(Noam Galai/Getty Images)

Bringing Sanity to the Omicron Chaos

Talking to three doctors who have been islands of reason in a sea of confusion.

I have hit a wall with Covid.  

I’ve done every stage of this pandemic: The “Tiger King” stage, the 10,000 steps a day phase, the adopting a dog phase, the regret of having adopted a dog phase, and the inability to imagine my life without the dog phase. And the sweatpants phase that I truly worry will never end.

I wore the mask (sometimes two). I sprayed down the groceries (remember that?). I’ve had my nostrils violated countless times. I’ve canceled plans. I’ve stayed home. And I got the vaccine the moment I could.

But two weeks and some 650 days into “flattening the curve,” I’m done. I don’t care what cable news is blaring on about these days: In this house, Covid is over. On New Year’s Eve, do you know who we hosted? Two beloved friends who were positive for Omicron and stuck at home alone with mild colds. I feel great about that decision. (And I’m still negative.)

But I’m out of step with my city. When I am asked to show my vaccine card at a bar—even though that says nothing about whether or not I’m actively transmitting Covid—I want to laugh. When I eat at a restaurant where the diners are unmasked but the staff are forced to don stormtrooper headgear and gloves, I wonder if people realize what this looks like. Or when friends ask me to swab my nose so we can hang out, well, I’ll do it only because I try to be polite.

Those of you reading this in states like Florida and Texas are probably patting yourself on the backs for your wise life choices. Which, fair enough. But for many of us in America, our lives are still being controlled by the pandemic. And the irrationality of the policies and conversations around Covid—irrationality that comes from our public health authorities, from our schools and our workplaces, from our local governments and our media—is making skeptics out of even the most compliant.

The medical establishment remains singularly focused on this virus, even as life-saving vaccines have been available to every adult in America who wants them for almost a year now. Meanwhile, other problems go ignored. Overdose deaths have soared. People have failed to get timely treatment for cancer. There is a growing mental health crisis, especially among young people. Kids have fallen behind in school. And this is to say nothing of lost time. Two years is not insignificant. Our priorities right now feel off. 

What gives? Why do things seem so nonsensical? Who should we trust? How can we get back to normal—or at least some semblance of normal? And how can we do it responsibly and safely? 

To answer these questions—plus yours! bring them all!—we’re hosting a roundtable discussion this evening (8 PM EST/5 PM PST) with three doctors who have been islands of sanity in a sea of misinformation and confusion. 

Dr. Vinay Prasad is an associate professor of epidemiology at UCSF. In September, he was a guest on Honestly.

Dr. Stefan Baral is a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

Dr. Lucy McBride is a practicing internist in Washington DC, mental health advocate, and author of a popular COVID-19 newsletter. You might have caught this excellent clip of her from Brian Stelter’s show:

I’m really looking forward to it.

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