Public Notice: Giddy Optimism

Omicron will save us, Part II

Public Notice: Giddy Optimism

Despite what you may read elsewhere in this issue and beyond, I'm going to double down on my optimism from last week's column: I'm increasingly confident that we're past the worst part of the COVID-19 pandemic, even though these next few weeks still require our urgent continued vigilance and care.

So by all means, read and heed those public health advisories; this is not a good time to get sick, while hospitals and health care workers are again stretched to their limits. Meanwhile, events and shows and other fun social activities are getting canceled one after another, either from caution or because of COVID outbreaks (see "Faster Than Sound"). It sucks but we can live with it. Because taking the longer view, there's increasing evidence that the Omicron wave may recede as rapidly as it has come on, and leave us in much calmer waters once we get to the other side.

Last week I compared COVID to the Spanish flu – a mass killer in 1918-19 that evolved within a few years into what we now know as the seasonal flu. (Apologies for overstating the size of that mass; the Span­ish flu killed an estimated 50 million people, not 500 million as I wrote, but still more than COVID's current toll of 5.5 million.) Since then, data from the current pandemic continues to accumulate to suggest that Omicron may well be COVID-19's next big evolutionary step – becoming more successful by becoming more widespread, but less toxic, than its evolutionary forebears. South Africa and other areas that were hit with sharp early outbreaks of Omicron have seen the hospitalization rates spike, but then drop nearly as fast as they went up, with relatively few deaths overall, and possibly widespread herd immunity in its wake. And it appears that Omicron is crowding out Delta and other more virulent strains – since it thrives in the bronchi and not the lungs, it outcompetes its evil cousins by spreading more easily, while keeping its host (us) alive. Isn't evolution grand?

The five finalists for Emergency Medical Services chief, including interim Chief Jasper Brown, will appear in a public "community input meeting" in Council Chambers at City Hall, from 6 to 7:30pm on Thursday, Jan. 13.

Today, Thursday, Jan. 6, Epiphany Day, the 12th Day of Christmas, also marks the first candidate forum of the year! The city's Ethics Review Commission and the League of Women Voters Austin Area host a forum for the District 4 City Council candidates (read more) – starting at 6pm on ATXN-TV on cable or online, on KAZI 88.7FM, or by telephone in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese (855/756-7520 x78384# for English, x78385# for Spanish, or x78390# for Vietnamese).

The next public meeting on the Project Connect transit buildout, oddly enough, is the Waller Creek Boathouse Relocation Workshop: PARD and the Project Connect team discuss its future because it currently sits right where the Downtown tunnel is going to surface, for the Blue Line connection to the airport. The meeting's via Zoom at 5pm, Tuesday, Jan. 12; all the Project Connect meetings are open to the public, but you must register at

Send gossip, dirt, innuendo, rumors, and other useful grist to nbarbaro at

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