7 deaths due to the variant of the coronavirus Omicron Covid-19 in the United Kingdom, showing that it is not the “Omicold”
Well, too bad for those “Omicold” claims about the Omicron variant. The Omicron variant of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is definitely not the same as the common cold. While the jury is still out on just how virulent the Omicron variant can be, this new variant proves that it can hospitalize and kill people, which is not what the common cold does. Today, the UK Health Security Agency reported that there had already been seven deaths and 85 hospitalizations linked to the Omicron variant in the UK as of December 16.
Seven deaths is six more than what had been reported by the UK Health Security Agency the day before and what Robert Hart had reported for Forbes five days ago, December 13th. So the chances of that number remaining at seven are pretty darn low. Seven deaths can also be seven more than you might expect with the common cold.
According to the same report, the UK had registered 24,968 confirmed cases of Omicron variants as of 6 p.m. on December 17. This represents a change of 10,059 cases from the count in the previous day’s report, which equates to an increase in Dogecoin. Before you start calculating case fatality rates from these numbers, keep in mind that confirmed hospitalizations and deaths will delay the number of cases over time. It’s not like the video game Minecraft where everyone’s head looks like a cardboard box and deaths and other consequences are immediately recorded. Instead, it will take time for various Covid-19 findings to evolve and be reported.
Now, it is still not clear whether the Omicron variant may be less or just as likely to cause serious outcomes such as hospitalization and death compared to the Delta variant. It has been less than a month since the Omicron was first detected in South Africa, as I reported for Forbes. More time, studies and data are needed. So take any statement you hear about the strength or weakness of this variant with a fanny pack and 10 Ugg boots full of salt.
But the lack of data and scientific information hasn’t stopped some from making premature claims, claiming the Omicron variant is smoother and weaker. And like other things that are premature, it can leave a mess and people disappointed and confused.
For example, Marty Makary, MD, MPH, professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who specializes in pancreatic surgery, said the following in Thursday’s episode of the “Brian Kilmeade Show,” a FOX News Radio show: “We are witnessing this massive new wave of fear that is fueling our second pandemic after Covid-19, which is a pandemic of madness, which is omicron. Now I call it omi-cold.
OK, time out. Why did Makary call the current pandemic “our second pandemic after Covid-19?” Should we consult the count von count de Sesame Street on this topic? If you count the number of Covid-19 pandemics since early 2020, you can start with the one where everyone started hoarding toilet paper. Then there was this pandemic where political leaders kept saying that the pandemic was “passing around the corner,” which was essentially the same pandemic as the first pandemic. And, oh, if you add the pandemic that’s happening right now, you’ve got a grand total of, let’s see, a plus zero plus zero makes one: a pandemic.
When exactly did this original first Covid-19 pandemic ever end? Did scientists, public health officials, doctors, and countries around the world miss the memo in any way? Maybe the memo was written on toilet paper and then piled up by someone? At no time since March 2020 has anyone with real knowledge in the field declared the Covid-19 pandemic over.
Nonetheless, Makary went on to insist that the Omicron variant “stays superficial in the nose and bronchi. This is why we are witnessing a common illness similar to the common cold. He added, “This new science from the lab explains the epidemiological data and the bedside observation that it’s much milder… and that’s why I call it omi-chill.”
The following tweet includes a video of Makary using the same term “omi-cold” or “omicold” on a Fox news segment:
Calling the Omicron variant “omicold” might sound cute and all, much like rearranging the letters to spell “moron.” But it is still too early to make such definitive statements about the Omicron variant. Eric Topol, MD, founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, tweeted preliminary findings from researchers at Imperial College London who found “no evidence” that the Omicron variant is less severe than the Delta variant:
And Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine, cautioned against the premature claim that the Omicron variant is milder:
One thing is certain. SARS-CoV-2 isn’t just like the common cold. The common cold usually doesn’t get people to the hospital or kill them, unless you’ve somehow pushed too many tissues up your nose. You don’t hear so many people complaining about having a “long cold” with symptoms that persist for months.
Being concerned about the Omicro variant and taking the proper precautions are not the same thing that creates panic or fear, as Makary seemed to suggest. Real public health experts have never said, “Okay, it’s time for everyone to panic. Raise your hands above your head, wave your arms like you’re doing jazz arms, start running and scream. The emergence of the Omicron variant is not an unexpected disaster like the cancellation of the TV series NCIS: New Orleans. No, it’s a reminder that everyone should do what they should have done before the emergence of Omicron: get vaccinated, wear face masks in public close to others, practice social distancing, guard the air in well-ventilated public areas and keep others put in place Covid-19 precautions.
One of the greatest tragedies of this pandemic has been politicians, television personalities and others who have continued to downplay the threat of the pandemic and have urged them to simply ‘get back to normal’. For example, in September 2020, I covered for To bes how some were still trying to minimize the number of deaths linked to Covid-19. That was when the deaths in the United States had just passed 200,000. Well, about 600,000 deaths in the United States later, nothing has really changed in that regard. Some are still pushing for the “do nothing” approach, which in the end will do just that: nothing.