Covid-19 #3: 2023, Omicron

Table of Contents

Continuity

This Post

This post has been updated or republished periodically since January 3, 2023. It was concluded May 6, 2023, when the World Health Organization declared the end of its formal determination that Covid-19 had become a world-wide emergency (Pandemic). It follows earlier posts:

Omicron evolved

Omicron, Pango lineage B.1.1.529, was discovered in South Africa and recognized as a variant of concern of Covid-19 by the WHO in November 2021. By the end of September, 2022, reports and studies of variants in the Omicron lineage that infect vaccinated persons and persons who have been infected were being published: BA.2.75.2, BA.5, BQ.1, BQ.1.1, BA.2.10.4, BA.4.6. (See Papers discussing). B.1.1.529 evolved into 5 lineages known as BA.1 and BA.2, etc.. The BA.2 lineage includes XBB. The first variant in the XBB line was identified in Singapore in August 2022. The latest WHO variant of concern, as of January 2023, is XBB.1.5, nicknamed (not a formal scientific name) Kraken. XBB 1.5 was identified in Singapore in late 2022, in the USA in November 2022 and in Canada in December 2022. The Omicron sub-variants are the most antibody-evasive strains tested.

CBC reported March 11, 2023 in the post/article “World Health Organization updates variant names to track Omicron’s rapid evolution that the Omicron parent lineage (B.1.1.529) is a varient of concern but its subvariants are variants of interest. “Since February 2022, ‘Omicron and its many sublineages have almost completely replaced other variants,’ [quoting] Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, an infectious disease epidemiologist who serves as the technical lead for WHO’s COVID-19 response”.

The illness caused by Omicron and its subvariants is milder than the SARS caused by the original Covid-19 virus. It is severe or fatal for some people. In aggregate, it has been fatal for more individuals than the original virus and the early variants of concern.

BC

After April 2022, the health authorities in BC reported the weekly reports of the BC Centre for Disease Control BCCDC (an agency of the BC government) every Thursday. CBC reported the reports, generally promptly, in its BC News section. I listed those weekly reports in 2022:

The CBC News BC reports resumed in January 2023 and remained weekly until mid-March 2023. In October 2022 the BCCBC had started to make a weekly Respiratory Epidemiology Summary report with a COVID-19 Weekly Summary section. The BCCDC moved the links to weekly updates to its COVID dashboard to the Respiratory Disease web site, and gradually changed the reports.

CBC reported other BC government announcements of health programs, policy and advice. All dates are in 2023.

DateSource, Section
byline
Article name
Jan. 3CBC, News, BC,
Courtney Dickson
B.C. officials report 5 cases of new COVID-19 subvariant that’s spreading rapidly in U.S.
Jan. 5 CBC, News, BC,B.C. has yet to see post-holidays spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations, health minister says
Jan. 6CBC, News, BC,
Courtney Dickson
B.C. activates emergency operations centres at 20 hospitals, anticipating spike in respiratory illness
Jan. 12CBC, News, BCCOVID-19 hospitalizations down in B.C. as province still waiting to see impact from holidays
Jan. 13CBC, News, BCB.C. confirms 24 cases of the new COVID-19 subvariant that has been spreading in the U.S.
Jan. 18CBC, News, BCKelowna asks for court injunction against anti-mask and vaccine mandate rallies
Jan. 19CBC, News, BCB.C. surpasses 5,000 deaths linked to COVID-19 as hospitalizations continue to dip
Jan. 20CBC, News, BC
Josh Grant
Police vs. Anti government; not a Covid story
What we’ve learned about the deadly shootout between 2 brothers and police in Saanich, B.C.
Jan. 26CBC, News, BC
Zahra Premji
3 years into the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-Asian hate still prevalent in Metro Vancouver: advocates
Jan. 27CBC, News, BCCOVID-19 hospitalizations down 15%, while number of people in intensive care ticks upwards
Feb. 2CBC, News, BCB.C. reports 30 more COVID-19 related deaths in a week as hospitalizations continue to decline
Feb. 5CBC, News, BC,
Akshay Kulkarni
More than 15,000 workers’ compensation claims filed in B.C. over COVID-19
Feb. 9CBC, News, BC,
Joel Ballard
B.C. is taking its long-COVID clinics online and removing access to their doctors
Feb. 9CBC, News, BCCOVID-19 hospitalizations continue to fall while ICU numbers remain relatively stable
Feb. 16CBC, News, BCCOVID-19 hospitalizations rise for first time this year while ICU numbers drop 40 per cent
Feb. 23CBC, News, BCNumber of COVID-positive patients in hospital rises for 2nd straight week
March 2CBC, News, BCNumber of COVID-positive patients in hospital dips slightly after rising for 2 weeks
March 9CBC, News, BCNumber of COVID-positive patients in hospital drops for 2nd straight week
March 10CBC, News, BCB.C. dropping COVID-19 vaccine rule for public servants as spring booster campaign launches
March 11CBC, News, BC, Justin McIlroy3 years in, Bonnie Henry says B.C. isn’t in a better place today to deal with a new pandemic
April 6CBC, News, BC, Moira WytonB.C. ends mask mandate in health-care facilities and proof of vaccination for long-term care visitors
May 5CBC, News, BCWHO says COVID-19 is no longer a global health emergency. What you need to know in B.C.

Canada

Nationally, the CBC devoted less resources to covering Covid-19 in 2023 than in 2022:

DateSource, Section
byline
Article name
Jan. 4CBC, News, WindsorA new Omicron variant is hitting the U.S. One expert expects Windsor to see an impact
Jan. 5CBC, Health,
Lauren Pelley
Why XBB.1.5 — the latest Omicron offshoot — could ‘outcompete’ other COVID-19 subvariants
Jan. 6CBC, Health,
Lauren Pelley
Canada’s flu season is winding down, data shows, but it may be the calm before a COVID storm
Jan. 20CBC, Health,
Stephanie Dubois
Get your booster dose as new Omicron offshoot spreads: Canada’s top doctor
Jan. 26CBC, Health,
Lauren Pelley
The COVID emergency might end after 3 long years — but the virus is still a threat
Jan. 26CBC, Politics
Darren Major
COVID-19 misinformation cost at least 2,800 lives and $300M, new report says
Feb. 9CBC, Calgary,
Meghan Grant
Alberta premier says she’s spoken with street pastor and others facing pandemic-related charges
Feb. 11CBC, Health,
Lauren Pelley
COVID drug shows promise in new study — but will patients ever get access?
March 3CBC Health,
Lauren Pelley
COVID-19 booster shots recommended for high-risk Canadians starting this spring
March 11CBC, Health,
Lauren Pelley
World Health Organization updates variant names to track Omicron’s rapid evolution
March 18CBC, Health, Second Opinion,
Adam Miller
Why Canada avoided a severe winter COVID wave
April 1CBC, Health,
Second Opinion, Lauren Pelley
Forcing Canadians to switch from life-changing drugs saves governments millions. Do patients pay a price?
April 4CBC, News, Sask., Alexander QuonProvincial government defends decision to lift mask mandates at Sask. Health Authority facilities
April 14CBC, Health,
Lauren Pelley
Why most Canadians don’t need another COVID-19 booster — at least not yet 
April 15CBC, Health, Second Opinion,
Adam Miller
Why mask mandates are lifting in hospitals across Canada
May 5CBC, Health, Analysis
Benjamin Shingler, Adam Miller
What the end of the COVID emergency means for Canada

February 4, the CBC, responding to the first season of “The Last of Us”, a popular premium TV show, did a piece on fungal diseases.

The CBC covered announcements in March by Canadian federal government health officials about vaccines, boosters and the circulation of the virus.

The March 11 CBC article CBC Second Health article or column (byline Adam Miller) announced that Omicron Kraken was a varient of interest but not a variant of concern and would not be given its a name, and that the new naming convention was “WHO will continue assigning Greek alphabet labels for variants of concern, but it will no longer do so for variants of interest.” It added:

More than 76 per cent of Canadian adults and close to 90 per cent of young adults (aged 17 to 24) are estimated to have previously had the disease as of mid-January, according to national blood donor data released by the federal government’s COVID-19 Immunity Task Force.

US, China, W.H.O., World News

Public health medicine and policy, lockdowns, supply chains, protests about government policy in China, end of mandates in China, the Omicron surge in China, and other disease outbreaks or risks. All dates are in 2023 :

DateSource, Section
byline
Article name
Jan. 4CBC-Reuters, WorldCOVID-19 data from China underrepresents surge of cases and deaths, WHO says
Jan. 8CBC-Reuters, WorldTravellers stream into China as it says goodbye to zero-COVID policy
Jan. 10CBC-Reuters, WorldAs new Omicron subvariant spreads, WHO backs mask wearing on long flights
Jan.14CBC – AP, World
Joe McDonald
China reports nearly 60,000 people with COVID died since early December
Jan. 30CBC-AP, HealthWHO says coronavirus remains a global health emergency
Feb. 5NY Times,
Asia Pacific
In China’s Covid Fog, Deaths of Scholars Offer a Clue
Feb. 24CBC-Reuters, HealthWorld ‘not yet prepared enough’ as H5N1 avian flu strain keeps spreading, WHO official warns
Feb. 28Atlantic, Science, Daniel EngberThe Lab Leak Will Haunt Us Forever
March 3Atlantic, Newsletter, Daniel ThompsonWhy Are We Still Arguing About Masks?
March 28CBC-Reuters, HealthWHO recommends COVID-19 boosters for high-risk adults 6-12 months after last dose
May 5CBC-AP, HealthWHO downgrades COVID pandemic, says it’s no longer a global emergency

Economics, Health, Rights, and Wishes

At large. All dates are in 2023:

DateSource, section
Byline
Article name
Jan. 4UnHerd
(magazine, online)
Thomas Fazi, Toby Green
Why is the West locking down China?
Jan. 5Atlantic, Health,
Katherine Wu
How Worried Should We Be About XBB.1.5?
Jan. 30UnHerd
(magazine, online)
Thomas Fazi, Toby Green
Why are excess deaths still so high?
Feb. 5New York Times,
Newsletter, Opinion,
Zeynep Tufekci
An Even Deadlier Pandemic Could Soon Be Here (avian flu, H5N1)
March 6UnHerd
(magazine, online)
Thomas Fazi
How the WHO was captured
March 8Washington Post,
Health,
Lauren Weber, Joel Achenbach
Covid backlash hobbles public health and future pandemic response
March 14Commonweal
M. Anthony Mills
No One is in Control
(partly gated)
May 5Atlantic, HealthOnly the Emergency Has Ended
May 6CBC, BusinessAs economy recovers from pandemic doldrums, big employers step up push to get back to the office

BC, 2023

No Fear

People in BC had almost given up wearing masks, as of March 2023. As of May, many are paying attention to social distancing. Most people are acting as if the SARS disease has vanished and been replaced by a mild flu.

The Canadian national government and the BC provincial government have treated Omicron as a mild flu that causes minor illness since the spring of 2022. The Omicron variants were recognized as contagious, but the illness was regarded as a mild flu. The government treated the illness as treatable, to be managed by providing health care including hospitalization and intensive care. The public authorities gave the public months of relief from masking, social distancing and other public health measures. Public heath mandates were dismantled except in health care locations – hospitals, testing and diagnostic services and medical offices. That ended in April 2023. The government viewed vaccine hesitation as a source of discontent with governance, largely tolerated the resistance to mandates in 2023..

Health care professionals agree that the illness is treatable in most cases. Health care practitioners are unhappy about working conditions, pay and policy.

The public wants to be cared for in the event of illness. Many members of the public do not want to trust to medical experts and bureaucrats, and take vaccines or wear masks. They believe they will be well and that they have no duty to minimally decease the transmission of the virus.

Freedom Rallies

The provincial authorities in BC did not take action against anti-vax protesters in 2022. Some of the protesters were protest veterans; some were novices. Some were true belivers in an ideology. Many Canadians who protested vaccines and mandates were adherents of QAnon and other anti-government movements.

The protests declined but have not stopped. Local governments have started to ask the courts to grant orders against protesters and protest organizers.

Some protests were or are impulsive and naive. Protesting gives people a sense of meaning and status and some happiness.

Many of protester organizers appear to be adherents of PseudolawTax Protesters, Sovereign Citizens, Freemen on the land – a loose association of persons who oppose obedience to civil law on the principle that they may exercise their own judgment guided to higher law or natural intuition. The analogy to the sociology and ideologu of religion is that protester organizers and some protesters respond to government rules in a Gnostic (or Manichean) mode – they have higher secret knowledge – rather than an Antinomian mode. Some of the organizers also have a monetary hustle. They are making contacts with people who show up and selling them pseudolaw advice. Some of the organizers may be trying to bring down a system.

Some anti-government movements in the United States have advocated violence, armed themselves, organized militias, prepared for violence and caused violent riots. Some adherents of anti-government movements have engaged in acts of violence against public officials.

The public authorities have had concerns that some protesters are adherents of anti-government movements. This partially explains why the 2022 Trucker Convoy, the Ottawa occupation, the ancillary protests in other cities, and the border crossing blockades (Windsor Ont., Coutts Alta.) were managed they way they were.


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