Movin’ on to Omicron

Just when things seemed fine, a new virus arrives

Kamron Spivey

Buckle up, boys and girls, it’s time for a new edition of COVID-19, and just in time for the holidays! That’s right, while you were shamelessly enjoying Thanksgiving with the family you weren’t allowed to see last year, a new variant of the world’s favorite dead horse made an appearance. But the Omicron variant is so different and so deadly that within a day of a single case entering the United States, it caused federal mask mandates to be extended through March. And since the World Health Organization has not yet found evidence suggesting increased severity or transmissibility of Omicron, we should totally panic and shut everything down again. Let’s just cancel Christmas while we are at it; that’ll show the virus who’s boss!

Or, I propose a logical alternative: we continue to live our lives and stop feeding into the media’s scare tactics. Those of us old enough and sensible enough to remember what happened six months ago might recall the infamous Mu variant. But despite the panic sparked by sensationalist news companies, Mu quickly disappeared (from both the world, and—apparently—the short attention span of Americans). It is too early on to definitively say whether Omicron will be as underwhelming as Mu, but we must remember that this variant is not the new plague. Most of the world has gotten used to COVID-19 over the past two years, and our knowledge of the virus and resistance to different strands have grown substantially.

You might be wondering what happened to the strands after Mu; after all, Greek 101 and your STEM classes have taught a lot of you the Greek letters. Don’t worry, the World Health Organization decided simply to skip a couple letters: Nu and Xi. They skipped Nu because it sounds too much like “new,” even though that seems appropriate for a literally new variant. They skipped Xi because that is a common name. And since over half of Americans (according to POLITICO) believe that China released COVID-19—either accidentally or intentionally—the World Health Organization probably did not want to name the new strand after China’s president, Xi Jinping. 

All conspiracy theories aside, the World Health Organization’s logic makes little sense because countless people and companies have appropriated antiquity’s classical vocabulary. Coronavirus associates a deadly disease with a number of famous businesses and products—such as the Mexican-brewed Corona. Likewise, Delta Airlines abstained from using the term “Delta” variant, worrying it might blemish their professional brand. If you think this debate over these names is petty, think about how much modern culture as a whole obsesses over constantly changing terminology and political correctness.

No matter the name, the new variant will get a lot of attention from both liberal and conservative personalities. Some will exaggerate it and some will undermine it—but none will give it less attention than they still give Trump…I mean, really, move on already. As for me, I just want everyone to calm down, wash our hands and make well-advised medical decisions. Let’s hope that we can soon move on from Omicron.