November 29, 2021

Where omicron has been detected

Dateline – Seattle, Washington

And the media keeps beating the omicron drum, despite the fact we know very little about it as of yet. Things we do know. Cases are rising in South Africa in the area where the new variant originated, but hospitalizations and mortality have not. Whether this is because the population is well protected by vaccination, the virus is less virulent than other strains, or that it is still too early to have seen an increase as hospitalization as an indicator usually lags two to four weeks behind a rise in case load, is simply not known. Cases have been reported on nearly every continent so it appears to be spreading. Because of this, travel bans, while good political theater, are likely too late as the index cases have already arrived and the spread has started.

No cases are yet reported in the USA but that’s more likely because our surveillance testing system is nowhere near as good as other country’s, like South Africa’s. (Our system is ranked 20th world wide by WHO).There is some preliminary evidence that reinfection rates are higher than with other variants, e.g. your natural immunity if you have been previously infected is not enough to block reinfection with omicron. Vaccination acquired immunity appears to be better than infection acquired immunity so our best weapon against morbidity and spread is high vaccination rates. The CDC has recognized this and today stated that all adults 18 and over should have a booster shot, whether or not they are at high risk. They have not made any recommendations yet regarding those younger than 18 but those individuals are all within the initial six month window of their vaccinations.

Humans like certainty. We like to plan ahead. We hate it when faced with the unknown. Unfortunately, omicron, at the moment remains an unknown quantity. It’s too soon to know if holiday plans should be scrapped, travel should be rescheduled, theater should be cancelled or any of the other thousand and one other things that people are starting to ask. My best advice at the moment is to keep planning and moving forward but be flexible as things may change rapidly as we learn more about the variant and its morbidity and possible mortality. It remains a good idea to have plans that involve masking, well ventilated spaces, good hand hygiene, and vaccination.

Today was a day of reveling in the small world phenomenon. I got together with two old friends, neither of whom I had seen in decades. One, with whom I was in high school and whom I became reacquainted with in recent years as he is involved in the opera world, turns out to be cousins with my publisher, a fact I was previously unaware of. The other, who is the daughter of another resident in my father’s senior living facility, was someone who ran around in the same friend group as I back in my medical school days. Not only that, but years before, she was friends with Steve when they were both bohemians in Venice Beach in their 20s. It was fun to reminisce and look back over many decades at where the roads had converged and diverged.

I’ve put in more time on my monologue. It’s all in the brain. I now have to work on making it come out in the right order, without skipping paragraphs or completely jumbling the words around. I can do the whole thing with my cheat sheet (a sheet on which I have the first letter of each word but not the words themselves) and now I have to get it to the next level where that is no longer necessary. I have until the end of the week. I hope I get it, god I hope I get it… At least the next few shows I have lined up don’t have quite so much memorization involved. 9 to 5 happens in late January and I was just asked to do a dream role in late spring. I’m not sure I can talk about that one yet so I won’t. Here’s hoping omicron doesn’t shut us all down again.

I’ve been reading all sorts of essays on line from people, some famous in the theater world, some obscure like yours truly, talking about Sondheim, how he inspired them, coached them, chastised them, corresponded with them, and otherwise touched their lives. His willingness to engage with anyone and everyone to help move forward the art form that he loved and dedicated his life to was exemplary and I can only hope that I will touch a fraction of the number of lives he did for the better by the time I go. A lot of people have shared pictures of their typewritten notes and letters from him over the years (someone said that typewriter needs to go to the Smithsonian and I am in full agreement with that). I’ll look through mine when I get home and see if there are any I feel like sharing with the world. I had finally gotten around to watching Tick, Tick… BOOM just a couple of days before his death and spent last night thinking about it through Mrs. Norman Maine’s eyes and wrote her review. It should be out in a few days.

Tomorrow is a travel day. Hopefully the post Thanksgiving crowds will have died down some. I have my mask, I have my sanitizer, I’ve had my booster, I try not to crowd up on others. I should be OK.

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