A trifecta of good news came on Wednesday. There’s this potentially game-changing COVID pill authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and some encouraging new data that shows omicron may not be as ominous as it seems. And a bonus: there’s even been a rare moment of harmony between President Biden and Trump.
Never say never.
To state the obvious, this country could use some doses of good news as now see omicron speckle the map of America. This variant arrived 22 days ago and has spread to all 50 states — including D.C and Puerto Rico — but that shouldn’t necessarily be as frightening as it looks.
This week, the White House COVID task force highlighted data from South Africa, where omicron was first detected, that shows this new strain poses a 70% lower risk of severe diseases than the delta variant.
“In the context of South Africa, there is a decrease in the severity compared to delta, both in the both in the relationship and ratio between hospitalizations and numbers of infections, the duration of hospital stay, and the need for supplemental oxygen therapy,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci at a press conference on Wednesday.
He also pointed to data from Scotland that appears to back it up: That study found a two-thirds reduction in the risk of COVID hospitalizations when compared to delta.
So, that’s welcome news. Perhaps as omicron spreads like wildfire with a significantly less severe punch than delta, as a society we’ll be more likely to develop some sort of herd immunity, although nothing is certain with the virus.
And on top of that, the first-ever pill to treat COVID-19 has just been authorized by the FDA. Called Paxlovid, it’s an antiviral drug developed by Pfizer that is proven to reduce hospitalizations and death. It will be available sometime next month.
How does it work?
Symptomatic people can take it at home before they get sick enough to be hospitalized, and it’s been greenlit for children ages 12 and above. A similar pill developed by Merck is still under review.
This is great, and once again a credit to science and the scientists developing these lifesaving tools. And yet, this trio of good news comes as we learn COVID was the third leading cause of death in America last year. Heart disease was number one, then cancer, then the coronavirus — accounting for more than 10 percent of all the deaths in 2020.
Of course, the Pfizer pill won’t prevent infection, but neither do vaccines entirely. Still, shots are our most crucial protection, but President Biden keeps hitting a concrete wall with the unvaccinated on that front.
We recently showed an alarming Kaiser Health survey. 48 percent of unvaccinated adults say “Nothing” — zilch, nada — would ever convince them to get the shot. “Jesus himself would have to come down from heaven and speak with” her personally to get her vaccinated, said one respondent.
We could use some divine intervention right now. Too many still won’t get on board the vaccine train. But might it move any of the holdouts now that Trump and President Biden are playing nice with one another?
One of the most persuasive moments of President Biden’s plea to the unvaxxed was when he tipped his hat to his predecessor this week.
“Thanks to the prior administration and our scientific community, America was one of the first countries to get the vaccine,” said President Biden during a speech on Tuesday. “Just the other day President Trump announced he had gotten the booster shot. [This] may be one of the few things he and I agree on.”
This wasn’t the first time Biden’s acknowledged the vaccines were developed on Trump’s watch, but it definitely caught the former president’s attention.
Here’s what he told Fox News in response to Biden giving him credit.
“I’m very appreciative of that. I was surprised to hear it… I think it was a terrific thing, and I think it makes a lot of people happy… I think he did something very good… you know, it has to be a process of healing in this country, and that will help a lot.”
Would it have made any difference if Trump and Biden had played nice all along? One can wonder.