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Politick: Omicron Variant

December 15, 2021

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It’s time to stop complaining and live your life

For over a year the singular cry of the United States has been Covid. For over a year the American people have obsessed, planned, and thought about the virus incessantly; no business remains untouched, no personal story unblemished. Every individual, from the city dwellers in L.A. to the coastal clingers of Key Largo have been bombarded with news and stories of the pandemic. The chant begins again with Omicron.

Omicron is the latest variant of Covid. It originated in Southern Africa and has since spread to several continents, slowly creeping across countries and replacing the previous Delta strain. Omicron, as far as health officials know, is still guarded against by the vaccine.

And that is the extent of Omicron information provided in this article. In order to understand the point, you needn’t know anything else. For every strain of the virus, for every instance of this pandemic, the vaccine virtually eliminates risk. If you take nothing else away from reading this, take that. Take the knowledge that vaccination and treatment options have grown (and are growing) dramatically better and more effective. Understand it. Internalize it.

Covid is not going away. There will always be new cases of the virus. There will always be a new strain, and yes, people will always die from contracting it. Covid is becoming endemic, meaning it is going to become a part of life, just as the flu and the common cold and pneumonia are. Americans live their lives with relatively little fear of the previous ailments; they should learn to live with Covid as well.

Americans live their lives with relatively little fear of the previous ailments; they should learn to live with Covid as well.”

— Reagan Eastlick

This isn’t about the Omicron variant – it’s about peoples’ reaction to any new strain of Covid. The Pfizer vaccine reduces the already low mortality rates of the virus by 97%. Vaccination disconnects the number of people infected from the number of people who die, making catching Covid relatively unimportant.

Once a person has been given a chance to take the vaccine, any consequence is not the government’s responsibility. People have agency, they have the ability to make decisions for themselves; if that decision is against the vaccine then they have made their choice. Vaccines should not be mandated, and neither should masks. The American people have been presented with a solution to every strain of Covid. What they chose to do with that solution is their decision, not the government’s.

Americans have a tendency to look at Covid in a way that is completely dissimilar to any other disease or sickness. The roughly 330 million people who live in the United States live in one of the cleanest and most technologically advanced countries in the world.

Why does that matter? Covid was the very first disease to sweep across the country while simultaneously being covered by a plethora of news outlets and social media. The huge influx of coverage didn’t make Covid more dangerous, but it created panic to a scale never before seen.

Every day you take risks. You wake up and drive to school on roads where crashes occur regularly. After that you eat food you didn’t prepare, trusting that grocery stores and cooks are clean and orderly. You take trips on planes and shake strangers’ hands, basking in their bacterial glory. And all the while, you never realize it. You weigh the cost of not doing those things with the risk of living your life, and nearly every time, you choose to live normally.

Today, I ask you to add Covid to the list of risks you take every day. And I go a step further: I ask you to move on with your life. New variants will come and go. Sadly, some people will die. That’s life. And it sucks, it truly does.

But that’s Covid, and the common cold, and the flu, and driving, and climbing a ladder. The important thing is that you don’t let the risk of dying stop you from living.

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Omicron is a real threat, and we need to treat it like one

At this point in the pandemic, we are not unfamiliar with Coronavirus. We have experienced the effects of it for nearly two years: most of us know someone who had it, or had it ourselves, our lives have been flipped upside down, turned around and then placed lopsided back where they’re supposed to be. The ‘new normal’ has been established. In other words, we are completely and utterly desensitized to any new variant that occurs, which could cost our lives.

Two days after South Africa reported Omicron, the World Health Organization labeled it a ‘variant of concern,’ the most serious category used for tracking new variants. There are signs that Omicron is even more transmissible than Delta and can better evade immunity.

Omicron will not make the COVID-19 vaccines completely ineffective, but they will be less effective against this mutation of the virus. This is an even greater reason to get a booster shot for the vaccine and scientists urge those who are still not vaccinated to do so immediately. If you haven’t gotten vaccinated yet, you need to seriously consider why you would risk the growing threat against your health.

According to the Mayo Clinic, only 62.3% of the population of Florida is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, leaving almost 40% of the population completely exposed to new variants, with little research on how to treat.

Additionally, wearing masks in public spaces, even those who are fully vaccinated, is highly recommended. Despite this, mask mandates are still lifted and few private businesses require them in stores. On top of this, theme parks like Disney and Universal have been given the go ahead from Gov. Ron DeSantis to return to normal capacity and have been slowly increasing the percentage of guests allowed into the park.

It is obvious and understandable to be tired of this situation, especially for Generation Z, who have had key parts of their childhood taken away. Ignoring and brushing off this variant would be easy, but it would also be incredibly dangerous.”

— Laura Shaw

Soon after Omicron was labeled a ‘variant of concern,’ some countries, including the United States, barred travel from several southern African countries while others, like Japan, even shut down travel completely again. Although this seems like an overreaction, cases of Omicron have already been detected in countries like Canada, Britain and Australia. For now, barring travel from solely southern Africa seems like an appropriate response, as the government needs to closely monitor its progress and be ready to shut down travel again. However, I am afraid that they simply will not do that.

There is very little information on Omicron as of now, but from what we do know, we need to take it seriously. It is obvious and understandable to be tired of this situation, especially for Generation Z, who have had key parts of their childhood taken away. Ignoring and brushing off this variant would be easy, but it would also be incredibly dangerous. While there are no signs that we will be reentering the quarantine phase of 2020, we simply need to do our part to protect ourselves and our community.

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