Omicron is spreading like a wildfire. Omicron’s high infection rate is a worldwide condition. Late last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that the variant was in 89 countries. First reported to WHO by South Africa on November 24, 2021, many major countries immediately initiated travel restrictions. Omicron was announced as a highly mutated variant, with the term causing great concern around the world. Governmental travel restrictions and internal controls were fast, but largely unsuccessful. Cases continue to spread rapidly due to needing just a ‘whiff of infected breath,’ according to a UK-based expert.
On December 30, the U.S. reported more than 586,000 new cases, shattering the previous per day record from this past summer of 300,000 new cases. Over the weekend, infectious-disease expert, Anthony S. Fauci stated we will soon see over one million new cases per day. The Washington Post is reporting hospitalizations are up 31% from last week, with deaths increasing by 37%. Experts are claiming that the surge is being driven by the unvaccinated, further stating that those who are vaccinated have considerable protection.
What’s not being widely reported is that illness severity is lower. Therefore, some scientists are now saying Omicron could be nature’s vaccine. Some believe this is perhaps the final variant of Covid, as it is highly contagious but does not appear to be as deadly as earlier variants.
Is Herd Immunity Even Possible?
Dr. Marty Makary, a Johns Hopkins School of Medicine professor and an expert on the pandemic, thinks the Omicron variant could be thought of as ‘Nature’s Vaccine.’ During an interview with the Wall Street Journal regarding the Omicron variant, Makary stated, “….it was found that it gives four times the immunity against Delta. So, it does answer the question – will Omicron displace Delta? – the answer appears to be yes. So for much of the world that will not have access to a vaccine, Omicron will be nature’s vaccine.”
With many around the world not yet vaccinated, it appears highly contagious Omicron will push us closer to herd immunity. Israel’s top health official, Nachman Ash, is preparing the country for a fourth round of vaccinations. However, on Sunday, Ash said even though he would prefer to reach herd immunity through vaccination, high Omicron numbers may push Israel to herd immunity. Yesterday, Denmark’s health chief, Tyra Grove Krause said Omicron is bringing about the end of the pandemic, and that “We will have our normal lives back in two months.”
Global Reaction to Omicron
Around the world, protests over restrictions have been commonplace the last 30 days. The Netherlands went into a sudden lockdown in mid-December with public gatherings of two or more prohibited to prevent Omicron from overwhelming the strained healthcare system. Yesterday, police in Amsterdam, broke up a crowd of several thousand who had gathered to protest lockdown measures and vaccinations.
With most of the world tired of the restrictions, our government is cautiously recommending staying home and adjusting activity based on regional Omicron conditions. This past week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised against cruising regardless of their vaccination status, designating cruising a “high risk” travel activity. In many cases, government office workers are working remotely, again. Schools are returning to remote learning in many cities.
Yesterday, the Secretary of Defense himself was reportedly working at home with mild Covid symptoms in an effort not to infect others. The SecDef is not alone, as non-traditional work locations continue to impact function and national security. It’s difficult for workers needing TS/SCI materials and automation systems to work from home. Further, efforts requiring staff collaboration and interaction continue to be degraded through use of tele and video conferencing.
Optimism for 2022?
After the inevitable surge, assuming no more variants, it appears the Omicron could be good news as we may finally begin moving toward normalization. Air travel and transportation, logistics and office work should become more routine. Lockdowns and restrictions will hopefully soon become a thing of the past. All these factors have frustrated commerce, the health care system, and our national security. Hopefully, all these functions should begin to improve.
For the moment, our government has not imposed significant restrictions and is letting regional restrictions be in effect. This has been a sensible approach, but as the predicted surge takes hold and hospitals become strained, activity may become more difficult in the coming weeks. However, optimism is key in 2022.