The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Again, on Omicron & “Just Give Up and Let Everyone Get It”

Start with this:

Omicron is more infectious than Delta. Its symptoms are concentrated more in the upper respiratory tract, which is one reason it is substantially less deadly, but upper respiratory tract infections are worse for children and better for adults.

Though it’s unclear how much less deadly Omicron is than Delta (because there are too many confounding variables like previous infection and vaccination), let’s do some clarifying math, as if you were back in school.

If Omicron is half as deadly as Delta, and four times as many people get it, how many people will die compared to Delta?

If five times as many people get it will more people die or less?

This is before we get into the question of hospitals being overwhelmed, meaning some people don’t get care, including people with problems other than Covid.

Then we have the multiplication of re-infection. Omicron appears to be optimized for re-infection. It’s not a case of “everyone gets it.” It’s a question of “How many times will you get it and does each time increase the chance of organ damage/Long Covid and/or death?” You can get the flu multiple times, then die from the last time, happened to one of my friends in his 30s.

Finally, a variant this widespread has many, many more chances to mutate. It might mutate towards even more mildness, but there’s no guarantee of that. Delta certainly wasn’t more mild.

Sending children back to schools during the Omicron surge is insanity.

I notice, also, that at least two nations are handling Omicron: China and Japan, so it isn’t a case of, “It can’t be done,” and gnashing, weeping, and pretending that we would do something — if something was possible. Something has always been possible and most nations have always refused to do what needed to be done.

That something has always been a mix of policies; not just vaccines, but track-and-trace, quarantines, lockdown, and improved ventilation. (Indeed it may be that one reason Japan is doing so well is that they acknolwedged Covid was airborne early and have taken that into account in their response.) US schools keeping doors and windows locked out of fear of shooters is an amazing case of statistical innumeracy, and every country which hasn’t been changing ventilation systems to deal with Covid is a country which is not serious about saving lives and avoiding a mass crippling of their population.

Covid has been a mass-crippling event. Millions of people will be disabled, for who knows who long, with affects on our societies and our sacred economies which will, themselves, be disabled.

Nor is there any particular reason to think that “herd immunity” from natural immunity will work, as Covid is good at re-infecting and immunity drops fast.

This is a brilliant and wonderful scenario for anyone who owns shares in vaccine manufacturers, with their boosters every few months (more often than every six, as we are seeing it), but bad for everyone else.

Covid is and always was a worldwide phenomena, which required a worldwide response. That could have happened if the major powers had agreed and done not only the right things themselves, but also assisted everyone else in doing the right thing. Instead, vaccine chauvinism, profit opportunities, and so on took precedence.

China’s leaders, totalitarian tyrants, apparently cared enough about their population to stop Covid, even at economic cost. Our leaders, seeing that Covid was a huge profit opportunity (billionaire wealth has about doubled), decided that mass death and disabling was a cost they were happy for their “free” subjects to pay.

Who are the barbarians?

And now it’s killing and crippling our children.

Your leaders kill and hurt you for money and power. That is how they have acted since Reagan and Thatcher took power.

They’re killing you. They’re killing your children. They’re crippling you. They’re crippling your children.

You make excuses for them, but the Chinese and Japanese leaders made other choices and so far, at least, they have avoided mass death among adults, elders, and children. Perhaps they’ll be overwhelmed eventually, I don’t know, but so far they’ve held the line.

Your leaders kill, cripple, hurt, and impoverish you for money. They’re doing it to your children now.

Is there anything they can and will do that will cause revolution?

Because removing them, en-masse, and trying them for their crimes is the only thing that will ever make the world better, or give  you even the faintest chance of dealing with climate change and environmental collapse in a humane manner.

Covid has been a practice run for when climate change starts really hitting. It shows which societies are able to respond to a collective challenge.

Most of our societies have failed and because climate change, like Covid, is a world problem, that a few societies haven’t failed is unlikely to matter much, even to them. They’ll just stay together under pressure longer than we will.



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  1. Trinity

    “Because removing them, en-masse, and trying them for their crimes is the only thing that will ever make the world better”

    I’m not sure even this will work, because they can buy their way out of almost any problem. And the first step would have to be making it a crime (legal precedent) because as I understand it, most of the necessary laws are on the books, just not enforced. I could definitely be wrong, this is not my area of expertise or knowledge, by any measure.

  2. Mark Pontin

    @ Trinity —

    I don’t believe Ian was thinking along those bourgeois, tidy kind of lines. More in terms of a sentiment Astrid expressed in an earlier thread following Ian’s post on “Why Ukraine etc.” (Which I’ve just caught up with.)

    Astrid: “Modern westerners look upon liquidation of elites with horror, but I think there was a very good reason why it was the norm in human history.”

  3. roxan

    The insanity continues! Just today, on our local Phila, PA news, an epidemiologist advised that ‘PCR tests are too accurate (for the general public.) Just use the home tests.’ That is, of course, on a par with ‘only drs should wear N95s’ because the rest of us are too stupid. I’ve been ‘fit tested’ a few times and most masks come only in small, medium and large. It’s like saying you need a professional tailor to fit your elastic waist sweat pants.

  4. Ché Pasa

    The (“leftist”) elites are targeted for physical liquidation right now. It’s very much out in the open, and everyone would do well to take it seriously. The only repercussions for rightist/fascist elites are political and theatrical (mocked on teevee or run through the wringer of finger-pointing and accusation. None — that I know of — are literally in the gunsights of would-be assassins and murderers.

    Liquidating one faction of elite while leaving the others to do as they will is a very strange way to ensure a better outcome for all, but of course there isn’t meant to be a better outcome for everyone. Only for the select.

    It has not been ever thus, but it certainly is thus now, and it might be worthwhile to ponder a future under the thumb of crypto-fascist overlords together with an end to the pretense of democracy.

    The Covid response we’ve witnessed is now baked in. It’s not going to get better. The apparent hope is that the virus will eventually fade into the background — given all the other crises — and we the rabble will just get used to it.

    There’s no sign (yet) of a serious counter movement.

  5. NR

    One data point about Omicron: in Maryland, the 8% unvaccinated currently account for 75% of COVID hospitalizations.

  6. anon

    America has never had a strategy to deal with out most important problems, whether that be COVID-19, public health in general, gun violence, or climate change.

    America is such a violent country swimming in guns accessible to millions of unhealthy/unhappy/mentally ill people that I understand the decision to lock windows and doors for fear of more school shootings. We know that locking windows won’t solve the problem without getting rid of guns, but this is the American way of thinking. React to a problem rather than resolve it altogether.

    We are handling COVID in the same way we have handled gun violence and climate change for decades. We close schools and put restrictions on businesses whenever there is a spike in cases, then reopen everything as soon as hospitalization numbers go down without reaching zero-COVID the way China is doing, until the next contagious or deadly strain of the virus when we have to do this all over again. It’s a cycle we’ve endured for the last two years at the expense of at least a million deaths in the USA if not more when you factor in other people who have died because they couldn’t get medical treatment.

    I have my doubts that future mutations will be “good” or “mild,” and we will undoubtedly see more deadly viruses as global warming worsens. I will continue to wear a mask and get boosters every six months or sooner if recommended. We are beholden now to the pharmaceutical companies because our leaders refuse to follow Asia’s lead in eradicating COVID.

  7. NR

    It’s also worth noting that track and trace and quarantines aren’t something that can be done with a hostile population, except by brute force which wouldn’t be allowed in the U.S.

    I’m curious what Ian and others think we can do that’s feasible within our system, where tens of millions of people have decided that COVID is a hoax and actively sabotage efforts to fight the virus?

  8. someofparts

    This link got my attention because it is from the Canadian point of view, speaking of the danger our accelerating U.S. breakdown poses to Canada.

  9. fuckamerica

    Americans, mostly boomers, are dying because of the leaders they elected and I’m okay with that.

  10. VietnamVet

    China’s civilization is on the rise. Japan and Taiwan are keeping up. Western civilization is in a fatal decline. Senator Tim Kane spent 27 hours stuck on I-95 in Virginia that still is not open. Talk about even the haute bourgeoisie being caught up by the flood. My development has not been yet ploughed unlike earlier blizzards. Likely it will not be due COVID. But, on the positive side, my neighbor cleared the walkway so I could take out the garbage and check that the mail wasn’t delivered.

    Governor Larry Hogan may be right, or it may be paid propaganda about 8% of the state’s population being 75% of the hospitalizations, but since the Maryland Health Department was hacked it has not published any COVID data.

    The basic problem is that the only way to make money in the USA since de-industrialization is by exploiting others with the complicity of the American government in the scams of the never-ending wars, privatized healthcare, education loans, homelessness, and pushing human addictions. This can only continue as long as Americans are purposefully divided against each other. Trust is gone. Only the restoration of democracy, government by and for the people, will avoid the inevitable collapse.

    PM Justin Trudeau’s statement on the unvaccinated: “They don’t believe in science/progress and are very often misogynistic and racist” indicates that once again that “when the USA sneezes, Canada catches a cold.”

  11. NL

    Personally for me, surviving the holidays was a bigger challenge than not getting infected. Usually for the holidays, I visit friends and family living abroad, but this year I forgot to renew my passport in a timely manner and then with all the travel mayhem and cancellations, I did not want to get stranded, so I just stayed put.

    It is a given by now that the virus will become endemic, whether we would like it or not. The difference between a pandemic and an endemic (if we were to use the word endemic as a noun) is that in an endemic the pathogen and the population have reached more or less an equilibrium — neither is gaining or losing significantly against the other (perfect equilibria take generations to reach but some ‘approximate’ equilibria can be reached rather quickly). It would be foolish to think that an endemic will be the same as before the pandemic onset. Things will be different, the question is how: what will happen to investing, saving for retirement, what will happen to the dollar purchasing power (aka inflation), exchange rate, labor marker and work environment, etc, etc I am now more interested in these questions than watching the spectacle of growing infection numbers.

    Also, should point out, look what is happening in Kazakhstan. Is it the first government toppled by the virus or we just pulled another color revolution in the soft underbelly of both Russia and China?

  12. Ché Pasa

    To NR’s question:

    We as individuals do not have the power to stop or particularly interfere with the progress of the virus. Our rulership has decided for us that the virus will be allowed to spread more or less unhindered — regardless of what we do or don’t do. But a lot of us are running ragged trying to find a cure or The Answer or whatever.

    This has happened many times before in our history, but it seems to me that this time is really quite — deliberately — ugly, with barely an acknowledgement on high of what’s really going on.

    In some ways it’s a system collapse. But from another perspective, it’s a system contraction to serve an increasingly narrow clientele. We’ll find this is true in practically every field, not just “public health.”

    So what do we do? We can take action to protect ourselves somewhat — there are vaccines which sort of work (I’m vaxxed and boosted but I’m also taking immune suppressants so the vax and the boost probably aren’t doing anything), I keep my distance, I wear masks, etc. etc. I restrict travel to only that necessary (with one exception last October when I drove with a friend to California and toured the Coast from Monterey to Santa Barbara… “one last time.”)

    I live in the country. Total population of this whole county is less than that of the urban neighborhood I once lived in. Not being crowded together makes a difference, and any of us who can spread out will likely do better in both the short and long run.

    I ultimately took my doctor’s advice when I asked him what should I do since I’m really in a most vulnerable situation. He said, “You should live your life to the fullest. Take precautions, yes, but don’t think there’s any perfect protection or cure. There isn’t. So don’t let the risk outweigh living your life.”

  13. NL

    Yep, it is a color revolution in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan is worth more than Afghanistan. Disintegration of Russia is not far away. China should be worried too. The border between Kazakhstan and China is huge, and Kazakhstan is a Muslim country. Chinese’ Xinjiang and Russian Muslims in Tatarstan, Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, etc will be liberated.

  14. Hart Liss

    Firstly, my position is that the US is a failed state — ignoring the needs of the majority of its people since at least the 1980s — now at a point where, conceivably, SCOTUS can hold that the federal government doesn’t have the legal authority to issue a nationwide mandate to address a global health crisis.
    More relevantly:
    I am now approximately ten days in with Covid symptoms and tested positive a week ago. Given that I mostly go nowhere and am masked in stores, my working presumption is that I have omicron and it is exactly that contagious.
    As for the symptoms, they have been on the level of a middling case of the flu. That I attribute to being thrice-jabbed with the Moderna vaccine. (Which, FTR, was developed without any Operation Warp Speed money because the potential market of a Covid vaccine was incentive enough. A thug and fake businessman like Trump wouldn’t understand this.)

  15. Soredemos


    It’s amazing how you’re always making excuses for chronic mismanagement.

    In reality the US started off highly reception to calls for collective action. Contrary to the now widely accepted myth, lockdowns didn’t kill the economy. The economy was already shutting down before any lockdown mandates were ordered as huge numbers of people voluntarily self-isolated.

    What has happened in the 2+ years since has been a steady wearing down of public trust. Starting with constant lies from the highest levels. People across the political spectrum (or what passes for a spectrum in the US, anyway) have little reason to believe anything our leaders and institutions say.

    Yes, there are substantial numbers of people on the right in particular who are now essentially unreachable. But it’s wrong to think they were always unreachable. No effort was ever actually made to reach them. Instead the ‘public health’ approach was treated as an extension of the political tribalism and culture wars of the Trump era: mock and insult the ‘deplorables’ at every opportunity, and then wonder why they won’t listen to you. The ‘outreach’ consisted entirely of having highly credentialed people smugly talk down to the public. That was it. Have Seth Meyers run a video where a doctor holds up all his diplomas and lectures people to just listen to him because he’s smart. Have the liberal blue checks on Twitter trumpet fake news about overwhelmed Oklahoma ER’s or that video of a nurse lying about having dying patients still denying they had covid, etc. That was the entirety of the ‘public health’ approach to skeptics (unless of course they were black or other minority refusniks, of which there are in fact plenty, in which case, if the media deigned to acknowledge them at all, they were treated seriously and carefully, with nuance). No real attempt was even made to emphasis that these were Trump’s vaccines (to do so would have been to acknowledge that Orange Man actually did something right for once).

    Liberals are just as much covid and public health denialists as the most braindead Trumper. It just manifests differently. For liberals it manifests in a singular focus on vaccines (which they are now suddenly shocked to discover aren’t the silver bullet they were promised), while ignoring any other defense measure (vaccines should be a last line of defense, not the first and, effectively, sole one), denying its real transmission method (it’s airborne; masks short of N95 are nigh useless), and denying (or more likely, being willfully ignorant of) long-covid.

    You say nothing could have been done, while ignoring that almost nothing beyond vaccines was actually tried, even in solidly blue areas. To this day the CDC is still lying about airborne transmission being the primary mechanism of spread, and about the need for N95 masks. We can’t even get schools to open the freaking windows or set up a cheap box fan construction.

    Biden, Fauci, etc are still out there actively lying to the public. Do you have anything to say about that? Anything at all?

  16. Soredemos

    Oh, also here’s another bit of liberal denialism: denying any serious side effects from the vaccines (in fact frequently it was denial of any side effects at all). A very conspicuous example, and probably just the tip of the iceberg, was literally thousands of women coming forward claiming getting vaccinated screwed up or even stopped altogether their menstrual cycles. The response of most of the medical establishment was to ignore or actively disagree with them. So much for ‘believe women’. Now, months after the fact, we have a belated acknowledgement that all those women actually do in fact know their own bodies and cycles and were correct all along.

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