The emergence of the Omicron variant has breathed new life into the covid panic machine, and just in time for the birth of Christ! Doesn’t it feel like we have been here before? I don’t know about you, but I am having serious déjà vu. We’re entering an all too familiar pattern: a new covid mutation emerges, the left-leaning media panics prematurely, their government puppets threaten citizens with a new round of mandates, and none of it makes much of a difference in the natural cycle of something as infectious as a coronavirus. The prompt from the leftist elites is becoming as predictable as the sunrise. The difference is that now, for better or worse, most people just seem completely over it.
Being completely over it isn’t necessarily a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, I have argued since the early days of the pandemic that the response of local and federal officials has often been draconian, anti-science, and actually abusive in many instances. I’ll stand by those viewpoints, because they keep being vindicated, both scientifically and morally. That said, we are still in a pandemic, and you should still take reasonable precautions to protect yourself from illness. In other words, you should behave as reasonable humans have since the beginning of our species’ existence. What you shouldn’t do is saturate your brain with leftist-induced panic porn. It doesn’t serve the public health well. It’s also not great for mental health either. Some of you need Lexapro much more than you need masks.
The anxiety many are feeling (and some are profiting from) stems from the unknown. Almost two years into covid, and there is still so much that is not known. That’s frustrating. Important questions remain, particularly regarding Omicron, the new kid on the block. The most important one relates to severity. It seems to be more contagious than previous variants, but is it more severe? Some initial data from South Africa has suggested it is less severe, while other initial data from the UK has suggested that’s not necessarily the case. More data is still forthcoming, but the real time numbers on the ground in South Africa point to decreased fatality compared to past infection spikes. Many scientists have expressed optimism that this variant will be easier to deal with than previous ones, yet it feels like leftist media outlets are praying for a Christmas plague, particularly for the unvaccinated. Take their musings with a grain of salt. Aside from the emerging data specifically pertaining to Omicron, can one look at what we know in general about evolutionary biology, and apply some of that understanding to make a prediction about what is likely to happen? We can try.
The outdated, yet often referenced, law of declining virulence was introduced over one hundred years ago by Dr. Theobald Smith, a pathologist. The theory goes that if a virus kills its host quickly, then it can’t spread its genetic material very effectively. In other words, dead people typically can’t spread a respiratory virus efficiently, especially when compared to living carriers of the disease. Remember, evolution is governed by biological fitness, which is an organism’s ability to pass on its genetic material. The law of declining virulence posits that over time, if viruses become more transmissible, their severity must go down concurrently. That makes intuitive sense, because a mutant virus that doesn’t kill the host is rewarded by being able to spread its genes more effectively than one that does. Based on this assumption, Sars-CoV-2 should be destined to mutate into something entirely benign, the viral equivalent of a kitten. Unfortunately, this viewpoint is thought to be too simplistic by most evolutionary biologists today. Modern understanding of how viruses evolve isn’t that simple.
Since the late ’70s and ’80s, biologists have largely embraced the “trade-off” model, developed by mathematician Robert May and epidemiologist Roy Anderson. It essentially states that natural selection of viruses will find a balance between the benefits and costs of causing harm to their hosts. According to this theory, decreasing virulence isn’t guaranteed to happen, though in many cases it still does. Important factors that influence the optimal level of virulence according to this theory are the number of available hosts for the virus to infect, and the length of time between infection and symptom onset, amongst many others. There is a sweet spot that a pathogen reaches with this model, where the virus’s ability to use the host’s cellular machinery for survival and spread is kept in check by the very fact that using the host’s cellular machinery causes hardship (or even death) of that cell. Evolution is simply fascinating, and never before in any of our lives has the world been so fixated on the evolution of a particular virus. Much will be learned about viral evolution over the next few years as scientists continue to study covid. There’s a silver lining for ya. It’s important to point those out when they happen.
Honestly, no one knows for sure how or when this all ends. That’s the truth. Will Sars-CoV-2 become the latest endemic coronavirus? Has it already become endemic? Or will it eventually just die out? I don’t know. What has always mattered since day one is not whether the virus continues to exist, but rather, does it exist in a way that causes significant harm to patients? In other words, if it evolves into a mild seasonal cold (like other coronaviruses) with minuscule risk of severity, even for at-risk patients … then who cares if it’s around? I sure wouldn’t, and neither should you. And importantly, how do we get to the point? Is it through mandates and masking?
Well no! It’s through increased immunity (both naturally acquired, and vaccine induced) in the population, and through better therapeutics. Importantly, the FDA has just given emergency authorization for the first oral antiviral for the treatment of covid-19. This will likely be a game changer in the fight against the virus. Roughly 62 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated (at least by the current definition), and millions more have antibodies from natural infection. The public health officials in our country with the largest megaphones are inexplicably ignoring a phenomenon that has happened since Eve caught her first cold from Adam: natural immunity. In my view, and according to everything we have known regarding immunology up to this point, it is absurd to treat an unvaccinated person who has recovered from covid as if they have no immunity on board. In fact, there are numerous thoughtful studies that argue the opposite: naturally acquired immunity to Sars-CoV-2 is equal to or even more robust than vaccination induced immunity.
The virus is running out of people to infect, or at least infect in a way that causes severe symptoms and/or death. The immunity that the majority of us have on board these days, whether it be from vaccinations, recovery from actual Sars-CoV-2 infection, or both, will continue to turn covid-19 into more of a cold and less of an excuse to ruin everyone’s life with incessant, anti-science lockdowns and mandates. When it does find a human with no immunity on board, now at least that person has lots of therapeutic options. Donning masks and hiding from grandma was never a serious person’s approach to beating covid. Most people in the U.S. (unfortunately, not the NIH director) now understand this. My friends, I’m hopeful for a happier and healthier year in 2022. Aren’t you? Salud!
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