So that's going well

Restaurants In SF and Oakland Temporarily Close Out of Caution

A likely deluge of new COVID cases is on the horizon for the Bay Area, due to the Omicron variant and despite widespread vaccination. [...] San Francisco health officials announced Friday that they've confirmed 31 cases of the Omicron variant in the city, but there are likely many going undetected by official testing channels. [...]

UCSF's Dr. Bob Wachter says that people with three shots of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine should consider themselves "very immune," and those who are boosted and who were also previously infected are now "super-immune." [...]

And Wachter said he'd spoken with a friend in New York City who had COVID in 2020, and had three mRNA vaccine shots, but after attending holiday parties last week where proof of vaccination was required, the friend is once again COVID-positive.

That is a head-spinning definition of "super immune", right there. How does he hold on to that cognitive dissonance?

Also, keep in mind that confirmation of cases lags behind infection by like 3 weeks. Someone gets infected; it takes a week for them to show symptoms; a few more days for it to be bad enough that they go to the hospital; 3+ days to sequence their strain; then the hospital reports to CDC (but only on Fridays!) and more days before the report comes out.

So let's generously call that 2 weeks. Omicron reportedly has a doubling rate of 2.5 days. So if there are 31 reported cases, that means that there are probably 31 × 2 ^ (14 / 2.5) = 1,503 actual cases. And in two weeks, when the official report says 1,503, there will be 72,928. You hit a million in 37 days.

Also, because I have spoken to a number of people who have said "but they say Omicron is less dangerous", let me point out that a less deadly but more infectious disease is still WAY WORSE. Even if it is less deadly -- which it probably isn't -- you are multiplying a slightly smaller number (chance of death when infected) against a much larger number (chance of infection) resulting in your actual, much larger, chance of death.

I keep seeing anecdotes of people with extremely mild or asymptomatic infections developing debilitating long-COVID symptoms months later, but I haven't seen any estimates of what your odds are. Probably that means they have no idea.


I really think most people's conception of Long Covid is "I'll get a little winded walking up stairs" and not "I'll get an incurable neurological disease worthy of an Oliver Sacks book" and that's a communication problem.

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14 Responses:

  1. Dude says:

    Just read this the other day on Rolling Stone:

    "NYC Venue Now Requires Proof of Vaccination and Negative Test Due to Omicron Surge

    As someone who had a blast at Hubba Hubba this past Saturday, let me again thank you and the ultra-thorough crew at The Lounge for taking this shit seriously from the beginning rather than waiting for wave after wave (and London Breed party pic after London Breed party pic).

    • Richard says:

      Holy fuck those photos were taken with a cell phone!

      It's amazing what humans accomplished shortly before planet became uninhabitable by mammals.

  2. K says:

    Even if it's just a nasty cold, everyone getting a nasty cold all at once in a two week period is still going to mess things up but good. And it's worse than a nasty cold.

  3. jstewart says:

    I think you're being optimistic. In the UK a week ago we had about 1500 detected cases of Omicron which was estimated to be 200,000 in the population. If the US is ten times as effective at identifying Omicron cases you'll have a million cases in two weeks.

    • k3ninho says:

      Also in the UK, 'no evidence that Omicron is less severe than Delta' which is the measured scientific truth boots on and out in the world after the unmeasured statement from South African teams about the severity of Omicron has gone round the world seven times.

      And that phrasing itself needs to be unpacked: the team looked to see if there was likely to be any more or less severe impact of Omicron and they could not tell the two apart.


  4. J. Peterson says:

    Here's a useful overview of what's currently known about the omicron variant from Derek Lowe (knowledgeable scientist in the field).

  5. Pronoiac says:

    I'm not sure where Google draws its stats from - lags by five days - but it's showing 796 new cases for Monday, a big step up from the previous 7-day average of 104. Some of that is from folding in Saturday and Sunday, but that's still over twice last Monday.

  6. Landa says:

    > That is a head-spinning definition of "super immune"

    The problem is that his friend was "super immune", but in the meantime COVID-19 quietly upgraded to "super-duper-infectious" ¯_(ツ)_/¯

  7. Rob Jones says:

    PCR tests are great for detecting the virus but, in general, are not able to assign the variant. Some of them target the S gene as well as E and N. In Omicron the S gene component fails, but E and N work, so they can assign Omicron based on 'S gene target failure' (SGTF). That proxy result from testing labs is the source of most of the statistics.

    Only a small fraction of positive tests get sent for sequencing. That said, GISAID, the primary data repo, has more than 6 million genomes and adding 20-30K a day - that is an unprecedented effort around the world. Flu has a mere 300,000 genomes.

    • jwz says:

      Using the word "immunity" when talking to the press when what you mean is merely "elevated immune response" is absolutely irresponsible.

  8. Elusis says:

    I keep seeing anecdotes of people with extremely mild or asymptomatic infections developing debilitating long-COVID symptoms months later, but I haven't seen any estimates of what your odds are. Probably that means they have no idea.

    How does more than half strike you?

    Or maybe that's just 50%+ among hospitalized people? But more than one in ten of those develop Chronic Fatigue Syndrome...

    This one says more like one in twenty wind up with some kind of lingering symptoms, but I still don't like those odds.

    • jwz says:

      The incredibly frustrating thing about all of the few studies is that their definition of "long COVID" is usually something like "some symptoms persist longer than three months" with no breakdown of what that actually means, or how severe or likely the outliers are.

      If "long COVID" means I have a headache for three months, I don't really give a shit. If it means I need to wheel around an oxygen tank for the rest of my life, then I really do.

      • Dude says:

        As near as I know, I haven't been directly exposed to the virus. Still, every day for nearly two years now, I've been glad to wake up every morning still have my senses of taste and smell.

        Knowing several folks who got breakthrough infections, it always pisses me off the way the anti-vax/-mask assholes who dismiss the virus (especially Omicron) because of "mild symptoms". Take it from amputees: when you've spent your entire life using a sense that's now gone, it's disappearance can hardly be considered "mild".

        Plus, y'know, there's that whole "millions of people are dead" thing.

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