In March 2020, a profile of the typical COVID victim emerged from Italy. The average decedent was 80 years old, with approximately three comorbidities, such as heart disease, obesity or diabetes. The young had little to worry about; the survival rate for the vast majority of the population was well over 99 percent.
That portrait never significantly changed. The early assessments of COVID out of Italy have remained valid through today. And so it will prove with the Omicron variant.
The data out of South Africa, after five weeks of Omicron spread, suggest that Omicron should be a cause for celebration, not fear. Its symptoms are mild to nonexistent in the majority of the infected, especially the vaccinated; hospitalization rates are over nine times lower than for previous COVID strains; deaths are negligible. That assessment will only be confirmed as the United States and other Western countries gather their own data on Omicron.
Yet the public health establishment and the media are working overtime to gin up Omicron hysteria. The official response to the Omicron variant provides a case study in the deliberate manufacture of fear. The following strategies are key:
1. Create a group norm of fear
The media want you to believe that everyone around you is scared out of his mind, and thus you should be, too. Man-on-the-street interviews quote Nervous Nellies exclusively. A Dec. 17 New York Times article headlined “As Virus Cases Surge, New Yorkers Feel a Familiar Anxiety” trotted out a parade of paralyzed city residents:
“Monday I wasn’t even thinking about [Omicron], and Thursday I’m in a panic,” said a 59-year-old woman on the Upper West Side. A teacher at Manhattan’s New School confessed: “It’s literally all I’ve been thinking about. I’m really heartsick and worried.” A 36-year-old woman in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, said: “It’s scary — it feels like we’ve been here before.” A 62-year- old woman in Queens reported that her travel and outing days were over: “I’m going to go home, I’m going to stay home and just keep to myself.”
Are there any New Yorkers who are not panicked? Presumably, but you would not know it from the Times’ and other outlets’ coverage. Needless to say, dissenters from Omicron fear in the rest of the country are beneath notice. The point of these one-sided quotes is to spread and normalize panic as the only reasonable reaction to the variant.
2. Buttress group fear with expert opinion
The only public-health experts that the media quote are those determined to put the most dire spin on Omicron. They stress worst-case hypothetical scenarios and dismiss actual good-case evidence. At best, they may grudgingly admit that Omicron symptoms are disproportionately mild, but rush to assert that there are still many as-yet-unrealized grounds for worry.
“Even if Omicron causes less severe cases, the sheer number of cases could once again overwhelm unprepared health systems,” the director-general of the World Health Organization said. “I’m not counting [Omicron’s lack of severity] as good news just yet,” a disease ecologist at Georgetown University said. “Even if infection is mild in many individuals, it’s not going to be mild in everyone.”
But that 100 percent mildness standard is unrealistic. There are outliers in any disease and any treatment; the question is: What is the predominant reality? The zero-risk, zero-harm standard for public policy adopted for the first time with COVID has proven a social, economic and public-health disaster.
At worst, the favored experts do not even pay lip service to the evidence militating against panic. An epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill told The New York Times: “I think we need to be prepared for the possibility that this could be at least as bad as any previous wave that we’ve seen.”
There are apparently no circumstances which would warrant a less-than-totalitarian response in advance of any actual disaster. The yearning for more draconian lockdowns and more control over the private sector is palpable.
3. Manufacture epistemological uncertainty and insist on that uncertainty as long as possible
The media intone repeatedly that much remains uncertain about Omicron, including how likely it is to cause severe disease. But we already have a good picture of that likelihood from the South Africa experience: very unlikely. Nevertheless, the director of the influential Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, Christopher Murray, is determined to assert that we know little to nothing yet: “The most challenging question is severity,” he told the Times.
4. Bury both good news and dissenters from the bad news
The South African data should lead any coverage of Omicron, yet it has barely been reported. Though only 27 percent of that country is fully vaccinated, less than 2 percent of new cases are requiring hospitalization. And that number is undoubtedly too high, since many reported COVID hospitalizations were admitted for reasons other than COVID.
In countries such as the United States, with much higher rates of vaccination, the breakthrough infections from Omicron will be even milder. Omicron will be an ideal vehicle for achieving herd immunity, conferring protection without tears on the vast majority of the infected.
The South African doctor who first reported the Omicron variant has declared herself “astonished” by the world’s reaction to the new strain, which is “out of all proportion to its risks.”
“Patients typically present with muscle pain, body aches, a headache and a bit of fatigue,” Angelique Coetzee wrote in the Daily Mail on Dec. 13. “After about five days [those symptoms] clear up, and that’s it.”
The only patient with severe symptoms whom she has seen over the last month had HIV, pneumonia and other comorbidities.
Coetzee has been nonexistent in the non-conservative press. Just as we are supposed to believe that everyone around us is universally spooked, so we should believe that there is an unbroken expert consensus about the likely disaster that is Omicron. European health officials are warning of an Omicron spike, we are told. State and local health officials are urging that holiday gatherings be held outdoors and that all participants get vaccinated, boosted and tested; partygoers should wear masks.
Are there no experts who think that Omicron is not an emerging threat? Apparently not, if you read the mainstream media. If any dissenters do break through, they will be as demonized and silenced by Big Tech as the lockdown skeptics in the scientific community were at the start of the COVID era.
5. Omit relevant context
We hear constantly that 1,300 people are dying a day from COVID. By comparison, about 2,000 people die each day from cancer and 1,600 from heart disease. Their deaths get no coverage. COVID was the leading cause of death in the United States only in January 2021, even among those 85 and older. Since then, it has ranked as the third-most-frequent cause of death both in the overall population and in the elderly.
To read the press coverage, however, you would think that nothing approaches COVID in fierce lethality and that all public resources should be directed to stopping its spread, no matter the costs to the education and socialization of children, to physical and psychological health, and to economic opportunity. Restrictive COVID policies exacerbated sickness in the highest-ranking categories of mortality, a toll that will only grow. Patients put off lifesaving cancer screenings, having been spooked away from medical facilities. Obesity worsened, as gyms were shut down and people barricaded themselves at home, packing on the pounds. Those ever-bigger fatties will be tomorrow’s coronary casualties and COVID victims.
Even those 1,300 daily COVID deaths are an overcount, since public-health reporting counts deaths with COVID as deaths from COVID. Someone who was dying already from cancer will be deemed a COVID death if he happens to contract that more newsworthy disease at the end of his life. Someone who dies of old age will also be counted as a COVID fatality if infected at death.
The average life expectancy in 2019 was less than 79 years. But The New York Times’ maudlin COVID obituaries report the deaths of nonagenarians as COVID fatalities, as if those oldsters would have otherwise lived indefinitely. A 91-year-old jazz pianist was included last week in the “Those We’ve Lost” series, even though he was a stroke victim with numerous long-standing health problems that the COVID virus merely exacerbated.
6. Flog the case count
If the media is obsessing about case count, it means that COVID deaths have been a terrible disappointment. COVID death rates have plunged over the last year and are barely budging in the post-Omicron era. But case counts are a particularly deceptive measure of pandemic severity, when so many of the new cases are mild to asymptomatic. And despite the concerted effort to generate hospital horror stories, hospitalization rates in New York City, the leading wedge of Omicron, remain comparatively low. COVID hospitalization numbers are themselves deceptive for the same reason as COVID death counts: Being admitted to a hospital with COVID is treated as being admitted for COVID.
Nevertheless, the fear-mongering is paying big dividends. Like clockwork, events and businesses in New York City are shutting down, extending the demand for and dependency on government handouts.
Radio City has canceled its entire Christmas run of the Rockettes; expect Mayor de Blasio to pull the plug on the Times Square New Year’s celebration.
Return-to-work schedules are being shelved and entire offices put back on remote work, another severe setback to the revival of Midtown Manhattan.
Outdoor mask-wearing in Manhattan is back up to about 90 percent, based on informal observation. Masked residents of buildings where virtually everyone is vaccinated are refusing entry to the elevator to their fellow residents (also masked), as if a three-second ride to the lobby will provide enough viral dose to be infectious. Grown men are using their knuckles to press elevator buttons.
Perhaps the rest of the country, particularly in red states, will act more rationally toward Omicron. But here in the epicenter of blue-state dominance, we have turned the equivalent of the common cold into a potent weapon against the resumption of civil society.
From The Spectator
Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death
Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.
Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.
Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.
Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”
Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.
ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”
Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.
Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.
Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”
Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence
MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.
But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.
“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’
McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.
Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.
Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.
That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .
When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.
Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”
Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.
“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.
“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’
The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.
Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.
But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.
“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’
The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.
No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.
“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’
Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers
When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.
Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.
This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.
The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.
Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.
To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.
There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.
The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.
Baby steps, though.
Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.
Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.
Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.
Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.
And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.
Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.
Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.
Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.
“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.
On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.
That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.
That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.
It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.
If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.
The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.
“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’
A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.
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