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Omicron, schmomicron

The results are in: the new COVID variant is the sexiest one yet. Fuck Delta, fuck gamma, fuck the one we would have called Xi if we weren’t scared of Daddy.

Omicron’s stats are as follows: transmission: fast as fuck. Symptoms: comparatively tame, especially if you’re vaccinated and boosted up. This is the one that has folks asking “is this the viral infection I should eat on purpose?“. Suiting it’s rapid-as-hell transmission, this thing broke new case records more than a week ago and it’s still skyrocketing, threatening to quadruple our previous peak in the near future. But experts say that’s not the graph we should be looking at. What’s more important are hospitalizations and deaths.

They have a point: in the past, case numbers correlated pretty strongly with death counts and ICU stays. Given the number of new COVID cases, we could pretty effectively (and morbidly) assume how many people were going to be hospitalized and how many would eventually die. Now, with the less-ravaging Omicron variant and an increase in the number of vaccinated and boosted people in the United States, a rise in one doesn’t necessarily guarantee a following rise in the other. And, indeed, while cases are going moon faster than boobcoin, deaths have remained relatively stable.

For a while, hospitalizations had too, but they’re starting to creep up, threatening to break our previous record. It makes me wonder, at which point does the CDC’s official stance stop being “this one is safer” and become “it won’t kill you, it’ll just put you in hella debt. yolo lol”.

The powers that be have been working their damnedest to force America back to the mean since the sourdough era. The chaos of the early pandemic had office workers questioning the veritable integrity of office work, had us inquiring into flexible education, had us demanding the right to vote by mail. After all that, every step toward normalcy was a righteous one for fans of the status quo. The deaths part of Covid is bad — we don’t want Grandpa to die. But as long as he survives, who cares about a 42,000 dollar hospital bill? That’s not Covid, that’s America, baby.

Omicron also coincided perfectly with the “lmao who gives a shit” attitude that’s been bubbling since 2020 and recently hit its temporary fever pitch. This virus has ebbed and flowed plenty of times over its first act (of seven), but after our initial reaction, official response has always followed a prescribed “it’s getting better” narrative. It seems less like omicron is representative of the calmer and less deadly coronavirus of tomorrow and more like it conveniently fits the story we’d like to tell.

If this is the new normal, cool, I guess (not cool — even under current conditions, the swamping of hospitals puts them under severe strain and creates unnecessary risk for healthcare professionals), but what if it’s not? What if we got lucky with omicron, and the next variant is more like Delta, or worse? Each variant receives media coverage likening it to Covid’s swan song, but that’s eternally painted by our internal need to put an end to the madness. There will be another variant. We won’t know whether or not we fucked ourselves until we’re too late.

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