22,478 new cases on Sunday; the state has set records for new daily infections for the past three days. Vaccines used in the US: BioNTech/Pfizer (mRNA), Moderna/NIH (mRNA), Johnson & Johnson (recombinant).
Washington state reported the first known case of COVID-19 in February 2020. On Friday, Trevor Bedford told the Department of Public Health that King County (greater Seattle) should expect 2,100 daily Omicron cases by 22 December 2021. That is about three times the number of cases in the county at its worst point in the pandemic (December 2020).
In Texas, the Omicron variant accounts for 82% of new symptomatic Houston Methodist COVID-19 cases. It took two weeks. In Rhode Island, hospitals are “on the brink of disaster.” In Iowa, elective surgeries delayed until after Christmas.
The NBA announced on Sunday that it had postponed five games because of players and staff entering COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Analysis of 61,532 cancer patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection shows that cancer patients, particularly younger cancer patients, appear at increased risk of mortality from COVID-19 compared to non-cancer patients.
A Catholic bishop in Tyler, TX, is promoting a 2022 anti-vax rally in D.C.
Finally, in a news-that-is-really-odd category, Washington State Sen. Doug Ericksen (R), an anti-vaxxer and state leader of Donald Trump’s campaign, has died at age 52. The announcement of his death, which did not include a cause, came weeks after he said he had tested positive for COVID-19 while in El Salvador and later that he was being treated for COVID19 in a Florida hospital.
🤓 Recommended reading
﹡America Is Not Ready for Omicron. Ed Yong, The Atlantic, 16 December 2021.
The new variant poses a far graver threat at the collective level than the individual one—the kind of test that the U.S. has repeatedly failed.
﹡Detroit artist Jonathan Harris strikes a nerve around the world with ‘Critical Race Theory’ painting. Omo Misha, Detroit Metro Times, 12 December 2021.
[W]hen Harris posted his “Critical Race Theory” toward the end of November, it took a swift, fiery, and continuing trip around the world — sparking conversation, support, and even infuriation across at least four platforms including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit.
﹡I Canceled My Birthday Party Because of Omicron. Ed Yong, The Atlantic, 17 December 2021.
I turn 40 today, and I was planning to have a party. The Delta surge made me nervous about it. The arrival of Omicron made me cancel it.
﹡I Compared the New January 6 Texts to Mark Meadows’ Book. It’s Damning. David Corn, Mother Jones, 14 December 2021.
What a dramatic afternoon. Meadows was being besieged by lawmakers, fellow Trump officials, the stars of Fox News, and the president’s eldest son. Why would he leave all this out of his book? It’s gripping. It’s suspenseful. And why not reveal to his readers how he reacted to these pleas and what he did—or didn’t do—in response?
﹡Why the media should have a pro-democracy bias. Brian Klaas, Washington Post, 16 December 2021. 🎁 link.
Reporters feared for their lives because of authoritarianism from Republicans. But to cover the legislative process, they now must interact with and quote the same people who helped unleash forces that put them — and the country’s democracy — in danger. That can lead to normalization of those figures and whitewashing of their dangerous actions, even if reporters also condemn the events of Jan. 6.
💉 COVID-19 in review
Last week, the U.S. passed 800,000 Covid-related deaths since the pandemic began.
Not yet detected in DE, MT, ND, OK, SD.
🪦 U.S. deaths and cases (still predominantly Delta) by vaccination status (NYT)
No vax data from Georgia or Texas.
Note that South African per capita cases have only just passed the U.S., despite public health officials identifying Omicron about four weeks ago. They’ve kept the virus under control in a way that the U.S. has not.
📷 Photo of the week
CC license; attribution to this post, no commercial use, no mods.