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No Good Answers to Puzzling COVID Questions

Omicron is creating lots of new COVID questions? Is it really less dangerous? What about long COVID after Omicron? Where are the COVID tests?
No Good Answers to Puzzling COVID Questions
Doctor with a positive blood sample for new variant detected of the coronavirus strain called covid Omicron. Research of new african strains and mutations of the Covid 19 coronavirus in the laboratory

We have been perplexed by several COVID questions that public health authorities can’t seem to answer. These concerns are critically important and deserve attention. But we have not seen a lot of effort devoted to solving these enigmas.

Why Has COVID Almost Disappeared in Japan?

The statistics are startling. Even with an uptick in cases over the last two weeks, Japan only had 76 new coronavirus cases on December 29, 2021. During the entire month of December, there were a total of 28 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

For comparison, there were 452,824 new cases of COVID reported yesterday in the US. The daily average number of deaths this week equals 1,532.

We know that many visitors to this website will immediately point out that the US has a population of 333,897,730 while Japan only has 125,899,777. Even with that population difference, we have way more cases and deaths than Japan on a per capita basis.

Let’s compare apples to apples. The population of Tokyo is 14 million. The population of NYC is nearly 9 million. Tokyo had 46 new cases of COVID on December 28, 2021 and 0 deaths. New York City had 35,830 cases on that same day. The average number of daily COVID-related deaths in NYC this week is 25. Huge difference!

Why Is Japan So Different?

Yes, Japan is an island nation. And yes, Japan blocked entry as soon as Omicron surfaced. But neither of those answers solve the COVID questions. That’s because Japan began a steep decline in cases and deaths in September and maintained the decline through December. That was about the same time the US experienced its 4th wave with the Delta variant. Now we are well into the fifth wave with Omicron. Japan may be starting to see an Omicron increase, but it is way, way, way behind us.

Some experts believe that there are genetic differences that might answer these COVID questions. Perhaps people in Japan have stronger immunity because of their genes. The country has also vaccinated about 80% of its population. And Japanese people tend to be more likely to wear face masks when out in public.

These theories are great, except for the fact that other countries, even some island nations, have not enjoyed the kind of success seen in Japan. These are countries that are also well vaccinated and masked.

Many folks will state that everyone in Japan is taking ivermectin. That is simply not true. There is no evidence that the government has been distributing ivermectin or that the majority of the Japanese people have been taking this drug.

A Japanese scientist has proposed that there is a new COVID variant that is self-destructing in Japan. He believes that it has taken over and can no longer replicate and evolve. You can read about his theory and data at this link.

If would be terrific if this hypothesis answered the COVID questions in Japan. And maybe it’s true. So far, though, there is no evidence that such a variant is emerging any place else. And Omicron may be starting to penetrate the Japanese defenses. Japan still remains a mystery.

Is Omicron Less Dangerous?

A lot of experts are suggesting that Omicron is not that big a deal. Yes, it is infecting an extraordinary number of people in the US, UK, France, Spain, Italy, Canada, Argentina, Denmark, Switzerland, Australia, Greece, Portugal and Ireland. But here are some COVID questions that remain unanswered:

Will Omicron behave like a bad cold or the flu?

In other words, is it a lot milder than other COVID variants?

That was the early suggestion from South Africa (medRxiv, Dec. 27, 2021):

“The increase in Delta variant neutralization in individuals infected with Omicron may result in decreased ability of Delta to re-infect those individuals. Along with emerging data indicating that Omicron, at this time in the pandemic, is less pathogenic than Delta, such an outcome may have positive implications in terms of decreasing the Covid-19 burden of severe disease.”

Scottish researchers report (Dec. 22, 2021):

“These early national data suggest that Omicron is associated with a two-thirds reduction in the risk of COVID-19 hospitalisation when compared to Delta.”

John Bell is a professor of medicine at the University of Oxford. He has suggested that Omicron is fundamentally different from other COVID variants. That’s because he believes it is not causing as many hospitalizations or deaths.

COVID Questions Remain Despite Optimistic Opinions:

If the Omicron variant is less dangerous does that mean our worries are over? Not according to these public health experts:

Dr. Michael Osterholm is the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Zeke Emanuel is vice provost for global initiatives at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. They teamed up to write an opinion piece for the Washington Post (Dec. 30, 2021).

They introduce their article this way:

“The current omicron surge represents one of the greatest public health challenges not only of the pandemic but also of our lifetime. To deal with the surge over the next six to eight weeks, policymakers need to plan for the impact of what could be 1 million cases a day of new infections in the United States.”

We already know that hospitals are short-staffed because so many health workers have caught the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Airlines are grounding thousands of flights because they don’t have adequate staff. Sports leagues are cancelling games. Essential workers are not available to pick up trash, drive buses or subways and carry out other critical tasks.

Where Are the COVID Tests?

Here are some more COVID questions:

Why is there a shortage of home tests for COVID-19?

Katherine Eban wrote a scathing article for Vanity Fair (Dec. 23, 2021). It was titled:

“The Biden Administration Rejected an October Proposal for ‘Free Rapid Tests for the Holidays’”

We have watched with dismay as TV reports show long lines of people waiting to get PCR tests or the 15-minute home tests. Most pharmacies are out of stock.

Katherine points out that the October 25, 2021 plan had:

“a provision for “Every American Household to Receive Free Rapid Tests for the Holidays/New Year.”

What happened? Why aren’t there hundreds of millions of free COVID home tests available in every pharmacy in the country?

Where are the free N95 or KN95 masks?

We have been told that cloth masks just don’t cut it when it comes to the highly transmissible Omicron variant. So, why hasn’t the government created incentives to create high-quality face masks and distribute them free of charge in pharmacies, post offices, clinics and on street corners? If N95 masks work, make them widely available ASAP!

Final COVID Questions:

Why hasn’t the US government tested ivermectin and fluvoxamine against COVID? There are a lot of people who insist ivermectin is the answer to COVID. We have no way of knowing whether that is true because large, well-controlled clinical trials have not been completed.

Here is the most recent systematic review and meta-analysis (Diagnostics, Dec. 14, 2021):

“In conclusion, the available evidence continues to be not adequate to support the use of ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19 in clinical practice.”

I find it disappointing that after a year and a half we do not have data to determine whether this old drug works or is ineffective against COVID infections. Our medical leaders should not trash ivermectin until we have data.

Fluvoxamine was shown in a Brazilian study to work extremely well against COVID infection (Lancet Global Health, Jan. 2022). If fluvoxamine sounds somewhat familiar, it should. This is a chemical cousin of fluoxetine (Prozac). You can read more about it at this link.

Should Doctors Start Prescribing Fluvoxamine for COVID?
Research shows that fluvoxamine for COVID is helpful. What about fluoxetine (Prozac) for COVID? A new study suggests that it too may work!

Why haven’t the movers and shakers in American medicine explored the possible benefits of fluvoxamine? It is widely available and inexpensive.

Where Are the New Antivirals?

We are still waiting for Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir plus ritonavir) from Pfizer and Legevrio (molnupiravir) from Merck. Both companies knew that they were likely to get Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA. They could have been ramping up production six months ago. Why aren’t these pills on pharmacy shelves now?

Want to learn more about these antiviral medicines? Here is a link:

What You Should Know About New Antiviral COVID Pills
If you are wondering about the new antiviral COVID pills, Paxlovid and molnupiravir (Legevrio), we’ve got you covered with this in-depth info

Will People who Catch Omicron Develop Long COVID?

Here is another important concern amidst all the other COVID questions. Will people who catch the Omicron variant be susceptible to long COVID? It is also known as Long-haul COVID, Post-Covid Syndrome (PCS). Post-Acute Sequelae SARS-CoV-2 (PASC), Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome (PACS).

With so many people coming down with the Omicron variant, will millions more develop this devastating condition? If you want to learn more about long COVID, here is a link.

Long Covid Is Common and Scary!
Data from both the UK and the US suggest that many patients recovering from COVID-19 suffer persistent symptoms. Long COVID is nasty!

We need to know if many of the people catching Omicron will be susceptible to long COVID!

Final Words:

These are just a few of our COVID questions. There are lots more where those came from. Do you have any COVID questions of your own? If so, please share them in the comment section below.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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