This past Wednesday morning health and biology research scientists joined National Public Radio reporter Rob Stein for an interesting discussion on the Omicron variant, its explosive ability to spread, and what that might mean going forward. I am adding emphasis to part of the interview that really stuck with me, as so much of the public’s “get it over with” attitude has pervaded the approach to this variant. You can listen to or read the entire interview here.
STEIN: Now, this might make some people think, well, sounds like I’m going to get it, and it could boost my immunity without a lot of risk, so why not just get it over with? But [Jeremy] Kamil [virologist at Louisiana State University] and others say, don’t even think about it [readily contracting Covid]. Get vaccinated and boosted. Even if omicron’s milder, it still can be really nasty – even deadly. And don’t forget about long COVID. Omicron’s going to inflict enough carnage. And many scientists caution it’s way too early to conclude with any certainty that we’ll be on the right road after omicron.
Michael Worobey studies evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona.
MICHAEL WOROBEY: I want to actually get away from any kind of narrative that omicron is some sort of silver lining. It’s irresponsible to suggest that there’s some sort of preordained progression of viruses like this toward becoming benign.
STEIN: The next variant could just as easily be nastier and even better at outsmarting our immune systems. And any immunity we get from omicron could fade.
And Jeffrey Shaman [environmental health sciences] at Columbia says, just because something is endemic doesn’t always mean it’s easier to live with.
JEFFREY SHAMAN: It’s very difficult to say, well, it’s going to settle into a seasonal pattern, be much milder, and we’re not going to have to worry about it; we’ll be able to get back to our lives. I would love that. That would be great. But I just don’t know if it will happen.
STEIN: So in the meantime, says Harvard epidemiologist William Hanage, the country needs to double down and do everything possible to blunt the damage as omicron tears across the nation.
Last Friday Governor Brian Kemp took the unprecedented step of declaring a statewide public health emergency as the number of Covid-19 (coronavirus) cases began to increase on national and state levels. The Georgia General Assembly suspended its calendar last Thursday and returned for on Monday for a special session called by the Governor to approve his actions. Yesterday the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) confirmed 197 cases of Covid-19 and three deaths. The number of reported cases are updated daily at noon.
Whether the changes we are adopting come from business, civic, or elected leaders, the chorus in this choir is to avoid being closer than six feet from other people. I prefer the phrase physical distancing instead of social distancing. We need our social connections now more than ever, just not the close physical ones.
Last weekend I was supposed to be with about 12 other Life Is A Verb Campers for a house party filled with making art, cooking Pi Day themed meals, walking, yoga, and sharing stories. Instead of being together physically, we gathered at 11:00 in the morning via Zoom for coffee and everyone’s choice of pie. I made a roasted mushroom and asparagus quiche. It wasn’t the same as being in a room together, but it was good to see much-loved faces and talk.
Having done that on Saturday, the next morning I did a quick FaceBook search of five large churches in rural Washington County to see how they were adapting to the six foot wingspan way of living now. All five opened their doors to congregation members. One of the five churches was St James Christian Fellowship. This congregation is led by Georgia State House Representative Mack Jackson. He did not reply to my email with questions about opening the church last week.
Last Thursday Jackson worked with other state representatives to suspend their work and return home out of an abundance of caution due to Covid-19. On Friday some members stood closer than six feet to Kemp while he announce the public health emergency. Despite the cautions taken by the state, Jackson and other faith leaders invited people to gather together, perhaps more than once, last Sunday.
Everyone in those churches knows that the local hospital, like those in other rural counties, is not equipped to handle a large number of Covid-19 patients. The capacity just isn’t there, no matter how caring and well=trained the health providers are. With all of the free and easy-to-use technology available for streaming a service, why any church leaders thought that unlocking the doors last Sunday was a good idea, is enough to test one’s faith.