This is a somewhat rare case where the biggest American political story of the week just passed actually occurred outside the United States. It gets even more unusual from there. A holiday Friday – and make no mistake Black Friday has become a quasi holiday in America – is usually a rather slow news day. Black Friday 2021 was anything but!
Most American media was in a semi-slumber over the Thanksgiving holiday so the first I picked up on the news was via The Guardian, a British publication. Scientists reported a new variant of the coronavirus coming out of Africa. In scientific jargon it is B.1.1.529. It quickly was renamed the Omicron variant. I am not a scientist nor is this a scientific column. There are other sources I recommend going to if that is the information path you seek to go down. I want to talk about some of the political and economic ramifications.
While the jury is still out, scientist fear this variant is much more communicable than even the Delta variant. We really don’t know if it is the “Doomsday variant” people like me have feared – one that our current vaccines are not effective against. Time will tell.
As of this writing there are confirmed cases in Hong Kong and the UK in addition to several African countries. It would be safe to assume it has already spread to the United States and the cases just haven’t been confirmed yet. We are in a global economy and global travel is too frequent for it not to be.
Several countries including the United States have or are in the process of restricting entry for people traveling from several of the African countries where cases have been confirmed. I’ll briefly explore the case of the United States. I commend President Biden in both the timing and degree of his actions (baring travel from several African countries that have experienced confirmed infections but, of necessity, he left two large loopholes: an exception for American citizens returning home and a small time delay). The reality is that if you wait until you know what is happening it is too late and there is no way to turn back the hands of time.
I am among the first to say that the stock market is not the economy but it is worth noting that the Dow lost just over 900 points on Friday which was attributed to this news. The reality is that if a bad enough variant breaks out the economy will be largely shut down regardless of government action.
This situation illustrates the larger picture. By definition a pandemic is global. Either we vaccinate everyone or we protect no one. Given enough time this virus will mutate into a form we cannot control. Let’s just hope Omicron isn’t that form.
Domestically the best action is as medically close to total vaccination as possible and that includes a mandate simply because a large enough portion of America lacks the common sense to protect itself and the morality to protect its neighbors.
I believe in America first but certainly not America alone. We need to vaccinate every American other than the well less than 2% who have a legitimate medical reason not to be vaccinated. Then we have to do everything humanly possible to vaccinate the rest of the world. It’s as glaringly simple as that. Let’s hope Omicron is not as bad as feared and we still have the time.
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