Doctors: Don't be complacent about Omicron's "mild symptoms"

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Last night we were given the latest in a series of completely conflicting reports about the new Omicron variant of COVID. This is something that Allahpundit was just analyzing yesterday in a report of significantly increased hospitalizations in the main Omicron hotspot in South Africa. But later that same day, NBC News published a report from the BBC where they interviewed Dr. Angelique Coetzee, part of the team that originally discovered the variant, where she said that they hadn’t had to hospitalize a single person who tested positive for Omicron. Both of these things can’t be simultaneously true. So are all of the patients being tested for this variant or is South Africa just reporting everyone who tests positive for any version of COVID, including the Delta variant? No matter which is the case, even if the symptoms are mild, these doctors are cautioning against taking it lightly.

Those early reports are encouraging, epidemiologists and other experts said.

But they cautioned that there was too little data to draw any conclusions yet. Their bigger concern, they said, was how quickly omicron, with its high number of mutations, might spread and how it will match up against vaccines.

“I don’t think we know anything about the virulence. What we’re worried more about is the transmissibility and the immune-evasion capabilities,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease doctor and a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

As I mentioned at the top, we seem to be missing a lot of information here. At the hospital where they identified and began researching the Omicron variant, clearly they would be testing everyone who shows any symptoms for that specific strain. But have the other hospitals and medical centers caught up with that technology yet? Or are they still using the older tests and simply reporting everyone with any strain of COVID? If the latter is the case, then perhaps Omicron really is so mild that we don’t need to worry as much about it. If not, then this is a troubling development.

Still, we haven’t heard of a single confirmed instance of anyone dying of it. But again, that may simply be because most of the patients are young and relatively healthy. For people in that category, the survival rate is still well above 99% all around the world.

More disturbing is the fact that more than 25% of the people testing positive for Omicron were fully vaccinated and a similarly large portion were classified as “reinfections” in people who had already survived COVID and presumably had their own natural antibodies. That suggests that the mutations that are showing up are shifting so dramatically that they can “evade” the immunity developed by both vaccinations and natural immunity.

This leads us to the next obvious question which we already addressed here. Would that mean that a new vaccine will be required for Omicron even if you already supposedly have immunity? And how many people who have been through the vax lines will be willing to run out and get yet another shot? And will they be expected to keep doing it over and over when Rho and Sigma show up? (You know they’re coming. It’s just a matter of time.)

If the battle against COVID is a “war,” we seem to be on the losing side at this point. I’m not trying to be Debby Downer here, but thus far in the pandemic, we’ve been placing all of our eggs in the basket of building up immunity in the general population to the point where there wouldn’t be enough people without immunity to create floods of new patients showing up at hospitals. But if this beast is mutating as quickly and as widely as these reports suggest, that’s no longer a viable plan. If getting vaccinated and surviving the virus isn’t enough to protect you from the mutations, we may just have to live with the virus. Of course, not everyone will be able to do that, sadly.