Omicron! Oh My!

My first reaction to the pandemic in early March 2020 was to place my family in a hard shutdown. I supported school shutdowns, masking, and limited social interactions. But as soon as we got vaccinated, we returned to stores and bars and everything, within state regulations and guidelines. I believed that once teachers got vaccinated, schools should have opened, and that government should have placed priority on opening schools over bars and restaurants.

While the chances of getting Omnicron after being triple vaxxed are slim, the odds are not zero. And I’m going to have a house of 16 people on Friday, with some oldies in the bunch. So, I’m reinstating some early COVID rules. I have a cold? allergies? so I’m going to get a test this afternoon to rule out the virus. Even though Jonah has a final on the 23rd, I making him come home today. I am cancelling Ian’s optional, after-school activities. Steve isn’t going into the city for work.

And two people just pulled out of Christmas Eve dinner, so now I’m making dinner for 14.

I would like to celebrate the holidays with my family with as little stress as possible. If I’m worried about killing my mom, it will be a damper on festivities.

My new approach is conservative caution. I’m quite sure that we will all the virus at some point, but I want to push back that eventuality until after the holidays.

What is your family policy?

22 thoughts on “Omicron! Oh My!

  1. Laura wrote, “What is your family policy?”

    Our school stuff shut down much earlier than your school stuff, so it’s pretty organic to just bubble up a bit. Our college student’s last day of exams was Dec. 8 and the younger kids’ last day of class was Dec. 17. We were planning to be just home for Christmas as a family of 5.

    I was thinking of having some kids over to do stuff, but I’m feeling a bit less interested. The 11th grader would REALLY REALLY like to see his friends. Granted, our local case levels are 1/3 that of the NE, but I think we are seeing the first ripples of the winter wave arriving. The younger kids and I are still travelling to Idaho to see family for skiing in early January. We may do some outings in December, but may not have people over, and I’m probably going to encourage a few days of isolation before we travel.

    As compensation, we are in the process of potentially homing a college cat colony cat. This feels like a March/April 2020 activity, but we didn’t do it then. The kids (who have never had a pet at home) are really excited about this. I’m supposed to call a vet for advice this morning and I’m trying to get hold of the cat colony managers for their input.


  2. I have been cautious (and, I think sometimes irrationally cautious).

    At the beginning, I really did think that we could stop the spread like some other countries did. My hopes were dashed by the means available in the US, physically, socially, and politically (we are not an island, we have a diverse and independent population, and a politically problematic system, that, for example, could not pass funding for quarantine hotels and probably not even for tests). And, we have been thwarted by the biology of coronaviruses, which have always been known to be very mutable. I was overly optimistic about the mRNA vaccines (and overly optimistic about our ability to custom create them for new viruses ).

    Omicron breaks through vaccines (and prior infections), and spreads quickly and effectively. I can only hope that it will be milder, since, I think at this point everyone who very isolated will get it.


    1. ” a politically problematic system, that, for example, could not pass funding for quarantine hotels and probably not even for tests).”

      Did anybody really try, though, on a national level? I don’t recall there ever having been a legislative push for that.

      The US spent trillions on COVID without managing to cover those items. (NYC does have quarantine hotels and some colleges have run them, but that’s all I know of.) The Biden administration keeps mentioning doing more about home testing, but it’s pretty freaking late to start thinking about it in December 2021. Just days ago, Jen Psaki was scoffing at the idea of sending home kits to every household…but now they’re finally talking about doing it.

      Then there’s the whole mask issue. The authorities were happy to leave Americans walking around in garbage cloth masks, because if they did require better masks, we’d have to deal with the question of expense and supply. Better to just have people wear reusable cloth masks that do nothing, rather than have to explain to the public why they can’t have more effective disposable masks. (Three of the members of my household wore washable cloth masks during much of the pandemic while two of us wore KN95s, etc., and we spent a huge amount of money on the KN95s, even with wearing them in rotation and getting 3+ uses out of them. On some level, I’m not surprised that the feds didn’t want to take responsibility for supplying more effective masks to the public.)

      I was caught by surprised by how bad Delta was in the SE in summer 2021, but I was always expecting winter 2021-2022 to be pretty bad–a sort of last hurrah. I think we all knew or suspected that. But if everybody knew that, why does everybody in authority seem so surprised and unprepared right now? Why is it going to be late December before Paxlovid is approved?


      1. I was just looking at Germany’s stats, and there current vaccination level and mortality level are very similar to ours. In fact, their current mortality is somewhat higher than the US (0.44 per 100k per day versus 0.39 per 100k per 100k).


    2. well, the plan to send a mask to everyone with the postal service was mixed early in the pandemic. Do you think a plan to send tests to homes could be passed in congress? would Republicans like Cruz and Cronyn support it? I think Murray and Cantwell would.

      I’m not sure how useful quarantine hotels would be, especially if not mandatory, but could national funding be found for them? would there be support for mandatory quarantine?

      Our system relies heavily on states to implement these measures, legally as well as politically — even when federal dollars are provided, which is independent of who is in. intros at the federal level,


    3. “My new approach is conservative caution. I’m quite sure that we will all the virus at some point, but I want to push back that eventuality until after the holidays.”
      Conservative caution here. Also, seems that though I will get it, it is a LOT better to get it after Paxlovid is in every pharmacy than before.


  3. So, what am I doing, given that I think we will be contending with restrictions for a long time and that stopping the spread is nearly impossible? Goals: protect the most vulnerable and try our best to isolate when we might be infectious (which requires testing). Hopes: that people will stay healthy, especially when vaccinated, even if they are infected.

    1) hunkering down (kind of) during the next 3-6 weeks, because I do think that we will see a wave that will decline at some time. Natural hunkering: schools closed, kiddos sport cancelled for the week, college kid home already home on the 17th; not hunkering: gathering on the 12th & 18th, plans to gather with immediate family, college kiddo visiting with friends (who have also been traveling), college kiddo with plans to travel in early January (and return home) before school. Younger kiddo still interacting with friends, though there have been outbreaks in both his & GF’s school.

    2) adults boosted, younger adults starting their boosters

    3) tests, with a plan of testing someone everyday or every other day (I’m working out the schedule based on the number of tests I have) and testing right before our parents visit us. I’ve been collecting rapid tests (I disapprove of myself, because others might need them more, but, I need this for my psychological health); PCR tests are still available in our area, so both kids have also had PCR tests in the last week, and will try to schedule them as needed around higher risk activities (they manage these by themselves)

    4) no restaurant dining (indoor, unmasked); will still do uncrowded indoor masked (shopping), but not shows (but I wasn’t ready for that anyway).

    I’m not going to isolate my parents, and spend too much time trying to figure out when we can most safely interact (based on what family members have been doing + testing). Plans to gather with more family, but don’t know how they are feeling as the news gets more dramatic.


  4. I was supposed to visit my sister in Cleveland. Per request of my cousins who are in their 70s I had covid tests with me to test before visiting them. Then my sister called to say she and her husband are both sick with Covid. They have to isolate for 10 days. Her eldest daughter was calling all her friends to find a place to stay rather than come home from college until the 10 days are up as she (a nursing major) has a job at a hospital over the holidays. Her other daughters are bored as they would normally be getting together with friends all week. No one wants them near their family of course.

    My wife and I are trying to figure out whether we want to see anyone outside of our home. Here in Denver the theater we are involved with has just shut down till early January after multiple people called and said they had covid after attending shows and classes. I just got a Moderna booster which may have some power against Omicron.

    Right now with warm weather here (highs in the 60s) we have decided to see friends on our porch only. I dragged the furniture cushions out of storage and swept the leaves out.


  5. Yup, the other question is what to do with a positive test — individual is supposed to isolate for 10 days, but, what about close contacts? I thought vaccinated people could “test and stay” (meaning test 3-5 days after), but, I think, maybe they need to quarantine until the negative test? And, that depends on isolating the positive individual from the rest of the family (which we can do). Or does one just isolate/quarantine the entire family? We won’t do anything we shouldn’t do, but, I do find the complications puzzling and my brain gets occupied with them.

    Also, some folk are suggesting that asymptomatic positives (or with symptoms resolved) might be able to isolate for only 5 days, but that isn’t official recommendation yet.


      1. Laura wrote, “My nieces just tested positive, asymptomatic. I think we have to cancel our Christmas plans.”


        What a year!


    1. 😦 So sorry. I am guessing we are going to hear of more positives in our circle, too. Until recently, I think our entire family only had two close contacts. I see that going up.

      I have officially driven my family crazy with my tests, both their acquisition and my testing plans. I am trying to come up with my own testing protocol based on the public information that I have, driving myself and everyone else nuts.


    2. I really don’t want to isolate my parents, though, but I don’t know if we can change our behavior enough to do that. My dad, who has been happily amusing himself designing science experiments, learning more mathematica, teaching my mom physics , . . . during the pandemic finally said that he is feeling confined the other day.


    1. Yes, I calculated that where he lives, which we presume to be St. Joseph’s County, MI has 8x the death rate of where I live, where we still care.


    2. If everyone is vaxed, & most are tested 2x a week, I’d take my chances after testing the 2 who don’t take other precautions & the children immediately before the gathering. That’s my current planning, and I’m trying to follow it for seeing my parents (who we see regularly, and who I think need the interaction with us).

      Kiddo said she’s willing wear a mask when my parents visit — might add that if my anxiety remains high & adding filters.


  6. Again, a very different situation here in NZ – where we are (cautiously) emerging from our 4-month lockdown into a very socially restricted environment.

    The Omicron Variant (that sounds more like a thriller title, every time I write it!) – is not ‘loose’ in NZ – i.e. we have cases in quarantine from overseas travellers, but it hasn’t spread outside the quarantine facilities. Everyone expects this is just a matter of time, though.

    We have vaccine passes required for indoor dining (including cafes), and these have been taken up by some shops as well (my specialist German butcher requires the VP to be scanned before they’ll open the door to you) – but not many.

    In addition, there is an app for scanning in – and all places open to the public are required to display a QR code for you to scan. This creates a digital diary, and (in theory) if there is an outbreak, the Govt can let everyone know who was there at the relevant time, that they need to get tested (NB: that part doesn’t work very effectively)

    Even my hyper-cautious Mum, who took my son Christmas shopping earlier this week, was ‘forgetting’ to scan in to some shops.

    Despite opening up from hard lockdown in Auckland, and Delta spreading around the country – case numbers are dropping. As a country, NZ hit the 90% over-12s vaccinated target, last week – though there are still rural pockets with much lower vaccination rates.
    Vaccination opens up to the under 12 contingent in the 2nd week of January – though it seems likely that fewer than 90% will take this up (I could be wrong – I was pessimistic about reaching the 90% adult target); and at the same time, boosters will be available for those 4-6 months after their 2nd dose (all Pfizer here in NZ)

    The good news for us, is that this is summer here in the southern hemisphere – outside recreation, schools closed until the beginning of February, many people taking leave, or working reduced hours, etc.

    We know, from the spread of Delta, that lockdowns are simply not effective, any longer. The groups that spread Delta (criminals, over-crowded lower class housing, people who simply don’t believe in it), will be the same ones spreading Omicron.

    At this stage, the question is over hospital beds if/when Omicron gets ‘out’ into the community. The high transmissibility means that, even if it’s less virulent, there will be more people needing hospitalization. (e.g. if Delta infects 100, and 8 need hospital treatment, but Omicron infects 700, and 25 need hospital treatment – even though the % is lower for Omicron, the total beds needed is higher)
    The government have done little or nothing to remedy this right now (they have plans for 5 years down the track – but we need solutions next month!)

    Right now, we’re watching hospitalization rates in the UK and US with bated breath. *If* it looks as though hospitalization rates remain low (for the vaccinated), even if infection rates are high – I think that people are likely to relax more, and think of Omicron as a particularly nasty flu – rather than a killer.

    We’ve seen with Delta, here in NZ, that hospitalization rates for fully vaccinated, are very low – and there hasn’t been a single death of someone who wasn’t fully vaccinated. There’s a bit of ‘karma’ thinking, going around – if you die of Covid and chose not to be vaccinated, then you got what you bargained for.

    The concern is over hospitals being full of Covid patients, and all other essential, but not immediately life-threatening, treatment being postponed or cancelled. We already have cases of cancer not being diagnosed, and now being untreatable – and I’m sure this is just going to increase. Hospital staffers getting burned out (not just nurses, but the whole support structure) – this is happening now, and will only get worse, since there is effectively no increased support planned.
    And, of course, suicide and depression increasing: people losing their businesses, families being split apart, since it’s almost impossible to get back to NZ from overseas, elderly people being almost held prisoner in retirement homes (very difficult to get ‘visitation’ rights).

    For the first time, since Covid hit, the public perception of the direction the government is taking (this gets surveyed regularly) is more negative than positive. The well is starting to get low, and is heading towards empty.


    1. I’m not prone to being envious of places completely different from us (New Zealand, population 5 million, islands in the southern hemisphere is not a comp). But, 49 deaths, 1/100K. The US: 800,000 deaths, 241/100K. That’s 241X the death rate in the US, compared to NZ. It’s not realistic to imagine the US being New Zealand, but maybe we can project NZ being the US, in the policies taken, in which case, 11,760 more people would have died in NZ.

      I wish I had a “specialist German butcher [who] requires the VP to be scanned before they’ll open the door “.

      Though I do recognize the risks to the New Zealand approach you write, we need to acknowledge the vastly different losses of life during the pandemic.


    2. Ann said, “Right now, we’re watching hospitalization rates in the UK and US with bated breath. *If* it looks as though hospitalization rates remain low (for the vaccinated), even if infection rates are high – I think that people are likely to relax more, and think of Omicron as a particularly nasty flu – rather than a killer.”

      US cases are shooting up but mortality is weirdly flat right now. It’s been around 1300 deaths a day for two weeks.

      bj wrote, “but maybe we can project NZ being the US, in the policies taken, in which case, 11,760 more people would have died in NZ.”

      NZ (and other small, isolated countries) could have done a lot worse, given their level of resources.

      In the US, we’ve had the advantage of rarely having to deal with synchronized regional surges. Most of the time, we’ve had the luxury of being able to direct resources to hot spots, rather than all regions simultaneously being hot spots. I

      I’ve always been pretty sympathetic to isolated areas (like Hawaii or NZ) that want to lock people out, because if they get into trouble, there’s no easy way to get help quickly.


  7. AmpP said “I’ve always been pretty sympathetic to isolated areas (like Hawaii or NZ) that want to lock people out, because if they get into trouble, there’s no easy way to get help quickly.”

    The problem is, though, it’s not just tourists being locked out, but also NZers who want/need to come home – for a whole range of reasons – very few of which are to do with tourism.

    Families have been split apart for nearly 2 years – unable to reunite (despite having valid NZ passports) – because of the limited number of quarantine places(e.g. Mum in Indonesia, Dad and kids in NZ); people are stuck overseas with no job, no house, no income (because it’s all gone in Covid times), are unable to get back to their home/family in NZ; people are unable to travel to see dying parents/children for the last time, etc., etc.

    And the constant chopping and changing from the government over the ‘rules’ makes it almost impossible to plan for (last month they announced that from mid January, visitors from Australia would only have to quarantine for 7 days – and could do so at home if they had a suitable environment; yesterday they walked this back, and said mid-February. People already have air-tickets booked and paid for, and there are no additional quarantine space – so back to the end of the queue).

    And, realistically, no one has any level of trust in any Govt policy in this area, since they’ll change it on the fly as it becomes expedient.


  8. So sorry to hear about your positive test and fever! Hope you feel better soon. Not sure I advise reading Station Eleven at this point, but I suppose leaning into the experience could be enjoyable, in a weird way. If not, switch to Agatha Christie or Nero Wolfe.

    My east coast family (with kid just returning from study abroad) cancelled their plans to come to the midwest. Sad. But we are still planning to drive a few hours to see my parents. We tested negative yesterday and are hoping it holds! Will gather with boosted and cautious family friends on Xmas Eve and keep fingers crossed that it hasn’t quite made it out here yet.


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