Everyone expected mutations. It is amazing to watch evolution happen over months, right in front of people’s eyes, and yet some still deny evolution’s existence and importance as science. The virus has mutated in ways no one’s noticed, mutations that make it less effective and harmless and it has had mutations that do the opposite. Mutations, by definition, are random, but their impact and thus their dangers are not. Omicron is the variant everyone has feared. It is far more contagious. There is the possibility – with some indications, that it is more severe in symptoms and threat, and – perhaps, able to evade the immune system, making it either partially, or entirely, able to evade our vaccines. There is no evidence yet of the last concern, only worry.
If the worries prove warranted, then in many ways we are back to step one with COVID, and Biden has already taken some of the same steps Trump took, shutting down travel. But given the virus has appeared in Europe without direct association with travel to South Africa, it is irresponsible to presume that it is not already present through much of Europe. It has not been seen here. Key word, “seen.”
There are still so many open-ended questions that it’s possible the world is overreacting right now. But the most responsible thing to do is take it as seriously as the federal government is doing. Handling an economy and the physical health of Americans amidst a significantly more virulent (not proven yet) variant will make the Build Back Better program look easy. This could come to define the Biden presidency and roughly half the country won’t consider it such, nor care much.
According to Politico:
While no cases have been found in the U.S., Biden health officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House held a series of meetings over the past two days to plan for U.S. cases of the variant and possible spikes in disease spread across the country. Officials have debated how long to shut down travel from southern Africa, whether to allow for U.S. citizens to return and whether to change domestic public health guidelines to safeguard Americans from potential infection, the three senior Biden officials said. The administration is set to impose restrictions on Monday but isn’t applying them to U.S. citizens.
“One thing is clear is that [Omicron] is very transmissible,” Fauci said. “The reason you close the borders is to buy you time so you can better prepare and learn more about the variant, its transmissibility, its potential evasion of immune responses, and its seriousness of disease it causes.”
The new variant’s dangerousness is so unknown that the impression one gets often depends upon the article one reads.
But given that the entire country, not just the MAGAs, have COVID fatigue, if a new variant showed up here that was significantly more contagious and dangerous, it would have devastating impacts on both the population’s health and our economic health. It would seem impossible to shut the country down again for any period of time, and thus one follows the CDC guiles and takes one’s chances.
If all the wrong things came together, and there are worrying signs that feel very familiar, the variant could come to define the Biden presidency. He could handle it masterfully, with the least impact on both health and the economy possible, and at least half the country wouldn’t know or care. Ironically, it is likely the same half of the country most at risk.
Worst still, if it isn’t understood or appreciated, we could go right back to the type of leadership that make the first wave so utterly devastating.
Jason Miciak is a political writer, features writer, author, and attorney. He is originally from Canada but grew up in the Pacific Northwest as a dual Canadian-American citizen, which he grows increasingly thankful for every day. He now enjoys life as a single dad, writing from the beaches of the Gulf Coast, getting advice from his beloved daughter and teammate. He is very much the dreamy mystic that cannot add and loves dogs more than most people. He also likes studying cooking, theoretical physics, cosmology, and quantum mechanics. He likes pizza.
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