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Omicron variant will likely be worse than Delta, according to early research



A security man stands guard outside a ward being prepared for the omicron coronavirus in Ahmedabad, India, on Dec. 6, 2021. (Ajit Solanki/AP)

It’s been 11 days since the World Health Organization declared the newest mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus to be a variant of concern and named it Omicron. Since then, researchers have been hard at work figuring out its characteristics and what sort of threat it poses to the world. 

Their work is still in the preliminary stages and will both change and evolve in the days and weeks ahead. There are at least 25 studies of Omicron planned in Britain alone that aim to learn more about its household transmission risk, population symptomatic reinfection risk, and predictors for being an Omicron case. 

Yet already clues are emerging that suggest Omicron could be “trouble with a capital T”. 

MORE: Omicron: Here’s what we know so far about the latest variant of concern

Here’s the latest Vaxx Populi FAQ on Omicron: 

How Omicron was discovered and why are researchers worried? 

All those general questions and answers are found in the first Vaxx Populi FAQ from Nov. 29. Here’s the link

I keep hearing reports that Omicron may be milder than Delta. Is that true? 

We don’t know. 

Right now, many of those getting Omicron in South Africa are young people, and that age cohort is expected to have milder symptoms than those, say, 70 and older. So it’s unclear if reports of milder symptoms are because of who is getting it now or whether it really is milder for all age groups. 

On Saturday, Dec. 4, the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) published data from the epicentre of its outbreak, the Tshwane District of Gauteng Province, about early features of those admitted to hospital with Omicron. Cases are rising exponentially, from fewer than 1,000 on Nov. 29 to more than 3,000 on Dec. 3. And between Nov. 14 to 29, some 166 people were admitted to hospital with COVID-19, representing 25 per cent of all public and private hospital admission. 

While emphasizing the data only captures the very beginning of the outbreak, SAMRC revealed two main findings: that the majority of COVID patients aren’t dependent on oxygen, like in previous waves, and most discovered they had COVID only after being admitted to hospital for other health reasons. 

“A snapshot of 42 patients in the ward on 2 December, 2021 reveals that 29 (70%) are not oxygen dependent. These patients are saturating well on room air and do not present with any respiratory symptoms,” the SAMRC report stated. Furthermore, there was only one person in ICU and four needed critical care. 

What all experts caution is that there is no way to extrapolate what could happen based on that very preliminary data from one district in South Africa, which has a vaccination rate less than half that of Canada. It could mean that those who are vaccinated have decent protection against Omicron, or there could be other factors at play. 

Omicron is spreading quickly? 

As of Dec. 5, there are 905 confirmed cases of Omicron and nearly 50,000 suspected cases around the world, according to a tracker from A week before, there were 184 confirmed and 1,305 probable cases.

Trevor Bedford, a scientist who studies the evolution of viruses at Fred Hutch in Seattle, detailed the origins and path of Omicron in a long Twitter thread: “Omicron appears to have emerged around Oct. 1 and has taken eight weeks of exponential growth to ‘suddenly’ have sizable impacts on case counts and hospitalizations in Gauteng. This ‘suddenly’ is the nature of exponential growth.” 

The variant has spread around the world, sparking local outbreaks. “As a broad analogy, if it took [roughly] 8 weeks for Omicron to grow from initial spark into local epidemic in South Africa, I would expect very roughly 8 weeks from today for secondary epidemics to begin to manifest,” he stated

Now, more and more, public health authorities are reporting such secondary outbreaks. In Norway, more than a dozen people who contracted  COVID-19 at a Christmas party on Nov. 26 have the Omicron variant even though they were all fully vaccinated and tested before the event. Cases have been mild to date, with no hospitalizations, CNN reports. Meanwhile after a party of 150 high school students in Denmark, at least 50 are now Omicron positive. 

In Britain, “one in 200 people testing positive in London last week are likely to have had Omicron,” explained Theo Sanderson, the Sir Henry Wellcome Fellow at the Francis Crick Institute in London, after combing through the latest technical briefing on variants from the UK Health Security Agency (formerly Public Health England), released on Dec. 3.  

On Dec. 2, Toronto Public Health declared an outbreak at the Toronto East Detention Centre after testing revealed that a correctional officer who had contracted COVID had Omicron and four inmates had subsequently tested positive, though the strain of their viruses hadn’t been determined. 

If Omicron does turn out to be milder than Delta but much more transmissible, is that better or worse than what we’re experiencing with Delta?  

It will likely be worse. 

Early modelling using South African data indicates that Omicron is significantly outpacing Delta, with an effective reproduction value (Rt) of more than three. To put that in context, Canada’s current Rt is 1.1, as of Dec. 3, according to the Centre for Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases in Britain. And Delta is the dominant variant here.

So if Omicron’s reproduction rate is much higher than that of Delta, then the math means more hospitalizations and more deaths. In a widely distributed graphic and social media thread from December 2020, Adam Kucharski of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in Britain shows the relationship between transmissibility and death. 

The key message, Kucharski explained, is that “an increase in something that grows exponentially (i.e. transmission) can have far more effect than the same proportional increase in something that just scales an outcome (i.e. severity)”. 

What about the effectiveness of our vaccines? 

Experts believe that they still offer protection against Omicron but the question is how much protection and how well it will do in preventing hospitalizations and deaths.  

That SAMRC report from Gauteng Province showed that of 38 adults in hospital with COVID, 24 patients were unvaccinated, six were vaccinated while the status of the remaining eight was unknown.   

What about the protection of natural immunity from already having COVID-19? 

In South Africa, it’s estimated that around 80 per cent of the population has had COVID-19, yet already there are early indications that such natural immunity may not be enough when it comes to fighting off Omicron. 

On Dec. 2, a preprint study by South African researchers was posted on medRxiv that compared incidents of reinfection after the introduction of Beta, Delta and now Omicron in the nation. Their conclusion at this very early stage of research: “Population-level evidence suggests that the Omicron variant is associated with substantial ability to evade immunity from prior infection. In contrast, there is no population-wide epidemiological evidence of immune escape associated with the Beta or Delta variants.”

What can I do here in Canada? 

Get vaccinated, whether it’s your first, second or third shot, and do it as soon as you are eligible. 

On Dec. 3, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) “strongly recommended” third shots of an mRNA COVID vaccine within six months of a second shot for: 

  • People in long-term care homes and other congregate settings
  • People 50 and older
  • Adults in Indigenous communities
  • Frontline healthcare workers 
  • Those who got only viral vector vaccines (AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson/Janssen) for their first two does. 

For adults 18 to 49, NACI just “recommends” that they get a third shot within six months of their second dose, but puts in a caveat that those doses are with “consideration of jurisdictional and individual risks.” 

Provinces are already divided between which NACI path to follow: Alberta has opened third shot eligibility to all adults 18 and over. On Dec. 13, all Ontarians 50 and older can start booking third shot appointments. 

As with first and second shots, it will take time for the third shots to be fully effective, so getting as many people vaccinated as soon as possible is crucial to building one barrier against Omicron. 


Jennifer Aniston & Kids: What The ‘Friends’ Star Has Said Over The Years About Not Having a Family



Jennifer Aniston

Jennifer Aniston is fine being on her own and has often expressed disdain for being constantly questioned about that decision. Here we break down all the moments the actress has spoken out about her choices.

Jennifer Aniston, 52, has famously never settled down with a family of her own. After years of scrutiny and questioning about her decision to not have children, we’ve gathered all the moments the Friends actress has spoken out against the rampant sexism still prevalent in our culture and how her not having kids shouldn’t even be a “famous” thing to take note of in the first place.

For her next relationship, she wants things to happen naturally

Jennifer Aniston attends the 75th Anniversary celebration of NBC at Rockefeller Plaza, NY, 2002 (Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock).

For right now, the Morning Show actress is single and happy to be so — even though her friends have offered to set her up before. “Not right now,” she told radio host Howard Stern in October 2019 after he offered to find a great guy for her. “But listen, I just don’t like being set up. I don’t like it. Hate it.”

Moreover, Jen also revealed to PEOPLE in June 2021 that she’s “absolutely [not]” interested in using dating apps. “I’m going to just stick to the normal ways of dating. Having someone ask you out. That’s the way I would prefer it,” she dished to the outlet, also sharing that walking down the aisle for a third time is “not” something she’s considering.

“Oh God, I don’t know,” she joked. “I’m interested in finding a fantastic partner and just living an enjoyable life and having fun with one another. That’s all we should hope for. It doesn’t have to be etched in stone in legal documents.”

Her friends and family have pressured her in the past 

Jennifer Aniston
Jennifer Aniston arrives at the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards, 2020 (Shutterstock).

“I don’t have this sort of checklist of things that have to be done and if they’re not checked then I’ve failed some part of my feminism, or my being a woman, or my worth or my value as a woman,” she explained to the outlet. “I’ve birthed a lot of things, and I feel like I’ve mothered many things. And I don’t think it’s fair to put that pressure on people.”

… And she’s kind of over that pressure 

Jennifer Aniston
Jennifer Aniston at the 4th Annual Patron of the Artists Awards, 2019 (Matt Baron/Shutterstock).

“[I don’t] like [the pressure] that people put on me, on women — that you’ve failed yourself as a female because you haven’t procreated. I don’t think it’s fair,” Jen said in an interview with Allure in December 2014. “You may not have a child come out of your vagina, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t mothering — dogs, friends, friends’ children.”

She added, “This continually is said about me: that I was so career-driven and focused on myself; that I don’t want to be a mother, and how selfish that is.” The Cake actress also added to PEOPLE in 2014 that there are “a lot of reasons” someone could not be having children, “and maybe it’s something that no one wants to discuss.”

She’s happy to make her own decisions 

Jennifer Aniston
Jennifer Aniston pictured in 1998 (John Barrett/Shutterstock).

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter last December, Jen noted that she “used to take it all very personal,” but has since moved on. “It’s like, ‘You have no clue what’s going with me personally, medically, why I can’t … can I have kids?’ They don’t know anything, and it was really hurtful and just nasty,” she explained.

“Although I haven’t seen a tabloid in so long. Am I still having twins? Am I going to be the miracle mother at 52?” she said jokingly. “It’s the same with Dolly Parton; Dolly Parton never had kids. But are people giving her s–t for it? No, no one’s tried to put her in a white picket fence.” 

Moreover, the Dumplin actress wrote an open letter to The Huffington Post in 2016 that clearly and beautifully made a statement about the sexist double standards placed on women with regard to having families and raising children. “We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child … that decision is ours and ours alone,” she wrote. “We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own ‘happily ever after’ for ourselves.”

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Jennifer Lopez’s Kids: Everything To Know About Her Twins Emme & Max



Jennifer Lopez’s Kids: Everything To Know About Her Twins Emme & Max

Jennifer Lopez shares two teenaged twins with ex-husband Marc Anthony — learn everything about Max and Emme here.

Jennifer Lopez, 52, has worn many hats in the entertainment industry, including actress, singer, dancer, producer, clothing designer and perfumer — but no title means more to her than “mom.” The Bronx native is the mother to twins Max and Emme, 13, with her ex-husband Marc Anthony, 53. Find out everything you need to know about the teenagers here.

When were Max and Emme born?

Jennifer married Marc just months after her first split from Ben Affleck in June 2004 (they divorced, however, in 2014). The two had been romantically linked in the past, and had previously collaborated on Spanish language duet “No Me Ames” on her 1999 debut album On The 6. Three years after the secretive wedding, the Maid In Manhattan star announced she was pregnant on Nov. 8, 2007.

A pregnant J.Lo is seen with ex Marc Anthony in 2007. (Broadimage/Shutterstock)

The then 38-year-old broke the news while she was on the joint El Cantante Tour with Marc in Miami after weeks of speculation. “Marc and I are expecting a baby!” she said as Marc cradled her bump. “We are happy…This is a special time in our lives. And we waited until the last show to tell you,” she said.

Just weeks before she gave birth, J.Lo’s dad David Lopez confirmed his middle daughter was expecting not one, but two babies. “Yes, twins…The thing is in my family, my sister also had twins, so it’s a hereditary thing,” he said on Spanish-language show Escéndalo TV. “I’m very proud. Jennifer has yearned to be a mother for many years.”

The This Is Me…Then singer gave birth to Max and Emme on February 22, 2008 in Long Island, N.Y. The world waited just four short weeks for the first glimpse at the beautiful twins, who were featured on a March 2008 cover of PEOPLE magazine in a worldwide exclusive.

Years later, Jennifer reflected on finding out she has having twins in a YouTube video dubbed Twin Talk with a then 11-year-old Max and Emme. “When I realized I was pregnant, I was in Portugal. I was doing a big show and I had just went away for two days. When I sat there, I was in my hair and makeup trailer, and here’s what I felt,” she said to them. “In my belly, I felt a flutter. I felt like a little butterfly in stomach, and immediately I knew I had life inside of me. I knew it. It came right into my head.”

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Jennifer is seen with Max and Emme at the Pegasus World Cup in Hallandale Beach, Florida in Jan. 2020. (Larry Marano/Shutterstock)

It was at the doctor’s office she was told the news. “The doctor says, you see that right there, that little grain of rice? That’s the baby. You see this other little grain of rice over here? That’s the other baby,” she explained. “I was like ‘What.’ I started laughing hysterically. I just laughed out loud, I couldn’t believe it. And that’s how I found out I was having twins.”

Max and Emme over the years

The “coconuts” (Jen’s nickname for them) have grown up in the spotlight, often being photographed with their superstar mom and her various romantic partners, including ex-boyfriend Casper Smart, who she dated from 2011 to 2016, ex-fiancé Alex Rodriguez, who she was with from 2017 – 2021, and rekindled beau Ben Affleck, who she reunited with in 2021.

Notably, Max and Emme were very close to Alex’s daughters Natasha, 16, and Ella, 13, who they were often pictured with in media and on their mom’s social media channels. In 2021, they’ve been spending a fair amount of time with Ben’s kids Violet, 16, Seraphina, 13, and Samuel, 9, who he shares with ex-wife Jennifer Garner, 49.

As a result of Bennifer’s rekindled romance, Max and Emme have been spending more time in Los Angeles compared to Miami, where their father Marc calls home, and Alex also maintained a residence (their mom also owns a $32 million Star Island home in the southern Florida city). Ahead of the 2021-2022 school year, J.Lo was also spotted checking out various exclusive private schools around Los Angeles, presumably to enroll the twins closer to her home in Bel-Air (and closer to Ben, who lives in Brentwood).

Beyond being photographed extensively over the years by paparazzi, and being center stage on their mom’s Instagram, the two have also been on red carpets! The twins made their red carpet debut at just seven, attending the 2014 premiere of their mom’s animated flick Home.

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Max and Emme attend the 2015 premiere of J.Lo’s animated flick ‘Home’ at 7 years old. (Eric Charbonneau/Invision/AP/Shutterstock)

Emme stepping into the spotlight 

Following in the footsteps of her performing grandma Guadalupe and superstar mom, Emma stepped into the spotlight in a big way at the 2020 Super Bowl Halftime Show! The then 11-year-old impressively sang alongside Jennifer, who co-headlined the performance with Shakira.

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Emme performs with Jennifer at the Super Bowl in Feb. 2020. (Mario Houben/CSM/Shutterstock)

Emme popped out to sing a few lines of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The USA” — remixed with J.Lo’s Latina anthem “Lets Get Loud” — blowing the audience away! “If you wanna live your life/Live it all the way and don’t you waste it,” she sang of her mom’s song while positioned in a cage, along with other children on stage. The moment was intentionally political, and a strong statement in response to former President Donald Trump’s immigration policy which separated families at the U.S./Mexico border.

“All I want my girls, the little girls on stage with me and all over the world to know is how to use their voices and be proud of everything they are,” Jennifer said after the performance. “Other people can try to build walls, keep us out or put us in cages. We are proud to recognize that all of us together are what makes this beautiful country truly great.”

Emme’s unique style 

In 2021, Emme embraced a totally unique style of her own! The gorgeous teen decided to rock a funky, shorter due, and embrace her natural curls. Earlier in the spring, she also died her hair blue, which she debuted at a Nobu Malibu dinner for aunt Lynda Lopez‘s birthday early on in Ben and Jennifer’s rekindled relationship.

The 13-year-old has also been channeling the ’90s in a series of retro inspired looks, including loose fitting jeans, vintage t-shirts and argyle sweaters, Vans sneakers and plenty of overalls.

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Emme goes shopping with her mom in Jan. 2022 in Beverly Hills. (Broadimage/Shutterstock)

In advance of the release of film Marry Me, Jennifer talked about how Max and Emme are both finding their “own identities” with Jimmy Fallon. “[They’re like] ‘It’s my life, I have my own identity, I am who I am, this is what I feel about the world, this is what I think.’…They need to distance themselves [from me],” she said, explaining that they are now “adult people in a little body.”

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Billie Eilish & Brother Finneas Meet President Joe Biden At The White House – See Photo



Billie Eilish, Finneas

Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas made a pit stop at the White House while on the singer’s world tour, taking a sweet photo op with President Joe Biden.

As Billie Eilish, 20, continues her Happier Than Ever world tour, she and her brother Finneas decided to make a brief pit stop at the White House — to visit President Joe Biden of course! The newly Oscar nominated singer and her sibling posed with the 46th president as he shared the moment to social media. “When I heard my friends @billieeilish and @finneas were in town for a show, I knew I had to invite them over to the White House,” he captioned the post. “Great to see you and your family — and I’m glad you got to meet Commander,” he wrote, speaking of the family’s new German Shepard puppy.

“Billie Eilish, Finneas and their parents Maggie and Patrick were invited to pay a visit to the White House today to meet President Biden,” an official confirmed to PEOPLE of the visit. “Billie and Finneas were supporters during Biden’s campaign and the Biden family have been long time fans of their music. Billie is in D.C. for her world tour, playing at the Capital One Arena tonight.”

Billie notably voiced her support of the president for the 2020 campaign. More recently, she also petitioned in November — along with Joaquin Phoenix and several other celebrities — for the president to break from tradition and send a pardoned turkey to a sanctuary for Thanksgiving.

For the photo op with POTUS, Billie showed off her notably jet black locks — a hairstyle switch she underwent recently and shared in a Feb.1 Instagram post. Not only was her new color jet black, but her bangs were super cool. They were extra short in the center of her forehead but turned into curtain bangs on the sides of her face.

Tons of fans rushed to the comments section to gush about her new look. One fan commented, “MY FAV HAIR COLOR,” “So gorgeous,” and one person even wrote, “BLACK HAIR ERA IS BACK.”

Meanwhile, just two weeks ago, Billie secretly had her hair dyed red for a week before she dyed it brown. She changes her hair color so often, we’re honestly no longer surprised! But she always manages to perfectly pull off her hairstyles, of course.

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