US not equipped to control Omicron

By Mitchell Blatt
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, December 17, 2021
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A pedestrian walks past the entrance of an emergency room of a hospital in New York, the United States, Dec. 13, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

As an American living in South Korea, I haven't been back to the United States since the end of January. But I can tell just from watching American football that my birth country is doing a lousy job handling coronavirus.

Every early Monday morning (Sunday in the States), I saw stadiums crowded with 70,000 shouting spectators, very few of them wearing masks. Given the extremely high rate of coronavirus cases, the U.S. is suffering – about 820,000 new cases every week – a couple hundred of them were indeed carrying the coronavirus and spreading it.

It's not speculation to say that coronavirus is spiking like crazy (once again) in the United States. New daily cases hit 200,000 on Dec. 13. That's high even by American standards – the highest since September – and extremely high by international standards. 

On Dec. 13, 36 NFL players tested positive for coronavirus in a single day, or more than 2% of all the players in the league. That's significantly higher than the percentage of Americans in the general population who tested positive. But NFL players get tested frequently, which suggests that the actual number of coronavirus cases spreading unknown in America is much higher.

Why do I spend so much time thinking about football? I am using it as an example because it is a good representation of American culture and life. It's the most popular sport in America by far and one of the most popular entertainment options, too. The most popular TV shows in America are the weekly NFL games every year. Across the country, millions of people gather to eat, drink and watch the games. The football industry (professional and collegiate) was one of the forces that helped push America towards "reopening" and dropping the limited COVID-19 control measures existed.

When you look at those crowds of college fans running onto the field and pushing right into the person next to them just because their team won, you can see America is not equipped to handle the coronavirus outbreak. With Omicron spreading faster than any variant ever before, it will worsen.

The federal government has limited power to make health policy in America, as the 50 states take charge. Federal courts have even interfered with President Biden's authority to mandate vaccines for workers.

Many leaders of Republican-led states don't care about slowing down the spread of coronavirus, so they do not do anything, and the virus can quickly spread beyond their borders. For the past two years, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem even encouraged people to flock from out of state to an anti-mask motorbike rally.

Some Democratic states have reimposed mask mandates this week, including New York and California. But they already ended mask mandates this past summer. So, do I think drunk Los Angeles Rams fans are suddenly going to begin wearing masks because of an unenforced rule? The security guards won't even try.

Long-time foreign correspondent Chris Hedges has said that Americans live in an empire of fantasy. He was speaking of America's economic policy and foreign policy, but it applies, too, to its response to the pandemic. They just pretend it doesn't exist. 

Governor Noem filmed a tourism promotion last year (before the vaccine was even in production, it bears remembering) in which she said, "Less Covid. More hunting." She was one of many governors who opened up her state completely and dropped all restrictions.

After hearing the government declare victory preemptively, few Americans will listen to those urging a return to coronavirus control policies, no matter how limited. And most states are not reimplementing control policies.

Vaccines are being distributed, of course, and Omicron is less likely to infect vaccinated people than unvaccinated people. But it is more likely to infect vaccinated people than the previous variants were. 

The NFL claims to have achieved a vaccination rate of 90% among its players, which sounds exaggerated. But many of the players who were infected were vaccinated. The U.S. as a whole has a relatively low rate of just 60% fully vaccinated. That is behind more than a dozen countries, including many that are poorer and almost all that started their vaccination programs after the U.S. Yet many of those countries with high vaccination rates are seeing coronavirus spike right now.

The U.S. won't fare much better.

Mitchell Blatt is a columnist with For more information please visit:

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