My family has been remarkably Covid-careful over the past couple years, and when Omicron hit, we begrudgingly gave up our holiday travel plans, avoided any crowds, gave up our tickets to see the Matrix premiere in San Francisco, and cancelled my birthday party. But on the first day of the new year, we hung out with some relatives who later tested positive. Since then, we’ve re-entered the now familiar Pell family lockdown. We’re lucky. We have the time, resources, and broadband to keep our kids home from school for a few days. We have antigen tests in our cupboard and easy access to PCR tests, both free or pricey. But even in our fortunate situation combined with my daily lit review of the latest news, it’s been a confusing start to the year. We’re sort of making up our own extra cautious family rules for how to handle the exposure. During the week, I’ve probably shared five articles with my family (those who haven’t blocked me) with updates on changes from the CDC, our local health advisors, and our schools. I get it. Pandemics aren’t easy and these are confusing times. We’re all experiencing every stage of this nightmare for the first time. But it’s fair to say that the messaging from the top has been muddled. And political polarization has hamstrung what should have been our efforts to better prepare for variants. Yes, Omicron is less deadly than Delta. But what if it weren’t? We’re two years into a pandemic that we still don’t seem ready for. Officially, I’m not sure my family was required to do anything after our exposure. For those who get Omicron, they can now return to school or work with a mask after five days. No negative test is required. But if they do take a test and it’s positive, they have to quarantine for five more days. Wait, what? Believe me, I wouldn’t want to have to message the pandemic under a constant barrage of attacks from lying news sources, disingenuous politicians, and misinformed freedom-lovin’ Americans who don’t have the common sense to accept the good fortune of effective vaccines. But it’s been two years. Maybe I’m a little extra ornery being stuck in my house with my kids for yet another quarantine. But we knew the variants were coming. We should have gamed this out and come up with clear messaging. The CDC says a test to get out of COVID isolation is not needed.

+ “Might the real reason be that rapid tests are hard to find and expensive here (while they are easily available and relatively cheap in other countries)? Is it possible that rapid tests are a good way to see who is infectious and who can return to public life — and their lack of sensitivity to minute amounts of virus is actually a good thing?” Zeynep Tufekci in the NYT (Gift Article): The C.D.C. Is Hoping You’ll Figure Covid Out on Your Own.

+ Chicago schools are closed while the union hammers out safety decisions, college kids are in quarantine or Zooming from home, and the world needs 22 billion more mRNA vaccine doses to ward off omicron threat. Here’s the latest from WaPo. (Gift Article)