Most evidence heretofore has suggested that Omicron may be the mildest variant of COVID-19 and provide protection against other variants, should we just abandon all COVID-19 policies as a result?
Omicron Is Milder
While the world waits for definitive data, preliminary findings suggest that omicron is milder than other variants have been. That’s not to say it’s harmless, just that it’s less likely to cause serious illness or death. Many have reported positive test results despite no symptoms. In fact, some scientists have suggested that that up to 40% of those who may have COVID will never know it unless they are tested.
If one contracts a case so mild that they don’t even know they are ill unless they have to be tested for some other reason (workplace requirement, travel, contact tracing, etc.) is it really a risk? One might argue that a mild case for one person does not ensure a mild case for someone they might infect due to the overly contagious nature of this variant, and that makes sense but I haven’t seen data to support this either.
If anything, the data regarding mortality has gone in the opposite direction, lowering mortality from about 1.7% for those with positive cases to 1.2% and declining. December 31st, 2020 had a mortality rate of about 1.5% (3,462 deaths in 231,024 cases) vs. a shockingly low 0.2% (1,181 deaths in 443,538 cases) though I suspect the mortality rate will rise as deaths lag cases by about two weeks.
Vaccine Data Suggests Omicron Evades
Studies have been less clear about what vaccine has held up the best against omicron, they are presumably different in their levels of protection. None of these reports have been peer-reviewed, but given the timeline, they couldn’t possibly be – we have to choose to accept the information we have available or wait (possibly until it’s too late) to work through the peer-review process.
Boosters also provide varying levels of defense against the variant, but all vaccines have shown to wane in their efficacy against COVID generally.
Cruises are their own risk category now and the CDC doesn’t suggest anyone cruise regardless of vaccination status or mask usage.
Protection Against Delta
One interesting tidbit is that omicron appears to provide strong protection (4x) against the Delta variant, to this point considered to be the most dangerous for serious illness or death. How long this immunity lasts is unknown at this time, but simply by being more contagious and providing immunity against Delta, some believe it could smother the dangerous variant in favor of a milder one.
COVID-19 Policies Haven’t Worked Particularly Well
President Biden was clear when he imposed a ban on travel from South African nations that such policies will not stop the variant. His logic at the time was that it would allow the US to understand more about it before it becomes the dominant COVID variant in the country (it now is.) The President has since abandoned that policy.
Despite some of the strictest COVID constraints in the country (and frankly, the world) as well as one of the nation’s highest full vaccination rates, New York continues to set records for new cases. The latest numbers (January 1st, 2022) shatter prior records despite 71%(+) full vaccination compared with prior records set last year where the vaccine was only newly available to a select group of people.
Maskless Florida has seen a large number of cases but hasn’t outpaced New York (at time of publication.) Even Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (AOC) is going face bare in the Sunshine State.
Outside of KN-95 masks, the efficacy of masks is 0-37%. They aren’t really doing anything. Airplanes with HEPA filtration (all of them in the modern era) lower the risk even further. Despite close proximity, flights have been fairly limited points of transmission for passengers. Even football games with 70,000-100,000 shoulder-to-shoulder fans have not become superspreader events in the stands, though many players are out due to COVID protocols.
The CDC lowered its isolation period by 50% because it’s an unnecessary hurdle that has a negative effect on society at large and poses a limited risk. Self-isolation following a positive test result in many countries has dropped from 14 to 10 to 7 days.
Despite the White House’s statement that the vaccinated will get through this while the unvaccinated are in for a winter of serious illness and death, neither assertion appear to be entirely based on fact.
“If you are vaccinated, you could test positive. But if you do get COVID, your case will likely be asymptomatic or mild.
We are intent on not letting Omicron disrupt work and school for the vaccinated. You’ve done the right thing, and we will get through this.
For the unvaccinated, you’re looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm.”
The problem with the statement above (ignoring obvious antagonistic verbosity) is that omicron may naturally be a milder version resulting in positive tests with few to no symptoms anyway. That milder case may or may not be the result of vaccination or evading the vaccine, but alternatviely could simply be a less lethal variant.
The Unthinkable, Unwritable, Impossible Notion
If omicron evades vaccines, and it is generally mild, and it gives protection against far more dangerous versions – shouldn’t we want to get this variant – all of us or as many as are infectable. The risk is that the omicron variant is not as negligible and that the true, damaging effects are yet unknown. But by the White House’s own admission, travel bans, and other mitigating factors including vaccination with boosters is not proving effective against omicron. There’s no stopping it, “it’s already here” as the White House proclaimed after just a few positive results.
We’ve tried just about every tactic and the evasion of vaccines demonstrates that this can no longer be categorized as a disease for the unvaccinated and unwilling. If ever there was a time and opportunity to give natural, herd immunity a reasonable chance, would this not be the perfect time to do so?
If we are to follow the science, is there a proven scientific reason for not attempting herd immunity instead? Natural immunity has been shown to be up to 13x more effective than vaccines, and there’s a real chance to snuff the virus out from a persistent global risk in favor of the lesser of two evils. Politically, this would be completely rejected but I postulate that scientifically it cannot be eliminated from consideration.
It’s not a popular thing to say or do, but is it the right thing?
I’m aware that this is a controversial topic that may stir emotions. It’s the unwritable, unthinkable approach. However, based on the evidence we have seen, I am not sure I see a better course of action. I argue that this is the time, the variant, the moment to try for herd immunity and remove all limitations in society. If this does not normalize infections and reduce COVID’s overall effect, return to the ones we’ve tried before despite their limited efficacy. However, if we have exhausted everything else, doesn’t the scientific method demand we also try this possibility as well?
What do you think? Is there enough evidence to suggest that omicron is milder? Would you support further demands (vaccines, boostes, work place restrictions) regardless?