An Omicron Update
I’ve been asked a couple of times about how we’re doing and how we at the Scalzi Compound are dealing with the current Omicron wave of COVID infections out in the world. The short version is: We’re fine, and are dealing with it like we dealt with the previous waves. For my part specifically, I’m at home and I don’t go out that much when I’m here anyway, so on a day-to-day basis the number of people I see (and therefore, the number of people who I could infect, or could infect me) is pretty low. We have contractors at the house working on our upstairs bedroom suite bathroom, but aside from letting them into the house to work, I don’t come into close contact with them, in no small part because I’m sequestered away in a kitchen-living room cube that I’ve put baby gates up in so Charlie the dog doesn’t get in their way, which she absolutely would. So the chances of passing anything to them, or vice-versa, is relatively low.
And while I’m neither resigned nor sanguine about catching the Omicron variant of COVID, neither am I hugely fearful of it. I’m triple-vaxxed and aside from my age slightly increasing my risk factors, have no real physical comorbidities to be concerned about. The most likely outcome for me if I catch COVID now is that I’ll lie on the couch for a couple of days, which, honestly, is not all that different than my usual daily routine. The irony about COVID-deniers saying that the infection is “just another flu” is that they’re not wrong — if you’ve been vaxxed and boosted. If you’re not, and most COVID-deniers aren’t, it can still fuck you up pretty badly, even the “mild” Omicron version, as we’re seeing with utterly swamped hospitals. “Mild” or not, Omicron is much more infectious, which packs hospitals just the same.
(And of course, let’s acknowledge that the “just another flu” line was appalling to begin with, since in a normal year, “just another flu” kills tens of thousands of Americans, which is nothing to be dismissive of. This is why in addition to my COVID booster, I also got a flu shot this year.)
I have two general thoughts about the Omicron wave. One is utterly selfish: I hope it’s cresting here in January because I have plans for March, including an actual book tour, and I’m going to be pissed if a massive wave of infection punts it all into virtual territory. I have no problem with virtual events! We have some planned as part of the tour! But I also want to go places and see people, without a COVID miasma hanging over everything. So I’ll be happy if Omicron burns itself out in the next few weeks.
The other thought is that the crisis this wave has precipitated was an almost entirely optional one. This statement takes a moment to explain, so bear with me. I’m not convinced that the Omicron wave itself was optional; we have little control over how variants emerge, or the transmissibility of variants when they emerge, so even if the vast majority of Americans were fully vaxxed and boosted, we still might have had this wave wash over us, with its large number of “breakthrough” infections. Omicron’s gonna Omicron. That’s not up to us.
What was up to us was how many people were vaccinated (not counting the actual and relatively small number who couldn’t, for age or medical reasons), and thus, the character of this wave of infection that’s crashing into us now. Latest reports from New York note that the unvaccinated are being hospitalized at 13 times the rate of the vaccinated. In Ohio (since 1/1/21), you’re sixteen times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID if you’re unvaccinated, and 21 times more likely to die from it.
After all this time, the US is still only 62% fully vaccinated, with only 36% boosted. Omicron may have happened regardless of what we did. But because nearly 40 percent of us still haven’t bothered to get vaccinated at all, our hospitals are slammed, medical workers are at the breaking point, and people who don’t have COVID but suffer other life-threatening medical issues risk lack of treatment or even death because of yet another cresting wave of serious COVID infection hogging resourses and personnel. Seriously, don’t need hospitalization right now for anything if you can avoid it. The problem is, you can’t really avoid either a sudden medical emergency, or a current ongoing medical issue. You can’t ask a stroke or a heart attack to reschedule, and you can’t ask cancer to pretty please stop metastasizing.
I’ve discussed here before my utter disgust at the fact that certain opportunists decided to make vaccination a political issue, and I don’t need to do that again in great detail right now. What I can say definitively is that the willfully unvaccinated made the affirmative choice to make this wave of COVID infection worse for all of us. That’s not an opinion, it’s just math. The number of vaccinated people who need hospitalization is a substantial multiple lower than the unvaccinated. The full crest of the Omicron wave against a highly-vaccinated population would still be bad, but it probably wouldn’t be the crisis it is now, grinding our medical system to a standstill and having other knock-on effects on daily life that will be felt weeks and months onward.
I genuinely don’t understand a human being who affirmatively decides that they both want to unnecessarily expose themselves to a substantial risk of hospitalization and death, and contribute to unnecessarily risking the lives of others who need medical care, and make daily life just that much more annoying, inconvenient and occasionally more dangerous. But I also understand these folks have been lied to, both about the risks of vaccination and of COVID itself, and encouraged not to look at the consequences of their actions aside from a vague handwave about personal freedom, and the grubby promise of sticking it to people they don’t like, or at least told they shouldn’t like. Sometimes it’s not an affirmative decision to hurt one’s self and others, sometimes it’s a passive one, greased along by disinformation and a poisoned discourse.
For all that, I do think there’s a certain point where a pawn should understand they’re a pawn, not a king, or a queen, or even a rook. So, if you’re still a willfully unvaccinated person: You’re a pawn, sorry. You’re definitively making everything worse for everybody, and your personal choices affect the lives of people you don’t even know. Please stop making everything worse. Get vaccinated, or if you won’t, consider staying at home. Stop making everyone else pay for the consequences of your own actions. People might die because of your choices, and one of those people might just end up being you. I don’t think you really want to die, or to contribute to the deaths of others, because of what Tucker Carlson has said and/or some bullshit meme you saw on Facebook. If you do, please spend some time in serious introspection.
I’m fine. My family, all vaxxed and boosted (or scheduled to do so) is fine. We’ve done the things we should do to protect us from this wave of COVID and in doing so, are helping to protect others. Taking a few minutes out of our day to get a shot was literally the least we could do, for ourselves, and everyone else. It was worth it. Would that everyone felt the same way.