On Wednesday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that three doses of their COVID-19 vaccine neutralizes the omicron variant. Two doses protected against severe illness, but a third dose provides a significant increase in antibodies to fight off the disease. The two companies have already started production on omicron-specific vaccines (though why they need to if the current vaccine works is a question for their marketing departments) and have high confidence that they can deliver doses in the spring if necessary. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have also announced that they are moving ahead with omicron-specific vaccines.
Theres much still to learn about the omicron variant, which has been identified in nearly 20 states. The CDC reports that it is likely to spread more easily than delta, including to fully vaccinated people and in particular the previously infected. Yet early reports also show that illnesses from omicron could be less severe. While chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci has described the emerging omicron data as encouraging, our final understanding will hinge significantly on research out of South Africa, the first country to identify the new strain.
Omicron has intensified the ghoulish COVID chorus blaming President Biden for failing to end the pandemic and return the country to normal. The upside, however, is that the newest pandemic threat seems to have motivated some unvaccinated people in a way that lockdowns, dead friends and relatives, and company mandates did not: to face up to an ongoing pandemic that shows few signs of being over.
As of December 2, the average number of daily vaccine doses administered increased 22 percent over the previous week, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Nationwide, 86 percent of adults over 65 and 71.6 percent of adults 18 and over are fully vaccinated. Booster shots have made up most of those increases, although these overall doses are lagging somewhat. Currently, 24 percent of all fully vaccinated people have gotten a booster shot, including 25.9 percent of people 18 and older and slightly less than 50 percent of people 65 and older.
The reality is that normal, as Americans once understood it, has been wiped from the face of the Earth.
These developments have done little to shore up Bidens declining poll numbers or national discontent about a weak economy, a direct result of the pandemic and Trumps mismanagement of the responsewhich seems to have been forgotten in the Biden-bashing free-for-all. Biden did not help his cause with misguided rhetoric like declaring our independence from a deadly virus, as he said in July, a moment that likely made Fauci cringe, and opened Biden up to comparisons with George W. Bushs Mission accomplished banner blunder. He has finally pivoted to more convincing arguments about progress made.
Unlike President Trump, Biden is not ranting that COVID-19 is like a miracle, it will disappear, nor is he extolling the medical benefits of disinfectants or leaving states to beg for medical supplies and whatever materials they can secretly scrounge up. Yet Biden was elected to get control of the pandemic, and while that was a far too ambitious task for one man in an unvaccinated world with seemingly endless virus mutations, he hasnt yet succeeded, giving political rivals an opening.
Keep this site free and open for all to read...
Much of the cacophony comes from the red bleacher seats, where members of Congress and their counterparts back home gleefully support policies to put average people on the path to illness and death. Senate Republicans howl that the country is worse off today and that they should have shut down the government over vaccine mandates. In a Kafkaesque twist, Florida, Iowa, and Tennessee, states that withdrew from the federal COVID-19 emergency unemployment benefits program early, are now offering unvaccinated people the opportunity to keep receiving state benefits if they refuse to get vaccinated. (Florida is also considering reimbursing those businesses that have been fined by the federal government for refusing to implement the mandate.)
American attitudes about a deadly disease have devolved into a nasty display of toxic regionalism. Some red states with abysmal vaccination rates proudly spit on science within the borders of their superspreader petri dishes, eschew masks, and party on. Blue states like Vermont with high vaccination rates lament the pandemic of the unvaccinated, one of the presidents more memorable phrasings. Yet the data show an unmistakable rift between cases and deaths in Trump-supporting counties versus Biden-supporting ones.
Many mainstream news media outlets wield phrases like returning to normal, getting back to normal, and pre-COVID normal like tire irons against this supposedly hapless president. The reality is that normal, as Americans once understood it, has been wiped from the face of the Earth. Not only did incompetence prolong the pandemic during Trumps tenure, but he and his allies whipped up resistance to vaccines, offering their own followers as human sacrifices to help bring down Bidens presidency. This contributed to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deathswithout a shade of remorse.
Omicron may yet lift this veil of ignorance. Biden is leading, but he doesnt possess the superpowers to take America back to the Before Times, before polarization toxified even a public-health emergency. Republicans are salivating over what conventional wisdom says is their almost certain romp back to power next year. A return to Trumpism during a pandemic would be not just an illogical response to crisis, but an outright dangerous one. The country seems caught in a nasty feedback loop that will continue until the end of time or the end of the republic, whichever comes first. Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. Unless, of course, its your life.