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More BAD News on Omicron
Omicron leads to more hospitalizations than Delta
I am afraid that sharing more bad news about Omicron’s virulence (ability to hurt the infected) may not make me a hero in some people’s eyes, but I feel compelled to share anyway. Somehow, many vaccine skeptics are in implicit agreement with Dr Fauci that “this is a mild variant”, and my posts go against that consensus.
I do realize how embarrassed (and delighted) I will be if Omicron will prove to be milder that I am making it to be. I am rooting for myself to be totally wrong.
A Tweet titled “More good news on Omicron” attracted my attention.
The FT article is very interesting. Please read it. I saved it as a PDF if you run into a paywall. It presents data and discusses it also.
Let’s start with the most important and telling graph:
Look at it closely. You can see that weekly hospital admissions at the peak of the Delta wave in Gauteng were about 6,500. At the same time, peak DAILY case rate (averaged for 7 days) for Delta was approximately 11,500 per day. Recalculating, you get hospitalization rate = 6,500/(11,500*7) = 0.08, so about 8 percent of Delta cases ended with a hospital admission in Gauteng.
Now let’s compare this on a “apples to apples” basis to the Omicron wave.
Note that hospital admission roughly follows a “case” with about 7 days lag.
Look at the same graph, but now look at Omicron wave (red). Compare Omicron daily cases (averaged over 7-days) from a week ago, being about 2,500 cases per day. Look at hospital admissions from today, being 2,500 admissions as of the latest on the graph.
Applying the same math, we get: hospitalization rate = 2,500/(2,500*7) = 14% of cases as of a week ago ending in a hospital. This is as opposed to the Delta wave’s 8% of cases.
Is that really “mild”???
Supposedly, Omicron patients end up on ventilators less often. This is a good thing, as I hate people suffering on ventilators and I am glad that there is fewer of them. But they still end up hospitalized!
The FT article makes another point of Omicron patients ending up less often in ICU, as a percentage of hospitalized. I would like to respond to that pointing out that it takes a few more days to end up in ICU, as opposed to getting merely hospitalized, and, therefore, this bit of data may be less reassuring than it seems.
If ICU admission lags hospitalizations by a week, then in any exponentially rapidly rising epidemic, ICU cases will be understated if looked at as a percentage of hospitalized cases. For example, if ICU admissions lag hospital admissions by a week, and cases rise 10 times every week, then the “ICU to all hospitalized” measure will be understated 10 times!
Understanding Evasion of Immunity
The reason for immune evasion is that Omicron’s spike protein is different from the original Wuhan spike protein by no less than 30 mutations. Thus, spike antibodies react much less effectively to it, leading to 41x less effective neutralization compared to original Pfizer trials.
Covid recovered persons have numerous other types of antibodies, thus Omicron likely is milder in the naturally immune, who abound in Gauteng.
It is far worse for the vaccinated, however, as their spike antibodies is literally all they have — their immune systems never saw the complete virus and, thus, cannot react to the rest of the virus at all.
Comparing South Africa to USA
The FT article makes a great point:
However, the potential for Omicron to result in less severe symptoms may be more a consequence of immunity than the virus evolving to become less virulent, according to Richard Lessells, an infectious disease physician at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban.
Taljaard added that he suspected the hospital data from Gauteng “may be a bit skewed” because of infections in the early stages of the wave being more prevalent among younger people, who are less likely to get severely ill.
South Africa is very much less vaccinated than the United States. It is only 34% fully vaccinated, compared to the 60% of population in the USA. Likely, the percentage of Covid recovered is much higher in South Africa than in the USA. As I explained above, Omicron may be milder for the naturally immune.
Additionally, South Africans are much younger than the US population, with obvious negative implications for us.
So, there is a chance that the effect of Omicron in the US may be more severe for Americans, though hopefully we have a better health care system.
Do not be Confused by Public Health Messaging
We are now realizing that
Omicron is no less severe than Delta (this article and my previous one)
It evades Spike antibodies and that’s all protection that the vaccinated have
It is as infectious as chickenpox and grows by about 10 times every week (in the beginning of the epidemic curve, anyway)
The above points should, rationally, scare us very much. If TV news channels blared with what I just wrote, the consequence would be a mass panic.
It is very possible that the “do not be scared, Omicron is mild” messaging that we hear from “trusted sources” like Dr Fauci, in reality is “public health messaging” and has a goal in mind to prevent mass panic. Note that the “lab origin” theory for Omicron seems to be completely verboten in the mainstream media despite numerous articles about “surprising origin of Omicron”. While I am all for preventing mass panic, and for orderly functioning of our society, at the same time I think that my subscribers should know the truth.
Do not panic
You should never panic, even in face of bad news. This Omicron is likely to be completely unescapable and we will all get it. The sky will still be blue when this is over. Most of us will survive it. Some of us will die. A few people will hopefully end up in prison.
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