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Daily Omicron Report

Snitz take on things: The current studies apparently indicate that only the Moderna booster significantly reduces your chances of getting Omicron. Vaccination does however meaningfully reduce the symptoms if you contract it. Omicron is so contagious that hospitals are finding that almost 50% of the patients that come in for treatment (of any kind) incidentally have Omicron. Ergo, Omicron may now have infected up to half of our population.

There also appears no conclusive evidence that vaccines meaningfully retard the transmission of Omicron (unlike the original strain or Delta). Therefore, there's a growing argument that getting vaccinated is a smart thing to do for yourself, but doesn't neccessarily impact your neighbors.

That leads me to think the gov's best option is to persuade citizens to get vaccinated, not mandate. The former is likely to get better buy in and help avoid critical front line workers not showing up for work.

One important caveat: If you go unvaccinated, the chances of you requiring a trip to the ER and requiring expensive triage go up exponentially. Ergo, you deserve the freedom to make your own decision and with that take on the economic responsibility for such as well. Either you should either pay an proportionate insurance stipend to cover the added risk or pay out of pocket. You take the risk, you pay at the crap table presuming you lose. I'm not interested in paying for your bad decisions (by you driving up my insurance premiums).

A growing gap

by Anna Watts, NY Times

Some of the timeliest data on Covid-19 outcomes by vaccination status comes from New York City and the Seattle area, and the two are telling a consistent story.

Cases for vaccinated and unvaccinated residents alike are rising:

Data is age adjusted. Recent data may be incomplete.Sources: New York City Department of Health, Washington Department of Health

They’re rising because vaccination often does not prevent infection from the Omicron variant. It reduces the chances substantially — as you can see above — but vaccinated people still face a meaningful chance of infection.

What vaccination does is radically reduce the chance of severe Covid illness. Look how different these charts on hospitalizations looks from the previous charts on cases:

Data is age adjusted. Recent data may be incomplete.Sources: New York City Department of Health, Washington Department of Health

(The number of Americans hospitalized with Covid has surpassed last winter’s peak.)

Some experts believe that the hospitalization gap between the vaccinated and unvaccinated is even larger than these charts suggest. The official data on Covid hospitalizations includes many people who are hospitalized for other reasons — say, a heart condition or a bicycle crash — and who test positive for the virus while being treated.

About one-third of Covid hospitalizations fall into this category, according to a recent analysis at the University of California, San Francisco. In New York State, 43 percent of people hospitalized with Covid were admitted for other reasons.

It’s true that some of these incidental Covid hospitalizations still cause problems. The virus can harm people whose bodies are weakened by other medical conditions, and all Covid cases put added stress on hospitals, because patients must be isolated. (“Hospitals are in serious trouble,” Ed Yong writes in The Atlantic.)

Still, many incidental Covid cases in hospitals do not present much risk to the infected person. And Omicron is so contagious that it has infected many vaccinated people, likely inflating the hospitalization numbers more than previous variants have.

The death gap

The data on deaths from New York and Seattle underscores the relatively low risks for vaccinated people. These numbers show a starker gap between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated than the hospitalization data:

Data is age adjusted. Recent data may be incomplete.Sources: New York City Department of Health, Washington Department of Health

One caveat is death trends tend to lag case trends by about three weeks. In coming weeks, deaths among the vaccinated will almost certainly rise, given how sharply cases have risen. These deaths will likely be concentrated among people in vulnerable health, including the elderly and those with a serious underlying medical condition like a previous organ transplant — especially if they’re not boosted.

This likelihood — along with the problem of overwhelmed hospitals — is one of the strongest arguments for taking steps to reduce the size of the current Omicron wave. More vaccine mandates and indoor mask wearing can help reduce cases and, by extension, deaths, experts say.

But the early data raises the possibility that the increase in deaths among the vaccinated will remain relatively modest. The gap in the mortality charts above can’t merely be a reflection of the lag between the cases and deaths. After all, deaths among unvaccinated New Yorkers and Seattleites had already begun to surge in December. Deaths among the vaccinated had not.

(In Boston and Chicago, Covid deaths have also risen, these charts show.)

The bottom line

Vaccination remains highly effective at preventing severe Covid illnesses. And Omicron is milder than earlier versions of the virus. The combination means that most Americans — including children and vaccinated adults — face little personal risk from Omicron.

The risk is not zero, to be clear, even among people who are generally healthy. But it is very small. Every day, people live with small risks, be they from the seasonal flu and other illnesses or from riding in a vehicle, playing sports or other activities.

For the unvaccinated, the situation is very different. Omicron is still severe enough that it will lead to debilitating illness and death for many unvaccinated people. In much of the U.S., a large number of adults — including older adults — remain unvaccinated:

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