I got a lot of grief on social media last week for a post which dared to challenge the mainstream media “fear porn” related to the omicron variant of the coronavirus pandemic. Once again, it appears to be impossible to engage in a rational, data-driven discussion about this virus – which continues to exacerbate existing divisions in our nation as it ebbs and flows.
My point in rebuking the mainstream media coverage of omicron was not to say the variant isn’t potentially dangerous – just that it shouldn’t compel costly overreactions. We should, in the parlance of the “informed,” follow the science.
Actually, that has been my point from the very beginning of this virus – which originated in Wuhan, China in the fall of 2019. Unfortunately, our leaders did not follow the science … they followed their fear. And their ignorance. With incalculable consequences for millions of people around the globe.
Anyway … what is the early verdict on omicron?
As I noted last week this new variant is apparently “highly transmissible” and likely to “spread and establish itself as the dominant strain (of Covid-19).”
Which is exactly what it is doing …
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The question is whether the new variant gets people sicker … which will determine whether we will see another winter spike in hospitalizations and, potentially, deaths.
To hear government mouthpieces and their regurgitative fear-mongers tell it, the answer to that question is “yes.”
“That is going to happen,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) told CNN last week. “We are going to see a significant stress in some regions of the country on the hospital system, particularly in those areas where you have a low level of vaccination.”
“It is going to be tough,” Fauci added. “It is going to be a tough few weeks to months as we get deeper into the winter.”
Is he correct? No … at least not yet.
So far – and it is admittedly very early in the process – omicron appears to be far less potent than delta, the variant which caused severe spikes in cases, hospitalizations and deaths over the summer.
Shortly after I published my report last week, an article from Naomi Kresge of Bloomberg detailed studies of the omicron variant in Scotland and England which found that this version of the virus was “less likely to land patients in the hospital with Covid-19 than the delta strain.”
The Scottish study – completed by researchers at the University of Edinburgh in mid-December – concluded “omicron is associated with a two-thirds reduction in the risk of Covid-19 hospitalization when compared to delta.”
That’s right … two-thirds less.
Meanwhile, Imperial College London released a study chronicling results from a much larger sample of English patients. According to that data, there was “a 20-25 percent reduced risk of any hospitalization and an approximately 40-45 percent reduced risk of a hospitalization resulting in a stay of one or more nights.”
Which, last time I checked was the definition of a “hospitalization.”
“Reinfection is associated with approximately a 50-60 percent reduction in hospitalization risk compared with primary infections,” researchers added.
These studies affirmed previous research from South Africa – which is where omicron was first detected in early November. According to a study conducted by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, people infected with omicron were 80 percent less likely to be hospitalized than those infected with previous strains of Covid-19.
Should any of this be surprising? No …
If you follow the life cycles of pandemics, variants of viruses indeed spread faster but do far less damage as time elapses owing to the elevated immunity of the population.
“The weakening of the virus along with its faster spread means herd immunity,” a nurse who has been tracking Covid-19 since it first appeared in early 2020 told me. “It also means it will be more like the flu in nature where people who are at risk get seasonal boosters for it.”
That is almost precisely what physician Ashish Jha told ABC News recently when he was called upon to “explain” why he wasn’t “panicking” or operating “at a more alarmed level of concern” about omicron.
“If this was March of 2020 I’d be panicked, I’d be terrified,” Jha said. “But it’s not March of 2020.”
(Click to view)
“For two years, infections always preceded hospitalizations, which preceded deaths, so you could look at infections and know what was coming, but omicron changes that,” Jha said. “If you’re vaccinated, and particularly if you’re boosted, you might get an infection, it might be a couple of days of not feeling so great, but you’re going to bounce back, and that’s very different than what we’ve seen.”
Jha and others have even argued that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) should stop using daily case counts as its basis for recommending mask mandates and other overbearing federal diktats.
“We have reached a point in the pandemic where policy should no longer be based around the idea that we cannot resume normal life until case numbers are below a particular (arbitrary) level,” scientists Monica Gandhi and Leslie Bienin wrote earlier this month for Time magazine.
“One reason is that those levels were set before vaccination, and have not been adjusted accordingly, even though a large proportion of cases, in part due to the growing proportion of cases that are breakthrough cases, are now mild,” Gandhi and Bienin added. “Another reason is that these metrics were set at a time where policy makers were scrambling to set thresholds to open and close social institutions in the absence of robust data. Setting thresholds for activities according to cases no longer makes sense, but U.S. states and counties are still reporting daily case numbers and fluctuations as though policies should revolve around these numbers.”
Is the government listening? Of course not … in addition to refusing to change its criteria, it is justifying the omicron fear-mongering by citing (you guessed it) the specter of these elevated case counts.
“Even if you have a diminution in severity, if you have a much larger number of individual cases, the fact that you have so many more cases might actually obviate the effect of it being less severe,” Fauci told ABC this week.
Translation? Orwellians gonna Orwell. And anyone refusing to fall in line gets branded as irresponsible.
Bottom line? If I have said it once I’ve said it a thousand times: If you are younger and in relatively good health, in the overwhelming majority of cases this virus is not a serious threat to you. In fact, it never was. If you are older, overweight, immunocompromised or dealing with a significant underlying health issue you should certainly continue to take the necessary precautions.
But so far when it comes to omicron, the only thing we have to fear is … Fauci and the mainstream media.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including that New York Giants’ 1942 All Star Game lid pictured above).
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