Omicron Variant: Catastrophic New Wave of the Pandemic

Omicron Variant: Catastrophic New Wave of the Pandemic
Gabriel, of the Covid Equity Project at UCSF Fresno, vaccinates a young man. Photo by Peter Maiden

We knew it would happen sooner or later, that if enough of us defied science, refused vaccines, ignored social distancing, attacked masking mandates and perceived the Covid pandemic as a political hoax rather than a medical emergency, our dismissive behavior would allow Covid-19 to continue to replicate to the point you could get it just from having to use a public restroom and a toilet seat. Omicron is now that variant of the virus.

Cases have jumped to a weekly average of 750,000 across the nation, and Fresno County is mirroring the new surge of the virus.

Omicron’s contagion rate is phenomenal. It is 4–10 times as contagious as Delta, and Delta was as contagious as the measles—the most contagious disease of all time. Without changing our behavior, we risk an unprecedented outbreak, perhaps never seen in human history.

With our holiday-festive addictions, cases still ballooning from New Year’s activities, sharing unmasked air space on planes and sitting shoulder to shoulder in bars and at football bowl games, what can we expect but tragedy? By February, we might not have the Super Bowl, but instead a Corona Bowl and a Super Surge, resulting in a million marker of deaths.

The corona (cold) virus feeds on winter. We not only have the new dominant Omicron variant but also the persistent Delta strain. We now face the risk of a new variant emerging between them. And if that isn’t enough, it is also flu season, which generally weakens our immune systems, making us even more susceptible to the extremely contagious Omicron variant. Omicron imposes the threat that winter will not end kindly for any of us.

There is a shred of good news about Omicron. It doesn’t seem to be as deadly as Delta. However, the good news is short-lived, as it is still putting people of all ages in the hospital, particularly children and those who have refused vaccination. Eighty-six percent of those hospitalized and 96% of deaths are unvaccinated.

Omicron places children too young to be vaccinated at extremely high risk as well. Omicron has doubled the contagion of those ages 0–5, and 25% of those children acquiring Omicron in Los Angeles are having to be put in ICU and on ventilators. One in 100 are currently dying from the disease.

Omicron’s contagion rate and rise in breakthrough cases are now common occurrences among the vaccinated, and hospital admissions will likely overwhelm our fragile healthcare system long before winter is over. This is why it is crucial to change our behavior.

Omicron is already 90% of the cases in Los Angeles, and 50% of the cases throughout California. Omicron will soon be the dominant variant in our backyard. Its communicability will continue to place the elderly, the unvaccinated, neonates, the vulnerable and children under age five who cannot get vaccinated at high risk.

People not in the medical community fail to comprehend the vulnerability of our hospital situation. Medical staff are required to get tested daily before they can be allowed on the floor of the hospital to administer care. Because of Omicron’s contagion rate, nurses are now showing up to work testing positive for Covid. Medical staff are already exhausted, and they are being depleted by community transmission, affecting 10%–20% of staff, depending on location.

We can now expect nosocomial infections of Covid in the future, much like the SARS outbreaks in hospitals in the 1990s. Omicron could end up so prevalent that coronavirus could become an endemic disease in the United States.

The other piece of bad news regarding Omicron and corona in general—and which is far more devastating—is that new studies reveal the long-haul side effects of coronavirus as a lifelong problem. Extensive research over the past two years paints a far grimmer picture of extended coronavirus.

Studies show that long-haul side effects such as blood clotting, heart disease, permanent lung impairments and kidney disease, among other afflictions, are far more common than originally thought. U.S. scientists are discovering that 30% of people who contract Covid, or one in three, will suffer from these prolonged and debilitating effects of the disease.

Finnish studies, free of the influence of Big Pharma agendas, indicate that Covid long haul is 50% and affects the pancreas, causing diabetes, as well as crossing the blood-brain barrier and causing cognitive deficits.

Findings indicate long-haul effects don’t just target the seriously ill. They target the asymptomatic carriers of Covid as well, and at the same one in three ratio as the U.S. studies. In other words, there is a great risk that any healthy person who contracts this disease today and survives intact could still have lifelong problems with the disease they might not survive later.

If the seriousness of Delta did not change our behavior, the contagion rate of Omicron should. Studies clearly show that if you are vaccinated and boosted, you are far better protected against serious illness and, thus far, the long-haul side effects as well. However, science is yet to know enough to determine how long the vaccines will protect us or stave off those long-term effects, or if several doses of a vaccine will be needed over a lifetime to do so.

The rate of Omicron infection means the best thing any of us can do is to change and restrict our behavior and use the utmost precautions to try to avoid this disease. Unfortunately, our children, students, schools and classrooms will be most vulnerable at this time because of new confusing Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and the shortages of accurate testing that appear draped in the fear of having to shut down the economy.

It simply does not make sense to contract Covid, cut isolation in half and then have adults or kids return to work and school without first being tested. All this confusion makes getting vaccinated and boosted ASAP that much more important.

Selecting friends and relatives to hang out with who you know are also fully vaccinated is now a necessity. Because of the contagion rate, the number of breakthrough cases and the long-haul side effects, the vaccinated need to be as cautious as the unvaccinated.

We are really back to the level of Covid where we need to again avoid crowded public places, venues and events. In well-traveled public spaces and large places of employment, vaccine mandates might need renewed consideration. With this high contagion rate, masking alone in madding crowds won’t prevent the spread of disease.

Because all coronavirus variants are spread by air and droplet, science knows the means of infection. Port of entry is the hands, the nose and the mouth. A sneeze travels 18 feet. This is why social distancing and masking both the nose and mouth are essential. Double-masking at this time is not overreach, with one of those masks being N-95, and the other being a different material for added protection.

Thorough frequent handwashing/hygiene is also essential. It is smart to carry in the car 70%-plus alcohol sprays for the hands after being in public spaces. This vigilance could save your life and the lives of others, as well as the quality of all our lives in the long haul.

No one should want, welcome or test this disease. Contracting Covid could be deadly now, as well as much later.  

Once people get Covid, too often they are not done with it. With continued research, coronavirus could be a lifelong disease. This is important to remember.

(Author’s note: Information in this article comes from Dr. Leama Wen, an epidemiologist who writes for the Washington Post; Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, who transcribes Finnish studies; and CNN medical staff and CDC officials. Data are from the California Coronavirus website (, CNN daily reports on corona levels and Fresno County Public Health.)


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