Monday, April 18, 2022

Americans Are Over the Pandemic, Despite the ("Coming") Omicron 2 Wave

I'm over it, but I went to the Book Barn the other day, and the store heavily "recommended" masks and all staff members were masked-up to the hilt. I felt like it was April 2020.

And mind you, this included young people, including a woman at the sales counter who looked like a college student (and thus at extremely low risk of infection).

One good thing I'm noticing is fewer and fewer workers at restaurants --- especially hosts and servers --- are wearing masks. I think things are getting back to normal, and if Democrat states continue mask mandates --- or reimpose them over the summer, when the new "wave" is supposedly expected --- they'll be toying with political death.

At the Wall Street Journal, "BA.2 Proves the Pandemic Isn’t Over, but People Are Over It":

Two years of dealing with Covid-19 have made people tired of taking precautions, getting tested and asking about other people’s status.

BA.2 is spreading in the U.S., although few want to talk about it.

The Omicron subvariant is contributing to school and work absences, yet two years of dealing with Covid-19 have made people tired of taking precautions, getting tested and asking about other people’s status, say physicians, psychologists and behavioral scientists.

If this is a pandemic wave, then many have decided the best response is a weary shrug.

Part of that reaction comes from the fact that while cases are ticking up in some areas, hospitalizations remain low. Research has so far shown most people who are up-to-date with Covid-19 vaccines face little risk of landing in the hospital with BA.2, and prior infection with another variant also bolsters the body’s defenses.

In addition, people in many places got on with their lives long ago and are unwilling to return to a pandemic crouch.

Psychologists say it can be difficult to discern how seriously to take BA.2, given shifting guidance and sometimes difficult-to-parse public-health messaging. That anxiety and uncertainty can result in avoidance, says Dr. Bethany Teachman, a psychologist and director of clinical training at the University of Virginia. Avoidance takes various forms, she says, including refraining from asking friends about Covid exposures to avoid answers people may not want to hear.

Some people say they won’t worry about BA.2 unless it is absolutely clear they need to. Nearly three-quarters of Americans polled by Monmouth University in mid-March agreed that Covid is here to stay, and people should get on with their lives.

Kristin Green, 55 years old, a high-school English teacher in Orange County, N.Y., says when she heard about the BA.2 variant, it felt like the wind was sucked out of her.

“It was like, oh, not again. Come on. We’re finally out together, seeing each other, and I don’t want to have to go back to that,” says Ms. Green. She hopes not to have to don her mask during the school day again.

“If they require it at work, obviously, I will,” she says. “Otherwise, no.”

Some patients are opting out of testing to avoid the financial and social implications of testing positive and missing work or long-awaited travel and events, says Shantanu Nundy, a primary-care physician and chief medical officer at digital healthcare firm Accolade. And some patients who do test positive for Covid-19 don’t want to keep testing until they get a negative result.

“I got a lot of those phone calls when people say, ‘Hey, I’m having a weird cough. It’s probably allergies, right?’ or ‘I’m positive, but it’s been four days and I really don’t have any symptoms. Like I’m sure I’m fine to go on XYZ trip,” he says.

Figures from the Department of Health and Human Services show testing peaked at 7.74 tests per 1,000 people on Jan. 9 and has since declined to 1.91 tests per 1,000 people, according to an analysis from researchers at the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data. These data only account for PCR tests, said researchers, which are lab-reported and easier to track than at-home rapid tests, which have boomed in popularity.

The shift to home testing along with shutdowns in testing sites have made public-health experts concerned that official case tallies are a significant undercount. Natasha Bhuyan, a family physician at One Medical in Phoenix, says some of her patients are unaware how prevalent the virus remains and are surprised when they test positive.

“They come in and they’re like, ‘I think my allergies are acting up, or I have a headache, I’m dehydrated, or I probably have a stomach bug,’ and when I suggest getting a Covid test, people are like, ‘Oh, I don’t think I have Covid,’” says Dr. Bhuyan.

People who do test positive are often confused about whom they should tell and what they should do, as contact-tracing efforts have faded and mandatory precautions have dropped.

When Zach Ruh, 26, a treasury analyst for a tech company in New York City, woke up more fatigued than usual late last month, he chalked it up to jet lag from a recent skiing trip to New Mexico. He happened to pass a pop-up testing site on a grocery-shopping excursion several days later and decided to take a PCR just in case, he says. Two days later, he received a surprising text: He had tested positive...