Sunday, November 28, 2021

OMG, omicron.

First: Thanks to all who have bought a copy of the Atherton Vampire books 1 and 2. I'm grateful for your support and I hope you enjoy them. 

I didn't think I would be able to finish the third book in the series by the end of this month. But yesterday I stayed home all day, in case of a bad reaction to the COVID booster that I received on Friday (pretty much all I had was a sore arm, thank the gods), and wrote almost 8,500 words. With another 2,200 or so written earlier today, I'm at 38,250 for the book -- just 1,750 from my goal. 

The book will end up a little longer than that, though. I have two more episodes outlined and these later episodes are running about 2,000 words each. But the point is that I might just manage to finish the book in the next two days, after all. I won't win NaNo -- I never signed up and this book isn't going to be 50,000 words anyway. But when I get to The End, I'll still call it a win.


Starshaker | Deposit Photos
So the big news on Thursday, while we Americans were gorging ourselves on turkey and pumpkin pie, came out of South Africa: a new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 has been identified. It's been dubbed omicron (they skipped a couple of Greek letters because reasons) and it exhibits a number of variations in its spike protein, which is the thing that the virus uses to hook onto human cells and infect them. 

I'm confident that I'm not the only person who heard the news and immediately thought, "Oh no, not again." I had visions of a forced return to the bad old days -- the early days of the virus, nearly two years ago now, when society virtually shut down because we had no idea what we were up against.

The good news is that science knows a lot more about this virus today than it did two years ago. Plus we have vaccines now, as well as treatments -- monoclonal antibodies and antiviral drugs -- that we didn't know would work against the virus back then.

But epidemiologists are calling this variant "concerning." Although they're saying we shouldn't panic. 

(I'm taking my information from this background article on the omicron variant from the Washington Post.) 

It's still very early days, but what doctors in South Africa are seeing is what we've been seeing generally with cases of COVID over the past several months: the people hit hardest are those who haven't been vaccinated. Some breakthrough cases are occurring among the vaccinated, but generally speaking, those cases have been mild. So the smartest way to protect yourself is still to get the jab. South Africa's vaccination rate is very low, largely due to vaccines being unavailable there. In fact, a company in South Africa is working hard to replicate the Moderna vaccine (with zero help from Moderna -- it says it needs to protect its intellectual property) so it can be manufactured and distributed to both South Africans and developing nations generally. 

Here's another thing: Remember the beta variant? It was concerning, too, at first, but it turned out that it didn't easily spread from person to person -- or at least not as easily as the delta variant, which is the one causing all the trouble in the United States right now.

Whether out of concern or panic, several other nations almost immediately enacted travel bans on people from a number of African nations. That feels to me like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped. The omicron variant is already turning up in non-African countries -- including a case in Belgium of a woman who traveled there from Egypt via Turkey. 

In short, I think we should stay calm, keep an eye out for this variant turning up here in the States -- because it's inevitable that it will -- and otherwise keep doing what we're doing: masking up, social distancing, and getting vaccinated.


These moments of variant blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

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