News of the new Covid variant is overwhelming, but there’s still a lot we don’t know

The Thanksgiving blessing on Thursday was followed by a curse on Friday: Urgent news of a new Covid variant called Omicron. The fact that “we know almost nothing about the Omicron variant,” as this headline on The Atlantic’s website is helpful Statuses. But the sudden reactions to the news — stock sell-offs, travel restrictions, endless Twitter threads — made Omicron the weekend’s top story across all sorts of websites and news networks.
Now, the world is in a kind of information hold, as reflected by this banner on CNN Sunday afternoon: “QUESTIONS & INTERESTS BUT STILL CLEARING DATA ON THE NEW COVID VARIABLE.” Sociologist Zeynep Tufekci puts it this way: “South Africa gave us an early warning with Omicron. But the earlier the warning, the less we knew.”
Author and podcaster Derek Thompson, one of the smartest voices on media and society, said Sunday that “the gap between information and meaning at this point in the story of Omicron is huge. Impressive but also inaccessible lots of genetic and virological data with the big picture being ‘we don’t really know what any of this means yet.’ ” to add, “there’s something odd about this kind of newsstore, where information is abundant but meaningful is scarce, and the only sensible thing is *not* to draw conclusions from a multitude of facts.”

Yes – but that’s hard to do when the information seems alarming and is repeated all over the media.

Two weeks of waiting

“Wait two weeks” seems to be the consensus at the moment. Dr. Paul Burton, the medical director of Moderna, told CNN’s Paula Reid on Sunday, “We’ve got to go through a couple of weeks of uncertainty here.” The White House announcement of President Biden’s meeting with Dr. Anthony Fauci and members of his Covid Response Team also made the same point: “Dr Fauci has informed the President that it will be lost. In about two weeks for more precise information on the transmission, severity and other characteristics of the variant, he continues to believe that currently available vaccines are likely to provide some degree of protection against severe cases of Covid.” So in the meantime, boost up if you haven’t already. “There’s no reason to panic, but it’s a great reason to push,” NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins told Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”

Biden Governance Is In “Texting Constraints”

On Sunday Dan Diamond of the Washington Post Was observed that “in interviews, officials continue to acknowledge that Omicron (and the current data shortage) presents a constraint on the message.” No one wants to be unnecessarily alarmed, Diamond said, “but failing to warn about potential risks is a greater sin for public health, especially if current actions can protect People.”
Politico’s Alex Thompson said on CNN’s “Inside Politics” that he spoke to a White House official late Saturday “and the phrase they used over and over was ‘We’re not going to get caught with flat feet. ” to Fox, CBS to CNN. But what hasn’t been answered, Thompson said, is that “they were caught by Delta” last summer. Risky now, he to add on Twitter, is “they are over-repairing.”

Please inform, do not speculate

Oliver Darcy wrote: “When there are information gaps – coupled with the need to fill cable news, attract attention when reading news stories, and satisfy SEO gods – that can be undermined. That’s been pretty clear over the past few years. Actual data is scarcer than speculations about what this variation will mean for the world in the future. But journalists, especially Newsroom leaders, news reporters, should resist the temptation of exaggerated conjecture.We still have very little knowledge of what the New Variation could mean for the world. Shocking the public by presenting worst-case scenarios in stories and amplifying the scientific community’s worst fears in articles and headlines is not the way to go. deserves better.”

Expert reviews

– When I asked CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner if Omicron should be the main story right now, he said are not, “because it’s a purely speculative story. We’ll have data from really hard-working scientists over the next few weeks to help inform how we can bring this new variant to life. into context…”
– Epidemiologist David Dowdy of Johns Hopkins criticized some of his colleagues over the weekend: “In this situation — where the data is early and the social impact is big — scientists have a duty not to be oversold. And we’re doing exactly that. Shame on us. I …”
– Dr. Peter Hotez, regular presence on cable news, said on MSNBC “my biggest concern” is not Omicron, but “we’re about to experience another big winter Delta …”
– “I have come to the conclusion that people like to panic”, science journalist Erin Biba comment. She called it “completely and utterly tiresome that doomsday headlines and uninformed reporters create mass hysteria before we have any details or information. Let’s always. wait! Before you panic, wait until you have more information…”

“Two years on this horror show”

New York Times reporter Stephanie Nolen left South Africa on Thursday after spending time with scientists there – and ended live reporting from a plane that had been quarantined on the runway in Amsterdam. She write that “Europe seemed to panic” about the variant news “while I was somewhere over the Sahara; by the time we landed we were told we wouldn’t be allowed to get off the plane.” She eventually tested negative and was allowed to continue to Canada.
On Sunday afternoon, Nolen complete her multi-day Twitter thread by saying she is “choosing to self-isolate, in AirBnB and continue testing, after airport contact I have obtained permission from Dutch authorities .” She expressed frustration with Dutch and British officials, plus those on her flight who weren’t wearing masks, “even when I begged and KNEW us everyone tested positive”. She wrote, “Two years after this horror show, we just have to get smarter and better manage. I don’t know how you get people to care about each other.”

“Covid is everything”

On Sunday’s “Reliable Sources,” I spoke with Chris Arnade, the banker turned photographer who now walks the streets of American towns and writes about the what he hears and learns. He commented on how Covid is the main drag on voters’ perception of Biden: “Covid is everything.” It’s clear that those three words apply to more than Biden’s approval rating. Covid continues to be the storyline throughout every story, every struggle.

And those who feel forgotten, who feel exploited by the “elite,” feel like Covid-era policies have benefited the Zoom elite and punished them, Arnade said. “There is a huge skepticism towards institutions,” he added, “and Covid has made that skepticism worse.”


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