Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2022/ Omicron


Here we are, with another update that nobody needs to read because we are all living it.

We are back in an exponential growth curve steeper than any of the previous waves. Yesterday there were 16k infections reported in Ontario, up from 12k the day before. Now that we have collectively decided that Christmas and New Years was not going to be cancelled for a second year, I expect those numbers to rise for a few days yet. But if other countries are any indication, the spike will be steep but brief, and maybe by the end of January we will be over this. Let's hope so; after confidently declaring that the Winter 2022 term would be in person, it flip-flopped and said that classes would be online until January 24. If the university is lucky then this wave will be over by then, but if not the students will be real mad. (They are real mad now.)

The other side of this story is severity. Omicron is much more contagious than Delta, which is much more contagious than the original variants. But Delta caused severe infection, and we are all hoping that Omicron is more like a cold or the flu, with fewer instances of death and long COVID. So far the percentage of reported infections that end up in hospital seem to be down, but the public health experts are warning us that the sky will fall and we will overwhelm health systems because of the sheer number of infections.

Quebec has re-instituted serious lockdowns, including a curfew. Ontario and the other provinces mostly have not. I feel the Ontario government wants to avoid the term "lockdown" badly.


I feel that many of us (me included) have given up on avoiding Omicron. I do not have N95 masks and do not want to buy any. I am still wearing washable cloth masks, which are completely inadequate against Omicron. The public health people are saying that only N95-quality masks are cool now, so maybe the province will instate such a policy.

Part of the reason I resist N95 masks is vanity; in order to work your N95 mask needs to be tightly fitted against your face, and that means shaving off most facial hair. It seems that I am willing to follow public health policy as long as it is convenient, but if I am asked to shave regularly to stay safe, I am resistant.

Other than my housemates, my primary contact with other human beings is at the junk food store. I am still purchasing junk food at the junk food store almost every day, because otherwise I don't bother going outside at all. This has put me in some scary situations; a few days ago I wanted to get a slice of pizza at the pizza place, but people clearly did not care about capacity limits. Also, there were four mostly-unmasked workers putting the pizzas together in a fairly small space which probably had inadequate insulation. I was probably in the space for less than five minutes, but that was plenty of time to get infected.

Analogies to HIV come to mind a lot these days. The choices for gay men in the early 1980s were to contract HIV and die, or abstain from sexual activity entirely. (This is not quite true, of course. Even in the early 1980s it was clear that some sexual practices were riskier than others.) If I had been of age in those years, I would have liked to think that I would have opted for safety, but given my reckless behaviour towards purchasing junk food unnecessarily, this is wrong.

I think part of what is going on is that I am less afraid of COVID than I was before. There is no good reason for this. The rumours of Omicron's mildness are still just rumours. But now we have lived with this disease for two years, so it has become familiar and we (or at least I) are bored, and think we will be fine.


I am actively angry about the vaccination situation. I lined up for a third booster shot of vaccine, but I am a total hypocrite for doing so. First of all, I am angry that so much of the world's population have not received a single shot of vaccine when I have received three. Secondly, this feels more and more like a revenue program for Big Pharma. We were told that two doses were enough for us to be "fully vaccinated". Then Omicron came along and we were told that its mutations means it can evade the vaccines. So the solution is to take a third dose of the same vaccine the new variant evades? This is what we are told, but it smacks of doing something for the sake of doing something, not because it is effective.

The rhetoric around what "fully vaccinated" means is wholeheartedly confusing. Supposedly, two doses have poor protection against you getting infected from Omicron, but good protection against coming down with a severe case? Isn't that good enough? One would think, but of course I got scared about long COVID, and so I lined up for a third shot. Already we are talking about fourth shots, so I do not know where this ends. If it really is the case that two shots don't do much for infection but do a lot for severity, then it is even more of a crime that we are not making sure everybody who wants to get vaccinated gets vaccinated, regardless of where they live in the world.

I am also actively angry at the media (and partially public health) for shifting the goalposts. We are all supposed to be afraid of Omicron, so the media dutifully reports that it is highly transmissible, and that the number of reported cases is overwhelming. But if Omicron is in fact milder than Delta, why do we care? This is the same point as I made in a much earlier entry; if we were tracking the the flu the way we have been tracking COVID, then we would all be freaked out about the flu. Now that we have a variant that might be more like the flu and less like COVID, the media is dutifully shifting the goalposts.

As far as I can tell, there are two real questions:

The answers to both of these questions seems uncertain. Hospitalizations have been up in recent days, so maybe we are going to run into capacity problems. More importantly, the health care system has been stressed to its limits for two years, and (to hear the media speak) it is hemorrhaging health care workers both to burnout and to quarantined Omicron patients. That means that even if we have many fewer hospital patients overall, we might be overwhelmed because there are not enough staff left.

I do not know what is going on with Omicron and long COVID at all. I am not sure we are going to understand long COVID for years. Having said that, this seems to be the last refuge of the terrified -- they need long COVID to be a threat, or they do not have a good reason to be scared any more.

I do not trust the political response to COVID. It is clear that we have made decisions based upon political expedience over public health (reducing quarantine periods for COVID-19 positive patients being the most prominent example). I think it is sensible to make some of these tradeoffs (especially if our wish that Omicron is mild proves true) but it is deceitful that we do not admit these tradeoffs publicly. Politicians do this and public health people do this, and it erodes trust further.

I am quite upset that we have moved from the encouragement to the ostracization phase of vaccine mandates. We are now unemploying people who refuse to get vaccinated. Before the story was that if we hit 80% vaccination rates we would have herd immunity. We hit those rates, and that is not enough. I am not happy that people are holding out against vaccination, but I have sympathy with those protesting the use of authoritarian force to get people vaccinated. We are building a world where we will need to present digital credentials for everyday activities, and I do not support that at all. In my opinion it was good news that the Ontario government put an tentative end date to the vaccine passport requirements, even though basing this on a specific date and not a specific public health criterion was foolish. But the Ontario digital ID is coming down the pipeline, and that will have no sunset clause. Just as we cannot pay for passports with cash now, I expect that doing business without a digital ID is going to become more and more difficult. If that worry makes me a wild-eyed antivax conspiracy theorist, then so be it. To some extent I can accept restrictions on privacy and civil rights in the name of public safety, but should be reserved for extraordinary circumstances, and they should be time-limited. I feel there is some truth to the slippery-slope claims people make about vaccine passports, and to the degree these can be abused. We saw that with the Patriot Act in the USA and its Canadian counterparts. (Remember Mahar Arar? Remember the G20 crackdown on Byron Sonne and others? Remember Stingray IMSI catchers?)

I am not thrilled that I feel my trust eroding further. My suspicions that politicians and public health officials are untrustworthy may be unjustified. But as this pandemic drags on I feel my longstanding mistrust in institutions is strengthening. People in my social circle mock the antivaxxers and the COVID-skeptics, but I read /r/HermanCainAward for the funny and often persuasive anti-authority memes the COVID victims posted to their Facebooks before they caught COVID and died. (People who fall for the anti-vax messaging are not idiots, incidentally.)


As usual, I am feeling guilty for not participating in society. Once again I am out of work, and making matters worse is that I turned down some work. I am regretting that decision a little more than when I had to make it, but not by much. The online/offline situation at UW seems like such a zoo.

When I went to get my booster shot, there were a tonne of volunteers there. I was quite anxious because I was interacting with more people than I had in weeks. I had thought that maybe I should be volunteering in some way at one of these clinics, but I think that is a stupid idea. Already my anxiety is in overdrive. My dry winter cough has returned this year, which does not help at all.


Once again I am checking the infection numbers daily. I think in a month we will know what is going on, but my anxieties are not letting me chill for a month. It sucks hard.