Because of Omicron...
The current variant offers policymakers cover to avoid admitting the failure of their COVID mitigation regimes
In the last few weeks, we’ve seen some unprecedented COVID numbers from many states. The numbers are so jaw-dropping, I’m considering maybe just disappearing and never writing anything else ever again because that seems preferable to updating the y-axis on my monthly COVID data post next week.
The narrative that has taken over is that this surge is the “Omicron surge”. I think that’s a shallow simplification. Cases were surging in the expected seasonal pattern before Omicron was detected in this country. Most of the cases in the first part of December were certainly Delta, so the idea that Omicron is responsible for what is currently happening is a mixed vision at best.
While Omicron is now the dominant strain, we’re still somewhat in the dark on its overall impact. But time tells all and we’ll know for certain what impact Omicron has when it’s over and we can look backward with perfect hindsight in March.
Even so, Omicron is being used as a catch-all excuse for policy changes. When changing their quarantine policy from 10 days to 5 days, the CDC used Omicron as their explanation… without referencing a single study to justify this change. Omicron is the justification for fully vaccinated Harvard students going remote, and for thousands of K-12 schools closing or going remote. The Biden administration says that response to Omicron has been difficult because “nobody saw it coming”.
I dislike the “due to Omicron” talking point because it feels like nothing more than an excuse for narrative and policy failure. But it also telegraphs that our leaders, our lives, and our policy are at the mercy of the evolution of this virus. The implication is, “We’re changing policies because this variant has changed the situation.”
Every time I see this answer, it is another nail in the coffin for restrictive pandemic policy. The “because Omicron” answer is not a strong and convincing rationale, carefully considered and driven by confident science; it is an admission of defeat. This is an answer that says, “We had no plan to escape mask mandates, school shutdowns, and quarantines. If the next variant surges in a similar way, we’re going to do this all again.”