Livin’ on an Omicron prayer

Published January 9, 2022, 12:03 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng


Like some bad actor waiting in the wings, the COVID-19 Omicron variant is biding its time, employing elements of foreshadowing and anticipation, before making its grand entrance in our country. Medical experts would say that the recent uptick in cases is still of the Delta variety, and that the isolated Omicron cases are far and few. My concern is more about how while they’re saying that, what if the Omicron surge is happening right before their eyes – as I still question how we differentiate between the two on a consistent and scientific basis, given that some of the ones who prove to be positive aren’t even being hospitalized, and try to recover at home. Who then is qualified to say “X” number are still Delta, and “X” number are Omicron? Just wondering…

In the meantime, the events of last week demonstrated just how porous our quarantine and isolation protocols have become. Was Poblacion Girl the exception who slipped through the system, or was she merely the tip of an iceberg – the first one who got caught, but was merely one of many? It’s obvious that as December 2021 rolled in, we relaxed, put vigilance aside – and that so many acted like COVID had never been. And yes, I’ll concede that this was only natural, given the quarantine fatigue we had all suffered under. So are we now paying the consequences for that premature letdown?

Just recently, I saw a Peanuts cartoon strip that had Snoopy sitting on the rooftop of his doghouse, typewriter in front of him, and the thought bubbles went like this – “2019: Stay Away from Negative People.” Then “2020: Stay Away from Positive People,” followed by “2021: Stay Away from People,” and the last box had Snoopy facing the reader, with “2022: ?”

And I thought that perfectly summed up what our 2022 prospects look like – a big question mark! There was guarded optimism throughout the last quarter of 2021 – COVID cases were spiraling down; and like I mentioned above, there was growing confidence that we had really seen the worse of it, and that we could literally “feel” the light at the end of this COVID tunnel. And I hated being Mr. Nega-star, pointing out what was happening in Europe and the USA, where Omicron was spreading like wildfire.

So privately, I’d say the complaining to my closest friends that the crowding at malls and public places was craziness, that COVID was still lurking around. But of course, a number of them felt I was being overly pessimistic, and couldn’t I just accept and enjoy the paucity of new cases. I can’t predict the future, so I kept my mouth shut, hoping against hope that they were right. But if what I hear from the doctor friends I have are anything to go by, the current number of positive results to antigen and PCR tests is staggering, alarming – the only silver lining being that so many are asymptomatic, or exhibiting mild symptoms of COVID.

One hospital I frequent had only a handful of COVID cases on Dec. 26; and one of the head doctors there confirmed that there are now three floors filled with COVID patients. On these three floors, it was observed that up to 25 percent of the patients are children –a far cry from what we were experiencing throughout 2020 and 2021. But again, one mitigating factor is that more often than not, it’s like having the common flu, and it takes its course over a week to 10 days. Let’s pray that this is in fact the way things will go with Omicron, that it’s a ‘gentler’ form of COVID.

Some pundits in the USA even likened Omicron to “Mother Nature’s COVID-19 Immunity Booster.” Dr. Peter McCullough of The McCullough Report calls Omicron “a briefer and milder syndrome without serious pulmonary involvement….Despite Omicron having a lower estimated transmissibility index than Delta, it has a replication speed of ~70X that of prior variants, and explains why it has edged out Delta as the predominant variant.”

This talk of Mother Nature providing us a booster is dangerous though. For the implication there would be we should welcome contracting Omicron, suffer the discomfort for two weeks, and acquire natural immunity to other COVID variants. I would love for it to be so, and that simple, as it could lead to natural herd immunity; but I don’t think the variant has been around long enough to safely make this kind of conclusion – not to mention that the news from France about a new “IHU” variant hasn’t even been factored in.

For now, it’s still prudent to be vaccinated, get your booster, and maintain proper protocols – while livin’ on a prayer of hope.