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.

— JS

62 Comments on “An Omicron Update”

  1. Because the issue of vaccines is now — ugh — a political one, Mallet is out. Please be polite to each other.

    Also, COVID and/or vaccine bullshit will be Malleted. Please don’t bother. This isn’t Facebook.

  2. We’re vax’d and boosted, both of us work from home, and both of us wear masks anytime we have to go out in public. But probably 50% or more of the people who I see out and about and in the stores aren’t wearing masks and I have to assume this being Georgia a good number of them aren’t vax’d either.

    My partner had a heart attack in July and we were lucky to be in a Covid “lull” and he was able to quickly get the medical treatment he needed. Now my partner’s ex is dealing with some health issues that are likely to require surgery and we’re not sure she’ll be able to get it considering what’s going on with hospitals right now.

    So honestly, I’m tired and frustrated and angry and bitter about the literal years of our lives that have been taken from us by the chucklefucks who won’t do the bare minimum.

    I’m glad you and yours are doing the right things. Thanks for being part of the solution, Scalzis!

  3. My 65 yr old mom got Omicron just before Christmas. Luckily she was doubled vaxxed (had gotten her 3rd shot the day she was exposed) so her symptoms were mild – headache, body aches, sore throat. She’s hight risk due to lung issues so the relief last March when she got vaccinated was immense.

  4. It’s the pointlessness of it that’s so maddening. Can I just stipulate that my lefty self is thoroughly 0wned so we can put this to bed and everyone go get their shot? You showed me, what with the asphyxiation and dying! Now go get the shot! Stop making me feel nervous that my parents will need emergency care and be unable to get it! Quit spreading this so quick that my kid’s school might have to close because of insufficient staff!

    The thing that really scares me is how hard so many politicians are going at this “it should be everyone’s individual choice” thing. Doesn’t seem like it’s that far from there to cutting out a lot of other mandatory childhood shots as a political ploy. No more measles outbreaks, please!

  5. Michael R. Johnston – Sacramento, CA – Father of an eighth grader, high school English teacher, writer. Forty-nine years old and feeling almost every bit of it on some days, and not a bit of it on others. Based in Sacramento, California, USA
    Michael R. Johnston

    I’m just getting over my bout with the Omicron variant, and … well, I’m glad that:

    I’m vaxxed and boosted
    I got a flu shot
    That I got Omicron

    That last is a guess, of course; but my GP is pretty sure that’s what I ended up with based on the relative mildness of symptoms. For me it was three or four days of a really bad head cold, but not much else. I’m still coughing a little, but otherwise am fine. I’m cleared to go back to the classroom next week, which is nice, as I’ve not enjoyed my extra two weeks off (I’ve actually spent much of the time after the illness faded grading, but I’d much rather be teaching my students).

    Other than that… I’ve been careful, and complying with all mask mandates. So I’m not even sure where I got it (none of my teen students come within ten feet of me for as long as the pandemic is ongoing).

    I’m really hoping this is all a bad memory by May, because I’ve got a book coming out in June and I’m not thrilled with the idea of having to do publicity during a pandemic again. But I figure there will still be some of it still going on. We’ll see what comes.

  6. Hope Griffin Diaz – North Carolina – So, to borrow from a popular shirt, I love Jesus but I cuss a little. Well, a lot. In fact, I just don't believe Jesus really gives a shit about the word 🤬 I am married to the love of my life, Louie (aka Luis) and have an adult child, Christy. Reading transports me to places that are inaccessible to me right now. Whether those places address in space or in areas I'm unable to travel, I am grateful for books and authors who keep my mind occupied. I fancy myself an amateur gardener, I am owned by a large black purr machine maine coon cat named Samwise aka #SamSam and a Border Collie/Australian Cattle dog mix named Daisy. I knit. I craft. I sew. These are at my leisure and are hobbies. I don't take commissions nor do I do alterations. I'm an aspiring human being. I battle several mental illnesses including depression, major panic disorder, agoraphobia, germaphobia, claustrophobia, and some other assorted illnesses. I also have fibromyalgia and have had numerous traumatic brain injuries (into the double digits now). I am not able to drive at night.
    Hope Diaz

    I really do hope that omicron slinks away and March is a brilliant month for you. A happy Scalzi is great. Where’s my scamperbeasts picture. :D

  7. And now the Supreme Court has come in as being on the side of the virus (with at least one of the most specious arguments I’ve seen, worse than most Twitter arguments).

    The real hell of of it is that I’ve seen stats that say there’s a real gap between partially vaccinated and complete (first round) vaccinated, as well as first round vaccinated and boosted.

  8. Thank you to you and to everyone who is being a responsible member of society. At this point, I’m no longer willing to give any slack to people who have fallen for the lies they were fed. Eventually the “stupid or malicious?” question resolves itself as “malicious.”

  9. I guess it’s all political to a lesser or greater extent.

    Politics dictate how different countries have responded to COVID-19 and continue to do so. And I do wish that the COVAX initiative for equitable vaccine distribution had succeeded, which would have reduced the number of new variants arising. As it is, we have countries like the USA (and New Zealand where I am) already administering their third Pfizer dose, while many poorer countries for example in the African continent are woefully under-vaccinated.

    Until most of the world is vaccinated, COVID-19 will have abundant hosts to infect, to replicate, to acquire mutations, and potentially birth new, worse variants.

    New Zealand so far has no Omicron in its community. We have managed to leverage our initial advantages (being relatively isolated, an island nation, COVID arriving late enough that we knew it was not “just a bad flu” so went into hard lockdown as a first response, and a relatively cohesive country helped with that) that we are still benefitting from them. The cautious approach has meant that New Zealand’s borders are still mostly closed unless you are a resident or have an exemption. Despite that, all arrivals have to spend time in government managed quarantine hotels (It’s in the quarantine hotels that we are detecting & containing Onicron for now).

    The downside of this approach (and there are many pain points) has meant that NZ’s economy is slow to open up, many New Zealanders struggle to book a quarantine hotel spot so they can return home, our international tourism industry is currently dead. But so far, the vast majority of NZers support this more cautious approach: ~90% of our eligible population are double-dosed with Pfizer. Omicron is coming, but we are better placed to cope.

  10. I work in a SCIF, so I have to go into the office every day. So I’m vaxxed, boosted, and wear a mask in the grocery store.

    And because I’m a salaried professional I get unlimited paid sick leave if I do catch Covid.

  11. Unfortunately this Omicron variant seems to be so infectious that even people who take all the precautions are catching it. I live in Canada and we have a much higher vaccination rate than in the US. Nevertheless we have record numbers of positive cases and hospital admissions. One of our top public health officials said yesterday that everyone in my province will come into contact with Omicron. I’m still staying away from others and masking using a KN95 mask and disinfecting my hands after being in a store etc. I have had the three shots so I’m hopeful that if I do catch it that it won’t be any worse than a “bad flu” which I had in the days prior to annual flu shots. Those flus were pretty awful so I really don’t want to get Covid.

  12. I somewhat disagree with one thing you said, John: “we have little control over how variants emerge”. It’s true that we can’t prevent variants. But if vaccination had been universally practiced worldwide, the likelihood of dangerous variants would have been greatly reduced. Fewer infections equal fewer chances for mutations. That’s something we as humans do have control over. Sadly, we (some of us, anyway) just botched it.

  13. (Writing from Toronto) .. I was ecstatic when I heard there were vaccines available a year ago, and got my two shots as soon as I could. I also got boosted last month, again, as early as I could.
    I can understand some vaccine hesitancy early on, but now, after vaccines have been around for a year? How are people still protesting that It’s All A Plot?
    Do they think there’s Some Evil Plan to show video of stacked up patients in the hospitals as if it’s made up just about everywhere on the planet?
    And why do they go to the hospital when they catch the virus? They don’t trust medical experts to give them a vaccine, but .. they do trust them to treat them when they get sick?
    It’s such a preventable tragedy. Well, I’ll be staying in for the next six months, I guess.
    Stay safe, everyone.

  14. I’m retired and fully vexed and boosted. I don’t go out that much except for essential stuff (groceries, doctor visits, etc.) and I’ve got a large supply of KN95 masks for when I do go out. (I bought about 100 last winter. Sometime around June I was thinking I probably had a lifetime supply. Now, I’m wondering if I should order more.) So I feel relatively good about my personal chances.

    Also, a comment on “it’s just a bad flu”.
    The last time I had the flu I felt shitty for at least a week and a half. I’m willing to take a few shots to avoid that even without the chance that that it’s a lot worse and might kill me.

  15. About 3 weeks ago my father in law felt like a baby elephant was sitting on his chest. Going to the ER he waited over 9 hours neither a doctor or a nurse practitioner ever looked at him. he left after being told in another couple of hours a doctor MIGHT look at him. He is lucky and doing well it wasn’t because of going to the hospital. Things are worse now — due to the unvaccinated people clogging the system and the sociopaths that mislead them.

  16. Having an anti-vax relative, I can testify that they don’t see it as “I’m going to affirmatively choose to put myself and others at risk and make the situation worse for everyone.” They see themselves as free-thinking patriots who are resisting the brainwashing of Big Pharma/the Democrats/Biden/Silicon Valley/Barney the Dinosaur. They see themselves as choosing to avoid a harmful, unknown treatment being forced on them by a tyrannical government and a propagandist media. Their minds exist in an entirely alternate universe, and I honestly don’t know if it’s possible to reach them.

  17. NYC checking in here, and…it’s a mess. I personally know [counts] 27 people who have tested positive recently. My kid’s teacher is out. My kid’s school is reporting 5-6 cases per day. This is about an order of magnitude more than any of the previous waves.

    Plus side, I’m pretty sure everyone I know is vaxxed, and, it seems like if you are vaxxed and don’t have many co-morbities, it’s a bad cold. I contrast with the first wave where 3 friends of friends of mine (including the mother of a very dear friend of mine) died from covid.

    NYC has decent vax numbers and people are actually pretty good about wearing masks on public transit on the like so, fingers crossed it will peak and decline.

    GET VAXXED PEOPLE.

  18. You wrote “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.”

    To clarify that point, yes “most likely”, but there are still large numbers of triple-vaxed people (albeit a relatively small percentage) getting infected and being hospitalized, or ending up with Long Covid. So everybody should continue to take Omicron seriously even after the peak of this wave passes. Mask, distance, and don’t share air with strangers if you can avoid doing so.

    Concerning workers who come into your house for repairs etc., the issue isn’t proximity: it’s how fast the old air is cleared from your house, taking the virus with it. The virus lingers in the air for hours and builds up in concentration if you have a steady source (someone infected breathing in your house). Best practices for such situations are to insist on the workers showing proof of vaccination before you let them in, then wear a good mask (ideally N95) and leave as many windows open as you can throughout the work and until a couple hours after the workers leave. If you’re really paranoid or have a pre-existing condition, consider investing in a Corsi-Rosenthal box (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corsi%E2%80%93Rosenthal_Box) to clean the air.

  19. Remember nearly two years ago when “flatten the curve” was a mantra that a very large amount of the population had taken to heart? No says “flatten the curve” anymore, but this is the exact curve we need to avoid.

  20. Hope Charlie isn’t fussing too much about being prevented from Helping The Contractors. I assume the cats are staying away due to noise levels in the upstairs bathroom?

    We’re seeing record levels around here. One of my relatives was supposed to have cataract surgery this month; she’s been told by her doctor to postpone at least 6 months.

    I’m hoping this spike means Omicron will burn itself out just as fast, but I don’t want to bet on it.

  21. I was just informed today that my 25 year-old nephew in Knoxville who’s had both shots and a booster just tested positive for the virus. I have not heard whether or not he is showing symptoms or otherwise ill in any way but he’s a well-educated, typically healthy young man who works out regularly and consumes a healthy diet (low on macs-n-cheese and grape jelly burritos 😋). Good luck to the Scalzi family. No one is safe from this thing. Still.

  22. Amazing how many times this has to be repeated. The guy who handled maintenance in our building was a big-time Trump supporter who said “COVID is a hoax.” Of course he never got vaccinated, even though he had a beautiful grandaughter living with him. End of September he took ill and on October 2, he died – of COVID. While you feel badly for his family – it’s hard to feel sorry for such willful stupidity

  23. Recently, we my husband and I went to a funeral (Not Covid-related.) Our friend had had many friends, and the church was full of people. Very few of them wore masks; in fact, the pastor and one other person came up to us and told us that masks were not required. We kept our on, and refrained from yelling at them since that would have upset the deceased’s family. Besides, if they’re still deniers I doubt I could change their so-called minds.

  24. I just checked, and according to the NYT, some 844000 people have died of SARS-COV2 as of “now” (01/13/2022:1500 hours PST). I am vexed (two injections, 1 booster) as is my wife and our adult offspring.

    Like you, Mr. Scalzi, I’m a writer (nowhere near as successful as you are, but I have hope) so, like you, I am able to minimize outside contacts. I find it terribly hard to understand what I can only see as self-destructive impulses on the part of the anti-vaxxer luddites. What I feel for them, however, is not anger so much as sorrow. No one deserves to die the way SARS-COV2 kills, no one deserves to be crippled the way SARS-COV2 seems to be doing as often as in 20% of cases (long covid).

    Please stay safe and well (you and all your family and friends).

  25. Got my Pfizeization boosted, and got a flu shot. Also had a UV light put in the air handler of the HVAC unit.

    Wear a mask going through any door except my own. Try to stay socially distant, but the natives forgot how to do that too. Use an alcohol swab on my hands when I get back to my truck, even if I went kayaking or biking.

    The Covid deniers I know seem right on the edge of hysteria, They know that there arguments don’t hold together, but it is like junior high peer pressure for them.

    I’m glad I am not them and can almost think clearly about stuff like politics; the GOP has to go. I don’t care where they go, just go.

  26. “The Puzzle of America’s record Covid hospital rate” is the headline on a European news website, as of seven hours ago. As you say, needless infections.

    Of course the anti-vaxxers won’t see the article, as they believe in “American Exceptionalism,” as when they didn’t care to research how other rich nations have handled “socialized medicine.”

    As for freedom, a freedom lover said, “The right to swing you arms stops where my nose begins.”

    Also, I am reminded of how survival preppers were happy to sacrifice their holiday to the Pacific in order to fund supplies or a cabin. Similarly, a freedom lover should be willing to happily sacrifice going to bars, restaurants and sporting events in order to keep poison from his arm. Should but won’t.

  27. My stepdaughter lives in one of those East coast Red states filled with proponents of all things conspiracy. She’s living w/her mom, whose entire family refuses to get vaxxed, because they really truly believe that if vaccinated, “We’ll be dead within three years.” Or, “you’ll get ‘soft skin cancer.'” Whatever the hell that is. I’m pretty sure that’s not a thing. And apparently more than half of humanity will be dead of vaccination-caused whatever in three years. That ought to free up the hospitals some.

    Anyway, their car died, and an aunt who was giving her rides (they live rurally) told her the aunt would not take her anywhere if she got vaxxed. When we heard that, we immediately helped her to buy a used car that worked. She went and finally got her first dose of the vaccine, but has to continue to lie to her family, including her mother, who has comorbidities beyond counting. It’s just so sad and stupid.

  28. My spouse and I are both fully vaxxed (April) and boosted (October). And we both popped positive Covid tests in December, right before Christmas. Despite the fact that we’re both old and fat plus other assorted issues, we both experienced it like a bad head-cold, and our doc agrees it was likely omicron. We’re both fully recovered, and since I work from home and had such minimal symptoms, I didn’t even have to take any sick leave.

    On the other hand, the father of a young friend of ours caught Covid in December also. The father was a radical right-wing conspiracy theorist, and was not vaccinated. He died two days before Christmas.

    So based on a sample of three, it seems plausible that if you’re vaccinated, omicron will probably be an uncomfortable nuisance but nothing more, whereas if you have declined the opportunity to protect yourself, you may very well kick the bucket. I mean, if you feel that “freedom of choice” means you have the right to die unnecessarily, well, ok, I guess. But stop clogging up the damned ERs so that folks who actually want to survive can get in for treatment of real emergencies.

    @Don, one of your comments caught my eye:
    “The thing that really scares me is how hard so many politicians are going at this “it should be everyone’s individual choice” thing.”

    Do you suppose that maybe they’ll expand that “everyone’s individual choice” idea to abortion rights? I mean, if a Covidiot has a right to an individual choice that they want to die of a preventable illness, isn’t it logical that a woman should have the individual choice not to produce an unwanted kid?

    If I actually thought that was possible for even one millisecond, I might be a bit more inclined to let the idiots pursue their “individual choice” nonsense and kill themselves off. But of course I know better.

    To the Scalzi clan, I wish you health, or if (when?) you get ill, I wish you a speedy and complete recovery. Thanks for taking care of yourselves.

  29. Thank you. You pretty much said what I have been thinking for the last 6 months, and probably said it better than I would have. So, again, thanks. Give the kitties an ear scfitch from me & Charlie a kiss.

  30. Jane N. Bigelow:

    Over the summer a cousin-by-marriage contracted COVID and died of it after spending two months in the hospital, including a month or so on a vent. We went to the funeral and were among only ~5% of a couple hundred attendees wearing masks, in an enclosed church sanctuary with the usual singing and close seating arrangements.

    I can’t even with people.

  31. I had Covid in Nov/20 and am still dealing with lack of smell and altered taste. I am vaccinated and have gotten a booster and flu shot. I am now only working twice a week (nursing home) and don’t leave the house unless I have to. When I do go to the store I wear a N95 mask. We have had a few breakthrough cases at work but no serious illness so far.
    We have high numbers in our state and the hospitals are struggling and we have had a high vaccination rate – about 75% but I don’t know how many got booster shots. Stay safe everyone. I am hoping that in the next few weeks cases will decline here.

  32. Saw this one the other day: “If I go to ‘x’ the risk for me is the same there as here”

    Just the sheer wilfull stupidity of that statement:
    1) Yeah, because the risk in your house is the same as in an airport, a hotel, etc.
    2) It’s not just about you, dingdong, it’s about all of us

    I mean, I just can’t anymore

  33. For the sake of my sanity, I don’t face reality of what people are like. Hence for WWII I, like society, was surprised at how many folks were not mentally or physically fit.

    During the heyday of blogs I was astonished to learn how many people had a reading comprehension level like those tests in elementary school. It is bizarre to look at the comments after a Youtube interview or debate, and see how some people didn’t listen well at all.

    Now I’ve had my nose rubbed in the fact that folks can live in a society based on science, graduate high school, and believe the most ludicrous social media.

    I guess people had been like that all these decades and had never changed.

    You know in WWI how so many thought the rains were from the cannons? Back when we had the space shuttle the lady next door, during tornado season, pounded the table to say, “Those dam astronauts!”

    I want to be proud to be a member of society, and therefore as soon as Covid is over I’m probably going back into denial. Either that or look into how science and library research is managed in local schools.

  34. Omicron has materially affected the commissioning of the James Webb Space Telescope. Getting tested every other day is no fun, having team members test positive is even worse.

    The Court today decided that individuals have a liberty interest in getting sick and dying, as long as they don’t work in healthcare. Part of me wants to suggest we hurry that along, but the economy is already disrupted enough. If I had a single good idea for how to reduce the political divide, I’d run for office.

    Can we please return to cat pictures?

  35. I’m in New Zealand and I can confirm what the earlier commenter said about how things are currently going here. (One small point: NZ vax rate is 80% of the population. The media here keep reporting is as 90% of the eligible population. Which is just flimflam. The virus isn’t going to check your vax card.)

    What upsets me is that after 18 months (? thereabouts) of following the science and making this one of the luckiest countries, some time in mid-November Ardern seems to have decided it’s really all too hard on the hotelkeepers and bars and we have to “live with it.”

    You can live with it. Places like Hong Kong prove that. Super-high vax rates, universal masking, good at social distancing, effective contact tracing and isolation for exposed people. Yes, it does work.

    But that’s not NZ. People here haven’t fought their way through this pandemic. Most people have no clue about mask-wearing. Social distancing is something that happens on TV. And the government is already giving up on contact tracing, quietly, before they’ve even hit omicron-level trouble.

    As somebody said, when we learned to live with typhoid we did it building closed sewers and washing our hands. We didn’t just go cook dinner with poopy fingers.

    And while staring down the barrel of the “hospitality” industry-friendly Russian roulette pistol the government is pointing at us, they have the gall to keep up the marketing speak about following the science and caring about people. Meanwhile, the Minister of Health talks calmly about how omicron will be here in a few weeks.

    The last laugh, assuming I live to see it, will be on him. This place has a national health system. There’s no indication that breakthrough infections don’t result in long covid at the same rate (c. 15% significant consequences) as regular ones. That’s a massive burden that will crash into the health system because we “have to live with it” so barkeeps can make money.

    People are idiots. Even the good ones who manage not to be idiots for a while.

  36. 9 year old vaxxed son finally caught it early this week with mild symptoms so far none of us caught it or perhaps the vaccine worked. It sounds like 80% of his work group is currently out with it even though they are masked all day except for lunch. This is the first time anyone in our family has caught it (that we know of for sure).

  37. About 18% of my (affluent, mostly-WFH, in tech) coworkers so far have already caught omicron. They’re all vaxxed and boosted (and at least one had already had it in 2020). It just didn’t seem to matter in terms of whether they caught it (the severity of disease was obviously much lower, though now one of my teammates is quitting because of health issues after having COVID soooooo yeah).

    The asymptomatic, vaccinated rate of infection in highly-vaccinated San Francisco (aka how many people are walking around unknowingly spewing virus) was around 12% of the total population a few days ago. (UCSF’s hospital tests everybody and actually tracks whether they came in for COVID stuff or a broken leg or whatever. It’s been invaluable if terrifying.)

    Real talk: I don’t think being in a different room is going to protect you from your contractors, to be completely honest. This thing’s as contagious as freaking measles.

  38. @Don

    “The thing that really scares me is how hard so many politicians are going at this “it should be everyone’s individual choice” thing.”

    I’m just angered that they took the language of the reproductive rights movement to frame the choice to be a plague rat as “personal freedom”, while they go out of their way to deny those same rights to people who can get pregnant. Absolutely vile.

  39. so… yeah… I’m back to counting refrigerated trucks…
    that and screaming into my pillow and sipping vodka slowly to achieve a mild numbness… during Trump years although I kept repeating “computer end simulation, exit holodeck” but no such luck no exit… now? something I will be doing daily along with the slow sipping and muffled screaming…

    in a way I am glad that I cannot access medical care and get my cardiac issues resolved… living an additional 8 or 9 years would mean I’d be there to watch the ending of America

    I will be polite as I express hyper-political thoughts such as wondering how loudly Vlad Putin is laughing as he watches us just about break everything important and sacred… there’s going to be blood in the streets come Election Week (what with mail-in ballots no longer a single day) because the KKK is winning and I’m worried that after they strip the vote from black folk it will be us Jewish folk next up… and efforts to fix what’s broken deliberately tripped up by Beltway insiders… otherwise clever people foolishly believing that once the fascists are in control they’ll keep their promises to share unbridled power and opportunities to loot the treasury

    I’m not sleeping well… too many nightmares when I’m awake and too few sweet dreams when I close my eyes

  40. A lot of them do know. As one doctor said online recently — after one dying patient’s family had ordered him to cure the man with vitamin C and ivermectin — they could do it at home if they really believed that. But they can’t acknowledge they’re wrong, maybe not even to themselves.
    I have more contempt for the anti-vaxxers spewing dumber and dumber bullshit. The guy who’s now recommending drinking your own urine to treat covid. Sen. Ron Johnson saying we can’t come up with a better vaccine than God’s natural immunity (the ghosts of Edward Jenner and Jonas Salk would like a word). And a state-level Republican saying the virus is so small we can’t cure or prevent it, or even know if we have it.

  41. If the Covid varieties were more lethal and the available vaccinations were proven to be very effective at preventing the spread, then to me mandates would make more sense. But that’s not where we are and personal freedom of choice still is an option in my book. If contracting COVID was 50% or more likely to kill you and the vaccination was proven to make a person immune to this, then the vaccinations would be viewed differently by many people. (I’m vax’d to the hilt but my spouse has avoided all vaccinations since she was an adult).

  42. One of my dearest friends just lost his father.

    His father did not get Covid; he had serious medical problems, and because the unvaxxed idiots in his deep southern state had swamped the entire underfunded and badly supported health care system there, they couldn’t get anything approaching decent care for a man who might have lived.

  43. My husband’s extended family has family by marriage…

    Their entire anti-vaxxer clan got Delta over Thanksgiving. A couple of them spent a week+ in the hospital.

    They still decided not to get vaccinated.

    Yesterday DH got an email telling him that the entire clan now has Covid again (from another party at the Grandma’s). They’ve all gotten Covid twice in only a few months and are still anti-vaxx. (The one person there who was vaxxed and boosted did not get it, though she also only was there for 2 hours and the rest were there longer, but still.) Also they’re still taking ivermectin and hyrocloroquinine, even though they didn’t help last time.

    Evil politicians are evil.

  44. Everyone in my family (also in Ohio) is vaxxed, boosted, and flu-shotted. Feels good to know we’re doing our part to help protect ourselves and our neighbors, even if our neighbors aren’t interested in doing the same.

    I have strong words and feelings about the people who have allowed themselves to be manipulated into fighting against vaccines. I recognize they’ve been fed lies, but I also recognize how much they LOVE the taste of those lies and keep heading back for more rounds at the conspiracy buffet. “Nom nom. Eat up, kids. That’s the taste of freedom on your plates.”

    Yeah, we’re free to make choices, but we can never be free from the consequences of those choices, and some people just never seem to suffer the consequences, which feels totally unfair to those of us trying to do the right thing.

  45. AS Yogi Berra supposedly said (probably not, but…) , it’s deja vu all over again.

    I had (maybe) the original Covid nearly two years ago (at least, I tested positive, though I had no symptoms and my wife never got it), but otherwise we’ve been fine. New York is mostly good, certainly our neighborhood is.

    But we’ve driven down to Florida for the winter as we’ve done most years (not 2021) since my wife retired, and as her hairdresser said, “it’s the Wild West here.” No, there is NO harassment or comments or dirty looks (as she was worried about) for wearing masks, but…most people in South Florida act like this is 2019! A percentage wear masks, depending on where you are and what the business specifies, but given the option, mask wearers are a decided minority. Most restaurant staff wear masks, but the (palm Beach) Gardens Mall was bad, and the food court was a hellhole – hundreds of people, mostly groups of teens, with almost NO masks. One exception: the Apple Store, with strict regulations and enforcement. Otherwise, every bad thing you’ve heard about Florida under DeSantis is true, Yeah, the weather is pretty great compared with the Northeast, but the people? Not so much.

  46. Karen Tolva: “Real talk: I don’t think being in a different room is going to protect you from your contractors, to be completely honest. This thing’s as contagious as freaking measles.”

    Over the holiday, my wife (vaxxed, masks daily) got Omicron from someone at work. She brought it home and infected me (vaxxed and boosted just two weeks prior). She couldn’t get her booster because she got Covid right before the booster appointment. My son who lives with us kept isolated to his room and we masked and he did not get it, despite being in relative close quarters in the house for a full week (my wife got a positive result a week before Christmas, but we didn’t get the result until the 23rd…the overwhelmed medical system never called us, we found it on the health center’s app). My son and I immediately got tested on Christmas Day, but didn’t get results for nearly four days ourselves. I felt absolutely normal, but turned out I was asymptomatic; my son was negative and stayed so, despite being in the same house on another floor for over a week in the same house with two positive people. I guess that shows how well the booster works, as I suffered no ill effects from Omicron (my vaxxed wife, however, was knocked down hard…this was the sickest she’d been in years and it was nearly 9 days before she recovered….on the ninth day when she actually had an appetite, she nearly cried tears of joy when she ate some McDonald’s fries).

    Which isn’t to say that there’s no risk, but in my direct experience, proper precaution can certainly be a factor.

    Mostly, I’m just emotionally exhausted. My wife’s sister’s family has had Covid and SOME of them got vaxxed. They are full-on FOX NEWS there and the husband refuses to get vaxxed. We cancelled Thanksgiving with them over it and then Covid cancelled Christmas…but we weren’t going BEFORE we found out about the positive diagnosis. The wife, who is a nurse, told us about 6 months ago that she, someone giving a dozen covid tests DAILY, didn’t even think she could get it…and then two days later got it. She infected some of her family, but not the unvaccinated husband. She got vaxxed, but her husband refuses to do so, despite needing to take a weekly test to prove he’s clean (and having done that once, UGH). My family REALLY doesn’t like my sister-in-law’s family, so this was kind of a mixed blessing….we had an excuse not to see them.

    It turns out that my SIL got Covid again over the holiday. I don’t like that I feel like that’s a little justified, since she yelled at my wife for cancelling Christmas for ‘living in fear’. But I’m just so goddamned frustrated with people just not willing to make even the most mild of sacrifices to allow us to deal with the problem and return to normal. During the summer, it felt like we’d managed to do it despite them, then DELTA. We discovered that it was mostly hitting the unvaxxed, so we moved on slowly, then OMICRON.

    I realize that this is the new normal, but seeing idiots be idiots and seeing political agents use this for short-term gain and suffer no consequences (while hurting us all, long term) is just…..GAH.

  47. Hope Griffin Diaz – North Carolina – So, to borrow from a popular shirt, I love Jesus but I cuss a little. Well, a lot. In fact, I just don't believe Jesus really gives a shit about the word 🤬 I am married to the love of my life, Louie (aka Luis) and have an adult child, Christy. Reading transports me to places that are inaccessible to me right now. Whether those places address in space or in areas I'm unable to travel, I am grateful for books and authors who keep my mind occupied. I fancy myself an amateur gardener, I am owned by a large black purr machine maine coon cat named Samwise aka #SamSam and a Border Collie/Australian Cattle dog mix named Daisy. I knit. I craft. I sew. These are at my leisure and are hobbies. I don't take commissions nor do I do alterations. I'm an aspiring human being. I battle several mental illnesses including depression, major panic disorder, agoraphobia, germaphobia, claustrophobia, and some other assorted illnesses. I also have fibromyalgia and have had numerous traumatic brain injuries (into the double digits now). I am not able to drive at night.
    Hope Diaz

    John, I thought of you when I read this article:

    https://apnews.com/article/omicron-wave-britain-us-160ded1ce8d82075057630e11b610358

    Hopefully we are seeing the peak and things are heading back to what is now normal.

  48. @ GARY D SARGENT:

    “If the Covid varieties were more lethal and the available vaccinations were proven to be very effective at preventing the spread, then to me mandates would make more sense.”

    COVID-19 is killing as many, or more Americans per day than Al-Qaeda did on 9/11. Every day. Probably hundreds (thousands) more deaths are caused indirectly by covidiots clogging up the healthcare system. Every day. How much “more lethal” does it need to get before “mandates start making sense”?

    “personal freedom of choice still is an option in my book”

    Freedom of movement is also a guaranteed right. It’s still illegal to run other people over while driving a vehicle, last time I checked.

    “If contracting COVID was 50% or more likely to kill you and the vaccination was proven to make a person immune to this, then the vaccinations would be viewed differently by many people.”

    So if the mortality rate went from 3% to 4.5%… this would cause a huge paradigm shift in how we view the pandemic?

    95+% of COVID-19 deaths are among the unvaccinated. No vaccine ever developed “guarantees” total immunity. So no, “many people” would still probably be covidiots, IMO.

    @ WizarDru:

    “My family REALLY doesn’t like my sister-in-law’s family, so this was kind of a mixed blessing….we had an excuse not to see them.”

    It’s definitely a silver lining to any crisis. I purged most toxic garbage humans from my life 20 years ago, right after 9/11, then a few stragglers during the Teabagger heyday of 2008/09. As a result, interactions with family and friends during the Trump presidency (and now COVID-19) have been uniformly pleasant. Life is too short to spend it with people you despise.

  49. I live in Belgium. Approx. 85% of all adults have been fully vaccinated, around 77% of the total population. That’s the good news.

    The bad news is: vaccines don’t prevent people from infecting others. They lower the effects of the virus and they help combat the transmission rate of the virus, but they don’t work 100%. That’s why fully vaxxed and boosted people can still get ill and/or transit the virus to others.

    Some more bad news: social studies indicate that one can’t change people’s convictions easily, even when supported by hard data or scientific proof. Once most people are convinced of something, they man the trenches whenever that conviction gets challenged. That’s why when I watch the news from Belgium, France, Germany, the UK, the USA,… I always hear the same arguments being used – with zero effect on the people with a different opinion (no matter what opinion it might be).

    As far as I can tell, and I’m no scientist, the vaccines are doing a good job. So do masks, social distancing, work-at-home policies, etc., etc. Which is why my family is trying to do all those things. If not for our own health, then for the health of our loved ones. But some of those loved ones are anti-vax. That’s a tough one. I don’t know how to deal with that.

    What doesn’t help either: as someone else in the comments has already pointed out, there are lots of countries where the majority of the population hasn’t even had access to the vaccines yet. While my own country has already given over 50% of the total population a booster shot, more than half of the entire population of Black Africa hasn’t even received a first shot – not because of anti-vax sentiment, but because the vaccines aren’t available. That makes me angry, and ashamed of myself too: I got my booster shot several weeks ago, and someone in country X or Y might die because my shot could have made the difference for that person if it had been sent to that country instead of Belgium.

    There but for the grace of God… – you know what I mean. Which is why this year I’m donating more to charity than ever.

  50. Add one more to the usual categories: those who can get the vaccines, and do, but get little or no protection from them because of compromised immune systems. I have a friend who’s on immune-suppressive drugs (organ recipient) who’s vaxxed plus 2 boosters, and has a negligible amount of antibodies. The rest of us need to do the right thing to protect him.

  51. As for freedom, a freedom lover said, “The right to swing you arms stops where my nose begins.”

    or my breathing space, as it were…

    The problem is that far too many people think as if they were the only ones with rights and freedoms and other people have none. Masking is a minor and LEAST RESTRICTIVE way to respect both yours and other people’s freedom.

  52. I have always suspected that people who say “Just the flu” have never actually had the flu. I did have the flu in 8th grade, and I have not been even close to that sick since. It was terrible! Two weeks in bed, not able to eat solid food. So being told that Covid-19 is no worse than the flu would give me no comfort at all. I also had relatives who died in the Spanish flu of 1918. I take the flu seriously. I get my flu shot annually, and will take as many doses of Covid vaccine as necessary. I wear masks where ever I go. I am actually thinking of wearing masks outdoors forever. I had no sign of my allergies last year, and not sneezing and coughing all spring and summer is worth having people look at me funny.

  53. I am as outraged and disgusted by covid deniers, anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers as I was when Covid officially hit landfall in the Spring of 2020.

    I have neither empathy nor sympathy for political anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers who’d rather risk their and others’ lives than admit (if only to themselves) that right wing rags and wingnuts’ social media posts are penned almost exclusively for outraged, incurious and terrified lemmings, proud garbage people, and supposed “alpha” males who gulp up reactionary bullshit by the mouthfull.

    I’ve tried to understand that these may be misinformed people who don’t realize they’re being exploited for their refusal or inability to think critically.
    Still, I always come back to the fact that these folks are, in large part, responsible for the slow but steady crumbling of our social, economic and medical infrastructure.

    Their straw-man arguments about “freedom” and “totalitarianism” are just white noise at this point, particularly because these same people are perfectly alright with actual totalitarianism when it hurts those they hate or disagree with.
    Parenthetically, we can talk about the relationship between masking and vaccine mandates when folks are being forced to mask up and get jabbed under threat of jail or exicution.

    The part of me that is just tired and mad says let them be “free” to fight for every breath when their risky decisions catch up to them. The even meaner part of me is glad to see these “muricans” being eliminated from the electorate and gene pool. I like that Covid is making an example of them, if only for those who know and love them. I’m not proud of that, but there it is.

    I have loved watchihng them lose their jobs and get dragged all over the internet when their antics go viral; I hope this continues as the profound and far-reaching effects of their behavior continue to worsen for everyone.

    Additionally, I am a black woman, and even as I get that this country has and continues to A, treat black folks like lab rats and B, treat us poorly when we go for medical care of any kind, I can’t help growing frustrated with the success of what appears to be a serious effort to keep us afraid, unvaccinated and thus vulnerable in the midst of this pandemic.

    As much as I hate to say this, I’m all for prioritizing vaccinated covid patients who show up at the ER over those who are suffering the consequences of personal choices they’ve made as scared citizens and “free muricans.”

    In a triage situation, care should be given to those with a higher likelihood of survival, and the objective reality is that the vaccinated have a better chance of coming out of the hospital alive.

    It isn’t about medical professionals making decisions based on politics; it’s about preserving life with the limited resources they have available to them.

    I say this as someone with two sisters who flatly refuse to get vaccinated, even though one is plus-sized and the other has had a run-in with Covid and was lucky enough to survive it in spite of asthma and high blood pressure.

    I am terrified for them both, but I’m tired of their excuses.

  54. Lots of comments here .. too many to really read. But it seems that I don’t see many comments that recognize that at least some, and my spouse included, are truly fearful of receiving any vaccine .. be it the flu or covid. They are not exactly deniers but fear for potentially negative outcomes. My BIL had his second shot last March. Within about 3 days he had a bad stroke that left him paralyzed on his left side. This event only reinforced my spouses fear of the vaccine. Of course the cause and effect in this case is not proven in any way but it stokes fear.

  55. The “they’re just scared” defense can only go so far, particularly because we cram all kinds of things into our mouths every day and haven’t a clue what’s in that stuff.

    The folks who smoke and drink but won’t get vaccinated are especially hilarious, as there are direct links between those vices and serious health consequences.

    Bottom line, if you don’t want to get vaccinated, fine. Just understand that there are things you won’t be able to do and places you won’t be able to go.

    And folks who’d rather brave a debilitating and deadly virus than take the risk of getting vaccinated are ridiculous.

  56. @ Baird

    You make a good point, one that’s been made a lot in conjunction with need for a global response, but largely ignored.

    There’s a saying that a teacher should be an example – at least, of what to avoid, if one cannot be the other kind. We’re providing a useful example for future generations. May they profit from it.

  57. I am lucky in that my entire family, including the right-wing majority, is treating Covid vaccinations as a normal health precaution. I think part of the reason is that we (my parents, siblings, and I) lived overseas for years in South and Southeast Asia, where diseases like smallpox remained dangerous until very late . Politics doesn’t enter into it.

    Haven’t asked them if they favor vaccine mandates, though. I doubt I’d like all the answers I’d get.

    Spider Robinson wrote, years ago, that we should have a worldwide yearly holiday to celebrate the day Smallpox was declared eradicated – May 8, 1980 -through widespread, systematic and relentless vaccination programs. I think many Americans take exceptionalism way too far – they think that even if we are struck by the same pandemic that’s infecting the rest of the world, we shouldn’t need to change our habits and lifestyles. I never expected to see so many of my fellow citizens willing to die rather than change their thinking, though.

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