2021-12-16 General

I’m tired and kind of depressed. I (and many other people) saw Omicron coming weeks ago, and now it’s here. It’s just as bad as I feared, and perhaps even worse. 🙁

Omicron is dominating the news, but … it’s not really news. There’s a lot of people saying “OH SHIT! WE ARE FUCKED!”, but I don’t consider that news, and I’m getting kind of bored with reporting on just how fucked we are.

That’s a long way of saying that this post is going to be short. 🙁

Variants

Everyone wants Omicron to be milder. This Twitter thread goes into some detail about why the South African experience might not mean it’s milder. I’ve written about this before, but this thread mentions something that I hadn’t considered: survivorship bias. A lot of the weak and infirm people have already died. 🙁

Vaccines

This Twitter thread talks about boosters and explains that boosters don’t just give you “more stuff”, it gives you better stuff.

These pictures show how correlated neutralizing antibodies against the wild type (i.e. COVID Classic) are to a variant in the blood of people who have only the primary series (i.e. first two doses, in white circles) and those with boosters boosters (black squares). For Omicron, there’s basically no correlation between how well the primary series protects against COVID Classic and how well it protects against Omicron, as shown by the flatness of the bottom line in the right hand picture. No matter how well a two-dose person’s blood neutralizes COVID Classic, it totally sucks at neutralizing Omicron.

In boosted people, however, how well the blood neutralizes COVID Classic correlates really well with how well it neutralizes Omicron, as seen by the nice steep straight black-square line slope.

This means that the boosted blood has a lot of different types of antibodies with different strengths, a broader suite of weapons to attack the virus with.

So don’t think of boosters as just giving you “more of”, they also give you “better”.

Mitigation Measures

This study tested masks. They found that unmodified medical masks (which I think means the wimpy blue ones with ear loops, what I think are properly called “procedure masks”) blocked ≥56% of cough aerosols and ≥42% of exhaled aerosols. With a mask brace, that went up to ≥95% of cough and ≥99% of exhaled aerosols blocked. Increasing the tension of the earloops with a strap in the back, or tying knots or adding toggles (whatever “toggles” are), raised the cough efficiency up to ~75%. Cloth masks had cough efficiencies of only about 42% for two-ply, 51% for three-ply, and 71% for four-ply.

This preprint is yet another study that finds that a longer dose interval (6-7 weeks) is better than a shorter (3-4 weeks) one.

Origins

This study found a furin cleavage site mutation — one of the mutations thought to enable the jump from bats to humans — in European bats! This provides evidence for the people who say that COVID-19 did not come from a lab leak and is kind of scary: maybe another bat coronavirus could jump to humans in Europe.

Recommended Reading

This article is about the feeling that “everybody” is getting COVID-19 right now.


This article is about “Fast Funding” of risky research.

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