The news has been almost “all Omicron all the time”, crowding out almost all other COVID-19 stories. (Spoiler: the answer is “they don’t know yet”.)
This article quotes a South African doctor as saying that the Omicron cases have different and milder symptoms than she’s used to with COVID-19. (Note, however, that only 6% of South Africans are over 65, so it might be that it looks mild because it’s in younger people. Or because they haven’t had time to get really sick. Or have infection-acquired immunity. We don’t know yet.)
The two biggest concerns (after lethality) are “is it more transmissible” and “are vaccines as effective against it”? The more optimistic the answer to one question is, the more pessimistic the answer to the other has to be to explain how fast it is spreading in South Africa.
I have seen some people say that Omicron wasn’t really out-competing Delta because the case count was low before Omicron. I don’t think that’s the right way to think of it. Instead, consider this: whatever was keeping Delta in check — masking, distancing, lockdowns, vax-acquired immunity, infection-acquired immunity, the weather, the demographics, whatever — was good enough pre-Omicron and then completely inadequate when Omicron came to town.
An anecdote arguing for it being more immune evasive: there was a cardiologist in Israel who was triple-vaxxed who gave it to a different cardiologist who was also triple-vaxxed. 😬
We will find out how vax-evasive it is in under two weeks. That’s apparently how long it takes to do antibody counts in test tubes.
This article says that South Africa is trying to replicate the Moderna vaccine. I hope they do!
This thread explores virus lethality: is it true that viruses always mutate to be less lethal, so that they don’t kill their hosts? Spoiler: not if the virus ceases being infectious before the hosts die. (Look at AIDS: it was basically always fatal and never became more benign.)
This article talks about how the Black Death changed labour relations, and draws analogies to how COVID-19 is changing labour relations.