Trying to make sense of the omicron COVID variant
The big news today — the one that sent oil prices and stock markets plummeting — is that there is a new variant of COVID emerging in South Africa. It's been christened the "omicron" variant. Currently, it's hard to tell if it's really something to worry about or if it's a variation on the theme. It's enough to know that world governments are reacting as if it's Spring 2020 all over again, plus more pressure for vaccines, all of which is ironic, considering there's no evidence that anything we did last year or this year helped stop COVID's rampage.
An article in the San Francisco Chronicle has a mixture of fact and opinion that seems representative of the whole omicron phenomenon. First, the known facts:
The variant was discovered in South Africa, when cases suddenly spiked from an average of about 200 a day to 2,465 on Thursday. Scientists studying samples of the virus to try to explain the outbreak discovered the variant. That doesn't necessarily mean the variant originated in South Africa, which has among the world's best viral surveillance systems and may simply have been the first country to identify it.
Omicron has many more mutations than the currently world-dominant delta variant — more than 30 on the spike protein alone, which is considered key to the virus' ability to infect human cells. The large number of mutations has scientists concerned that omicron could be more infectious than delta, and possibly able to evade immunity generated by previous infections or vaccines.
The WHO wrote in a report on the variant that preliminary evidence suggests that omicron might have "increased risk of reinfection." Among omicron's many mutations are sequences associated with increased infectiousness and reduced vaccine effectiveness.
Scientists still don't know how omicron matches up with delta — a variant so transmissible that it essentially wiped out other variants of concern like alpha and beta. In the United States, delta still makes up 99% of cases that undergo genomic sequencing.
So far, as best as I can tell by looking at information from the World Health Organization's page on South Africa, which has the most current data, while omicron is surging, deaths haven't spiked...yet:
Despite lambasting the Trump administration for his "xenophobic" decision to close America to flights from China last year in the face of an unknown, highly contagious virus, Biden banned travel to America from eight African countries. It's the right decision in an information vacuum, and he owes Trump a big apology.
Once COVID finally hit America's shores, we got lockdowns and mask mandates. We were told they would allow hospitals to prepare for the coming contagions, but they became permanent fixtures and seem to have made no difference whatsoever to the virus's spread. It seems that constantly reusing paper and cloth masks is voodoo medicine, not science. We also got vaccines that have an unusually high risk of side-effects and that don't stop people from catching, spreading, or dying from COVID.
Despite those facts, the powers that be are once again ready to reinstate 2020 (although, maybe, with Trump ousted from the White House, the Democrats will skip the race riots) — and again, we still know nothing about how deadly omicron is.
New York's governor, Kathy Hochul, has already declared a state of emergency and canceled all elective surgeries. Of course, it was her vaccine mandates that left hospitals without employees. It's lack of staff, not lack of beds, that's a problem for hospital functionality.
The Chronicle article insists that everyone get vaccinated, even while admitting there's no evidence that the vaccine works against omicron:
Regardless of what scientists learn about omicron over the coming days and weeks, the discovery of another variant should lend new urgency to global vaccination efforts, health experts said. Variants are more likely to emerge in environments with high viral transmission — the more the virus is spreading, the more likely it is to develop mutations that could lead to a new variant.
That's right: double down on a vaccine that's not working to prevent a virus that we don't understand.
There is no word as to whether ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine works against the new variant. I strongly recommend that you research ways to keep your immune system functioning optimally. That seems like the first and most obvious line of defense.
One last point in the space remaining. Although the delta variant has swept America, the variants have run up through the Greek letter "nu." Now they're calling the new one "omicron." But here's something funny: There's a Greek letter between nu and omicron: "xi." I wonder why they're not using that one...
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