It's hard to believe the world is fast approaching the two-year anniversary of the start of the pandemic. This has included the initial wave of COVID-19 and more than one variant, including delta, which caused a surge in cases and deaths. It's only natural to wonder if omicron could be the next delta, but early reports are good.
On Tuesday, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reported that of the 44 omicron cases seen, "all of those are asymptomatic or people with mild symptoms." Other reports also lean toward omicron being a mild strain. What remains to be seen is whether it will stay mild, how transmissible it is, and if vaccines will hold up against it.
However, lack of knowledge about omicron has caused fear to grow. A CNN article originally titled "Omicron coronavirus variant puts world on edge" is updated daily to include case numbers of the variant around the world, travel restrictions associated with it, and news about vaccine effectiveness. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is already predicting omicron could hurt an economy that's trying to recover.
In New York, Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency that goes into effect on Friday. Part of Hochul's remarks included the following: "We want to get back to normal. We want to get to a time where our children are not wearing masks in school. In my opinion, it’s a little more short-term pain with the hope of long-term gain."
On social media, Dr. Camille Clare of SUNY Downstate tweeted, "Normalize still wearing your mask indoors and outdoors regardless of vaccination status #omicronvariant."
On Thursday, President Joe Biden will reportedly announce new, tougher restrictions as part of an "enhanced winter COVID strategy." These include testing, regardless of vaccination status. According to the Washington Post, new measures could "require all travelers, including U.S. citizens, to self-quarantine for seven days, even if their test results are negative. Those who flout the requirements might be subject to fines and penalties, the first time such penalties would be linked to testing and quarantine measures for travelers in the United States."
On Dec. 14, 2020, the first COVID vaccine was administered in the U.S. Since then, more than 460 million total doses have been given. The country has been through lockdowns, virtual schooling, and masking requirements. A divided nation has grown even more divided. It would be easy to jump to conclusions after such a long, collective struggle. But doing so is not helpful from either a morale or practical standpoint. Full-fledged panic should never be encouraged.
Everyone knows the risk associated with the coronavirus. Vaccines are available and largely effective. Frankly, staying safe is on each one of us now. There is no excuse for not taking advantage of the medical resources that can protect against serious illness. If an individual is at higher risk, they should take proper precautions. Playing it safe when and where necessary is a good strategy for those who deal with compromised immune systems or preexisting conditions. But living in a perpetual state of anxiety brought on by each new headline and variant is an exhausting, utterly impossible way to live.
Waiting until there are no cases, deaths, or variants of any kind is unhealthy and unreasonable. We live in a new world with new tools to combat an existing problem. Educated caution is appropriate, but a constant state of crisis, in which life cannot be lived, is most certainly not.
Kimberly Ross (@SouthernKeeks) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog and a columnist at Arc Digital.