The Covid fear factory is trembling

Hard times are coming for vaccine fanatics and fear-mongering lockdown enthusiasts, or at least that’s what we can reasonably expect after reading the news coming out of South Africa and the U.K. about the Omicron variant. As a matter of fact, the data out of South Africa after five weeks of Omicron spread and out of the U.K. in the first full week after Omicron hit the country suggest that the new Covid-19 variant should be a cause for celebration and relief, not fear and alarm—yet that’s not the direction in which the American media and many politicians are heading.

What we know now is that Omicron’s symptoms are considerably less severe than the Delta strain. Of course, further investigations using larger data sets are needed to confirm this trend. Scientists and health authorities need all the data they can get from the U.S. and other Western countries about Omicron, but the initial premises are encouraging.

At this point the question naturally arises: Why is it that the public health establishment and the media are working hard to generate a tide of public hysteria around Omicron? Before trying to answer the question, though, let us look in detail at why it makes sense to pose the question in the first place.

To begin, as South African Health Minister Joseph Phaahla explained at a press conference, even when his country was recording its highest number of cases since the spread of the pandemic, only 1.7% of identified Covid-19 cases were hospitalized in the second week of Omicron infections, compared with 19% at the same point in the cycle during the Delta wave.

Moreover, according to Discovery Health CEO Ryan Noach, on average, fewer of the infected people in South Africa who did end up in the hospital required oxygen and ventilation, and the proportion who required intensive care, or ended up in the ICU, dropped to about 13% from 30%. Perhaps even more importantly, excess deaths, the number of deaths above the historical average, are below 2,000 a week, an eighth of their previous peak. In addition, 91% of those infected with Omicron have already recovered.

Image: Vanishing COVID by Andrea Widburg

As for the United Kingdom, the Daily Mail reports that Covid-19 was behind just one in 16 deaths in England and Wales in the first full week after the Omicron variant hit Britain, and virus fatalities hit a two-month low. This means that just 764 of the nearly 12,000 fatalities recorded in the two nations were linked with the virus in the seven days up to December 10.

Everything seems to suggest that Britons who fall ill with the Omicron variant are less likely to become severely sick than those who contracted Delta. That’s what British-American surgeon, professor, and author Marty Makary—who is one of America’s leading healthcare experts—had to say on December 16’s “Brian Kilmeade Show.”

“We’re seeing this massive new wave of fear that is fueling our second pandemic after Covid-19, which is a pandemic of lunacy, which is omicron. Now I call it omi-cold,” Makary said. The Omicron variant, he explained, “stays superficial in the nose and bronchus. So that’s why we’re seeing a common cold-like illness.” He added, “This new scientific data from the lab explains the epidemiological data and the bedside observation of doctors that this is far more mild… and that’s why I call it omi-cold.”

In the light of the above, I think we can guess the answer to our question, and New York Times bestselling author Heather Mac Donald sums it up: “The official response to the Omicron variant provides a case study in the deliberate manufacture of fear.” Mac Donald offers six key strategies in play. The following are just a few highlights from her summary explaining how the official response to Omicron is exploiting it to further its own aims:

  • “The media want you to believe that everyone around you is scared out of his mind, and thus you should be, too. Man-on-the-street interviews quote Nervous Nellies exclusively.”
  • “The only public health experts whom the media quote are those determined to put the most dire spin on Omicron. They stress worst-case hypothetical scenarios and dismiss actual good-case evidence. At best, they may grudgingly admit that Omicron symptoms are disproportionately mild, but rush to assert that there are still many as-yet unrealized grounds for worry.”
  • “The media intone repeatedly that much remains uncertain about Omicron, including how likely it is to cause severe disease.”
  • “Bury both good news and dissenters from the bad news. [snip] Just as we are supposed to believe that everyone around us is universally spooked, so we should believe that there is an unbroken expert consensus about the likely disaster that is Omicron.”

Mac Donald’s descriptions accurately reflect our real-life experiences. It’s not by chance that the media is obsessing about case count. Case counts are one of the most deceptive measures of pandemic severity when symptoms are mild to non-existent in the majority of the infected.

Samuel Robert Piccoli is a blogger and the author of the books Being Conservative from A to Z (2014) and Blessed Are the Free in Spirit (2021). He is Italian and lives in the Venice area.

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