Am I a little bit relieved that it’s not worse? Yes, I have to admit, I am. I thought we might see the numbers go through the roof by Monday. Instead, they’re only threatening the roof.
And that’s where we are now: an all-time record high daily case count, a rapid rise in Covid hospitalizations, and a new high in test positivity constitutes “good” news.
As for Monday’s “good” news of 245 fresh cases, only 1,313 tests were processed. By my calculation, that’s an 18% positivity rate for Monday. The Tuesday count was 1,727 cases out of 10,572 tests. That’s “only” a 16% positivity rate.
So yeah, Omicron is here and just beginning to hit us hard.
Meanwhile, Gov. Phil Scott is taking a week off his Tuesday Covid briefings. He told us last Tuesday there wouldn’t be one today because he’s delivering the State of the State address Wednesday afternoon.
So… he’s spending 24+ hours practicing? Can you say “I didn’t take a walk today because I was chewing gum”?
We’re plunging headlong into the Omicron surge with the state doing essentially nothing about it. Neither is President Biden. I don’t excuse either one. Over the weekend, Twitter was laden with expressions of concern over the start of school Monday. They didn’t get anything from the state. We sailed into school reopening with nothing more than a promise of expanded test availability sometime soon.
Which reminds me. The Governor and his minions like to talk about the mental health toll of restricting normal activity. They never mention the mental health toll of doing nothing — the toll on parents, child care workers, school staff, and anyone at elevated risk.
We’re also starting to see an alarming uptick in hospitalizations and ICU admissions for Covid. At year’s end we’d declined from the worrying levels of mid-December, and it looked like Scott’s policy of doing everything his administration could to increase available beds would be enough to hold the line.
Now? Well, we think that Omicron will create fewer serious, life-threatening illness. But it’s no help if we see a smaller serious case rate out of a much larger number of cases. We may be a week or less away from hospitals at capacity.
If other jurisdictions’ experience is anything to go by, Omicron should burn through the population much quicker than earlier variants. Let’s hope so. That may be the administration’s reasoning for not imposing tougher restrictions, that it’ll all be over soon. But it could also be taken as a rationale for strong measures, because it shouldn’t last long. If we limited indoor gatherings, mandated masking, and gave schools more latitude in shutting down or switching to remote learning, we should be able to lift those restrictions in a few weeks at most. It wouldn’t be anything like Scott’s nightmare scenario of a permanent state of emergency.
And then there’s long Covid. Dr. Anthony Fauci says there’s no reason to think Omicron will generate fewer persistent illnesses than other variants. So far in the pandemic, the long Covid rate is anywhere from 10-30%. That means at least 170 of those who tested positive in today’s count will suffer long Covid, and as many as 510. For one day! That’s a long-term toll that state officials aren’t even acknowledging in their calculations of acceptable risk.
We knew this was coming. We’ve known it since Omicron revealed itself to be more virulent than any other Covid strain. Now, the roller coaster has begun its course. Please obey the safety rules, folks.