Try to imagine for a moment that you lapsed into a coma in 2019 and were just awakening in 2021 as scores of new terms centered on COVID-19 had infected our vocabulary in just two years.
Here’s my list of such terms for such a hypothetical patient:
Omicron — a new, possibly more infectious variant of the deadly COVID barely known when your coma struck.
Variants — a generally referred-to term applying to different strains of COVID-19 reported globally, from southern Africa to East Asia to industrialized nations of the Americas and Western Europe.
Lockdowns and semi-lockdowns — a variety of national responses to the virus, in Europe, Asia, and globally, including the United States. (The Biden administration announced that starting Nov. 29, travel to the United States was restricted from areas where new varieties of COVID-19 have been reported, such as southern Africa).
Expanded COVID-19 vaccine distributions — the latest summary of United States vaccine shipments was announced Nov. 27 in Washington, underscoring the unprecedented threat of the disease.
So far, the United States has shipped more than 275,000,000 corona vaccine doses abroad to 110 countries, a third of them to Africa. America also has helped boost vaccine manufacturing in South Africa.
Prevention measures abound — India has alerted all countries about the new Omicron variant. It has suggested that there be universal testing and screening of everyone traveling from and passing through what it terms “at-risk countries” (South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong).
According to Washington Post correspondents Perry Stein, William Booth, and Frances Stead Sellers, the Biden administration has announced that travel to the United States from Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe has been banned.
News dispatches report the seriousness of the threat from Omicron so far remains unclear. Ironically, travel to South Africa — whose scientists first sounded the alarm about the new variant’s possible dangers based on thorough local research — is now being widely prohibited, pending additional clarification of its effects on people everywhere.
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More