Covid’s Omicron variant is spreading like wildfire and impacting holiday plans both here and in Ireland.
Another Covid Christmas is our lot in 2021, yet another year with a dark cloud of disease and death clinging like a thick fog to the landscape.
Last year, we quoted the words of Macbeth’s witches, “something wicked this way comes,” when the first coronavirus wave washed over us in March 2020. Alas, the wickedness has not stopped.
The numbers are staggering, with over 800,000 Americans dead and very likely to pass the million mark sometime in 2022.
To put it in perspective, that’s every man, woman, and child in a city the size of San Francisco. There has not been so much devastation since the pandemic of 1918.
We cannot even say for certain whether Christmas 2023 will be Covid-free. As the new Omicron variant makes clear, the shape-shifting of this particular virus is fiendishly clever -- one month you are dealing with Delta, then the next the culprit is Omicron.
Who knows what will show up after this new wave. We may find ourselves working all the way back to the final Greek letter, Omega.
The weariness and wariness is everywhere once again. An errant cough on a train, a sneeze in a supermarket, a throat-clearing in a waiting room immediately sets us on high alert. As Thomas Paine remarked in a different context, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”
And yet, the human spirit was made to be unconquerable, everlasting, and forever up for the fight. Darwin’s natural selection discovery marked us as the prime survivors on this planet, the only species able to grow, adapt and carry on.
Carry on we do.
We have marvelous scientists who have made enormously important breakthroughs in jig time. We have drug companies like Pfizer and Moderna that have met the staggering challenge of making vaccines available worldwide. We have new efficacious drugs taken orally that can stop the disease in its tracks, drugs that should be available early in the New Year.
The scientific ingenuity has been matched by the millions of health care workers worldwide who have rushed towards the flames and not run away from them. To both groups, we owe an eternal debt.
What of the future in these dying days of 2021? We will never achieve full immunity from Covid; the anti-vaxxers and their mindless minions have seen to that.
The scientific advice is to follow the science but that is a tad disingenuous too as science, like the rest of us, is peering into a glass darkly seeking to find what is really happening.
Nevertheless, the fundamentals apply. Masking, getting vaccinated, and being careful in public spaces is the best way we know to combat the virus.
Unfortunately, however, we do not know where the winning line is. After Omicron, we also do not know what, if any, new devilish version of Covid approaches us.
The lack of that basic knowledge makes this a very uneasy Christmas. We have a new enemy in our midst that so far has been utterly unpredictable and has nonplussed the best scientists as to its future course.
This looks more and more like a marathon and not a sprint. Indeed, it may never be completely resolved but hopefully, the virus will mutate as the 1918 virus did into a far less harmful version.
So we spend yet another Christmas like King Canute trying to turn back the tide. We hope for better days ahead and count on our resilience to overcome all.
The time is late, the people are weary but we can succeed -- indeed we must. Covid must be defeated by any and every means possible.
*This editorial first appeared in the December 22 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.