Cornell Goes Code Red, Cancels Most Campus Activities During Covid Spike with “Very High Percentage” Omicron in Fully Vaxxed

Omicron is starting its Sherman’s march to the sea through the US. And as with Gauteng, universities are serving as outbreak epicenters.

Last week alone saw 900 new Covid cases among the 25,600 students. And an unspecified but clearly large proportion were Omicron.

From CNN (hat tip furzy):

Cornell University reported 903 cases of Covid-19 among students between December 7-13, and a “very high percentage” of them are Omicron variant cases in fully vaccinated individuals, according to university officials.

The school’s Covid-19 dashboard was updated late Tuesday afternoon, accounting for the jump in case numbers reported.

“Virtually every case of the Omicron variant to date has been found in fully vaccinated students, a portion of whom had also received a booster shot,” said Vice President for University Relations Joel Malina in a statement.

The fact that this high a level of outbreaks is happening among young people, who have robust immune systems, including those who were boosted, is not a good sign at all. Remember that boosters were first authorized for the elderly and at risk; the CDC authorized boosters for all adults only as of November 19.1

Below we are reproducing the full text of the note from Cornell’s president Martha Pollack announcing the “Alert Level Red” and the related measures (hat tip John Siman). It represents a significant shutdown of campus activities.

As GM said:

This will be every campus in January.

And of course those students are now going to go home and spread the goodies all around…

Martha Pollack’s statement follows.


Dear Ithaca campus community,

Since our Saturday message, our surveillance testing has continued to identify the rapid spread of COVID-19 among our student population. While faculty and staff case numbers currently remain low, just last evening our COVID-19 testing lab team identified evidence of the highly contagious Omicron variant in a significant number of Monday?s positive student samples. As a result, and out of an abundance of caution, the university is moving to Alert Level Red and announcing a number of immediate measures, outlined below.

I want to make clear that our evidence of Omicron is preliminary. PCR testing has identified its hallmark (the so-called S-gene dropout) in a substantial number of virus samples. While we must await confirmatory sequencing information to be sure that the source is Omicron, we are proceeding as if it is.

While there is still much that is not known about the Omicron variant, it appears to be significantly more transmissible than Delta and other variants. There is some evidence (though far from certain) that it generally causes milder cases, particularly among vaccinated individuals. However, when you have high transmissibility, you?re going to have very high numbers of cases, and so even with lower rates of serious illness, outbreaks must be taken seriously.

Thus, we need to do what we can to limit further spread, even though we are just a few days away from the end of the semester. That is why we are moving to Alert Level Red, and with that move:

Academic guidance:

  • All final exams will move to an online format as of noon, Tuesday, December 14. Exams that have already been moved to an online format will proceed as scheduled, including today?s exams. Some exams still scheduled to be in person may be able to switch immediately to an online modality; others may need to be rescheduled to give faculty time to pivot. Please be vigilant about looking for email updates from your faculty. More details about exams will be posted to the academic policiessection on the COVID-19 website as soon as available.

Event cancellations and campus impacts:

  • All university activities involving undergraduates (including events and social gatherings) and all university-sponsored events (including winter celebrations) are canceled.
  • The December 18 recognition ceremony for December graduates is canceled.
  • Students utilizing Cornell Dining are strongly encouraged to ?grab-and-go?; if you must eat near others, please do so at a distance.
  • Libraries are closed to students.
  • Athletics competitions on Sunday are canceled. Fitness centers and gyms are closed to students.
  • Offices and labs remain open, but undergraduate students should not participate in any work-study or lab work.

Student travel and campus public health guidance:

  • Students who have tested negative within the past 48 hours (Saturday or Sunday) and wish to leave campus are welcome to do so. Please wear a mask at all times during travel, take a COVID-19 test at your destination, and self-quarantine until you receive your result.
  • All students must complete their Departure Checklist prior to leaving campus.
  • Any student who has not tested negative in the past 48 hours should get a supplemental test as soon as possible. Schedule your test Students are encouraged to stay in Ithaca, in their residences, until their test results are received, and severely limit interactions with others during that time. More information about departure testing, how to get results, and extended appointment hours is available in the Daily Check.
  • We will continue to assist our on-campus residential students who have tested positive in safely isolating for the required 10-day duration until they receive approval from the Tompkins County Health Department to travel safely.
  • Visitors and guests are not allowed on campus, with the exception of those picking up students for break. In that case, we ask that you remain continuously masked while briefly on campus.
  • Students should avoid nonessential contact with others and increase their vigilance with mask-wearing, distancing, and hand washing. At present, over 97% of our student body is free of the virus and we want everyone to be able to enjoy a healthy winter break with family and friends.

Staff and faculty:

  • Mandatory surveillance testing will continue as normal for all employees currently enrolled. Supplemental testing will continue to be available for all employees.

While I want to provide reassurance that, to date, we have not seen severe illness in any of our infected students, we do have a role to play in reducing the spread of the disease in the broader community. The fact that we have not experienced severe illness among our student population may lead some to ask why we are imposing such serious steps. So let me share the underlying math: Consider one variant, let?s call it A, in which each person infects two others on average, and which causes serious illness in 1% of cases. After ten iterations of transmission, you?ll have about 1,000 cases, and 10 instances of serious illness. Now consider variant B, which is twice as infectious, so each person infects four others on average, but which causes serious illness only one-tenth as often, i.e., in only 0.1% of cases. Unchecked, over the same ten iterations of transmission, with variant B you?ll have more than a million cases, and about 1,000 individuals with serious illness. Of course, other factors come into play, including the fact that the virus will ?run out? of people to infect in any community, but the point is that higher transmissibility leads to exponential growth, which outweighs the linear decrease in percent of severe cases. To avoid this type of situation, it is imperative not to let such infections run unchecked, but to take steps that limit transmission.

It is obviously extremely dispiriting to have to take these steps. However, since the start of the pandemic, our commitment has been to follow the science and do all we can to protect the health of our faculty, staff, and students.

We have faced many challenges together over the last many months. I am confident that we can once again rise to meet this current challenge so we can all take a well-deserved break.


Martha E. Pollack

1 Some of the already-boosted students may be immuoncompromised or queue-bargers. Readers reported often of friends and colleagues who’d already gotten two shots waltzing into a local pharmacy and getting a third jab as if it were the first one. It appears checking for prior vaccination in these settings was limited to non-existent. An alternative sort-of defense of the boosters, which are being widely touted as pretty effective v. Omicron, is that the cases of “boosted but infected” got their dose too close to when they were exposed to Omicron to have reached full immunity (usually at the two week mark).

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  1. GM

    It is not at all surprising that the boosters are not offering much protection against infection.

    That was known with reasonable certainty on November 23rd.

    The question was always how many people they will keep out of ICUs.

    If it turns out it’s at the level of Sinopharm against Delta, which is what the very poor protection from infection would suggest (contrary to the upbeat propaganda in the media), we are in very very big trouble.

    Take a look at places like Chile, Bahrain and the Seychelles — those were the canaries in the coalmine with respect to the failure of the vaccination project back in May and June. And they all had to do post-vaccination lockdowns, in the case of Chile two of them, and recorded half or more of their deaths AFTER they had gotten to quite high levels of vaccination. Because the vaccine was not working as well as hoped for.

    Here we have a hypercontagious new form of the virus — in the first days after it appeared there was a lot of debate about whether it is more inherently transmissible or it’s just highly drifted antigenically, I bet on it being both, and newer data on its spread in Europe has confirmed that (current estimates are for 1.25x the R_0 of Delta). And we have abandoned all mitigation efforts (“mitigation”, not suppression and containment, those notions we threw away last year).

    At that rate of spread it will burn through the whole population by March.

    If vaccines and convalescence are only 75% protective against severe disease, in the US and Europe that means utter catastrophe — we only really saw what infecting 20-25% of the population in a short period of time without any protection means in New York and Lombardy early in the pandemic, and we know how that went.

    1. PHLDenizen

      On a slightly related note, my dad’s noticed an unusual uptick of myocarditis in his very large cardiology practice. He isn’t ready to attribute it to the vaccine or Covid, as he’s on the vaccine-uber-alles wagon, but is nonetheless perplexed and a little concerned. It’s not an enormous number, but definitely above baseline. Despite being the chief, admin is in full denial mode and desperate to change the subject when he brings it up at the chiefs’ meetings.

      ED waits have also spiked. Dunno about ICU utilization. I’ll ask. Nurses are haggard and slightly demoralized — at least some of them. The cath lab has been nuts, but I’m not sure there’s any relationship.

      1. HaggardRN

        Just got home from a shift at a hospital in the midwest, ICU utilization is higher than at anytime during previous waves. ED full, acuity is on every unit high. It is now routine for the MICU service to transfer all DNRCCA COVID+ patients (they want all treatment except for CPR and intubation) to the regular hospital medical team, which takes them out of the ICU census but they are still the same extremely sick person in a bed.

        Not to imply that they are cooking the books…this has been a change brought by necessity, and it is a new context for our census data.

        1. Samuel Conner

          +1 to Yves’ well wish.

          Am curious at the level of PPE, particularly masks/respirators, that your employer is providing.

          I’m delivering a case of 3M 9210+ to the nursing staff at a clinic I’ll be visiting repeatedly for the next few months, but I don’t think they will be allowed to wear them on site. They’re planning to take them home and distribute to their families.

          At my prior inquiry to “what happens if an outbreak in the facility”, I was assured that staff can be shuffled between nearby locations (it’s a large system).

          Me thinks that with Omicron, there might be simultaneous outbreaks at multiple sites with the same competencies.

          Give N95s this Christmas. There’s still time to get them. The kids may not be thrilled, but they’re much better than lumps of coal (though I suppose coal is pretty useful too, if one has the skills to ignite it).

          Prices on the 9210+ in case quantities continue to bounce around at the whip-cracking sadist customer company (I guess I fall under that condemnation, too. Will keep looking for a quantity supplier that will sell to non-institutional purchasers. Reader help welcome). I don’t know if this is supply/demand or the algorithm teasing me to see what my highest ‘bid’ is, sort of like “high frequency trading”. Not too happy to think that I’m being probed like this, though that is admittedly a low-grade problem by present standards.

          1. Tom Stone

            Home depot has the 3M Aura masks available in case lots here, not much of a discount from a ten pack.
            But they are available.

          2. HaggardRN

            Honestly it’s a bit of a mess! Thankfully we now have an abundance of n95s, PAPR hoods, and all other supplies, but adherence is not enforced and you will see different behaviors depending on where you work. ER is the worst and a lot of folks go into COVID+ rooms wearing only a surgical mask. I believe this is due to a combination of burnout, vaccine hopium, poor leadership, and resignation that they are gonna get it irregardless. All references to COVID isolation procedures on signage and in our EMR still say “droplet precautions.” No extra precautions related to airflow and I say a prayer to the HVAC gods before every shift that our standard hospital ventilation is sufficient. And from the very beginning our admin has kindly helped us understand that any staff infections undoubtedly were “community acquired.” With no other issue is The Evidence more conclusive than that nobody contracts this illness while working at our hospital.

            Thank you for the well wishes and I appreciate everybody’s insights that have helped me understand better the things I am seeing everyday, keep my family safe, and have reasonable expectations for what is always coming next just around the corner.

      2. Kathleen Skeels

        The Sars cov2 virus can cause myocarditis, at a greater and more severe rate certainly than the vaccine.

        1. Objective Ace

          I’m no longer sure this is true, at least not for all age groups: . This isnt a perfect source since people can get myocarditis and not end up in the hospital, but it at least points to the need for more data before concluding either way

          Although you’re right that its almost certainly mycarditis from both groups contributing to a higher than baseline overall myocarditis spike

      3. ChrisPacific

        On a slightly related note, my dad’s noticed an unusual uptick of myocarditis in his very large cardiology practice.

        Is it mostly young males in their late teens/early 20s, by any chance? There has been some evidence that the vaccines dramatically increase the risk for that cohort, in the range of 10 to 100 times. It was downplayed because the baseline risk was extremely low (10 to 100 times an extremely low number is still pretty low) and because cases were ‘mild.’

    2. Kris Alman

      “highly drifted antigenically”

      At what point do we call this antigenic shift?

      Preclinical Data Highlight the Significant Antigenic Shift of the Omicron SARS-CoV-2 Variant and its Effect on the Neutralizing Activity of Monoclonal Antibodies, Convalescent Antibodies and Vaccine-Elicited Antibodies

      SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 14, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Vir Biotechnology, Inc. (Nasdaq: VIR) today announced new preclinical data, published to the preprint server bioRxiv, demonstrating the impact of the significant antigenic shift of the new SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant (B.1.1.529).

      1. Kris Alman

        An antibody-escape calculator for mutations to the SARS-CoV-2 receptor-binding domain
        The escape calculator suggests extensive antigenic change in the new Omicron variant
        We applied the escape calculator to the recently reported Omicron variant, which has 15 mutated sites in its RBD (NGS-SA 2021; de Oliveira 2021). The calculated binding score for the Omicron variant is much lower than any other SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, indicating extensive antibody escape (Figure 4A). The Omicron variant’s calculated score is roughly equivalent to that of a polymutant spike (PMS20) that was artificially engineered in a pseudovirus by Schmidt et al. (2021) to maximize escape from polyclonal serum antibodies

        1. Kris Alman

          otoh, is the concept of antigenic shift applicable to Covid, given this nomenclature? And if so, will omicron be the first variant of high consequence?

          Review of COVID-19 Variants and COVID-19 Vaccine Efficacy: What the Clinician Should Know?

          The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updates the variant strains in the different classes. The classes are variant of interest, variant of concern and variant of high consequence.

          Variant of concern
          This class includes variants which demonstrated high disease transmissibility, more disease severity including hospitalizations and deaths, remarkable decrease in antibody neutralization, decreased effectiveness of treatments, and diagnostic detection failure. This class also requires increased efforts to control spread by developing testing kits, increased research to ascertain the vaccine and treatments efficacy against the variant. The current variants included in the variant of concern by the USA are B.1.1.7, P.1, B.1.351, B.1.427, and B.1.429. Similar to variant of interest class, the variants in this class also share a common mutation D614G, which spreads rapidly than variants without the mutation.

          Variant of high consequence
          This class includes variants which have evidence that the preventive and medical measures have a significantly decreased effectiveness compared to previously circulating variants. There are no variants in this class [17].

  2. none

    I went to get my pfizer booster today at the big local hospital. Tons of people waiting around, getting vaccinated, etc. Enough people in the room that it seemed like a super spreader event in its own right. All the medical staff were wearing those flimsy surgical masks. I had an N95 and safety glasses but still felt paranoid. There was the usual 15 minute post-injection observation wait and they made sure I sat down in the area for that, but I skipped out after about 8 minutes. I’d like to get a CO2 monitor to check in situations like that, but had been putting off the booster for too many reasons already, and we are getting close to both the holidays and the likely coming omicron surge.

    1. GM

      I went to get my booster a month ago. This at a very large and prestigious hospital.

      I go with a valve-less N95 (playing by all the rules) and what happens when I enter? They try to make me take it off and put on one of their surgical masks…

      This in late 2021…

      1. Basil Pesto

        I got my 2nd AZ dose last week (in stunning surrounds!) and rocked up with a P2 mask, braced, with a double mask over the top. Was told to remove the P2 mask and replace it with an ordinary surgical mask “in case you brought it in from outside” (?). The nice fellow who gave me the surgical mask, bless him, was wearing an N95. That’s nice. After briefly thinking about what to do I just got on with it because 1. I had a mask brace to help the surgical mask fit better 2. I had a second mask to go over the top, and 3. the building was very well ventilated. Not everyone will be in such propitious circumstances, of course. But, yeah, cluelessness abounds.

      2. none

        They asked me to wear a surgical mask but they were satisfied when I put it on over my N95. I think they mostly want to get everyone wearing the same mask in order to avoid getting into arguments about cloth masks, neck gaiters, etc. I encountered the same thing at a Dr. office a few months ago (had to wear surgical mask over my N95). I’m surprised they made you take off your N95.

      3. PlutoniumKun

        Here in Dublin I got my booster last week in a converted conference hall – very open and airy – not because of great design, but because it was built cheap and functional, but sometimes thats for the best. The booking system was very efficient so there was minimal waits or queuing. All staff had standard surgical masks, no N95’s. Lots of people coming just had simple cloth masks.

        My original shots were in a local clinic. The first time they messed up the appointments so lots of people were crowded into a waiting room, mixing with ‘regular’ patients (its a deprived area, so many were in poor physical condition to put it mildly). I sidled out and waited in a stairwell. The second time everyone waited outside in the sunshine (fortunately, we had a pleasant summer) it was much better and safer.

        Masking is still pretty much universal here in public areas in Ireland, although there is a huge variation in mask quality. Lots of nose-hangers, etc.

      4. Roger Blakely

        Respirators are the way to go. N95s are good, but half-face elastomeric cartridge respirators with particulate filters (painters masks) from Home Depot are even better.

        Getting a whiff of Omicron may be the best. Give the immune system a chance to identify it. The problem comes when people get hit with too much virus at once. Respirators are not perfect, but the outcome will be better.

        1. jonboinAR

          Everyone does realize, I hope, that wearing a respirator will help one from becoming infected, probably quite effectively, but will do nothing to prevent one from passing Covid if one has already contracted the disease but doesn’t know it, yet. With a respirator (one of those masks with a valve), the exhaled air is unfiltered. Thus, probably the main reason for the public safety imperative to wear masks universally, trying to stop individuals from passing Covid to several others, or “super-spreading”, is completely mitigated by wearing a respirator. For the public safety benefit, you might as well not be wearing anything, or maybe a tee shirt mask.

          1. Basil Pesto

            No, that’s wrong. Respirators are the name for the masks that reach the N95/KN95/FFP2 standard or higher. Some of these do have a valve, and you’re correct that this won’t protect people you share a space with if you yourself are infected. But a respirator-type mask does not necessarily have an outflow valve. Take these for example. A bit pedantic but worth clarifying.

            1. Objective Ace

              I’ll note that even with a valve, you can throw a surgical mask over top of it to protect others. I find this to be the best of both worlds. Easier to breath because your breathing out of a surgical mask not an n95, but still get the protection of the n95

              1. Carolinian

                Right. This has been discussed here before. However if you want to stand out in any crowd wearing a paint respirator would definitely be the way to go.

                And just by way of info, I was in Harbor Freight yesterday and they do still sell them for under $20.

                  1. Carolinian

                    I have one of the Harbor kind and it definitely blocks odors which I believe is one test for covid blocking. It has the rubber flap exhaust, cartridge filter intake. Think they all have to meet an osha standard.

                    But I wouldn’t wear mine in public. People would freak out.

            2. jonboinAR

              No, not pedantic at all. I stand corrected. Thanks! But again (I think I’m right, here), if the mask has an out-flow valve, that means the out-flow air is not filtered. The idea is to let your breath out with as little restriction as possible, thus improving breathing. The “painter’s mask”, used by itself, will provide the wearer with protection from others, but not protect others from the wearer. If “the gov’m’t!” can or must mandate the use of masks under it’s public safety mandate, it really needs to stipulate that masks with out-flow valves are not allowable.

      5. upstater

        Same experience at St Joseph’s hospital in Syracuse a month ago, pre Omicron. We put their mask over our KN95s. We were visiting my father in law who passed shortly after of non COVID cause. On his floor staff wore masks in patient rooms, but routinely had them off elsewhere. The care provided was VERY spotty; one doesn’t want to be hospitalized in these times for any reason.

        Locally, elective procedures were shutdown last month. The largest hospital closed 120 rooms due to staffing. Last news story I saw in November said 81 workers at one hospital had been terminated because of no vaccinations. Between them all the number terminated must be in the hundreds.

        We got boosted a month ago at a small chain pharmacy. Thankfully we didn’t have to go to a large facility with hundreds of people.

        Don’t get sick!

      6. Brooklin Bridge

        Same thing happened to me as I entered my local hospital to see my (pulmonologist?). Ten paces later, and around a corner, the surgical farce came off and the brand new valveless N95 was back on.

        A little head scratching and a sigh of hopelessness later, I was back to getting to my appointment.

      7. The Rev Kev

        Similar experience last week when we went to visit somebody in hospital. Both the nursing staff present wore their masks as chin diapers which I rarely ever see. Yeah, plenty of people with their schnozzes hanging over their mask but hardly ever seen people with their masks sitting under their chin. And these were nurses.

    2. curlydan

      I had the same experience with my booster. Crowded, small room with a lot of people. I was about 30 seconds from bolting due to fear, but they finally got me to a less crowded room. And after about 5 minutes post-vaccine waiting, I took off to the parking lot and just waited there.

      I decided to get a Moderna booster on top of my original 2 Pfizer shots. So far, no reaction to the booster after 5 days whereas the 2nd Pfizer made me feel lousy for 3 days. I’m guessing my body needs 2 shots of the same for any big reaction.

  3. C.O.

    A growing outbreak related to a large social event and unrelated sports tournament led to similar measures being applied at the University of Victoria in BC on late Sunday night, when the various notices and advisories began to emanate from the pandemic response services team. They haven’t shut down direct library and lab access yet, but that is because so far the number of delta cases far outnumber any omicron numbers. Vancouver Island is now experiencing an overall spike for the first time in the whole pandemic despite vaccine mandates, vaccine passports, and ongoing mask mandates and a new campaign to remind people how to wear their masks so the mask will do any good.

    Editing just to add a link to the joint statement from the university and the local health authority, which details current knowledge of the variants at play and new precautions.

  4. thoughtfulperson

    GMs comment about spread throughout the population of Europe and USA by March. Utter catastrophe.

    750,000,000 Europe + 330,000,000 usa people
    1 billion just over is total

    5% hospitalization 1% deaths

    54,000,000 hospitalization
    Hmm not space for that and 0 preparation

    Deaths likely over 1% therefore, well over
    11 million deaths, say by end of March.

    Hoping my math crazy wrong?

      1. bold'un

        Most patients can survive via oxygen supplementation, which can be done in ad-hoc field hospitals – provided there is enough o2 (see India with Delta).

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          The constraint is not beds but staff and that’s already below hospital bed capacity due to Covid attrition. Patients on O2 need to be fed and often helped to the toilet.

          And for the first wave, places like NYC had a bit of time to prepare and did set up field hospitals…which weren’t used. Omicron is moving so quickly that even absent staffing issues, I doubt many places in the US have the operational capacity to set them up fast enough. They’ll just let people pile up on gurneys in corridors like they did the first time…which is not so hot given Omicron’s extreme contagiousness. Or triage like they did in Italy and refuse to treat Covid cases over 65.

          1. clarky90

            IMO, if (when) I get sick with C19, I plan to shelter at home, not at hospital.
            I have N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), iodine, …… and so on…

            A friend who had C19 early on (the original bug) lay on her stomach in her bed to allow the mucus to drain out of her mouth and nose, as well as other strategies, like using Hydrogen Peroxide in a cool mist humidifier…..

            I always fast when I am sick… which negates much of the toileting problems.

            Public discussion of therapeutics (Anything other than the miraculous. innovative, transformative, safe and effective…. vaccine injections) is still verboten “vər-bōt′n”.

            Oh wait….The Vanguard Group has aquired “The Science”, in a hostile buy-out.

  5. Earl Erland

    FWIW, Beef Tenderloin dropped from 24/lb to 9.99 @ Caputo’s in Carol Stream Il. It’s a wonderful store.

    Something’s happening here. What it is a’int exactly clear.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Do they sell to restaurants? Perhaps a big restaurant order was cancelled at the last minute or a big restaurant was so slow in paying that Caputo’s cut them off?

  6. mj

    I attend a medical school in NJ and we have fought the school tooth and nail from the start. Fought for testing, for communication from admin, for decent guidance, for a plan, *any* plan. Two years into this pandemic and we are still not doing routine testing if students for COVID. Variable masking abounds. We are now required to appear for activities that involve packing nearly 200 students into a small lecture hall—which is to say, total denial and back-to-normalism. And the admin has completely stopped talking to us. Not a peep about omicron.

    To read this communique to Cornell students is a bit of a blow. I wish someone would talk to us. The silence is deafening.

  7. Hayek's Heelbiter

    Still cannot figure out why there is so little utilization of the second best way to prevent indoor transmission of Covid (the first being to maximize air flow by keeping all doors and windows open), i.e., UV-C air sanitizers, which nuke not only Covid but every other aerosol-borne virus. Especially as so many cases of Covid seem to be more or less iatrogenic as people actually catch them in health facilities. Two of my double-vaxxed friends caught it when they were getting their booster shots!
    These sanitizers are not all that expensive. Mine cost $200 and covers most of my flat. What is the cost of every doctor and nurse that comes down with the disease?
    Can anyone out there in the NC readership land enlighten me as to why these systems are not more prevalent, especially considering the amount of research showing their efficacy?

    1. chris

      Did you purchase one for use that is 222 nm (far UVC) or 254 nm (UVC)? And do you use it while people are in the room?

  8. Mikel

    The percentage game about what shot is effective and for how long has drifted into meaninglessness.
    Numbers change depending on who and where the reports come from and many environmental factors contribute to the effectiveness of therapies such as the shots…not only people’s individual state of health.
    These percentages being thrown around remind me too much of political polling.

  9. Chianti Reserve

    I will be fascinated to see if the Professional Managerial Class pulls back on in person office gatherings this winter. I have been stunned to see maskless gatherings and conferences with mostly unboosted people in the middle of the screaming Delta wave. And masks in the office have basically been discouraged due to peer pressure. I still remember ole Scott Gottlieb’s warnings from a year ago about limiting holiday parties this winter because we *might* have around 30k cases a day and that would still be dangerous lol. Now he’s fully carrying the water for the PME/office/anti-mask clan in the face of this screaming Omicron wave and all us poors get is a 3rd dose of Wuhan strain vax and no Paxlovid suppy as far as the eye can see.

  10. Anon

    Thank you, NC, for your excellent continuing reporting on Covid. You are the place I go to get the most reliable information.

    I live in a university town. Cases are up here but it is difficult to know what the real numbers are since the county, town and university dashboards are questionable at best. I hope students will go remote during the second semester (January) for everyone’s sake but I am not optimistic because the university puts the God of Money before all else. And as the university goes, so goes the whole town, including its most vulnerable residents.

  11. Tom Stone

    What, me worry?
    I’m sure the adults in the room have a secret plan to end the pandemic, there’s NO NEED TO PANIC!!!
    These are PROFESSIONALS, the very best and brightest.
    Men like the sainted Dr Anthony Fauci, Women like Wolensky.
    It’s contained.
    Get vaccinated, go shopping, because Markets…

    1. tegnost

      I’m sure the adults in the room have a secret plan to end the pandemic

      FFS Tom,
      Let’s try to save Christmas first, OK?

  12. YankeeFrank

    Peter McCullough was on Joe Rogan a few days ago and its well worth a listen. Its on spotify and you don’t need to pay to get the audio. His most important argument was about early treatment for those who do get sick, and the fact that the pre-hospitalization treatment protocols are thin or non-existent in the US. Most hospitals/clinics simply tell people to just go home if they come in and don’t have severe symptoms, which is basically medical malpractice almost two years into the pandemic. If instead, they would be given actual treatment including a series of medications/vitamins McCullough and many other doctors around the world have codified into a set of treatment protocols over the last 1 1/2 years, the death rate would drop significantly (as it has in countries that use it). And of course, these protocols could be used to arm the citizenry with defensive measures in case a family member gets ill. Just like cancer or most any other illness, early treatment is key.

    There are a lot of other important ideas in the almost three hour interview, some of which may be controversial. The only thing I will say about that is McCullough, unlike the people that make up most of our “public health” bureaucracy, has been and continues to treat actual patients with covid so he’s on the front lines. He’s also not just a cardiologist but an epidemiologist as well.

    Another point he makes is, if “the vax” is the way to beat covid, why haven’t they narrowed it to the most effective one, which he points out is most likely moderna, which keeps its efficacy far longer than the others. Its an “any of them” approach which is clearly not a medical/scientific decision.

    He also states his opinion that most of the failed response to covid has been due to incompetence and not simply greed. I would modify that a bit and say there’s a whole lot of moral and scientific incompetence on display, but it all hinges on an immoral system based on greed, arrogance and power. Its difficult enough to exercise solid scientific methods when there are few competing interests. In our system, with “I am science” ghouls like Fauci, and standing behind them the goliath of big pharma, the current catastrophe is pretty much baked in.

    1. haywood

      I listened to a little of that interview and have to say he came off as more than a bit of a crank. I’m not one to dismiss a person entirely for a having few ideas I find odd, quite the opposite. But when he began rattling on about RFK Jr’s books about a “plan-demic” I hit stop and picked up a book.

  13. mrsyk

    It seems likely that avoiding exposure over the next few months will be difficult if not impossible. It might be a good time for people to share their strategies for defending themselves from the virus taking hold, and for planning for a positive test result. Good masking is enjoying a robust discussion here, as it should. What else? What about boosting immune response? What should one’s response to a positive test result be? I would speculate that self care in the early stages that might keep one out of the healthcare system would be invaluable. Our strategy has been a focus on healthy diet, exercise, and fish oil (this seems lame as I type it out), along with common sense masking and avoiding indoor public spaces. I worry that this is not going to be enough. I hold dear the ideas and opinions of this community, thank you one and all.

    1. Beth

      I’ll offer my 2 cents on NPI’s (nurse here) – vetted high quality masks are key, but how to vet? A techie bro has purchased testing equipment and set himself the task of testing every mask sold on Amazon; he did pretty well: 3M is not the last word in N95s, Indiana Mask Co. makes one which to my mind is close to perfect and allows me to breathe and speak more easily.
      Also Aaron Collins is @masknerd, he’s an engineer who, early in the pandemic, started testing masks with equipment he set up in his bathroom; its a tremendous public service, he’s on youtube. Get a high quality air purifier for work and home – aerosol scientists on Twitter have promulgated a very helpful chart on which one to buy for what square footage. Investigate nasal sprays, that is how the virus gets in (I use one made by a biotech firm in Canada, produced in Israel) I take Vit. D and Quercetin, and Zinc after any risky outing.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Sorry, this isn’t that helpful. As you can see from the video, both the NIOSH and this site’s method assumes you have a perfect fit and no leak from the sides. So he skips over the biggest fail in all high quality masks, the leaking.

        Every over the ear mask I have every tried leaks. Period. And I have a big head (as readers have likely worked out! but seriously I wear the largest standard size of men’s hats, a 7 1/2) so it’s likely as bad or worse for most people.

        The only way I get no leak is with an over the back of the head straps and even then the leak under the chin, so I need to wear a procedure mask underneath to block that leak.

        1. Ana

          Leaking is a real issue. I have gotten a case of rolls of surgical paper tape and use that tape to seal my 3M – N95 masks to my skin when I’m not using my full face N99 respirator.
          Ana in Sacramento

    2. jonboinAR

      I’m a pest control man, or exterminator. I’m pretty sure I’ve been exposed more than once. I’ve been on a general multi-vitamin, plus supplements of vitamin K, magnesium, and large doses of C, D3 and zinc ever since December of 2020. I’ve been tested a half dozen times, have never tested positive nor shown a symptom. Oh, I was double-jabbed with Moderna in May of 2021.

    3. marku52

      Take Vit D Now!. It takes about 2 weeks for it to be processed in the liver into an active form.

      You have to start before you need it.

      Know your blood level.Quest and other labs will do the test without DR’s order. Keep upping your dose until you are above 50nG/ml

    4. Brian Westva

      Make sure you check out the Frontline COVID Critical Care alliance protocols for prevention and treatment. I took a leap of faith and ordered some ivermectin from a pharmacy listed on their website around thanksgiving when omicron was first emerging as a variant of concern. Hat tip to a commenter (don’t recall who) here who shared that information. I just received my order earlier this week and it provides me some peace of mind knowing that I have that option readily available if I happen to get COVID. Actually just tested negative today along with my daughter who was exposed at school on Monday. I’ve been taking vitamin D, C, zinc, turmeric, on mostly a daily basis. Eat plenty of oranges, fruit, etc. Of course masking, avoiding people, and good hygiene is important. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the medical establishment would allow early treatment with off label drugs?

      1. rowlf

        As I have posted several times, I was amazed a few months ago when a local Atlanta television station interviewed someone from the CDC and the person recommended vitamin D3 in addition to vaccination (or is it just Covid shots now?). To hear that in the US media was amazing.

        Said person has probably been reprimanded by now and/or demoted.

  14. Chris

    Even better than an n95 mask is an n95 mask with HEPA filtered air blown in through a tube from a rechargeable battery and fan containing filter box. For example see Broad Airpro and similar motorized respirators available on Amazon for around $50-$60. The air is much cleaner than n95, and it blows exhaled heat and carbon dioxide out through the n95 mask, thus protecting others. Hospitalist versions blow more air but cost much more, and are probably only affordable by doctors.

    1. Basil Pesto

      I bought a couple of these for my parents. Father has COPD, mother doesn’t but will get breathless with physical exertion. Arrived a couple days ago, they said it looks good. Need to check if they’ve been using it. My concern is the cut-out in the maks

      I am content with my standard KN95/P2s + double masking at the moment, but for my parents (who would like to wear masks but find it difficult), the fact that these might make it easier for them to breathe while masked could be very beneficial.

  15. Tom Stone

    Treatment at home will be the only treatment available for most Americans.
    The hospitals are already on the ragged edge, there’s simply no way they can handle the expected number of Omicron infected patients.
    Collapse seems inevitable.
    It is best to shop for what you will need when infected now, while it is available.
    Do keep in mind that Omicron will not be the last mutation and that the time between new successful variants arising is likely to shorten.
    More hosts= more mutations.

  16. ChrisFromGeorgia

    So this latest data from almost fully vaccinated, heavily boosted Ivy League Cornell, shows that the facts on the ground are rapidly outstripping the press releases, non-peer reviewed experiments and lab studies from Pfizer and other big Pharma profiteers. Paired with public health officials like Gottlieb going on CNBC and telling lies that they’re “probably effective” against Omicron.

    There is a shred of hope that … maybe … they reduce severe outcomes, although it could easily be that Omicron is just less deadly (crossing fingers.)

    How much longer can anyone believe the credibility of these profiteers? Will there be a magic moment when the majority turn on them?

    1. Screwball

      I don’t think so.

      I was just reading a board where they were all high-fiving each other for getting their booster, how awful it was for someone (forget who) to question Fauci (the science), how all anti-vaxxers should be sent to a field hospital out in the middle of nowhere, manned by the criminal healthcare workers who refused the shot, and if they all die – it’s their fault – the hospital is for the vaxxed, and only the vaxxed.

      When they weren’t talking about that, the consensus was we should intervene in Ukraine – because Putin, Rachel Maddow is “knocking it out of the park”, Chris Wallace move from Fox to CNN+ is because he believes in, and cares about “fairness, balance, and journalism.”

      Oh, and the reason they can’t pass anything in congress is because of the filibuster, Machin & Sinema, the parliamentarian, and of course because the republicans – the biggest baddest most evil entity on planet earth. And whatever you do, never say anything bad about Kamala, Mayo Pete, or the greatest press secretary of all time – Jen “mail out test kits” Psak, because she beats up that swine prick Peter Doocy on a daily basis.

      TL:DR – FUBAR

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        How old was this daisy chain of circle-jerk mutual high-fivers? If they were all college age, there may be as little hope as you say. If they were all post-college age or older, then the college-agers may not be subject to the same level of clue-proofness.

  17. Carolinian

    While Omicron has quickly spread through a school in NY state isn’t it likely that the hospital conditions mentioned in the above comments are still about Delta? And therefore isn’t it likely because vaxxed people are acting as though they are protected by the vax even though they aren’t?

    Where I live I’d say mask wear in stores is now down to a third or less. I’m starting to feel conspicuous wearing mine. At my library there’s a large sign saying to wear a mask (they put the sign back up) and yet most of the staff are not. Biden told people what they wanted to hear last May and one suspects it will be difficult to get them to revert to what they were doing in 2020.

  18. Anthony Stegman

    In my mind I feel that there is a bit too much doom and gloom in many of the comments here. When all is said and done we as a society will muddle through this pandemic, no matter how long it takes. Yes, 800K+ deaths is very tragic, but for a nation of 340M+ it is insignificant in the big picture. Many of these deaths were elderly who no longer “contributed” to a capitalist society. For the most part, business as usual has continued. Fundamentally, little has changed (as Joe Biden promised). Omicron is the latest scary variant. It won’t be the last, and it won’t kill us all. By all means take every precaution to avoid becoming infected and/or becoming seriously ill. But don’t become too despairing. Life will go on. There are much bigger challenges ahead.

    1. Basil Pesto


      setting aside the myriad myopisms in your post, let’s focus on the unmentioned flipside to this one (which is wretched in the first place):

      Many of these deaths were elderly who no longer “contributed” to a capitalist society.

      Young people are getting and will get long-term disabling disease caused by this virus that will prevent them from contributing to a capitalist, or any other society for that matter. This is not theoretical. It is happening.

      This virus could get a lot worse, and all the half-baked rationalisation in the world will be of cold comfort to those affected when it does.

    2. ChrisFromGeorgia

      Oh boy.

      I am going to have to be on my best behavior because this is a family blog and I don’t want to be put into moderation.

      800k dead (and likely 1M by March 2022) is not only tragic, but a huge indictment of public health in the wealthiest nation in the world. Clearly the vaccines were over hyped. Examples of horrible leadership are everywhere and don’t discriminate by team blue vs. red: the failure to use defense in depth, i.e. masking combined w/ over the counter meds know to be effective against COVID. Mix in plenty of “noble lies” (15 days to stop the spread! Vaccines stop transmission!) and outright delusional public statements from the likes of Gottlieb, Fauci, Walensky, Biden, Trump, and pretty much the entire establishment ought to be burned to the ground over this.

      Saying it is “OK” that most of the victims were elderly is akin to saying they have no value, this leaves me with not much to say other than I hope when you get old your family does not take a similar stance.

      Yes there is room for optimism, but realism must also be part of the response to a debacle of this magnitude.

      1. tegnost

        that most of the victims were elderly is akin to saying they have no value

        not akin ro, he actually stated it…
        “Many of these deaths were elderly who no longer “contributed” to a capitalist society”

        look at the stock market!

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        ( I notice that some put-in-moderation seems to be purely a technical roll of the dice, purely based on the digital machinery itself).

    3. polar donkey

      Life going on. I have worked 43 events at a sports arena over the past 3 months. 4,000 to 12,000 people per event. Last night 11,000. Only people masked were me and the staff of the event. The county here over that time has averaged 90 to 170 cases a day of covid. Only one of my staff has gotten covid. About 12 days ago. She was vaccinated 6 weeks ago. She probably got it at her day job which is hairdressing. My son’s are 7 and 5. Went to school everyday during the last wave in August. I wrote about how I saw almost zero covid prevention strategies at their school aside from contact tracing if someone got sick. My wife is a teacher. Been in class since August 2020. When I am not at an arena with thousands of people I work at a sit down restaurant through almost all of covid. Perhaps I and all my family have been asymptomatic. I don’t know. But if I have somehow navigated the past 20 months without getting visibly sick, it is a hard sell to convince the public to seriously modify their behaviors unless they see people drop dead in front of them. I am concerned about covid. My family and I take extra vitamins, rarely eat out in public, and mask up indoors. My wife and I got the J&J shot in early April. Have we just been incredibly lucky. I have no idea. Do I listen to someone like McCullough or Fauci? Screw Fauci. I mostly pay attention to IM DOC.

    4. chris

      So, speaking of those much larger challenges ahead, how do you feel about millions and millions of crippled children and adults? Because that is concern here. Long COVID, organ damage, neurological issues, required treatment to rebuild lung capacity and endurance, etc. Those of the problems we’re going to see because we’ve let this virus run rampant through our population. The deaths are tragic but it’s the living we need to be more concerned about.

      And when it comes to who has contributed to our capitalist society, I’ll take a dozen grandmas who can teach kids how to read over one Elon Musk any day of the week.

    5. drsteve0

      I hope this was sarcasm. Whether uncle Joe (Stalin) said it or not, ‘ one man’s death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic’, is just wrong (may have paraphrased old Joe, too lazy to look it up). The old pharts and other vulnerable folk dropping like flies is just a leading indicator, it’s coming for the rest of us. Don’t get cocky. Was it Yogi Berra that warned it ain’t over till it’s over.

    6. c_heale

      Your attitude to the elderly is disgusting. Maybe you should consider the facts that your grandparents are the reason you exist.

  19. haywood

    Any parents of school age kids, here? What do you think will happen with the public schools? I’m not sure they can keep the barely staffed schools open if they tried with this level of infection.

    I’m considering pulling my kid from pre-K again. Poor kid has been in school for (maaaybe) six of the last 24 months.

    1. chris

      I’m so sorry to hear that. This is a rough time for children in school at any age. I have no idea how those in early elementary schooling are holding it together.

      Our school district in central Maryland just ended all extra-curricular activities of any sort until further notice. They will review in early January. That has a lot of parents up in arms because we have high school kids who have never been able to do anything they love outside of school. A lot of athletes who have never been allowed to play a game. A lot of thespians who have never been allowed to perform on stage. A lot of musicians who have never performed at a concert. A lot of art kids who have never had their work shown in public. It’s getting to the point where the kids who need some kind of portfolio or performance experience can’t get it in public schools.

      There is talk of what will happen when it comes to schooling. Our leadership is sending repeated emails with thinly veiled threats of “I’m trying to keep us open but you bad parents won’t vaccinate your kids!” I’m planning for our district to shut down after Christmas. It might not happen but I want to be prepared if it does.

      To that end, I have purchased two nice portable HEPA units and spare filters and upgraded the HVAC supply and returns to two areas of my house to serve as in home schooling pods if necessary. I don’t think our teachers are excited about going back to virtual learning. I know my kids aren’t looking forward to it either. But we may not have any choice.

      God bless and good luck!

    2. mikeyoe

      I have 2 sons in first grade. The Christmas break starts next Wednesday and I was thinking also to keep them home after the break. Some of their teachers also have children in school and/or preschool so they face the same decision.
      I am planning for my sons school to be doing remote learning for the fist half of 2022. Good luck to you and your family.

    3. polar donkey

      As for schools, where do you live? Mississippi, if omicron is bad, they MAY close for a couple weeks. Other places probably different. The kids are not alright, academically and socially, after being out for most of 2020. The number of parents/kids that just don’t care about school greatly increased. Closing schools has had consequences.

      1. JBird4049

        Closing schools is bad as it means having children not being with others their age, not to mention the parents’ sanity, but death is worse.

        What happens if there comes along something like Superduper Omicron, This Time Its Realz, and starts killing people at rate of any of the old pre-mass vaccination era diseases like smallpox (~30 fatalities)?

    4. MTheRoad

      I’d like to answer this as a mother of a high, middle and elementary school students.
      I’ve also been working as a sub teachers aide. So, I’ve seen a lot of schools in my area. What I’ve seen personally is not a lot of problem for teachers or students but we mask around here.

      My high schooler had Covid about 2 months ago but she was vaccinated and her symptoms lasted about 3 days. She said her sense of smell returned a few weeks afterward. Her unvaccinated classmate who also had Covid at the same time was sick for about 2 weeks. The school nurse told me she’d seen the vaccinated students all have a quicker recovery. They had passed it around a lot around there because there was an attitude of “so what”. I felt like her school nurse handled it well and gave good advice.

      I’m honestly more worried about the greatly increased gun violence that has happened in my area, gangs of juveniles stealing cars and purses, wallets, cell phones. Shooting with no thought.

      Awhile back Michael Hudson (here in NC) said that this would be a good time to invest in things that keep one safer. That was accurate advice and I’m grateful for it. I got a dog because of his words and my quality of life has greatly improved.


    Twitter implementing a policy that bans folks who suggest vaccinated people spread the virus. All gov’t communication is all-in vaccine. The doubling rate of Omicron is less than 2 days.

    By the time we’re able to catch up with changing the narrative when the CDC, White House, Social Media and just about every major power center has already dug their trench – Omicron will already have swept through the world.

    Not good.

  21. Kris Alman

    “highly drifted antigenically”

    At what point do we call this antigenic shift?

    Preclinical Data Highlight the Significant Antigenic Shift of the Omicron SARS-CoV-2 Variant and its Effect on the Neutralizing Activity of Monoclonal Antibodies, Convalescent Antibodies and Vaccine-Elicited Antibodies

    SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 14, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Vir Biotechnology, Inc. (Nasdaq: VIR) today announced new preclinical data, published to the preprint server bioRxiv, demonstrating the impact of the significant antigenic shift of the new SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant (B.1.1.529).

  22. Ana

    Leaking is a real issue. I have gotten a case of rolls of surgical paper tape and use that tape to seal my 3M – N95 masks to my skin when I’m not using my full face N99 respirator.
    Ana in Sacramento

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