2021-12-18 General

I knew this was coming. I knew this was coming. I knew this would be bad. I predicted that the health care system might collapse in multiple jurisdictions in the West. I’m still somewhat shocked at the ferocity and this wave.

There are lots of people saying that Omicron is milder than previous variants (see this thread and this article, for example). However, it is still early in the UK, and while cases appear to be dropping in South Africa, I saw one tweet (which alas I can’t find now) which said that Guateng tends to clear out around this time of year (which, remember, is summer there) as migrants (including internal migrants!) go to their home countries/townships/villages for the holidays.


This interesting and IMHO important thread talks about rapid tests and Omicron. Read the thread, but the most important points are:

  • Omicron has such a short period between infected and contagious that if you use rapid tests, you HAVE to test RIGHT before you meet. Not the day before, not 12 hours before, RIGHT before.
  • Rapid tests have a lot of false negatives (especially early in the early phases). Rapid tests can miss like 1/3 of positive cases, while in the UK, each Omicron-infected person is spreading it to 4 others.
  • The best thing to do is not gather for Christmas. If you must, get a PCR tests a few days before, then isolate until your gathering, taking rapid tests twice per day.

This preprint found that Omicron is 5.41 more transmissible than Delta.

This preprint thinks it is likely that Omicron jumped to mice, acquired mutations, and then jumped back to humans.


This article reports that Moderna found a 37x increase in antibody levels after its normal booster (have the strength of its regular shots) and an 83x increase when given a booster of the same strength as its regular shots.

Side note: a friend of mine BC told me that the nurse giving their booster asked if they were immunocompromised, and when they said they were, gave them a full-strength Moderna dose. I’m pretty sure that’s off-label, and I am glad they went off-label!


This preprint found that infection with influenza A made later COVID-19 infections worse in mice.

This article reports on a study in test tubes which found that a protein in SARS-CoV-2 interacts with a protein found in humans to speed the formation of amyloid fibrils, which are implicated in Parkinson’s. (Coincidentally, this article today reports on a study which found a link between Parkinson’s and prior influenza A infection.)

Mitigation Measures

This spreadsheet and this page gives a lot of information on mask quality. They are US-centric, so doesn’t have most Canadian brands, but they have a lot of international brands.

In October, Public Health England discovered that they had been using XLS format spreadsheets for their contact tracing instead of XLST. XLS has a limit of 65,536 rows, which lead to the file being truncated: 15,841 cases didn’t make it to the contact tracers. Because the geographical distribution wasn’t random, they could use that as data for a quasi-experiment to see what effect contact tracing had, and estimated that this oopsie led to at least 125K cases and 1.5K deaths.

This article says that Israel has barred its citizens from travelling to Canada (among others) because of Omicron.


In case you need it, here’s a table which gives information on how well different brands of rapid tests do.

This article says that the province was giving away 25-packs of rapid tests to people in the flood-hit areas of the Fraser Valley.

Recommended Reading

This article talks about Omicron’s really short infected-to-contagious time.

This article talks about how Omicron appears to have peaked in Guateng.

This article talks about the woes Johnson&Johnson had with its COVID-19 vaccine.

This article talks about “worry burnout”, the more general heading that “pandemic fatigue” lies under.