New Worry for the Pandemic-Weary

I reported on the new Omicron coronavirus variant during the first segment of Talkline Monday, prompting this text from a listener: “I had a wonderful holiday weekend with family and friends.  Have not heard a word about Covid as most people never speak of it. But then you.  You lead off with it on Monday morning.  You are something else, Hoppy.”

That was not the only text complaining about news coverage of the new variant, and none of it was surprising.  Many people, and not just the anti-vaxers, are weary of hearing any news about Covid.

I get it, because I am tired of reading about it, talking about it, writing about it and dealing with it in my daily life.  I have improved my immunity from Covid by getting two vaccine shots and a booster, but I don’t have immunity from emotional exhaustion that comes with the daily doses of Covid information.

That is painfully true for the frontline health care workers—doctors, nurses, clinicians, emergency personnel and everyone else whose lives have been dictated for nearly two years by the ebb and flow of the virus.

However, none of that frustration by me or anyone else adds one iota of protection from the virus. When the virus reaches a point of exhaustion, it mutates and finds another way to perpetuate itself, just as we now see with the Omicron variant.

It showed up first in South Africa and is now spreading to other countries.  The first cases in North America have been reported in Canada.

Health officials around the world are scrambling to determine the characteristics of the new variant.  Does is spread more easily than other variants?  Does it make those who are infected sicker or not as sick?  Are the current vaccines an efficient deterrent or will researchers have to come up with a different vaccine? How well will natural immunity work?

President Biden said Monday the emergence of Omicron is “cause for concern, not a cause for panic.”  That is a reasonable response.  Typically, when a leader says, “don’t panic,” the opposite happens.  However, after months of alarming stories and statistics, our “panic” sensor is worn down anyway.

In West Virginia, the “cause of concern” remains the vaccination rate.  Just 54 percent of the state’s population ages five and older are fully vaccinated, and the rate of shots in arms is a trickle. Yet, the vaccine is still the best defense against the virus.

West Virginia Covid-19 Czar Dr. Clay Marsh, who has consistently issued steady, sound advice on Covid, said on Talkline Monday, “There is a concern that this new variant demonstrates that Covid is not over (and) it demonstrates the capability the virus still has to try to navigate our immune response.”

We can choose to tune out any news on the virus and pleas for vaccinations, but all that denial will do is increase the health risk to ourselves and others.



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