Brace Yourself for Omicron… and Omicron Hysteria

Pre-Omicron: Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Virginia. Source: Virginia Department of Health

by James A. Bacon

The Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus has set foot (perhaps I should say set its little viral spikes) in California, and it is only a matter of days (perhaps hours) before it arrives in Virginia. How worried should we be?

Some will dismiss the virus as nothing special, nothing to divert us from business as usual — the virus is said to have mild symptoms, after all. Others will engage in non-stop fear porn — we don’t know what we don’t know about the variant! Most of us, I suspect, will take a wait-and-see attitude before either blowing it off and putting ourselves at unnecessary risk or subjecting ourselves to another round of economy-wrecking, school-debilitating government mandates.

Personally, I incline toward the former response. The virus isn’t going away; it will continue mutating, and we have to learn to live with it just as we live with the flu. Maintaining a permanent regime of shutdowns and restrictions has massive unintended consequences, from medical procedures foregone to increased social isolation, depression, substance abuse and suicide; from supply-side disruptions to a massive and unsustainable run-up in the federal debt.

At the same time, I try to maintain intellectual humility. In the early stages of the pandemic, I equated the mortality rate with that of the flu. I severely under-estimated the death toll. I’ve also seen the “experts” get it wrong time after time, from “two weeks to bend the curve” to “you’ll only need two shots,” not to mention ignoring the aforesaid massive disruption to mental health and economic stability. We should all recognize the limits of our knowledge.

All too often, peoples’ response to the COVID-19 virus depends upon their political beliefs. As a nation we have divided into antagonistic camps over how we perceive the dangers of the virus and how we tolerate rule by government edict. Not only does the populace at large fall prey to tribalistic thinking, but so do the so-called “experts” in the political class who remain unshaken in their conviction of their intelligence and rectitude despite two years of blunders.

Let us, then, unblinkingly heed the data, even when it is not consistent with our preconceived beliefs.

The chart atop this blog post is a pre-Omicron snapshot of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Virginia as of Dec. 2, 2021. If Omicron is super-transmissible, this is a key metric to watch.

The following chart captures a pre-Omicron snapshot of hospitalizations in Virginia. If cases spike again but hospitalizations don’t, then we shouldn’t care about Omicron. We should also be alert to the possibility that Omicron might displace competing strains and be less virulent in its effects. That would be a good thing, not a reason to engage in a collective freak-out.

Source: Virginia Department of Health

Here is a pre-Omicron view of COVID-related deaths. This is the acid test. Is Omicron deadlier than other variants of COVID-19? At the moment, there is no evidence to suggest that it is. It would be premature to initiate crackdown measures on the assumption that it will be. On the other hand, we should remain vigilant against the possibility that it could be. Watch this metric closely.

Source: Virginia Department of Health

In making rational decisions regarding how we as individuals and society as a whole respond to COVID, we should not focus exclusively on the COVID statistics.  We need to consider the downstream effects of both the virus and measures taken to combat the virus.

Here is a chart showing the number of mental health admissions to Virginia hospitals:

Mental health hospitalizations

Oh, wait, the Virginia Department of Health does not report that number on its COVID dashboard.

Here is a chart showing the number of drug-overdose admissions to hospitals and recorded drug overdose deaths:

Drug overdose admissions

Oh, wait, the Virginia Department of Health does not report that series either.

Here is a graph showing the number of small businesses that have filed for bankruptcy or closed up shop.

Small business closures and bankruptcies.

Oh, wait, VDH doesn’t track economic data.

You get the idea. There’s a lot of stuff we’re not measuring.

Here is another very important thing we don’t know because we’re not measuring it: do natural immunities from previous exposure to the virus confer greater or less resistance to Omicron than the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines?

If Omicron is a milder version of the virus, would it make sense for those not at risk due to age, obesity, or immunological issues to simply get exposed and be done with it?

In summary, there is a lot we don’t know because we don’t measure it, but there are important metrics — especially hospitalizations and deaths — that we can measure and will tell us important things. Let us not assume anything about Omicron. Before initiating another wave of shutdowns, let us see how this new phase of the epidemic unfolds.

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37 responses to “Brace Yourself for Omicron… and Omicron Hysteria”

  1. VaNavVet Avatar

    Jim sets forth a reasonable and measured posture to adopt at this time.

  2. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    “If Omicron is a milder version of the virus, would it make sense for those not at risk due to age, obesity, or immunological issues to simply get exposed and be done with it?”

    “Personally, I incline toward the former response. The virus isn’t going away, it will continue mutating, and we have to learn to live with it like we live with the flu.”


    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      yes JAB has said several mouthfuls here and some are of the Doh variety!

      One of the issues is what “experts” don’t know and our response to that…. which is very much political AND IMHO ignorant.

      We measure a LOT. Nothing keeps those who think we should measure more from doing so but the problem is those folks often have a political agenda.

      No one wants lockdowns but when mitigation is advocated, like masks and social distancing, the ignorati are just as incensed and opposed. It’s like in their minds the virus is a political thing and they disagree with it!

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        The root ball of the problem is that everyone here, Karen, James 1&2, you, me, and even the venerable Steve, haven’t enough knowledge about the disease to formulate a stupid question.

        The difference between us is that some rag on those who actually do have the skills and knowledge, i.e., Fauci, with the belief that their sense of superiority will be mistaken for wisdom, while the rest of us just rag on them.

        Hey, it’s my job.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          Fauci tends to irritate people with his “bedside manner’ and it really reveals how some folks want to hear facts realities, IMHO.

          What he says is not that different from most epidemiologists but just look at how people receive the idea of using masks as mitigation measures EVEN IF they are said to be behaviors that can keep us from lockdowns.

          They don’t want no stinking lockdowns and no masks and no “advice” about shots and boosters.

          In fact, some here have posited that we’re all going to get it at some point so no need to take measures…

          it’s that kind of logic and yep it seems to go to whether one has conservative philosophy or not.

      2. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Oh, and one other thing that may or may not be a fact or relevant. There are 4 or 6 some strains of the flu, and the “seasonal” vaccine is developed based on which strain is believed to be the dominant one.

        Not sure on how long it took (centuries?) for those strains to do the old in and out from species to species to develop, but there they are.

        COV2 has already achieved 5 variants. Mercifully, the vaccine has “some” effect on 4, and maybe the 5th. But the rate of mutation, and the faultering effect on each sofar, should scare the $#!^ out of a sane person.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          Clearly, some Conservatives can handle only so much of this. It totally messes up the binary world they live in.

          And if you actually talk about it – you’re “trolling”.

        2. If taking the decision not to allow things to scare the $#!^”out of me means I am not sane, then I welcome insanity.

          1. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            You ride a motorcycle, and at your age, CLEARLY THEN that area of the brain that evaluates risk/reward is severely damaged… think Bucy.

            OTH, insanity is a rational response to a mad world.

          2. Gary Busey was not a very skilled rider.

            That does not mean some areas of my brain are not damaged, of course.

          3. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            “Gary Busey was not a very skilled rider.”
            Self evident.

  3. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    “Here is a pre-Omicron view of COVID-related deaths. This is the acid test….Watch this metric closely.”

    That metric is a lagging indicator. We SHOULD be watching cases closely (the most leading indicator) and preparing so that as soon as we see hospitalizations rise, we can act – and yes, that may mean restrictions. I agree, no reason to panic at this point however. Vigilance and planning is the key.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      For those that don’t trust the science nor govt, it’s pretty much a bridge too far….

      The question is – are some of the skeptics stating to change their views towards the science and it’s guidance?

      Ironically, some of the skeptics, as they argue against the science, got the shots and boosters just to be on the ‘safe’ side, i guess.

  4. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    The answer to one of Jim’s questions: Apparently South Africa is finding that omicron evades the natural immunity created by other variants, of which I read somewhere there have been far more than six identified. About 13 have been given names to ease identification, but there are far more than that. It is logical that evading natural immunity would be a successful mutation outcome.

    Counting on them T cells that got their wake up call with that third shot! That data is in the works….

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Southern Africa (more than just South Africa) has the world’s largest concentration of immunodeficiency. AIDS, ya know. It’s probably gonna be a real stewpot for these things going forward.

      Read yesterday that some portion of those studying Omicron suspect it involved another species, cat, dog. A human to, oh say, cat to human might account for the huge number of spike protein changes.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Well, we do know this. “Science” cannot satisfy the insatiable demand for information and Fauci is an unacceptable substitute! 😉

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          I like James’ notion that “we’ll just live with it, like the flu, going forward.” (paraphrasing)
          Flu season kills 30 to 70 thousand annually and costs the economy billiokns. Covid is 5x deadlier and has, so far, shown to be bi-seasonal.

          He certainly has a cavalier attitude about “acceptable losses”. Cavalier? Maybe that explains it?

          1. I would say that you have a cavalier attitude toward the consequences of lockdowns — the increase rate of mental illness, suicide, drug overdoses, and foregone medical procedures.

          2. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            No one is calling for lockdowns, and foregone medical procedures. That’s oh so 2020 when we didn’t have vaccines.

            We have vaccines now. Find one hospital where they are not doing elective and/or other sceduled services. Go ahead. If you do, list it so we can look at the vaccine rate.

            So, if you need that hip replacement, you’re gonna just have to schedule out two weeks and get vaccinated… regardless of your poltical beliefs on BOO Dirt and horse paste.

            As for lockdowns in general…

            Blue counties won’t need them, and Red counties won’t allow them. So, where have all the unvaccinated gone, long time passing… c’mon, sing along!

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            It appears that JAB and some others attitudes are shifting now that it appears COVID is not going away.

            But still disagreement about what mitigations to do to keep from lockdowns and school closures when we still have people refusing to accept the science on masks..actually deriding their use and opposing them.

            I note the Walmarts where I live are now wearing face-shields instead of masks… and I’m sure they will be derided also….

            About half of the customers are without masks…

            The thing about “risk” is that it is not binary.

            It’s not that you’re 100% safe with a mask (or other mitigation). But it could provide some additional reduction of risk on a safe-but-sorry basis.

          4. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            They, RWNs like James 1&2, Karen, etc., constantly tell us how smart Asians are and every flu season Hong Kong, and other well photographed places, are festooned in masks and highly vaccinated.

            And yet they eschew masks and vaccines. Too dumb to cheat off the smart kid’s test!

          5. LarrytheG Avatar

            well, maybe the Asians are only “smart” in certain areas….like academics but dumb in other areas like public health?

          6. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Say, did ya catch the Senate Republicans’ brinkmanship and CR fight?

            “That’s it! Grab your pitchforks and torches! We’re gonna stop vaccine mandates if we have to burn the Biden castle down!”
            “Wow! That’s a really deep moat!”
            “Okay. Well, we’ve seen it. Let’s come back in February.”
            “Lattes everyone?”

          7. LarrytheG Avatar

            oh…. it’s everywhere now:

            ” The Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office and fire department will maintain a presence at the next School Board meeting as a response to a book burning event scheduled by a local Facebook group, Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Troy Skebo said Wednesday.

            The anonymously run page Spotsy 411 posted the event Nov. 22, urging Spotsylvania parents to have their children check out books from the school library that they want to see removed, and bring them to the Dec. 13 School Board meeting, where “we will burn every last one of them.”


          8. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            As long as they pay the overdue and lost book fees….

          9. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Public heath not being an academic field…
            Have you bought your landfill dirt yet? You eat it and it both wards off Covid and detoxes the vaccine right outta ya.

          10. LarrytheG Avatar


          11. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            “Asians are and every flu season Hong Kong, and other well photographed places, are festooned in masks and highly vaccinated”

            They wear masks year round, another fact free opinion brought to you by NN.


          12. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            Even better! But, you are smart enough to know that if they wear them all year, then they wear them in flu season too, and so will, with certainty appear in photographs taken during flu season, wearing them.

            Bored at work, eh?

          13. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            In your opinion, however I don’t think you’re going to find many medical professionals that agree with you. However, as it’s been pointed out before, you’re free to do what makes you happy.

          14. Nancy Naive Avatar
            Nancy Naive

            I may have to take back that “smart enough” if you don’t think a season is an element of a year.

          15. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            Well I didn’t respond to your “edited” comment, which is again nothing but you doubling down on being wrong. Clearly you didn’t read the citation, nor are you aware of why they wear them year round. Hint it happened after WWII when the industrialization kicked off, it’s called smog. Similar to what comes out your coffee coolers daily.

            “Bored at work, eh?”

            You’re nothing if not predictable, your standard invocation when you get caught making a fact free post.

  5. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    My take: Omicron will appear, at first, to be relatively benign. This is because the first cases will be among international travelers who test and are overwhelmingly are vaccinated, like 100%.

    I see they are reporting 4 cases now and one in Minnesota. When this stuff hits those highly unvaccinated midwest nutsacks, then we see if the lethality is different.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Well, I fully expect “smart people” will continue to tell science how the virus is really working…. 😉

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        We’ll see.

  6. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Uh oh, you and Karen got some ‘splaining to do…
    NY Post too. The gold standard of RWN news.

  7. Merchantseamen Avatar

    WOW the 2 local “experts” at it again sucking up all the bandwidth.

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