Covid-19 #2: Omicron

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This Post

This post was written over a few months from late August 2022 to late 2022, was published in October, and has been revised.

Omicron evolved

Omicron, Pango lineage B.1.1.529, was first 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 and BQ.1.1. Subsequent papers discussed variants: BA.2.10.4, BA.4.6. There are reports of another variant known as XBB. The latter sub-variants are reported to be the most antibody-evasive strains tested.

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.

BC

British Columbia replaced daily reporting of Covid-19 statistics in April 2022. BC reported the weekly reports of the BC Centre for Disease Control (“BCCDC”; an agency of the BC government) every Thursday, and CBC BC reported the reports within a day. I listed the CBC BC News weekly reports April to late August. 2022 in Covid-19 #1: Covid-19 wanes, Omicron Rises.

All dates are in 2022.

Stories about a vaccination booster program began to appear (again) in August & September. The stories were not included in the CBC BC News feed for a few weeks until a pediatric crisis involving the respiratory virus RSV and questions about restored masking mandates:

DateSource
Section, byline
Article name
August 25CBC
BC News,
Number of people in B.C. hospitals with COVID-19 down almost 10 per cent
Sept. 1CBC
BC News, Jon Azpiri – CBC News
Downward trend continues as COVID-19 hospitalizations fall 7.5 per cent in 1 week
Section: Omicron vaccine coming to B.C.
Sept. 6CBC
BC News,
Ready for a boost? What you need to know about B.C.’s fall COVID-19 vaccination program
Sept. 6CBC
BC News, Karin Larsen – CBC News
B.C.’s COVID-19 fall booster program begins rolling out next week. Here’s what you need to know
Sept. 8CBC
BC News, Josh Grant – CBC News
COVID-19 hospitalizations up slightly in B.C. after 4-week decline
Sept. 15CBC
BC News, Jon Azpiri – CBC News
B.C. COVID-19 hospital numbers continue to drop
Section: Vaccination requirements remain in place for health-care workers
Sept. 22CBC
BC News,
Slow decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations in B.C. continues
Section: Fall booster campaign underway
Sept. 28CBC
BC News,
Health officials offer free flu shots to dampen potential fall influenza and COVID-19 surge
Sept. 29CBC
BC News,
COVID-19 hospitalizations in B.C. begin to rise as province braces for early flu season
Oct. 6CBC
BC News
COVID-19 hospitalizations inch up in B.C.
Oct. 7CBC
BC, Situation Critical, Jon Hernandez
Amid ambulance shortage, unvaccinated B.C. medics say they want to get back to work
Oct. 13CBC
BC News
COVID-19 hospitalizations in B.C. dip slightly while ICU numbers drop by a 3rd
Oct. 16 CBC
BC News, Akshay Kulkarni
Modelling group says B.C.’s underreporting of COVID-19 data makes personal risk assessment harder
Oct. 20CBC
BC News
COVID-19 hospitalizations and critical care numbers increase in B.C.
Oct. 25CBC
BC News
B.C. Health Minister defends Dr. Bonnie Henry in legislature over response to COVID-19 transmission in schools
Emails show Dr. Bonnie Henry sought data to fit a narrative, says leader of B.C. Greens
Oct. 27CBC
BC News
B.C. COVID-19 hospitalizations drop sharply while ICU numbers remain level
Nov. 3CBC
BC News
B.C. COVID-19 hospitalizations down slightly as ICU numbers rise
Nov. 10CBC
BC News
B.C. COVID-19 hospitalizations and ICU numbers remain stable
Nov. 14CBC
BC News, Chad Pawson
B.C. health officials encourage mask-wearing, getting shots as respiratory illnesses surge (including RSV, “ordinary” flu)
Nov. 15CBC
BC News, Michelle Gomez, Jon Azperi
More protection from respiratory viruses needed in classrooms, B.C. parents and advocates say
Nov. 16CBC
BC News, Karin Larsen
B.C. health officials say mask mandate not needed amid surge of respiratory illness
Nov. 17CBC
BC News
COVID-19 hospitalizations up slightly in B.C., according to latest weekly numbers
Nov. 19CBC
BC News, Akshay Kulkarni
Move to drop mandatory self-isolation for COVID-positive people is concerning, says health policy expert
Nov. 20CBC
BC News, Akshay Kulkarni
B.C. doesn’t provide counts of COVID-19 reinfections. Some experts say that’s a problem
Nov. 24CBC
BC News
B.C. COVID-19 hospitalizations steady as critical care numbers increase
Nov. 24CBC
BC News
B.C. ready to cancel surgeries as respiratory cases flood overcrowded hospitals

Canada

Canadian national covid and vaccine stories. All dates are in 2022:

DateSource
Section;
byline
Article name
August 26CBC
News, Jessica Wong (Toronto)
Universities, colleges taking varied approaches to COVID-19 as students set to return to campus
August 26CBC
News (Toronto)
Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table to dissolve next month
Sept. 1CBC
News, Politics, Nick Boisvert
Health Canada approves updated Moderna vaccine for Omicron variant
Sept. 2CBC
News, Business, Sophia Harris
Many Americans still aren’t coming to Canada. Is the ArriveCAN app to blame?
Sept. 2CBC
News, Liam Casey (Toronto)
‘Not a way to handle the pandemic’: Science table members disagree with scrapping 5-day COVID-19 isolation
Sept. 3CBC
Health – Second Opinion, Adam Miller
What protection to expect from updated COVID vaccines this fall
Sept. 9CBC
News (Toronto)
Ontario receives 1st doses of bivalent COVID vaccines, reports 74 more deaths linked to virus
Sept. 10CBC
Health – Second Opinion, Stephanie Dubois
Bivalent COVID vaccines are here. What happens to the existing vaccines?
Sept. 12CBC
News (Toronto)
Ontario opens appointments for new bivalent COVID-19 booster shots to all adults
Sept. 14CBC
Health – Second Opinion, Adam Miller
Majority of Canadians have now caught COVID — so what does that mean for the future? 
Sept. 17CBC
Health – Second Opinion, Lauren Pelley
For virus tracking, wastewater is liquid gold. Scientists hope that work isn’t flushed away
Sept. 25CBC
News, Isha Bhargava
(London)
Judge rejects attempt by 5 Western University students to block COVID booster mandate
Sept. 26CBC
News, Politics, CBC News
Border vaccine rules, mandatory use of ArriveCAN, mask mandates on planes, trains end Oct. 1
Sept. 27CBC
Health, Mike Crawley
Hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 antivirals are sitting on shelves across Canada
Sept. 29CBC
Ask CBC, Ania Bessonov, Kajal Mangesh
Pawar, Catherine Achu Koshy
What you need to know about the bivalent booster shots
Oct. 1CBC
Health – Second Opinion, Adam Miller
New Omicron strains on the horizon could drive future COVID waves
Oct. 14CBC
Calgary – Analysis, Jason Markusoff
Danielle Smith wants vaccine status to be a human right. Expect a petri dish of problems
” … new Premier Danielle Smith’s remarks that the unvaccinated have been more discriminated against than any other group in the last half century”
Oct. 14CBC
Politics, Lee Bethiaume
Military eases vaccine mandate, presses ahead with discipline for unvaccinated troops
Oct. 18CBC
News, New Brunswick
COVID-19 kills 4 more in N.B., 44% increase in sick health-care workers, new subvariant found
Oct. 20CBC
News, Toronto
Ontario reports 109 new COVID-19 deaths, a number not seen since May
Oct. 22CBC
Health – Second Opinion, Adam Miller
New immune-evasive Omicron strains are coming. Is Canada ready?
Nov. 2CBC
Heath, Lauren Pelley
Hundreds of Canadians are still dying of COVID-19 every week. Who are they?
Nov. 4CBC
News, Toronto, Patrick Swadden
Primary care doctors should resume in-person visits to take pressure off ERs, experts say
Nov. 5CBC
News – Analysis
Ottawa; Alistair Steele
9 months later, convoy organizers express little sympathy for downtown dwellers
Nov. 8CBC
Edmonton, Julia Wong
Less than 7% of Canadian kids 5 and younger have gotten a COVID vaccine
Nov. 14CBC
Edmonton, Michelle Bellefontaine
Premier Danielle Smith rules out mask mandates despite widespread school illness
Nov. 14CBC
Canada – Analysis Laura McQuillen
Ontario’s government is ‘strongly’ recommending masks indoors. Why stop short of a mandate?
Nov. 14CBC
Calgary – Opinion; Lorian Hardcastle, Ubaka Ogbogu
Alberta’s new chief medical officer must be independent, not sidelined
Nov. 16CBC
Health – Analysis Lauren Pelley
Kids are getting hit hard by respiratory viruses. Here’s what scientists know — and what they don’t
Nov. 17CBC
Edmonton, Janet French
Premier Danielle Smith fires Alberta Health Services board, appoints administrator
Nov. 18CBC
Health – Second Opinion; Adam Miller
Why mask mandates likely wouldn’t solve the crisis in children’s hospitals
Nov. 24CBC
Edmonton, Janet French
Alberta government bans school mask mandates, online-only learning

World News

Public health medicine and policy, lockdowns, supply chains, the November 2022 protests about government policy in China:

DateSource.
Section; byline
Article name
Sept. 9Atlantic
Global;Michael Schuman
Zero COVID Has Outlived Its Usefulness. Here’s Why China Is Still Enforcing It
Sept. 14CBC-Reuters
World News
Worldwide deaths from COVID-19 last week lowest since March 2020: WHO
Oct. 26CBC-AP
World News
China begins deploying COVID-19 booster vaccine administered orally
Nov. 2Guardian
China; Verna Wu
Supply fears as China lockdown hits world’s largest iPhone factory
Nov. 7Guardian
Apple;Staff & Agencies
Apple warns iPhone shipments will be delayed due to Covid restrictions at Foxconn plant
Nov. 8CBC-AP
World (News)
Chinese social media scrubbed of reports of pandemic-related arrests
Nov. 23CBC-Reuters
Business
Violent protests erupt at iPhone factory in Zhengzhou amid pay complaints and COVID-19 containment measures
Nov. 24CBC-AP
World (News)
Beijing in lockdown as China hits COVID-19 case record
Nov. 25CBC-AP
World (News)
Beijing’s COVID-19 measures fuel demand for food, other supplies
Nov. 27CBC-Reuters
World (News)
Protesters call for Xi to resign amid unprecedented unrest over China’s COVID-19 measures
Nov. 28CBC-Reuters
World (News)
Chinese police search people’s phones after anti-lockdown protests erupt across country
Nov. 28UnHerd
Bill Hayton
Will China’s anti-lockdown protestors succeed?
Nov. 28Interconnected
Kevin Xu
Covid Zero and Its Ironies
Nov. 29CBC-AP
World – Explainer
Just how strict are China’s COVID-19 rules?
Nov. 29CBC-Reuters
World
Chinese authorities seek out protesters to explain themselves
Dec. 1CBC
World – Analysis
Sasa Petricic
The Xi dilemma: China’s instability and a zero-COVID trap
Dec. 1CBC-AP
World (News)
China eases some anti-virus restrictions amid public anger

Economics, Health, Rights, and Wishes

At large:

DateSource.
Section, Byline
Article name
May 24MedPage Today
Special Reports, Kristina Fiore
When Will We Know if COVID Is Seasonal?
August 31MedPage Today
Special Reports, Kristina Fiore
Here’s What to Know About Fall COVID Boosters
Sept. 26Atlantic
Health, Katherine Wu
When’s the Perfect Time to Get a Flu Shot?
Sept. 30Atlantic
Health, Ed Yong
All of This Will Happen Again
Oct. 11Atlantic
Health, Benjamin Mazer
Medium COVID Could Be the Most Dangerous COVID
Oct. 17Atlantic
Health, Betsy Ladyzhets
The COVID Data That Are Actually Useful Now
Oct. 21Atlantic
Health, Katherine Wu
The Bivalent Shot Might Lay You Out
Oct. 28Pro Publica & Vanity Fair
Katherine Eban, Jeff Kao
COVID-19 Origins: Investigating a “Complex and Grave Situation” Inside a Wuhan Lab
Nov. 10Atlantic
Health, Katherine Wu
Will We Get Omicron’d Again?
Nov. 29UnHerd
Thomas Fazi
The birth of the biostate
Dec. 1Unherd
N.S. Lyons
How we appeased China’s Zero-Covid regime

BC, Fall 2022

No Fear

People are acting as if the feared SARS disease has vanished and left a mild flu. People in BC have largely given up wearing masks or paying attention to social distancing.

A large part of the public wants the government and public health professionals to remove mandates. A large part of the public wants to be cared for in the event of illness.

The government treated Covid-19 or Omicron as a minor illness through the spring and summer of 2022.

The government treats the illness as a treatable illness that can be managed by providing health care including hospitalization and intensive care. The public authorities have given the public months of relief from masking, social distancing and other public health measures. Public heath mandates have been dismantled except in health care locations – hospitals, testing and diagnostic services and medical offices.

The government viewed vaccine hesitation as a source of discontent with governance, and has largely tolerated the resistance to mandates.

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

The BC Emergency Medical Services Commission, an agency funded and controlled by the Ministry of Health, fired dozens of Ambulance drivers and paramedics who refused to get vaccinated. The workers are demanding reinstatement and other remedies in labour arbitration. They seek public sympathy for immediate reinstatement, reasoning is that “we are on the tail end [of the pandemic] and we’re still not able to work if we’re not vaccinated.”

Boosters

The BC government made announcements to the press about boosters in July 2022 and again on September 6. Booster appointments were not offered until after Sept. 14. BC began to offer appointments for boosters to adults, including seniors less than 70 years old, in late September 2022. Vaccines appointments for adults were offered mainly at pharmacies, and not at public temporary clinics. The boosters offered in BC in late 2022 are bivalent Moderna, presented as effective to provide:

  • protection from infection
    • with the original Covid-19 virus lineage;
    • with Omicron variant BA.1 (aka BA-1).
  • lower risk of serious symptoms when vaccinated persons are infected with the original Covid-19 lineage and some of the virulent variants of concern (including Alpha & Delta).

The thinking of the BCCDC in the first half of 2022 was dominated by the observations that

  • there were no vaccines for children;
  • the original viruses and the main variants did not cause serious symptoms in children;
  • keeping schools closed kept parents from working.

Schools were reopened but the progress in vaccinating children was slow.

Government thinking shifted to the view that children appeared to be the most infected and least vaccinated, while elderly adults were the most vaccinated and least infected. The implied assumption is that elderly adults would not be exposed to the circulating variants in the summer and could be boosted later.

There was some hand-wringing among BC public health figures about the fact that large numbers of adults are declining to vaccinate or boost, or to vaccinate their own children.

In November 2022 the health care crisises in BC, and throughout North America, was a rise in seasonal respiratory illnesses – respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the latest annual influenza, and short supplies of some medications.

Waste Water

Testing of samples taken from waste water (sewage) was developed in California in 2020. In September 2020 the US Center for Disease Control started a US National Wastewater Surveillance System.

Wastewater samples provided data on active cases as testing of samples in provincial labs declined. The media began to including a few lines on virus detected in wastewater at some treatment plants in reports of the weekly provincial covid numbers. The waste water reports demonstrate that the variants are circulating in the areas served by the plants. Since individual tests are underreported or not reported, public heath analysis is resorting to surveys and questionnaires to gather data about a disease circulating in the community.

It is not clear when Canadian and BC public health authorities started to take and test samples, and began to rely on this method as the main public health tool to dictate policy and advice.

World

China

Trade & International Politics

Human Rights, Liberty


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