We know precious little about the newly identified variant of the coronavirus, omicron. Governments including the United States’ have rapidly swung into action with contentious measures such as travel restrictions, girding for the worst even as health officials acknowledge we just don’t know a lot yet.

But in some corners of the debate, there is some certainty: certainty that all of this is overblown — even something amounting to a Democratic hoax.

Except these fast-emerging conspiracy theories come from the same corners that suggested the virus wouldn’t be nearly as bad as it has indeed turned out to be. And they ignore that we have very real evidence of how troublesome and deadly these variants can be — not will be, but can be. There is a demonstrated market for knee-jerk declarations that the coronavirus is being oversold and, despite the history of such declarations from some of the same people, it’s again being exploited.

The theories run the gamut, but they all hark back to one central idea: that this is meant to help Democrats.

On “Fox & Friends Weekend," the variant was supposedly a conspiracy to help the Biden administration and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg explain away continued pandemic-era supply chain problems.

“That’s the answer — is more lockdowns, more lockdowns, more fear,” host Rachel Campos-Duffy said. “And therefore, [Buttigieg] doesn’t have to do his job of fixing the supply chain, because we’ll just keep this whole thing going.”

Host Will Cain responded: “There’s always a new variant.”

Host Pete Hegseth added, conspiratorially: “Count on a variant about every October, every two years” — referring to the month before elections. Hegseth joked while holding a make-believe phone up to his ear: “We’re gonna need a new variant here.”

To Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Tex.), the variant was also a supposed electoral ploy by Democrats — not to explain away supply chain issues, but rather to increase the availability of mail-in balloting. The former White House doctor to Barack Obama and Donald Trump with a decidedly checkered recent past said mockingly: “Here comes the MEV - the Midterm Election Variant!”

“They NEED a reason to push unsolicited nationwide mail-in ballots,” Jackson tweeted. “Democrats will do anything to CHEAT during an election - but we’re not going to let them!”

The same weekend on Fox News, the variant was supposedly a drummed-up reason to infringe upon people’s civil liberties. Lara Logan even seemed to suggest we shouldn’t be testing for new variants because we’re just going to find them.

“If they keep testing for different strains of coronavirus, we’re going to be locked down for the rest of our existence,” Logan said, despite there being very few shutdowns right now and President Biden saying we won’t have more.

Logan went on to suggest that such coronaviruses are just something that inherently exist (other coronaviruses do exist, but they are not nearly as deadly as the current iteration and its variants). Logan added that the variants were a manufactured problem: “They’ve created a problem that can never actually be solved, so they can justify whatever it is they want to do.”

As Logan said these things, Fox medical expert Marc Siegel appeared in a separate box on screen nodding along. Asked to respond, he said he was in “complete agreement” with Logan about the economic and societal cost of shutdowns.

Logan retains her slot at Fox despite having an awful track record of spreading coronavirus vaccine misinformation and other baseless claims. Siegel, you might recall, offered one of the worst predictions about the coronavirus back in March 2020, stating: “This virus should be compared to the flu. Because at worst — worst-case scenario — it could be the flu.” The host of the show they were appearing on, Jeanine Pirro, stated in early 2020: “All the talk about coronavirus being so much more deadly [than the flu] doesn’t reflect reality.”

The reality is that the coronavirus has proved much more deadly than the flu, both in raw numbers and in the percentage of people who contract the virus becoming seriously ill or dying.

The confluence of those three people being present for such a conversation about the new variant being a supposed political ploy is an irony that shouldn’t be lost upon anyone. But they are merely three in a bevy of people who wrongly downplayed the virus and, despite that experience, continue to do so.

There is a cottage industry for casting doubt on the pandemic, starting with Trump’s early repeated flu comparisons and assurances that it would just go away — potentially relatively quickly. Vice President Mike Pence wrote an op-ed in summer 2020 saying there was no second wave of the coronavirus, even as the second wave was beginning to take off. And while the pandemic doubters have cast this as an electoral ploy, remember that Trump himself cast significant doubt on the severity of the coming fall and winter 2020-2021 surge — before it became the worst of the pandemic thus far.

What’s perhaps most gobsmacking about the effort to declare the omicron variant to be a political ploy is that we have plenty of evidence that variants can pose huge problems; the delta variant rendered vaccines significantly less effective in stopping the spread of the virus, though they still made a huge dent in hospitalizations and deaths.

It’s important to emphasize how little we know right now about omicron. There is some evidence that it might not be as bad as the delta variant, and some good-faith critics have questioned the need for the kinds of travel restrictions the U.S. government and others have launched. Everyone’s on a hair trigger — perhaps understandably — given that we’re approaching 800,000 Americans dead from the coronavirus. Perhaps the new variant will prove to be less serious.

But there’s a difference between arguing for more caution and suggesting that the new variant is a half-baked political ploy, somehow launched with the assistance of the World Health Organization. We simply don’t know how bad it could be, which health officials have said repeatedly even as we’ve prepared for the worst. If your argument is that it’s premature to enact things like travel bans, you could say that; but as with early in the pandemic, these theories take things to an extreme, suggesting the whole thing just isn’t worth taking seriously. Everything must be some kind of “hoax.”

That these conspiracy theories continue to be aired in the absence of firm evidence and despite such comments having revealed to be so foolhardy demonstrates how little we have learned. Or at least it demonstrates how little certain people with real influence have learned — and how small a price they’ve paid the price when it comes to their credibility.