Far-right figures are suggesting that the pandemic will end if everyone contracts the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
The Omicron variant emerged in recent months. More contagious than previous mutations, it’s rapidly taken over as the most prevalent form of the virus.
Omicron’s transmissibility has helped break the record for the highest number of daily cases in the United States. The New York Times reports that the seven-day average of cases was more than 267,000 as of Tuesday.
Omicron is widely believed to be milder than previous forms of the deadly virus. A study found that it confers protection against the delta strain, which causes more severe illness than other mutations. It’s as yet unknown how long that immunity lasts.
All this is feeding far-right conspiracy theories. COVID conspiracists believe that Omicron may be man-made, perhaps even to cure COVID. They’re suggesting more people contract it as a way to end the pandemic. Some believe that the pandemic restrictions being implemented to curb its spread are designed to prolong the pandemic.
“Will the pandemic end if everyone gets antibodies from omicron?” QAnon conspiracy theorist Ron Watkins opined on Telegram. “Now you know why they rushed to shut down the spread of omicron even though the symptoms are very mild.” Watkins also wondered if Omicron is “bioengineered.”
His subscribers ate it up.
“The ‘moronic variant’ is going to [bring] us the gift of herd immunity that they can’t ignore,” said one.
Some regurgitated other theories.
“It’s a byproduct of vaccination,” commented a user who goes by David.
The theory has spread onto other channels and platforms.
The Midnight Rider Channel on Telegram, which has 140,000 subscribers, posted on Wednesday, “Omicron—natural immunity not lockdowns and mandates will end this.”
“Bye Bye #Fauci, bye bye fear mongers, hello herd immunity, omicron is so prevalent now that this whole COVID pandemic is over and transitioned to an endemic in a week or two,” one Parler user wrote.
The idea that catching Omicron will confer the long-sought herd immunity that people believe will end the pandemic wasn’t only being parroted on the fringe.
Dr. Harvey Risch, an epidemiologist and professor at Yale School of Public Health, said on Steve Bannon’s show, “Omicron is acting like an infectious vaccine for almost everybody who gets it.”
Risch cautioned that high-risk people should consult their doctors, but urged ending pandemic restrictions to allow the Omicron variant to sweep through and confer herd immunity.
Jason Meister, an advisory board member of Donald Trump for President, shared similar sentiments on Fox News on Wednesday. “The end of the pandemic was always the natural immunity,” Meister said.
Hospitalizations and deaths are still disproportionately affecting the unvaccinated, which includes many conspiracy theorists and members of the far-right. The Omicron variant was first confirmed in the United States on Dec. 1, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since then, data shows that COVID hospitalizations have increased 40%.
While it is possible that allowing the omicron variant of COVID to infect the nation would confer herd immunity, it’s still a dangerous virus and no one knows how long that immunity would last. Further, additional infections give it more opportunities to mutate yet again.
And without a coordinated plan for everyone to swiftly catch it, this would just result in a bunch of extremely online members of the far-right getting sick.
This post has been updated.