Is the WHO Saying the Pandemic Is Almost Over?
Today, something happened that has been such a rare occurrence I can count the number of times I’ve experienced it since March 2020 on both hands: The lead story of The New York Times featured good news.
“Omicron’s Spread Could End ‘Emergency Phase’ of Pandemic, Top W.H.O. Official Says,” reads the story, and while there are plenty of “to be sure”s and “caution is still warranted,” the story should probably come with trumpets and tubas. The key section is right in the lede:
The pandemic that has convulsed the world for more than two years is entering a “new phase” globally, and the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus offers “plausible hope” for a return to normalcy in the months ahead, the World Health Organization’s top official in Europe said in a statement released Monday.
There have been several false dawns during the pandemic, and if you go back and look at many of pieces I’ve written for this site, you’ll see me falling for just about all of them. January 2021 brought vaccines to your families, June 2021 was when thought we’d turned a corner, Thanksgiving 2021 was when families could get together again … and then Omicron and wiped so much of it out. That “emergency phase” is exactly how it has felt: Every time we thought we were close to “returning to normal,” Lucy would move the football again. Omicron, in many ways, felt like the cruelest cut of all: After a year of touting the importance of vaccines, this newvariant was able to evade them. Even people who were fully vaccinated, and/or boosted, couldn’t feel safe. It felt like we would be in this forever.
But, the WHO explicitly states, the emergence of Omicron — both its infectability and how mild it is compared to previous variants, particularly Delta (and particularly for the vaccinated) — may have, in a global sense, been a positive. That’s a hard thing to write; It obviously hasn’t been a positive to the unvaccinated people who have been hospitalized or died because of Omicron, not to mention health care workers who are in the midst of their worst period of this entire pandemic. (I’ve got an uncle hospitalized with Covid-19 right now myself, and I’m very worried about him, not to mention many friends who work in the…