Thursday Reads: Omicron Blues

Good Afternoon!!

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.

The Omicron variant’s aggressive advance is the latest twist in the course of a disease that public-health experts say is on a path toward becoming endemic in the U.S.

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:

TEL AVIV — Israel’s decision this week to become the first country to recommend a fourth vaccine dose to combat the highly contagious omicron variant came after health officials concluded that an initial booster had turned the tide this fall against the delta variant.

While they acknowledged that their decision was not based on new scientific data about the omicron variant, officials said they thought it would be prudent to recommend an additional shot because they believe that the ability of the initial booster to prevent infection has been waning over time.

The decision, announced by Israeli officials Tuesday, will make a fourth dose — or second booster — of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine available to people over 60, those with compromised immune systems and employees in the health-care sector. All eligible recipients would need to have had their third dose more than four months prior.

The decision is still awaiting confirmation by Health Ministry Director Nachman Ash before becoming national policy. But facilities across the country are preparing to begin administering the vaccine, with many saying they are ready to start as early as Sunday.

Israel’s national coronavirus advisory committee made its recommendation for the fourth dose Tuesday while still gathering data on the omicron variant, saying it does not have the luxury of time. The omicron variant is believed to be three times more transmissible than previous variants, and while it may be milder — it has not caused massive increases in hospitalizations in the United Kingdom, and infections have plummeted after a surge in South Africa — many Israeli health officials warn that an increase in even moderate cases could overwhelm the country’s hospitals.

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.

ba22eeb2-2491-48e2-85b0-d8bb653d717d-VPC_OMICRON_VARIANT_HITS_US_GETTY_WIDEThe 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.


The shortage of tests comes as Americans want to know whether they are infected during the holiday season. Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

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.]

CNN: Biden says he supports filibuster carve-out for voting rights.

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.

Just Security: The Path to Real Accountability: The Timetable and Track Record of the Jan. 6 Select Committee.

The Washington Post: Amid fears Russia will invade Ukraine, Putin points finger at U.S. and NATO in marathon news conference.

What’s on your mind today? Any good news you’d like to share?


22 Comments on “Thursday Reads: Omicron Blues”

  1. bostonboomer says:

  2. Thank you for the WSJ link. I thought all their stuff was paywalled.

    I’m willing to get a booster every three months if it means I can leave my hidey-hole and rejoin society. 😐

    • bostonboomer says:

      Occasionally they let down the paywall.

    • dakinikat says:

      I’m afraid of the unvaccinated. I’m glad my city is at least taking precautions to keep them out of bars and restaurants and indoor settings. I’m hoping my employers require them.

    • NW Luna says:

      I’ve no problem with getting boosters regularly either. We’ll need everyone else to get vaxxed and boosted also before being able to get back to everything we were doing before this.

      Some news outlet are waiving paywalls on Covid news — WaPo is doing that for certain articles.

    • Enheduanna says:

      I’ll get boostered too but I sure hope they come up with a pill.

      • Enheduanna says:

        Boostered again I mean….

      • NW Luna says:

        An oral form would be so much more tolerable, although the Covidiots would still refuse it in favor of bleach.

        A problem with oral formations is getting the active ingredient into the bloodstream without damaging it. Stomach acid is about the pH of hydrochloric acid (our stomach linings produce acid-resistant mucous for protection) and that’s only one problem.

  3. NW Luna says:

    Is it getting less difficult to find police guilty for shooting Blacks or was this case judged more harshly because the shooter was a woman? There’s no question that Wright should be alive today.

    Jury finds officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright guilty of manslaughter

    A jury has convicted a former Minneapolis police officer of first- and second-degree manslaughter in the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright during an April traffic stop after she claimed she mistook her gun for her Taser.

    The decision came after about 27 hours of deliberation by a mostly White jury. Kimberly Potter faces at least 11 years in prison and will be sentenced at a later date.

  4. dakinikat says:

  5. NW Luna says:

    Enough despair. We cannot be victims of excessive expectations.

    Media coverage that holds the administration to a standard of perfection will inevitably find fault — especially if it treats Republican opposition as “just politics” or worse, takes MAGA complaints as legitimate.

    Most of us expected more from 2021. The year started with new vaccines that promised to remove the coronavirus cloud hanging over us. And the defeat of former president Donald Trump suggested the threat to our democracy was behind us.

    That optimism was premature. The pandemic raged with new variants as an anti-vaccine cult impeded lifesaving measures. The former president instigated a violent insurrection and continues to lead the effort to gaslight the country about the election. The attempted coup set off a nationwide Republican onslaught of state laws to suppress votes and subvert elections.

    All that said, the constant doomsday headlines and the public’s bleak outlook disregard bright spots throughout the economic and political landscape. It takes time to turn a country around and squelch a pandemic.

    Democracy and economic recovery are works in progress, and there is much to celebrate. Weariness and frustration are understandable; despair is not.

    • Beata says:

      Alrighty then, here’s my New Year’s resolution. I’m sure it’s one FDR and Churchill would support:

      Have low expectations.

      • NW Luna says:

        Yes, so much less is being done than could be done. Though considering the refusals of the Republicans to do anything which could help average people I think Biden’s doing better than the picture the MSM provide.

        • roofingbird says:

          Agreed, Luna, we all are. We just have to take more joy in the subtext, like the non reported HIV injections, the fact that most utilities work most of the time, most of us have some food, and pets to love. Most of us still have functioning brains and opinions to express.

    • NW Luna says:

      Cat’s annoyed the portal didn’t manifest just a little farther over so the dog would drop into it.

  6. dakinikat says: