A Variant: Age Of Omicron | Crooked Media
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November 30, 2021
What A Day
A Variant: Age Of Omicron

In This Episode

  • Over the last 24 hours, world leaders and health officials had more to say about the Omicron variant, even as we wait for more scientific information to come out. The World Health Organization said in part that Omicron poses a “very high” global risk, and multiple countries have imposed controversial travel restrictions. President Biden made his first remarks about Omicron yesterday and emphasized that people should get fully vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible.
  • And in headlines: Jack Dorsey stepped down as Twitter’s CEO, leftist presidential candidate Xiomara Castro took the electoral lead in Honduras, and new evidence showed Chris Cuomo used his connections to gather info for his brother Andrew Cuomo’s defense team.






Gideon Resnick: It’s Tuesday, November 30th. I’m Gideon Resnick.


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice, and this is What A Day, where we’re still supporting Matthew McConaughey in his race to be governor of acting.


Gideon Resnick: Yes, he said that he’s out of the Texas race, but we would still like to see him in the great big governor’s mansion called Hollywood, California.


Josie Duffy Rice: To sign in laws that say “lights, camera action.” You know what I mean?


Gideon Resnick: I do know what you mean. On today’s show, Jack Dorsey steps down as Twitter CEO. Plus, the leftist presidential candidate in Honduras has the lead in early election results.


Josie Duffy Rice: But first, we have more on the latest on the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. Ever heard of it?


Gideon Resnick: No.


Josie Duffy Rice: Over the last 24 hours, world leaders and health officials had more to say about it, even as we wait for more scientific information to come out. Here’s Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the World Health Organization, yesterday:


[clip of WHO DG Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus] We shouldn’t need another wake-up call. We should all be wide awake to the threat of this virus. But Omicron’s very emergence is another reminder that although many of us might think we are done with COVID-19, it’s not done with us.


Josie Duffy Rice: That is not the best thing to hear.


Gideon Resnick: No.


Josie Duffy Rice: Gideon, can you say a little bit more about what else the WHO had to say?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so they put out this so-called quote unquote, “technical brief” on Sunday, getting into the variant and what they know a little bit more. And they said in part that Omicron poses a quote unquote, “very high” global risk. Now there’s a lot more to it. The warning to member states was essentially that the many mutations that scientists had detected in the variant quote, “may confer immune escape potential and possibly transmissibility advantage.” In common English that means it might be better at evading vaccines and natural immunity and might be better at being transmitted. But again, there are lots of “ifs” and “mights” here in the early days. They mentioned that much is still unknown at the moment. To that point, namely, some of the very questions that we were discussing with Dr. Abdul El-Sayed on yesterday’s show: how easily does this spread, is there actually vaccine evasion, does it result in differences in illness, how do current treatments work against it? We’re probably going to know a lot more about all of that in the next week or two.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, so it seems like clarity is coming, but we don’t have it quite yet. So given all of that uncertainty, Gideon, What did the WHO advise countries to do?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so for one thing, to amp up these surveillance and sequencing efforts—the very thing that allowed South Africa to identify Omicron in the first place and quickly alert the world. Additionally to accelerate vaccination campaigns, particularly among vulnerable populations. The WHO also reemphasize testing and tracing as a vital tool to track Omicron, and that’s one that has kind of fallen by the wayside in some places where the pandemic had seemed like it was beginning to wind down. They also said that they were planning to issue more travel guidance in the days to come.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. So can you talk a little bit more about what other travel restrictions have emerged in just the last day or so?


Gideon Resnick: It really is a lot. To name just a few because they’re changing pretty rapidly. Switzerland said that on Monday, all travelers who arrived from a country in which Omicron has been detected would need to quarantine for 10 days. Then Japan joined some of the more restrictive nations like Israel and Morocco in banning all foreign travelers. Australia delayed the reopening of its borders for two weeks to get a chance to study Omicron more in depth.


Josie Duffy Rice: And also, as we talked about yesterday, right, the policy of travel restrictions more broadly is becoming more controversial.


Gideon Resnick: It is. Officials at WHO and some public health officials in South Africa continue to criticize these bans. The WHO specifically mentioned that they could have the unintended consequence of actually keeping countries from alerting other nations to discoveries they might make. Malawi’s president went a step further, calling the bans quote unquote, “afrophobia.”


Josie Duffy Rice: Wow. Yes. So this is a lot, a lot of information. Let’s circle back to the US, where cases of Omicron have not yet been identified, though Canada announced on Sunday that cases had been detected there. So President Biden made his first remarks about Omicron yesterday. What exactly did he say?


Gideon Resnick: He said, basically, don’t panic.


[clip of President Biden] This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic. We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists, and we’re learning more every single day.


Josie Duffy Rice: Love to hear that. Thanks, Bidey.


Gideon Resnick: Right. So he also emphasized that people should get fully vaccinated, and that people 18 and older who were fully vaccinated before June 1st get a booster shot.


Josie Duffy Rice: And that’s a little bit new, right, on the booster recommendation? So what does the CDC have to say about that?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So overall here the CDC is strengthening its recommendations on boosters to say that all American adults quote, “should get one.” That means if you are 18 and older and six months past for vaccination with Pfizer or Moderna, they’re saying you should get a booster. And if you’re two months past J&J, that is the recommendation as well. So they had previously said that certain categories of adults, quote unquote, “may” get one if they want, but this subtle change in language seems to reflect the growing concerns about Omicron. There’s also reporting that Pfizer is going to seek authorization for a booster for 16 and 17-year olds to expand the pool more.


Josie Duffy Rice: OK, so that makes sense. So then what else did Biden have to say about it?


Gideon Resnick: A lot of the same stuff that we have been hearing throughout all of this. You know, people should wear masks in indoor public settings. And here’s what Biden had to say when asked about the possibility of mitigation efforts like lockdowns:


[speaker] Are lockdowns off the table?


[clip of President Biden] Yes. For now, yes.


[speaker] Why? Why is that?


[clip of President Biden] Well, because if people are vaccinated and wear their mask, there’s no need for lockdown.


Gideon Resnick: So Biden also said that the administration was working with vaccine manufacturers on the possibility of new shots that could be tailored to the variant. But given what is currently known, that might not be necessary. We’re expecting to hear more on Thursday about a broader plan for the winter when Biden visits the National Institutes of Health.


Josie Duffy Rice: Well, the good news is if you tell people in America to wear their masks, they will do it. So I guess we’re out of the woods on that one. So let’s go back to South Africa, where the Omicron variant was first identified. Can you tell us a little bit more about what we’ve learned there?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, there’s a lot of different pieces here. So for one thing, an epidemiologist in South Africa said on Monday that children under two years old represented a pretty significant chunk of new cases and hospitalizations, although there is some lack of clarity as to whether that is due to Omicron or Delta, with the hope that scientists can get more info in the coming days. Also, The New York Times talked to some South African public health officials, who said that there is still not enough information to answer some key questions that we’ve been bringing up about transmission and severity. Though there has been a considerable rise in hospitalizations in Pretoria over the past couple of weeks, even as it remains unclear if that is from Omaha. They’re kind of monitoring this as they go. So a lot to keep track of here and a lot more still to learn, of course.


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, thank you for that Gideon. I feel like there’s a lot that we’re hearing. It’s hard to sort through all that noise and obviously there are still a lot of questions, but this is helpful.


Gideon Resnick: Yes, I hope so. I certainly left with more questions, for sure. So we’re going to have our eyes on all of that. But that is the latest for now. We will be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Gideon Resnick: New evidence shows that CNN anchor Chris Cuomo used his powerful journalistic connections to gather information for his brother Andrew Cuomo’s defense team behind the scenes. He is still employed. Yesterday, New York Attorney General Letitia James released several damning text messages between Chris and former Andrew Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa. In their conversations, Chris insisted that he help prepare the former New York governor’s response when sexual harassment allegations first surfaced earlier this year. He still has his job. DeRosa also asked Chris to find out what journalist Ronan Farrow was planning to write about Andrew and a then-unpublished piece. Chris Cuomo did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but CNN issued a statement yesterday regarding the documents, saying quote, “We will be having conversations and seeking additional clarity about their significance as they relate to CNN over the next several days.”


Josie Duffy Rice: I love that statement. It is so vague.


Gideon Resnick: Yep.


Josie Duffy Rice: So much assurance. Early polling results from the Honduras presidential election show leftist candidate Xiomara Castro as the race’s front runner, with more than half of the vote. Polls close Sunday night after Hondurans showed up in record numbers with the highest voter turnout the Republic has seen in decades. As of recording this, Castro has 53% of the votes compared to her opponent, Nasry Asfura, who lags behind with only 39%. The stakes are high in this election, as a results will decide who will replace the current, and deeply unpopular, President Juan Orlando Hernandez. For the past eight years, Hernandez has drawn heavy criticism from the public for his authoritarian policies and alleged drug trafficking. If elected, Castro will be the first woman president of the Republic of Honduras and the first candidate to be democratically elected on an openly socialist platform. We won’t know the results for days, but according to The Associated Press, both parties have already claimed victory for their candidates. The best part about being a candidate is just claiming victory, you know?


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, you win if you participate. I suppose.


Josie Duffy Rice: That’s, everybody gets a participation trophy.


Gideon Resnick: Yes. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey is stepping down as the company’s CEO effective immediately, and I have some personal news I would like to share. The 45-year old, known for his long beard, love of bitcoin, and staunch opposition to eating a traditional number of meals per day, made the surprise announcement yesterday morning. He posted a screenshot of his resignation to Twitter that said quote, “I decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders.” For the past few years, investors criticized Dorsey for not being focused enough on Twitter. He is also the CEO of another public company, the digital payments app Square, and Dorsey was nearly ousted last year by shareholders who wanted a new CEO. The social media company’s chief technology officer, Parag Agarwal, will take over Dorsey’s position, and Dorsey will remain on the board until his term expires next year. Twitter is in the midst of a revamp and recently launched a slew of products, including subscription-based newsletters and live audio.


Josie Duffy Rice: In what’s being called the most British winter emergency of all time, 61 relative strangers got snowed into a pub for three days straight in the company of an Oasis cover band.


Gideon Resnick: Amazing.


Josie Duffy Rice: It all began last Friday when the unsuspecting Brit-pop fans gathered in Yorkshire Tan Hill Inn to see “Noasis”—love the name. Before the show ended, three-foot high piles of snow had blocked the exits and the roads outside weren’t safe to travel, creating the conditions that would lead them to listen to live renditions of this song for the next 72 hours:


[clip of Oasis’s Wonderwall]


Gideon Resnick: Wow.


Josie Duffy Rice: I think I could do three days of that song, I think I’d be fine. I think I’d love it.


Gideon Resnick: I think so too. Yeah, I would have a great time.


Josie Duffy Rice: In addition to being entertained by the band, the inn’s general manager Nicola Townsend said people passed the time by watching “Mamma Mia!”, singing Karaoke, and staying on their strong British brand by enjoying roast dinners. A snowplow had cleared out the pub’s exits by yesterday morning, but people were emotional as they said goodbye, having formed strong bonds in their English ice prison. Meanwhile, all of Britain could be trapped in their own homes without liquor this Christmas. The country’s Wine and Spirit Trade Association warned that there aren’t enough drivers to meet the demand of alcohol deliveries in the UK, which could lead to a shortage on black and tans, gin and tonics and the popular British cocktail called “The Queen’s Medicine”. So heads up to our mates across the pond. Dry January could be coming early this year.


Gideon Resnick: Hearing reports that Liam Gallagher responded to both stories by saying” Fuck, that is ballocks.


Josie Duffy Rice: That’s a great joke.


Gideon Resnick: Thank you, thank you very, very much. And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go: do you have strong opinions about What A Day to go with that strong cup of coffee in your hand? Well, now is your chance to let us know. They better be nice.


Josie Duffy Rice: Leave us a review and tell us what you want to hear. We really appreciate the feedback and can’t wait to read what you submit. Five stars, please. It’s only fair.


Gideon Resnick: Only fair.


Josie Duffy Rice: Or six! Give us six stars if you can.


Gideon Resnick: If you can. That is all for today.


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading, and not just instructions for how to make a Queen’s Medicine like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. So check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Josie Duffy Rice.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And do a U.S. tour, Noasis!


Gideon Resnick: I wonder if Noasis means that Noel is somehow involved.


Josie Duffy Rice: What if Noel started his own Oasis cover band? What if?


Gideon Resnick: That’s my mind blowing up, folks.


Josie Duffy Rice: Truly incredible.


Gideon Resnick: Shattered. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.