Omicron Should be Reason to Celebrate

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By The Hesperian‘s Editorial Board

The Covid-19 variant we’ve been waiting for since the start of the pandemic almost two years ago has finally arrived. Dubbed Omicron, the new strain originating from South Africa is highly contagious – up to 70% more transmissible than Delta – but is far less severe than previous strains. For the young and healthy, it’s essentially a cold, and for those who are elderly or extremely high risk, there are three doses of a shot and antiviral pills available to prevent severe illness and death. 

A rational society would realize that Covid will never be fully eradicated, but unfortunately, we don’t live in such a world. Instead, we find solace in granting social and institutional accreditation to those who are most hawkish regarding Covid policies, without recognizing that a new strain, one that is far more transmissible but less virulent, is actually a good thing.  

A study recently released from South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases found that people infected with the new variant are 70% to 80% less likely to be hospitalized than any of the earlier strains. This data follows similar findings from research conducted in the U.K. and Scotland, which also points to a substantially lower risk of hospitalization from Omicron. Other research from South Africa informs us that less than 2% of those infected with Omicron were admitted to the hospital during the second week of the wave, compared with 19% during the same week of the Delta surge. It’s worth noting that only 26.6% of eligible South Africans have been fully vaccinated, compared to 61.9% in the United States; we can rest assured that symptoms will undoubtedly be less severe in countries that have higher vaccination rates. 

The groundbreaking South African data should be at the forefront of news coverage regarding Omicron, but positive developments have virtually gone unreported by mainstream outlets. 

Journalists aren’t the only ones ignoring the truth, however. The scientific establishment continues to turn a blind eye towards other new, encouraging data, which suggests that people infected with past strains of Covid still have a decent level of protection against Omicron. 

In a Dec. 14 article from The Atlantic, Alessandro Sette, a professor at La Jolla Institute for Immunology, insists that Covid T-cells (which are long-lasting memory cells that people build after being naturally infected with a virus) should be effective in fighting Omicron. Mr. Sette states, “the capacity of the immune system to limit the spread of the virus would still be preserved.” 

But, of course, the media and lockdown fanatics insist on more school shutdowns and restrictions, resulting in a panic that is spreading faster than Omicron itself.

A Dec. 17 New York Times piece with the headline “As Virus Cases Surge, New Yorkers Feel a Familiar Anxiety” is no exception. “I’m going to go home, I’m going to stay home and just keep to myself,” said a 62-year-old resident from Queens. “​​It’s [Omicron] literally all I’ve been thinking about. I’m really heartsick and worried,” said a 36-year-old teacher from Manhattan’s New School. 

Not to be outdone, the ever-so-clever Dr. Anthony Fauci has called for indefinite masking on planes and the barring of unvaccinated family members from holiday plans, and Dr. Leana Wen – the physicist who spends every waking moment on CNN advocating for crackdowns – has supported restrictions solely on unvaccinated people

Soaking in the surrounding panic porn, various schools across the country – including Chapman University – have wrongly decided to go remote once more. Chapman will hold classes online for the first week of interterm and spring semester, while also requiring that students test negative for Covid twice in the span of a week before returning to in-person instruction. In a Dec. 29 email to staff, faculty, and students, university President Daniele Struppa stated, “…we feel this is the best current course of action to limit the spread of COVID-19 while remaining committed to the resumption of in-person instruction.”  

During the week of Dec. 20, there was an 81% increase in school closures, even though Covid has never posed a risk to the youth, and many younger kids are now approved to be vaccinated. 

But reality has a very different message for public health officials and their lackeys in the schools and media: the number of active Covid cases does not matter because no amount of vaccinations or lockdowns can eradicate the virus; what does matter is the number of deaths and hospitalizations due to the virus (although the latter is not always accurate because many people go to the hospital for alternative reasons and then test positive for Covid).   

Therefore, there is no point in mandating booster shots, lockdowns, and masks, because there is no stopping Covid transmission. The best solution is to simply return to our pre-pandemic normal and allow Omicron to run its course. It will certainly not be the last variant, and the sooner Americans can ditch the fear promoted by the panic-driven media and embrace Covid as an endemic virus we all have to live with, the better off we’ll be. 

A strain of a virus that so many will get but that few (on a percentage basis) will die from is not something to be feared, it’s something to be celebrated. Unfortunately, what has basically become the equivalent of the common cold is now the wedge between civilized society and the continuation of normal life.

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