Omicron: 95% of Cases? OR First Case Seen in El Paso? Which is it?
The national news headlines reported that “over 95 percent” of COVID cases are of the Omicron variety. The same day, the front-page headline on the El Paso Times was “First Case of Omicron COVID-19 variant in El Paso.”
How could Omicron be 95% of new cases on THE SAME DAY that El Paso was reporting its first case?
There’s no conspiracy here. Maybe some sloppy editorial choices, but no conspiracy.
Here’s the first paragraph of the story of the local newspaper:
“The first confirmed cases of the COVID-19 omicron variant have been found in El Paso, public health officials said Monday night”
If you ONLY read the headline and the first paragraph it would seem like El Paso has miraculously been unaffected by the variant that now, according to the CDC, accounts for the vast, vast majority of cases.
The SECOND paragraph contains the essential context:
“The 12 cases of omicron were detected in the test samples collected DEC. 21-22” (emphasis mine).
It turns out most of the COVID tests available to the public don’t distinguish between the different varieties. They’ll tell you IF you have COVID but not which kind.
CDC officials say that with labs in various states “working on sequencing their first outbreaks” the precise numbers were hard to pin down.
So, sure, if you just read the headline (which only appears in the print version, NOT on the Times website) you might have been confused like I was. Yes, the first cases of omicron were reported in the local papers on January 5. But the testing was actually done over two weeks ago.
The “lead” was in there, you just had to read past the confusing/misleading headline and first paragraph to get to it. If this WAS a case of “burying the lead”, it was in a fairly shallow grave.