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

Taking Omicron Seriously

Omicron is insanely contagious. Where I live, cases are doubling every three days. There are places where the doubling rate is two days.

It appears optimized for blowing through vaccines and natural immunity, which is to be expected. We partially immunized the world, but didn’t wipe out Covid, and it mutated to adapt. Because, in many places, a majority had vaccination and natural immunity, the virus adapted to this.

I quoted this May 2021:

The first big breakout variant, the UK strain, was specifically adapted against masks. It was much more contagious, so minor mask lapses were more easily exploited. It spread more evenly, relying less on super-spreader events, and was more infectious to children, who mask poorly.

The next big breakout was the South African strain, which was part of the family of Covid strains that contain a mutation colorfully labeled “Eek,” which evades antibodies, especially from natural infection or weaker vaccines, because that was/is becoming a bigger impediment than masks.

Now that MRNA vaccines are becoming the tool of choice, if the virus is allowed to continue to circulate in a partially-vaccinated Western population, it is only a matter of time before that becomes the biggest impediment to Covid’s success, and viruses are selected for resistance to it.

(Cue swelling music). LIFE, LIFE finds a WAY!

So, that prediction (not mine, but adopted by me because it made sense), came true.

Now, it’s still unclear how virulent Omicron cases are, because there are a lot of confounding factors. While vaccines don’t protect nearly as much against it, they do make you a lot less likely to die or wind up hospitalized. My sense is that it’s probably about as virulent as the original strain, but not as virulent as Delta.

Omicron appears to be excellent at re-infecting. Odds are you can get it multiple times.

(We’re coming towards the end of my fundraising. I write to explain the world and to help introduce the ideas that may change it for the better in the future. The more people who donate, the more I can do. Please DONATE OR SUBSCRIBE if you can.)

We also don’t know, yet, how much Long Covid it produces. Bear in mind that, in about half of those people with symptomatic cases of original or Delta, there’s lung scarring even if they don’t have “Long Covid” symptoms. Brain damage is pretty common too, and Covid often damages kidneys. People who are young and fit have gotten this; I have an acquaintance whose brain damage was so bad he got aphasia — he now sounds like a stroke victim and is in speech therapy.

So I’d take this seriously, especially since we don’t know Long Covid works. It may be that your chances of getting it increase each time you have Covid, or just that you have a chance each Covid infection. While Omicron does defeat vaccines better than previous strains, mRNA vaccines (ideally three doses) do provide protection; ventilation will work, etc.

Omicron should never have happened. There should have been a coordinated global effort to eradicate the virus, using basic epidemiological principles that have worked where applied, like in China and New Zealand, combined with travel bans, quarantines, and worldwide vaccine rollout.

Sadly for you and me, but not for our lords and masters, Covid was hugely profitable to the richest people, so it was allowed to spread. Billionaires have seen their wealth double and you just can’t pass up that sort of profit event, certainly not for something as trivial as millions of people dying and possibly being crippled for life. “Hard decisions,” y’know?

(One silver lining of all this is that Omicron is so contagious it seems to be busting through elite cordons. Bill Gates is in isolation now, and if he gets it and dies, it will be exactly what he deserves.)

The deaths and suffering are about a lot more than Covid, as well. To use the simplest example, a lot of surgeries and procedures have been delayed during the plague, and people are suffering and dying because of that. Where I live, I’ve seen response to cancer discovery go from about two months from initial finding to surgery/treatment to well over four months (not sure how much over four months yet, finding out the hard way). That will turn some people’s treatable cancer into a death sentence. The same is true of heart issues, and so on.

This is what our elites do. They make themselves richer and more powerful, and they do so by hurting and killing other people. Whatever you think of the CCP, and there’s a great deal I do’t like, after initial denial and foolishness, they treated Covid seriously and not primarily as a profit event. Since a few Western states did likewise, we know this isn’t a case of “only totalitarian governments can,” but it’s still an indictment that a single party authoritarian state has handled the plague better than almost every “democratic” nation.

Grim news for the Christmas season, and totally unnecessary, but like with climate change and ecological collapse, it’s where we are. Because we let our elites kill us, but never even consider returning the favor.

Be as well as  you can be, and I hope you remain untouched by all this.



On Respirators, Masks, and Getting Through the Pandemic


Merry Christmas—


  1. bruce wilder

    the virus evolved. there are elements of “just so” stories in the way narratives of the malign evolution of viruses are told, but leave that aside.

    political society evolved, too. the level of trust that elites know what they are doing, a level of trust that is necessary for effective coordination in response to contagion, has eroded away. the tolerance of the polity for lockdowns and the tolerance of petty elites for economic support of the hoi polloi thru lockdowns — both have eroded away as well. in the U.S., the technocrats double-down on “mandates” and got outright rebellion from the deplorables and others.

    even if Omicron were not inherently more contagious than Delta as a result of biological properties, the political/social circumstances have knocked the barn doors off and opened all the corral gates. the polity is incapable of intervening effectively, having, if possible, even less competence at an elite level than at the beginning, combined with having worn out the best tools thru policy incoherence and ham-handedness.

  2. Ian Welsh

    All you need to do is assume that species adapt to the environment. Evolution 101.

  3. Mark Pontin

    nobody wrote: ‘Omicron, like immune-escape beta before it, most likely emerged from the immune deficient HIV+ population in South Africa. It doesn’t matter if these people are vaccinated”

    In the real world, it very much mattered. It’s a near certainty that the specific immune-compromised individual in which Omicron incubated WAS ALSO VACCINATED. How else do you imagine that Omicron could have evolved its ability to evade the vaccines?

    nobody wrote: ‘Sub-Saharan Africa needs to be given an ultimatum: clean up your antivaxxer/HIV+ problem or the nukes fall. Nothing else will stop this.”

    Someone who would say something like this isn’t just deeply stupid, but scum besides. Is that what you are, nobody?

    In any case, the vaccines, on their own, cannot solve this pandemic. Conversely, China — without having an effective vaccine and with the burden of having approx. one-sixth of the global human population — HAS solved this problem, if only temporarily.

  4. Mark Pontin

    Ian wrote: ‘we don’t know Long Covid works.’

    So, yes, the cognitive deficits are particularly terrifying.

    However, something else that isn’t on anybody’s radar yet is that T-cell depletion and general immune system derangement will be something that infectees, however apparently mild their Covid cases may appear at the time, are going to have. As we get older, we suffer from more and more soft-tissue cancers that our immune systems — and particularly our T-cells — either catch and fix, or else fail to. In the general population, the T-cell and general immune system loss after Covid infection is long-term likely to result in an upsurge of cancers, especially among those middle-aged and older.

  5. NR

    All you need to do is assume that species adapt to the environment. Evolution 101.

    When species adapt, it’s to make them more able to survive in their current environment, not less like the hordes of anti-mask MAGA morons are doing.

  6. anon

    I’m double vaccinated and got the booster, and I’m taking Omicron and every new variant that we will continue to see in the coming years seriously.

    I don’t always wear N-95 or N-94 masks, but when I’m not, I am wearing a cloth mask. My work requires that I get tested once a week, and so far, I’ve never tested positive for Covid. I’m not locking myself up at home and living like a hermit but I minimize my risks by always wearing a mask and carrying hand sanitizer.

    Covid shows up differently in each individual, so getting it is like playing Russian roulette with your health. I know someone with long Covid who has the typical symptoms, like being out of breath when walking a flight of stairs, but that’s not all. She’s also gotten dangerous blood clots that required surgery and her eyes have bled. I’d be surprised if people with these sort of symptoms are able to live to old age without serious health problems that significantly reduce their quality of life. If you’re asymptomatic and young, but your lungs are scarred, how does that affect you at 50 or 60? It’ll be interesting to see the long term affects of this pandemic 20-30 years from now when kids and young people who get Covid may start s really seeing its health affects in middle and old age.

  7. Ven

    There is also evidence that vaccines adversely impact natural immunity, with evidence of relapses of dormant viral infections, and reduced suppression of cancerous cells. Let alone the more immediate side-effects of vaccines, like micro-clotting and myocarditis and strokes.

    The real outrage here is how early treatment protocols have been suppressed by the medical establishment. (Also effective early treatment seems to reduce long covid and has the benefit of building natural immunity). And how those doctors who have advocated for them have been suppressed and even fired from post; so no debate allowed! All because EUA of expensive, improperly tested vaccines, requires that no alternative therapy is available.

    It’s fascinating how people who understand how govt and media propagandise for foreign wars, don’t seem to have the same level of scepticism when we are told that there is only one scientific/ medical truth which happens to favour a racketeering-proven pharmaceutical industry, which this time around is being honest. The press today in the uk is now talking about a fourth dose. Imagine that – 4 doses in practically one year. So much for 90% efficacy.

    There is statistical analyses of data from PHE, that shows NON-COVID mortality of the unvaccinated by age cohort, spiked at the time of vaccination of that cohort, and then declined to comparable levels:

    I just downloaded a copy of RFK’s “The Real Anthony Fauci”. It seems to be as much about regulatory capture as about him. Suspend the reflex anti-vaxxer hysteria, and just read the first chp. It only costs £2.50 for an ebook.

    The sobering realisation is how badly the medical establishment has failed us. We already knew about govt and the media.

  8. fellgotbackup

    I have read you for the last decade and found myself more thoughtful for that investment. TY. My observation is that the collective bandwidth of 8+ billion is too shallow to address these challenges. Our collective capacities for communication and critical thinking are beyond atrophied. I think you miss the mark with the idea elites are consciously acting. Occums Razor best explains them and their consistently base responses; it was going to be anybody, it just happened to be the cast of characters who fill our daily headlines. Script has been the same for thousands of years, only the characters change. Never a thought to consequences of increased awareness and manipulation of the external without a concurrent, vigorous and ongoing exploration of the internal. Much light all….

  9. Astrid


    Cloth masks aren’t going to cut it. There are reasonable comfortable and affordable N95 masks out that that will provide much much better protection.

    Even though the CDC absolutely refuses to say aerosol (they say very small particulate in their FAQ and make recommendation are particulate and fomite transmission – horrible), Covid is an aerosol transmission disease. Even in the original Wuhan strain, there were people who clearly caught it through aerosol spread and this is much more the case with the more infectious Delta and Omicron variants. Surface transmission is a concern but it’s not nearly enough to hand sanitize (which isn’t as effective as washing with soap). Anything less than N95/KN95/KN94 will be significantly less effective (I have seen ratings below 50% for cloth and surgical, versus above 90% for respirators, though be wary of KN95 as they can vary a lot). If everyone in an indoor environment wears them, they will cut down on the amount of active virus particles in the air, but even that will be insufficient in crowded and poorly ventilated spaces.

    If that’s all you’re doing, you’re really doing hygiene theater to make yourself feel better, but you will still face a significant chance of catching and transmitting Omicron.

    I haven’t taken the booster. I haven’t followed this up but Yves Smith stated the basis for effectiveness claims comes from a Pfizer study with a sample of 12! Even if it works somewhat (at best 75% better against severe disease), the protection is likely in weeks and not even months. My husband somehow got it in his head that 3 shots series should have been the standard (like hep C shots) and will protect him going forward, but Israel is administering shot #4 now. From people I know who boosted, more than half reported feeling unwell (enough for a sick day) for at least a day or two after, and some much worse than that (full body muscle and joint pain, severe headaches). I’ll sit this one out until my employer forces it on me.

  10. someofparts

    All of this is so perfect for our billionaire misleaders that it is hard to resist the temptation to put on my tin-foil hat and believe they engineered this on purpose. I’m probably going to get the book about Fauci by RFK Jr. From what I’m hearing about it, I think that after reading it I will be convinced that this debacle was deliberately foisted on the world instead of doubting my hunches.

    Also this – “it’s where we are, since we let our elites kill us, but never even consider returning the favor”. I think lots of us consider it, but see no realistic way to get it done.

    I hope you take your own advice Ian, and are as careful with your own health as you are urging us to be. Hope your holidays are as good as possible.

  11. anon y'mouse

    best of health and good cheer to you, Ian.

    one hopes your remarks about discovering the delays between cancer diagnosis and treatment are not about you, or someone you love but it sounds as though they may be.

    strength & solidarity~

  12. Ché Pasa

    CDC reports an average 2 year decline in lifespan for 2021; this on top of steady declines in lifespan over the last several years. The average masks regular declines in lifespans for Black and Brown Americans, poor people, etc., and average lifespan increases for rich white folks.

    This is policy in action. There’s been no concerted effort whatsoever to reverse these declines for the masses, and there is no sign at all that there ever will be. Our rulers are mostly on board with the notion that shortened lifespans, increasing numbers of excess deaths, and millions suffering the lingering effects of Long Covid among many other chronic conditions is just fine.

    They’ve been wonderfully sanguine about it — while perhaps pretending to panic over whatever new variant crops up. There is obviously an aspect of conditioning the rabble to accept the inevitability of worse, much worse times to come.

    The sad thing is that the only seriously rebellious element in this mess is the petit bourgeois “insurrectionists” armed and ready to seize government throughout the land in the passionate belief that a Saviour awaits. They are his vanguard.

    And they are more than happy to see this policy of decline endure and be made more and more severe on the least of us.

    They can’t imagine it would ever affect them.

  13. Trinity

    Ian, I’m with you. When I kept seeing headlines and discussions about how “mild” Omicron was, I went on alert. This is right out of the playbook.

    So, it seems that not only is Big Health making profits hand over fist with vaccines and other covid medicines (and a lot of other medicines as well), but with the “unknown” long covid, they are ensuring massive future profits as well.

    Also right out of the playbook.

    I say “unknown” long covid because it’s still seems so anecdotal, and understudied. Even though it is anecdotal, I personally take it all quite seriously.

    Am I the only one growing more and more depressed about the future? Mother Jones is running their annual monsters and heroes. They describe the way people act so stupidly in National Parks, which might be attributed to brain damaged people, or just angry people, or just incredibly stupid people with no brain damage. The only things evolving now are the virus and our betters’ bank accounts.

    Either way, none of this bodes well for the future, and combined it all suggests a personal fortune is required to survive the next ten or twenty years.

  14. bruce wilder

    the only seriously rebellious element in this mess is the petit bourgeois “insurrectionists” armed and ready to seize government throughout the land in the passionate belief that a Saviour awaits. They are his vanguard.

    And they are more than happy to see this policy of decline endure and be made more and more severe on the least of us.

    They can’t imagine it would ever affect them.

    This part of your “analysis” makes less than zero sense. It is all about you yourself marinating in contempt for incohate, most imaginary “groups”. What is wrong with you?

    It would make at least as much sense to hold in contempt the obediant little Dems who thought electing a senile old coot was a good idea and who blamed the unvaccinated for all their troubles.

  15. Soredemos


    I see Astrid already pointed this out, but cloth masks do basically nothing against covid. The virus is airborne; it’ll simply float right through a cloth mask. Cloth will restrict droplets, but covid, emphatically, is not spread primarily (and maybe not at all) through droplets. Many people don’t know this because the CDC and WHO continue to obfuscate this fact. They’re no longer outright denying it (which they did for well over a year after it was painfully apparent covid was aerosolized), but they now bury it down in the text of advisory articles, alongside warnings about droplets and appeals to handwashing (which also does basically nothing against covid). And meanwhile our public ‘health’ officials continue to not even mention airborne spread, and Biden is still doing PR stunts where he helps set up useless plexiglass barriers. Jesus wept.

    On the subject of RFK Jr and his book, I have a copy but haven’t gotten around to reading any of it yet. But I have no doubt that Fauci is magnificently corrupt and sleazy; I’ve already seen and read plenty to lead me to that conclusion. I’m sure there is plenty of truth in the book (it may very well be the best thing RFK Jr ever produces). Apparently it’s very detailed and heavily sourced (though that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. The sources could always just amount to a gish ballop of bullshit. There have been ‘well sourced’ holocaust denialist books too, but when you follow up the sources they’re either misrepresented or lack credibility.

    But RFK Jr’s big problem is that he is actually a vaccine denialist. Not all vaccines, perhaps, but he really was part of the ‘vaccines cause autism’ movement. That’s a permanent stain on his record. He’s shredded his credibility in general, and in medical matters in particular. So even if his book is 100% accurate in its claims, the battlelines were already drawn years ago as to who is going to listen to him, and who is going to just automatically discount him.

    You can’t say ‘well a Kennedy thinks this, maybe we should listen to him’, because RFK Jr flushed any credibility he might have had down the toilet ages ago. It6s tragic, honestly, because I very much suspect he’s correct this time around.

  16. Ché Pasa

    So my question is, why is a small but very loud, armed and would-be brutal faction of the petit bourgeoisie so caught up in the culture of rebellion against “the government?” (Well, so long as they can define that government as liberal.) What is it that they would be rebelling against?

    I live among some of them, so maybe I have some insight. I don’t know. They are to my knowledge angry and upset about “government” restrictions and obligations they object to. This goes so far, in some cases, to registering their vehicles, paying user fees, enrolling their spawn in school, or — yes — getting vaccinations. Any requirement or obligation they haven’t agreed to in advance is enough to trigger them into outrage and rebellion, very much like an adolescent. In fact, some that I know are emotionally no older than 14 or 15 and I’d like to know how they got stuck there. And yet almost all that I can speak about are chronologically in their 40s and 50s.

    By and large, they are prosperous if not rich. They have businesses that provide a good living to be sure, but… they’re in debt up to their eyeballs. They cycle debt from year to year, and I was astonished at some of the interest rates they pay. The fact that they are able to squeeze a fairly decent living out of the midst of all that debt was pretty astonishing too. Given their druthers, they’d prefer not to have that burden of debt but they can’t prosper without it. Servicing the debt is spirit crushing.

    They “work hard” — but what they are often working hard at is fulfilling requirements and obligations (environmental, legal, local, state, national, licensing, yada, yada) that take so much time and energy that they don’t feel is going to anything worthwhile. Why do they have to waste so much time, money and energy on this crap? I’ve heard that question more than once. And then to be dinged because they screw up somewhere — innocently or not — just adds to their rage.

    They rebel because they feel powerless, unappreciated, cogs in a vast machine grinding up everything in its path. Many have degrees or credentials of one sort or another which some consider worthless — though very costly to get. Trump gave them hope that some of the burdens they’re under would be lifted and/or that they would be able to impose burdens on Others they despise. “Libs” of course are the primary Others they seek to destroy because they believe that “Libs” are the source and cause of their misery. But their targets are not limited to a political label, gender label or racial label.

    What they seek is power, not just over their own lives but over the lives of others. Forcing others to comply with their demands and orders rather than being forced themselves to comply with laws, demands, and orders imposed by governments run by “Libs” seems to be a driving interest among the small but easily triggered bourgeois cohort intent on violent rebellion.

    The US rebellion against Britain was led by a planter and merchant aristocracy which took advantage of popular discontent at British restrictions on colonial expansion among other things. The US Revolution was on behalf of the planter and merchant aristocracy that instigated it. It was not on behalf of the masses.

    Just so, I think, any potential rebellion against the US government these days. It has nothing to do with liberation for most of us. Nothing to do with building a better future for most of us. Nothing to do with the existential crises the nation and globe are facing.

    It has nothing to do with society, or public or mutual interest. It has to do with entitlement, frustration, and anger at impositions they did not agree to in advance.

    We’ve always had this tension between individual wants and demands and what’s needed for the betterment of society. It’s not always resolvable without disruption and/or destruction. How and whether it can be resolved now is still, for the moment, an open question.

  17. Willy

    The sad thing is that the only seriously rebellious element in this mess is the petit bourgeois “insurrectionists” armed and ready to seize government throughout the land in the passionate belief that a Saviour awaits. They are his vanguard.

    And they are more than happy to see this policy of decline endure and be made more and more severe on the least of us.

    They can’t imagine it would ever affect them.

    Makes total sense when one considers that their faith doesn’t follow their own scripture. Corporate greed controls them now. And Jesus drives a new car. But then, masks aren’t in the Bible either. So what do I know.

  18. NR

    cloth masks do basically nothing against covid.

    This is false, as shown by a thorough review of the evidence.

  19. Astrid


    That survey was from early 2021, before the far more infectious Delta and Omicron. The emphasis was also on reducing droplet transmission, not blocking aerosol intake. It does not protect the wearer in unsafe environments. Surgical and cough masks might still be helpful in circumstances with best 100% compliance and good air circulation, but that’s not most public indoor environments.

    Wearing a loose fabric mask against an aerosol spread disease is self deception and absolutely unnecessary when affordable N95s are available. Perpetuating falsehoods as the CDC and WHO does, by strongly implying that vaccinations prevent spread (if it ever did, that was partial and went away with Delta and Omicron), that any mask will do, or that hand sanitizer will cut down transmission, is spreading deadly misinformation. This will utterly discredit “science” once the populace realized how much they’ve been had. The governing class and their PMC lackeys threw away their credibility to desperately cling to their investment portfolio gains and summer vacations for another year.

    Please provide evidence that N95s are ineffective. I understand that the non-NIOSH standard KN95 may be iffy, but there’s no indication that N95s, even the non-US made ones, are failing.

  20. Astrid

    The smell test for N95 effectiveness is wrong. Smells comes from molecules, which are orders of magnitude smaller than individual viruses nevermind aerosolized particulates carrying virii. Sure, smoke might be carried in larger particulates but there’s no consistency to this kind of test. The results are going to vary wildly depending on the smell used and the tester’s sensitivity.

    There are people who do blow air testing for masks online, unfortunately Google seems to suppress them and instead I get vague articles from 2020 when I tried searching for respirator effective testing.

  21. NR

    Please provide evidence that N95s are ineffective.

    I never said N95s were ineffective. I simply posted evidence that cloth masks are not ineffective. Of course N95s will provide better protection, I don’t think anyone has disputed that.

  22. Astrid

    Sorry, I mixed up my responses to someone on the Xmas thread, who stated that certain Chinese made N95 was less than 25% effective and made claims about smell test being appropriate for testing N95 effectiveness. I am genuinely curious about the source of the first claim and disagree on the smell test.

    I came across this pretty decent description of how China does Covid elimination. This could have been most countries, if they only took China’s lead and went with actual science, rather than lying about masking and pinning all their hopes on a vaccine solution. If we even just went universal N95 enforcement rather than droplets/fomite standard a year and a half ago, Covid would likely have kept at low levels.

  23. different clue

    @Bruce Wilder,

    I thought preventing Trump getting back into office for term two was a good idea. I would have preferred to be able to vote for Sanders or Gabbard for DemPrez. But the DemParty engineered the process to give us a fake outcome of senile old coot. So I decided that senile old coot term one was less immediately dangerous to my survival than Captain Queeg term two.

    “We go to election with the candidates we have, not the candidates we wish we had or would like to have at some future time.”
    — ( who said that? )

  24. Astrid

    I suspect most have seen that the US CDC reduced their quarantine for Covid positive people to 5 days, and apparently not even requiring a second test to exit the quarantine. This for a disease known to remain infectious for 2-3 weeks and possibly months in extreme situations. This is right up there with Cuomo moving Covid patients to nursing homes in terms of malign lethality.

    Even if quarantine is pretty hopeless for such an infectious disease where much of the spread occur through asymptomatic people, this is just premeditated institutionalized murder. Just like Cuomo sending Covid cases to nursing homes in 2020.

    We are ruled by demons.

  25. JVC

    I actually have Omicron right now, and I’m 30 and have been vaccinated and boosted. Honestly for me it’s like the world’s most mild cold. I have no idea if I’m just “lucky” but I’d argue everyone should get vaccinated to increase your chances of it being mild. At this point it feels like I’m just a prisoner since my 10 days is up Sunday and I’m fine at this point.

  26. Ian Welsh

    Even with Delta plenty of people had very mild symptoms.

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