A light at the end of the tunnel?

NYT (by way of yahoo to get around the paywall) quotes animal studies around the world that show Omicron almost exclusively impacts the upper respiratory system. This is amazingly good news, as many COVID deaths and long-term impairments came from lung damage, or clotting elsewhere in the body. The comparison may be close to when we inoculated with the minimally-harmful cowpox to prevent much more serious smallpox infections. Which is great, since at an r0 around 15, pretty much everyone is going to get Omicron in the next few months, vaccinated or not. (See technical briefing 33 from the UK government's Health Security Agency, specifically Figure 10 if you're vaccinated with Pfizer).

So much of the country has always said COVID is "no worse than the flu". Congratulations, we can agree you're all just about right as of today.

The big difference is that this is much more contagious than the flu. Expect a few million Americans to have flu symptoms at the same time, which will make all the existing supply chain and delivery issues even worse, for at least a week or two in the coming months. Keep some extra days of groceries and supplies if the past two years haven't already taught you to do that.

Not sure anyone's minds will ever change, but I've learned a few of things over the course of this pandemic.

First, back when there were "only a hundred cases" in the US, I saw the exponential growth curve. Family and coworkers can confirm I was saying around March/April 2020 that we'd be lucky to have under a million deaths in the US. It looks like we were lucky, but just barely. Working with steepening graphs is counterintuitive. Certain fields train you to do it a little better than average. I really wish I'd been wrong.

On masking, the early problem was mostly that we didn't know how this virus behaved. Some, like the cold, live on surfaces for hours to days. If I masked the same way I do for covid with one of those viruses, I'd inevitably spread droplets to my fingers, and probably my face, and actually be more likely to catch the virus than if I were unmasked. It takes weeks to months to prove one way or the other in a lab (especially without inadvertently infecting the lab workers), so we actually didn't know whether masks would make things better or worse at the beginning. The medical field takes a "first do no harm" approach unless it can be proven that a minor harm has a much better outcome than leaving things alone. So the default was "anyone not used to hospital or lab masking protocols probably shouldn't wear one until we're sure it won't make things worse." As soon as there was good evidence that coronavirus was mostly aerosol, not large drops, and didn't last long on surfaces, the advice changed. Which apparently means "Dr. Fauci lied" to a lot of people. By risk analysis principles, it was arguably the right decision at the time. That's the problem with making decisions on incomplete information, and getting the information takes long enough that some people die while we're collecting it.

Anybody still unvaccinated, try to stay safe a little longer. Delta's still out there, and may make you much sicker than omicron would. But there's a good chance you'll be fine. I've tried to make the best decisions I can for my family and those I care about. I'm saddened that this meant that some of those became estranged because we disagreed so strongly, but I'm glad that to the best of my knowledge, they're all still here too.