This year, I spent New Year’s Eve in the Emergency Room.
More accurately, in the ER parking lot behind the hospital — Covid protocols only allow the patient seeking care into the ER (not family). Security very politely escorted me outside to impatiently await an update.
My wife was on antibiotics for an infection for a few days, but thanks to her prior antibiotic regime (Lyme) this bug was resistant. Her pain had increased all week to the point that by New Year’s Eve it was unbearable, and so off we went to a non-trauma hospital ER.
That turned out to be a fortuitous choice. The hospitals around us had been filling up with Covid patients (nationally they are at record highs). Despite 80.6% of New Yorkers being fully vaccinated, the state’s 24-hour positivity rate that day was 22.24%. Estimates of Omicron’s regional prevalence are running between 92-99%. It seems to evade prior vaccinations (but with far milder results). It is sending more children to the hospital. We heard lots of stories of other major hospitals where there were no beds available.
She was one of two patients in the ER (Northwell continues to impress as a private hospital). She was taken care of quickly and efficiently, despite the NYE/Covid circumstances.
With an IV bag of antibiotics and painkillers dripping into her arm, she texted me “Happy New Year” from her hospital bed. I looked at the dashboard clock of her car, snapped a pic + texted it back to her. About 2 hours later they released her, and we went home to crash.
Omicron presents the starkest warning yet about mutations. The good news is people who catch it are at a 70% lower risk of severe illness compared to Delta. The bad news is it’s wildly virulent, at least 4X Delta’s infection rate; Prior Covid-19 infections provide little in the way of protection; those recovering unvaxxed are 10X more likely to catch Omicron than prior variants.
Unvaccinated people around the world have become mutation factories. Its real-time evolution of an aggressive, iterative adaption via endless variations. Virii do not require intelligence; they are not purposeful; like all infectious pathogens, the replicate process is strictly an adaptive evolutionary fitness test. This is why the anti-Vaxx crowd is so pernicious — they are helping to create conditions leading to future variants — and these may not be as survivable as Omicron has been.
Maybe we dodged a bullet. In many parts of the country, not only is elective surgery getting canceled, but emergency medical care is becoming unavailable. We were lucky to find an ER that could take us (always good to avoid sepsis shock). Others have not been as fortunate. There have been too many news stories of people getting turned away from ERs to die at home from treatable conditions. Hospitalizations due to Omicron are running 95%+ unvaccinated across the country. Manufactured ignorance is leading to terrible medical outcomes for those who have chosen to remain at risk, and for the entire medical system straining under avoidable hospitalizations. My wife is fine. She ran her course of treatment and fully recovered. Others may not be so fortunate.
If you choose to remain unvaccinated you not only risk your own health, but you put others at grave risk as well.
If we are lucky, Omicron will spike mid-January, and rapidly burn itself out. (To repeat: If we are lucky). But this may not protect us from future variants, some of which might be even more dangerous.
This is not how we wanted to ring in the new year.
COVID Deaths Per Million (July 2020-Present) (January 9, 2022)
The Economic Risks from Anti-Vaxxers (July 15, 2021)
DELTA is Coming For Your Economic Recovery (August 13, 2021)
How F*cked Is Business Travel? (August 11, 2021)