Archive for November 2021

If Fauci Were A Scientist

I am not blogging much due to some overwhelming work circumstances in my real life.  However, I cannot believe the reaction of world leaders racing to institute the most onerous of restrictions on citizens based on the reports that a new COVID variant merely exists.

Fauci went on national TV this morning, subject to the usual adoring media attention and softball kid glove treatment, to discuss what has been labelled the Omicron variant (apparently selected because it is not the name of a Chinese leader and because it is an anagram for "moronic").  If Fauci were a real scientist he would have said something like this:

Respiratory viruses mutate all the time -- that is in fact why we have to create a new flu vaccine every year and why those vaccines often suck (because these mutations are hard to predict in advance).  We have known about the Omicron variant for like a week.  We have zero data on its transmissibility or the seriousness of its symptoms.  Since I don't believe anyone has died of it, we of course have no data on death rates, though preliminary reports form the South African virologists who first identified the variant are that most symptoms have been mild.

Our general expectation is that all respiratory viruses will mutate, and in general they mutate towards more transmissibility but less serious symptoms.  The history of COVID has seen a variety of variants, none of which have proven to be any more dangerous than the last.  Upticks recently in cases counts which have been blames on Delta are more likely just reflective of the seasonal pattern of this virus (all respiratory viruses show a seasonal pattern).

Looking back, most of the panic around the Delta variant was misplaced, as the variant appears to be --despite early overwrought fears -- no more deadly than other variants and no more or less transmissible to the vaccinated.  We shall observe Omicron over the coming weeks to see if any new responses are required as we develop actual data (rather than general fears) about the variant, but early hopes are that the virus may have mutated so much that it is less likely to send people to the hospital or to the grave.

Ha ha, as if.  What he actually said was this:

Regarding mandates, Fauci stated that lockdowns and a federal vaccination requirement should be the focus of overcoming the omicron variant.

“Everything is on the table,” responded Fauci during a separate media appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press.

He added, “This is a clarion call … If you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you’re fully vaccinated, get boosted. Get the children vaccinated also. We now have time. Thank goodness that the South Africans … were completely transparent.”

Fauci also appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation to discuss critics of his expertise dealing with COVID, including Republican Senator Ted Cruz. Apart from dubbing himself the face of science, Fauci diverted the conversation to the January 6 event at the Capitol to questionably stick it to Cruz.

Because most published studies on viral transmissibility and deadliness typically base their findings on one week of anecdotal data, as well as arguments about the political activities of Senators from Texas.  That's clearly science, and all you morons that do not have a house on Martha's Vineyard just need to obey.

One of the interesting things we have seen over the last 2 years is that there are a group of largely apolitical people who are ready on a moments notice to race to the scene of a protest or riot and join in and loot.  Similarly, there are political leaders today who jump at the slightest chance to layer more restrictions on their citizens at the slightest excuse.  This was a headline several days ago, when there was absolutely no way on Earth any of these politicians knew if this new variant was dangerous or not.

Update:  Wow, the NY Times is going soft.  I received this bit of rationality and reasonableness in my Times morning brief this morning, from David Leonhardt:

The public reaction to new Covid-19 variants has followed a familiar cycle. People tend to assume the worst about two different questions — whether the variant leads to faster transmission of the Covid virus and whether it causes more severe illness among infected people.

The first of those worries came true with the Alpha and Delta variants: Alpha was more contagious than the original version of the virus, and Delta was even more contagious than Alpha. But the second of the worries has largely not been borne out: With both Alpha and Delta, the percentage of Covid cases that led to hospitalization or death held fairly steady.

This pattern isn’t surprising, scientists say. Viruses often evolve in ways that help them flourish. Becoming more contagious allows a virus to do so; becoming more severe has the potential to do the opposite, because more of a virus’s hosts can die before they infect others.

It is too soon to know whether the Omicron variant will fit the pattern. But the very early evidence suggests that it may. Unfortunately, Omicron seems likely to be more contagious than Delta, including among vaccinated people. Fortunately, the evidence so far does not indicate that Omicron is causing more severe illness...

Absent new evidence, the rational assumption is that Covid is likely to remain overwhelmingly mild among the vaccinated (unless their health is already precarious). For most vaccinated people, Covid probably presents less risk than some everyday activities.

Good!  Almost two years too late, but it is good to see at least one corner of the media dialing down the panic knob.  Unfortunately, what you do not yet see in the high-profile media is them taking the obvious step -- if they really believe this, then why aren't they calling out political leaders for their rapid over-reactions to Omicron?