Three Things: Omigod Omicron

[NB: Check the byline, thanks! Updates will follow at the bottom of initial posted content. /~Rayne]

Only a month after the World Health Organization declared it a variant of concern, Omicron is now dominant in the U.S. accounting for roughly 3/4 of the nearly 1.9 million new cases of COVID reported over the last week.

Because of its dramatically increased ease of transmission, new cases of COVID are expected to explode and exceed past waves of cases.

~ 3 ~

Joe Biden will be speaking to the nation today about the federal response to the new coronavirus variant Omicron.

The surge of cases is expected to swamp health care infrastructure which has already been pushed up to and beyond its limits by previous COVID waves and the continued resistance to vaccinations and boosters by roughly 30% of the population.

Lockdowns are not expected to be part of the federal response; rather, the government will send federal personnel to large hospitals across the country to help beleaguered staff as new cases roll in.

500 million instant tests for home use are also expected to be sent out. The hue and cry after White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s comments regarding testing and masks sent to homes may have spurred this effort in concert with the dramatic uptick in Omicron cases.

Will this federal response be enough? Likely not — but we would not be in this situation had there been a plan to mitigate COVID in place when Biden took office 11 months ago. Taking office just as another surge began placed the entire Biden response on its heels.

Likely more later on this as an update; three items are in progress and will follow shortly.

~ 2 ~

Speaking of the White House communications, Jeff Zients set off a shitstorm with a poorly worded or thought-through remark about the unvaccinated.

Disability activists were reasonably put out as many disabled can’t get vaccinated and boosted for health reasons.

But there’s another bigger problem in terms of the percentage of people affected: workers especially in low wage jobs aren’t getting vaccinated because their employers aren’t providing adequate support.

If you’ve gotten fast food recently, you’ve probably been in contact with someone who hasn’t been able to get vaccinated.

An effective federal outreach will reach the unvaccinated who want the shots and booster but whose circumstances haven’t allowed them to do so. Leaving this to the states — especially in red states — has left economically vulnerable exposed to COVID.

That said, fuck the unvaccinated who willfully refuse to be vaccinated, especially those who refuse all other mitigation measures. Welcome to the “winter of severe illness and death” you’ve asked for; may its toll be on you alone and not on any vulnerable children, immunocompromised, disabled, or precarious and marginalized persons.

~ 1 ~

One of the biggest flying periods of the year is nearly upon us as Americans fly to/from home for the holidays. Unfortunately this follows a hearing last week before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in which an airline executive said something ridiculously absurd.

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly, when asked about mask use by travelers and staff on its airplanes, said,

I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add much if anything in the air cabin environment. It’s very safe and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting.

Never mind the studies of aerosol transmission which has examined mass transportation for dispersal of aerosolized particles, or case studies of specific outbreaks occurring among persons in enclosed spaces, all of which have shown sitting in close proximity to infected persons substantially increases the odds of transmission between infected and non-infected persons.

Former surgeon general Jerome Adams was rather blunt in response to Kelly’s remarks:

“I’ve got to tell you, there’s no other way I can put my feelings about that than, it was irresponsible. It was irresponsible. It was reckless.”

Kind of surprising for a guy who fluffed up the Trump administration’s policy about mask use.

Karma had her way with Kelly, though, who had been coughing during his appearance before the Transportation Committee — he was diagnosed with COVID the next day.

What an ignorant, arrogant douchebag. He probably infected others in his own workforce and possibly members of Congress and staffers. Why Southwest’s board of directors and shareholders haven’t suspended Kelly is beyond me; air travel requires a fairly high degree of trust in science and Kelly clearly doesn’t trust science.

Masks have been mandatory on public transportation including airplanes since last year. This requirement will likely continue throughout the Omicron wave and beyond.

If you must travel over the holidays, trust the science and wear a high-quality mask.

~ 0 ~

Oops, one more thing: Robert F. Kennedy III is a blight on his family’s legacy. His anti-vaxx bullshit is racist bordering on genocidal.

He needs to be kicked to the curb. I would love to know who/what is funding his sketchy work.

59 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    Personal update: Still have a tickly cough once in a while but no other symptoms. I’m hoping my recent episode was just an allergic response to a bunch of dust kicked up by windstorms. Very hesitant to do any shopping right now, N95 masks or no.

    Which means some friends and family may be getting IOUs and gift certificates ordered online this holiday season.

  2. P J Evans says:

    Thanks, Rayne.

    I think all the “f the unvaccinated” stuff is aimed that the people who refuse to be vaxxed, not those who can’t be (or those who haven’t been able to get it for reasons other than “you’re not the boss of me”).
    And especially f the unvaccinated who want hospitals to give them *their* preferred treatment, not anything recommended by actual experts, and are willing to attack medical people who don’t do what *they* want..

  3. OldTulsaDude says:

    The simple way to protest the treatment of fast food workers is to start eating decent food and quit eating their crap. You will improve your health and send a message at the same time.

    • Rayne says:

      That’s kind of privileged perspective. Some people can’t cook, don’t have time to shop and cook, or just don’t have time. And many fast food workers rely on the flexibility of work schedules; you’re advocating eliminating jobs which may support students or parents of school-aged children, or retirees trying to fund their meds in the Medicare donut hole.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Or don’t have shops within a reasonable distance at which to buy quality foods. Beef jerky, Slim Jim, or Swanson’s is not the customary choice at Whole Foods.

        • Rayne says:

          Sometimes it’s vegan/vegetarian foods which are an issue. Very pricey for some people who don’t cook much/well/often to eat vegan.

          But they can get a bean burrito in a snap at Taco Bell, a veggie burger at Burger King, or a portabello sandwich at Shake Shack.

        • posaune says:

          Yes, this. There are blocks and blocks of neighborhoods in the South Bx and Anacostia with no real grocery store — just places with chips, coke and slim jims.

      • P J Evans says:

        Or it’s mealtime and you’re not close to home.
        (I’ve found that 7-11 has decent ready-to-eat sandwiches, and if your W-M has a deli area, they have wraps that are good. Some supermarkets also have sandwiches and wraps. Better than fried food, and not quite as much money.)

      • OldTulsaDude says:

        I see way more well-to-do in line for chic fil A in Tulsa. And yes the plight of the poor and working poor in this country is a disgrace.

      • Eureka says:

        “…which may support…”:

        Immigrants, too. Including those who may not speak English (which presents other navigability issues in addition to the job).

        A so-situated recent take-out delivery guy (and his communication w/smiles and gestures) reminded me what a beautiful leap of faith it is for folks to come to America and trust us and the dream with their lives like that. Breathtaking.

  4. Badger Robert says:

    The President’s Covid address was effective, But science will have more data even over the next 5 days. He should do more questions and answers on Sunday.

  5. Bobby Gladd says:

    Dicey days. My grandson Keenan, his wife KJ, and their son—my new great-grandson KAI—are here for the week. Gonna be a muted, heads-down week. Just wanna get to year’s end without any of us getting sick. Covid positivity rate in Maryland is ramping back up (11%).

    I just cited an article about the Omicron onslaught impact on the hospital infrastructure on my blog.

    Everybody stay safe.

  6. greengiant says:

    One on one with Trump cultists. One says, masks dont help, wont vaccinate, already had it, wife lost her hair, good to gather. Other says, we’re vaccinated masks don’t help, without Trump there would be no vaccines, GOP Trump is NOT trying to kill people, here’s a book on how civil wars start.
    Per capita for today in Manhattan 251 per 100,000. NYC rate per capita for 15 to 34 year olds over 450. only a slight increase from 4 days ago. 65-74 years olds 61 per 100,000. Higher than South Africa and they peaked over a week ago. Seems more cases for young or vaccinated while hospital demand will pick up with cases in older ages and unvaccinated no prior immunity.

    • P J Evans says:

      Masks help, and losing hair is a medical problem (see a doctor!) and not the vaccine. The rest is excuses for not doing what they should do, for themselves if not others.

      • Lady4real says:

        After suffering a really weird inflammatory Covid infection, my hair fell out. Scariest time ever. Refused to go to the hospital and luckily it didn’t affect my lungs and lasted only one week. However, I couldn’t walk and took to bed. Scary.

      • greengiant says:

        Sorry, their patter was, “already had covid, wife’s hair fell out along with the high fever” one of many possible effects of covid. Their prior immunity won’t work so well against Omicron.

    • Zwik says:

      Having another series of knockdown drag out fights with spouse over getting the vaccine. It took threats of divorce and no visits with the kids to get the first shot. Now a sore shoulder is attributed to the vaccine (actually two sore shoulders – explain that?) so won’t get the second or consider boosters.
      It’s incredibly maddening to watch a loved one so manipulated by years of propaganda.

      • dude says:

        I have a colleague at work. His wife is legally handicapped as is he. His disabilities are multiple–back issues, remission for throat cancer, overweight, kidney disease (passes kidney stones monthly). Yet he comes to work. They have two kids, one of whom attended a summer camp in Florida and came back to infect the lot. My colleague is vaccinated because our employer requires it, but his wife home-schools the kids and is among the Ivermectin crowd. They have a contentious time over vaccinate / not vaccinate, but otherwise manage a peaceful co-existence. I am amazed how they can keep it together.

  7. Peterr says:

    Welcome to the “winter of severe illness and death” you’ve [the willfully unvaccinated] asked for; may its toll be on you alone and not on any vulnerable children, immunocompromised, disabled, or precarious and marginalized persons.

    I get the sentiment, but it’s not gonna happen.

    The toll on doctors and other hospital staff, from nurses to food service folks to the folks doing security in the ER, is rough and getting rougher. Pre-COVID, ICU staff could find a certain amount of balance for themselves, knowing that some patients they treat would recover while others would die; today, the balance is heavily on the side of death. That’s hard to take, day after day after day. Pre-COVID, hospital staff often got a “I know you did all you could” from the families; today, there’s plenty of “you should have given them ivermectin” or other crap, as well as the dismissal of their expertise when it comes to trusting the vaccine. That shift has had a heavy toll already, as I can see from docs, nurses, and PAs that I know — and it will only get worse.

    Then there is the toll on the neighborhood. In my part of metro KC, there are NO available ICU beds and have been none for at least ten days, because folks have been flooding in from swamped small rural hospitals to the south and east of KC. There are other ICU beds in other parts of KC, but they are only a few beds from being full themselves. Overall, ICUs have been running between 80% and 95% capacity. The five worst days since March 2020 have been in September after Labor Day and this past week. If there’s a spike in ICU need — COVID, auto accidents, or a tornado — KC will not be able to handle it, and the toll of the pandemic will fall on whoever needs but cannot get that ICU bed.

    And then there’s the toll on folks like me – pastors, counselors, and other community caregivers. I’ve had folks not quite shout at me that this is all political and all a hoax (seriously!), only to be visiting with them virtually when someone in their family gets ill or dies. I’ve had folks who died of COVID, but thus far they all have had underlying conditions. I’m waiting for some of the otherwise healthy but more stridently anti-mask folks to die, and trying to figure out how that will impact the community. Dealing with the extended family and the community at a funeral like that will be quite a feat, as the mourners will include those who are angry (“He should have gotten vaxxed, and now she’s a widow because of his arrogant idiocy” or “Those medical folks could have saved him, but they wouldn’t give him [the Facebook conspiracy-theory treatment du jour]”), those who feel guilty (“I should have insisted he get vaxxed. If only I had pushed harder, or been more persuasive, or . . . “), and those who are fearful of even being there (“I want to support her, but I don’t want to get sick myself”). Funerals like that take a real toll on the pastor, the family, and the broader community — and not just that day, but for weeks, months, or even years to come.

    And knowing this broader toll makes me very frustrated with the willfully unvaccinated.

    • Doctor My Eyes says:

      A multi-faceted tragedy. The following heavy-duty letter covers it all. Probably the worst aspect is that well-meaning, intelligent people are being prevented from contributing to society, and it’s not just in medical care–it’s also politics at every level, schools, even libraries being blocked from healthy thriving. I often think of Hannah Arendt’s quote that to authoritarians, competence is a natural enemy. Read it and weep:

      • Doctor My Eyes says:

        I want to change the word “tragedy” to “casualty of war”, with the war being the war with Russia that we don’t seem to realize is happening. By poking the pressure points, they are ripping our society apart at the seams.

  8. Peterr says:

    Rayne, from Germany you may have gotten what you asked for.

    Bernd Grimmer, a member of the state parliament in Baden-Württemberg from the “Alternative for Germany” [AfD] party (far right semi-nazis, largely from eastern Germany), died of COVID-19. The left-leaning Stern notes that Grimmer was known for calling discussions of COVID “scare tactics” and constantly criticizing government measures to address the epidemic.

    No mention of his vaccination status, but his stance against the government taking action to try to keep the virus from going absolutely bonkers certainly did not help things, and the less heard along those lines, the better.

    • Rayne says:

      I saw that news last night and had to snicker. How many anti-vaxx proponents did Karma take this week with COVID, Grimmer being just one.

      • dude says:

        Yes, but how long will it be until his and other Covid deaths in hospitals will be blamed on conspiracy too—hospitals as the “death panel / sorting bin” working on behalf of some Bill Gates-George Soros left wing star-chamber. Trump test-drove that idea when he alleged doctors were just making money off the sick. We all laughed. But as Peterr suggests, the open wounds around death-by-Covid can persist and get ugly. The more overrun the health care system becomes, the more likely this will occur.

        • Rayne says:

          They’ve been blaming COVID deaths on the left for all manner of reasons all along — like not allowing patients to be treated with “horse paste” ivermectin and during 2020 with hydroxychloroquine.

          This is one of the big reasons the White House needs to do more and better communications about the full range of mitigation techniques, from advocating mask wearing in all public spaces, maintaining mandates on mask wearing in all public transport and government buildings, dispensing the at-home tests (which should have been preceded months ago with masks-by-mail).

          And there needs to be more open investigation by Congress about the bullshit Trump did to profiteer off COVID. Who was hijacking masks during the early portion of the pandemic and where did they all go? Why was hydroxychloroquine advocated at all? Why hasn’t Jared fucking Kushner been subpoenaed to testify about his restraints on aid to blue states and the gross failure to roll out test-and-trace? Has all the money allocated during Trump’s admin been accounted for?

          Lay that all out and it’s pretty obvious who was executing a passive-aggressive death panel in America’s blue state hospitals.

        • fm says:

          Well, once they start blaming the hospitals for their anti vaxed deaths perhaps they will stop flooding their antivaxed selves at the hospitals freeing up nurses and doctors to be able to treat those responsibly vaxed who have medical issues that are not covid. At this point I have zero sympathy for the anti vaxers against the vaccine and masks. Actually a tent should be set up in the hospital parking lots for them so they don’t take up any hospital beds.

        • fm says:

          Well, once they start blaming the hospitals for their anti vaxed deaths perhaps they will stop flooding their antivaxed selves at the hospitals freeing up nurses and doctors to be able to treat those responsibly vaxed who have medical issues that are not covid.

  9. Katherine M Williams says:

    I’m afraid the Biden Administration is going to forced to declare a shut-down, or partial shut-down within a week or two. Also, they’ll likely have to set up large care centers for Omicron sufferers. I don’t see how it can be avoided.

    • d4v1d says:

      Totally agree. And yesterday’s gaslighting (no July 21 – mission accomplished – was not a mistake, no we’re not too late ordering tests) is going to prove painful some coming November. There is a difference between a mistake and a lie – why not point that out and admit your mistake? To borrow from Rayne, the administration is still on the back foot dealing with this wily plague. (He gets kudos though for anticipating what’s ahead and moving to protect the citizenry – that is a presidential thing to do.)

    • Bern says:

      Our (DC) mayor today announced proof-of-vax requirements for most indoor gatherings (churches and grocery stores specifically excluded). Some are rejoicing, others are sneering ‘What took you so long?”…
      All this as DC is said now to have a higher rate of spread than any state in the (dis)Union. And only a few weeks ago was in the lower third of transmission rates nationwide…

    • Rayne says:

      One point not mentioned in that article — actual link at — is whether this vaccine in development is based on adenovirus-vector or mRNA.

      Walter Reed Army Institute of Research is where much of the early research on adenovirus vaccines was done beginning in the 1950s thanks to Marcus Hilleman. The military use to issue an adenovirus vaccine to all incoming troops; its decades of use proved it could be used in vaccines. The Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines relied heavily on this research for their adenovirus-vector COVID vaccines.

      But both of those vaccines have proven not to be effective against Omicron, and much less effective than mRNA against Delta. If the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research vaccine is based on adenovirus-vector, I’m not ready to get excited about it yet.

      • bmaz says:

        I noticed that when I first saw the article yesterday. Seems like a basic bit of info. It is certainly interesting, and they do know what they are doing there, so we shall see. But Pfizer and Moderna are both working on combo vaccines too. The next year will be fascinating.

        Damn glad I sm not getting on a plane right now, yikes!

      • P J Evans says:

        All I noticed was they’ve been working on this for a couple of years. I’m sure DOD would love something like this, because it would take care of several things in one shot.

    • graham firchlis says:

      The approach here is based on a ferritin platform. Ferritin is an ubiquitous naturally occurring protein formed by 24 identical subunits that self-assemble in an interlocking network to create a sphere. Ferritin spheres naturally contain stored iron.

      Artificially created subunits can be induced to form spheres, without the normal physiological contents.

      The Ferritin skeleton can be treated to expose multiple molecular binding sites, to which SARS-COVID-2 spike protiens are then attached.

      The result is a dummy construct that resembles an actual virus in size, shape and biochemical surface presentation.

      B cells react to a dummy virus as to a real one, swarming the particle. The result is a uniformly stronger immune response, that has evidenced efficacy across multiple variants.

      A Lancet review article just out gives a comprehensive status review of the various nanoparticle technologies under development, 26 in clinicals and 80 more in development.

      Very readable overview, with plenty of additional tech talk for the geeks.

    • graham firchlis says:

      To which intelligent enlightened inquiring minds will instantly respond by asking:

      “What’s with ferritin?”

      Here from the smart folk at the Protein Data Base is an accessible comprehensive intro to the structure and function of ferritin and its biological partner transferrin.


  10. madwand says:

    Not sure if this has been brought up yet, seems like there was a conference held in Dallas by a bunch of far right conspiracy theorists at the Reawaken America tour event. A bunch started coming down with symptoms suspiciously of Covid and since most were unvaccinated and apparently decided they didn’t want to own up to it, they claimed it was anthrax which to be fair has some of the same symptoms but the odds are it was a superspreader event.

    “The claims that these illnesses were due to an anthrax attack were shared and viewed hundreds of thousands of times on Telegram and other alt-tech platforms like Gab and Parler. The claims have also been boosted on mainstream social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.”

    After this guy an election conspiracy theorist named Oltmann made his initial claim, “other conspiracy-minded folk highlighted a video from the event that showed a fog machine operating during the conference, suggesting that this is how the anthrax was spread—ignoring the fact that no anthrax outbreak has been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or any other agency.”

Comments are closed.