The Zero Covid mentality is a strong belief that there is some ideal combination of government restrictions and personal behavioral changes that would enable us, in President Biden’s words, to “shut down the virus.”
This past July, President Biden declared, “You’re not going to get Covid if you have these vaccinations.” He was wrong. Anthony Fauci has now said that masking on airplanes should never go away. He is wrong.
With the omicron variant, we’re facing a virus that is four times more transmissible than delta. Many people have misunderstood the role vaccines play in preventing this illness, believing that they protect against any and all infections. Vaccination alone is not very effective against omicron. After getting a Covid booster the omicron protection drops from around 70-75 percent initially to 30-40 percent and falling at 10 weeks. Getting infected with omicron could now happen to anyone and everyone. Modeling from the University of Washington projects that up to 60 percent of Americans will be newly infected with omicron by March. That would be 140 million new cases in three months.
Researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington updated their COVID-19 model and expect the virus to hit the US hard, peaking at 2.8 million new cases a day sometime between January 13th and February 3rd. Because the vast majority, perhaps more than 75%, of those infected won't feel sick or get tested, the model predicts that the total infections will be underreported, predicting that only 400,000 to 450,000 new cases will be reported every day. The good news is that Omicron's predicted hospitalization rate is about 90 to 96 percent lower than Delta. The Covid hospitalization rate in Pennsylvania has remained flat for three weeks even as omicron cases have risen. In the past, we roughly thought that COVID was 10 times worse than flu and now we have a variant that is probably at least 10 times less severe, omicron will be less severe than the seasonal flu but much more transmissible. Hospitalization and case rates are uncoupled. More importantly, case rates and mortality rates are uncoupled. In South Africa, Great Britain, Denmark, and Germany, there is NO STATISTICAL relationship between case rates and mortality rates.
Vaccination still makes sense for individuals, in particular, they are important for people in high risk groups such as the elderly. With nearly 9 billion doses already administered around the world, the Covid vaccines have been tested more than any new pharmaceutical product in history, and have been proven to be remarkably safe. For all their benefits protecting many individuals against severe Covid, however, vaccines clearly are not a ticket to the end of Covid more broadly. Given that they appear to have waning efficacy against omicron after only 10 weeks, it is literally impossible to keep a critical mass of the global population vaccinated and boosted at all times.
The fact that Covid will always be with us should not freak people out, it should help them to become more realistic and less fearful. There will be no "shutting down" of the virus. Zero Covid was always impossible. The Covid virus is now endemic. That is good news. It is good news because, so far, the omicron strain is very flu-like in its behavior and virulence. It is good news because endemic means the end of the pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday cut the amount of time it recommends people should isolate after testing positive for COVID-19, reducing the number of days from 10 to five days, or even fewer, if there are severe staffing shortages in critical industries such as healthcare.
Quarantines are defined differently, the term refers to those who are in close contact with someone who tests positive. The CDC previously recommended unvaccinated individuals who come into close contact with someone who tested positive should quarantine for 10 days. The CDC is now recommending those who are vaccinated and received a booster shot can skip quarantining if they wear a face mask for at least 10 days. If a person is vaccinated and has not gotten a booster, or if they are partly vaccinated or not vaccinated at all, the CDC recommends a five-day quarantine, then wearing a mask in public for an additional five days.
This is a critical reassessment and policy change which recognizes the change in Covid to omicron. This will allow workers to return to critical jobs at a pace that will keep our industries and businesses functioning as we ride out the omicron wave.
In a review of 167 published studies, researchers at the Brownstone Institute conclude that " surgical and cloth masks, used as they currently are being used (without other forms of PPE protection), have no impact on controlling the transmission of Covid-19 virus. The body of evidence indicates that face masks arelargely ineffective."
“The available clinical evidence of facemask efficacy is of low quality and the best available clinical evidence has mostly failed to show efficacy, with fourteen of sixteen identified randomized controlled trials comparing face masks to no mask controls failing to find statistically significant benefit in the intent-to-treat populations. Of sixteen quantitative meta-analyses, eight were equivocal or critical as to whether evidence supports a public recommendation of masks, and the remaining eight supported a public mask intervention on limited or no evidence primarily on the basis of the precautionary principle.”
“High-efficiency masks, such as the KN95, which are properly fitted, offer substantially higher apparent filtration efficiencies (60% and 46% for R95 and KN95 masks, respectively) than the more commonly used cloth (10%) and surgical masks (12%), and therefore are the only recommended choice in mitigating airborne disease transmission indoors.”
We should be wearing N95 or KN95 masks by our own choosing or we should skip masking altogether. Cloth and surgical masks have not been conclusively shown to have any effect on Covid transmission.