Below is my daily summary of news and headlines that I collected during the most recent and hopefully last wave of COVID. I started this "journal" on November 25, 2021 when the early news and reports of Omicron were coming out of South Africa. Its shocking to see the alarm and hype and panic grow over the course of just a month - as well as the extreme reactions taken by governments, schools and experts while the virus rages throughout our society - no matter what we do. A good story of humility for us all.
I decided to stop updating this journal because it is obvious that the virus is well on its way to endemnicy. January will likely have a spike in cases and possibly hospitalizations but deaths are not likely to spike commensurately with cases as it did in the past. When the virus penetrated the Antarctica even after every precaution was taken - I knew it was time to end this journal.
Polar researchers in remote Antarctica have fallen victim to coronavirus, despite taking strict health precautions, being fully vaccinated and miles from civilisation.
Two thirds of the 25 staff based in Belgium's Princess Elisabeth Polar Station have caught Covid, the Le Soir newspaper reported, proving there is no escape from the global pandemic.
The Omicron outbreak happened despite all staff passing multiple PCR tests, quarantining and living in one of the most remote places in the world.
All 25 researchers were fully vaccinated and one had a booster shot. Before leaving for the station, they underwent a PCR test in Belgium two hours before flying to South Africa.
In South Africa, they quarantined for 10 days and took another PCR test. A further test was needed when leaving Cape Town for Antarctica and a final one five days after that.
One person tested positive seven days after arriving at the station on December 14. The person was isolated but tests revealed two others had caught the virus. The three were evacuated on December 23 but the virus has continued to spread.
Netherlands plans to inject people with "up to six doses" of COVID vaccine - Health Minister (Newsweek)
FDA: Rapid Antigen Tests May Be Less Effective at Detecting Omicron
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walesnky said while antigen tests may not perform as well as it did for other variants, "it's still picking up quite a bit of infection" and the agency encourages its use.
Rapid antigen tests may be less sensitive at detecting the highly contagious omicron variant and could lead to results that are "false negative," the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.
The newly updated CDC guidelines don't require testing at the end of isolation because PCR tests can stay positive for up to 12 weeks, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. "So we would have people in isolation for a very long time if we were relying on PCRs," Walensky said.
FDA is looking at "booster" injections for 12-15 year olds. Decision in the "days to weeks ahead," CDC Director says.
Chairman of the left-wing party "Die Linke," Dietmar Bartsch, calls for an end to the "panic mode" regarding Covid in Germany. Demands investment in the healthcare system instead of compulsory vaccination.
schools are cancelled for in person in CA in early 2022 but the Super Bowl happens with 70k+ people in attendance.
Austin-Travis County is returning to Stage 4 of the COVID-19 risk-based guidelines.
Vaccine Mandate For Domestic Flights Not Being Considered, Says CDC Director After Fauci's Proposal
WHO warns new Covid variants could emerge that are fully resistant to vaccines as pandemic drags on. Tedros also slammed the “populism” and “short-term nationalism” of some political leaders that he said has “undermined equity and created the ideal conditions for the emergence of new variants.”
Florida Surgeon General says Biden Admin is "actively preventing" distribution of monoclonal antibodies by pausing shipments of Regeneron, in letter to HHS Sec. Feds paused Regeneron bc it may not work against Omicron. FL says it can still be used in existing Delta cases.
Spain cuts COVID-19 isolation to seven days from 10.
“It really had a lot to do with what we thought people would be able to tolerate,” CDC Director Walensky says on why the CDC shortened the isolation period from 10 days to 5 days if you’re asymptomatic.
This study shows that after three months the vaccine effectiveness of Pfizer & Moderna against Omicron is actually negative. Pfizer customers are 76.5% more likely and Moderna customers are 39.3% more likely to be infected than unvaxxed people. Source
Quebec orders 10 p.m. curfew, punishable by fines up to $6,000, as COVID cases reach record-high.
"Many of them are actually coming in for another reason. But they happen to be tested when they come in and they're found incidentally to have COVID"
While cases continue to rise, deaths remain low. This entire pandemic is essentially over.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention significantly revised its model of the breakdown of Covid-19 variants on Tuesday, estimating the Omicron strain accounted for about 58.6 percent of U.S. cases as of Dec. 25.
The public health agency’s previous estimate that the rapidly spreading variant accounted for 73.2 percent of cases nationwide on Dec. 18 is now revised down to 22.5 percent — a significant drop that falls outside the agency's earlier 95 percent prediction interval.
Child Covid hospitalizations are up, especially in 5 states
Children have been hospitalized at nearly twice the rate of adults in the past 4 weeks, an NBC News data analysis shows. In the last four weeks, the average number of children hospitalized with Covid-19 jumped 52 percent, from a low of 1,270 on Nov. 29 to 1,933 on Sunday. In the same time period, adult Covid hospitalizations increased 29 percent, suggesting that pediatric hospitalizations rose at nearly twice the rate. The number of kids hospitalized with Covid has more than doubled in 10 states, as well as in Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, according to the analysis. However, he said, his hospital has seen a lot of kids test positive for Covid without necessarily showing symptoms or getting sick.
"We test anybody who’s admitted to the hospital for whatever reason to see whether or not they have Covid, and we’re definitely seeing an increase in cases. However, we’re really not seeing an increase in children who are hospitalized for Covid or in the intensive care unit for Covid," Offit said. "We saw similar things happen when the delta variant came along," he said. "We had taken for granted that children were relatively under-affected by Covid, and we saw an uptick in the number of children infected and therefore admitted to the hospital with complications."
CDC recommends shorter COVID quarantine for asymptomatic people from 10-14 days down to 5 days. There is a letter circulating from the Delta Airlines CEO to the CDC urging them to lower the isolation period as it negatively impacts their business.
Biden says he agrees with GOP governors: There's 'no federal solution' to pandemic.
Fauci wants to “seriously” consider vaccine mandate for domestic flights.
As Israel weighs whether to approve a fourth Covid vaccine dose, some scientists warn that too many shots might actually harm the body’s ability to fight the coronavirus. "The presentation, obtained by The Times, showed a doubling of the rate of infection from Delta among the 60-plus age group within four or five months of the third shot. There was no clear indication of reduced efficacy against severe illness."
"A new British report shows that booster doses are less effective against Omicron than previous variants, and their effectiveness wears off faster — within 10 weeks."
On a net basis, nearly a million people who called Blue states home in early 2020, now call Red states home. CA, NY, IL biggest losses. FL, TX, AZ biggest gains.
Albert Bourla of Pfizer is the CNN CEO of the Year.
NYT editor Carlos Tejada died of a heart attack at 49 one day after receiving booster shot.
Per the CDC, 63.1% of Black people in this country are not fully vaccinated.
UK Now Reports Myocarditis stratified by Age & Sex After Vaccine Or Sars-cov-2
Nature Medicine paper revisited: And it is shocking:
....this analysis lumps together men & women, while men have the greatest risk. Well, the authors are back with a new pre-print to fix this point, and here is what they find.
- It is now clear for men <40, dose 2 and dose 3 of Pfizer have more myocarditis than sars-cov-2 infection, and this is true for dose 1 and dose 2 of Moderna.
- Pfizer boosters (Dose 3) have more myocarditis for men <40 than infection.
- Myocarditis post infection is more common as you get older, in contrast with myocarditis post vaccination, which is more common as you are younger (reverse gradients)
But the truth is STILL WORSE than these data.
- If the authors fixed the denominator for viral infection (i.e. used sero-prevalance), it would look even worse
- If the authors separate men 16-24 from 12-15 and 25-40, it would likely look worst in 16-24 age group.
And here is why it matters:
- There is marked uncertainty as to whether dose 3’s actually lowers severe outcomes & hospitalizations in young men. The FDA is making a huge regulatory gamble with boosters, and they are cheered on by many who are not adept at data analysis.
- Boosting 16-40 yo men might not be in their best interest (it might be net detrimental). We simply do not know with confidence. If it is revealed that it is not in their best interest, this administration will have dropped a nuclear bomb on vaccine confidence for 20 years. God help us all.
- We could have spaced out dose 2 in young men, or considered omitting it entirely, as some colleagues and I have been saying since June, in an effort to capture most of the gains and eliminate most of the harms of vaccination. This can still be done for Pfizer.
“The Health Ministry has decided that Israel will not begin offering 4th doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Sunday as planned for Israelis >60 &others at risk Israel delays rollout of 4th COVID shots amid signs Omicron less severe report
Vermonters who are able to find antigen tests and then test positive are clogging up emergency rooms.
The emergency department at the Rutland Regional Medical Center has been overwhelmed with asymptomatic folks.
Dr. Rick Hildebrant is RRMC’s medical director. He says some people who test positive with a rapid test go to the emergency room looking for a PCR test.
A NY Times editor has died of a heart attack at 49, one day after receiving a Moderna Covid “booster” shot. Carlos Tejada was married and had two children; he spent his career at the Wall Street Journal before joining the Times in 2016. In July, he received a Johnson & Johnson DNA/AAV Covid vaccine. He was thankful to get it, per his Instagram page. On Dec. 16, in Seoul, South Korea, he received a Moderna mRNA/LNP “booster.” No clinical trials have ever been conducted to examine the safety or efficacy of mixing various types of these vaccines, and Carlos did not give informed consent, as the consent form was in Korean, a language he could not read. He joked that Omicron should “hit me with your wet snot.”
Suddenly, "they" care about the difference between "of covid" and "with covid"
w/ more + tests in pts w/ mild disease, a new data interpretation issue rears its head: More hospital pts who HAVE Covid (+ test) but aren't here FOR Covid. Yet they'll prob. be counted in Covid hospital #'s. Another thing that may make severity look worse than it is.
South Africa cancels contact tracing and quarantining, and pivots to mitigation.
Britain is considering the rollout of a fourth round of vaccinations against Covid-19. People with weakened immune systems are already entitled to a fourth jab but the roll out could be extended to the elderly and other vulnerable groups in the UK. Any extra dose would be likely administered at least four months after the first booster, meaning the fourth jab - should it get the go ahead - could be available as early as the new year.
Omicron up to 70% less likely to cause hospitalization than delta variant, UK government study finds.
Biden to Lift Travel Ban on Southern African Countries.
"This is preexisting Supreme Court precedent on vaccine mandates. The Court wrote that it is the power of a STATE to do so. The Constitution gives police & health powers to STATES not the Federal government. To rule otherwise tramples the Constitution. Biden can’t impose it." - Texas Governor Greg Abbott
CDC changed guides for Healthcare workers with COVID-19 who are asymptomatic. They can return to work after 7 days with a negative test, and that isolation time can be cut further if there are staffing shortages. Healthcare workers who have received all recommended COVID-19 vaccine doses, including a booster, do not need to quarantine at home following high-risk exposures.
“VE (Vaccine Effectiveness) against Omicron was 55.2% initially following primary BNT162b2 (Pfizer) vaccination, but waned quickly thereafter. Although estimated with less precision, VE against Omicron after primary mRNA-1273 (Moderna) vaccination similarly indicated a rapid decline in protection. By comparison, both vaccines showed higher, longer-lasting protection against Delta.”
"Don't wear a cloth mask. Cloth masks are little more than facial decorations." – CNN's Dr. Leana Wen.
The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear legal challenges to the Biden Admins vaccine mandate for large employers and healthcare workers. Oral arguments begin January 7th.
WHO says vaccine booster programs will prolong Covid crisis: ‘No country can boost its way out of the pandemic.’
More than half or 128 out of 238 Covid-attributed deaths last week in Illinois were fully vaccinated people.
Austria overtakes Sweden today in deaths per capita for 56th place globally, despite inflicting multiple destructive, divisive lockdowns, masks and vax passports on its people.
Washington University School of Medicine RELEASES DATA after you had COVID “we found antibody-producing cells in people 11 months after first symptoms. These cells will live & produce antibodies for the REST OF PEOPLE’s LIVES. That’s strong evidence for long-lastingimmunity.”
Omicron is 50-70% LESS likely to result in hospitalisation than Delta early data shows - U.K. Health Agency
Fourth COVID-19 shot may be needed, German health minister says
NYC’s outdoor New Year’s Eve party will have a mask mandate, a strict capacity limit, and a Covid vaccine requirement that assigns Police to check people’s vaccination status on public streets.
This study shows that after three months the vaccine effectiveness of Pfizer & Moderna against Omicron is actually negative. Pfizer customers are 76.5% more likely and Moderna customers are 39.3% more likely to be infected than unvaxxed people. Here is the Link to the Study.
Senator Feinstein (and others) urging the CDC and FAA to start requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test for all domestic flights.
The 11th Circuit has refused to stay the nationwide injunction blocking the contractor mandate from going into effect. In plain English: good news, if you're a contractor in the US, the vaccine mandate is not in effect.
The Supreme Court has asked the Biden admin to respond to an emergency petition challenging the 6th Circuit's dissolution of the stay of the OSHA mandate. This doesn't mean the Court will necessarily hear the case, but that it asked for briefing is a somewhat hopeful sign.
Israel to offer fourth coronavirus vaccine dose to over-60s.
Austria is looking for employees who hunt down vaccine refusers.
Biden addressed the nation today to talk about his Winter Covid Plan. His speech was just him urging everyone to get vaccinated over and over again. If not that, then it was a prod to get boosted and to get your kids vaccinated. He also announced that the gov't will be mailing out 500 million test kits to everyone for free. He also announced that 1,000 military medical doctors will be helping hospitals across the country.
The truth is that Omicron is not that big of a deal. Its a weaker strain than Delta but everyone is in a panic. A Texas died today in Houston, but he was unvaccinated and had underlying issues already. The fear is on.
Stock market futures are lower on a global panic around Omicron.
In a press briefing on 12/16 the President said, "For unvaccinated, we are looking at a winter of severe illness and death — if you’re unvaccinated — for themselves, their families, and the hospitals they’ll soon overwhelm." What an incredibly evil thing to say to Americans a week before Christmas. Whos is writing this stuff for him?
NIH Director Collins is warning that the US could reach one million COVID cases a day during the current surge.
German govt to restrict private gatherings of vaccinated and recovered to 10 people max.
Netherlands instituted an 8pm curfew for the entire country.
Covid vaccines clearly less effective against Omicron, says EMA Head.
Boston bans unvaccinated people from indoor dining, indoor fitness, and indoor entertainment
Mayor Bowser declares state of emergency in Washington DC; indoor mask mandates are back beginning tomorrow 6am - January 31st. All Govt, employees must now be vaccinated + booster, no option to test.
A judge ruled against the San Diego Unified School District Monday in a lawsuit challenging its vaccine mandate for students.
San Diego Superior Court Judge John Meyer said the district's mandate, which does not permit religious or personal belief exemptions, contradicts state law, because implementing such mandates without exemptions can only be imposed by the state legislature.
Meyer also said that while students are required to receive some vaccinations in order to attend in-person school, adding COVID-19 to the list of required vaccinations without allowing personal belief exemptions is another area that lies only with the state.
The World Health Organization has recommended canceling holiday events.
CDC estimates 73% of new coronavirus cases in the U.S. are caused by the Omicron variant, up from 3% last week
Pro sports teams — including the Celtics, Bruins — will be exempt from Boston’s indoor vaccine mandate
Netherlands goes into a full lockdown tonight and New York City is announcing that they will increase the definition of Fully Vaccinated to include three shots instead of two.
All the while, data from UK and South Africa is showing that the five most common symptoms of Omicron are: Runny Nose, Sneezing, Fatigue, Headache and Sore/Scratchy Throat. That there is the definition of the common cold folks. In UK, there are only 65 people in the hospital with Omicron.
Pfizer says it is now testing three doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in babies and preschoolers after the usual two shots didn’t appear strong enough for some of the children.
Ontario's top doctor advises against seeing your triple vaccinated grandparent if you're double vaccinated.
CDC recommends mRNA shots instead of Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine due to blood clot risk.
SNL talks about canceling tonight's show because everyone is fearful.
What seems like a turning point, the NFL announced today that they will stop COVID testing asymptomatic, vaccinated players.
The 6th Federal court overturned the 5th Court's overruling of the OSHA vaccine mandate. It will likely end up going to SCOTUS.
Biden announced that he will be addressing the nation on Tuesday to discuss Omicron and a "stark winter for the unvaccinated."
Biden issues grim warning of a 'winter of illness and death' for the unvaccinated.
A new study out of Columbia University says the Omicron variant is “markedly resistant” to vaccines and boosters might not do much to help, spelling bad news for the country as Omicron spreads and COVID-19 cases rise nationally.
“A striking feature of this variant is the large number of spike mutations that pose a threat to the efficacy of current COVID-19 vaccines and antibody therapies,” according to the study authored by more than 20 scientists at Columbia and the University of Hong Kong.
On today's investor call Pfizer said that it expects Covid to transition to an endemic phase in 2024. They als0 expect $31 billion in vaccine sales in 2022.
Boeing announced that it will drop its vaccine mandate for employees today.
Ontario (Canada) will cut capacity for all indoor settings down to 50%, eliminate food and drink at all concerts, sports venues, movie theatres, slash social gatherings to 10 max -- starting this Saturday.
More adults between 18 and 45 died of fentanyl overdoses in 2020 than COVID-19, motor vehicle accidents, cancer and suicide.
More Ivy League students have died from suicide than from Covd-19 since March 2020.
France to block British tourists amid rise in UK Omicron case.
The Irish cabinet has agreed on an 8pm curfew.
France's PM Jean Castex announces law to transform the "health pass" (vaccinated, recovered, tested) into a "vaccination only-pass" to "put stress on the unvaccinated." Vaccine Passport /Green Pass, now excludes the recovered and the tested. Because it’s a punishment for those who won’t comply and not about keeping anyone safe.
Outbreak Management Team recommends "strict lockdown" in the Netherlands to slow the spread of Omicron.
England considering two-week "circuit breaker" lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus, according to The Times.
Quebec’s Premier just scheduled an emergency press conference tonight to announce new restrictions because of the Omicron variant.
Governor Newsom in California explained the recent mask mandate is because, of the 48 Omicron cases identified in CA, "the overwhelming majority have been fully vaccinated. That's why masking becomes even more important in this environment."
A Canadian molecular biologist, on Wednesday, told cross-party members of Parliament (MPs) on the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee that a leak from a laboratory in Wuhan region of China is now the more likely origin of the Covid-19 global pandemic.
"We know now that this virus has a very unique feature, called the furin cleavage site that makes it the pandemic pathogen it is. So, without this feature, there is no way this would be causing this pandemic." Only recently in September did a proposal get leaked showing that scientists from the EcoHealth Alliance were in collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Virology developing this pipeline for inserting novel furin cleavage sites, these genetic modifications, into SARS-like viruses in the lab."
CDC issues grim forecast warning that weekly COVID cases will jump by 55% to 1.3 MILLION by Christmas Day and that deaths will surge by 73% to 15,600 a week as Omicron becomes dominant strain.
Fauci warns Omicron cases are DOUBLING every three days: Experts say it's just the tip of the iceberg and US will be hit with 'perfect storm' of new variant, Delta AND seasonal flu that will overwhelm hospitals.
Army prepares to ax 3,800 soldiers - 2% of total - for refusing to get the COVID vaccine after Air Force became first branch of US military to fire 27 service members for rejecting the jab.
Study claims ultra-infectious Omicron variant replicates in airways 70 TIMES quicker than Delta... but it slows down when it reaches the lungs in more proof it may be milder.
Pfizer's covid19 antiviral pill shows same 89% reduction in risk of hospitalization/death in high-risk patients in final results. FDA wanted to see final results before EUA. New data in standard-risk unvax'd + high-risk vax'd adults showed 70% lower hospitalization risk.
Pfizer Will Dominate $20 Billion Covid-Pill Market in 2022.
Israel is about to approve the 4th booster. Meaning the unvaccinated are those with only 3. Vaccine passports revoked until you comply.
Stanford will start its winter quarter with two weeks of online instruction, citing rising COVID-19 cases across the country and outbreaks on other university campuses.
Europe face a dire winter as nuclear outages in France put the continent’s energy market near a breaking point.
New research suggests that existing COVID-19 vaccines may be less effective in fighting the Omicron variant than previous strains of the virus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) said Wednesday (today).
European CDC says a "rapid increase in Omicron cases is imminent," warns that exponential growth will "rapidly outweigh any benefits" of a potentially reduced severity.
French President Macron said that COVID vaccines will possibly be made mandatory in France.
California population on the decline. “38% decrease in the number of new arrivals between March 2020 and September of this year. The number of new arrivals declined in all of the state’s 58 counties.”
George Washington University is joining Princeton, Cornell and NYU by canceling all events and moving exams online. All three schools are mandating vaccines and requiring masks at all times indoors. Cornell University reports over 900 COVID cases this week, VP for University Relations Joel Malina says "virtually every" case has been found in fully-vaccinated students, many of whom received the booster shot.
NYU announced mandatory third injection (Booster) due to Omicron. As of January 18th, students with two shots will be deemed un-vaccinated.
In corporate news, Apple delays their corporate office return to a "date yet to be determined."
Pfizer set to acquire Arena Pharmaceuticals, a company that specializes in treatments for cardiovascular issues and autoimmune disorders
Israel extends border closure until December 29 due to Omicron
Israel planning attack on Iran, as announced by Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz at a meeting with U.S. officials. The American officials reportedly did not voice opposition according to The Jerusalem Post.
The oppression continues. California Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide indoor mask mandate from December 15 - January 15. If you’re unvaccinated & want to attend a mega event (1,000 plus people), you must show a negative antigen test within 1 day of the event or a negative PCR test within 2 days. Cornell University, with 100% vaccination compliance, had a COVID outbreak of more than 38 cases and they locked down the entire school. George Washington University is requiring proof of the booster shot by March or students will not be allowed to register for summer and fall semester.
Kroger announced that the non-unioned, unvaccinated employees will be charged a surcharge on their health insurance.
U.S. passenger railroad Amtrak said on Tuesday it will temporarily suspend a vaccine mandate for employees and now no longer expects to be forced to cut some service in January.
The recent Joe Rogan podcast with Dr. Peter McCullough is getting a lot of heat and controversy. The promotional clips have all been removed from Youtube for "violating community guidelines."
In spite of a flurry of news that the Omicron variant is significantly milder than Delta or the original strain of COVID-19 governments and media continue to drive the fear machine. In Britain, there is a plan to require the Booster Shot to be considered "fully vaccinated." There are inconsistent rules that require vaccination status to enter a pub/bar but not for a restaurant and only in the evenings? Ireland and Britain are filled with such inconsistencies. The media is reporting the first Omicron death in Britain - although there are no details as to the age, health or vaccination status of the person who died.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia is following New York City, children ages 5 to 11 will only need to show proof of one shot by Jan. 3, but would need to complete the vaccination series by Feb. 3. There certainly appears to be fractured society around Blue Cities that will require such requirements while smaller cities and town and entire States will not require anything. Speaking of New York, the governor announced that New Yorkers will need to wear a mask in all indoor public spaces unless businesses implement a vaccine requirement.
An interesting details that hasn't been discussed very much is that the US banned travel from South Africa and several other African countries when the Omicron variant was first announced the day after Thanksgiving. Never mind that some of the countries on that list didn't even have any Omicron cases yet and why haven't we banned travel from all of the other countries where Omicron is rampant (UK, EU, etc.)? Another example of inconsistency.
Inflation was announced today at 6.8%, the highest level in over 40 years. This announcement follows the reveal that the White House had "secret meetings" with journalists and media folks in attempt to gain more positive press about the economy. Perhaps it was only coincidental that Jim Cramer was roaring just yesterday how he believes that this is the strongest economy that he has ever seen in his entire life. Can you believe he said that? The good news is that this high number perhaps represents a peak in inflation? Either way - the stock market didn't seem to react at all to the news - its a very tepid day.
Meanwhile, in the UK, media is reporting an "Omicron tsunami" and are using the fear as an excuse to lockdown and crackdown on people. They are drawing up "Plan C" to enforce even more restrictions such as limiting visitors to homes. Never mind that Omicron appears to be a very weak strain of the virus.
While the CEOs hit the media circuit to talk about the efficacy of the vaccines - no one seemed to be talking about the fact that their early research is all based on synthetic viruses that they created in a lab. Country's and Cities continue to use Omicron as an excuse to crack down even harder than ever. Video footage from Germany shows police pepper spraying, shoving and violently arresting old people that are either trying to shop or protest. Either way - the video footage is disturbing to see in Germany. Everyone seems to be following orders.
Less news about the lethality or "horrific" nature of Omicron today. Instead, the media is happy to report that Pfizer/BioNTech both said that their booster shot provides a high level of protection against Omicron variant in initial lab study. (yes, you read that right, in a lab study). They are saying that the booster shot increases antibody protection 25-fold compared with the initial two-dose series (according to a preliminary lab study). The third shot shows the virus-fighting abilities comparable with the protection provided by two doses against the original strain of the virus. (no primary sources are linked or available anywhere as far as I could tell). The BioNTech CEO stated in a press conference that "the vaccine for the Omicron variant should be a "3-dose vaccine." It is unclear if he meant 3-dose vaccine in total (including initial doses, etc.), or if he was referring specifically to the 'still to com' Omicron vaccine.
Oddly, the Pfizer CEO (Bourla) said that “At a certain point I think we will need a fourth dose,” he told CNBC.
Reports of the Omicron variant spreading quickly throughout South Africa and Europe continue to ring the alarm but the real story is that hospitalizations remain low. Hospitalizations are not moving up commensurately with cases. This is good news but the media continues to scare the public and use the Omicron variant as an excuse to exercise more stringent mandates.
A Federal Judge in Georgia halted the vaccine mandate for federal contractors across the entire country. The Judge's ruling applies to the all federal contractors in all states in the US. Prior rulings were for individual states. “...in times of crisis this Court must preserve the rule of law and ensure that all branches of government act within the bounds of their constitutionally granted authorities.”
In total, rulings have overturned mandates on private businesses, health care workers and federal contractors.
Men and Boys aged 12 to 29 should no longer take Moderna Vaccine, Says National Advisory Committee on Immunization in Canada.
While much of the news is reporting that the Omicron variant is very mild and much like the common cold NYC announced draconian mandates that will impact young children and private employers. Starting December 27, 2021, Mayor de Blasio announced a vaccine mandate for all private-sector employers in NYC (with no testing opt-out). Additionally, vaccination proof will be required for all 5-11 year olds for indoor dining, fitness gyms and entertainment (theatres, etc). The minimum dosage requirements to be considered vaccinated is now 2 doses instead of 1. Again, the real question is how will these measure be enforced? Will there be random police checks?
In Austria, it was formally announced that beginning February 15, 2022, everyone will be required to be vaccinated. Those that fail to comply by March 15, 2022 will be fined 600 Euros every 3 months for a maximum penalty of 3,600 euros. Failure to pay the fines will result in a prison sentence.
The only good news about Austria and Germany is that they do recognized natural immunity - but only for a fixed period of time (6 months I believe). What are the vaccine requirements after the six month period?
In the face of the actual GOOD NEWS that Omicron results in milder disease (even if transmission is higher) should result in LESS stringent mandates and requirements rather than INCREASED mandates, edicts and laws. Today, the stock market has been aggressively moving up - likely in light of the news that Omicron is mild, as well as the Fed's announcement that inflation is more than just transitory. When faced with inflation headwinds, stocks (specifically tech stocks) have been the goto investment vehicle to offset and outgrow the rate of inflation.
Still mixed messages about Omicron over the weekend with a full media blitz saying that the cases are mild in the vaccinated (even the boosted) cases so go get your booster. Odd how they leave out the data on the unvaccinated. Are the cases mild because of the vaccinations or are they mild because the variant is mild? The overall trend of Omicron appears to be more contagious (exactly how much more contagious is still unknown but seems higher than Delta) but significantly more mild without any hospitalizations that I've heard about. Hospitals across the country continue to drop vaccine mandates (the last I heard about was the largest hospital system in Florida). The tide seems to be turning but the media hype continues to blare. From the looks of it, we are all likely to eventually get exposed to Omicron much like we are exposed to the common cold. The world's reaction to these mild cases will continue to leave the stock market choppy, I suspect.
Mixed messages continue around the world about Omicron. Depending on who you are listening to at the moment the efficacy of the vaccines are either good or terrible. Pfizer announced that they likely wouldn't be able to start producing an Omicron specific vaccine until March 2022. South African stock market hasn't reacted negatively to Omicron nor rising cases - in fact, their market is up 6% over the last month. Germany announced that they will lockdown the unvaccinated from non-essential venues (restaurants, theatres, etc). Austria did this for ten days and then expanded it to all citizens (whether vaccinated or not). Austria announced fines of up to 3,600 Euros for avoiding vaccination (everyone). Germany also announced an expansion of it vaccine mandates. I don't think its a coincidence that the strictest and most draconian mandates are coming from Austria and Germany first. Oddly, the Austrian Chancellor (Schallenberg) announced his resignation today. Kurz also announced resignation from the People's Party. Strange things are brewing in Deutscheland. UK also announced stricter quarantine and contact tracing for all international travelers into the UK (that includes getting pinged on your phone to see if you are obeying the quarantine - otherwise you could be fined up to 10,000 pounds) - through March 24, 2022.
Here in the States, Biden announced stricter testing for international travelers (but no quarantines) and masks on public transportation through March 2022. This is never going to end.
The narrative shifts again. Today, the markets are soaring back after a down day yesterday - mostly based on news that the Omicron variant is milder than expected. The World Health Organization claims that most cases are 'mild' or show no symptoms at all and that existing vaccines should provide protection against hospitalization and death. The flip-flop nature of the narrative was reinforced this morning when Moderna suggested that a "double-boost" might be needed to combat Omicron. This is after the CEO said, yesterday, that the existing vaccine might struggle with Omicron. None of this has kept world governments from cracking down harder with the announcement of more restrictions. EU president Ursula von der Leyen said that its time to "think about mandatory vaccination" across the entire EU. Here in the US, Biden is set to make a big announcement tomorrow with regards to more restrictions - particularly pertaining to travelers returning from international destinations. It is rumored that Biden will announce 7 day quarantining at home for all travelers returning from international destinations (whether they are vaccinated or not). The real question is how will this be enforced? Will government officials come knock on your door at home to make sure you are home? Or will this be the beginning of more digital surveillance to track and monitor Americans?
The stock market gave up all of its gains in the afternoon session over tax and lockdown fears.
Stock futures were lower overnight reacting to comments by the Moderna CEO that "existing vaccines might struggle with Omicron" and foresees a "material drop" in effectiveness. Meanwhile, the noose continues to tighten with news that Germany will punish people that try to use a fake vaccine passport with up to 2 years in prison. There were rumors yesterday that the State of Boston "and several other States" were going to be introducing a digital passport ID to track vaccination status as well. In somewhat related news, a federal court halted the vaccine mandate in Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. This is in addition to the federal court decision two weeks ago that suspended OSHA from enforcing mandates on private employers (w/more than 100 employees). I have a feeling that all of these federal orders are going to get steamrolled by the White House because of the Omicron variant panic - which could cause havoc amongst the States.
The stock market bounced today after the dismal half day semi-crash on Friday. It appears to be driven by mixed news that the Omicron variant is perhaps milder than initially reported by the main news outlets. That hasn't kept government officials and social media medical professionals from spreading fear and panic throughout the networks. Most of the announcements have been to remind everyone that "nothing has been ruled out" and that "all options are on the table." Most notable news today was that in response to Omicron, the UK has halved its booster shot cycle from 6 months to 3 months and recommends the 4th shot for the immuno-compromised. New York Times is reporting that Israeli Domestic Intelligence has been granted permission to access phone data of people with confirmed cases of Omicron variant for contact tracing (never mind that there isn't even a test available to identify the variant). The consensus is that we'll need to wait a few weeks to get full data back from South Africa about transmission, immune escape, R0, etc.
This morning Dr Angelique Coetzee (the doctor who first discovered the variant) described how she became aware of the Omicron variant in South Africa and that the cases were all "very, very mild." None required hospitalization. This is a huge blow to the panic-narrative that is changing the structure of our society over the course of a holiday weekend. South African prime minister is schedule to 'address the nation' sometime today - hopefully to punch a deathblow into the narrative that is driving the global panic. This news did not stop Japan from announcing that it has stopped all foreign travel into the country. As I type this, States, Nations, Schoolboards, Employers and entities of all sizes are "preparing for the worst."
Continued panic around the Twittersphere about Omicron. New York Declares State Of Emergency to increase hospital capacity and staffing ahead of Omicron. The first EU case was detected in Belgium (that originated in Egypt 11/11/21) with cases already found in UK, Israel and Hong Kong. Israel closes border to all foreigners due to new coronavirus variant. Dr. John Campbell (from UK) had a good overview of "The O Variant" that includes a short blurb about how it possibly mutated out a single patient that was immuno-compromised with AIDS/HIV. While that sounds scary I'm more of the camp that as the virus mutates it might be more contagious but that its going to be overall weaker than the prior strains.
The speed in which this entire variant has been announced and the quick reactions have been stunningly fast. Is it because we've learned from our past or is something more sinister afoot?
Stock market reacting to the B11529 variant scare. I think the market is looking for a reason to correct. It wants to correct. DJIA is down over 1000 points as I type this - almost 3%. US bans variety of flights from Africa (similar countries as the UK banned yesterday). By the end of the day the variant had been renamed to "Nu" and then again to "Omicron." The mutation originated in Botswana (of all places). In Africa where vaccination rates are the lowest in the world (so are covid cases and deaths). One of the last articles I read assured the world that Moderna and Novavax were both already working on a new vaccine for Omicron. Meanwhile, in the UK an abstract stated that MRNA vaccines increase heart attack risk from 11% to 25% over five years.
B.1.1.529 variant scare is starting. Israel bans travel from South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, and Eswatini amid new variant. UK bans flights from South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Botswana, Eswatini, and Zimbabwe from midday on Friday amid new variant. Happy Thanksgiving