The World Health Organization wants everyone to know that they’ve now classified the Omicron (B.1.1.529): SARS-CoV-2 a “Variant of Concern.” So, be concerned.
The AP tells us that the world is racing to contain the new threat. All I want to know is who’s winning?
There’s a note of desperation coming from politicians — especially Joe Biden, who sees a landslide electoral disaster if the new Omicron variant spreads as the Delta variant did during the summer.
But is it too late already to stop the Omicron variant from running wild in the U.S.? The answer is that it’s already here and is likely spreading.
Sixty-five years ago, it might have been possible to contain an outbreak of a contagious virus. Jet air travel was in its infancy, and closing a nation’s borders wasn’t as complicated as it is today.
But when an infected person can get on a plane in the morning and be anywhere in the world before sundown, the idea of “containment” becomes a bad joke.
So the Omicron variant is already here. What should Biden do about it?
Scientists in South Africa have said it could take up to two weeks to study the variant and learn how well it evades immunity from vaccines. Omicron’s many mutations already are prompting increased surveillance and genetic testing but it is unclear exactly how well it adapts or what kind of threat it poses to the global population.
“It is conceivable that it is just a very highly transmissible virus that might not have a major impact on the seriousness of infection,” Fauci said, suggesting that even if individuals contracted the variant, they may not require hospitalization.
Biden is going to have to resist the impulse of all politicians to “do something about the problem.” Donald Trump set the vaccine process in motion and brought a drug to the public in record time, but Democrats successfully framed his response as “doing nothing about the problem.” Thoughtful people didn’t buy it, but enough people did that it probably cost Trump several states.
So far, all we know is that Omicron may — might — be more infectious than the Delta variant, which was plenty contagious. This doesn’t pose much of a problem for the vast majority of Americans who are in reasonably good health or who have already contracted COVID-19 or received a vaccination. But for the vulnerable population of senior citizens or those who have compromised immunity, a more infectious strain of COVID is certainly dangerous.
Biden has to weigh the politics of “doing something about the problem” with the reality that any steps he takes to mitigate the spread of Omicron will be met with a continuous and fierce backlash. Trust in the federal government’s pandemic policies is long gone. Nothing he or any of his spokesmen can say about Omicron will be believed.
Since Omicron is already in the U.S., all Biden can do is urge people to mask up and avoid crowds if they’re vulnerable to serious disease. Other than that, I’m sure he and the Democrats will find a way to blame Trump for whatever happens.