The heavens have seemingly determined we’re all getting COVID dread for Christmas (again) as the latest Omicron variant data foretells a bleak, dark winter in store for the U.S.
“In some ways, this latest COVID wave feels the most depressing, as it's genuinely hard to tell what we're even reaching for anymore,” read one particularly festive viral tweet. “Everything feels simultaneously accessible and irresponsible, and you don't feel 100% good about any choice.”
School closures, slammed hospitals, pleas to ride out the holidays at home, and a steady uptick in infections in parts of the country have all marked this December as a particularly bad, albeit familiar, one. And the bad news has come in droves in the past 24 hours: On Wednesday, the nation’s death toll from coronavirus shot past 800,000, Apple suspended its full return-to-office date indefinitely, several Broadway shows were canceled due to the virus, and colleges moved their final exams online.
Now, people might naturally be wondering: Wasn’t the vaccine that rolled out almost exactly a year ago supposed to fix all this?
Well, yes and no. The Omicron variant is gaining traction in the U.S. fast, with cases doubling every two days, according to ABC News. And the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines appear to be less effective at guarding people against getting infected from it. Even so, Americans don’t appear to really want to change their behaviors to reflect the increased risk—which is particularly problematic since 60 million people remain unvaccinated and unprotected nationwide, according to CNBC.
“There are many states in this country where bars are full, restaurants are full—all the social events before the pandemic are going on now, and this is a real challenge,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNBC.
It’s not all entirely dreadful, though. Booster shots appear to work very well at blocking the variant, which is promising for the roughly 28 percent of fully vaccinated Americans who have gotten a third shot. Despite its resistance to the two-dose mRNA vaccines, the Omicron variant also appears to cause less-severe illness, according to one major study out of South Africa.
"If you're eligible for a booster shot, it's critical that you get boosted today," Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said during a media briefing Wednesday, according to NBC News. "Don't wait."
If it’s any comfort, Queen Elizabeth II is also affected by the resurgent holiday blues: She canceled the royal family’s pre-Christmas lunch for the second year in a row. We’re all in this together, whether we like it or not.