Dec 17, 2021
Omicron is on its way, and it loves to infect people who've been previously infected with other variants of Covid, the unvaccinated, and even people who think they're fully vaccinated (but not boosted).
While all of us can get infected with Omicron, how sick you get from that infection is very different, depending on which category you belong to.
Consider this graphic of infections versus deaths in the United Kingdom, where 89.3% of citizens are vaccinated, 81.5% have received a second dose, and 44.3% have gotten a booster on top of the other two doses.
UK Covid cases (top) and UK Covid deaths (bottom)
The first bump in infections (top graphic, far left) lead to a massive increase in deaths (second graphic on the far left). That's because it's from the first wave of infection, before anybody knew how to treat Covid: many people died because physicians hadn't yet figured out intubation and the use of steroids, and monoclonal antibodies didn't exist.
In the second bump of infections (top, middle) Britain's National Health Service had figured out how to treat Covid so the number of deaths, while high, is a fraction of what it would have been without the benefit of the experience they gained during the first wave of Covid.
The third bump of infections at the top of that graph, though, is where it gets very, very interesting. Omicron is burning through the UK right now, but deaths have not spiked in a way that even remotely correlates to infections (bottom graphic, far right).
Why is that?
We're all waiting for peer-reviewed data, but the commonsense explanation is that Omicron is infecting already-vaccinated people, and because they're vaccinated they're getting mild cases of Covid but not dying.
In other words, when Covid burns through a country that's heavily vaccinated it causes massive infection, but not so many deaths among vaccinated people.
While it's remotely possible Omicron is just less deadly, the far more plausible explanation for the difference in the infection/death ratio is that, unlike "wild" and Delta Covid, Omicron pretty easily infects vaccinated people (particularly those without a booster) and that among the unvaccinated the "infection to death" lag hasn't yet caught up.
While the vaccine can't always stop the infection, it appears to usually stop the disease from progressing to hospitalization and/or death.
Which, if the science bears this out (and so far most data indicates it does), is very, very, very bad news for those counties in the US who voted for Donald Trump, the guy who got vaccinated in secret because he wanted President Biden to "fail" and not be able to get the Covid crisis under control.
A recent Yahoo/YouGov poll found that 48% of Republicans are unwilling to get vaccinated (down from 58% in August). That's tens of millions of Americans who are refusing to protect themselves from death and disease just because their political party wants the country in a state of disruption when Democrats are in charge.
Between Fox "News," rightwing hate radio, Donald Trump and Republican governors across the nation, vaccination rates in red counties (that voted for Trump) are pathetic: some are below 15%. Vaccination rates in blue counties (that voted for Biden) are really strong, sometimes over 90%. This graphic from the CDC makes it pretty clear:
CDC data on rates of vaccination by country 12/16/21
Which means if there's a partisan split in vaccinations, there must be a similar red/blue split in deaths.
Epidemiologist Michael Olesen put together the amazing graphic below that compares death rates in US counties, with each colored line identifying red or blue counties, with the intensity of the red or blue indicating how strongly the county went for Trump or Biden:
\u201cThe difference in death rates from COVID between Republicans and Democrats is becoming even more striking.\u201d— Michael Olesen \ud83d\udc89\ud83d\ude37\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\uddf8\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6 (@Michael Olesen \ud83d\udc89\ud83d\ude37\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\uddf8\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6) 1639593724
Notice the first bump in deaths was when the virus first appeared, mostly in Washington State, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut early last year. Blue counties were being wiped out, because that's where the big cities were and the virus was burning through them and nobody knew how to treat it (just like with the early UK spike).
The second bump was last winter when we'd figured out masking and social distancing but before the vaccine took effect. As you can see, just those simple public health measures kept deaths way down in blue counties while red counties, where "maskholes" were showing up maskless in restaurants and stores, had an explosion of deaths.
The third bump is the really bad news for Trump-humpers.
After a careful low-death-rate summer as states enforced mask mandates and people were able to easily social distance outdoors, we re-opened our schools in September and most red states reopened everything, often with no mask or other mandates.
That simple denial of the dangers of the Delta variant produced an explosion of cases in red counties while blue counties--where people are heavily vaccinated and mask mandates stayed in effect--saw just a small bump that probably represents the few anti-vaxxers who live in those blue counties.
Most urgently, check out the last two weeks on the chart, as both winter weather and Omicron hit us. Red counties are suddenly overflowing with deaths, while in the blue counties it's just the vaccine stragglers who are ending up in the funeral parlor.
With this virus doubling every few days, we can expect a tidal wave of Omicron to sweep the entire nation over the next six to twelve weeks.
For the blue counties, this will be an inconvenience and will kill a few vaccinated folks who are either elderly, have health problems like type-2 diabetes, or are immune compromised by transplants, medication, or cancer treatments. But most people in blue counties--at least the vaccinated ones--will get a "bad covid flu" and make it through.
Not so in the red counties.
The GOP's decision to politicize a virus may well cost the lives of a million or more Republican voters over the next few months.
And that doesn't include the sad fact that as many as a third of symptomatic Covid cases result in long-term disabilities including dementia, heart and lung insufficiency, chronic fatigue and what a recent National Institutes of Health publication called "an epidemic" of erectile dysfunction.
I take no joy in reporting this: I'm with John Donne that "every man's death diminishes me" (not to mention the loss of mental or sexual function) and what we're seeing coming is a full-blown tragedy.
And you can bet that Republicans will soon come up with Biden-related memes and monikers for the virus to make it seem as if he's responsible for all these Trump-encouraged GOP deaths. If nothing else, they know how to politicize anything, from emails to ambassador's deaths.
But science doesn't lie. A true sh*tstorm is on its way, and it's going to hit red-county Trump voters like the climate change hurricanes just hit Kentucky.
Get ready. Get boosted. Get a few extra N-95 masks and home Covid test kits. Start working from home if you can.
And get yourself psychologically and emotionally prepared for the mass illness and death that's about to visit the red counties of our nation because Donald Trump and the GOP chose to downplay this deadly virus for political purposes.
This article was first published on The Hartmann Report.
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