Thursday Reads: Omicron BluesPosted: December 23, 2021
The latest scientific speculation on the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is that the disease will eventually become endemic like the flu and common cold. We’re not going to get rid of it; we’ll just have to learn to live (or die) with it. We will have to get regular vaccines and new anti-viral treatments will likely be developed.
From today’s Wall Street Journal and not paywalled: Covid-19 Marches Toward Endemic Status in U.S. as Omicron Spreads.
In other words, the Covid-19 pandemic won’t have an end date. Rather, a crisis that engulfed the world within months of the coronavirus’s discovery in China will dissipate in fits and starts into something that feels more like normal over the course of years, infectious-disease experts say.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a day where the whole thing feels over,” said Joshua Schiffer, an associate professor in the vaccine and infectious disease division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
How quickly an endemic, steady-state arrives and how disruptive the virus remains will depend on what level of disease officials and individuals decide to tolerate, the precautions they are willing to adopt, and how the virus evolves.
What will that look like?
“We know we have all the tools to use so that we can continue operations that are important, like keeping kids in school,” said Charity Dean, former assistant director of the California Department of Public Health and co-founder of the Public Health Company Group Inc. “We just need to be proactive and put them in place right now.”
New antiviral treatments from Merck & Co. and Pfizer Inc. are also expected to help lessen Covid-19’s burden on society. On the outlook for vaccines, early lab testing indicates a third or booster dose of the vaccines from Moderna Inc. and from Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE could protect against Omicron. Testing and public-health monitoring are also critical.
“Once we have those really well integrated, we are ready to move to where Covid is no longer disrupting our society,” said Ali Khan, dean of the College of Public Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Even then, Covid-19 and its effects won’t be gone. Physical therapist Noah Greenspan opened a rehabilitation clinic in New York City on Monday for patients with lingering Covid-19 symptoms, or long Covid. He had provided online services and a smaller, temporary clinic since October 2020.
“We are planning as if Covid will never go away,” Dr. Greenspan said.
One problem is that immunity from Covid-19 doesn’t last as long as that from colds and flu, so we might have to have more frequent shots. I wonder if the anti-vax crazies would continue to muck it all up though.
Israel is rolling out more booster shots.
From the Washington Post article:
In the U.S., only a small percentage of people have gotten the booster. CNBC: U.S. heads into second Christmas with Covid as cases rise and Americans rush to get booster shots.
More than 62 million Americans have received a booster as of Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, representing roughly 19% of all Americans and 30% of those who are fully vaccinated. About 55% of fully vaccinated seniors have received an additional dose.
Since the heavily mutated and highly contagious Covid variant was first confirmed in the U.S. on Dec. 1, the nation has seen some of its biggest daily surges in vaccine shots in months. Much of the increase has been driven by boosters, which are being administered more than first and second doses, combined, at an average of more than 800,000 per day over the week ended Dec. 16, according to federal data.
“It’s got over 50 mutations, and because of those mutations just being vaccinated with two doses may not be enough,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told CNBC’s “The News with Shepard Smith” on Monday. “And so we really do need people to get boosted in order to increase their protection, especially against severe disease and death with omicron.”
I really hate to post this . . .
WaPo: “Gregg Gonsalves is an associate professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health and associate professor (adjunct) at Yale Law School. He is a 2018 MacArthur Fellow.” [He is also a long-time activist in the fight against AIDS.]
I’ve lived through two pandemics in my lifetime, first AIDS and now covid-19. From those experiences, I know no one roots for our leaders’ failures in such crises. Their successes can be measured in lives saved.
That’s why it pains me to admit it: President Biden is failing on covid-19.
After weeks of urging by public health and medical experts, Biden spoke to the public on Tuesday about his plan to address the omicron variant, which has swept the world in just a few weeks. Many of us have been asking for a policy “reset” to ramp up U.S. efforts as cases mount across the country. We hoped this would be the moment.
Sadly, what we saw this week was an administration floundering and a president not in command of facts or willing to shift course in any substantial way on the pandemic.
The president’s main call was for Americans to get vaccinated. That’s a fine refrain, except we still have millions without a single jab. The president was eager to point out that under his watch, 200 million people were fully vaccinated — except we know now that we require boosters to protect against omicron and only about 60 million Americans have had that additional jab.
Biden did indeed urge people to get boosted, saying they were free and available, but except for announcing a set of pop-up clinics around the United States, he didn’t articulate the plan to get this done. As for vaccine misinformation, he told its purveyors to “stop it,” which is far from the campaign we need to address the anti-vaccine propaganda circulating widely in the United States and the corporate reticence to take vaccination seriously.
We already know vaccines alone will not solve this problem. The president made a bet in March that vaccination could return the country to some semblance of normalcy, promising a “summer of freedom.” But as the delta variant emerged, the highly transmissible strain tore through the country, outpacing the speed of our vaccination efforts.
Public health experts called for more emphasis on a wider range of interventions, including rapid testing, masking and environmental controls, such as the upgrading of ventilation systems in buildings across the country. Yet such measures remain underutilized here in the United States. White House press secretary Jen Psaki even scorned those who suggested making rapid testing more widely available, dressing down an NPR reporter who made a suggestion of sending tests to every American household.
To its credit, the administration has since announced it would begin to send 500 million rapid tests to Americans in January, although it’s not clear whether the administration has put in an order for such tests. And at the scale promised, every American would receive a one-time delivery of no more than a single test at some point this winter. The president also claimed that schools need to be open and they are safer than ever, pointing out that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now endorsed a “test and stay” strategy to make this possible. Except, the infrastructure and resources to carry out that strategy are simply not there for many school districts.
In fact, the administration has not ordered the tests yet. The New York Times: Biden Promised 500 Million Tests, but Americans Will Have to Wait.
President Biden promised Americans he is making 500 million coronavirus tests available free of charge, but help is at least weeks away — if not longer — for anxious Americans facing a surge of new virus cases.
Mr. Biden’s administration has not yet signed a contract to buy the tests, and the website to order them will not be up until January. Officials have not said how many tests people will be able to order or how quickly they will be shipped once they begin to be available next month. Manufacturers say they are already producing tests as fast as they can.
As a candidate, Mr. Biden excoriated the lack of testing during the Trump administration, saying in March 2020 that “the administration’s failure on testing is colossal, and it’s a failure of planning, leadership and execution.” But the Omicron variant caught the White House off guard, as the president has acknowledged, and cases have far outstripped the government’s ability to make tests available.
The president’s pledge of a half-billion tests on Tuesday was the centerpiece of a newly aggressive testing effort, announced just days before Christmas, as Americans try to find the hard-to-find tests so they know whether they are infected during the holiday season.
“That’s not a plan — it’s a hope,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, which tracks testing trends. “If those tests came in January and February, that could have an impact, but if they are spread out over 10 to 12 months, I’m not sure what kind of impact it is going to have.”
Contracts to purchase tests could be finalized as soon as next week, officials said.
Whether testing manufacturers can now ramp up to produce an extra 500 million at-home tests — and how soon — is unclear. John M. Koval, a spokesman for Abbott Laboratories, a major manufacturer of rapid at-home antigen tests, said in an email message that the company is seeing “unprecedented demand” for its tests, “and we’re sending them out as fast as we can make them.”
More News stories to check out:
Helaine Olen at The Washington Post: Stop shaming people for getting covid. Blame belongs elsewhere.
Vice News: People Got Sick at a Conspiracy Conference. They’re Sure It’s Anthrax. [It’s Covid.]
AP News: He wore a wire, risked his life to expose who was in the KKK. [He learned that many members of the KKK were in law enforcement.]
Lawrence H. Tribe, Donald Ayer, and Dennis Aftergut at The New York Times: Will Donald Trump Get Away With Inciting an Insurrection?
The Daily Beast: The Obscure Charge Jan. 6 Investigators Are Looking at for Trump.
What’s on your mind today? Any good news you’d like to share?