Omicron and Pandemic Mitigations

Ok. Y’all, Listen Up. Time to do a breakdown of what we know of the new variant – Omicron.

First off, let’s look at this Pretty-But-Terrifying-Image of the genetic sequencing of all the known variants of COVID19.

Why is it alarming? Look at that red line that shoots out on the right hand side. That’s Omicron.

“Image of variations of the SARS-COVID19 virus. There is Delta variant on left side spread out like a fan. Smaller variants related to Delta are light blue and azure, and resemble spikes that flow down along the central line of the genetic map. The right side is a gray fan of the original virus, alpha, gamma, and lambda variants. The Theta variant is a yellow spike on the right top part of the grey fan. Omicron is a red line that shoots out far from the grey fan. Violet spikes are on the lower part of the grey fan.

What is surprising and alarming about Omicron is that:

1. Omicron has 50 mutations from the original COVID19 virus.

This is why it shoots out from the pack as its mutations makes it quite different from other variants. This also means our measures to fight the pandemic needs altered due to Omicron’s impact, ability to evade immunity (see point 2), and extremely high infection rates.

Note: immunity to COVID diminishes over time to begin with, but here is a variant doing what many experts have dreaded – evading immunity. And it’s doing it over the delta surge! So here we are with the delta and omicron variants hitting us hard and over-taxing our healthcare system. We need to get infection rates down, but they are increasing fast and our systems are not equipped to handle this.

America needs to adapt a very different pandemic response instead of trying for “herd immunity,” which is what this “opening back up” nonsense is forcing on us. These variants and Omicron evading immunity is proving that “herd immunity” wishes is nonsense and eugenics at worst.

Thanks to these mutations we need to up our mask game. Do Not Wear Cloth Masks Anymore. They aren’t good enough. Wear reputable N95 or KN95 masks – feel free to put a cloth mask over that if you want them to look prettier. Just don’t wear only a cloth mask.

I’ll cover more pandemic mitigation tips later in this post.

2. On its Spike Protein, Omicron has 36 mutations (almost 3 times the amount of mutations the other variants have had).

This makes it far more infectious as that spike protein mutations make it easier for the virus to enter cells and infect them in an efficient manner. Omicron is perhaps one of the most infectious variants to be discovered. It’s rampaging across the world infecting those who have been vaccinated.

Because of its mutations — especially those on the spike protein — first generation vaccines are not as effective against Omicron. You NEED The booster. Get the booster as soon as possible. (It won’t stop Omicron, but it will lessen the impact.)

However, vaccines and boosters do not stop the infectious rate of Omicron thanks to those mutations. Vaccines makers are working hard to adjust vaccines to combat the mutations of Omicron, but that takes time. This doesn’t mean vaccines are useless – less efficacy does not mean bad. Vaccines Are Still 100% NEEDED. GET THE VACCINE AND BOOSTER. If you don’t, Omicron will bowl you over, eat you up, possibly kill you, and infect everyone you’ve been around. It’ll suck.

Another crucial point: if you hear people claiming Omicron is “more mild,” do not take that at face value. It only “seems” that way because it’s hitting a lot of vaccinated folks — many are having “mild” cases because they have some immunity that protects them (but it doesn’t protect all vaccinated people as some still die). A lot of these “mild” cases are ending up with #LongCovid, which is a highly debilitating chronic illness.

Here are two good threads that breaks this down further: https://twitter.com/HZiauddeen/status/1474185345868742658 and https://twitter.com/bethlinas/status/1474064232392142871

If you are going out among people, test yourself regularly with antigen tests (Please note: A negative result doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have it – it does mean you are likely on the not-contagious side of the infectious curve. Also, keep wearing a mask no matter what. We never should have stopped wearing them).** (See addendum for updated news on how to properly take a COVID swab test)

This is a great video that digs into the various COVID tests and what they mean: https://www.tiktok.com/@distilledscience/video/7044300394549366022

If you test positive with an antigen test? Immediately get a PCR test and isolate yourself. Cancel all gatherings with others. Quarantine. Urge every person you had been in contact with the week prior to get tested immediately with a PCR test. This contact tracing is essential to stopping the spread of the virus.

If you’re not sure what to do when you test positive, this twitter thread does a great breakdown: https://twitter.com/ashxni/status/1474088493953466373 (Side Note Tip: if you have high blood pressure, do not take Mucinex as that can send you into a heart attack.)

3. When scientists traced back Omicron roots, they discovered that it stems from an even EARLIER form of the virus.

It’s been incubating for some time, mutating away, out of the monitoring field of view. Where did it come from? No one really knows, though some speculate it might have been mutating away in animals and then jumped to humans.

Basically, COVID19 has been jumping from animals to humans to animals since it was discovered, but we haven’t seen a variant that seems to stem entirely from that animal mutation lineage IF that hypothesis turns out correct. Right now we don’t actually know if Omicron was mutating away in animals and jumped back into humans – more tests are needed. (See Bibliography below for more data on this.)

4. We don’t know the full impact of Omicron on our health.

#LongCovid is now a recognized Chronic Illness you may develop from COVID19 — it’s a multi-system disease and it’s 1000% debilitating.

Millions of people are becoming majorly disabled, and our healthcare systems are not equipped to handle this load PLUS those who are dying from COVID19 variants. Omicron is not “Mild,” and our hospitals are overwhelmed with cases.

America has been dismantling its support of disabled people and not enforcing ADA — the biased Supreme Courts (thanks to Trumpocalypse) has been harming the systems that support disabled folks.

We are in a MASS DISABLING EVENT.

Our overloaded medical systems are NOT equipped to handle it. To add to that, society is incredibly ableist — systems of care are wrapped up in massive amounts of bureaucratic tape, medical professionals often do not have good training on believing patients nor are trained in cultural competency, and many towns and cities are not built to be walkable or accessible. Marginalized populations are often hit hard by ableism, racism, and transphobia/homophobia.

To be clear, everyone has internalized ableism because that is how society taught us. No one is exempt. We must be mindful of that and work to unlearn that ableism. Part of unlearning that is understanding how our society disables people who are not abled-bodied neurotypical people, and once we understand that, we can work to undo that red tape and harmful systems.

ACCESSIBILITY SHOULD CONTINUE TO BE OUR MOST IMPORTANT FOCUS.

This means not just virtual access but in all arenas/spaces.

If any organization/company/group has ceased to be accessible because they want to go back to “normal,” they are harming millions and isolating disabled folks who cannot access the outside world without virtual accessibility. Do Not Do This. Be Accessible.

If you don’t know how? READ BOOKS AND ARTICLES BY DISABLED PEOPLE. WE’VE BEEN SHARING HOW FOR DECADES. LISTEN TO US.

Yes, Omicron is deadly. It’s a damn scary variant, but we can beat it IF We Work Together Collectively. That means we NEED to upgrade our mitigation procedures to account for its strangeness and alarming mutations. We NEED to upgrade our Accessibility Game now.

We need to fight for Better Social Support Systems collectively within our communities, as well as on a local (city/town) level, state, and federal level.

For example, right now Manchin and his cronies are trying to dismantle and/or prevent votes on laws that could improve archaic social support systems and build up people-first care networks. Don’t let the bastard get away with it). Push hard for Congress on a local, state, and federal level to undo the bureaucratic red tape that limits our social safety net and traps disabled people into extreme poverty (federally, disabled folks cannot marry else they lose their benefits and ability to access healthcare, and that also needs to change.)

To recap:

  • Omicron is incredibly infectious and requires more stringent mitigation strategies.
  • Please Mask up with N95 or higher masks.
  • Please continue to social distance.
  • Focus on FVAM (Filtration, ventilation, and masks).
  • Please limit all gatherings to a very small number of people — or in areas where Omicron is listed as “high risk,” cancel gatherings and go virtual.

Do Not Fall Prey To the Deadly “Back To Normal” Messaging America Is Doing. (This messaging is a horrible form of eugenics, and it’s harming all of us.) Don’t let profits matter more than people. Put People First.

Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s painful. This is why we NEED to adapt better accessible features to keep our connections with each other, to avoid the mental and social isolation that can harm our mental (and physical) health.

Accessibility is Love. We need connection to survive, so we need to do our best to reach out to each other and create a more accessible world for all.

Now is the time to really focus on mitigations that work:

  • HVAC fans in buildings – better ventilation and filtration (see https://safeairspaces.com/safeairspaces-estimator for good tips),
  • better masking,
  • better quarantining with accessibility centralized so we stay connected
  • better contract tracing methods
  • better vaccine mandates and push to vaccinate as many people as possible.
  • Better funding for healthcare and social support systems.
  • Better mutual aid and horizontal-democratic-community based connections
  • Better accessibility features and systems

Now is the time to really work on accessible avenues of connection for all people, so No One Is Left Behind.

Bibliography:

Note all articles listed here include links to more studies:

VOX: https://www.vox.com/22846696/omicron-covid-19-variant-virology-mutation-vaccine

NATURE: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-03794-8

Omicron Isn’t Mild for Hospitals: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2022/01/omicron-mild-hospital-strain-health-care-workers/621193/

Reality of Omicron Variant (It’s not mild): https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2022/01/07/mild-j07.html

Swab Study: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.12.22.21268246v1?s=09

World Health Organization (WHO): https://covid19.who.int/

Addendum:

America is failing to update us on the latest news. Most of the world has updated recommendations on how to take a COVID Swab test properly (Note there is a specific American-made antigen test that can’t handle step 2. Most antigen tests, especially those made outside US, handle all three steps):

  1. Do not eat or drink anything 30 minutes before test
  2. Rub swab over the posterior throat pharynx and tonsillar pillars (that back area of the throat – yes, it may make you gag, but critical to do this first)
  3. Swab 5 times against nasal wall of both nostrils WITH SAME SWAB.

Omicron in particular has been found primarily in the throat (where throat swabs will show positive but nose swabs negative). See the picture for how to do test properly. If you don’t do this, you may get a false negative and cause further infections. If you test positive, remember my tips above.

Also, this is a great thread by this expert that discusses the new recommendations on how to take the swab test: https://twitter.com/DrEricDing/status/1477498074838839296

An image of text that says 'Throat Combined with Nares Specimen Collection Instructions 1. Insert swab in posterior pharynx and tonsillar areas. 2. Rub swab over posterior pharynx and bilateral tonsillar pillars (avoid tongue, teeth, and gums) 3. Using the same swab, insert about 1-2 cm inside nares. 4. Rotate swab times against the nasal wall 5. Using the same swab, repeat for the other nostril. 
Videos 2:14 How to take combined throat and nose swab for COVID-1 https://youtu.be/5qHTBlxfNes?t=133 
1:03 How Collect Combined Throat and Nasal Specimen for COVID- Public Health)  (UK Health Security Agency) Testing (Ontario Public Health) https://youtu.be/nZ5ARMliQ4A?t=63
An image of text that says ‘Throat Combined with Nares Specimen Collection Instructions 1. Insert swab in posterior pharynx and tonsillar areas. 2. Rub swab over posterior pharynx and bilateral tonsillar pillars (avoid tongue, teeth, and gums) 3. Using the same swab, insert about 1-2 cm inside nares. 4. Rotate swab times against the nasal wall 5. Using the same swab, repeat for the other nostril.
Videos 2:14 How to take combined throat and nose swab for COVID-1 https://youtu.be/5qHTBlxfNes?t=133
1:03 How Collect Combined Throat and Nasal Specimen for COVID- Public Health) (UK Health Security Agency) Testing (Ontario Public Health) https://youtu.be/nZ5ARMliQ4A?t=63

By Aibird

Open the door, step inside. Here you find a forest, teeming with animals and birds, which sweeps up the sides of snow-capped mountains. Here in the small pocket of beauty, one finds the essence of my soul. A writer at heart, I delve deep into the finer details of humanity's spirit, and seek to share with others what gems I uncover. I find life exciting and full of interesting surprises, and despite the great pain that often confronts me, I persevere with the joy in my heart still bubbling, and the light of my soul still aflame. There is a time and a place to introspect one's self, but often enough it is best to not look back in regret, but leap forward in the present toward the achievement of one's deepest dreams. I am a wanderer. An explorer. One place cannot contain me for long, but to my friends and family, I remain loyal, for love is not bound by time nor place. Once cultivated and nourished continuously, it binds people together on a journey through the unknown reaches of life.

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