It could have been a scene straight out of an apocalyptic horror movie. When the World Health Organization declared the Omicron variant of the coronavirus a “variant of concern” in late November, borders closed, markets tumbled and warnings spread about how this new threat could ravage the world’s population.
And then … many of us went right back to whatever we were doing. In a poll of Americans conducted from Dec. 3 to Dec. 6, almost all — 94 percent — had heard of Omicron. Despite questions that remain unanswered about Omicron’s risks and whether it can evade vaccines, only 23 percent said they were likely to cancel their holiday plans, and 28 percent said they were likely to stop gathering with others outside their households.
It’s a stark difference from when the pandemic started. Back then, as we learned of this new highly contagious and deadly disease with no vaccine or treatment, many of us stocked up on food and toilet paper, started wiping down our groceries and went into lockdown, venturing out only with protective gear.
But many people aren’t so afraid of Covid-19 anymore, complicating public health authorities’ efforts to slow Omicron’s spread. We’ve all seen this horror movie before, and when you’ve watched the killer jump out brandishing a weapon 10 times — even when you’ve watched him kill — it just doesn’t freak you out the same way. The same rerun has been playing for 21 months. We’re living through a phenomenon that risk experts might call a boring apocalypse.