journalism

Omicron (Persei 8) and some reasons to chill out

Fear sells. And we’re all buying.

The Omicron variant could be the death of all civilization. Anything could. Each day is a gift.

I’m not taking this lightly. Omicron could be the worst variant we’ve ever seen. You’ll also find no sympathy for anti-vaccine, anti-mask nonsense here.

But the media coverage of Omicron has been as sensationalist as anything else the media ever cover. And that’s saying a lot.

Where’s the harm?

It’s obvious. Panic.

Also, shutting things down has either a financial or human cost. Japan’s travel restrictions forced the cancellation of figure skating’s Grand Prix Final. Imagine if we lose the Olympics.

So far, there’s still a lot we don’t know. Will we need to tweak vaccines? When will we finally be able to go maskless in schools?

Look away from the breathless Omicron Watch in most news organizations, and you’ll find some more grounded analysis. This is from the financiers at Raymond James:

The new variant is on everyone’s radar now that it has been labeled a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, we cannot emphasize enough that its transmissibility, severity, and its evasiveness against our current toolbox of vaccines and therapeutics remains uncertain at this time. Even the medical experts—from the CDC to Moderna to Pfizer to Oxford—have varying opinions. The best case scenario is that the variant does not become mainstream (best outcome) or that symptoms are mild and existing vaccines provide protection against the most severe outcomes such as hospitalization and death (most likely outcome). The worst case is that the efficacy of vaccines significantly decreases and hospitalizations and deaths spike. However, even this scenario, while tragic, has a path to improvement as new vaccines would likely be introduced at an expedited pace. We will continue to monitor its progress and would avoid making knee-jerk reactions to portfolio allocations based on these headlines as there is not yet enough evidence to provide clarity

This is from STAT News, which specializes in health-care journalism:

(T)hese studies measure how well just one component of the immune system — neutralizing antibodies — recognizes the variant in question. The body has multiple layers of protection, including other antibodies and immune fighters like T cells. These studies then are like a robber only checking to see how strong of a lock the front door has, without having much clue about the other alarms, defenses, and booby traps that might await.

And from Reuters:

In South Africa, where the daily number of reported COVID-19 cases doubled on Wednesday to 8,561, symptoms for reinfected patients and those infected after vaccination appear to be mild.

That’s normal. If a virus causes less serious illness, it may spread more readily. A virus that quickly kills people has little chance to spread.

So we’re looking at a likely scenario in which our vaccinations and the natural evolution of viruses render Omicron far less serious. (At least, if you’ve been vaccinated.) We also have better treatment and better prevention strategies in place.

Which leads us to the big question:

Even if Omicron is far worse than the early evidence suggests, what are you going to do differently?

Hopefully, you’re getting your shots and your boosters, and you still wear a mask in public places. That, or you’re one of those people who suddenly turned against vaccines when a Democrat moved into the White House, and you’re desperate to own the libs even if you and your loved ones die. Again — no sympathy for anti-science here.

But let’s tamp down the anxiety for now. We have plenty to worry about already. Did you hear about the sharks?

One thought on “Omicron (Persei 8) and some reasons to chill out

  1. Pretty much all the media reporting I have read on omicron so far has led with the disclaimers that 1) whatever information we have is PRELIMINARY because not enough strains have been isolated to get the full picture and 2) the EARLY results seem to indicate that, yes, it’s more transmissible than delta, but, no, *no one knows yet* whether it will be more severe. In other words, the same thing the epidemiologists at Raymond James said.

    In short, I’m not sure what sources you’re looking at.

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