The Campaign to Protect Christmas Profits from Omicron

Not only have our soi-disant leaders apparently not learned anything since the start of Covid, they are acting as if the disease will bend to their wishful thinking and commercial/political needs. As we’ll explain below, the Anglosphere press and quite a few public health figures who ought to know better are putting the most possible spin possible on Omicron. This is the worst possible reflex now, just as it was in late January-February 2020.

When you are dealing with an event with potentially disastrous consequences, like a reactor going critical or water at an ocean shore pulling way way way back, potentially signaling the next wave is a tsunami, the prudent response is to assume the worst and act accordingly.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, with co-authors Joseph Norman and Yaneer Bar-Yam, explained clearly on January 26, 2020 that the possibility of a pandemic (notice they were using the “p” word long before it made its way into respectable conversations) meant it was of vital importance to act quickly and aggressively. I will take the liberty of quoting liberally, but strongly urge you to re (or re-read) the entire short piece in full:

Clearly, we are dealing with an extreme fat-tailed process owing to an increased connectivity, which increases the spreading in a nonlinear way [1], [2]. Fat tailed processes have special attributes, making conventional risk-management approaches inadequate.

The general (non-naive) precautionary principle [3] delineates conditions where actions must be taken to reduce risk of ruin, and traditional cost-benefit analyses must not be used. These are ruin problems where, over time, exposure to tail events leads to a certain eventual extinction. While there is a very high probability for humanity surviving a single such event, over time, there is eventually zero probability of surviving repeated exposures to such events. While repeated risks can be taken by individuals with a limited life expectancy, ruin exposures must never be taken at the systemic and collective level. In technical terms, the precautionary principle applies when traditional statistical averages are invalid because risks are not ergodic.

Next we address the problem of naive empiricism in discussions related to this problem.

Spreading rate: Historically based estimates of spreading rates for pandemics in general, and for the current one in particular, underestimate the rate of spread because of the rapid increases in transportation connectivity over recent years….

Reproductive ratio: Estimates of the virus’s reproductive ratio R0—the number of cases one case generates on average over the course of its infectious period in an otherwise uninfected population—are biased downwards….

Mortality rate: Mortality and morbidity rates are also downward biased, due to the lag between identified cases, deaths and reporting of those deaths.

Increasingly Fatal Rapidly Spreading Emergent Pathogens: With increasing transportation we are close to a transition to conditions in which extinction becomes certain both because of rapid spread and because of the selective dominance of increasingly worse pathogens…

Fatalism and inaction: Perhaps due to these challenges, a common public health response is fatalistic, accepting what will happen because of a belief that nothing can be done. This response is incorrect as the leverage of correctly selected extraordinary interventions can be very high.

Reread the last paragraph. Public health officials are selling a combination of Pollyianism and futility (“we have to learn to live with it”) to rationalize their inability or lack of determination in dealing with Covid. This tendency would be in play regardless, but it’s made worse by public officials’ reluctance to take aggressive protective measures and crimp those normally banner fourth quarter revenues for retail, restaurants, hotels, airlines…the list goes on….as well as dare to suggest that families should prioritize their health over holiday merriment.

Twitter’s tending topics is revealing…in not a good way. I’ve looked at it multiple times over the last 8 hours and Omicron has been notably absent:

Similarly, there’s been way too much amplification of fake news. We’ve had to deal in comments multiple times with a misleading story in the Torygraph, not a prime venue for science reporting (the Daily Mail is vastly better, it gives straight up detailed but layperson friendly explanations of new papers, for instance) and was quickly picked up elsewhere, that the South African doctor who first sighted Omicron said was producing only tame symptoms. Dr. Angelique Coetzee herself objected to how her words were cherry-picked, but oddly her efforts to correct the reporting got little play. For instance:

By contrast, the data from South Africa speaks for itself:

But there’s now official happy talk, as opposed to incorrectly constructed happy talk, out of South Africa. From the text provided by Sky News in connection with an interview with South Africa’s COVID-19 adviser, Prof Barry Schoub:

…the Omicron variant is spreading rapidly across the country.

Prof Barry speculated that the sheer number of mutations could lead to the virus being ‘less fit than the Delta variant’ which is known to respond well to vaccines.

GM’s gobsmacked reaction: “How exactly did the mutations destabilize it while making the epidemiological curve going go vertical?”

And for those of you with a strong constitution:

I could barely get through this palaver. The one gratifying part was when the interviewer asked, with evident annoyance, “”Didn’t you say many times that this [Delta] was going to be the major variant we would have to contend with?”

Contrast this with GM’s take, baseddiscussions by experts on Twitter (which like the debates over aerosols, are showing Twitter at its best: real time sharing of information and ideas) and selected sites:

We’ll see what happens, but as things stand at the moment, once this gets into old people in the West, if the properties of that spike sequence indeed turn out to be as expected, there will be a large number of deaths in people with 3 doses and those with two doses 10 months ago are totally cooked. Every scientist who has actually studied the spike the last 20 months and has spoken so far is deeply pessimistic.

GM also mentioned a troubling parallel from veterinary medicine:

It will be at least two weeks before there is neutralization data.

They need to order the DNA, make pseudovirus, then validate it, then run the actual assays. Even working full time, that will take a while. Although the people in South Africa might have started on this quite some time ago.

The words “serotype” and “strain” will be avoided at all costs.

If you start talking about serotypes, you immediately concede that the mass infection policy is foolish, and, given the consequences, outright criminal.

You also risk opening a serious discussion of the one thing that for some mysterious reason has not been touched on at all since the start of the pandemic — the IBV literature. IBV is a chicken coronavirus, quite similar to COVID in many of its manifestations. They have vaccines against it, but it’s a never ending Red Queen game of whac-a-mole against new serotypes and variants, against which previous vaccines don’t work at all. And apparently there are some examples of really drastic evolutionary jumps there that we are yet to see with COVID, but may well do in the future. One can speculate why that has never been discussed — it’s either because nobody cares about veterinary medicine so few know about it (true) or because nobody wanted to talk about it due to the implications. But the people who study coronaviruses do know about it. Which is why none of big names has said anything about vaccines solving this, it attenuating to a common cold, “herd immunity”, or anything of the sort.

IM Doc’s mafia, which heretofore had largely been vaccine enthusiasts, with a few old codgers having reservations about their limited efficacy v. transmissions with Delta, is in a newly sober mood:

My virologist friend in [major city] – not a corona expert – reported to me on Friday that the pants are officially being shat in virology departments all over the country.

And yes – the IBV did come up in a conference I attended on Friday. MIND YOU – not from the speaker but someone in the audience that I did not know. And all the speaker could say is that he was not very familiar with it – but that there were some very disturbing parallels. He went on to add that the corona virus experts he knew were all deeply concerned about this development and that it could be a “game changer”. When the inevitable vaccine question came up – the speaker certainly was no longer RAH RAH RAH like he had been in the past. In fact, he became rather forlorn. I got the idea it is already clear to the smart kids in the room that we have a severe problem.

And even if the optimists turn out to be right about the severity of infection, that’s not that much of a break given how much more transmissible Omicron is, on top of significant and likely complete evasion of current vaccines and monoclonal antibody treatments:

In the meantime:

The UK is as usual not exactly serious:

Two days after someone arrives is an eternity, and then (unless you are dealing with a super fast lab), it’s 24 hours, more often 48 to get results.

New York has declared a state of emergency and has taken at least one concrete step, which is limiting elective surgeries (the press calls it a ban when it isn’t really). From the New York Post:

The edict curbing non-essential surgeries will kick in for hospitals with a limited capacity — defined as at or below 10 percent of available staffed bed capacity.

The new protocols will take effect on Friday, Dec. 3, and will be re-evaluated based on the latest COVID-19 data on Jan. 15.

And we have this cheery bit of overnight news. On top of UK cases having been revised from 2 to 3, they’ve gone to 9:

As we too often say, it would be better if we were wrong, but now is a time when pessimism is your friend.

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    The lack of urgency (well, apart from the Japanese and Israelis) is staggering.

    Yes, its probably already widespread in Europe and the US, but this is no excuse for not making an all out effort to at least delay it getting established until there is more information available. Asian countries have proven that suppression of Covid is possible, at least for a few months (and ideally to get us into the better weather of summer).

    I think certainly there is an element of exhaustion with Covid – politicians and the public are just resigned. I’ve heard the meme that its ‘only mild’ repeated too many times, people are just clutching at straws. Here in Ireland, despite there being no cases, there is no attempt whatever to restrict flights in from the UK. The identical mistake over Delta. Peoples city break trips are treated as more important than public health.

    I don’t know if its connected, but I met a friend in the city centre yesterday and everyone was commenting on how quiet the city was – you’d expect all cafes and shops to be packed on a sunday this time of year. Last night most bars and cafes were very quiet – again, not what I’d expect. I think that many people are spooked, they just won’t say it. Not for the first time the general public is more rational than our supposed intellectual leaders.

    1. FriarTuck

      A number of weeks ago, Louis Rossman (of Right to Repair fame) posted a video that basically is the summation of the exhaustion that you speak of. Video here:

      Unfortunately, the reality of infection control has little care of the opinions of exhausted humans. I worry that people (esp. in the USA) are going to frame infection control as “individual freedom vs government control”. At that point the science gets political and everything risks going up in smoke.

      1. urblintz

        “At that point the science gets political and everything risks going up in smoke.”

        …crossed that rubicon 2 years ago.

        1. WobblyTelomeres

          I wonder if the corporatization of research funding and the evisceration of tenure are to blame, at least somewhat.

          1. GM

            Tenure doesn’t seem to help much.

            People still need to get grants, and that’s a powerful mechanism of control

            1. WobblyTelomeres

              The dependence on corporate money is enough? Yeah, you’re right. After several years, only made guys remain.

      2. Jack Parsons

        This same stuff happened 103 years ago, during the “Spanish” Flu epidemic. The San Francisco Anti-Mask League did street protests.

        We have not had a widespread, mass-death pandemic like this in 100 years. We had milder ones that didn’t really leave a scar in Western culture: the 10-year or 20-year major influenza epidemics have left a deep mark in the minds of the survivors, but the culture ignores them. Polio & smallpox were endemic until the 1960s, and the people who remember them are dying off. SARS-1 clearly left a mark in East Asian hearts & minds, they’ve all done a great job at handling SARS-2.

        What we’re seeing is the classic Kondratieff process where the people who remember bad event X get too old to influence youngsters, who then make the same mistake. 1990s Wall Street deregulation is another example: the Great Depression stopped being a memorable threat as the grandchildren took over, so, of course, it happened again.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes, home quarantine was normal for Japanese citizens – a friend of mine flew back home to Osaka midweek – she was fortunate that she was flying via Finland, not Schipol or Heathrow. A non Japanese girl I know doing the Jet program had to quarantine in a hotel when she flew 3 weeks ago, although it was paid for. A mutual friend is booked to fly home on the 10th, and needless to say she is very worried about potential quarantine. Looks like she’ll be having Christmas here.

    2. clarky90

      There is much that we can do, right now, to preserve and bolster our health-

      It is late spring in the southern hemisphere. I spent 90 minutes lying in the sun, surrounded by mint, rasberry, mugwort, horseradish (all good company) and birds…… I sunbathe whenever I can. I love it.

      I have cut linoleic acid (omega 6 seed oils) out of my diet. I have stopped tea and coffee (caffeine) after mid day to improve sleep and dreams.

      There are harmless/helpful supplements like vitamin D, C, zinc …. (be judicious) to fight all viri (not just Omicron and it’s many siblings ….)

      Kalongi seed (aka Nigella, or black seeds) is an ancient seasoning, and reported to be helpful. (I buy it at our India Mart).

      I am growing Wormwood and elderberry (also reported to be helpful against viri)

      Get plenty of sleep, lose weight, exercise get rid of all cheap processed food…..

      Do not expect the experts to rescue you. Study and take advice from the community (NC and other places), and then act, but with flexibility.

      Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes..

    1. GM

      That is correct, but there are LAVs in the works for SARS-CoV-2 too

      The main reason we are using RNA vaccines is that those could be developed the quickest and everyone was desperate.

      They are not at all optimal for this, a LAV is, as it provides mucosal immunity, which is what you want in order to stop the spread.

      However, that takes a lot longer work work out

      Also, an LAV presents another problem — people will not want to take it because it is an LAV.

      Of course, those will be the same people who will claim it is better to get infected with the real virus instead of a version of it that is cold adapted and has all the nasty features removed.

      But that’s the state of the world right now — logic and reason are not exactly in abundant supply

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Sorry to have munged your point…that this concern reduces the attractiveness of an otherwise promising vaccination option.

        Personally I would rather take an LAV since I understood they boosted immunity generally. I was disappointed that the old LAV for shingles is no longer on the market.

        1. TimH

          Bearing all this in mind… what’s the best current choice for booster vaccine? Same as previous, or something different?

            1. Yves Smith Post author

              GM is not a doctor, he’s a scientist with a PhD in biology and another degree in microbiology who is doing research in an institution you are pretty certain to have heard of.

      2. R

        Also, IBV virulence has increased because of a “leaky” vaccine. It is this property if the vaccine, preventing symptoms but not transmission, which is the problem. Without symptoms, the negative feedback pressure from killing your host is removed and mutations that would be lethal in the unvaccinated can be selected without cost.

        The same phenomenon has led Marek’s disease (also chickens, NOT a coronavirus) to develop from mildly paralytic to 100% fatal in unvaccinated animals. All chickens are now immunised against it as day old chicks….

      3. Noloni

        GM it’s been great to get your thoughts as a counter to the daily hopium dished out on twitter. What should we be looking at to determine how bad omicron will be? Hospitalizations in South Africa?

          1. Noloni

            Thanks, will follow this. Looks terrible so far. I doubt the mild story will stick for long. What government will have the guts to lockdown for xmas? If covid was an enemy country I would be suggesting we surrender and agree to their terms.

      4. Paleobotanist

        Dear GM,

        If I may pose a few questions about immunology? I have a PhD in biology, but in environmental sciences and no background in immunology (alas), so I always read your posts attentively and learn from them.

        Why do LAVs provide mucosal immunity and not mRNA vaccines? By mucosal immunity do you mean IgAs? If we have mucosal immunity elicited by a vaccine, is it closer to providing sterilizing immunity in this case? How do IgAs and mucosal immunity work briefly in layman’s terms, since to my limited understanding, this is what we should be working towards?
        Why do the spike-based mRNA vaccines not provide IgAs?

        Does Novavax provide IgA inducement? Does it give mucosal immunity? Will it get us closer to sterilizing immunity? Will Novavax also probably evade Omicron?

        Thank you,

        Apologize if this is a double post.

        1. GM

          Yes, IgA antibodies are key.

          You make those in the mucosal membranes, and a LAV would be sprayed in people’s noses.

          Being in the mucosal membrane, that will prevent infection

          Current vaccines are injected in arms, and make primarily IgG. Which is why they suck so bad at stopping infection but are a lot better at preventing severe disease — severe disease develops when the virus gets to the lower lung, but you do have IgG in the lower lung.

          Novavaxx could easily be made intranasal but is planned to be injected instead, which is very stupid, but it is what it is.

          The same applied to AstraZeneca, BTW — a potentially excellent intranasal vaccine that they insisted on injecting in people’s arms

          1. BeliTsari

            What ever happened to all the hippy-dippy snake-oil treatments, we’d been stuck with trying, pre mRNA vaccines (if you’ve both had earlier variants & recent inoculation?) SSRIs sound lots less crazy, now?





    2. Greg

      Wife (vet) says “well usually you just gas all the birds”. We’ll see if that’s a viable approach for covid.

      1. LawnDart

        Well, certain fringe climate change websites have made mention of the (widely-discounted) possibility that melting permafrost could lead to a sudden methane “burp” that would quickly asphyxiate us air-breathers.

        So yeah, improbable, but certainly a solution to CV for us chickens.

  2. The Rev Kev

    Here in Oz, it is all happy-happy-joy-joy about Omicron as far as our politicians are concerned – aided and abetted by our compliant media. They are telling is that we are the best prepared country in the world, everything is going to plan, etc. Had one health minister go on TV and say that as Omicron is more rapidly spread and is supposed to be milder in outcomes, that this might me a good thing for the population. He didn’t use the words ‘herd immunity’ but that is what he was really talking about. So, can we get serious now?

    In the same way that this year’s Delta strain replaced last year’s Wuhan strain, by next year Omicron will probably replace Delta to the point of near extinction. There is no stopping it at this point. But what will make it more lethal is, what Yves was suggested, hospital departments chocked with patients to the point that body bag start to run out as triage comes into effect. So try and plan not to get sick next year, m’kay? You don’t have to be pessimistic here. It should be more a matter of hoping for the best and preparing for the worse. Time to batten down the hatches but for god’s sake, don’t trust your main stream media as doing so can get you killed.

    1. Basil Pesto

      see my post in moderation to come, with a link to Coatsworth’s unbelievable quotes from this morning that you refer to.

    2. ambrit

      Alas and alack, I remember reading a few days ago, here of all places, that the Omicron variant is so diferent from the Delta variant that it is entirely possible for both variants to circulate at the same time. This would be something similar to different strains of the flu coming and going in the general population, yet both being virulent and effective ‘infectors.’ That’s a classic case of the “Double Whammy.” (A curious locution, I admit, but adequate to the purpose.) This ‘tag team’ of viruses would replicate something often seen in hospital settings; a person is admitted for one ailment and succumbs to a second ailment, caught in the hospital. Golden Staph and it’s red headed stepchild, MRSA, come to mind.
      I am fullt in accord with your recommendations. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
      Stay safe over there!

    1. Basil Pesto

      oh wow, I almost sent in this link about Belenenses on the weekend (readers might remember that last month, the WSJ held up Portugal as the poster child for endemic/“living with” Covid – cases have been rising steadily since) but thought it was maybe too esoteric. I wouldn’t have guessed they were infected with Omicron on top of that. I wonder how that happened.

      Actually, as I wrote that, and because I’m in tune with the football calendar, I thought I’d check: Belenenses’ squad has two South African players.

      Football just had its last major international break before winter. For the uninitiated, this is when domestic club football stops and eligible players join their national teams for a couple of matches, in this case World Cup qualifiers.

      The Belenenses players – Sithole and Phete – were both in South Africa’s squad. They played Zimbabwe in Johannesburg (the capital of Gauteng) on November 12.

      They then played in Cape Coast, Ghana, on Nov 15. The players would have returned to Portugal that day or the next. Again, Sithole and Phete were in the squad.

      November 12. That is quite a worry.

      Thanks for the link.

    2. GM

      I can’t confirm this, but apparently their South African player who brought it from the international break (and that was on the 16th, so there might be something to the suggestions about longer incubation period) already had COVID twice before.

      So this a re-re-infection

      So much for “natural immunity”

      I was watching the scores on Sunday and saw the farce that unfolded and though “What if?” Well, yes, indeed..

      1. Sutter Cane

        So this a re-re-infection

        So much for “natural immunity”

        I keep seeing people say “Covid is endemic now” as a reason to throw up their hands and quit trying to mitigate it in any way.

        People refuse to acknowledge that a disease with the infection and mortality rates of covid becoming endemic, when you can get infected with it multiple times in a relatively short time period, means that it becoming endemic does NOT mean “it goes away and we get to stop thinking about it.”

        1. saywhat?

          Except how does a soccer player (world-class?) have 2 bouts of Covid and yet can still play? Isn’t each successive bout supposed to cause more and more damage?

          Something doesn’t add up.

          1. Greg

            Each bout is a roll of the dice. It’s quite possible to not roll 1’s for quite a while. Not forever, but quite a while.

    3. Alena Shahadat

      That is an incredible story! Really absurd. From start to finish. The only upside is, this small club will be known everywhere now.

  3. vlade

    TBH, I’m fatalist on this too, because to really eradicate it:
    – you need to lockdown the whole world for about a month. NGH.
    – in absence of the above, you need to stop travel from countries that don’t do the global lockdown.
    – which is problamatic, as many countries have long and porous borders
    – even more so with the current various refugee crises

    Even if you manage to do it, that border closure needs to be permanent, which IMO likely means the genepool of the affected non-locked down countries will migrate (slowly) towards an increased immunity to the virus (ala smallpox), so in X years it may looks as if it was eliminated or become milder, but in fact you got Europe vs North American natives, 16th century, situation.

    So I’m very pessimistic about this.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, you do not have to lock down the whole world. That is a fallacious. You can lock down regions and open them up only to other regions that have locked down, gotten the virus to an acceptably low level where the contagion is low and contact tracing and quarantines stomp on any new mini-outbreaks. The fact that China has done it all by its lonesome means it can be done.

      1. vlade

        China has effectively cut off the rest of the world. It’s now very, very hard to travel to China. China has now 2% of the international flights that it had in 2019, and expects to keep the restrictions into 2022. Same goes for a number of other countries, Japan, New Zealand etc.

        And that’s my point. In any part that you lock down, you have to close your borders, and you have to keep them closed with extreme prejudice, because there are countries – like probably now most of Africa and substantial part of the Middle East, that are more or less unrestricted breeding grounds for the CV.

        Which are also (almost by default) the areas that generate the most refugees, and the most people who want to risk pretty much everything to cross the borders. And most of those refugees don’t want to go to China, they want to get to Europe, the US, Canada or Australia.

        You can, as you say, lock down regions. But the more granular the lockdown is, the more likely it is that something sneaks through from somewhere else. You can see it with Israel, that’s desperately locking down, for the nth time, w/o much luck – and Israel can control its borders reasonably well.

        Regardless, there is about zero practical chance that lockdown outside of China and possible some other Asian countries will happen on the scale it needs to, with the travel restrictions that need to happen.

        Hence elimination is IMO practically impossible.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Its perhaps worth pointing out to all the free movement fetishists that China doesn’t seem to have had any economic hit at all from its travel ban. Maybe 98% of flights really are not all that necessary.

            1. Pate

              To save the village we had to destroy the village. Or as someone is wont to say “because markets…”
              Sobering but certainly everything will be otay, right? Hello? Is anybody out there?

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            Flights? Most flights aren’t. Business travel is overrated especially since the invention of phones and telegrams, and tourism dollars would just get spent locally. Areas might get hit, but on the whole, it won’t matter.

          2. vlade

            I’d be all for reducing flights. But it’s not just flights.

            IIRC, most of the Delta outbreaks in China now are in the shipping ports, so that needs to be reduced too (which IMO may again be a good thing, if it leads to less consumption overall).

            But something that’s critical for Europe more than anyone else I guess, refugees from ME/Africa is not something you can just suspend. (as we saw recently).

            1. ambrit

              Sorry to be the Devil’s Advocate here, but, yes, one can “suspend” refugee flows from one place to another, given enough political will and resources. One can adopt a traditional measure and simply kill anyone who tries to “illegally” enter a region. It has been done before. Old “tricks” are not truly forgot.
              [I do not advocate for this policy, but put it forward as an example of what is possible.]

              1. HotFlash

                Perhaps another approach would be to try to, ahem, stop creating refugees? The usual Four Horsemen are now joined by a newbie, Climate Change.

                1. ambrit

                  But, but, “creating refugees” is what Capitalism does. When these “refugees” settle down in the nooks and crannys of their new home, they become the latest installment of the “surplus labour” that makes Capitalism great!
                  Even I can see the essential conflict between Capitalist Necessity and Public Health. I just wish that our Oligarch Overlords could also see it. So far, no dice.

        2. Michaelmas

          Vlade: Hence elimination is IMO practically impossible.

          Meh. In the real world smallpox was ring fenced and eliminated only a few decades ago. This with global cooperation.

          Hence, something has changed. What might it be?

          To state the tediously obvious, what’s changed is that our societies have been captured by a model where the elites who run it are primarily composed of people with no other skill but the extraction of financial rents from the rest of society. If the whole edifice of debt and rent extraction stops, these people — competent only at financial parasitism — lose their place at the top of the heap.

          Conversely, China has rejected a social system in which the ruling elite are competent only at financial parasitism. And China — a nation of 1.4 billion people, or a sixth of humanity — appears to have succeeded at suppressing COVID, even allowing for the distortions of CCP censorship.

          So in the real world COVID elimination is practically quite possible. It’s only impossible under an international order where neoliberal capitalism is dominant.

      2. TroyIA

        We will also need to develop a way of monitoring wildlife since SARS-Cov-2 has been found in deer, rats and other animals. So far I haven’t heard of any cases being traced back to wildlife but there is now a pool that could theoretically provide a source for future outbreaks.

        1. MT_Wild

          USDA-Wildlife Services and many state wildlife agencies already collect Nobuto blood filter strip samples from harvested game animals and animals removed for damage management.

          I’m aware of plague, tularemia, erlichiosis, chagas, and most importantly, avian influenza being sampled this way. My guess is that if you can test for avian influenza antibodies, you can test for Covid antibodies. Not sure if variant typing is possible, which might need different samples.

          Sampling is incredibly easy. Two 1/2 x 3″ paper strips that get dipped in blood and allowed to air dry. They come in a standard 3″ x 5″ prepaid envelope, and can be cheaply mailed out to thousands of hunters in each state prior to the hunting season. The samples stay viable for months when stored at room temperature.

          Hunters commonly pull lymph nodes from harvested deer and elk and deliver samples for chronic wasting disease testing. This would be orders of magnitude easier.

    2. PlutoniumKun

      I think that in all the paniic over Covid its so often forgotten that we’ve faced even more dangerous diseases before – as I’ve said a few times here there is a generational issue, in that we have for the first time a generation of public health professionals with no memory of dealing with diseases such as polio and TB. Its also forgotten too that there was, and is, an ongoing battle against those diseases, this has just retreated to the background of public health consciousness. I have a nurse friend who a few years ago worked in an infectious disease ward in a local hospital here – it was mostly people who had declared themselves with TB at Dublin airport and were immediately isolated (they knew they could not be sent home if they had a notifiable infectious disease). Some of her stories would put your hair on end – and yet even most people who worked in the hospital were unaware of the ward – it was entirely sealed off from the rest of the hospital with a separate staff. Wards like this exist all over the world, they are just mostly ignored.

      People also forget that highly restrictive laws on quarantine and vaccination have been the norm, not the exception over the centuries. Many TB laws, allowing for people to be locked up without trial or consent are still on the books (and occasinally used) without much comment, because the people affected are usually refugees or immigrants. Its never hit the news, but I personally know of at least one case a few years ago of an african woman locked up indefinitely because she refused to engage in safe behaviour with her children (she had HIV induced dementia along with TB).

      One of the many big public health communication failures with Covid I think has been the overemphasis on the surges, with the focus on protecting hospitals. When you look at the history of disease elimination, the crucial periods have been when the disease goes into a trough. Thats when you stomp on it with everything you’ve got to get transmission down to a manageable level. Thats when elimination becomes practical.

      If our public health authorities were doing their job, they’d be looking to next summer, when hopefully we’ve been through the Onmi phase, and they’d be preparing the public for a concerted effort to create Covid free regions, the necessary first step to elimination. This is how we got rid of polio and smallpox, and made TB a minor and manageable problem. But I’ve not seen any indication that any major country outside of Asia is taking this idea seriously.

      1. A.

        People take the luxury to be fatalistic granted because of the conscious or unconscious belief that COVID is “not that bad.” No one would debate the feasibility of eradication if this were Ebola. Because it isn’t, the possible becomes impossible and people start talking of “tradeoffs.”

        1. vlade

          I’m fatalistic not because I don’t believe Covid is really really bad.

          I’m fatalistic because I do not believe it’s possible for humans to coordinate well enough to deal with it – at least not until it’s too late.

          Which also makes me fatalistic about climate/Jackpot.

          1. Basil Pesto

            That fatalism is understandable, but (and I know I’m repeating myself here) it’s important to keep in mind the distinction between what is technically possible and what is politically possible.

            What is politically possible hinges on many factors, and true political skill (whether from one politician or a cabinet or an entire government working in tandem with a reasonably well oiled public service) imo involves convincing as many people as necessary that what was once politically unthinkable is in fact politically necessary (this skill can, of course, be used for good and for ill). Even if this necessity would involve unprecedented global co-operation and intervention that is bound to seem radical – such as, for instance, temporarily (it would not be permanent, as you said earlier) taking the concept of borders a bit more seriously, rediscovering the concept of quarantine, and providing a huge amount of support to countries that people want to escape from not just to improve their pandemic response where necessary, but to minimise the desire of people to flee (I know this is reductive but something like it is surely worth trying). Political skill of that sort, however, is certainly in short supply, especially in the west. I won’t pretend to dispute that. And if some meaningful noblesse oblige isn’t discovered by the business class and the current political class that serves them, and pronto, then we’re going to have some very serious problems on our hands. I guess I’m hoping that someone will be able to convey that to them.

            I must admit, though, that I share your fatalism about tackling the climate crisis in the longer run. I need to reflect on whether that makes me a hypocrite or cognitively dissonant or not. It’s probably because the solution to this problem seems a lot more obvious (not easy) to me than the latter.

          2. Jeremy Grimm

            I was and remain very pessimistic, though not fatalistic. Something like the Corona was an expected surprise — but coming not quite so soon. Though I agree that the Corona is really really bad, it is not as bad as the kinds of disease I expect for the future … it is not a Black Plague, or a Smallpox … but their like will come. There are so many parallel and serial paths to the Jackpot. Climate Chaos and Disease bring many kin and kindred. Humankind will pay a high price, but I believe Humankind, the lucky few, will adapt to new ways of living. I think William Gibson’s Peripheral is a little optimistic about the numbers who survive the Jackpot and more than a little optimistic about the advances of technology. I hope he is as wrong about the survivals of our oligarchs.

      2. vlade

        Well, for the last 100 years we have had more medical advancements than in probably all the time before put together. Which made people believe that we can’t deal with everything via vaccines/medication.

        HIV was the first time when mankind was facing a problem of an entierly new epidemics we could not deal with, but most people ignored it as most people were in the risk groups (infection-wise).

        For CV, anyone and everyone is in the at-risk world, so it’s a new situation we haven’t got before, and mankind clearly has no idea how to deal with it.

        1. Raymond Sim

          The world you’re so pessimistic about has been shaped for the last hundred years and more, quite consciously, by well-funded, highly capable ideologues and propagandists devoted to suppressing all notions of collective solutions to collective problems, with the notable exceptions of military defense and policing.

          Our most important advances in medical understanding have been actively suppressed and replaced with convenient superstitions like Droplet.

          The more closely I’m able to scrutinize the disease’s progress here in the US the more impressed I am by how effective properly conceived measures are. I’m convinced that, to date, there’s nothing here that a country on a war footing couldn’t render manageable within a year’s time.

          – Insert what should by now be unnecessary exposition on ‘you can’t truly eradicate it’ arguments being diversionary nonsense/ –

          Our only way out of this is a program of eradication, China’s national security interests also mandate compelling us to execute such a program as soon as they have leverage to do so. Israel’s too for that matter.

          The people advocating for eradication are the hard-eyed realists.

          1. BeliTsari

            Thank you for your astute, succinct and accurate synopsis! “We’ve” not faced lots worse, “together!” Our streets were scary cold and empty. Only idling ambulances replacing Q7, X5 and Porsche Macans, skedaddled upstate, through summer. Spreading the joy, as far as West Virginia. And it’s funny to hear work-from-home Creative Class churls diminishing COVID, which was NASTY and fucked lots of us up, as we were forked into infection of commuters, coworkers, loved ones and chronic PASC (devoid diagnostics, any real treatment options, proper diet or rest AND traumatized, if not killed by, private equity trashed medical systems).

        2. Code Name D

          But in those same hundred years have been other advancements in communication and transportation that mitigate many of those advantages. Such as school consolidation that turns schools into superspreading events. As long as the schools were closed, many of the small towns of Kansas were spared in their isolation. Once the schools re-opened, the small towns quickly fell ill as the children probed to be ideal a-symptomatic carriers.

          If even one from Topeka even mentions school consolidation – the parents/voters will lynch them.

  4. bold'un

    Trade off: China seems to be protecting both its health and its production. AFAIK, the West’s self-isolation at home is too complacent: it’s not only people returning from flights who need to go to hotels for 10 days.

  5. vlade

    Re the chicken coronavirus – I’m pretty sure I read about it a year ago, maybe even here on the comments, with someone putting it as an example how hard/nasty it is to make vaccine vs. coronavirus.

    But it was a one-off.

    1. Darius

      This is the first I’m hearing about it. And I follow the topic pretty closely. I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m just saying it hardly ever comes up.

    2. Louis Fyne

      i thought the difficulty of coronavirus vaccines was relatively common knowledge: that is one reason there isn’t a vaccine for the common cold—many colds are coronaviruses and trying to keep up with mutations.

    3. ahimsa

      interesting take here on substack:

      We Are All Cattle Now

      BioNTech/Pfizer and the rest are basically livestock vaccines: They’re not very safe, they don’t work very well, and everyone has to get them.

      There is nothing surprising about the failure of our vaccines. In fact it was totally predictable.

      Coronavirus vaccines have been used in animals for years, with extremely unimpressive results. The problem is that coronaviruses infect the mucosal surfaces of the lungs, at what is basically the very edge of the reach of our immune systems. You could say that this their grand strategy. They work their way in from our least protected borders. Typically, nasal spray vaccines are preferred in animals to stimulate immunity in the mucosa. Unfortunately, even the sprays achieve immunity that „is often short-lived, requires frequent boosting, and may not prevent re-infection.“ This is after decades of vaccine development and the considerably reduced safety standards observed in veterinary medicine.

      IBV vaccines protect the chickens from infection for only about nine weeks. That‘s long enough for the chickens destined to be eaten, but those raised for their eggs require constant boosters…

      1. Nick Alcock

        Interesting? You mean a pile of arrant nonsense? Almost everything in that article is wrong.

        They’re not livestock vaccines: nothing like this has ever been used in livestock. They’re genuinely new.

        They’re *extremely* efficacious for a vaccine, almost miraculously so IMO, far better at preventing serious disease than many other vaccines: consider that any vaccine with a % death rate reduction above 50% was considered acceptable by the WHO, and China’s is probably around that level, while the BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are around 97% *even with Delta* where their efficiacy is notably reduced. These are among the most efficacious vaccines ever produced — and also among the safest.

  6. Darius

    COVID spread can be limited with adequate ventilation. There’s a reason winter is the cold and flu season. People spend all day in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces. Ventilation and filtration standards and occupancy limits would land a heavy blow to the pandemic. Look at #COVIDisAirborne on Twitter.

    1. Louis Fyne

      Add lower absolute humidity messes up the nose’s ability keep its mucus at non-winter levels. And those nasal mucus are a key first-line defense at mitigating/preventing pathogens.

      Comfortable humidity in temperate weather 75F/24C = more than 100% relatively humidity at 0C.

      And (happy to wrong) I believe it is uncommon for commercial HVAC to humidify air to the extent needed to mimic temperate climates.

      1. Carolinian

        I read an article making this very point. It suggested the low tech solution of hanging wet towels over a pan.

        1. Louis Fyne

          for many homes/public spaces(particular those older), humidity is a Catch-22—

          unless the building has been properly designed/insulated, dialing up the humidity beyond a certain point will cause condensation behind the walls, potentially causing mold and, arguably, making things worse.

      2. megrim

        You can get an ultrasonic humidifier for under $50. I pair mine with a cheap hygrometer so I can make sure the humidity is always >45%.

      3. Duke of Prunes

        The problem with using humidifiers to mimic temperate climates in cold climates is that this has a tendency to create mold. Because it’s cold outside, there are cold surfaces inside somewhere – windows, attics, crawl spaces, poorly insulated walls, and the humidity condenses and this moisture must go somewhere. So, it soaks into the wall or the window frame or roofing joists and thus creates a mold/mildew favorable environment. To avoid this, one needs to adjust the interior humidity relative to the outdoor temperature. The colder is it outside, the lower the target relative humidity inside. My HVAC vendor recommends 35% indoor relative humidity when it’s 20F outside, and it goes down from there. 35% relative humidity is pretty arid.

    2. eg

      If our betters are not completely insane they will eventually realize that indoor ventilation is the 21st Century version of public sanitation works begrudgingly undertaken by the Victorians after urban cholera and dysentery eventually became intolerable enough for them.

  7. ambrit

    One underlying effect of all this, as has been commented upon quite a bit here, is the Public’s loss of trust in institutions.
    Just as, in law enforcement, “the Law must be seen to be working for all,” so too must the Public Health Authorities be seen to be working for the good of all. To the extent that the Public Health Authorities are being seen as being subservient to special interests, and indifferent to the needs of the Public at large, so too will the ability of those Public Health Authorities to guide and enforce the needed public health interventions be degraded. In the extreme case, brute force will not be effective in combatting this pandemic.
    Again, I am prompted to bring up the story of Dr. Faustus, in this instance, as directed by F W Murnau in his 1926 silent film, “Faust.” Here, the point is not so much the Doctor’s “Bargain With The Devil” as the riot and abandon that preceeds the bargain being made. In the scenario of the film, the public descent into despair and debauch is a major impetus to the Doctor calling up the Prince of Darkness. Such an abandonment into nihilism is a logical response to the ubiquitous dysfunction and hopelessness evident in the general situation. Without legitimate hope that someone is making serious efforts to combat the Pandemic, and mainly, perhaps, only that, the Public has naught to cling to except the traditional resorts of the last extreme; Religion and Sensuality. People will pray for Divine intercession or Live Life to the extreme up until the end. “Eat, drink, and be merry,” is a common refrain. Few think on the generally omitted final stanza; “For tomorrow we die.”
    See, for origin of phrase:
    Westerners have spent the last century, the Century of antibiotics, mass public health, and constant medical advances, as if Terran humans have finally conquered Nature. Alas that this was but an illusion. Nature always overcomes all obstacles.
    Be safe! Hull down.

    1. Carolinian

      In Medieval times memento mori were quite common and in Mexico even today with their Day of the Dead. I’ll get shelled for saying this but many on this blog are older and perhaps have a different perspective on Covid than younger people who in my observation have always taken the crisis far less seriously. Also the world is a lot more secular now–particularly among the educated classes–without the comforts of religion to help deal with onrushing fate. The debate over Covid is the same now as it has always been: to what degree should the “precautionary principle” override all other considerations. On a personal level–being older–I am still quite cautious, always wear my mask etc. But it may simply be that despite all our so far marginally effective efforts to defeat Covid it is going to kill some millions of the world’s citizens and and our interventions won’t change that.

      1. ambrit

        I’ll add that Science is the Secular Religion of today. That religion is taking a serious hit to it’s reputation for infallability with the events surrounding the Coronavirus Pandemic. Some will argue that Science is corrupted today by the Political Economy. Such was always the case. In older times, Science managed to fight it’s way through obstacles with a continual rededication to the core principles of the discipline. Such a Great Revival is yet to happen this time. Perhaps I view this subject through “rose tinted glasses.” I was bought up worshiping at the Shrine of Science and Technology. Perhaps I ought to reframe the Political aspect of the Religion of Science as The Adversary.
        Stay safe!

        1. vlade

          I beg to differ. Science is not a secular religion. Now, some (and I’d even say majority) of people who call themselves “scientists” are sort of a different matter, and of course there are people who want to make it into a religion, but that’s true more or less about anything.

          “Science” is really “scientific method”. Which is really a simple thing – I pick an idea, and want to show it’s wrong, having everyone and their dog have a go at disproving it. Only if it’s proving hard to disprove it (but it must be fundamentally disprovable in the first place!), I will say it may be a useable approximation of something.

          If your basis is “we have no clue”, then it’s hard to say it’s a religion, which says “we have faith”.

          Unfortunately, most people (and all scientist – or “scientists” are people too) prefer certainties and “truths”, one way or another. The few true scientists I met were as joyful at disproving something as at proving (of the same importance) – in fact, they said that “proving” something meant just that someone would prove you wrong later, while proving some important bit to be wrong was would stay with you forever.

          But as we get a society that’s more and more about instant satisfaction, and academia that’s more about how-many-quotations-can-you-get than real importance, can we wonder that we have what we have?

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            I think “ambrit” is referring to the faith of the PMC class. During the opening days of Deepwater Horizon, the talking heads, most notably Chris Matthews, offered up inane ideas such as “why not just send a submarine”, “Manhattan Project it”, and “get all the smart people in the same room to come up with a solution”. So strong was their faith in technology, they genuinely believe prayer is a solution.

            We have a society of elites who have little understanding of the scientific process or the world around them other than “FACEBOOK.” Because the PMC pray to Fauci and not Falwell, they will be rewarded. Praise science.

            1. ambrit

              It shows a bias of mine that I didn’t consider the PMCs as a separate class in this matter.
              I’ll suggest that the “faith” in Science of the PMC class is an amplified version of a basic “faith” in Science running through the common ‘social mind.’ Since Academics, generally confused with Science, is based on the Cult of Meritocracy, the resort to ‘magical’ formulae and ephemeral dogmas by the PMC is understandable. Abandoning that Worldview would mean abandoning the basis of their own socio-economic superiority.
              “If those Perfessers ain’t any better than us, why is they gettin’ all the gravy and we get the bones?” From such questions is Iconoclasm born.

          2. ambrit

            I agree with you about the divide between ‘Academics’ and ‘Scientists.’ One is a Career Path, the other is a Calling.
            However, in my defense, I’ll suggest that the “average” person does not make the distinction you do, which I concur with, between the differing philosophies of Progress. For most people I encounter, the Spokesbeing for the CDC is the Icon of Science. The image has been conflated with the actuality. This conflated pseudo-being is popularly viewed as Science, with all the trappings of a religious faith in said Progress. The concept of Regress is not allowed, much less considered.
            But then, I remember earlier times.
            Be safe!

        2. Carolinian

          Richard Rhodes has a new book out about E.O. Wilson. It’s good, and while the first two thirds is an overview of the career that Wilson himself had written about in many books, the last section is about this very topic and perhaps the reason for the book. When Wilson launched “sociobiology” in the 1970s he was immediately met with political opposition from Stepheen Jay Gould and others who–21st century fashion–tried to “cancel” him. At one conference a group of protesters stormed the stage and poured ice water on Wilson’s head. By suggesting that at least some of human behavior is instinctive and and inherited–just like the other animals–Wilson was undermining conventional humanism–or so they thought. They called him a eugenicist and even a Nazi.

          But the great biologist was merely following the science and by no means downplaying the rest–Wilson said 90 percent–of the ideas and behaviors that the smarter primates have come up with.

          So yes dogma and petty rivalries exist among scientists and academics as well. Perhaps they are just being primates.

          BTW the name of the book is Scientist.

          1. KLG

            E.O. Wilson is an outstanding scientist who knows more about ants than anyone. His Theory of Island Biogeography (with MacArthur) is still a classic after more than 60 years.

            No one in 1975, when Sociobiology was published, objected to the idea that natural selection can influence the evolution of observable behavior in animals. Including humans. It has been a long time, and I don’t have my copy anymore, but the final chapter of Sociobiology was a step too far. That chapter title IIRC was “From Sociobiology to Sociology,” and it was thin. Very thin. But it did strike a chord that sounded like Brahms at his best to those who generally believe that humans were perfectly described by Hobbes (and a host of others) and like my 3-year-old granddaughter banging on the piano to those who are reluctant to view human culture as determined by genes to any significant extent. Professor Wilson seemed to be particularly tone deaf to the dark shadow of eugenics (which provided not a little of the impetus for the development of statistics as a separate discipline, but that is another story).

            Wilson followed up with On Human Nature several years later, which was as thin as his final chapter of Sociobiology, only longer. It was a another bestseller for Harvard University Press, though (again IIRC). Next came Genes, Mind, and Culture with someone named Lumsden IIRC, which has apparently and deservedly disappeared without a trace. As one reviewer put it, with MacArthur E.O. Wilson worked with a collaborator who could do math, and that is still the only time he did so.

            Other than his beautiful book The Ants with Hobdobler, I cannot think of another book that was much worth reading, as were Sociobiology and On Human Nature, other than as a pleasant diversion. Most of them are similar to things like Advice to a Young Scientist by Peter Medawar (useful as a guide for a budding scientist to follow his or her path, personal testimony) or Consilience, in which he attempts to unify all of science/knowledge and early on mentioned William H. Whewell’s Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences. And that might be the only time I’ve seen Whewell’s 19th-century name in a lifetime of reading this stuff, though I do have/had Whewell’s book somewhere. Both Consilience and Whewell have as much relevance as J.H. Woodger’s attempt about 100 years ago to develop something called “axiomatic biology.”

            E.O. Wilson’s multi-volume compilation of Darwin’s four great books (2005) is magnificent, though, and I can see it from where I sit. Everyone should have a copy and re-read it every few years ;-)

        3. Jeremy Grimm

          I am appalled at how Science has been co-opted … verily, has been purchased and fully enthralled to Neoliberal Capitalism. The days of DoD Science were dark but contained some few bright moments and stunning advances with … valuable Commercial-Off-The-Shelf [COTS] … applications, and the splendid enhancements to libraries and library shelves born the 1960s Space Race and much touted Science competition with the USSR.

          I too believe a Great Revival is coming that will give Science a rebirth. I fear that revival my be very slow and very difficult if too much of what is known now, is lost to destruction and decay. Some things may never be discovered again without a new age of almost limitless energy. Humankind has consumed the stored energy of millions of years and it may never be recovered or regained … but not all Science requires vast amounts of energy.

      2. lyman alpha blob

        I was having the same conversation some family members over the weekend – in modern American society death is more and more seen as something that can be overcome rather than something that is inevitable and just around the corner. Just look at our current titans of industry, all looking for ways to get off this planet and/or cheat death. I brought up the subject of memento mori and shared a clever one with my family that I’ll share here too. See if you can spot it in this painting –

        Once you see it, you’ll never be able to unsee it, and it was all done by hand with no computer manipulation involved, which I always thought was an amazing artistic feat.

          1. Evelyn Sinclair

            The Anamorphosis technique was used by other artists as well. Anamorphic paintings have also been created to have images appear as undistorted when viewed in reflective objects place on them.


            Anamorphosis is the depiction of an object in a way that purposely distorts its perspective, requiring a specific viewing point to see it properly. Examples of anamorphic art date back to the 15th century, and include a Leonardo da Vinci sketch known today as Leonardo’s Eye. If you look at The Ambassadors at an acute angle, the white and black smudge that cuts across the bottom of the painting becomes a fully realized human skull.”

      3. Jen

        ” I’ll get shelled for saying this but many on this blog are older and perhaps have a different perspective on Covid than younger people who in my observation have always taken the crisis far less seriously.”

        It’s not just covid. I think as we age, many of us develop a different relationship with our own mortality – i.e., it’s not just a concept but something that applies to us personally. Many of my cousins are in the construction trade and to a one, they’ve turfed the roof work to their younger employees. Each of them has had that moment where they looked down and realized “holy crap, I would die if I fell.” And they no longer believe they’ll never fall.

        I’m thankful that I survived the stupid stuff I did in my youth.

        1. Bryon

          I am concerned about COVID and impact on me and the family, hence why I have read this blog and spent some time researching the risks. On the other hand when I was younger I didn’t do any research or investigation before taking the S bend on the gully road at 110km/h

          Funny how the risk of death is more appreciated the less we have to lose.

  8. Jason Boxman

    I’ve completely lost sight of what the expected end goal even is anymore. It still seems like the Chinese approach of elimination is the only way, but it seems having not done that originally, the west is simply screwed at this point.

    So if that is the case, what even is the practical end game here? It seems like endless death, mediated somewhat with some combination of always updated shots/vaccines and treatments of some kind. Perhaps we even eventually get some kind of sterilizing vaccine? But if not, it seems for the foreseeable future, death is what’s on the menu. Oh, and perhaps collapse of the medical system through retirements, disability, and death in combination with overloading.

    Meanwhile, what of long-COVID? As this progresses, we’ll have an increasing population of people with moderate to severe disability, and in the United States having a chronic condition is not ideal. And over time this surely is going to have severe consequences on the availability of labor.

    This goes in so many dark directions. I don’t think there’s a magic pony to be found here.

    1. Fiery Hunt

      I’d add, and risk being called cold and callous, that beyond the actual physical damage, there’s also the economic/livelihood issues. You think the wealth inequality was bad pre-pandemic?
      Ain’t seen nothing yet.

      And that economic desperation will lead to more and more individuals choosing risk and spread over caution and containment. See prime example here.

    2. AndrewJ

      That’s my feeling as well. Jackpot, part 1. Do what you can to prepare. Make peace with the idea that you will not survive collapse, that luck will have a bigger role than strategy. Fight hard if you like, or embrace hedonism and live it up, or both.

  9. Basil Pesto

    Australia has its own Gottlieb in the former deputy chief health officer Nick Coatsworth (former because he left the role after a self-declared personal mission accomplished as the vaccine campaign started to wind down here, at which point he started receiving the standard Faucian hagiographies), who came out with this transcendental crap on a morning TV show:

    Nick Coatsworth, a former federal deputy chief health officer, told Today the new variant could even displace the current dominant Delta variant.

    “If this is milder than Delta, you actually want it to spread within your community,” he said.

    “You want it to out compete Delta and become the pro-dominant circulating virus … it could be that we want Omicron to spread around the world as quickly as possible.”

    The comment comes after Chair of the South African Medical Association, Dr Angelique Coetzee, said most patients she’s seen are presenting will non-severe, asymptotic illness.

    Dr Coetzee was the first to raise the alarm about the new strain.

    Dr Coatsworth said the world should know more about Omicron in the next several days, and called for calm.

    “I definitely don’t think we should be waking up to any sort of panic. This thing is only 72-hours old,” he said.

    “There’s three elements of concern, it can transmit more quickly, it can be more deadly, or evade the vaccine.

    “There’s a lot we need to find out and I don’t think there’s any strong evidence at the moment.”

    He said until we have answers to those three concerns, Australia should only enact mild restrictions — and not bring booster shots forward.

    “The only thing we should change is mild restrictions on the number of people coming into the country from certain other countries,” Dr Coatsworth said.

    “At the moment everything else can go on as planned.”

    Christmas was normal in Australia last year. All political actors here are highly invested in at least the appearance of Christmas being normal this year, not least because there will be a federal election within 6 months, and at least one state election (Victoria) within 12. The quote I read here a year or so ago (possibly from GM) still stands: mix science and politics, and you get politics.

    1. GM

      Dr Coetzee was the first to raise the alarm about the new strain.

      Revisionist history/fake news.

      Tom Peacock first proposed the variant shortly after the sequences were uploaded.

      Then Tulio de Oliveira gave a presentation on the situation two days later, showing how it is taking over, etc.

      Dr Coetzee was nowhere to be seen until Friday/Saturday when the propaganda campaign started to brainwash people into thinking it will be “mild”.

      Christmas was normal in Australia last year.

      But will never be again under current policies :(

      1. Brian Beijer

        Thank you GM. I believe that little bit of misinformation was missed by almost everyone. Have you read anything to suggest that Dr. Coetzee has attempted to correct the world’s press about who really discovered this variant? It seems to be in almost every press release I’ve seen… at least it’s implied if not directly stated. It’s good to be able to stay on top of the lies and misinformation in real time, instead of finding out months later. It would be interesting to know what Tom Peacock and Tulio de Oliveira’s take on Omicron is.

      2. Basil Pesto

        Ah yes, I didn’t take that quote at face value but thanks for straightening the record

        But will never be again under current policies :(


    2. NB

      “Christmas was normal in Australia last year”

      Apart from on Sydney’s northern beaches, which were locked down tight!

  10. Noloni

    A lot of cope occuring right now. The strategy in the west of vaccines and hoping to get lucky has now failed with delta and soon omicron. It doesnt look like there’s any backup plan, other than the inevitable lockdowns should hospitalizations increase. Merry Xmas.

  11. The Rev Kev

    We should set up a betting pool on how long it will take until the first ocean cruise liner reports cases of Omicron aboard causing the entire ship to go into quarantine. Hopefully it will not be the Diamond Princess again as that would just be cruel.

  12. R

    Two minor comments since we are in the science section of NC:

    – all nuclear reactors go critical if they are working. You need a slightly surplus of emitted neutrons over captured neutrons to sustain the chain reaction. It is uncontrolled criticality that is the problem, where there is (cough) viral growth in neutron production that leads to energy spikes (boom).

    – Scotland has reported 6 cases INCLUDING COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION, I.e. without travel history. The money is on the index cases coming from either COP26 or the rugby internationals. It would be ironic if COP26 solved overpopulation….

  13. Tom Stone

    As one of those “Old people in the West” I think you can drop the word “Potentially” from the phrase “Potentially disastrous”.
    The consistency with which the Pandemic response has been bungled in the US and UK is amazing, it sometimes leads me to conjecture that there is some genius of Stupidity inspiring our overlords.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Hard work is hard, and too many of our elites are lazy and selfish. That is it. Biden didn’t want to wear masks anymore. He gripe about wearing a mask in his own home during the election. Setting annexample for 15 minutes would be too hard for him. Then his own political idea was to create an “America is back” theme with no more masks, going back to the pre-Trump Era.

      You would be shocked how many front row kids are really lazy as in if it was really hard or lacked immediate reward they would never do it. One problem is the modern nobility is too large for one set of rules for Biden/Johnson and the rest of the PMC.

  14. R

    Oh, and one more point. The Netherlands has been carefully to announce it has not finished sequencing the passenger samples yet. 13 cases out of 600-odd is a lower bound. That’s 2% positivity for the omicron pandemic wave already and potentially higher. We need to close our borders and stop seeding this wave until we can complete the vaccination testing.

    Oh, and I am sure I have read some posts somewhere on early lab data on evasion. I will try harder to find them!

    1. Orca

      61 passengers tested positive for COVID-19 on two flights of about 600 people. That is a 10% infection rate among *vaccinated* passengers. It’s clear the vaccines do not prevent infections and transmissions. We will find out soon if they prevent (Omicron) hospitalizations and deaths. I pray we don’t see negative efficacy there!

      1. Kurtismayfield

        We knew this during the summer, when the Provincetown Covid event was studied by the CDC.. the vaccine decreased the titer of virus slightly, but that was it. It still spreads.

        The PMC strategy if hoping for it to end is pretty much a failure, and politically a lockdown in the US will be a death sentence. The virus is here to stay.

      1. Retaj

        Content-wise, this could be considered to be a successor (2020) to the a paper (2007) cited in the wikipedia on IBV in the section on vaccines.

        I read the older paper earlier, and this new one has more information on vaccination practices in the poultry industry. It talks about the challenges of the different serotypes that have arisen requiring different vaccines. It talks about the need to perform surveillance on circulating IBV to assist with selection of the correct vaccine.

        I am only a layman, but it sounds troubling for the continuing evolution of SARS-CoV-2.

  15. Michael Ismoe

    Quick question: If we again go into lockdowns because of the O variant, do the vaccine mandates get delayed until the vaccine centers can re-open?

    1. ambrit

      I’ll opine here that the “vaccine mandates” are not about the vaccines, but about the ability to control the population. For whatever reason, someone or someones wanted the public to be out and about, unencumbered by masks, distancing, etc. So, even if there are new ‘lockdowns’ required by circumstances, expect there to be an exception to the rule carved out for going to the vaccination centre.
      Any delay in the provision and uptake of the “vaccines” would be an admission of the non-vital status of those “vaccines.” It would be an admission of failure.

  16. Wukchumni

    Omicron could be the strain that does in Las Vegas, which was teetering on account of the Colorado River up a creek without a piddle.

    Having a business model based on complete strangers mingling too close to one another inside buildings, is another no-go.

    In Pavlovegas’s defense though, xmas is typically the deadest time of year, but not that kind of dead compared to Covid.

  17. haywood

    With omicron potentially threatening the health of the PMC, will we see Dems support for more restrictive mitigation measures?

    I believe so, despite pandemic fatigue and profit concerns. Let’s not forget that liberals started talking about off-ramps and living with the virus only after they got their shots and felt secure in their own chances against the virus; grandma, the kids, and the cleaning lady be damned.

    1. Kurtismayfield

      No.. they will work from home and isolate those that they care about. They won’t stop the front line workers from staying on the front line

      I’d there is a big surge this winter again, the health care system may collapse. Too many doctors/nurses have already resigned, and another event might push it to the brink. From what I gave been told, the UMass Worcester hospital is running at about 25% less staff than a year ago.

  18. ChetG

    In the meantime, I wonder what is happening in Pennsylvania. As of yesterday, the positivity (positive over overall tests) is 55 percent. Here, in Centre County, the math is easy: 82 positives from 100 tests, or 82 percent.
    Four or five weeks ago, the positivity in Pennsylvania was around 20 percent; then it began drifting to 30 and then 40 percent. And now the numbers are absurd.
    If Omicron hasn’t hit yet, something else certainly has.

    1. ambrit

      Good Heavens. That is ominous indeed if it pans out.
      Keep yourself and those “near and dear” safe. Extra precautions are called for in such a situation.
      Stay safe!

  19. Tom Stone

    Neoliberals can not fail,they can only be failed.
    Bad attitudes on the part of deplorable nay sayer’s is the problem, not reality.
    BTW, I can get you a deal on a gross of St Anthony Fauci votive candles that are guaranteed to be gluten free.

  20. Chauncey Gardiner

    Re: “Twitter’s tending topics is revealing…in not a good way. I’ve looked at it multiple times over the last 8 hours and Omicron has been notably absent:”…

    Don’t know if it’s related or other factors are driving this decision, but Marketwatch is reporting this morning that Jack Dorsey is resigning as Twitter CEO.

  21. Watt4Bob

    Fatalism and inaction: Perhaps due to these challenges, a common public health response is fatalistic, accepting what will happen because of a belief that nothing can be done.

    I can’t help but think that we’ve all been quite effectively educated to understand, down to our bones that our governments behavior has absolutely nothing to do with the public’s welfare, or interests.

    Resulting in something like ‘learned helplessness‘.

    The US sociologist Harrison White has suggested in his book Identity and Control that the notion of learned helplessness can be extended beyond psychology into the realm of social action. When a culture or political identity fails to achieve desired goals, perceptions of collective ability suffer.

    We don’t have a good history of petitioning our government, even for moderation in any important instance, witness our record-setting efforts to stop the Iraq War, or environmental degradation, and Climate Change.

    We the People have been batting zero for so long, can we be blamed that we now feel it inevitable?

    What Margret Thatcher really meant when she said “There is no alternative.” was, “Abandon Faith”, and gradually, that’s been the result.

    Harrison White’s book; Identity and Control contains one ray of hope;

    Identity and Control has seven chapters. The first six are about social formations that control us and how our own judgment organizes out experience in ways that limit our actions. The final chapter is about “getting action” and how change is possible. One of the ways is by “proxy,” empowering others.

    They‘ the MOTU, have done a pretty good job so far, of neutralizing our proxies, witness Bernie, AOC and the Squad, et al, but then again, in our lifetimes, I don’t think our interests have ever been so obviously neglected.

    Maybe there’s a limit?

  22. CanChemist

    The R calculations of SA Omicron circulating on Twitter, including via Eric Feigl-Ding, are actually being done by a Canadian statistician, Ryan Imgrund. He has started calculating that in addition to calculating Ontario’s R values, and just as importantly has been aggressively calling out our local public health units for the continuous and insane denialism of aerosol transmission:

    I also want to give a shout-out to David Fisman, another Canadian on Twitter who is a University of Toronto epidemiologist and also hasn’t been afraid to bring truth to power (and to the rest of us):

    If Canadian provinces don’t get it together ASAP on aerosol transmission, we are going to be absolutely screwed this winter. They’ve already found Omicron in Ottawa, it’s surely already circulating elsewhere. Meanwhile among other issues, the hospitals still make you take off your N95 to put on a crappy baggy surgical mask, and people think it’s okay to take their mask off indoors if you’re 6ft away. It’s like Groundhog Day.

    1. mistah charley, ph.d.

      Another good example of Canadian health communication is a CBC interview with Dr. Peter Jüni, the head of Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table

      Points I noted:

      The interviewer says she finds some press info reassuring – “Oh, it’s so mild, the South African doctors are telling us” – Dr. Jüni says he hopes that this is the way it works out but he doesn’t change his evaluation that this is a time to be very cautious.

      Twice he makes a point about “Good ventilation” – at the end of the interview the interviewer summarizes the measures he recommended without including ventilation, he says “and ventilate well – all the rooms you possibly can” – the recognition of the importance of ventilation is encouraging to me.

      1. Paleobotanist

        Damn! I’m in Montreal. Our idiots of leaders are allowing buskers to play in the subway again. Masked unless playing a wind instrument. I can’t imagine anyway better to spread virus-laden aerosols. Legault (prime minister) and Dubé (health minister) are both businessmen determined to open up the economy again as soon as possible. Gawd help us. Can’t make this one up…

        Montreal International Airport has been inflecting the city since this all began…

  23. Jeotsu

    In terms of precautionary principle and fat-tail risks, it strikes me as very foolish to let this new variant spread, even if it does currently have miraculously-low morbidity&mortality.

    Omicron is (probably) a very highly transmissible strain, with a large set of changes to multiple proteins, not just the RBD of the spike protein. Distributing this virus out into a few hundred million people is giving the natural selection/evolution process an enormous boost. The evolutionary ‘hard work’ to generate Omicron, done in (probably) some unfortunate immune compromised person in southern African state, now gets so very many more chances to mutate, adapt and recombine.

    If the plan is to play Russian roulette with this pandemic, letting something like Omicron out strikes me like picking up an automatic pistol to play the next round of the game.

  24. Susan the other

    Covid is already making good tragedy on Law and Order. In a 2021 production themed on the terrible Spring of 2020 in NYC, bodies stacked in refrigerator trucks, restaurants going bankrupt and being evicted, people beside themselves with no good choices. And the government? You’d think that an influential TV show would put the government in better light – except there just wasn’t any. The only thing left to do is turn it into the great American Saga of the brave people.

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