A different look at the Omicron virus

Published 12:06 pm Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Newsweek Magazine
President Joe Biden and his team of doomsayers are overhyping Omicron even while claiming to do the opposite. They’re implying the new variant of the coronavirus is worse than the Delta variant by pursuing a set of policies that won’t likely make even the smallest dent in its spread.
I propose we look at Omicron a bit differently than Democrats want us to.
You needn’t be a virologist to understand that COVID will not go away. Viruses seldom do. Indeed, the World Health Organization has only classified two viruses as having been eradicated: smallpox and rinderpest.
COVID will continue to mutate and spread. You can only mitigate its effects where you can and hope newer strains weaken.
The good news is, so far, Omicron is a weak variant. It appears highly transmissible, but studies and significant anecdotal evidence show it to have a minor impact on one’s health. It seems to be a tad stronger than the common cold for most people.
In the context of a virus that will never go away, isn’t this good news? Not that anyone should want or try to get COVID, but if the now-dominant strain is highly transmissible but weak, we can reach herd immunity all the faster.
Public health experts once discussed herd immunity as an end goal, but in the last few months, the term has mostly disappeared from public discourse. Nowadays, the Biden administration near-singularly focuses on vaccinating the public. But Omicron appears to evade our vaccinations — including in those who are boosted.
Instead of panicking over even mild variants, we should mitigate where we can (including by being vaccinated), and move on with our lives with herd immunity in mind.
The Biden administration isn’t moving on fast enough.
In addition to endlessly beating the vaccination-at-all-costs drum, the president announced the purchase of 500 million take-home tests. They will be delivered for free to any American who wants them. But that doesn’t even start until next month. How much good will this do?
While testing can be crucial in some circumstances, it strains credulity to think tracking a virus that barely presents most infected persons with symptoms will stop the spread. By the time you take the test you’ve likely already exposed others to the virus. And unless you test daily, there won’t be much of an effect.
We keep setting ourselves up to fight a losing battle to contain COVID. We can be reasonable and responsible while returning to a semi-normal life where we focus on protecting the most vulnerable and extending treatment to those who need it.
Vaccinations remain important — they can keep you out of the hospital and out of a death bed, depending on your underlying conditions — when dealing with Delta or any future variant. If you want to wear a mask, please do so. Washing our hands and making sure we don’t go to work while showing symptoms of COVID (or merely the cold or flu) is something we always should have been doing, even before the pandemic.
In the meantime, we’ll continue to collect data about Omicron. The information we gather could certainly change and we can pivot based on what we learn. But herd and natural immunities must be a big part of the conversation. Omicron should cause us to better discuss that mitigation strategy.
Yet it still seems unlikely national voices will discuss Omicron in a reasonable way. Elected Democrats will continue to fearmonger because fear motivates. And ahead of an expected “red wave” in next year’s midterm elections, fear may be all Democrats have left.
But what does that approach do to the American psyche? What does it do to children who deal with the stresses of a virus that barely affects them? Our leadership class continues to treat a virus with a 1 percent death rate as if it has a 1 percent survival rate. It continues to push for vaccination mandates, ignoring the breakthrough case rates as much as it ignores the effective treatments available for the virus.
A substantial portion of the country no longer trusts public health officials who bring politics into a discussion where it doesn’t belong. If they’re not untrusting, they find themselves fatigued by the doomsday proclamations of a winter of death. Neither mindset is particularly beneficial when you need people to pay attention when things truly are as bad as we’re told.
Omicron is a good opportunity to reset the national conversation and mood around COVID. You don’t have to ignore rising hospitalization rates, nor should you stop discussing vaccinations and basic mitigation efforts. But the 24/7 cycle claiming the end times are near is making things worse.
(Jason Rantz is a frequent guest on Fox News and is the host of the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH Seattle, heard weekday afternoons.)

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