As I write this, the Omicron Variant is spreading like wildfire, and many people are nervous. Some are even on the verge of panicking. Most of the COVID-related news is dire. As I wrote in my last blog, the first case of Omicron in the US was detected on December 1, and in just 20 days the CDC is reporting that it has become the most dominant strain in the country. 20 days!
Some salient points regarding Omicron courtesy of the CDC (unless otherwise indicated):
- The Omicron variant now accounts for some 73% of new COVID cases.
- The White House and multiple news sources are predicting that we are in for a “hard winter.”
- According to the the World Health Organization Omicron cases are now doubling every 1 1/2 to three days.
- The US is trying to ramp up testing, but there is a shortage of testing kits. In many areas those seeking to be tested have been subjected to long lines of more than two hours.
- Currently, about 1.8 million vaccine doses are being administered daily.
- According to Johns Hopkins University the US is averaging about 127,000 new cases per day, which is a substantial increase over the 70,000 average as recently as November. Currently, the US is averaging about 1,300 COVID deaths per day, which is a 12% increase in just one month.
- Jonathan Reiner, CNN medical analyst, reported that Omicron is “as contagious as measles, and that’s about the most contagious virus that we’ve seen.”
- Currently, across the country over 69,000 persons are hospitalized with COVID, and many hospitals are at their limits. According to the Department of Health and Human Services this is 40% higher than just one month ago. Across the country, beds in intensive care units are 78% full. In addition, some hospitals are facing a shortage of qualified medical support staff due to mandatory terminations resulting from vaccination mandates.
- Unvaccinated persons are 10 times more likely to contract the virus and 20 times more likely to die from it. Health professionals and political leaders are urging the unvaccinated to get vaccinated.
- Appearing on Face the Nation this past Sunday Dr. Frances Collins, the outgoing director of the National Institute of Health, strongly urged people who have not gotten “boosted” to do so asap. About 61% of the population is fully vaccinated, and about 1/3 of them have been “boosted.”
- Some universities, notably Princeton, NYU and Cornell, have re-instituted remote learning.
- Some Broadway shows, such as Hamilton, have begun to cancel performances.
- The NFL and the NBA are being forced to deal with postponements due to a high incidence of positive test results among players.
Amid all this gloom and doom Americans need reassurance from their leaders. As I said, many are anxious and afraid. Some are on the verge of panic. After two years we seem to be no better off than we were at the outset. To them, the high degree of contagion with the Omicron strain is producing visions of the so-called “Black Death” plague of the 14th century. At this time, they desperately need their elected leaders to demonstrate a positive outlook, encouragement and provide assurances that we will get through this.
Instead, President Biden’s speech today preached gloom and doom. He came across as defensive. He reiterated what some media outlets have predicted as a long, hard winter. We wanted optimism, and he gave us pessimism.
He took no responsibility for not being prepared for the Omicron COVID surge, the shortage of testing kits, and the shortage of hospital staff, which we know is attributable, in large part, to his ill-advised vaccine mandates. He attacked the unvaccinated as somehow “unamerican.” He blamed them for all of the above bad developments and lectured them that it was their “patriotic duty” to get vaccinated.
He failed to even mention certain positives, such as:
- Worldometer, which tracks such things, has reported the overall fatality rate in the US to be about 1 1/2%. And, those statistics are likely inflated by the early period when we didn’t know how to treat the virus.
- Although Omicron has been shown to be highly transmissible the death rate has been much lower than that from the other strains. In other words, so far many people are getting sick and being hospitalized but relatively few are dying. This key fact has been underreported by the media as well. Most have been getting a mild case of flu-like symptoms and are recovering quickly, especially if they are fully vaccinated. Some medical professionals have maintained that following such recovery one’s body could be left with a residue of antibodies that would provide protection prospectively.
- The vaccinated have a death rate of a fraction of 1%. No deaths are “acceptable”, but that compares favorably with the death rate from the flu.
- There are a variety of treatments, such as monoclonal antibodies and drugs such as Remdesivir, which have been successful when applied early.
In times of stress and anxiety we need to rely on our leaders to provide strength, positivity, reassurance and inspiration. We need to be united, not divided. We need to be told that although things look bad now, if we pull together we will get through this. Think of FDR’s “fireside chats” during the Great Depression or his famous speech after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Think of Bush 43’s inspirational speeches after the “9/11” attack. We needed Biden to provide that today. Instead what we got was gloom and doom, and a failure of leadership. He seemed to be more focused on deflecting blame than solving the problem. I was not surprised. Were you?