First, I must remind everyone that billionaire Rupert Murdoch elbowed his way to the front of the queue to get the vaccine as soon as it was announced, and that all those blithering conservative on-air personalities on Fox News are required to be vaccinated, just to put this story on Fox News’ promotion of quacks in perspective. It lists ten of the COVID denialist and anti-vax and tepid apologists for inaction who have been featured on the network many hundreds of times. Names you should learn to recognize and scorn: Marc Siegel, Martin Makary, Nicole Saphier, Rand Paul, Brett Giroir, Janette Nesheiwat, Jayanta Bhattacharya, Harvey Risch, Scott Atlas, and Peter McCullough. They all have the title of “Dr”, but you should know that the majority of doctors disagree with these scam artists; Fox News has been carefully distilling the population of MDs to purify and isolate the most untrustworthy scum to selectively display on popular programs by even more reprehensible filth like Carlson and Ingraham and Kudlow. You don’t get a prime time opinion/bloviation slot on Fox if you hold a reasonable view of the science.
Contrast that with this genuinely excellent interview with Jonathan Eisen, a biologist at UC Davis. Eisen simply and plainly says what every biologist and informed citizen knows about SARS-CoV-2.
The Omicron variant is way more infectious [than Delta]. It’s horribly contagious. Even people who are boosted are still getting infected. [The vaccine] does not seem to provide a huge protection against getting infected. I think that’s part of why it’s spreading so fast—people who have been vaccinated and/or boosted have mistakenly thought they were not going to get infected, and so they were going maskless everywhere. But if you have five times as many people infected, that’s going to create havoc, and that’s what is happening in New York and the Northeast, where the hospitals are full. They’re already sending people away who have any other types of emergency or nonemergency health needs. I think we’re in for some tough times; that’s my prediction.
Exactly. This is what I’m expecting, too. It’s also what everyone who isn’t brainwashed by Fox News can figure out. So what should we do?
All the evidence right now shows that vaccines are incredibly effective in reducing the risk of severe illness and death from Covid. And this is true even for new variants such as Delta and Omicron, even though the vaccines were not specifically designed for them. One can reduce the risk of severe illness even more by getting a booster shot. This reduction in risk is very, very clear from all the data. The one issue with Omicron that is different than with other variants is that just getting the regular vaccine dose (e.g., two Pfizer shots) does not reduce the risk of severe illness as much as it did for other variants. In other words, to reduce the risk of severe illness or death, it seems that a booster is very important here.
This is what infuriates me. Everyone wants the quick fix, the easy treatment, the simplest, most painless way to prevent this disease, and science provides one: the vaccine. Go in to the clinic or pharmacy, poke, you’re done, death averted. And what happens? People who listen to Fox News whine, “I want an insta-fix, but not that one.” They’d rather dose themselves with hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin or bleach or betadine, treatments that don’t work, than take the medicine proven to work.
In a world with people who refuse the treatment that works, and other people who can’t, for other medical reasons, get the vaccine, what can we do to protect ourselves. That’s also easy. Wear a mask in public.
What I’m hoping is that people do a lot of behavioral intervention that can slow down the spread of the Omicron variant. It goes back to the whole “flattening the curve” thing from before, and there are many things we can do. If you’re in crowded indoor spaces, you can avoid doing things where you have to take off your mask—so, no eating. But even with your mask on, not all masks are created equal. There’s new guidance that has come out in the last few days that cloth masks just aren’t going to cut it against Omicron. They just do not, on their own, filter enough particles out to reduce your exposure when airspace is getting filled with virus. What you want is a KN95 or N95 mask.
Yes. Masks aren’t the imposition the whiny-ass-titty-babies of conservatism pretend they are. When I’m teaching, I wear them continuously all day long with no difficulty, other than that I’m generally soft-voiced and muffling me doesn’t help (I’m working on it by TALKING LOUDER with my teaching voice). I tried to order some N95 masks in time for spring classes, but right now they’re backlogged and horribly expensive, so I settled for N94…still expensive with slow delivery — I think they’re all coming from South Korea — but I’ll double-up with a cloth mask until N95s become more available, I hope. If they do.
Eisen mentions also that he avoids big indoor events, even restaurants, and won’t fly, although he thinks if everyone on the plane takes reasonable precautions it’s probably safe. It’s just that too many people have been infected with the Fox brain-rot. Just glance at YouTube fights over masks on airplanes — people are getting into brawls in the aisles because they refuse to wear a mask. It’s nuts.
I avoid going out because I live in a county where practically no one wears a mask, ever. Even when our governor imposed a mask mandate, briefly, a lot of people ignored it, and our local business wouldn’t enforce it — and even then, half the population was incapable of figuring out that the mask covers your mouth and nose. It was good news when my university reluctantly decided to require masks and vaccines for all of our incoming students, but we’re a tiny island of common sense in an ocean of conservative denialists of basic medical facts.
We also need to worry about the long-term consequences of infection. Idiots like those talking heads on Fox News want to pretend it’s just a kind of flu, you get over it and carry on, but COVID has complications you ignore at your own peril.
That is one of my biggest concerns with this attitude of not worrying about Omicron too much because it might cause less severe symptoms. We know that long Covid is a problem for the other variants. It’s a big problem that is poorly understood medically, but is very clearly a real thing. These are real medical problems that people are having for months to now years after infection. Some people are saying everybody is going to eventually get Omicron, and that’s just the wrong attitude. We can make it so that not everybody gets it, and therefore reduce the risk of long Covid in too many people. We can’t just let it spread to everyone on the globe, because that’s going to be a medical catastrophe. Now is not the time to do nothing and hope for the best. It is the time to take measures while at the same time trying not to damage people’s lifestyles and lives and the economy.
Eisen’s is the kind of sensible voice we ought to have been hearing all along in our news media, providing accurate, honest information. I guess Rupert Murdoch knows that that doesn’t sell, unfortunately. And that’s why we’re screwed right now.