Three Things: Bracing for Omicron’s Overrun

[NB: check the byline, thanks. /~Rayne]

Not going to lie or mince words: the White House fucked up its response to Omicron. They let businesses, pressure from the GOP’s COVIDiots, and public polling tell them what to do instead of gaming out an effective response. They focused on the economy and then-irrational fear of inflation instead of COVID, only to create the problem they wanted to address.

While the impending COVID explosion would likely have happened anyhow, the curve could have been flattened and the blow to health care systems softened had the White House not only emphasized getting testing out to the public but getting better quality masks to the people while asking any and all public facilities conducting business indoors to ensure better air quality immediately.

You know, advocate the things which have been proven to work in other countries like Japan — a densely-populated country with a population more than a third of the U.S.’s but less than 19,000 COVID deaths to date.

But more on that in a moment.

~ 3 ~

I’ve been furious since a friend told me last week they were blindsided by someone in their social circle who has fallen prey to disinfo about COVID.

In a nutshell, their acquaintance is:

1 – Peeved about the unvaccinated being blamed for the spread of COVID;

2 – Doesn’t think the lack of vaccinations in a sizable percentage of the population caused a new variant;

3 – Feels the virus will mutate and spread whether people are vaccinated or unvaccinated;

4 – Believes vaccines will reduce severity of cases and keep hospitalizations down, but the mutations and contagion will happen anyhow.

Jesus Christ, where to even start except tell them to quit Facebook. These half-truths about COVID are truly problematic with an American public weak on science education – well, weak education as a whole, when it comes to critical thinking.

Mr. Blindsider needs to understand:

1 – The ongoing threat is the willfully unvaccinated, not those who can’t be vaccinated because of legitimate health problems or those whose circumstances have prevented them from being vaccinated. Anyone willfully choosing not to be vaccinated isn’t merely putting themselves at risk but others like children for whom we do not yet have vaccinations, and those who want but can’t get vaccinated. Fuck the willfully selfish gits and piss on your peevedness.

2 – Yes, the lack of vaccinations DID cause a variant to rise. Unvaccinated humans are pools for new variant development. More unvaccinated people means a bigger resevoir in which new variants can develop.

3 – Take a fucking look around: do you see any new variants of polio (caused by poliovirus)? Measles (measles morbillivirus)? Chicken pox (varicella-zoster virus)? All of these are infectious diseases caused by viruses for which children have been routinely vaccinated as children over decades. Because vaccination rates are above 85% of all US children, the pool of unvaccinated is too small for the viruses to develop variants. This is what needs to happen with COVID.

4– As long as the pool of willfully unvaccinated remains as large as it is, SARS-CoV-2 will have adequate opportunity to mutate and new variants will emerge. The answer is two-fold: (1) everyone must be vaccinated who can safely tolerate a tested vaccine, and (2) a better vaccine is needed, one designed to protect against all coronaviruses.

But the answer is really four-fold:

– The U.S. public school system needs to do more and better biological science education because too many adults are quite stupid when it comes to basics like infection control let alone microbiology. That education should also include new content on airborne spread of disease like measles and COVID, the latter by aerosolized particles.

– The White House needs to fix CDC and FDA communications problems, because they’re frankly doing an abysmal job this deep into a pandemic. We should not still be arguing with our neighbors 23 months into this about simple infection control and its affects on individuals and society.

~ 2 ~

Mr. Peeved Blindsider will be part of the reason Omicron explodes; they’re incapable of systems thinking necessary to enact effective mitigation, too busy folding like a broken lawn chair under disinformation and minor frustrations all of us have had to deal with.

Too busy throwing a pity party for the poor maligned willfully unvaccinated to think about what is about to erupt across the country.

Read this Twitter thread:

There were school systems across the country which didn’t have enough bus drivers under the Beta and Delta waves. This is about to happen again even though more people are vaccinated and Omicron is not as severe as Delta, because Omicron still sickens people and still forces people into quarantine and isolation.

If all schools don’t close this week, children are going to bring Omicron into classrooms, spread it to each other because they got it over the holidays, because they weren’t given N95 masks, and their schools’ HVAC systems haven’t been upgraded to improve air quality and reduce exposure time to aerosolized virus.

They will infect school teachers and staff and bus drivers, who will infect their families.

Schools will be forced to go to remote learning again for the lack of teachers and bus drivers.

Students’ and teachers’ family members will take it to work, including places like grocery stores and fast food chains and manufacturing facilities and shipping companies.

The supply chain will be throttled down again and we’ll hear yet another round of bullshit about inflationary pressures about which the right-wing and neoliberals will lie and claim the GOP can fix in spite of its ongoing anti-vaccination campaign.

Omicron may burn itself out inside 3-4 weeks, but the effects will be much longer. We still do not have data about the long-term effects of Omicron on those infected; the data will be complicated by the spectrum of unvaccinated/unvaccinated-but-previously-infected/vaccinated-only/vaccinated-and-boosted.

We can plan ahead, though, for a worst case in which those infected with Omicron have some degree of neurological sequelae and increased fatigue along with increased risk of death because we’ve seen this with previous variants. Expect more people acting irrationally or sluggishly because of COVID brain fog.

Social distancing throughout the rest of the winter may be our best approach.

Gods help us all if we need health care services for anything urgent apart from COVID.

~ 1 ~

As I wrote when I started this post, the White House fucked up the response to this variant. The Omicron scenario was always a possibility and a plan for it should have been on the books, ready for roll out. (Has no one in Centers for Disease Control and Food and Drug Administration as well as the White House done any simulations and scenario planning at all for this pandemic??)

A shorter isolation period due to Omicron’s allegedly milder symptoms combined with more rapid testing isn’t a rational response without better mitigation to flatten the curve, not to mention the assumptions made about illness severity relying on early data which could have been flawed in analysis.

Though a key component of the White House’s answer to Omicron, rapid tests simply haven’t been available at the scale of numbers and breadth of distribution this country needed. We’ve seen far too many examples of people waiting in lines for hours to get tested throughout the holiday season.

Propublica’s reporting on the clown car that is America’s COVID rapid test approval process explains much of the problem, but this should have be addressed as an emergency skunkworks in November, with the White House fully engaged with the FDA as soon as Omicron was announced.

There have also been people claiming huge quantities of rapid tests could be available inside weeks. Read that Propublica report, and then think like a manufacturer for a moment – one which has had problems with obtaining raw materials, difficulty with reliable shipments (hello, fire Louis DeJoy), and labor shortages due to illness and insufficient child/eldercare for workers.

I know people being courted for jobs in testing production; the industry literally doesn’t have enough current employees to step up production for delivery inside weeks let alone days.

Given all the barriers to adequate numbers of reliable rapid tests, heightened infection control measures are an absolute necessity.

And yet the response to Omicron has been sadly lacking emphasis on infection control – even after the absurd theater of an airline CEO sickening with COVID testifying before the Senate that masks don’t do much.

Every single American should have been mailed (7) N95 masks – one per day to use on rotation through this Omicron surge. They’re cheap, easy to ship by mail (hello, fire Louis DeJoy), don’t need special testing and approval; we have multiple manufacturers in the U.S. ready to step up production.

Every single health care worker should have received at least twice that number already. Health care facilities should be able to hand them out to patients and their families.

Every single public facility should have been ordered to improve air quality with improved ventilation; CO2 tests should have been distributed to every school for every classroom as a measure of air quality and a proxy for risk of aerosolized virus exposure. Higher CO2 levels – roughly equating to increased aerosolized particles from occupants and low air flow – should result in windows and doors being opened, addition of Corsi-Rosenthal Cube filter systems, or dismissal of classes until CO2 levels fall to acceptable levels.

Longer term, legislation providing funding for improving air quality in all public facilities should be on Congress’s agenda, because this isn’t the last variant we’ll see before this pandemic is over. There will be other reasons for improving indoor air quality – increasing numbers of wildfires and dust storms as the climate emergency deepens will be adequate justification to continue HVAC improvements.

And as I already said, something needs to be done pronto about the communications out of CDC and FDA about COVID, including infection control measures.

~ 0 ~

All that said, double down on measures to protect yourself, friends, and loved ones through this Omicron wave. Use the measures Japan’s health ministry has advocated and apparently work when used widely.

Avoid the Three Cs:
— Closed spaces with poor ventilation or unmonitored air quality
— Crowded spaces occupied by many people
— Close-contact settings which don’t allow adequate social distance

Do the Three Ws:
— Wear a better mask (N95 preferred)
— Watch your social distance to reduce exposure to aerosols
— Wash your hands to prevent spread of any infectious agents

And if you haven’t yet gotten your booster, do whatever you can to get that on board.

78 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    I want to note that I’ve had several friends online who’ve come down with COVID this last week since Christmas. One person’s entire family got it, their mother was turned away at the ER for lack of bed space; the adult child’s oxygen level had fallen dramatically and probably should have been admitted but their parent had already been turned away. Still complaining of fever, headache, body aches on Day 6 though oxygen levels have improved. Could they had Delta instead of Omicron? We’ll likely never know because of the limitations of home testing and the lack of access to emergent health care.

    And school starts in just hours for the youngest member of that family.

    EDIT: Sorry, seasoned community members, I need to reiterate this for some drive-by actors —

    ** This is a warning to commenters regurgitating right-wing talking points and conspiracy theories. **

    DON’T. Do not even try it under the guise of “just asking questions.”

    This site lives in the reality-based world. Bring supporting documentation if you think you have a claim worth consideration. If you can’t bolster your point, do not post until you can.

    Consult the Community Guidelines before dropping +1000 word-plus comments here as well; they are seen as attempts to deny use of this thread to others by obstructing comments if the content isn’t well sourced and reasoned.

    • Alan Charbonneau says:

      I came across this article about a clinical trial of a vaccine that will work with all variants of COVID. The article reads “We’re waiting for the results to be released, which should happen soon. Assuming Phase I proves to be safe and effective, the new vaccine will undergo Phase II and Phase III trials”

      So, it’s not like it’ll be available next week, but it does bring some hope for the future,

  2. Benji says:

    Good morning Rayne, spot-on post.

    Of course all the misinformed will not listen to – much less adopt – any mindset other than that which matches their preconceived notion or that which they find they can smugly use to deliberately irk others.

    I think the best nugget you brought up was the lack of critical thinking skills in the average ‘Murcan; lots of Americans have a decent grasp but we are in the minority. Try this on for size based on the points you raised:

    ‘Gene flow’ is the transfer of genetic material from one population to another; ‘R’ is the measure of how infectious a disease is; ‘mortality rate’ is just like it sounds – how many can be expected to die if contracting the disease; and finally SARS and MERS are also coronaviruses related to Covid-19.

    A smaller unvaxxed pool means less walking petri dishes out there – very true, but the nightmare scenario to me is what if Omicrom and MERS experience gene flow transfer in some part of the world where the vaccination rate is particularly low – and we get a variant with Omicron’s high R (15+) which marries into the mortality rate of MERS (30-40%).

    Catastrophe indeed.

    The next wave is coming, thanks in large part to the willingly unvaccinated. The question is what form will it take. I will not even address the readiness of our nation to be prepared for this – Capitalism has already shouldered out the common good in the name of greed and profit.

  3. Peterr says:

    One aspect of the education problem you note is the ability in many school districts for parents to opt their child out of basic education about human reproduction – that is, sex ed. Such policies privilege parents over teachers, and it is so deeply ingrained in so many places that the attitude spills over into other aspects of education (see the reaction to the 1619 Project). Small local eruptions over the HPV vaccine combine the sex ed conversations with vaccines – “if you tell kids to get the HPV vaccine, you’re telling them it’s OK to have sex!” *sigh*

    All of it boils down to this: “Sure, you’re the teacher, but my opinion matters more than your knowledge! Now shut up, get back in the classroom, and teach — and don’t you dare tell my kid to wear a mask or get a vaccine!”

    At our local school board meetings, there have been folks speaking out very strongly about keeping kids in school, even if COVID #s go up. I know there are various former teachers at these meetings, including a couple current and former school board members, and I can only imagine how hard they have to grit their teeth so they don’t bang their heads on the table over what their former students are saying.

  4. Philip Daly says:

    COVID cases are definitely on the rise.

    And wastewater in MA sewers is showing a giant spike up for coronavirus RNA. It exceeds the levels of the virus from all points of the COVID pandemic to date. And the data in the graph stops at 12/30/21. The graph is likely to be updated later today and the peak is likely even higher.

    • Nord Dakota says:

      is that how all those deer in Iowa got it? (hunted and road kill, don’t recall % of deer that had covid antibodies but it was high, 40% maybe?)

      I was a bit skeptical that vaccines are the reason measles and polio don’t mutate tbh. I mean, different viruses do have different mutation rates. But in the case of measles, engineered genetic changes (gain of function!!!) have not allowed the virus to avoid vaccine-induced antibodies. In the case of flu, scientists have not been able to develop a “universal” flu vaccine, and assuming strains arise because of flu viruses mixing in pigs and chickens and ducks, flu vaccines have very limited ability to dampen new strains. Rhinoviruses–we get colds because they produce so very many different strains. We gain immunity to one strain (I believe up to about 7 years) but there are all those others. Someone on NPR suggested Omicron may have arisen from someone who had some other underlying disease (HIV being one possibility) which meant their body didn’t clear the virus and it was able to continue reproducing for months.

      Testing for covid strains is not the same as testing for infection, has to do with what segment of its genetic sequence is being amplified I think. Minnesota is considered at the forefront in variant surveillance but that still means 8% of samples.

      I think from individual perspectives the indications that omicron is milder changes the calculus a lot. Problem is there is such a large pool of candidates to be infected since these are new viruses, which leads to overloading of health care system.

      • Rayne says:

        different viruses do have different mutation rates.

        Still need a reservoir large enough for mutation and replication. If vaccination rate is 90% and the 10% unvaxxed aren’t clustered together, there’s little chance for a mutation to escape.

        In the case of flu, scientists have not been able to develop a “universal” flu vaccine

        This may have been a function of the vaccine technology available. With mRNA now proven on massive scale, I will bet an mRNA universal flu vaccine will be tested and released within a handful of years.

        LATE ADDER: Dawned on me this Wednesday morning I missed one of the biggest, best examples of vaccine success — smallpox. I still have the scar on my upper arm from the vaccination; my youngest sibling, who was born in the 1970s, wasn’t vaccinated for smallpox. It was no longer necessary by the time they were born a decade after me.

  5. Badger Robert says:

    We are as ready as we can be. People over 60 have a high degree of vaccinated resistance to the virus. The virus will now be spreading through younger people. In those people it will act more like regular flu. Viruses use up their carriers.
    But as noted in the blog article, the consequences among the unvaccinated are certain to be tragic.

  6. Badger Robert says:

    Medicine has been too successful. People have forgotten what measles, mumps and rubella were like. Tomorrow’s fate may have sent us Covid and its variants as a reminder.

    • Theodora30 says:

      The reason people have forgotten is that we don’t teach kids about the the horrific diseases that used to be common or about the amazing medical advances that have eliminated or controlled them. Wars are considered important history but that is not.

      I was never taught about the 1918 flu pandemic and was shocked when I saw a PBS documentary about it. I was also surprised when my father, who was a doctor in battlefield hospitals in Europe during WWII, talked about how astounding it was when they got their first penicillin supplies. Men who would have quickly died from infections were getting better within 24 hours. I had been taught about the development of penicillin in the 1920s but not that it wasn’t available until 1942 because no one could figure out how to reliable produce it in large quantities.
      PBS recently showed an excellent documentary “Extending Life: A Short History of Living Longer” which looks at the medical advances that have done so much to increase our life spans. I was surprised to learn that one of them was pasteurization of milk which saved the lives of many urban children.
      Teaching about those diseases should not just be done with dry facts, but should emphasize the heartbreak that past generations experienced because of diseases we no longer even think about. My grandfather lost his six younger siblings to diphtheria. My parents lost close friends and relatives to TB. My husband’s aunt contracted polio when her kids were young and spent the rest of her life — over 20 years — as a quadriplegic, lying on a hospital bed in their dining room. I had a schoolmate who never returned after measles left her brain damaged.
      The media should also do their part instead of doing things like giving a platform for people to tell their misleading but heartbreaking tales the way they did with the measles anti-vaxxers. I remember wondering why older people who are still living with the effects of measles, polio, etc. were never asked to tell their heartbreaking stories.
      Not only is this crucial information that all kids need to learn about, it is a story about wonderful things educated humans have accomplished.

        • Troutwaxer says:

          Not when I was in school in the 1970s – I’d guess nobody had thought about why it should be taught. But we sure as heck know now!

      • Tracy Lynn says:

        FWIW, I was taught about the 1919 flu pandemic during my public high school days in the mid-70s. It wasn’t a long or in-depth chapter of history — we didn’t spend more than a day on it, I’m sure — but I do remember reading about it in one of our 8th grade history books, then having a discussion about it again when I was a sophomore in high school during an Am Civ class. However, none of the discussion prepared me for the realities of this current pandemic — the mindless chatter about how getting vaccinated steps on peoples’ freedoms, the total disrespect for our health care professionals and epidemiologists, the speedy morphing of the virus from alpha to delta to omicron. In retrospect, my schools would have been better off if they had taught about it in our science/biology classes.

      • Simon says:

        Like many other who grew up thru the 70-90’s I just took it as a given that people weren’t going to ‘backslide’ and get stupider as time went on – it seemed like the gains that had been made in Science and Technology were set in stone.

      • pluky says:

        Walking the field after battle to deliver coups-de-grace to the gravely wounded was not the barbarism it seems. ‘Twas a mercy to spare them the slow agony of death by sepsis.

    • P J Evans says:

      Parents should be old enough to remember chickenpox. Grandparents should be remembering measles and mumps. And kids are required to get vaccinations before they start school – that’s on parents *and doctors*.

      • blueedredcounty says:

        I’m 59. I still have my smallpox vaccination scar on my left arm.

        I remember getting my polio vaccinations, I know one of them was with the newly-introduced oral vaccine
        (this was a relief, our family doctor was horrendous at giving shots). I remember hearing the polio stories from older siblings and parents. If any of you read “Misty of Chincoteague” while growing up, one of the subplots was about a polio survivor in a type of iron lung where multiple volunteers kept it pumping manually during a power outage from a storm.

        I was able to get a measles vaccination, but there was no vaccine for mumps, which I got when I was four – because my five-year-old sister brought it home from kindergarten.

        I remember when they introduced a rubella vaccine, it was available and administered at school; only time I remember getting an injection by an air gun. This would have been late 60’s/ early 70’s.

        Unfortunately, there was no vaccine for chicken pox at the time I caught it. I was in high school, babysitting two brothers who came down with it that day.

        At the moment I am on at least a 10 day quarantine. I got my first two doses of Pfizer back in March and April, and my booster on December 7. However, one of my friends (all of us fully vaxxed/boosted) who was visiting over Christmas through New Year tested negative on January 1, and after travelling home, tested positive today. I don’t have to go anywhere and I am still working from home, so I won’t risk exposing anyone else. If I am still symptom-free in 10 days, I’ll get tested and if it is negative, consider venturing out again.

        Bill Maher was right when he said Americans are stupid. As the willfully unvaccinated and anti-vaxxers prove, they are willfully stupid.

        Rayne is right when she says, “Fuck them.”

  7. i0sam0i says:

    Based in Australia and we seem to be having similar issues to other countries now with the omicron variant. Pressure to open up prior to Xmas.
    Personally, our nearly 3yr old daughter has/had covid. Was starting to get sick 23-dec, covid test Xmas eve and result of positive evening of 27th. Very likely it was from daycare, and we were in isolation for the week of so (informal then formally with the positive result). My partner and I are both vaccinated and have tested negative (luckily).
    What has been interesting? is that other kids had been sick and still going to daycare due to “kids don’t get it” or “there isn’t covid here” (which was recently true). All showing similar symptoms to our daughter, now their parents are get positive results back as they are falling sick.
    Testing queues are unbelievable at 3hr + in a lot of instances, or closed due to numbers or heat (summer here) and today some private pathology testing sites have closed due to backlog of samples. Struggle to find a rapid test, and these are now priced very high due to demand.
    Response from our (hopefully soon to be ex) Prime Minister – can’t keep giving away things for free. It’s only mild. Hospital system is okay…

  8. Raven Eye says:

    Last Tuesday, in the regular work session for our three county commissioners, one of them stated: “Covid, for me, is not an emergency”.

    The commissioner claimed the position was based on “the data”. That day the Johns Hopkins status report showed 26,214 cumulative confirmed cases and 387 cumulative deaths — in a county of a little over 215,000.

  9. The Hang Nail says:

    The mask thing is quite vexxing. Just recently we are starting to get explainer articles in the media about which masks are best. Why did they wait so long? We have known cloth and surgical masks are weak for a long time. And have you read those articles? Huh? Go to Amazon and try to order a N95 or K95 mask and you are met with a plethora of options at different price points. Which ones are legit? Who knows, because Amazon has failed to vet its sources. So people are not wearing good masks most likely because of trust and cost. This should have been a slam dunk for the administration.

  10. coral says:

    Daughter and 20-30 friends (Brooklyn) all vaxxed, most boosted, all got Covid in the last few weeks. We luckily had just bought rapid tests before the big rush, so we were able to spend time with both 30-something children & grandchildren, and Covid daughter, after 12 days tested negative and was able to come for New Years. Though we are all physically healthy, the last two years have been harrowing. Not being able to socialize freely was okay for a few months, after 2 years it is becoming unbearable.

  11. skua says:

    Thanks Rayne – I read and then ordered N95 masks and prioritised maximising airflow at work.

    South Africa’s Omicron situation may going better than what happened with Delta.
    So far low deaths compared to Delta and hospitals admissions lower.
    But they are in summer. Maybe 50% of deaths are occurring outside hospitals and so don’t get counted – but it is not obvious why that would be different between Omicron and Delta.

    Looks like we are all going to be exposed to Omicron. And people taking reasonable steps to delay exposure and get well vaccinated will help flatten the curve and avoid/lessen overloading the health system.

    Just maybe we’ve got a bit lucky with Omicron. Or maybe not. But the next toss of the coin … ?
    The work to get protection against COVID for people around the globe through globally high vaccination rates needs to be prioritized now.

    • Rayne says:

      The other factor about South Africa which must be kept in mind is that none of the data indicates how many current “mild symptoms” cases are people who already had COVID once and weren’t vaccinated. We don’t know if what SA has experienced will be the same as what we see in other countries.

  12. observiter says:

    People are scared. Many have limited or no skills and/or experiences in how to deal with serious challenges. Fear leads such “vulnerable” people towards all sorts of things, terrible things. You can throw logic out the window.

    Helpful mask article, bmaz. I’m thinking by the time I find the perfect fitting mask, the virus will probably be long gone, but I’m still trying.

    Coral, I share your thoughts about socialization constraints during this lengthy period. I’m pretty resilient but it’s starting to drive me crazy.

    Wondering about the infected children. How sick are they getting?

    • bmaz says:

      I am probably ordering a pack of the LG Airwasher KF94 Disposable Face Masks. I have used N95s before for sanding and paint spray projects, and they are not very comfortable. So the KF94 it is.

      • JMNY says:

        One thing I read in a great NPR article about masks is that one of the major factors that make N95/KN95/KF94 masks so much better is that the materials the filters are made of have an electrostatic charge that helps to trap the virus even if it’s small enough to pass through the fibers. That seems to be a major benefit those masks offer over cloth masks. Omicron requires very few particles to infect once inhaled because it multiplies very rapidly in your body. The electrostatic charge of the better masks helps to keep the particles trapped so you don’t inhale them.

  13. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Government-by-lobbyist is never a good idea. The prevailing myths of neoliberalism notwithstanding, government, like education, is not a for-profit institution. It has many goals: responding to intense business lobbying is only one of them, and rarely should be the highest priority.

    If the US needed non-homegrown examples of what not to do, Boris Johnson’s non-government is always a great place to start.

  14. P J Evans says:

    The WH could have invoked the DPA to get masks and testing ramped up – last spring would have been a good time to start.
    FDA needs to be able to move faster in emergencies/pandemics. They have so many kinds of tests available in Europe! Why can’t we get more than one or two, if any?

  15. chum'sfriend says:

    Increasing vaccination rates in the USA isn’t going to stop mutation of the virus. The Delta variant originated in India. Omicron evolved in South Africa. The viral evolution issue cannot be dealt with unless there is a truly global vaccination effort.

    • bmaz says:

      The Omicron variant was first clinically detected in South Africa, but there is no basis I have seen for determining that it originated there.

    • Rayne says:

      Increased vaccination rates in the US will reduce the reservoir in the US — and with the possibility of co-infection and superinfection along with a population of immunocompromised persons using different drug therapies in addition to the leakage into wildlife, the current US reservoir is a serious threat.

      Vaccination globally is still necessary to reduce the reservoir everywhere. Sadly, until open license CORBEVAX was announced this past week, the barriers to rolling out mRNA vaccines had not been addressed — and no, it wasn’t as simple as transferring IP or liberating licensing. What’s needed now is adequate financial support to ensure CORBEVAX can be made and distributed around the world building on the launch platform.

    • chum'sfriend says:

      John Campbell reports on interesting work indicating that the original COV19 virus spread to wild mice where it underwent changes, becoming “Omicron”. This new mouse adapted form jumped back into the human population and was not very susceptible to vaccines and immunities developed for the original form, and for the Delta variant.

  16. posaune says:

    I personally know 18 people with Omicron. Our choir sang Midnight Mass (Bach Christmas Oratorio BWV 248, masked and distanced) and by Sunday after three were infected. Then, all their families. Then people at work. Son’s friend’s family. The neighbors next door. And, to a person, no one can say from whom or where they were infected. Of course, this is DC and it has the highest infection rate per capita now. Mr. posaune et al are all double-masking. I bought two medium HEPA filters with UVG, a CO2 reader, and UVG sanitizer lights for my space at the office. And all the schools are still opening tomorrow or Wednesday. Because . . . the economy or something.

    • rlhall says:

      No, I don’t think it’s the economy directly.
      Our schools are daycare centers for our children while we adults go to work.
      My son, who’s 17 and in high school in Howard Co., MD, near you, effectively went on strike against his school before Xmas. There was been a huge outbreak there, though the school insists everything is under control. He thinks, reckless endangerment while they threaten his graduation.
      Now he has his booster and is willing to go back, but we are really furious at the situation.

      • posaune says:

        Good for your son, rlhall.
        I’m really worried about Wed 1/5.
        I really don’t want to send my son to school — they are insisting on “back to normal.” Ugh.

  17. gmoke says:

    From the get-go, USAmerica violated the first rule of “The Plague,” even Dr Fauci. They weren’t honest:
    from The Plague by Albert Camus
    …there’s no question of heroism in all this. It’s a matter of common decency. That’s an idea which may make some people smile, but the only means of fighting a plague is – common decency.”

    “What do you mean by ‘common decency’?” Rambert’s tone was grave.

    “I don’t know what it means for other people but in my case I know that it consists in doing my job.”

    Il ne s’agit pas d’héroïsme dans tout cela. Il s’agit d’honnêteté. C’est une idée qui peut faire rire, mais la seule façon de lutter contre la peste, c’est l’honnêteté.

    “Qu’est ce l’honnêteté?” dit Rambert, d’un air soudain sérieux.

    “Je ne sais pas ce qu’elle est en général. Mais dans mon cas, je sais qu’elle consiste á faire mon métier.”

    I know the “don’t bother about masks” advice was based on the fact that supplies needed to be limited to medical staff but it was not honest advice. Masks were necessary and they (you know THEM) knew it. But it was expedient to suggest otherwise at that particular point in time.

    I thought we were gonna “science the sh!t” out of this virus and, as far as vaccine development went, we did. Yet, we still haven’t made it clear that there are only a few things a herd community can do to protect itself from a new viral contagion – quarantine, contact trace, wear appropriate masks if it is air-borne… We still haven’t grasped that lesson and there is no one in the public sphere that I see promoting it. Hell, I still haven’t seen a good visual explanation of how COVID-19 attacks human cells and the damage it does.

    Now, in some ways, we’ve given up and this pandemic will almost certainly become endemic, if not something worse when a new and deadlier variant arises.

    • No Return says:

      Dr Fauci is a politician as well as a scientist. As a politician, he takes positions that he knows disagree with the Science. He wouldn’t have survived the Trump administration if he hadn’t been able to do so. Walesnsky is also a politician. Different administration, drastically less dissonance, but the same factors are at play. Fauci’s advice regarding masks at the beginning of the epidemic reeks of arrogance and paternalism, and it continues today.

      Omicron is a five alarm fire that is being minimized by not mobilizing all available resources, and neither Fauci nor Walensky are doing so, possibly for paternalistic reasons (the children can’t handle it?). Masking with N95 masks or their equivalent is critical. Vaccination alone will not get us out of this. The key to Omicron’s dramatically increased infectiousness is not just its ability to infect cells more readily, but also its ability to evade the immune response. This follows the expected evolutionary pathway but the way that it happened (widespread multigenic mutation) is particularly concerning. Further evolution in this direction leads to increasing pathogenicity, and increasingly lethal waves of variants.

      Endemicity as an acceptable outcome? I don’t think so. Not even with the variants we have. The sheer breadth of current sequelae involving not just the brain, but the heart, kidneys, pancreas and other tissues, and the high frequency with which it appears to occur speaks to a bad outcome if this is endemic. And I certainly shudder to think what will happen with future more infectious and/or pathogenic variants.

      • bmaz says:

        What a load of bunk. Because a scientist has to deal with public ignorance, and an executive branch under siege, and has to do so on the fly does NOT make him per se a politician.

        • gmoke says:

          Dr Fauci is a consummate bureaucratic politician. It’s what has enabled him to continue so long in his career. He’s been through this mill before with AIDS and I believe Larry Kramer would have agreed with me that Fauci was playing politics there in ways that Kramer often disliked but in ways that moved the medical establishment in the right direction, as slowly as it may have been.

          Fauci and Kramer ended up being friends. I have great respect for Dr Fauci myself but that initial decision to downplay the use of masks was a fundamental mistake from which a lot of the present confusion stems. I can understand why it was done but I still disagree with it.

          And I’d still l like to see our medical experts, politicians, and the corporate media really bear down on those very few tools we have as a herd species to avoid infection by a new virus.

          • bmaz says:

            What a load of garbage. A man, Fauci, that has literally spent his life fighting and responding to infectious diseases and viruses, and you dump on him. What a cowardly and wrongheaded position. Also, screw your ignorant “herd immunity” garbage. Get right on out of here with that ignorance.

            • gmoke says:

              My intention was not to dump on Dr Fauci. I have great respect for him but, evidently unlike you, I do not worship him. He made a mistake, a critical mistake in my opinion, by being less than honest about wearing masks initially. That’s it. That’s my criticism of that dedicated man.

              As for thinking that I was advocating herd immunity, that’s a stupid misreading of what I wrote. We are herd animals and herd animals have only a few ways to deal with infectious disease. I do not advocate the “let’s get everyone infected to get to herd immunity” idea of some ignorant people. The only load of garbage I see here is your comment.

              Sorry to say as I also respect you, even though I think you sit WAAYYY too high on your horse much too often.

              • bmaz says:

                Don’t tell me who I worship, you have no clue. And, yes, you did advocate for herd immunity principles. Ride your own horse with whatever you are high on.

                • gmoke says:

                  Acknowledging that homo sap sap (that sap!) is a herd animal is not advocating “let’s get everybody infected” herd immunity.

          • Rayne says:

            The entire public health care system — and I mean the global system — fucked up about aerosols’ role as a key infection vector. That’s not on one person but the entire global public health care system. Only Japan had a grasp on aerosol research early in the pandemic, in part because they’d been doing aerosol research before the pandemic.

            Some of this fuckup may have been rooted in misogyny — again, a global problem — because the professionals who were first to promote the aerosol-as-vector theory were women, like Lidia Morawska and Linsey Marr.


            In one of my early posts here about COVID I noted the cases in which Chinese patients with no direct contact had been infected; they had been on different floors in the same mall in early January 2020.


            This incident, combined with absolutely forgetting the transmission of SARS in 2002 through aerolized fecal matter via sewer pipes, and the discounted theory of aerosol transmission because of past error and misogyny was a key reason the entire globe failed to ensure everyone wore masks early in the pandemic.

            I think you’re also underestimating the pressure Trump put on the CDC and FDA to make it seem as if everything was under control, normal, no threat to the stock market, while professionals like Fauci knew that the system was fucked badly by Team Trump.

            While working in that orange feckwit’s administration, how would you have made sure that health care workers came first for PPE which should have been stocked in national emergency stores but wasn’t, while dodging Trump’s Apprentice-persona firing anybody who interfered with his self-image?

            I blame the Surgeon General Adams for not finessing the language about mask wearing with the public, not Fauci, who was probably more focused on the vaccine development challenges. And yet the one Black professional among the face of federal public health system can’t be faulted for less than effective effort working for goddamned white nationalist Trump.

            In hindsight the few who had a bead on the situation but weren’t complete sycophants to Trump should have found ways to coordinate a message through NGOs about masks and other mitigation measures. If they screwed up it was in failing to step back long enough to seek other alternatives. But hindsight is 20/20 and we weren’t under the same pressure they were to get the pandemic under control while keeping Trump from making things catastrophically worse.

            ADDER: and what bmaz said — do NOT get started with any herd immunity bullshit here. You want herd immunity? Get vaccinated and boosted.

          • P J Evans says:

            I doubt that he made all those decisions, at least not without a lot of input from other experts. Remember, early on they didn’t know much about this virus.

      • P J Evans says:

        The people whining that the kids can’t handle it all seem to be parents who can’t handle it themselves – most kids get it; they don’t need detailed explanations, but the ones over four can understand wearing a mask to keep out germs, and they also understand vaccinations.

        • rlhall says:

          Yes, you’re right. I just commented above, but it’s worth reiterating that my child understands when he’s being handed bs for lunch!
          Our real problem is that the pandemic has been turned into a political issue. There should be no question that we are all in this together, whatever our party affiliation. We have to work together as a nation to solve this.
          Juxtaposing the issue of keeping schools open in the face of spreading disease versus what we teach our children about science and history has so much irony.

        • Raven Eye says:

          Remember how some “parents” screamed that mandatory car child seats would ruin their children — in some manner never fully disclosed? And now kids manage their life in the seats, know where their arms and legs need to go when they’re getting in or out of the seat, and then go on their ride.

          Now, the kids that will have a life-ruining experience because of masks are the victims of their “parents’ ” hysteria. But I also see little kiddles masked up and happily going shopping or on outings with their non-hysterical parents all the time.

          • Rayne says:

            I can think of several vehicle accidents in which the child was the only one uninjured and in at least two cases the only one who survived — all because of that mandatory child car seat.

            • Larry Clark says:

              I’ve worked with a bunch of EMTs and Paramedics over the years…They totally confirm your observation. And that’s why so many of the guys and gals down at the fire house are happy to help parents make sure they install the child car seats properly.

  18. Charles Wolf says:

    The summer before Covid there were fires that filled half the country with smoke.
    I couldn’t see paying a small fortune on room air purifiers so I made some from OTC parts cheaply available to all American citizens. For ~$50 I bought a multistage 6″ x 6″ HEPA-13 round air filter, a 6″ duct fan with a speed control and taped them together so the fan sucked room air through the filter. It worked so I made a couple more for every room – plugged them in – and voila, all the indoor smoke stink vanished. They’re not pretty (except to me) and they make noise in proportion to the fan speed. The filters need to be replaced from time to time.

    Now days, I use them to trap Covid bugs.

    • Rayne says:

      I have a collection of DIY videos for HEPA air filtration systems I should share. Some of them work better than the commercial air purifier systems, and are faster and cheaper.

      We could be setting up cheap filtration systems in every classroom for under $100. Drives me nuts thinking about the true cost we’re going to pay for not having prepared for this.

  19. obsessed says:

    For the life of me, I simply don’t understand why everyone else doesn’t use a 3M – 618060000 6900 Full Facepiece Reusable Respirator with a KN95 underneath to filter the exhaust. I can put on the whole thing in 3 seconds tops and shop like it’s Black Friday. The cartridges are P100 – as in 100% – as in it’s made to filter out poisonous gases and 100% of particles. I also cut up a KN95 and taped it over the inputs of the cartridges – not because I’m *that* paranoid, but to protect the P100s themselves. The entire investment set me back less than $200 and has provided more sanity than 10 years of therapy. But make sure to get the 3M – it has a rubber net that lets you flip it on and off with no hassle. All the other full face ones have elaborate straps that are ridiculously time-consuming. (This is the P100 3M P100 Respirator Cartridge/Filter 60923). I didn’t want to put a link in this post but if you search for that on amazon, it’ll come right up – it’s pink.

  20. Pete T says:

    We have “channels” to spread dis/mis information that Goebbels could only have dreamed of.

    We have financialized just about everything and made that the falsest of gods.

    Matt Damon tells me I should be adventurous and invest in cryptocurrency. Something that does not exist created by computers consuming massive amounts of fossil fuels.

    Blockchain is a good thing. Using it for crypto reminds me of atomic science once being good (still very much has it’s place) but then – weapons.

    Something so small – a tiny deadly virus – like dump trucks of sand in the gears of an economy that tires to squeeze every drop out of everything including people – and tell us crypto is brave.

    Crypto is not brave. Spending time/money to live on Mars is not brave, forward thinking, or anything rational. Resources ill-spent.

    • graham firchlis says:

      On the other hand, I’d support sending Elon Musk on a one-way rocketship ride to Mars. Or any other planet, and take his satellites with him.

  21. Judy says:

    Last Tuesday I could feel something coming on. Since I work retail I and didn’t want to be a spreader called out sick two days and looked on line for a walk in clinic for testing. No more walk in clinics, they all want you to make appointments. The soonest I could find? January 6th. I also checked for at home tests. No luck, none in stock. It makes me angry I wanted an answer.
    Maybe it is just a cold but since I have had all the shots it could be covid, I guess I will find out. I feel kind of guilty for finally going to work and possibly being a spreader but also felt guilty calling out because we are already short handed.
    I am trying to be optimistic about this year but feel like we are in for another long slog and nothing but anger about Covid, masks, vaccines and tests.
    Thanks for the links, I am going to look into upgraded masks.

    • Rayne says:

      You can find N95 masks in hardware stores with respirators. Stick to a well-known brand name like 3M or Honeywell. Buy enough for a 7-day rotation; they should be able to get you through at least 5 weeks. You’ll be protecting others as well as yourself.

      Sorry to hear about the test frustrations; I had a similar challenge a few weeks back, had to make an appointment to get a rapid antigen and PCR test which were both negative. I still ended up sick with what I believe was a really bad cold, am just getting over it; I haven’t been sick in so long now, not since 2017, that I almost didn’t know what to do with myself. I suspect we’re going to see a lot of this kind of rebound illness because our stringent hygiene protected us for so long.

      Don’t forget to check the local public library to see if they’re distributing rapid tests. I know many are across the country.

      • P J Evans says:

        I’ve heard from other people who have whatever cold virus is going around, and they’re saying it takes three to four weeks to get over it.

      • Judy says:

        I just got the regular county update email saying that they have a small number of rapid tests to distribute but I don’t qualify so will save myself some driving. It sounds like they are starting to get tests in though which is promising.
        Unfortunately the R-effective rate is up and climbing.
        Thanks for the info, stay well.

  22. Vthestate says:

    long time lurker, I spent a bit of time looking at a 20 week study of over the counter cocktail with zinc and vit D which seems to enhance chances of surviving covids one and all. I like the reassurance and the action as in ‘ do something’… 2 + booster and seldom interact with others. Our collage boy tested negative and brought home a cold . First in 3 years. Is it OK to post the med study? I do not hear enough about boosting our immune systems…..where is CDC encouragement? Looking for test kits as I plan to visit 93 yr Ma next week…delayed an entire year.

    • P J Evans says:

      There really isn’t anything you can do to boost your immune system, especially if you’re eating a reasonably good selection of foods. (If you have problems, talk with a doctor.)

    • Rayne says:

      I missed this comment. I don’t want any alternative therapies for COVID promoted or encouraged here unless there’s a peer-reviewed study to accompany it. Maintaining optimum health does help fight infection from most common viruses like rhinoviruses but we can’t say that yet with SARS-CoV-2 because it’s a novel virus — researchers are still learning about its interaction with human tissues.

      Researchers have found high SARS-CoV-2 viral load to be a predictor of disease severity and mortality across multiple studies, so reducing exposure by distance and literally blocking the virus from the body with masks and adequate ventilation are sound moves.

      In short, Avoid the Three Cs and Do the Three Ws.

  23. jcrit says:

    Please google “Dr. Michael Mina” and “antigen test” to learn how mitigating this outbreak is very possible, making defeat pretty much, like vaccines, a behavioral risk. Had the enthusiasm for antigen testing in medical academia been heeded two years ago, it could have been knocked down then. It was naked greed that oppressed it as an option, and once antigen testing becomes implemented as is being slowly done now, uncontrolled covid-19 may never even become endemic.

  24. Badger Robert says:

    Vaccines prevent infection and prevent severe disease. They are inexpensive.
    Even a poor mask is a good reminder to practice social distancing. They are also cheap, and can decrease viral load and keep the virus in the sinuses in the nasal passages. The Omicron variant is probably evidence that masks work very well.
    Why is society, through insurance companies, Medicare, and overworked HCW responsible for heroic care for people who won’t take inexpensive steps to protect themselves?

    • graham firchlis says:

      Because we are intelligent, sane, empathetic, kind, caring, competent and capable. Because it is the right thing to do.

      We are not like them. Let us do all we can to ensure we never are.

      • Badger Robert says:

        Maybe removing most of the moral risk with respect to cost, and supplying the same standard of care is how we got here.
        A social contract that flows only in one direction is unworkable.

      • Molly Pitcher says:

        GF, while morally I agree with you, and this is how I try to live my life, the reality is that most of this is outside of our influence, let alone control. The other side has chosen to put it in the hands of Darwin.

    • Alan Charbonneau says:

      “Why is society, through insurance companies, Medicare, and overworked HCW responsible for heroic care for people who won’t take inexpensive steps to protect themselves?”

      Because if someone comes into the ER gasping for breath, they choose to not let them die. I share people’s frustration, but I don’t want even the Trump-supporting anti-vaxxers to die of COVID.

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