Several times a week, I see headlines about how panicked people are about the omicron variant, the latest CDC recommendations, and what to do about every new piece of COVID-19 news. I don’t know how true the thesis of those stories is, but I don’t understand what there is to panic about.

To me, “panic” is a word you can apply when there’s a fire in your house, or an active shooter in the building, or a grizzly bear is chasing you through the woods. All of those are things which occur suddenly and unexpectedly, while the pandemic is an ongoing experience in which there’s rarely new information day to day.

It’s not like you can only inhale on Monday and exhale on Tuesday, then suddenly switch the side of the street you drive on Wednesday, then eat only wood chips and fiberglass Thursday, then plug your ears with nickels on Friday. The basic rules of life remain pretty much the same — unless you have kids in a school district that changes its mind about virtual vs. in-person learning depending on whether it’s an odd or even hour.

Of course, there’s an entire extremist media and political culture that ramps up the fear-mongering minute by minute, the better to keep you worried, anxious, and afraid, because that’s when you’re more likely to fall for whatever bullshit they’re peddling. So, if you sat home all day devouring such garbage content, I could see how you’d be afraid to even leave your house. It’s one of the reasons so many Americans feel the need to own guns.

For those of us who are vaccinated and used to wearing masks when we’re around other humans, not much has really changed over the last few months. The litany of stories about omicron’s contagiousness and a surge in COVID cases is almost entirely limited to the unvaccinated. They’re the ones driving the right side of the hockey stick graphs so much higher, while the triple-jabbed line remains pretty constant at a much lower level.

That’s not to say people in the latter group can’t get the virus. I have several vaccinated acquaintances who have nonetheless caught it, with results varying from mild to spicy, but none of them has been hospitalized nor been close to death’s door. Even one friend who’s been affected — and is isolating from the rest of his family — says it’s like having the flu with a bad cough.

Granted, I’m lucky to be able to live a life that doesn’t involve being amongst my fellow humans each day. A friend says I’m living a caveman-like existence, except that I refuse to remain completely homebound. I haven’t played poker for weeks, and when I go to the gym, I stay away from the areas where unmasked people work out.

But I have eaten out in restaurants that weren’t crowded. I still run errands, disappointed every time I see others without any facial covering, or some tiny cloth rectangle pulled down to resemble a chin bra.

So I reject the caveman label on that basis, and one more. Unlike someone from that era, there’s very little chance I’ll be attacked by a saber-toothed tiger merely for leaving my cave. Which would be an absolutely valid reason to panic.