Covid Cup Colour Commentary

A Pandemic Blog.

Motto: "There are no safe places; only safe behaviours"

The genesis of the theme was a single-post essay The COVID Cup: America Will Finish at the Bottom of the Major League,
which posits a notional "Global Covid Cup" for the best pandemic response. It predicted America would do the worst of major nations in the metric of deaths-per-million.
It follows that metric, as the Covid Cup "score", gathered by worldometers.info/coronavirus.

(Copyright, Roy Brander, 2020, 2021, 2022. All non-commercial use is granted.)

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2022 April 6: Please Divert to http://brander.ca/cccc/

I hadn't thought of the simplest way to get away from my 2MB HTML file, (below): just abandon it and start a new address. From now on, http://brander.ca/c19/ will be the archive of the first two years of CCCC, and further posts will appear at http://brander.ca/cccc/



April Fool's Day, 2022: Two Years of CCCC

This is the 712th post for CCCC. Not 730, because I've taken a few short vacations in two years. But by any measure, it's way too much information. Two megabytes of HTML, nearly 18000 lines of text, over a quarter-million words.

It's clearly time to break the one file up into a few of them, clean the house up. It's also a good moment, if there are any, in the overall pandemic to take a short break. A sixth wave is coming to various places (the UK is getting as bad as the previous wave, already - thanks for opening soon and too much, Boris, wrong again as usual) but not yet here. In this war, it's, ah, All Quiet on the Western Front.

CCCC will return in a few days, with the morning read coming in more quickly, because two years of text isn't dragged into your browser behind it. The URL bookmarks for past posts will have to change slightly, but redirects can be provided.

Two years - and still going - when it was supposed to be one. Hah. We were going to invent vaccines in 9 months (previously impossible, but done), then vaccinate the country in 3 (barely possible and so not-done), then COVID would vanish. Alas, not so fast.

It started with much talk about everything being different now, stuff I rolled my eyes at, mostly, because I'd heard it before after 9/11. Societies change, but they resist doing so, the whole time they're changing - and the ambitions of those who can see where it's going are usually frustrated by how slowly it happens.

Sometimes, great stresses just reveal who you really are, and you have to live with that. 9/11 showed that "torture is not who we are" was simply untrue for Americans. Their noble forces immediately resorted to it, the public and press made noises, but none when their president decided to "look forward" (and away) from it, none when there were no charges or investigations.

I think the pandemic has shown that we really, quite genuinely, don't care about very old people warehoused in care-homes with deep dementia. They can't speak up for themselves, their relatives don't fight very hard, politically, and after horrifying revelations about their fate, we've mostly moved on to other topics, without any resolutions to spend billions more on care-homes. Haven't even heard the topic in months. Prove me wrong.

One does sense a leftward shift, but it's gradual, and not very dramatic, so far. The Great Reset has turned into a Significant Tweak.

http://brander.ca/c19#twoyears


March 31: No News Is Good News? Or Just A Brief Respite?

I've shrunk the CTV News page for "Top Stories" down to illegibility, so you can just look at the relative allocation of space. The only pandemic stories are circled in red - and both are routine reports on hospitalizations, deaths.

The pandemic may not be over, as there are, certainly, a few discouraging words. Just down that page one Ontario infectious disease expert, Colin Furness, decries the re-opening. Even there, it's a little funny to hear him say "eliminated all our defenses", when it's clear they do so, because they regarded the wall of vaccinations (and infection-caused immunities) to be enough to hold the next wave down to a politically-tolerable level.

There's no real doubt any more that the more cynical politicians could care less if the medical system is subjected to round after round of retirement-causing, quitting-encouraging waves of overwork. As long as they (and CCCC) are right in predicting that next wave to not have hospital tents in the parking losts, they are done listening to Dr. Furness. (Those listening will hear the same good advice given by CCCC yesterday: those afraid should wear an N95 mask, for reassuring protection, whatever the infection level.)

There's also no doubt, to CCCC's newsreading, that people are tired of pandemic news, and not clicking on it. People don't get tired of war news, at least not near the front; people have the luxury and privilege of not reading pandemic news right now, because they feel it's about over, that they're pretty safe.

CCCC may have to cover a rising risk level, at least in a lot of places. I'm taking great heart, from the numbers in Cuba, Chile, and Portugal, that the "super-vaccinated" countries with over 90% full vaccination, may have no next Omicron wave, the one already starting in the UK, Netherlands, Germany.

It'll be interesting to see if a wave gets fairly bad in some countries - bad enough that the ICU staff are getting worried, vacations cancelled - without even talk of restrictions, just riding it out. There was a lot of talk about how restrictions must not become a "new normal", when people were protesting them. We may instead have a "new normal" where there are no restrictions, no masks required, no vaccines required - but it's normal to have twice the ICU admissions we used to have, a few hundred in most hospitals a few times a year, all that just now... normal. Some places may be in that mood, to just start living with it. Hire more ICU staff. Cultivate stoicism.

And don't click on bad news.

http://brander.ca/c19#nonewsgoodnews


March 30: If You Hate The Great Unmasking, Wear Your N95

Word from Alberta (1 case) says that masks are still on a good 50% of grocery-store shoppers. Grocery stores actually strike me as a place they're little needed; high ceilings, good ventilation, rarely that busy. The Safeway nearest the CCCC International Command Bunker on Robson Street, just now, looked to be dropping below 50% masked - and a lot of the bare faces were wrinkly oldsters at higher risk.

Meanwhile, we're being almost inundated (if you read way too much pandemic news, like CCCC) with articles imploring us to stay masked, for the vulnerable, and the vulnerable themselves, crying out that they will practically be in house-arrest without them.

CCCC has generally been on the "hardass" side of most pandemic response issues, but not this one. That's because of my keen new box of N95 masks.

As I wrote on March 25, they were a head-smack once I got one and found it way more comfortable than the cloth masks, because they were face-shaped. The thing about N95 is, that doctors wear them in "hot zones", in the actual infectious disease wards where the all the air is infected.

Other people may take their masks off, but if you're in N95, your risk is still very, very low. This doesn't work in a restaurant, where you have to take it off, but your restaurant wasn't much safer, when people had to wear masks for one minute to their table, then take them off anyway for an hour. You could wear an N95 right through a movie, no problem. You could wear one in a gym, except for the aerobics.

My box of N95s was at Canadian Tire, 25 masks for $29, and if you just wear them to stores and movies, I'd say each would last a good week. If you're vulnerable, go N95, be at peace, and let things at least look a little more "normal".

http://brander.ca/c19#n95


March 29: Still Fans of "Zero COVID"

Zero COVID has been scorned recently, but it's still a good goal.

The Guardian analyst touts it strongly, even as it fails for South Korea, New Zealand, China. "The Lesson from Hong Kong is not that elimination doesn't work, it's that you need a plan B", when the context changes.

What gets to me, is that we now have a lot of information by which to design lockdowns, restrictions, rules that work. Instead of just letting our pandemic response dribble away - and guess at the best response next time - we could stop and develop a new "pandemic playbook" - preferably before the details leave the memories of the people and institutions that just navigated this one.

And that next one - might be next month. Literally.

http://brander.ca/c19#0covid


March 28: All You Need is ... Trust

The University of Oxford has found the impulse at the heart of "Safe Behaviours", that CCCC promotes.

Basically no post today, except to recommend the Guardian article by Thomas Hale, an Oxford professor of public policy. So crucial.

CCCC has been coming around to the belief, watching the Omicron wave, that there's something more mysterious, and hard to see: a cultural difference, a set of attitudes. Well, Oxford has a single word for it: trust. Not between people and government or other institutions: trust between each other.

The polls ask if you trust your neighbours, trust strangers on the street. Would they trouble themselves for you, do something extra, for a total stranger? Those nations where more people answer 'yes' to those kinds of questions, are the ones with the lower death rates.

It's not about whether there are rules for masking: it's whether people mask, distance, test and trace, voluntarily and whole-heartedly, or just reluctantly when others are watching. Everything else is a symptom of that: whether people vaccinate, whether they stay home from work, whether they isolate from family.

There's good news and bad news: trust in institutions, and "people in general" is down. But trust in co-workers and neighbours - the same people, of course, but the ones you lay eyes on - that trust is up.

I've just been getting through sections in the book, Blowout, about the Russian oil industry and how it's behind the war in Ukraine - the sections about cyberattacks on discourse. That's the word for them, "cyberattacks", not so much "disinformation"; they're attacks on our brains and emotions. Attacks on our trust between each other. It's crucial for good politics, and for good pandemics.

http://brander.ca/c19#trust


March 27: The Neglected North

The data for the chart at left comes from Dr. Bonnie's own "BC COVID Dashboard", the page that comes in so slowly because the ArcGIS maps software is used for all of it, not just the map part, (and it's awful). I thought to look it up because the graphic links to an article at The Tyee, by Amanda Hosgood, their "Northern BC Reporter", about COVID and work camps.

I doubt that the Northern Health Region is hated in Victoria; they're just thinly-spread, only 300,000 people in an area larger than all the other health regions put together. So challenged, they kind of fell down on contact-tracing where people went home from those work-camps, back to their communities.

Much of the article, too, is saddening and infuriating that they tried their best to cover up, by mistreating FOI requests, giving reporters the runaround, dodging the question. It's not pretty.

Finally, though, they admitted that they just didn't look for "in-community transmissions associated with the work camps/sites as part of our process".

There are other places to lay blame than lack of government services. The camps themselves are pretty suspect as compliant work places. Anybody who's worked any kind of construction or heavy labour knows the culture; you could see it on construction sites all around Vancouver. Heck, my career, starting with surveying in 1977, covered the decades it took to get outdoor workers to reliably wear hard hat and boots, other PPE. Masks would have been for weaklings on many sites.

Since the area is so small, the casualties are minor, on the larger scale: a hundred fewer deaths would have put them down in the same rate as the Fraser area, our second-worst and by far most-populous.

The combination of different attitudes, and stretched-thin medical resources, explains it all; there was no reason for Northern Health to disgrace themselves by dodging journalism.

One can certainly re-litigate whether the camps and projects should all have been closed down; as Fosgood's article notes, Bonnie's boys in Victoria somehow found reasons to designate Site C, Coastal Gaslink, and the Kitimate LNG terminal, as "essential" services, which is true only for some investors. An outbreak for the Wet'suwet'en was directly traced to CG workers bringing it home.

It's strange for Dr. Bonnie's department to embarrass itself with the lying, and avoidance of the journos; she herself tried hard to be forthcoming and open, was exemplary at gaining public trust.

One hopes for investigations, new rules for transparency, will also come from the, ahem, post-mortem.

http://brander.ca/c19#negnorth


March 26: America Hits a Million, and the "3000 Club"

Because they have almost precisely a third of a billion population, it was just the day after Worldometers reckoned their dead an a million even. I waited an extra day for the "3000" to come up in the "Deaths/1M Pop" column, because that is the metric that CCCC uses to score the COVID Cup.

It had been looking, back in January, as if Canada would hit an even 1000 dead/M at the same time, and have real precision on that "one-third as bad" number that is well-known by now. But, our higher vaccinations pulled us out of Omicron sooner, our death-rate fell faster, and we are still a good month away from hitting the round number. If our rate keeps falling, it might even be delayed to May. Or, the re-opening could send the statistics climbing again, as both cases and deaths/day have now doubled in the UK since the start of March.

The predecessor single-essay to this blog predicted that "The US Military Kills a Million Americans", exactly two years back. Misplaced priorities, where the US gave the public health budget $12B/year, and the Pentagon $780B/year, can certainly account for a large fraction of American deaths - maybe even the whole two-thirds by which they exceeded Canada's.

Nobody sees America getting to another half-million dead, save by a very slow trickle that is hard to separate from the way flu and other pneumonias kill the very old every year. A really honest accounting of these million would admit that:

All told, I doubt I could hang even half that million deaths on low public spending caused by military competition.

Or less: Canada's worst sins were also low public spending - on care-homes, on jails, on remote communities - and we have no military-spending excuse for the cheapness.

Time to admit it, I just hate military spending. I'd just finished a Harper's column by Andrew Cockburn, as my essay notes; and just weeks ago, finished his book on that subject. It's a terrible problem, and the worst thing about recent news, is that every war provides excellent arguments for more military spending, related to the current problem, or not. So, I'm still grumpy, two years later.

The news media, following more-official sources, will be doing all the "One Million" stories in another week, or so, and I'll leave it to them to break it down into waves, and variants, and screw-ups.

I'd recommend just taking a moment to marvel, in a bad way, at the sheer number, itself. More than any one war, far more than the worst terrorist attack we could imagine (even the "smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud" fearmongers never dared claim more than a few hundred thousand).

And it happened while we watched, and warned, and begged people to protect themselves, as we did up web pages for dead anti-vaxxers, and arrested people for anti-mask freedom-fighting. America earned this "exceptional" distinction, one day at a time, for 750 straight days, averaging over 1300 dead per day.

http://brander.ca/c19#3000


March 25: The Map of the Real War

Not to disparage the Ukraine War, or anything, but COVID-19 is still killing 4700 people per day, world-wide (that we know of), and was killing 10,000 per day as recently as February 11, a number to which it could return any time.

The map links to the article at BBC, which has a lot more material, and it's an active map, clickable for more information. It's a rare page on the coronavirus beat: nearly every other dashboard is focused only on one nation, upon a local battle in a global war.

The dropping number of deaths right now, across the world, probably heralds a six-month warm season for the northern hemisphere, where we have a shot to get a shot into a billion arms, and if we don't want to be losing 10,000 per day all next fall and winter, we need to get at it.

This is an easy, obvious chance for a Canadian win. The Ukraine War is going to upend a number of trading relationships. While things are up in the air, it's a chance to increase our position in the world, make some friends, establish fertile ground for new trade deals, new partners, new sales.

A lot of the world's poorer nations that are struggling to vaccinate, are not going to be poor much longer. That includes a lot of Eastern Europe, as tough as that world has it just now. Given their development, it's surprising how poorly vaccinated Poland, Slovakia, Romania are at this point. And Africa, is simply wide-open for help, even her most-developed nations.

Nigeria has developed to the point where there is "Nellywood", a Nigerian film industry - but they're at 4% vaccination. Botswana is at the other end of the spectrum, as African nations go - peaceful, only a little below Italy on the world corruption index, (and well above Greece), is at just 53%.

If we can't send the Canadian army out to save lives in Ukraine, we can send out Canadian doctors to save lives across a world - and make some friends. We need them badly if the world level of corruption and kleptocracy is to be replaced with a better one.


March 24: Small Mercies: No Sign of Wave in Poland

I watched coverage of a hastily improvised basement medical clinic in Lviv last night, and noted how little masking seemed to be going on. Not only are refugees being crowded into disease-spreading situations, they're not bothering with protective efforts.

Naturally, the WHO are very worried about the whole pandemic fill the refugees with COVID, and send them across Europe, and the world, to spread it far and wide, that's their nightmare.

The thing is, the war's been going on long enough to see effects in the statistics, if we had statistics. Ukraine, of course, has none, though, amazingly, they are still vaccinating, a little, in the hospitals still running. It's almost stopped, but the Ukrainian fighters never give up - the COVID fighters, in their hospitals.

I wouldn't trust a Russian weather report, so we're stuck with Poland. Having taken most of the refugees for four straight weeks, you'd think their stats would show something. The only thing you can see is that the plummeting case-rate for Omicron stopped plummeting on March 6th, and has declined more-slowly since, from 11,000 cases/day to 9,000 yesterday.

There's just no sign of a Polish New Wave. (Or Moldova or Czechia, Hungary or Romania).

Maybe there's so many holes in the buildings that ventilation is excellent. I'm just reporting what I see; it's not there. It's kind of funny to see all the masks in the nice, safe EU meeting, and cases going up in UK, France, and Germany; but not where controls have been stressed and failed. Perhaps Eastern Europe just has a lot of sick people, and old people dying, and, well, nobody is noticing on top of all their other problems.

I suppose that's one way for a plague to "end": something even worse takes away all attention from what's suddenly the comparatively minor risk.

http://brander.ca/c19#nopolandc19


March 23: New Wave? Not Scared by UK and South Korea

Not to minimize what is happening, which is over 200 dead/day in both South Korea (pop. 51 million) and the UK (68 million) from a new wave of Omicron (BA2) infections this month. UK is already up to about a third of the daily infections as Christmastime; for South Korea, it's more like the waves in China and Hong Kong: their first, ever, with BA2 finally breaking through their awesome controls.

With South Korea, everything now depends on whether they vaccinated the old, or inexplicably skipped them, like Hong Kong, and, CCCC suspects, China. With the UK, it's more predictable. They've been through multiple waves already, we know their vaccinations are 8% behind Canada's, but very good on the old. The deaths are not going up exponentially, like the new cases; they're slowly rising. Yesterday, I noted that Ontario might have a worse time than BC, because of a half-percent less vaccination; UK is far more vulnerable still, but it's in patches, (places that also voted for Johnson); and those places have been hit hardest by all the previous waves. The UK has just over four times Ontario's population, but 13 times the deaths. BoJo never got his "herd immunity", obviously, but his extra hundred thousand dead have purchased some immunity for the extra ten million that caught it.

Doubling down on yesterday's bet about Canada, CCCC is predicting that the new Omicron wave in UK will peak much lower than the peak around New Year's, will straggle on longer, will have even less dying.

It's not just the gradually building immune population, leaving fewer to have serious cases; it's all those treatments, like Paxlovid, Molnupiravir, and plain 'ol Prozac (still blinking at that one), keep lowering the death rate, per case, as the medical system improves. COVID ain't the only thing that can evolve and get "smarter". So can we.

While confident we have only a blip coming, I've taken the advice to heart, where so many of our doctors are saying that the end of mask mandates doesn't mean you have to, or should, drop your own. After switching to an N95, it was a bit of a head-smack: they may cost a buck or so, but they're face-shaped, and more comfortable. If I can soften that coming wave a little more, protect my loved ones (particularly the "me" member of "loved ones"), I can mask in busier indoor spaces a few more months. Catching it would still be unpleasant; spreading it would be shameful.

http://brander.ca/c19#skukblip


March 22: Betting on a Blip

I certainly was optimistic imagining re-opening beginning in January, when I offered several guesses about the future, 80 days ago, on New Year's Eve. I figured the current 'too soon' re-opening would have been a month ago, the way Omicron cases were already in free-fall. But the hospitals took a long time to get over that high wave (which was higher than it looked, we were reminded, not enough testing possible), and here we are.

My guess predicted that this next wave, the one from the re-opening itself, would "fizzle", letting us get over our fear of further opening. Canada's health care workers are considerably more worried about it.

So are some journalists watching cases in Korea, UK, and Germany, and even hospitalizations in UK are going back up.

Some of our own public health experts are saying the re-opening is too soon.

However, call me Zelenskyy, because I'm going to stick by my guns: yes, there's another wave coming; no, it won't crush the hospitals. I'm just optimistic on that. My remarks may be confined to BC, however, and the Maritimes, probably Quebec, for all Quebec's older demographic. Call it faith in having reached over 90% vaccination for over-5s, 99% for everybody over 70. I left Ontario off the list, even though they've made it to 90.3%, just a bit under 90.8% for BC.

It's not the vaccination itself, it's what the vaccination reveals about behaviours: the CCCC motto, "There are only safe behaviours, not safe places". Even BC has an issue there, where there are less-safe behaviours amoung younger workers in the interior, than in the coastal health regions. In Ontario, it shows up through rural Ontario. There may be lower vaccination rates, combined with a lot more contact, in pockets.

Alas, the trouble with "pockets" are that it's like having just the one hole in a boat: even a rural area can generate enough bad cases to be filling up their own hospitals, sending people to cities, causing headlines and fear.

So, there may be some troubles, but I think the larger story is that this next wave will be the first to not (mostly) overload the medical system, or require more new restrictions than some masking.

My money's on the table, where no actual journalist will lay any down, and the doctors are professionally required to be very conservative and discreet. You heard it here first.

http://brander.ca/c19#blipnext


March 21: Celebrate Spring With the Triumph of Peru

Peru has had the worst pandemic of anybody; the single lowest rank on the CCCC scoreboard, 6276 dead/million, nearly two-thirds of a percent of the whole population. They were far worse than even the next-worst nation: Bulgaria, at 5,290 (that phenomenon covered the other day, that Eastern Europe is generally the worst-hit nations.

Peru is almost Canada's size, at 33 million, but one-eighth of our GDP; only 40% of houses have refrigerators to store food, more of the economy is informal than anywhere, everybody had to keep working. So they were hit hard.

But also, they vaccinated like champions. And,dead opposite to the astonishing mistake of Hong Kong, they prioritized the elderly and vulnerable.

That article is from March, 2021, and as you can see from the cases/death graph at left, they continued to have a massive wave of death for the next four months, through July, by which time they were still only at 12% vaccinated; progress was slow. But summer 2021 gave them a break from cases, and by fall, they were hitting 40%, over 65% in December when Omicron hit.

And fizzled.

The contrast could hardly be more dramatic, which is why I showed it with the two graphs flipping back and forth. Before vaccination, the much-shorter wave of cases caused the massive wave of deaths. After vaccination, Omicron caused its usual massively high, mercifully brief spike in cases - but the wave of deaths was tiny by comparison to their early waves.

Viewed as an animation, it consists of short hills of cases becoming high mountains of deaths, on the left, whereas on the right, a repeating movie of a high peak of cases only becoming a little hill of deaths. Nothing more dramatic than an opposite outcome.

It's the same story in Portugal, congratulated here last October, before Omicron. Checking in with Portugal, we find just about the same experience between Canada, Europe's least-rich country, and a country far poorer again, Peru: all three of us lost about one citizen in 5,000 to Omicron.

Canada, with 38 million, some 7500; Peru with 85% the population at 33 million, lost 9,000; and Portugal, just 11 million, lost 2,000. All pretty comparable, because our vaccination levels, especially of our elderly, were comparable.

If you have enough money to vaccinate, and your economy can stand a lockdown, it doesn't take riches to beat COVID. Peru came back from the absolute worst situation in the world, to join the ranks of the CCCC podium champions. It's all about getting those vaccines out, and people to trust them.

http://brander.ca/c19#peruvax


March 20: In Search of Community

At left, a link to the Herald story on it taking multiple arrests and tickets just to crowbar the Calgary protesters out of torturing the Beltline, and a little north to torture City Hall, as protesters should.

People are puzzled that they're still protesting, with many mandates being dropped; they've been clear that they will be out in perpetuity until the very last excuse to protest has been lost. I phrase it that way, because they clearly like protesting.

Most protesters do!

I've seen this at every ongoing protest camp in my life, certainly since the Gulf War protests in 1991. People have found like-minded people; those who also care about a topic, when they have so much trouble rousing their friends to care as much. They've found people who sit around agreeing that (1) they are all right; (2) their enemies are terrible; and (3) they are all noble for standing against it. Who would want to leave that kind of validation, that sense of meaning, that hope?

And, of course, that community, all those warm new friends.

The Calgary protest community has nothing on Milk River. Milk River? Tiny town about 15km north of Coutts, has a little more infrastructure to accomodate visitors (pop. 824 instead of 224), and is where some remnant of the Coutts protest is still encamped. As the very chilly, gray photo at right says, people come and go from the camp as their own schedules allow. They come back to join the community there as often as possible.

Now, that one just has to be for the community; nobody knows they are there, the linked article is the only journalistic attention they've gotten. I suppose they have protest signs up along the highway for the traffic to read. I doubt any of them say "We'd be ruining your day right now if the cops would let us".

I can only look at that picture, try to imagine driving for some hours to get there. All to spend a weekend or whatever, standing around in the snow, looking at gray skies over empty, white prairie ... and yakking about the awfulness of Justin Trudeau, and everybody like him. I'm failing. These guys have committment. Or community; they miss the gang by Friday and want to go catch up.

The massive irony in it all, for me, is that "community spirit" is what we all wish these guys actually had - spirit for the larger community of Canada, for the community that includes old people, and organ-transplant people. We needed them to participate in our community, and their community has gathered to say "We claim a right to continue breathing danger on you; you have no right to exclude us from the larger community for being a danger to some of it".

Which is where CCCC must leave the issue. There's not a thing we can do about it, save for the Bonnie Henry treatment. Bonnie offered only soft words of fact; humble pleas to follow the science - and adamant, iron committment to the earlierst and most-stringent vaccine mandates in the nation. We don't have to be mean or offensive, but we don't have to accept danger, either; we have a right to protect ourselves.

Because we believe in "community", too. More so, we think.

http://brander.ca/c19#community


March 19: Poll on "Trudeau" Reveals Provincial Performance?

The graphic links to the CBC story on the Angus Reid poll that went for extra divisiveness by asking not, "How did the federal government do with the pandemic?", or even "How did the Liberals do?", but asked about Justin Trudeau specifically.

I don't know why people get more upset at the figurehead than the government employees that actually do the work. The whole suite of elected officials in cabinet can hardly more than tweak the direction the permanent employees take; the leader has even less control. I think our feds did about the job you'd expect, except, as always, they meddled too often and too much in the air-travel openings and closings, and quarantine rules, when they just had to ask for firm rules at the outset (all travelers quarantine for X days when cases/day hit Y) and follow them.

Other than that, the actual "pandemic performance", to me, is how many people live and die - and nearly all of that was up to your provincial health system, and you, your cultural attitudes.

That was a factor of five difference, from under 40 deaths/100k in most Atlantic provinces, to over 160 in Quebec. It's Quebec and Manitoba that ruin my original theory, the one sketched in by the pink line: that your own province's failures would be blamed on the hated Trudeau.

Manitoba liking Trudeau so much, despite their right-wing provincial voting, and their second-worst pandemic, is inexplicable. Quebec is always an outlier. There, despite an apalling provincial performance that you really can blame on their government's care-home policies, they give Mr. Legault their highest marks and praise. Cultural values that say "we understand care-homes got such awful service, because that's our culture, that's on all of us, not on Legault or Trudeau"?? I don't know; people usually prefer to blame somebody.

Except for the two outliers, I do believe I have something here, though. I don't think it's that people are transferring their anger at provincial response to the feds. I think both are symptoms of a common cause. The Atlantic provinces are some of our smallest, have the oldest and most socially-cohesive cultures; both the small size and the culture helped them do very well, vaccinate very well. Ontario, Alberta, and Saskatchewan elected our most-right-wing governments, with a social ethos of independence, and lack of social cohesiveness: "Your problems are not my problems" runs pretty deep.

And that ethos also causes you to vote against Liberals, and NDP.

Your pandemic odds don't come from whether the government is liberal, I'm afraid. It's whether you are.

http://brander.ca/c19#jtpoll


March 18: China/HK Problem is Too Many Right-Wingers?

I've got no proof, but I'm increasingly suspicious that the reason that China is doing those massive, otherwise inexplicable lockdowns, is that, they, too, like Hong Kong, didn't vaccinate elders.

We celebrated St. Patrick's Day by crowding into bars to sing into each other's faces. Hong Kong passed the event by running out of coffins.

As that story notes, they didn't vaccinate their elders during the whole last year, when they could have. Omicron hit them with barely a third of them protected, and they're frantically jabbing, too late. Here's the May, 2021 story on them having to throw out vaccines. From it: "Observers have blamed factors including community mistrust in the Hong Kong and Chinese governments, disinformation and misinformation and a lack of urgency from authorities. ".

I suspect that "lack of trust in the government" is even worse in China, itself. I'm not sure why the elders are even more untrusting, or is it that they felt safer because retired people don't have to go in to work? Since there's no data on that "why", the post is kind of over, hammering home for the Nth time that pandemic fighting requires societal cohesion, including trust in government itself. Future posts will be looking at Canadian provinces, and their outcomes, and how I think BC did very well because Bonnie Henry inspired trust.

Lack of trust is not a "right wing thing". You'd think you'd find it more-often on the left, and in our culture, you also have those who have suffered under government, Black and Indigenous, mistrusting government. There was some of that in Canada, but our Indigenous communities were good vaccinators. In China, I'm not sure whether government-distrusters should be called "right wing" or left; but here, it's become so synonymous with "right".

However, here's another link for your morning reading, which seems to switch the topic back to Ukraine, because that's the point: both are about trust.

The article calls them "contrarians", as they oppose whatever they consider to be "the narrative" that they see coming from "the elites" or "establishment". COVID? Hoax. Serious? Just a flu. Masks? Don't work. Vaccines? Ditto. Ukraine? Hoax. Serious? Not to us.

Journalist David French notes, however, it's one-directional: they applied the most-stringent skepticism to vaccines, and none whatsoever to horse dewormer. They are only contrarian about information from "established", otherwise-respected, sources. (Unless they're being sold the Iraq War. French didn't explain that credulity.)

Maybe when the government, like China's is relentlessly never truthful, about almost anything, about any product safety, any foreign policy, any dissent, any crime and punishment for the upper classes, you become that kind of "contrarian" - and more contrarian with age, as you see more lies. China's elders now date back to when Communism itself was still a belief system; they watched that torn down piece-by-piece, by their own government, which claimed to still be communist, the whole time.

It's a pandemic vulnerability that certainly did not effect the actually-still-a-bit communist government of Cuba, which is a pandemic, and vaccination, superstar. I'm sure that Cubans can't trust their human-rights-nightmare government about dissidents; their public health department must have been delivering actual results, even to the poor, for some time, to be so diametrically opposite to China's sad results.

Let's take moment to pity those very poor nations that have a poverty of trust.

http://brander.ca/c19#chinahk


March 17: Erin Went Bragh

A mixed-language headline that's pretty meaningless; I was trying to say "Ireland Did Well", in the pandemic - at least compared to the UK.

The graphs at left are the story of that. Ireland has the same population as BC, just over 5 million; the UK some 13 times as many. Throughout the pandemic, Ireland has played BC to the UK's Alberta - half as many dead, per capita.

I've done something silly for fun (St. Pat's Day!). The worldometers Y-axis for UK is 5X as large as the one for Ireland, so the 13:1 population ratio is shown by squashing down the UK graph to under half size. Now the two graphs can be compared.

This is more data for my growing contention that almost "invisible" differences in culture, in personal behaviour patterns, have as much to do with pandemic performance. Ireland has better vaccination than UK (81% vs 77%), but, same as BC vs AB, notice that the wave of dead is half as high in 2020, before we had vaccinations. It's behaviour. The higher vaccination rate and the lower death rate are both symptoms of the same thing, though the vaccination of course redoubles the effect.

http://brander.ca/c19#erin


March 16: China Needs Some Explanation

Basically a day off today, "pandemic blog fatigue". The one thing that did pique my curiosity, we don't have much information on, yet, so it's more a note for further study. What the heck is China thinking?

They're doing these massive, superhard lockdowns where even the takeout restaurants have to close - no takeout! They seem to think they can tighten up enough to prevent Omicron getting in, which nobody else has been able to do. If you can keep out Omicron, is the price worth it? If only our Freeedom Fighters could try out the China lockdowns.

Funny thing is, you see, they claim 88% of the total population is vaccinated, 86% fully, 3.2 billion doses in total. Is it that they don't trust their Sinovac, the way lots of others don't? The WHO says it is 51% effective against symptoms, 100% against hospitalization, so why aren't they just letting the wave roll? I'd give you some stats from China, but I don't trust them.

http://brander.ca/c19#chinawtf


March 15: Bhutan FTW

I'm not sure when to declare "The COVID Cup Over". The pandemic won't be over until it's hit that 'endemic' status around the world, of course, since it's a global pandemic. We may go on wondering for years if there will be a sudden viral surge in a country that never got ready (Hong Kong, this month, with huge lockdowns in China, too), or a new variant will start a new round.

But the high probability says that Omicron is the last for a fair while, unless there are outbreaks large enough to make a new evolution possible; and as a news item, as a political crisis, the pandemic is probably winding down, rapidly. We can start asking "who won"?

Yes, lots of rows on the worldometers list of polities have zero deaths. But CCCC doesn't consider Samoa or even Western Sahara (2 deaths) to be in the competition; you have to have managed the pandemic while running a large, industrial society with a lot of people movement you can't just freeze. And inveterate liars like Russia and North Korea, are exempt, plus China, who might not be lying about 3 deaths/million, but are disqualified for starting the damn pandemic.

Nope, CCCC is minded to hand the COVID Cup to Bhutan, the little kingdom of less than a million, with seven deaths (9/million). CCCC previously covered their exemplary lockdown and tracing, where COVID was stamped out with massive, effective contact-tracing within hours, repeatedly.

I just found a story about that first case. It was crazy, the effort they went to, to get that one American tourist treated; he was flown home in a Gulfstream.

Unlike Hong Kong, Bhutan vaccinated to high levels, as soon as they could, despite their poverty and isolation. When Omicron finally came for them, their immune systems were ready.

Bhutan shows as 74% population-vaccinated, but that's 93% of the over-12 population, so they have a lot of young people. And 98% of vulnerable people, all the elders and care-workers - are fully vaxed and boosted.

The results have been incredible, so far: Omicron finally broke through their awesome contact-tracing speed in just after New Year's; they've had over 18,000 cases since, in a country with ONE ventilator - and they've had seven deaths, a case-fatality rate of 0.04%. It's as if the whole country were age 22.

I'm not sure if the incredibly low rate is also due to hospitals that had bought some ventilators, gotten supplies of Paxlovid, that's possible; but the heart of it was the vaccination and the effective health measures.

There's nothing more to say, because while all dysfunctional pandemic responses have been dysfunctional in their own way, all the good pandemic responses are the same: true public committment to the recommended masks, distances, closures; fast, full contact-tracing; and maximalist vaccination, with priority to the old.

Not sure when I'll finalize, but my bet's on Bhutan, For The Win!

http://brander.ca/c19#bhutanftw


March 14: Eastern Europe Is The Worst

OK, not true, that would be India, with more population than the whole pack of them, and at least four million unacknowledged dead. But I did this map after sorting the Worldometers listing by "Deaths per million", and while Peru, of course, was the worst, the next ten down were all Eastern Europe: Bulgaria, Bosnia, Hungary, and so on.

Belarus has such a low number, it's highly suspicious. I've always put a private question mark besides Russia itself, the lies have been so thick from that place. Accepting it, then Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, all better than the USA, are the standouts in the region, coming in under 3000.

I used to make maps and infographics for a living, and the good ones tell their own story, as the eye wanders around. I'll leave you with the story, but warning, it's a tale of woe. The whole area needs much better government, 'he said, with the famous Canadian understatement'.

http://brander.ca/c19#euromap


March 13: Surfacing From COVID While Hong Kong Drowns

Margaret Atwood, 83, and a cautious soul when not writing, will be one of the last to take off her mask, I bet. I kept a count of masks/no-masks in No Frills yesterday, getting groceries, and I'd say it was 3:2 in favour of still-masked.

So much for masking being a strangling, hated imposition by tyrants: a solid majority still wants them, even when the tyrants themselves have decreed we're all-clear. If they'd made it totally voluntary six weeks ago, when the ICUs were packed, I suspect it would have been more like 80% voluntary masking.

"Surfacing" is more than the metaphor for taking off your mask for a deep breath; it's just going to take time to decompress our sense of fear, there are a lot of cautious souls out there right now. I predicted on New Year's Eve that Omicron would have a last bite, caused by our complete re-opening being rushed, at least a small wave. That's certainly coming true in UK and Europe, where Spain, France, and Portugal all have rising cases again; but only UK has rising deaths. Vaccination rate? The others are all higher. In Canada, or at least BC, our natural caution may turn the last wave into a ripple. Here's hoping.

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, their amazing avoidance of all cases for two years was this best-possible opportunity for such a rules-following culture to get to 95% vaccination, 99% of their elders.

Inexplicably, I really can't even follow how this could be, but they have 83% vaccination overall, not bad - but only 53% vaccination of those over 80! What the hell? How could they neglect the elders, when no culture respects age so highly?

I also found the the number 43%, from February, with a comment that it had been 22% in January. They're frantically vaccinating them NOW? The same story blamed the low rate on elders refusing it. Nearly 80% of them? Seriously?

CCCC noted four days ago, that they'd lost 2000 people in three weeks; they have now doubled their cases in the last twenty-four hours, lost another thousand dead since that post four days ago. That's like Canada losing a thousand a day, or America losing 9000 a day.

Reuters reports that it is mostly sweeping through care-homes, as with us. That probably lowers the physical concentration of bodies. With under 5 million people, you can imagine dense Hong Kong having only two or three COVID hospitals, each dragging out another body every 15 minutes into the refrigerated trucks. Spreading that out among 50 care-homes holds it down to one every few hours, per home, individual hearses instead.

Canada, with 99.5% vaccination for our seniors, may see a second Omicron wave, but hardly any dying. We look down upon Hong Kong, a place of great wealth and technology, like they were a very poor one. I can't think what they imagined would happen, when the seniors refused those shots.

http://brander.ca/c19#surfacing


March 12: The Russo-Veritas War

There's another hook for a pandemic blog to reference the Russo-Ukraine war: Russia has been at war with us the whole time. We've taken a lot of casualties.

Russian-funded and Russian-run sites have been helping along our native anti-vaccination sites for years.

Oddly enough, it's also supported some very targeted, picky anti-vaccination, suuch as just against Pfizer products, apparently to help sell Russia's own vaccine products.

As with any use of the word "Russia" in disinformation discussions, CCCC must be clear that the word is a catch-all term for:

I'm certain I missed several more-nuanced degrees of separation from Vladimir Putin. It's a very flexible word, "Russia", these days.

There's an almost-funny afterstory. Russia had to "crack down" on vaccine disinformation that blew back on Russia,lowering their vaccine uptake to a mere 53%.

And now, web sites that devoted themselves entirely to anti-vax, anti-health material are suddenly the ones venting Ukraine conspiracy theories, and will undoubtedly echo the bizarre "virus lab" charges of yesterday: they were Russian all along, just masquerading as domestic.

Multiple stories at CCCC for the last week, and coming weeks, will highlight again and again, the deaths caused by the anti-vaxxer movement. Alberta's extra dead compared to BC, America's extra dead compared to Canada, and an upcoming story on the Horrors of Hong Kong, where only 30% of the crucial over-80 demographic are vaccinated. By deliberately spreading anti-vaccine materials, even if they were popular with 7% of our number, Russia has already killed a lot of westerners, killed a lot of Canadians. Heck, they've killed a lot of Russians, from that "blowback", and a real wave of Russian dying is about to begin. Just not as big as the coming Ukrainian wave.

So, it's not wild rhetoric to say that "Russia has been at war with us for years, and in the pandemic, they've caused us many casualties." It's statistical, and double-arms-length indirect, but the effect is there.

It's so bad, I can compare it to the harm the CIA did to vaccination in Pakistan, and that's bad.

http://brander.ca/c19#russojourno


March 11: Omicron Was Worse Than Delta - For Early Vaccinators

I show the graphs to clarify that I'm not comparing the same dates; I'm comparing the waves, as picked by the low points along the curve.

Let's break down these death-counts for both nations, normalized by "per million" deaths, in the table, at bottom.

The summary is that the Delta wave cost America 551 deaths/million, Canada, just 90. That's six times as bad, in the USA, as in Canada. At that time, America was going from just 56% vaccinated to 70%, while Canada was already 72% vaxed before Delta even started.

By the time Omicron was rolling, the USA achieved Canada's pre-Delta rate in the middle of it, while Canada had plateaued at a number the USA will never reach. The two nations were much closer, however. Omicron cost the USA some 542 deaths/million, about the same as Delta. Canada, with 188 deaths/million, twice as bad as Delta had been. Of course, in Canada, Omicron was three times as many cases, and that's using the known-to-be-low official case-counts. (Omicron actually was "milder" in Canada, in that over three times the cases caused only two times the deaths.)

In America, Delta and Omicron killed about the same number; Omicron, far more cases, but hitting a more-vaxed population.

The American deaths are always at least three times as bad as the Canadian numbers. The only variation is when they are worse, as with people in their thirties, or here, where you compare Canada at 70%-something vaccination to USA at under 60%.

The important comparison, though, is to only care about vaccination of the over-65 set, who do over 90% of the dying. In Canada, we were at 92% vaccination for over-70 by the start of Delta, and 99% elder-vaxed by the start of Omicron. USA, by contrast, even today is at just 86% of their over-75s fully vaxed, 91% of their 65 to 74. You read that correctly: their oldest are less-vaxed than their second-oldest. In Canada, it's 99% all the way up from 70, 95% from 60.

Lost in the numbers? The upshot is that the difference between 60% and 75% vaccinated saved about 3,500 lives in Canada, would have saved 90,000 lives in the USA.

Or, here's another upshot for you: again, and again, and again, contemplate what it means that the USA had three times the death-rate of the USA. As they approach one million dead, they approach the day when 660,000 Americans would have lived, had they had Canada's health-care, customs, and culture. That's more people than they lost in their worst war, their Civil War.

NationDeltaOmicronNowDelt/MOmi/MNow/MDelt CostOmi Cost
Canada26,70030,10037,25070279298090188
USA627,000811,000992,000187724282970551542
I've heard "The New Civil War" used to describe the clash of cultures between their liberals and their alt-right. If so, it was just as costly as the first.


March 10: Sewer Monitoring Now A New Standard

CCCC, being retired from the Water and Sewer business, has closely followed the merging new technique of public health monitoring from sewage samples. When the City of Ottawa started doing it regularly, CCCC jumped right on it. When my own hometown of Calgary did a few monitoring stations, CCCC printed the catchment maps of how hundreds more could be used. Most recently, automatic sewage sensors, have been developed.

The graphic above links to a new National Observer story about the monitoring having survived the pandemic itself, because it's a cheap, effective, useful way to monitor public health. Looking forward to seeing more of it for more public health problems.

National Observer updated their coverage today with an article about the lab work that comes after [Added March 11].


March 9: Where the Pandemic Isn't Over


The WHO just issued no-travel warnings for New Zealand and Hong Kong, two of the biggest pandemic winners. Until now. The astonishing charts above show what happens when Omicron finally gets loose in countries that have no prior cases.

There's a fascinating (and horrible) difference that I just can't explain. Both had Omicron go, um, viral in late January. Both are at 83.5% vaccination. But New Zealand has just 65 deaths so far, whereas Hong Kong has had 2000 deaths in the last three weeks.

There must be some major difference in vaccination patterns. Most countries vaccinated their oldest, first, who do 90% of the dying. Getting past 95% for your over-65 seniors cuts the death rate drastically. I can only speculate that Hong Kong has way under 95% vaccination for its oldest, whereas New Zealand's must look like Canada, which is actually at 99.5% for the over-70s.

The other WHO advisory is for Thailand, which has had previous waves, has an ominously rising death rate, and at 76% vaccination, has room for a lot my dying.

It's a reminder that "The pandemic is over" applies only to highly-vaccinated countries. Most of the world still has a year or two to go.


March 8: Vaccination is about done. We did well.

Canada has vaccinated over 2% more population since the start of 2022.

Thing is, that was 1.3% during January, and 0.7% during February. I'd expect March to be less than half that. With the end of restrictions, visible masks in most places, it's on fewer minds. Much more important, the number of cases has vanished for weeks, the number of dying is about to crash. The wave of dying, as CCCC has been following, is a kind of "fossil" wave, baked-in by a now-gone wave of infections several weeks back. The fact that the number will only go down means the war-news has drowned them out.

CCCC did predict another possible wave, caused by early restriction-dropping, that Omicron might have one last bite. If so, there will probably be a little wave of vaccinations. But it's a low probability until fall.

A doctor called the last deaths, "the ultimate lagging indicator", but that might actually be the last vaccination clinic.

A number of nations beat Canada at vaccination, but very few by more than a couple of percent. We did very well. There's a column up at "The Line" today talking about Canadians having a low trust level in our institutions. We may tell surveyors that, but 90% of us do believe in the medical system, and almost nobody mistrusts our elections.

http://brander.ca/c19#vaxdone


March 7: The Collateral Damage of Plague

With a very few exceptions - the story of the smallpox blankets in America, the plague-bodies tossed into sieges - plague makes a terrible weapon of war, coming back upon the attacker almost inevitably. But it has certainly happened as "collateral damage", when you destroy civilian infrastructure for clean water. That includes all power plants.

I've given the URL once or twice on this blog, mention it where I can. I've told friends about it, and they invariably say "Wow, I never knew that". One followed with "That's just germ-warfare, by proxy." I'd never heard of it, either, when I ran across it a few years ago, from Jon Schwarz at The Intercept, mentioning it in passing. And that's part of the story. 170,000 kids under age 5, dead, horribly, of cholera and typhus, in a formerly-wealthy, developing nation with hospitals - and we shrugged and turned to the sports pages.

We must have done so, in June 1991, when Barton Gellman of the Washington Post wrote the story. If the Washington Post link, from the first excerpt above, dies, try clicking on the next excerpt, below. The story has been archived.

That justification was kind of new, at the time. When they still had dreams of the Iraqi people rising up against Saddam, (has that ever worked on a dictatorship?) before they gave up on that, they were only talking about winning the war by attacking the Iraqi military. The whole story had to be ferreted out from the "air tasking orders" that targeted all of Iraq's civilian power plants. The comments about that revealed they were already thinking of making life miserable - which, for the vulnerable old and very young, means "impossible" - in the postwar.

Note the "especially late in the war"; they were thinking about no power, no water for civilians, after they'd basically already won. Recall that the ground war was four days, the aerial bombardment ran 43 - five weeks of bombs before the tanks left Kuwait. The war in Ukraine, power mostly still on, is a dramatic contrast. It's not that the Pentagon planners actually wanted to kill 170,000 little kids with plague, and I doubt if the Russians care to see a lot of extra Ukrainians, mostly old, die of COVID: it's just that nobody cares, either way, enough to even think about it.

That is one of the horrors of war: "collateral" damage where your leg, or your mom, or your life, is wiped away, pretty much as a minor "oopsie" by somebody who was doing something else; somebody who really didn't care about the oopsie more than you care about hitting a spider with your lawnmower. Dick Cheney stood by all his decisions - of course, that's knowing he'd never be arrested.

With torture, at least we faced up to it in the media: had the panel discussions, wrote the anguished columns, put out a few books, and a very depressing Adam Driver movie. But they don't even have to admit it, much less ever be arrested. That story is four days old; the US Supreme Court supports the torture being kept secret. The 170,000, I think, was so much worse that we couldn't even admit who we are, tacitly, by omission of any arrests.

This blog is a joke, in the face of war, the way our convoy became a joke when we saw a genuinely menacing convoy. The blog is about a fight against a plague, which requires hard work from professionals, and some minor sacrifices from the rest. When events come along where 170,000 dead are a minor story, only found a year later, and instantly dropped as a topic, the couple of hundred that will die of COVID today in Ukraine, are simply not news.

http://brander.ca/c19#collateral


March 6: A Happy Pandemic Ending

I need a happy story today, and pandemics don't have many. The pandemic passed Fiji by, for the longest time: it skipped the original and alpha waves. With Delta, alas, one case got loose and killed 675 people, by last Halloween. The number trickled up to 700 dead as the wave faded.

Fiji, of course, is economically devastated, because the pandemic mostly hurt the hospitality economy, not the other 90% of it, but, in Fiji, the "hospitality economy" - tourism - is huge.

Then there was a giant earthquake in 2022, and an Omicron wave. You'd think this was to be an unhappy post. The Omicron wave, as you can see from the graph, was not like other countries' Omicron waves, which were the biggest of all; in Fiji, it was much smaller that Delta. So the dying with Omicron was a fraction, too, it's down to zero or one person per day, just now.

As the previous post noted, Fiji vaccinated frantically, and though their rate is still a mere 70%, it's basically everybody on the one large island where the outbreak occurred. It's been enough to squash Omicron almost flat. And the pandemic is over. They've removed all restrictions. Tourists are coming back; the rebuilding is beginning. Fiji won.

Such victory stories are going to be coming thick and fast, as the last waves fade away around the world. (The waves in Poland and Moldova, the main recipient countries of refugees, are continuing to plummet, no sign of a refugee-induced wave of illness that CCCC worried about yesterday. Yet.)

Man, I needed that. Last night's pandemic TV was "Breaking Point: The War for Democracy in Ukraine". That link to the IMDB page has a link to watch it through some free streamer caled "Tubi", that you can sign into with a google account; also to Apple TV, which carries it. I was able to stream it through the Vancouver Public Library having an arrangement with another free streamer called "Kaloopy", so search around.

It was informative, briefly touching on the long history, then jumps to 1991 for several minutes, then on to events since 2013, and the war. It was horrifying; and it was very, very inspiring. I needed a vacation to Fiji today, but not because of the documentary: because of the newscasts.

http://brander.ca/c19#fijidone


March 5: Lost in the Shuffle

Ukraine, needless to say, isn't reporting COVID stats just now. They stopped on Feb 23, when they had 20,000 cases per day. They had just 36% vaccinated. Those millions of human bodies harbour another invader into the receiving countries; a wolf in the fold that will quickly spread through all the places the refugees are sent.

Well, the COVID deaths of the old people who stay behind in Ukraine, afraid to go to a failing hospital with no oxygen in any event, (and a few young people), will just be "lost in the shuffle", as with the Doonesbury cartoon history of the Panama Canal, at right, below. People who can't walk for four hours are being left behind - and actually, hiding in basements, may be safer than they were during peacetime - or be killed by bombardment, dying with healthy lungs.

Not that many will die in their refuges, despite the massive spread of covid that is simply guaranteed by the crowding of the bomb shelters, train stations, trains, and platforms. There will be literally a million people feverish and coughing, but they'll pull through Omicron, mostly; they're young.

The largest number of victims (that we ever become aware of) may be older people in the refuge-recipient countries; the revived Omicron wave may reach further, last longer, get a bunch of their over-60 population. The countries east of Germany have at most 60% vaccination; Germany itself, at least, 75%, won't be too bad.

It's funny that nobody is even mentioning COVID, as we look at those thousands packed shoulder-to-shoulder, and I think it's not oblivious, just prioritized. This pandemic has always been mostly about the old, and when millions of young people, millions of children, are at risk of bloody death, it's just human to push the elders to the back. Most of the elders would volunteer for it.

There's a lot of people volunteering to take terrible risks, today, and while the pandemic hasn't changed, we have. The pandemic is simply lost in the shuffle.

http://brander.ca/c19#refugees


March 4: Cutting Off Their Oxygen

The WHO Doctors are pleading, at this point. Hospitals in Ukraine run out of oxygen today. The trucks can't deliver the tanks of gas, the flow will stop, and patients who are on oxygen, for COVID and 19 other things, will die within hours. Or minutes. There are 2000 of them, probably rising, as some recent wounded will be on oxygen.

Russia's oxygen is the natural gas they're selling, every minute; the payments for it clear every day. We know we need to cut off that "oxygen" that's funding the crime. That's a pretty tortured excuse for bringing war measures into a pandemic blog, but since nobody would read it, today, without a Ukraine hook, here's another: this is war-fighting as a "collective action problem", like getting everybody to wear a mask, or vaccinate. Can we get everybody in Germany to minimize their Russian consumption?

A look at the flow diagram on the right indicates I should stop saying "Germany" and start saying "Western Europe". Notice the exports are 75% again the domestic consumption. The "exports" are of course, just Russian natural gas flowing through Germany, and on to Austria, Italy, France, across the continent.

East of Germany, there's less chance of much action: Czech Republic is 100% dependent on Russia for gas supplies, Hungary 95%. But Western Europe can, and should, make some sacrifices.

Normally, war is when you get collective action with no cranky convoy conniptions: everybody pitches in. Look at Ukraine. Do you think the Ukrainians would have trouble turning down thermostats today? They'd burn furniture to do it.

So I was frankly shocked by the weak-kneed, faint-hearted call to turn down thermostats by 1C, said the IEA.

They're the International Energy Agency, though, and you have to wonder if their hearts are in a call to stop buying their product. It's easy, today, to find a calculation of how much gas it saves to turn down the temperature, given 5C as an average outside, which is about right for Berlin this week. The calc says that a 3 degree reduction saves a quarter of your furnace consumption.

Three degrees is getting into all-day indoor sweater-wearing, some sacrifice I guess, but can't people look to 15C in the house, a heavy sweater, and save a third?

Heck, what I'd like to see for the next week or so, is a real show of solidarity, willingness to sacrifice, show tangible support: 10C in the house, news shots of families watching the news in their parkas, and over half the gas consumption removed. Combined with similar sacrifices of reduction in electrical consumption, particularly peak consumption where the gas plants are at their best.

Industrial consumption is hard to cut by more than ten percent, or so: a lot of large, bulk-production processes (fertilizer, concrete, steel) go broke if they aren't running pretty near 100% all the time. But that 10% can be used, and the next few weeks are the time to endure it, and heavily publicize the losses, inspire others. A combination of carrot (money comes back) and stick (Ukrainian resistance, which should be inspiring us all) might just halt this before whole cities are leveled - which is what happened in Chechnya 23 years ago. Don't doubt it will happen to Ukraine.

I really think that, for a week or so, anyway, collective action could just halve Russia's gas exports, allow for storage to be pushed to the maximum, and pressure applied - for no price greater than some inconvenience and discomfort. When you see those huge explosions in the streets, understand that they, obviously, of course, blow up the street's gas main, a few feet down. Somebody has to come and shut off the gas to the block, and nobody in that block has any more heating at all. Lets show some solidarity with them.

What can you call this parka-wearing sacrifice, but, "The Cold War"?

There are just so many articles today with titles about "things changing fast", and "decades are happening in just days". We could practically turn Germany's power turbines with the spinning heads of pundits who only thought they were "savvy", and "looped-in", and world-wise. Can it be like the first pandemic days, two years ago, when they were all talking about major changes to the world, a Great Reset? The Greatest Reset of them all is to change your mind about what's "normal". And maybe our new normal should be eating dinner in parkas, until we can get heat that is clean. Clean the blood out of it, now, and the carbon out of it, by 2035. Preferably sooner. Much.

http://brander.ca/c19#cutoffoxy


March 3: The ICUs are Emptying at Last (into Morgues...)

It's a heartening thought that it's about over, and we aren't doomscrolling pandemic-dashboards any more (except me), but let me be a killjoy for a few more posts, offering some respect to the ongoing losses.

I noticed a funny fact, yesterday: after a day or so with no deaths, BC had 10 deaths. And the ICU number went from 83 to 73, in one day. Pardon me for making an assumption.

It's great news that the dying in South Africa finally seems to be dropping off, two months after their cases peaked. They're down to a few dozen a day, most days, like Canada.

I'm thinking that's why the "wave of dying" goes on so long after the "wave of infections" has ended. A patient in the documentary "The First Wave" is shown taking months to come back from COVID, before he can even go home, and spend many more months getting back to his life (with luck).

It's a good sign: if your health-care system can handle people taking months to live or die, can spend months fighting almost-certainly-doomed battles, you're doing well. The health-care systems in Ukraine, of course, are simply losing a lot of battles, these next weeks, and their losses should be called casualties of war.

We've gotten very good at ignoring those death-tolls. By Worldometers count, NATO took 2,912 casualties...yesterday. Simply not news. But I think they have a psychological component, people are still aware of them. When the ICUs have emptied their last losses into the graveyards, and the deaths from COVID fall into numbers we are really good at ignoring, like 3,000 traffic deaths per year in Canada (9/day), I think we'll see the last step taken towards people "feeling normal".


March 2: It's Over. Or, At Least, We're Over It

Biden packed 'em in, unmasked. The House dropped the mask requirement, hours before the speech, and the Democrats all went maskless, too.

Also, his speech contained the word "pandemic" eight times, which you'd expect in a nation that is still losing over 1500 people, every day; 40,000 will probably die in March - probably more will die, under the age of 50, than were lost on 9/11. But all eight mentions treated it as a thing that has passed.

Biden never said the pandemic was over, but all eight mentions were of things the pandemic did to America (not saying it had stopped, but "did", past tense), mostly to the economy, that his policies would fix up. Every pandemic mention was about recovery from it, not anything more needed to fight it. The fight is in progress in the medical system, but the top sees no more need for any more changes, any restrictions, any measures, any more resources. Just repairs.

Here in Canada, of course one province after another dropped restrictions yesterday, even BC's Bonnie Henry, perhaps the most cautious (and successful) of them all, at least indicated we were just a few more weeks away.

The pandemic continues around the world, of course, and that's where most of the blog posts will be going, for the next month. The pandemic in North America may not be over, the scientific work goes on, but most of the news about what people are doing, will be news about social recovery.


March 1: Militarize Anything But Medicine

April 1, in one month, is two years since CCCC started, and I'd already been wondering if I could find topics for a whole month before quitting doing it daily: cases falling, restrictions dropping, protests fading, and everybody, including me, would rather think about something else.

Well, except this. Can we go back to the pandemic now? Funny, how even I, who've posted for a couple of days that the pandemic is still killing more people, can say that. War just fills us with more horror, than disease does.

It's wonderful how many in Russia are protesting; it keeps us remembering they're human, not to be demonized, their suffering and death wished for.

It's a day to bring up how terrible and immoral it was for for the CIA to use a vaccination program to spy on Pakistan, as part of the search for bin Laden. It's led directly to a doctor being jailed for 33 years, health workers assaulted, the vaccination rate in their "tribal areas" declined by tens of percent. Barely 1% of Pakistan got vaccinated for COVID.

The CIA, blundering about like oxen in a flower stall, have gotten thousands and thousands of innocent people killed by disease. Their damage was trickled out over a decade, will continue for another.

I'd join a vaccination team going into Russia, tomorrow. I'd also use my time there to proselytize, unless they said I couldn't stay and vaccinate Russians if I didn't shut up; then I'd shut up and vaccinate.

It's a time for clear priorities. Your country comes before your fortune, democracy comes before your commercial opportunities. The human fight against disease must come before all; anything less, during warfare, is germ-warfare by proxy, like George HW Bush in Iraq, 1991.

Never again.

http://brander.ca/c19#russiavax


February 28: Ukraine Gasping For Air

It was the smallest article in the Vancouver Sun, this morning, from Reuters. When I went to the Reuters.com web site, I had to search to find it.

Ukraine is running out of oxygen, of course. It's a medical supply that doesn't last long, you can only store so much, unlike, say, bottles of antibiotics. If your supply line (the road to a larger city) is cut, or the larger city is in lockdown, nobody at work at the oxygen plant, because they're hiding in their basements. We say "cut off their oxygen" as such a phrase, but for pneumonia patients of a hundred kinds, it's literal. The serious cases will all just die within hours.

If news reports are reliable, the sheer number of blown-up vehicles and buildings convince us that thousands have died by now from violence, thousands are dying daily; young people, with lives ahead.

The covid victims will run into the thousands themselves, however. Ukraine was losing 250/day, a number that was swinging up, probably way up, when the war started. But the loss-rate without oxygen available will probably triple overnight, when it runs out. Visions of India.

The deaths will not be telegenic, or dramatic; we're all familiar with people dying of covid, with some countries having higher rates. Ukraine's 250/day was already bad by Canadian standards, nearly as bad as America.

So, it will be mostly ignored, like most deaths in war that have the proximate cause of "disease" - disease that couldn't be fought, because of war. America killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis with disease, (The Pentagon admitted to 170,000 children, under the age of 5), and it surprises nearly everybody to hear that. Half the deaths in WW1 were just disease, a lot of the deaths in death camps, like Anne Frank's.

When we fight each other, our real enemy kills at will.

http://brander.ca/c19#ukraineoxy


February 27: Devastating Blow to "Lab Leak" Theory

Alas, Twitter defends its ability to drag you off to Twitter, by making it impossible to download images that are shown on Twitter pages. So, in effect, an evolutionary biologist named Michael Worobey, University of Arizona, has provided that much-hated company with some wonderful free content to sell, and my graphic links you over there, reluctantly.

I shan't bother providing links to the New York Times article on two separate studies just released, that seem to nail down the Wuhan food market as indeed the start of the pandemic. (NYT is paywalled anyway.)

For those who have gotten a trifle weary, of pandemic origin theory, the animated GIF on Twitter is perfect: it cycles through several slides that tell their story with as few words, and your time, as possible.

Even more briefly: its where the early cases are, it's the centre-point of cases that came soon after, radiating out - that first slide shows. But there are several other points made about positive tests in the market itself.

What CCCC can add, is some excellent points made in the Slashdot discussion about the article.

There was a logic error made by those, like Jon Stewart, who pointed out that if you heard about a chocolate spill in Hershey, Pennsylvania, you'd look to the chocolate factory; so you look to the coronavirus lab, when there's an outbreak in Wuhan. The error was that they put the lab there, because that's where nature spills a lot of coronaviruses into humans.

Or, as a responder put it, "Playing basketball doesn't make you tall". The attributed cause, was itself an effect.

http://brander.ca/c19#wuhangif


February 26: Pack Up Your Troubles

We sang "pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag and smile, smile, smile!", in elementary school. The WW1 marching song was 50 years old then, in 1965. I doubt schools sing it any more.

Pretty hard to write about the pandemic, with war in the news. Heck, it's hard to find pandemic news, though CCCC has been writing about that, anyway - death-tolls and hankie-wringing stories of people dying young, lives on hold from long covid, we're almost worn out of it, looking forward.

We aren't actually that sure how many people have died in Russia from the pandemic. Their mortality numbers are, ah, suspiciously low, and they attribute them to their fine health-care system, how Russian patients see their doctor very promptly on symptoms. Thing is, that's also true in France, pretty much the planet's most-admired health-care system.

Just going by what they admit to, 750 Russians will die of the plague, today, and 250 Ukrainians; those 1000 dead will probably exceed the casualties of battle.

But that dying, we're all used to, we don't talk about our own. We've packed up our pandemic troubles in our old kit-bag, and started to smile, smile, smile, about the imminent end of the pandemic.

So, those wanting to react "normally" to war news, where hundreds dying in a single day is a huge news event (say, the ooopsie bombing of a Baghdad air raid shelter in 1991, killing 400 civilians), have a problem.

They have to continue shrugging at 250 dying in Ukraine's hospitals today, not news, while beating their breasts over 100 dying when a shell hits an apartment.

Are deaths from poor public services and poor plague-fighting less-bad than deaths by violence? Well, all our laws and customs say yes. You absolutely do more time for sins of commission than omission. Gross medical negligence can result in actual criminal penalties, but even then, rarely anything like doing the same damage with a kitchen knife.

Perhaps that is something the pandemic will do a "Great Reset" on, as we watch the two death tolls in Ukraine - war and plague - rise together, we'll see some commonality.

But probably not.

PS: About the "use less oil" I scribbled on my graphic. Am I the only one who can see that a cool symbolic - but also real - way to support Ukraine is simply to turn down the thermostat? Particularly in Germany, where it's actually real; every bit of gas they buy makes Russia richer. I'd be watching the war in a thick sweater.

http://brander.ca/c19#kitbag


February 25: War and Plague, Arm-in-Arm

Wars cause plagues, plagues may cause wars, and, for certain, war goes on in spite of a plague. Our WW1 continued for several months after the 1918 flu was identified in Spring 1918. Nearly half of the casualties in that war were to disease, and only some of that was that flu: John McCrae died in January 1918, of pneumonia from meningitis. Mostly, it was cholera in the stinking trenches.

So, don't hope for some wave of Omicron to put the Russian Army into coughing lockdown: war reveals how care for the old is a peacetime privilege, and 95% of this pandemic has not been happening to those under 55, that is, everybody in an army.

The interaction of War and Plague, this time, isn't going to hobble any armies, on either side. It'll just kill extra old people, and some middle-aged people, in failing hospitals.

It's not like Ukraine or Russia have good hospitals to start with.

Here's the epidemiology, right now. Dividing by population (Russia is three times larger, 150M vs 45M, Ukraine has fewer cases, more deaths (or just, more honesty in reporting - I've ignored the Russian pandemic because I don't trust a word I hear about it).

Both are so similar in their Omicron wave: it didn't hit them until the start of 2022, peaked just a few weeks ago, and the death-toll is just starting to rise.

That is, more and more people, every day, in both countries, are showing up at hospitals, needing them to work. That number will triple and more in the next few weeks. Both countries are poorly vaccinated - Russia, just over 50%, Ukraine, under 40%. So their Omicron waves will peak higher than their Delta wave did, like America, only worse - and even that assumes their hospitals don't break.

Unless Russia is gratuitously murderous of civilians in these attacks - when their stated intentions are just to kill soldiers - the pandemic dying will be much larger than the military deaths, hitting several hundred per day in Ukraine, over a thousand per day in Russia.

But, that's just for CCCC to monitor. Everybody else will be watching the war, where the dying is more dramatic than in the ICU.

http://brander.ca/c19#warplague


February 24: Vaccine Victories Coming Thick and Fast

Just a quick note today. I'll give yet another free link to Democracy Now!, because they had three stories just tumble out, one after another, today.

  1. Another new vaccine ("Sanofi GSK") is tested, and seeking approval. It's another "protein vaccine", similar in method to Novavax, I'd gather.

  2. The WHO is opening a "Global Manufacturing Hub" in South Korea, which wil train people from poorer countries to make their own vaccines.

  3. The WHO also announced it will transfer technologies from its South African mRNA vaccine "hub" to five more countries, some of the world's most-needy.

  4. That hub has produced an mRNA vaccine reverse-engineered from Moderna's, which is legal, apparently - though they continue to plead with Moderna to just share their intellectual property.
It's kind of amazing how little pressure the public has put on these companies to share; we've made them very, very rich, in our desperation to buy their products for the last year or so.

But, as a Vancouver Sun columnist quoted a property developer this morning, about producing enough homes to lower the cost of homes: it's ridiculous to expect private business to perform socially-good tasks, against their profit imperative, without government forcing them to.

And there it rests.

http://brander.ca/c19#vaccinevictory


February 23: When the Dying Continues, Long After Cases

Oh, we were all so eager to see South Africa prove that Omicron was over, the pandemic over. This January 18 CBS article was on the exact day of "peak dying". We at CCCC noted that four days later, when the rate had declined.

It made sense; I'd been waiting for it; the CCCC post notes that "peak dying" had tended to be 3-4 weeks after peak cases, which had been December 18. The CBS report might have been triggered by the one-month anniversary.

Very wrongly! Big mistake.

The cases-chart at right is just a repeat of January 22, but with another month of data - cases did keep going down, though the rate of decline much slowed. It's far lower than Canada's, today - to the extent that any Omicron case-numbers can be believed, of course.

But the death-rate, at left, that "peak" was false. It started going back up again just a few days after my post, and is still going up.

This all proves nothing about Omicron - the experience of the rest of the world with Omicron is also six weeks old now, we know it, too - and everything about South African health care. They're dying because South Africa doesn't have as much as we do. You're seeing what our pandemic would have looked like if the hospitals had ever been truly overwhelmed.

The UK was just behind South Africa on the Omicron wave, Netherlands similar; both have the death-rates far down and continuing to decline. Boris is tossing out all UK restrictions early, but not very early. He might even get away with it.

But, in South Africa, we're seeing how the pandemic will go across the world that has less health care, across most of Africa, half of Asia.

It should only firm our resolve to get the world vaccinated. What I'm seeing instead is that South Africa has simply dropped from the news, altogether. They got a brief burst of attention; found, and warned us against, Omicron. Were promptly blamed for it, punished for it, travel closed off. Then they got a backpat for the wave fading, and were forgotten, as the dying continued.

That's how we look at all the poor countries of the world, frankly. It's why we aren't talking about the "World Vaccination Project", daily. It's why I had to invent that term, just now.

http://brander.ca/c19#zadyingstill


February 22: Why There Are More Vaccinated Deaths

My population figures are from PopulationPyramid.net,which lets you download a spreadsheet, bless them.

The age-related mortality figures are from my very first post, 22 months back, using original Wuhan data. They changed, up for Delta, back down again for Omicron, but what did not change for any variant was the exponential relationship between age and mortality rate. Your odds of dying of covid roughly double for every 7-8 years of age. Twenty years older is eight-fold the chance of dying.

The adjusted mortality figures for vaccinated people over 50 are from this article from just a month back, from London. The vaccinated of most ages can divide their odds by 20 after full vaccination.

Canada has no meaningful population that are both over 70, and unvaccinated; they're over 99.5% done, nearly all of them boosted, too. But we can find significant numbers of unvaccinated if we go under age 50, and the percentage unvaccinated are shown as part of the column title at bottom.

I haven't done the final calculation, where we'd assume this entire pile of over six million people all caught covid, multiply mortality by bar-height, see how many would die. There's no point; the mortality percentages are for "covid original", not delta or omicron, so only the relationship between the age-groups is consistent.

The lessons here, are, first, that vaccination may not add 30 years to your life if you're 70+, but it takes about 30 years off your age. A vaccinated 75-year-old has the same odds of dying of covid as an unvaccinated 45-year-old. And second we have a lot more vaccinated old people than we have unvaccinated middle-aged people. (There was no point in showing bars under age 30; almost zero dying even for the unvaccinated.)

I don't have to do the final calculations, because the answer is visually obvious, if you just stare at the chart for another minute. So I'll shut up now, save for this:

Fun fact, middle-agers: you can cut those small death-odds by a factor of 20, yourselves. I had to vaccinate just to get my risk down to that of an unvaccinated 35-year-old. But this is just risk of death! Think of your risk of long covid, a terrible misery. Or just your risk of two weeks on your back feeling rotten. Who wants that?

The longer you wait, the more clinics close, and the more inconvenient it gets.

http://brander.ca/c19#vaxedunvaxed


February 21: Maybe Novavax Can Get Us One More Percent (maybe not)

The image links to a CTV story about the approval of the Novavax, which CCCC has been awaiting since last June; but also, to a story about the guy who will only now get vaccinated.

Novavax is not a new, experimental type of vaccine. It's much older than the mRNA types, the adenovirus types like Astrazenaca, the new "SpFN" type invented by the US Army.

The "protein-subunit" vaccines have been in development for sixty years, and they were specifically developed to have fewer side-effects and dangers than the original "whole virus" vaccines that beat polio and smallpox (the age of "vaccine glory"...a memory now...we hardly knew ye).

In Germany, where vaccination flatlined at 75%, they have hopes it will re-start the program.

Australia has similar high hopes. In Canada's most anti-intellectual, sociologically primitive reaches (Manitoba), there are similar fingers-crossed. Frankly, I'm doubtful. The Novavax hopes are based on the notion that more than a small minority of Canada's 11% (over age 5) that are not vaccinated, are mostly just critics of vaccinology.

I think they're mostly critics of the whole world order, don't trust governments, scientists, or their neighbours and families, for that matter. A billion people have taken the vaccines they're rejecting, most of us several months ago. If those were "population-level" experiments, they were hugely successful.

About 7% of the population are actual anti-vaxxers; against any vaccination technology at all. That leaves only 4% to reach. I will be astonished if more than 1% of Canadians over 5 have Novavax in their arms a year from now.

Not that it matters, except to that 1%. Vaccines are probably not going to be a significant factor in preventing transmission, going forward. Well-vaccinated populations will have smaller (and less-deadly) waves, but the wave size won't be changed that much by the difference between 90% and 93% (where we've jabbed every single person not a determined anti-vaxxer) wouldn't be large.

Vaccination has won a partial, and good-enough victory for Canada, with our situation versus the United States proving it with brutal clarity. Over the coming waves, every additional percent of Canada we can vaccinate (390,000 people) will probably save a hundred of their lives, and lengthen the remaining time for a hundred more very old or ill people that they might pass it to. Of that latter, only the most-vulnerable will be injured or killed: up at those age levels, we are basically past 99% vaccination by now.

Novavax is part of the mopping-up after the war, for Canada; our war is over. The war for the third world is hardly begun, and Novavax, because it's cheap and more shippable, will soon have its finest hour.

http://brander.ca/c19#novanono


February 20: No News Is Good News - and Spring is Coming

Wow, just wow.

I could and should be doing a bunch of work, to visually compare Peru and Bulgaria. (They have important similarities, and huge differences.) Peru, along with Cuba, of course, is a remarkable testament to the power of vaccination. But, it's Sunday, I wanted a quick post, the usual, "Hey, gang, here's a great article", and I'm done.

Well, I really, really, didn't want to cover the protesters any more, but I was surprised by how bad it has been in Calgary's Beltline, for four weekends, with the truck horns deafening locals.

But that's it. I searched around for COVID stories, and while I'm sure there are some good ones ((Novavax approved! Yay!), mostly it was all protests; Queen Elizabeth is fine; and a lot of re-opening stories and discussions.

I could have looked harder, but maybe the news today is that there's no really pressing news, though, again, that's because we're comfortably numb with death-tolls that used to horrify us, see last post.

The pandemic is ending in our heads, when we don't feel ill-at-ease in a packed, loud restaurant, it's ending in our news stories: the Free Market is speaking, because news organizations now monitor clicks, the way hens monitor their chicks; there are fewer stories because fewer are selling.

This, with the case-counts still a ways to go down, the ICUs still about 90% as full as they were three weeks ago - and it's still winter. We are, however, a convienient month away from the first day of Spring. In those four weeks, straight-line predictions from the past four suggest case-counts down to summer 2020 levels, a lot of restrictions lifted, one last percent vaccinated, multiple percents brought to second- and third-dose levels.

All good news; I'm just going to revel in it, rather than looking for bad.

http://brander.ca/c19#goodnews


February 19: Comfortably Numb

We went out the other night, on the first night that restaurant restrictions were lifted. The place was packed, hardly a table not full. We had to lean forward and talk right into each other's faces to be heard. Damn, it was a great time.

Which was almost surreal, both the crowd, and the moistly-speaking. We're all boosted, recently. We've done all we can; the risk is not zero, but it is acceptable. We've become "comfortably numb" to a certain amount of risk that felt higher, two years ago. BC still has 600 cases per day, when the first wave peaked at less than 100. Hey, the Americans have become comfortably numb to 2000 deaths per day, remember when that was a horror-headline? It's been well over 2000/day for the whole last month - over 100,000 dead since New Year's.

Everybody's re-opening anyway. We were always numb to the reaping of the very old, be it from the seasonal flu or their own infirmities, and of course unfortunates with rare conditions die daily, always accepted. The only thing you need to become newly numb to, are the deaths of the unvaccinated.

The unvaccinated have come in for a lot of social pressures, which they bitterly protest, acting out as a suffering minority, beleaguered by bigotry.

But the absolute worst thing we've ever done to the unvaccinated, is what we're just starting to do now. It's the thing they wanted! Only, of course, because they didn't believe it was real: we've become comfortably numb to their pointless deaths. We've done all we can, thrown up our hands.

Keep in mind: over 13,000 Canadians joined us, yesterday, got their first vaccination shot at long last. Just like every day this year. For every single day of the protests, more Canadians joined the vaccinated, than ever attended one of the protests. 29,000 graduated to "fully vaccinated" and 53,000 got their booster. Yesterday.

The unvaccinated can join that line up any time. Or they can risk death, to which we've become Comfortably Numb.

http://brander.ca/c19#comfynumb


February 18: Pusillanimous Pandemic Protests

Just two days since I claimed it was time to "dump trucks" (as a topic), and I'm sadly stampeded to another rant. Sorry.

Partly, I wanted to use the word "pusillanimous" just once in my life. It means cowardly, basically. Hard to imagine saying it to a protester of any sort, for any cause: they have more energy than people who just vote, who are better than those who don't vote at all.

Most protests, historically, are people in a bad way; they're poor, jobless, or civil rights brutalized, maybe losing their land. (If they had money, their problem usually wouldn't be happening.) "Freezing their bank accounts" would merely crack them up: they're frozen anyway, by lack of money, for a week every month before the paycheque.

When Black Lives Matter protested, in the middle of a pandemic, it was a bit brave simply to walk in the crowd; CCCC reported, with extensive photographs, that it was the BLM marches that showed us all outdoors infection was insignificant. Those protests were all about a history of police violence, and were accompanied by talk of "crack their skulls" and "shoot them". A Senator got an editorial in the NYT, "Send in the Troops".

The BLM protesters came out, anyway, continued when many of them were injured.

I wouldn't have written this, just because I was sent a long essay by a friend, from a guy who really thought that freezing bank accounts was terrible; I'm writing because there are TWO right-wing professional trolls in the WaPo this morning decrying the "go for their money" tactic. (The graphics don't link; it's paywalled anyway.)

It must be a thing. People with some sense can convince themselves that the ultimate "#whitepersonproblem" is bad. They already watched on TV while the government paid men with clubs to kettle people, beat them, tear-gas them and then arrest them, costing them, in fines and legal fees, money which is gone permanently, not frozen temporarily.

I'm just cringing in embarrassment at the cowardice it takes to complain about that. The government using physical force is much more authoritarian. The "White Superpower", is money; but government always had the Red Kryptonite for that superpower.

Withdrawing the service of "money" is the government actually reminding them what the civil society, the one they don't really believe in, does for them. Money doesn't exist without civil society. Your bank account is just the sum of debts that "all society as a whole" agrees it owes you, for past work done. When you call for dissolution of Parliament, fiat rule, you're attacking the concept of democracy, and our civil society; you're attacking the very ideas that make money exist.

If you need more lectures, talk to any crypto guy. They'll go on and on about the fictitious nature of money.

I would be very, very, fearful of this government power if it were long-term, if it were like the "USAPATRIOT" act that is an apparently permanent loss of civil liberties.

As long as it's temporary, recorded, and investigated later, it could be a good way to avoid violence. The notion that this will stimulate further resistance, out of anger at the high-handedness, strikes me as ludicrous. Again, and again, it's the cracked-skulls response that brings out an even larger, angrier crowd next time. The temporary 'attack' on an abstraction just won't trigger amygdalas the same way.

http://brander.ca/c19#ppp

APPENDIX: excerpt from "My Occupy Arrest", 12/9/2011

My name is Patrick Meighan, and I'm a husband, a father, a writer on the Fox animated sitcom 'Family Guy', and a member of the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica.

I was arrested at about 1 a.m. Wednesday morning with 291 other people at Occupy LA.

When the LAPD finally began arresting those of us interlocked around the symbolic tent, we were all ordered by the LAPD to unlink from each other (in order to facilitate the arrests). Each seated, nonviolent protester beside me who refused to cooperate by unlinking his arms had the following done to him: an LAPD officer would forcibly extend the protestor's legs, grab his left foot, twist it all the way around and then stomp his boot on the insole, pinning the protestor's left foot to the pavement, twisted backwards. Then the LAPD officer would grab the protestor's right foot and twist it all the way the other direction until the non-violent protestor, in incredible agony, would shriek in pain and unlink from his neighbor.

It was horrible to watch, and apparently designed to terrorize the rest of us. At least I was sufficiently terrorized. I unlinked my arms voluntarily and informed the LAPD officers that I would go peacefully and cooperatively. I stood as instructed, and then I had my arms wrenched behind my back, and an officer hyperextended my wrists into my inner arms. It was super violent, it hurt really really bad, and he was doing it on purpose. When I involuntarily recoiled from the pain, the LAPD officer threw me face-first to the pavement. He had my hands behind my back, so I landed right on my face. The officer dropped with his knee on my back and ground my face into the pavement. It really, really hurt and my face started bleeding and I was very scared. I begged for mercy and I promised that I was honestly not resisting and would not resist.

My hands were then zipcuffed very tightly behind my back, where they turned blue. I am now suffering nerve damage in my right thumb and palm.

Call me when you have THAT to complain about; because Occupy got just about zero sympathy for that stuff.


February 17: Cuban Venceremos in Three Graphs

Venceremos! is a Chilean song about Allende, but most of Latin America sings it the way Americans sing "We Shall Overcome", with similar meaning.

Cuba has won victory over COVID, like no other country I can name. They've beaten the virus, with vaccines alone. Their vaunted health care is fairly distributed, but so poor, they can run out of oxygen, much less ventilators. If they hadn't controlled tranmission sharply and heavy-handedly for a year, they'd have had multiple-percent mortality, instead of under 1%

When Delta hit, they were just getting their vaccination program rolling, and the time-pressure must have been staggering: the cases skyrocketing, the virus more deadly, 7500 dead in six months, of 11 million people. By August, they must have been frantic - and also well-set-up, because they vaccinated 1% of the population per day, 100,000 people, every day for two months.

And Delta was broken, defeated, shrank away to nothing. The dying stopped. Entirely.

By the time Omicron hit, later than for the rest of us, about the New Year, they were past 90% vaccinated, down to age two. Omicron hit the rest of the world with atomic force, nobody able to do enough testing, wild guesses as to the actual case-count, the known case-count double Delta's worst numbers.

Except in Cuba.

Where Omicron was a piddly litte wave compared to Delta, a quarter as high and wide, an eighth the total cases...and one-fifth the mortality. 0.2% mortality is still worse than "the flu", but one can imagine Cuba living with all subsequent waves of COVID-19 that respond to Cuba's old-fashioned, basic vaccines.

This is the fourth time I've written about Cuba. There's also the Real Cuban Army that is spreading their help to the rest of the world.

They've also, as mentioned in previous posts, beaten Big Pharma, producing cheap, effective vaccines on their own; now they've proven them.

To sum up: Cuba beat the original and Alpha with distancing, masks, lockdowns, that were more-successful than in most countries, successful the way much richer nations like South Korea, Taiwan, New Zealand and Australia were. Then Delta blew through their protections the way it did through all of ours, and for four months, they had a "typical" pandemic, for, say, Europe. This raised their total death-rate up to where Canada was already...which is still three times as good as their bete noir, the United States. And then they beat down the disease with the fastest vaccination program on Earth, given the size and area that had to be covered. They proved vaccination can do it.

It's awesome, and should be studied by future pandemic-fighters as the Golden Standard to which others should be held.

It's about the only place I'd even consider for my next overseas vacation.

http://brander.ca/c19#venceremos


February 16: Time to Dump Trucks

Certainly, it's time in Ottawa, for about two weeks now. I'm sorry the Chief had to resign, but when a 21-year-old ordinary citizen walks into court and shuts up the air horns... that you let run for weeks... it's pretty embarrassing. Cops need to be respected, and a lot has been lost with Ottawans.

It's also time for CCCC to dump the truck issue. Yesterday's post was a reaction to not seeing that photo on the front page of my paper, the top of the Post and Globe web sites. I was off-topic. Let's finish up.

The last rants: Great reading at The Guardian, where George Monbiot calls out the "sovereign citizen" aspects to the Canada protests. This has simply not been mentioned in Canadian media itself, but the resemblance is obvious. It's that "memorandum", the one that called for dissolution of Parliament, which they have now withdrawn in embarrassment, though they trumpeted it for weeks, with 320,000 (alleged) signatures.

That's not about vaccines, it's about ignoring the existence of the constitution, the elections, and the government, entirely. Some people think that "sovereign citizens" are actually crazy. No: when you review what they think they're entitled to do, personally - not pay their landlord, ignore traffic laws - they just seem blindly, childishly self-centred.

At the other end of the size spectrum, comparatively tiny event in the little town of Oliver, BC.

What caught my eye, is that there were only 20 of the anti-mask protesters that protested outside a high school on Friday. But of just 20, several yelled slurs and called kids female body parts, and one just had to ask a South Asian-background kid if she had a right to be in this country.

It only takes 20 of them to average one out-front, conscious racist. By the time you get to 2000, you've got gunmen in the mix.

CCCC can drop this issue, because it's not really about the pandemic. It's about all rule-of-law, it's about anybody obeying any societal requirements to not be a parasite on your landlord, obey traffic (and parking) rules. There's no point arguing with "sovereign citizens", or anybody who thinks even a bit like them. And you've got excellent odds of running into a racist, if you do.

I'm sorry those kids bothered to argue with them; it wasn't worth teenager's time. But it was funny when the one teen shouted out "You're literally arguing with children!" By switching "literally" to "figuratively", the kid could also have yelled it at his friends.

http://brander.ca/c19#dumptrucks


February 15: Weapons of Vax Destruction

Labels added by myself.
Please, no whinging about what is and isn't an "assault rifle". All that matters for RCMP P.R. purposes - or, for that matter, actual purposes of intimidating people - is that those guns look like their exclusive purpose is to hunt and kill many humans at once. All I know about guns, is that if you haul one out, you are intimidating everybody within sight, even if it isn't loaded. Or is made of plastic.

I was distressed to not see this picture on the front pages of major Canadian newspapers this morning; the television news, more visual, was not so shy. The RCMP love to stage up photos like this, and there really is need to rub the noses of the anti-vaxxers in the fact of their fellow-travelers.

No, I don't think more than a few people in the protest are even thinking like this "criminal organization", as the RCMP are calling the arrestees. But they absolutely are "adjacent", and it mixes very, very badly with all the talk of dissolving Parliament and federal rule-by-fiat over provincial jurisdictions - totally unconstitutional unless somebody has guns out to, pardon the expression, trump the Constitution itself.

What I just want to stress, is that this ultra-extreme core is surrounded, and even protected, by a still-pretty-extreme bunch that talk political crazy-talk.

And, they're getting their way. Ford is dropping vaccine mandates in Ontario, despite 70% support for them. He's bending to a minority, because a minority of that 30% are extremely loud and active, and because a minority of those, are actively threatening. They threaten the economy, they threaten the national capital, and now, we see some of them very ready for violence when their protest is legally moved.

Ford needs to be called out for cowardice. This is not a time to be irresolute in the face of threats.

http://brander.ca/c19#weapons


February 14: All Out of Love? We Still Got Science

Before I start, I missed, two days ago, the opportunity to hype another good Canadian journalist recommending gentle measures and attitudes towards the protesters: Andrew Nikiforuk in The Tyee. Andrew talks to a therapist, to better understand the protesters. Most scientifically-interesting fact: A lot of the vaccine-hesitant had injurious childhood experiences. Makes it harder to be a vaccination-hardass and a "good liberal type", no?

Yes, the heart is still up in the window, getting to be about 20 months faded; and I think I know the point where we'll haul it down and declare the pandemic emotionally over.

No decision should be a political decision, if it can just be a scientific decision. All the worst things that have happened in this pandemic have happened when a politician didn't take sound scientific advice, preferring an "emotional truth", the "need" to open up. I spent a long post, about the time that heart was going up in the window, on SF author Marc Steigler, and his contention that scientists should decide when politicians are even allowed an opinion. (NB: Steigler couldn't make that idea work, even in an SF novel; it's just an idea one character wishes were true.)

Well, if only it were true, this is how you'd make all the decisions on relaxations and openings

Two infections per 100,000 people per day, that's the final tier. Or, 50 per 100,000 in a month, since with epidemics, the longer a check-period you have, the more sure the decision.

I recall that the whole system of opening/closing guidelines was actually solved, about the same time in Spring 2020, by a bunch of nurses at a care facility. (I'll never find the article now, sorry.) They worked through their epidemiology lessons, came up with an 8-tier plan for different levels of closure (masks for staff, masks for all, no common tables, no visitors, etc) and had rates of infection for all of them: at 1/100,000/day, we put on masks; at two, no visitors, and so forth.

The linked page is the CDC guidelines, which they can apply, because politicians meddle far less in rules for foreigners than their own constituents, and because it's federally regulated, a much bigger bureaucracy that's harder to push around. You just don't see this science in provincial or state decisions.

Here's your memory work: 50, 100, 500. Done. Was that hard?

These create four tiers: under 50/month; 50-100/month; 100-500; over 500. Per 100,000 people in the area affected by the decision, be it a health region, or a country.

Where is Canada right now? Nuthin' to it, let me grab the case-rates. Huge (and easily-supplied) bonus: I'll project forward down their declining-cases graph to tell you when they'll hit tier 2 (50-100). That's above the lowest level, but it's when most restrictions can be lifted.

In "per 100,000 per month" terms, BC is currently at 600, Alberta at 800, Ontario at 650, Nova Scotia about a thousand. But all of them are coming down so fast, they'll be down from high in Tier 4 (worst) to Tier 2 (mostly open) in three to six weeks. It's definitely time to plan reopening, even schedule reopening, with a tenative asterisk that cases have to keep declining.

With so many places around 600, we'll be below the 500 tier in a week or so; re-open some things. A few weeks later, it'll be below 100 - project the current graph forward and make a tentative scheduled day for that Tier. Give people some clarity.

Maybe if we turn this issue into one of Marc Steigler's scientific decisions, we can quit arguing, agree on a compromise...how Canadian.

http://brander.ca/c19#tiers


February 13: Read: "When the Rage Came For Me"

The graphic links to a collection of old protest photos, never mind that.

Your indispensable reading today, or ever, is "When the Rage Came For Me", by Canadian author Stephen Marche, in The Atlantic.

Indispensable. Best thing I've read on these protests, and for that matter, on American insurrectionists and right-wing trolls in general.

I can hardly exaggerate my enthusiasm. I feel physically better today, after reading it, letting it sink in. Emotionally lifted, relieved, freed. I'm not kidding.

It's a brilliant essay that has you thinking you know where it's going - criticizing others - and then turns the magnifying glass inward, upon the author, and all of us. You see, "When The Rage Came For Me" starts off about how he'd studied right-wing protests for years, across America, for a book. He'd trained himself to keep his own reaction to it at arm's-length, stay outside it, so he could relate with his interview subjects. When the protests came to his neighbourhood, though, they got to him: he reacted with irritation, outrage, got angry.

And realized, that at last, the rage had come for him: not the ragers, the rage itself. It was invading his brain, after five years of keeping it at bay. If he let it, the rage would hurt him, weaken him, sicken him. He'd watched it eat others, and knew he couldn't let it.

And then, he makes any Canadian reading it proud, and any American reading it, envious. He talks his mostly-liberal readers down from hating them back, pointing out all the ways in which these protests are better than January 6: That Canada's raging right-wingers were raising the swastika only as an insult, associating it with Trudeau, not holding it up as their emblem. Not Charlottesville. There's many points more, please read, but to sum up, he notes the whole protest had the emotional feel of a tailgate-party, not an ugly mob.

Those of us - like myself, yesterday - who harp on the tiny minority of really awful people in their midst, are increasing emotional reactions. Like the protests itself, versus vaccination popularity: "It's not helping!"

I would add something to his points: our protests do not feature AR-15s. Nobody will be shot because a teenager used a pandemic bonus to buy an automatic weapon that "looks cool".

We can choose to give no victory to the American forces that tried to spread their hate to Canada: we can just not do any hating back. We can remove these protesters as gently as possible, fine them as little as needed to make a point, dissuade a repeat - but not rub it in. We can de-escalate this with respect, tolerance, and kindness.

These folks are so, so wrong. They are wrong on the facts, wrong on what democracy is, wrong on decency and respect. They are also our neighbours, our wacky uncles, our co-workers. So let's just back down on making them even madder, and not let ourselves be tricked and manipulated into becoming them.

We can beat American values with Canadian values.

Read the essay, and feel better.

http://brander.ca/c19#hate4me


February 12: Where Have All The Swastikas Gone?

The image at left links to a paper I'd never heard of, the "Jewish Telegraphic Agency", though it dates to 1917. The other top link was Jerusalem Post, when you look for "ottawa swastikas". Some folks sure are sensitive about swastikas, for some reason.

Yes, CCCC is down to Convoy Comments, the lowest level of pandemic coverage. I've done some proud number-crunching, lately, exposed that American 30-somethings are at nearly 14 times the risk of equivalent Canadians, I'm taking Saturday off. "Dumping on swastikas" is a day off, as easy as breathing.

The swastikas all disappeared very quickly, the Confederate Battle Flags are barely seen now...which is odd! This whole group is passionately devoted to FREEDOM!!, most especially, Freedom of Speech! How could they have suppressed those who wished to use their legal, constitutional right to wave a Confederate Battle Flag? The police wouldn't have done that, couldn't have done that!

Oh, how could they tell their fellow protestors, their allies, to go away, or at least, furl up that particular speech, and Shut Up? Sure, they'd want to: Canadians hate racists, and those who truck with them. So to speak. But didn't holy Freedom of Speech overcome that? No.

Obviously, the Convoy leaders don't want people in their company who put them at risk, want them to stay away. Or at least take measures to ensure they don't hurt the message, risk the Convoy.

Which, of course, is the exact philosophy of a vaccine mandate. The flags have been masked!

As I write, the Bridge is being cleared, and I suspect that Ottawa will fold-up under the threat of arrest, property confiscation, huge fines. Why did Trudeau delay and look weak there, for a whole extra week longer than was needed to show that he was the reasonable, slow-to-anger side?

Don Braid of The Calgary Herald nailed it, I think, yesterday:

Even the pathetically passive Trudeau government, which appears to be waiting for the protesters to thoroughly discredit themselves, may be moved to quick action.
It's a funny line, in a way: Braid's whole article, about government "finally waking up" because auto plants are closing, takes the tack that they were just slow and passive. But that line, which starts off slagging Trudeau, also credits him with very sharp political instincts. If the delay has cost Trudeau a few points of popularity, but the Convoy several, it's a relative win, particularly since some Conservatives foolishly gave them support.

Trudeau's strategy didn't bring huge results: support has stayed at 29% for over two weeks, but five percent moved from "somewhat oppose" to "strongly oppose". That bumps up "strongly oppose" to 32%, more than "strongly support" and "somewhat support", put together.

But, it brought some results. The Convoy has damaged the anti-vaxxer, anti-public-health philosophy in Canada, not helped it. Rallies are to gather support; this one has failed utterly.

Except they mandated-away, or at least masked, the swastika guys. Thanks for that.

http://brander.ca/c19#ottawastikas


February 11: Biden's "97 times more likely to die" Fact-Checked

Yup! Joe was right. Unvaccinated adults are dying down there at 9.74/100,000 per week, fully boosted at 0.1. Ninety-seven times more likely to die.

That's not much news, only nitwits figured that Joe Biden would be engaged in loose trash talk. What caught my eye was the graph, and the lack of waves, for the vaccinated.

The high values on the big black line for the unvaxxed, show both the high rate of dying during the last week of the Delta Wave, in September, how it bottoms out at the end of October, and starts rising again, as Omicron starts killing them.

All of which is invisible, for the vaccinated. There is simply no pandemic, for us, not for a long time now. The "vaccinated pandemic" consists of:

I have to admit, I'm ready to re-open, as well, but that would require the doctors to just start ignoring unvaccinated patients. Then we could just open right up, let them die at home, and life would be normal again.

But, those darn medicos and their oaths, they won't do that, of course, and we'd probably feel bad about it, so we have to endure a few more weeks, to protect people we're very angry at.

Sigh.

http://brander.ca/c19#rush2reopen


February 10: 2000 Extra Albertans Dead; Jason's Just Finishing-Up The Job

Horrified by Jason Kenney dropping pandemic controls with the ICUs all still packed with customers? Ah, take it easy: you've already accepted thousands dead without lynching him. Thousands, who'd be alive right now, if they'd had NDP's John Horgan for a Premier, (or perhaps NDP's Rachel Notley).

As always, CCCC will show its work.

For starters, Alberta has just 4.07 million people, BC 4.65 million. BC would have 15% more deaths than Alberta, given the same deaths-per-million.

But, as my family can tell you, as another of the four guys who retired with me can tell you, as two more of the 18 suites in our building can tell you, Albertans retire to BC: we have way more old people.

The image at right, is your standard "demographic pyramid", showing what percentage of your population is age 1, age 2...up to age 99. The blue line is the Alberta mix of old and young: a lot more 20-30-somethings, a lot less seniors.

The notations on the graph are for age 70 and age 80. That's the group that does nearly all the dying in the pandemic, about 90% of it. (Because Canada has a tiny "youth pandemic" under age 50, see yesterday's post and others it links.)

The ratio is sharp up in the 70s: the ratios for age 70, (0.95% / 0.66%) and age 80, (0.5% / 0.35%) are about 1.4. There should be nearly 1.4 times as many COVID deaths in British Columbia, per million population, because Albertans kindly remove themselves from the Alberta medical system just when we get expensive, and dump our aging bodies on BC to provide our eldercare.

So, deaths in BC should be 15% higher just because of population, but then another 40% higher, because of age. But, these are loose numbers, and my comparison of ages used only two data-points, so let's round-down 1.15 X 1.4 = 1.6, to a mere 1.5. So, in this model: for every 1000 deaths in Alberta, BC would have had around 1500, if we had equal pandemic responses.

Oh, boy, we did not.

The data are from covid-19canada.com, and the graphic links to my little spreadsheet. The ratio of dead in Alberta to BC is almost exactly the reverse of what it should be, and the ratio is getting worse. Rising from 1.2 in early 2020, to 1.4 recently, with just the deaths since last June 30 at a ratio of 1.45, Kenney is on-track to soon be killing 3 Albertans for every 2 that die in BC. His new "drop the defenses" strategy should get him there.

Alberta should have 70% of BC's death-toll, instead it has 140%. Jason Kenney is losing TWO Albertans for every comparable citizen that John Horgan is. It's twice as deadly to live in Alberta, today, as it is to live in BC.

No wonder we old people move to BC; it's not just the weather, apparently, it's a deep, almost telepathic reading-of-the-room, that Alberta would rather have open bars than living seniors.

Which brings me around to letting Jason off, just a little. A lot of "pandemic response" is actually reflective of culture: how many people shrug off the warnings and visit family anyway; how many mask up grudgingly and minimally, rather than whole-heartedly. The deaths and Jason Kenney's popularity may both be correlations of a common-cause, rather than one being causation of the other.

That's Jason's only kind paragraph. Whether he was elected by a certain mentality or not, he had the choice to be Rob Ford, who's been equally eager to open-up, but more cautious about doing it. Jason could have used his position to hold back and calm his most-radical supporters; instead, he's pandering to people who held his border hostage.

Alberta could have had as few as 1700 dead by now, had they the performance of BC; they have 3700. Jason Kenney, his supporters, and his philosophy, have killed an extra 2000 Albertans that should be alive today.

I was going to put off this column until May 13, so we could add up "How Many Albertans Jason Killed by Friday the 13th", compared to BC. But, Jason dropping the restrictions about a month early, with the ICU still full, the cases higher than their 2020 peak, will probably cost an extra hundred lives or so; Alberta is currently losing 20/day (BC, 16 - see?) and that just has to be extended an extra five days to kill a hundred.

I hope his improved popularity with the border-blockers is worth it.

http://brander.ca/c19#jasonbutcher


February 9: "Thirty-Something"...and Dead

Hey, it's thirty-something years since "thirtysomething" left the air in 1991, when I was thirty-something...and never watched it. Good riddance.

It's the American thirtysomethings of today that shocked me a bit, just now, as I ran their numbers. They are the absolute worst-hit by the difference between Canadian and American pandemic-fighting.

In the "main pandemic" of those over 65, Canada beats Team USA by 3:1; the one journalistic scoop that seems to remain unique to CCCC, is my coverage of the "youth" pandemic, for those under the age of 50; repeated just last January 18, with similar figures.

For the twentysomethings, it's 5.7 times as bad to be American; thirtysomethings, over seven times, and by fortysomethings, it's over 8:1.

That's for the overall pandemic, the grand sum total of bodybags since March 2020.

Today's post gives you the current rates of dying in the Youth Pandemic comparison of Team Canada to Team USA. I could hardly believe the numbers as I worked them, so I'll lay out the calculations in a table, check my work.

The figures for Jan 18 are those on my Jan 18 post. The figures for today, are from the same two very official sources, the
CDC: https://data.cdc.gov/NCHS/Provisional-COVID-19-Deaths-by-Sex-and-Age/9bhg-hcku
Canada.ca: https://health-infobase.canada.ca/covid-19/epidemiological-summary-covid-19-cases.html

Age GroupUS Dead
Jan 18
US Dead
Feb 9
Can. Dead
Jan 18
Can. Dead
Feb 9
Can Deaths
3-weeks
Can. Deaths
X8.75
US Deaths
3-weeks
Ratio
18-29511955811031096534628.7
30-3915015163432342431196132813.8
40-4936305391664995495043828616.5
The fifth column shows how Canada has lost just 66 patients below the age of 50 in the last three weeks. (6+11+50) Nearly all of our losses were over the age of 50.

The second last column subtracts the American losses by today, from those of January 18, coming up with 4651 American dead in that time, (462+1328+2861).

The ratio assumes that the population ratio is 8.75:1 between the nations.

My earliest post, "Dying Young" just added up the 7:1 ratio for overall younger people. The second one broke it out by decade, and this does the same just for 3 weeks of the Omicron Wave.

For the American "Thirtysomethings", the ratio is becoming astonishing. It's nearly fourteen times as dangerous, to be a 30-something American, than 30-something Canadian, right now. We are losing one every other day; they're losing 63 every day.

I promised a mathematical meditation, but I didn't promise answers. Why are the 30-somethings in so much more danger than both the 20s and the 40s? I'll take a tentative stab at "by 40, you've gotten out of your service or labour job, and into an office", but I'm guessing.

The real epidemiologists will be figuring out things like that for years to come. I'm just glad to have highlighted that it is happening, at all, when nobody else is.

http://brander.ca/c19#30something


February 8: "The Line" on the Ottawa Protest Backlash

There I was, cranking up a nice mathematics meditation on death-rates, when I realized I have to put it off a day or so, as more data is due tomorrow. Meanwhile, I was getting multiple backpats from other commentators at "The Line", on the Ottawa Protest Backlash, by Jen Gerson.

Suddenly deprived of material, why not recycle that, as the protests are certainly a pandemic topic. With a few edits to make it stand-alone, rather than a reply to Jen, here it is:

The crucial differences, between this protest and previous examples, are that the BLM march was over in a day, the rail blockades only inconvenienced money, not people (the same reason Ottawa is getting 4X the attention as the border blockades), and the Occupations didn't have air-horns going 7x24.

A word on "critical" infrastructure: if there's any other way to move the same cargo, it isn't "critical", it's merely a large financial inconvenience. BC was cut off from the rest of the country for weeks by Mom Nature; nobody died, so it wasn't "vital" infrastructure. It was "critical" to some businesses, but not society itself, not over a mere week.

The air-horns are the thing. I've never forgotten a great point in Maclean's story on the Incel Truck Mass Murderer, and how proud I was of Constable Ken Lam, who declined to give him a suicide-by-cop. After the guy had made several false draws of a nonexistent gun, Lam reached into his cop car, and turned off the siren. Maclean's noted, "with the effect of a crying baby falling silent, in a room full of family tension". Lam talked him down. Air-horns, 7x24, would make absolutely anybody start ugly talk about calling in the Army. I'd be calling in air-strikes by day 3, myself.

Stripped of the air-horn-driven emotions, Canadians would mostly shrug at this. Let 'em yap, and give them nothing, is how it goes for everybody else. The BLM marchers got zero police reform; Occupy got no financial reforms; the Wet'suwet'en got nothing.

Jen Gerson wrote a surprising comment:

I will note that the prime minister doesn't seem eager to de-escalate, either. No "understanding" from the Liberals for this crowd: they're a bunch of fringe deplorables with "unacceptable views." Did anyone expect a gentler tone after the last election? The Liberals only need the support of roughly 30 per cent of the population to govern, and that 30 per cent neatly aligns with the population who would love to see these truckers, the very personification of the anti-vax movement, get their heads cracked in, or at least hauled off in irons. This occupation is an opportunity for Trudeau. This is his "just watch me" moment. The prime minister isn't going to resign.

I'm not sure where "resign" came from, as the "just watch me" moment was when Dad Trudeau called for troops on the streets. Son will not.

I can't imagine why Gerson thinks that Canadians, of all the peoples of the Earth, would be striving towards conflict, focusing on the 30% that would support air-strikes, rather than the 60% that voted for parties supporting mandates, just a few months ago. Trudeau will of course pursue the 60%, not the 30%; he will find the most-moderate solution to this mess that he can find, not the most dramatic, chest-puffing, self-aggrandizing, I-am-a-war-leader-who-alone-can-fix-it solution he could find, as Trump would. Yes, JT is a bullshitter and performative politician, but he's a Canadian one. He wants to be loved as the Good Guy, not feared as the Tough Guy.

My money just hit the table: the protests will be resolved peacefully. The protesters will get nothing, save that if they stretch it out to the end of the month, then changes coming anyway, as infections fall, can be claimed as their "victory", and Trudeau will let them have it, to save face all around.

It's the Canadian Way.

http://brander.ca/c19#ottawa


February 7: Just Discovered the "COVID-19 Monitor"

Late to the party, but at least I found it. I have to give the shout-out to The Tyee story "Most Disagree with Convoy Truckers", which covered the actual public opinion. Hardly necessary, as every bit of coverage of the convoy keeps repeating that we are 90% vaccinated and 70% supportive of mandates.

The story mentions the COVID-19 Monitor, also linked from the graphics. If you check the Monitor for "restrictions", and ask for the time-series, you get the graph I have shrunk to illegibility, above. It shows the very, very, slowly sinking popularity of various restrictions, from playgrounds to bars - I can shrink it like that because you can see, across 23 months, nearly horizontal lines showing that restrictions support has only sunk about 10% or so, from very high, to high, for most places like bars and theatres. Touch your mouse to any survey period, and you get the list to the left of it, which is for the current time.

What has sunk below 50% - save for "playgrounds", which was always stupid - is schools, down to 40%. Hair places and gyms are barely over 50%; everything else is over 60% support. Even now. It's not just the dying, guys, nobody likes getting really sick for weeks. Nobody wants a 10%-15% chance of "long covid" and maybe months of misery.

The Tyee link explains The Monitor better than I can, here, but it's legitimately scientific polling, a joint effort of McMaster University and a research-polling organization.

Their work shows that the 70% is an overall support for mandates, but it rises to 75% for teachers and other government workers, 80% for health-care worker mandates.

It doesn't actually drop to 50% until you ask about mandates for kids under 5(!)

The Monitor also has figures for you on how concerned people really are about the economy, paying their bills, and job security. "Access to Food and Supplies" is the absolute bottom concern, so the politicians can please stop tweeting empty-shelves pictures? Nobody believes you.

http://brander.ca/c19#monitor


February 6: When "Government Restrictions" Were Much More Serious

Sunday rant.

What can I say, sometimes I just think of something infuriating, and it's my only topic. I could provide a hundred links, graphics, jokes, but don't need any.

There was a time when the government really restricted your actions, to protect your health. They even had arguments about how your poor health might hurt others, at least by taking you away from job and family.

This danger was endlessly exaggerated, with complete misinformation. Scientists wrote how they were wrong in academic journals, and some small-audience, left-wing press. But the scientists were forbidden to study the danger any further, denied research materials and funding to prove that all the government advertising of misinformation, was wrong.

The misinformation was used to justify laws that forbade you to smoke leaves from a plant you'd grown in your own garden, never leaving your property.

The Drug War cost America many billions of dollars per year, directly, and of course with some 28,000 people serving time for cannabis offenses at any point, you had 28,000 people not earning money.

Our right wing, Defenders of Our Freedoms Against Government Tyranny, were not, alas, anywhere to be seen. They were, of course, in the government cheering section, demanding further restrictions and punishments on those menaces, the dope smokers.

Rant done, but it reminds me of another thing: people grumped, but shrugged and folded when bars all wouldn't let you in if you were smoking, and exhaling unpleasant substances into the common air. It was popular! The laws to end smoking in bars, only came after a number of bars had gone no-smoking, and found that their business went up, even as bar-owners predicted it would lead to financial doom.

What's the diff between smoke particles and COVID particles, except that death is far more likely and imminent?

Enjoy your Sunday.

http://brander.ca/c19#cannabisera


February 5: Pro-Vax Fascists

"But, Uncle Roy, that can't be. You're Canadians", said my niece Maria, over Zoom from Madrid. I had been trying to explain to her about the Ottawa Convoy, and our Conservative party being torn apart by whether to support them, or ask them to leave (or at least stop honking).

America, she understands, is so different. But there are few Canada-is-better chauvinists in Canada itself, quite as much as my niece in Madrid. She hangs quite a bit of pride on being "totally Spanish, but also half-Canadian". (She is a professor of translation at the ancient University of Salamanca, a mom of two, and a great source of family pride in her own right).

I finally got it through to her that the American conservatism is not unknown in Canada, if too weak to get elected. And that our Conservatives are tortured by the need to not lose about 25% of their party, and the greater need to not disgust the other 75%. (The graphic at left is not a link to the Washington Post, where I no longer have an account; I was just caught by the headline.)

That, if the Brits can just get on with it on Monday, we might see two major Conservative leaders thrown from their jobs in one week: Johnson for not taking is own pandemic seriously, O'Toole for taking it too seriously for the anti-vax guys.

It's completely new for a pandemic, and public health measures in general, to cause political strife that breaks up parties. This didn't happen in 1918, or with Polio.

Your story link for the day, goes back, where else, to America, where the problem is at the most intense. The American GOP may be showing cracks under the stress, at long last. The eye-grabbing headline in The Guardian is "'Trump is not my God': how the former president's only vaccine victory turned sour".

Pandemic news-junkies don't need to be told that Trump can't brag about "Operation Warp Speed" for vaccine delivery, without getting booed any more. But the story goes on to note all the GOP that were not booing.

I've put in a long quote as a graphic, at right. It was kind of a catharsis to read it, far better than the sad, ugly feeling that accompanies hearing of an anti-vaxxer dying of COVID. It was the happy case of a mind changing, because they were confronted with inescapable facts. Now that the great majority of American COVID deaths are unvaccinated, and the Democrats are 90% vaccinated, the Republicans, 60%, so Republicans are dying three times as fast as Democrats just now. It might be sinking in. But not enough! The article concludes with the flat statement that vaccination-supporters cannot win a GOP primary, now, period.

Maria summed it up for me, when I remarked that, because Franco proudly called himself a fascist, it was OK to call yourself "a proud fascist" in Spain, up through most of the 1970s, and the Spanish Left, to this day, simply call fascists, fascists.

"I call them the fascist party, and I have to tell you, Spain's fascist party is on-side with vaccination. A new party sprang up, ultra-right-wing, to the right of the fascists, to provide a home for our anti-vaxxers".

Spain has one of the highest vaccination rates on Earth. My niece's 35 students are all vaccinated, lucky since 15 of them currently have Omicron! They have far more infections than Canada, still, but only a little higher death rate.

It's the land where you have to go to the right of the sons of the old fascists, to find an anti-vaxxer.

http://brander.ca/c19#provaxfascists


February 4: The Week(s) of Peak Dying

In South Africa, the early-adopter for Omicron, that the rest of us look to for hints as to our future, the decline in Omicron cases has halted for over a week. The "wave of dying" that's a month behind the cases-curve, has actually ticked up the last few days.

The UK was also a little ahead of us on Omicron, has slowed their case-decline in recent weeks, and their death-rates have been level for a while.

All of which has CCCC glumly betting that BC, which may have passed "peak hospital", and "peak ICU", is only getting to the week(s) of "peak dying" - and they may go on a while.

The pandemic seems to have re-wired us to think a month into the future, as we look at the statistics; as soon as cases started going down, the talk of the pandemic being just-about-over started - a month ago, now.

Bonnie and other public health officials started talking about "peak hospital" being over, when the numbers were still basically at the peak. Maybe the worn-out staff needed the ray of sunshine.

I'd been thinking that Canada might get up to 200 dead/day, am relieved to see it heading down already from an apparent peak at 163. But the South Africa uptick, and the UK levelling, hint that we may stay well above 100/day for weeks on end, yet.

Canada's hit 34,329 dead, on worldometers, as I write; a few weeks at a thousand a week, and we'll hit the "1000 Club", of nations with over 1000 dead/million, about 13 months after we hit the "500 Club", last year. We might have missed it, might have stayed under 900 (we hit 900, today!), if it weren't for "mild" Omicron, which will have "mildly" killed twice as many Canadians as die in traffic accidents in a year.

http://brander.ca/c19#peakdying


February 3: Music To My Ears

Ah, those horns. Scientifically designed to annoy the hell out of your ears.

Those horns are now tightly associated with anti-vaxxers, as are Ottawa gridlock, sleepless residents, and humiliated police. The graphic links to a story about the residents.

I actually understand the Ottawa police; they're right. They know full-well that a place with 10 TV cameras upon it, is the opposite of a construction site, or forestry road, deep in the BC woods: a single physical finger laid upon just one of these protesters would bring two protesters back, of the thousands that have left. The police want them bored.

Police specialize in fast, complete operations when the cameras are off, of course, as with the clean-out of Zucotti Park at 1AM, November 15, 2011. There was some light brutality in that, but the cameras didn't catch it.

But, let's not: as a lefty-type, I'm happy to see it go on as long as possible, with all sympathies to the Ottawa residents. As a pro-vaxxer, I'm ecstatic! Oh, Lord, grant me stupid enemies that make themselves into arrogant, petulant, incoherent villains on camera!

If you want a short, serious analysis of all the things they're doing wrong, The Tyee hired a professor to break it down in detail. A great, short read.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to watch the noon news out of Ottawa. They're still playing my song.

http://brander.ca/c19#hornmusic


February 2: Read the Room, Conservatives

Canadian Conservatives Can't Count on White Evangelicals.
They cannot spout American delusions and win.
They have to cut the anti-vaxxers loose.
Period.

The Anti-Vaxxer Protesters (call them what they are) just got what the Anti-Vaxxer politicians got, in the last election. They bounced off the Canadian electorate like a tennis ball hitting a brick wall. They more they act up as who they are, the less they are liked, the worse for their cause.

The graphic at left is from the same source as informs my September 21 election blog-post, linked above: Michael Adams of Environics, and his cultural-values polling. Canadians are just different.

If I had to put it to one demographic distinction, we have only a few percent White Evangelicals. That group, in the USA, not only has very strong cultural positions on various issues (gays, Blacks, immigrants), but a certain willingness to believe astonishing things from authority figures. Right down, infamously, to the size of a crowd in a photograph. Such people are easy marks for anti-vaxxers and other conspiracy theorists. (All anti-vaxxers are conspiracy theorists: you can't be one if you don't believe that thousands of physicians, scientists, and public health officials, are conspiring to lie to you.)

There are two things that conspiracy theorists are not: good planners, or good citizens. The latter is obvious: you can't be a good citizen if you are generally distrustful of society itself. "Conspiracy theorist Red Cross volunteer" is a small Venn-diagram space indeed. (Indeed, some believe the Red Cross is a "front" for pedophiles...of course.)

As for "planning", the thing that our protesters and the January-Sixth gang have in common is that the Jansixers wandered the halls when they took the capital, as our "truckers" are now wandering Ottawa, no messaging, no eye-catching performance art, not even nine million dollars worth of food and hotel rooms. What kind of idiot wastes that much money?

Black Lives Matter had a tiny fraction of their budget, but Sunset Park in Vancouver had 20 portapotties, a stage with an amazing singer, an atmosphere of "party" that drew people in, not frightened them away.

The anti-vaxxers (I won't again call them "truckers", and insult the 90% of truckers) are even driving away the National Post, at this point, though Carson Jerema there is still trying to legitimize them:

"...there weren't just hundreds, but thousands of people headed to the capital, hardly the fringe minority they were being dismissed as..."
Sorry, National Post, but you know 7,000 BLM marchers in Ottawa got exactly nothing, 19 months ago. No RCMP reform, no major police department reform. Because 7,000 turns out to be a "fringe minority", I guess. There are 39 million Canadians. And their conspiracy-theory - that police departments, police unions, prosecutors, and politicians all tend (if not actually "conspire") to look the other way at police misconduct towards, um, fringe minorities... that conspiracy theory has a lot of support.

But they got nothing. We're a conservative country in the simplest sense of that word: we don't change societal institutions, like "police", or "public health", quickly or easily. Look at the last election: same Parliament.

And that is the room that the Conservatives need to read, today: a room too conservative for radical ideas like anti-vaxxers, anti-immigrants, and pro-militarism. Those ideas are radical to the Canadian culture. Read the polls. Read the fate of the PPC. Read the room.

http://brander.ca/c19#antivaxprotests


February 1, 2022: Call in the Army

Welcome to new reader, Laurence Seton! Your warm words are really appreciated. I just told Laurence that I had no idea what I was about to write for today, but that didn't last long. The first article tossed at me today by David Sirota's "The Daily Poster" which brings "progressive news" (Dave was big in the Bernie Sanders campaigns) to his fans.

The link is to their story, covered further here, at CNET, about the remarkable vaccine developed by the US Army. It's a whole new kind of vaccination: a, deep breath, "spike ferritin nanoparticle" (SpFN) vaccine. It should be "pan-coronavirus", offering immunity to all coronaviruses! They've only done animal trials so far, we're maybe a year from any human application, but, wow - talk about a game-changer.

At this point, CCCC owes at least a partial apology, to the last entity on the planet I thought I'd have to apologize to, the US Military.

CCCC was preceded, not just by a longer blog post about the "COVID Cup", but one the week before about how "The US Military Kills a Million Americans", (mostly grandparents). The argument there was that the military gets a far bigger raise, every year than the CDC gets as budget. By spending all on guns, not butter, the US had left itself likely to have the worst pandemic in the developed world. It's not about the vaccines, it's the hospitals, the public health-care system, the tests and treatments.

Well, partial apologies are due, because parts of the US military do indeed, fight this war. They have an extensive medical research capability, and it has swung into action. Normally only concerned with the troops, their research does, this time, have civilian applications.

But the organization they work for, is still sucking America dry; that a few crumbs from their lavish table have happened to sprout into mighty oaks, is no credit to the generals who lied for 20 years straight about Afghanistan.

Did Dave Sirota and Bernie Sanders needed any proof that Big Pharma is not actually necessary to provide the new pharma developments? These Army officers, who will not become billionaires, despite doing more than Pfizer and Moderna put together, have just supplied it. The "Nationalize Big Pharma" movement just got a booster shot.

Back to the important topic, the pandemic is clearly going to be looked back upon in 10 years as the Golden Age of Vaccination progress. We employed three (!!) new kinds of vaccines: the "adenovirus" type, like Astrazeneca, the mRNA type, and now this. The possibilities are almost breathtaking.

http://brander.ca/c19#armyvax


January 31: Fun Facts

I managed to depress myself and ruin most of my day, yesterday, with that post. I deal with statistics as much as possible in CCCC, because, as Stalin said, statistics aren't tragedies. Knocking the stats down to a comprehensible number of dead - four - and happening now, converted them back to tragedies for me.

And, by the way, Canada's average is up to 170/day, so four dead in Canada, too,though "just" three of the four were because of non-vaccination. And, yes, that's the 12 million of Ohio with a higher unvaccinated death rate than total death rate of Canada's 40 million.

I guess that last is a "fun fact" if you're Canadian, but these are the tidbits that I, for all my pandemic reading, had missed until this morning:

There. I've converted all those dead people back into math problems again, my subconscious feels much better.

http://brander.ca/c19#funfacts


January 30: While I Typed: Four Dead in Ohio

Most protesters get nothing.

This was the protest our street, the other day. The West End of Vancouver managed to drum up somewhat fewer people than walked their dogs past our house yesterday morning. But, of course, the protests across the country were much larger, clearly comparable to the ruckus stirred up by Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.

Which, when you stop to think of it, got exactly nothing. No RCMP reform, no police reforms at all, that I can think of.

It'll be about the same with the protest efforts of Canadians Neil Young (from Toronto) and Joni Mitchell (Ft. Macleod) against Spotify's anti-vaxxer.

I knew, when Neil announced, that it would fail. It would only succeed if Taylor Swift and Beyonce joined in. When fellow Canadian rock oldster Joni was the only one to join in, I felt a rush of both sentiment, nostalgia - still at it, guys, 55 years after the Summer of Love - and pity. Beyonce will remain as silent as she did in 2010, when her husband tried to make money off of "Occupy Wall Street", and backed away when criticized...but never donated a dime.

Very little of Rock'N'Roll was about protest. Most 1960s songs were about cars and girls. Entertainers are afraid to offend half their customers, so they only get on-side with motherhood statements. Give up on Taylor Swift.

(Funny factoid about the Occupy embarrassment: Jay-Z attempted to sound all tough and radical with this "Occupy All Streets" T-shirts for $22, despite zero action to actually support the protest, no statements condemning banks, and certainly no shifting of his then-$400M fortune to ethical funds. And, when you think of it, "Occupy All Streets" is an instruction to break up the crowd and go home. That's the only time when we "Occupy All Streets", is when we spread out to our homes.)

Neil's greatest protest song, of course, was "Ohio", with that bottom-line cost as the refrain: Four Dead in Ohio.

So I checked the numbers, to see if how Ohio is doing. It's one of the lower Amercan states at vaccination, just 56%. And it had 194 dead, January 28. A few weeks ago, a Cleveland clinic added up that 75% of the patients were unvaccinated. 87% of those in the ICU. 91% of those on ventilators.

I'm going to make the leap from ventilators to coffins, and assume that 90% of Ohio's dead were "vaccine resistant", if not COVID-resistant.

So, multiplying by point nine, it was 174 Dead in Ohio. Just yesterday. From not vaccinating.

You know, Mary Ann Vecchio, the "kneeling girl" in the famous photograph, is retired in Florida. She said in interviews how she feels a need to do good things in her life; perhaps if she got down on one knee and simply begged.

It's worth a try. At 174 unvaccinated deaths per day, there is one every eight minutes, in Ohio. I've been working on this post for just over half an hour.

During which time, there were Four Dead in Ohio.

http://brander.ca/c19#4deadinohio


January 29: Penance for Yesterday

Double-length post yesterday; I try to keep them under 500 words, but aggressive, smug, pushy anti-vaxxers just got my wind up. So, super-short today, and I'll just get over it by ranting right at them.

To be "anti-mandate", in a situation where we sadly need them to make the vaccination program effective at holding down infections going exponential, is to be "anti-vax". You aren't really "pro-vax" unless you support the larger program of stopping the disease. If you were really only just "anti-mandate", you'd prevent the need for mandates by vaccination, and strong promotion of vaccination to everybody you know. So, you're anti-vax, whatever you say.

And, summing up: bite me.

http://brander.ca/c19#nothing


January 28: Decades of Lies Come Home to the Lying Liars That Lied Them

I can't even engage with the pandemic, proper, today. This is just a long rant. (I'm sorry. It doesn't happen often any more.)

As the "Freedom Convoy" rolls towards Ottawa, blithering about the Governor General taking power, and the feds dictating provincial law, I wake up to Frank Luntz lecturing the British about "Be Thankful You Don't Have Our Poison", of lying politicians, and voters screaming conspiracy theories at frightened pollsters like himself.

Except Frank Luntz is the poison. So is, or was, Canadian David Frum (suitably old picture, below Frank, in the linked images at left), who joins Frank in being (a little bit) frank about how wrong they were.

David's up there, today, because Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! (and only her, I'm sure), reminded her news viewers that today is the 20th anniversary of David Frum's "Axis of Evil" line. He wrote it for GW Bush's State of the Union speech, that was the start of the year-long sales pitch for the Iraq War.

Frank Luntz would now like to be seen, as just a pollster who surveyed what Republicans were thinking. Not even half his job. He was a market-tester who found which phrases got what reactions. That "climate change" would push less action than "global warming"; that "government health care" would frighten, while "public health care" was positive, so must never be mentioned. Frank really helped America keep their health-care system as bad and unequal as possible for 20 years before the pandemic hit. He tested lines that writers like David invented, he found out which lies would sell.

The connection? Their Iraq War was sold with a conspiracy theory, not just with ordinary political lies. I mean, the previous war in Iraq had been sold with a scurrilous, bald-faced lie about babies thrown from incubators, concocted by the Hill and Knowlton PR firm. They coached the Kuwaiti Ambassador's daughter to pretend to be an escaped nurse.

That was quite the incredible lie, swallowed whole by the newspapers - but it wasn't a conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theories are separate animals in that they are very hard to falsify, to prove untrue. Who can prove that Jews don't control the global financial system? Nobody can prove a negative, though a good journalist could have proven that the "nurse" was fake.

But could journalism falsify the story that Saddam Hussein, Iraqi dictator who didn't trust his own family out of the country, was going to build a nuclear bomb in jig time, then conspire with Saudi religious fanatics, trusting them with his precious ultimate weapon? There's a whole movie, "Shock and Awe" about how nutty the intelligence and security journalism communities thought it was. But you can't prove a conspiracy theory is impossible.

The conspiracy theory story was tested. Probably by Frank Luntz. White House Chief of Staff Andy Card later called the story about WMDs "The New Product". It was just like a civilian marketing campaign for a new slogan.

Frank and David are upset now, that the trend they helped start, pushed along, and profited from enormously, has Gone Too Far (for them). But they deserve no pity. Too many dead bodies piled up.

We can take heart that truth will probably be restored, eventually - at least in history classes, and maybe in the common understanding. At right, an image I ran across months ago, (and neglected to note the source, many apologies), which is a six-year-old survey...possibly run by Frank Luntz, come to think of it. What Evangelicals cared about on the Eve of the 2016 election, with "gay marriage" already dead last.

If you were there, you know how crazy that made evangelicals all through the 1990s and 2000s. Joe Biden actually had the nerve to support gay marriage first, shaming a nervous Obama into doing so. But, when conservatives lost that one, it promptly vanished as an issue. Haven't heard of it in years.

Gay marriage had never really been an issue. It was created with public relations, just like the babies in incubators, just like the WMD "product", only they stoked the "Gay Agenda" fears for decades. They were coming for your children. Gays teaching school would be on a "flesh hunt". For your helpless kids. The "Gay Agenda" had conspiracy-theory aspects, too: how to falsify? Impossible.

The lies about vaccination will be the same. CCCC noted just 12 days back that conservatives were pro-vaccine just a few years ago. They'll be back to the pro-vaccine side next time it is advantageous. What David Frum is on about today (no, no link, but its in The Atlantic) is that the GOP has mysteriously flipped on Russia, to the opposite of the Russia-demonization it championed for sixty straight years.

When you follow the truth, it's hard to flip, save where the situation itself changes. When you work via lies, and even conspiracy theories, American Republicans be championing transgender doctors giving you fetal-tissue-based vaccines as quick as you can say, "We Have Always Been At War With Eastasia". A year later, Canadians will see their slogan on the side of a truck, headed for Ottawa to demand those vaccines.

http://brander.ca/c19#liars


January 27: Don't Worry, We Don't Have Big Enough Truck Nutz to Demonize Tam

I just have to steal this one, from Canadaland, who are linked from the image at left. Who else could have come up with the perfect description of the convoy, for their show this week: "Truck Nutz".

The newspapers are kind of torn by the convoy. They love to hype up drama, conflict, and danger at every turn, so the headline is "Freedom Convoy plans to gridlock Ottawa", but on the other hand, there's another article about how it won't end well, making fun of their "historic and profound document" as something 14-year-olds would write, and pointing out that their claims of 50,000 trucks are ludicrous.

Well, they are ludicrous.

Yes, there are hundreds out to greet them, and there are hundreds of trucks, if you include all the half-tons. How does that compare to the vaccine lineup? Just about everybody who got vaccinated, was willing to take an hour, half of it spent in a lineup. And that would be thirty-four million people, supported our lineup.

70% of Canadians support the vaccine mandates the truck-nutz so loudly oppose. We are quieter, but we mandate-supporting adults are 70% of 80% of the population, so twenty-one million people. And we must own about 10 million trucks.

Some of the articles are going on about how this shows America's mental illnesses are creeping northward, that we'll soon have their problems. I tried a long search effort this morning for articles about hate and threats directed at Dr. Thresa Tam, Dr. Deena Henshaw, Dr. Bonnie Henry. Despite women being the more-frequent targets of such attacks in the States, I found absolutely nothing to compare with the Villainization of Dr. Anthony Fauci. The man has had to have a protective detail, his family protected. The linked article mentions the stress on his wife and family.

I linked to how different Canada is, from my September 21st post about our election, and the anti-vaxxer politicians. We're just different. We have the same problems, but of such lesser degree as to be a difference in kind.

In their country, this political wing owns one of two parties. In our country, the same philosophical bent garnered the PPC 5.1% in the last election - and even that made us nervous.

The Truck Nutz will be welcome to have their say, and go home, with Canada left unmarked by their passion.

http://brander.ca/c19#trucknutz


January 26: Pfoolish Pfizer Preference

These stories came out a week, and two weeks, ago. I'm surprised that they haven't been repeated more, that it took me a week to notice either one, since it was literally four days earlier that the story was how people were refusing Moderna for their booster shots, walking away from the appointment. That was on January 7.

Mind you, it was a small sample size that showed Moderna with fewer deaths than Pfizer in Singapore on January 11. Most of that article was about how Pfizer had about 6 deaths/100,000, versus the Chinese Sinopharm at nearly double that. Nobody knew what to make of Moderna being at just 1/100,000. It's surely not SIX times better than Pfizer, so that was put down to low-sample-size, ignored.

But nobody can ignore the large study in the Las Angeles Times, September 17, that shows Pfizer drops from 91% to 77% efficacy at keeping you out of hospital after 120 days, but Moderna stays up at 92% the whole time.

That study also called booster shots for healthy people questionable.

My wife and I both chose Moderna for ours, more out of sympathy for the disparaged product, which we believed equally good at the time. It's a smug pleasure to find out it's a little better.

The differences are hardly worth arguing about, unless you're quite vulnerable, and need every extra percentage point you can get. For most of us, even the really-disparaged, good-old-fashioned "inactivated virus" vaccines would have done the job we needed.

In a world of anti-vaxxer nuts, some in charge, we pro-vax people need to stick together.

http://brander.ca/c19#pfools


January 25: Anticipation

I think even the ICU staff, nerving themselves up for a few bad weeks to come, have a little sense of anticipation, like I'm feeling this week.

The news itself is relentlessly downbeat, even as it concedes that Omicron peaked across Canada weeks ago. The hospitals are filling up, the ICUs getting busy.

Yesterday, I crossed my fingers that the Monday report for BC wouldn't show our ICUs already maxed with 180 or more patients, beating previous waves and humiliating my blog post. I was pleasantly (not just four journalistic reasons, of course) surprised to find that they had the same load on Monday that they had on Friday, 130. That's not echoing the near-vertical trajectory of the cases four weeks earlier. More like three weeks earlier, when cases peaked and headed down.

No, I'm not sticking my neck out again, by predicting that ICU load will now start to decline. Not when all those weary-looking doctors are predicting two or three weeks of worse. The Omicron "dying waves" are much wider and rounder than the spiky case graphs. I'd be unsurprised if the ICUs of BC did go up higher.

But I do anticipate, just from that ICU number yesterday, that in highly-vaxxed BC, we pro-vaxxers have already won the war, even as we take our last casualties in this battle. These last weeks will be bad, not so much because of the absolute ICU numbers (in well-vaxxed places), but because the staff are at the end of their rope. Even they, though, I think can see the light at the end of the tunnel now.

What will be worth some blogging in the next few weeks, is whether the vaccination rate shows up in the duration and height of the Omicron hospital, ICU, and death statistics. Vaccination basically doesn't prevent Omicron cases, but it prevents everything else. BC, one of our most-vaxxed provinces, and Alberta/Saskatchewan, our vaccination Black Sheep provinces, should provide a valuable contrast. If we can't see the difference between 89% (5+) and 85%, I shouldn't be bragging about vaccination. (Four percent not much? Think of it as the difference between 15 vulnerable people and 11, in every hundred; there should be a quarter less pain. Of course, Alberta's unvaxxed are mostly young, so it won't be a quarter less ICU. Maybe 10% less.)

Sure, you can always say "what if there's another variant that's way deadly"...but that's no different than saying "what if we have a surprise pandemic" in 2018. It could happen, but you can't plan your life around it.

I'm planning my spring around a re-opening that starts about Valentine's Day. There will be restaurants, burgers, and ketchup poured. Oh, the anticipation.


http://brander.ca/c19#anticipation


January 24: Will Omicron's "Peak ICU" Be Lower Than Alpha's and Delta's?

I shouldn't do posts based on statistics on a Monday morning. This afternoon, they'll release three days of BC statistics at once, possibly ruining my claims.

But, over two weeks after BC passed its peak-Omicron-infection on January 5th, the ICU numbers have risen to "just" 130 on Friday. If they've soared, in three days, up past 157 to 179, they'll have equalled the worst that Alpha could do last April. But I don't think so.

The hospital numbers are a new game, artificially inflated, compared to old ones, by a new accounting system. (A guy with a broken leg and an asymptomatic COVID positive, is now a hospitalized COVID case. Despite the fact that he'll now be treated in the broken-leg ward, anyway. Go figure.)

But the ICU numbers have been increasing surprisingly slowly, when you compare to that vertical cliff of the case-counts going up four weeks ago, now.

Yes, there's no indication of this yet from South Africa or Denmark, but it could happen that this afternoon's figures will be a jump, then they'll shoot up over the next week or so to a Hospital Horror.

But CCCC is about a notional "game" of fighting COVID, and CCCC would put money down, on this one. I think Omicron, for all its soaring cases, is not going to beat Alpha's 179, nor much-press Delta's 157. Not in BC, where we're pretty good, if not champion, vaccinators.

It's not that Omicron couldn't have done it; it's that we got in ahead of its appearance with a lot of vaccine.

That's the bet, and the next step is to declare the pandemic psychologically over. But that's for another day. (After those stats come in.)

http://brander.ca/c19#peakbcicu


January 23: Unvaccinated, Check the Bus Undercarriage While You're Down There

I won't bother with any links, today, we're all reading the stories, in every paper. Bonnie Henry is changing our pandemic response to remove all contact tracing (with Omicron, that's such a wide net), and limiting testing.

Other stories are about it becoming "endemic", the "flu-ization of COVID", and "learning to live with it".

Well, except for the people who are going to die from it.

Screw them. That's the new policy.

I'm not against it, though I mourn the unvaccinated who really have busy lives, difficult logistics, and maybe fell for the notion it wasn't that needed; and I mourn for the over-80 vaccinated (or "effectively over-80" from being past middle age, and having diabetes, heart condition, etc).

Bonnie has decided the few remaining in those categories cannot be saved by much that we can do anyway, and for so little gain, we are paying a high price, no longer worth it. So the unvaccinated and a few oldsters will go under the bus.

The Omicron wave is not the flu. It will cost Canada around 5,000 lives, I suspect, before it peters out in a month. But most of those are unvaccinated, most of those really had their chance, and the rest, are those people we've had from the start, the ones that were down to a few years left from age and infirmity in any event.

So, we move forward, though those few will not. Protect yourself and your loved ones, the government is letting go. There's still time to vaccinate.

http://brander.ca/c19#underbus


January 22: "Peak Dying" in South Africa Has Passed, A Month After "Peak Cases"

It's usually three weeks.

Over and over, throughout the pandemic, you'd look at the graph of daily case-counts, daily hospitalizations, and daily deaths, and you'd see the same exponential-wave shape, with the same quirks if any. If dropping case-counts stopped dropping for a bit, lingered on a "knee" at 500/day somewhere, for an extra week, before declining further, then the hospitalization curve and the death curve would also have a "knee".

The hospitalization curve displaced about 10-14 days after the cases, the death curve almost exactly 3 weeks after the cases.

Omicron, in South Africa at least, seems to stretch out the dying a little longer. CCCC first looked at the curves on December 29, heartened that there were few deaths increasing at the 2 week mark after cases peaked there about December 15.

Well, it started late, and will be ending late - and, as we all know at this point, the dying wave was small, "mild dying", as the bitter joke had it.

The South African hospitalization curve, is very difficult to offer. The public health there doesn't seem to report that well or clearly. Indeed, their death reports go up and down, because sometimes it takes a few days for the news to go in, so there are low-count days and high-counts. The 7-day average has finally agreed that they have indeed been in decline the last week(ish), and we can pick a peak-death day at January 18, exactly a 31-day month after their peak cases.

Will Omicron also hang on an extra week or so, in Canada? Our "death curve" started taking off exactly two weeks after our cases did, unlike South Africa. But if it keeps rising for a whole month, that's until about February 5th, for both BC and Canada as a whole. Canadian dying might peak at over 200/day, perhaps well over, and not be way down again until late February.

Canada has lost 2,000 people since the Omicron "dying wave" started, almost exactly on New Year's Day, just three weeks. We're going to lose well more than that in the next four. "Mild" Omicron will be charging us 5,000 lives for our spring and summer immunity.

That's all supposition, but pretty educated and informed. There's a lot of data, now.

What's sure is that we are still a week away from peak hospitalizations, peak ICU. It's going to be a bad few weeks, Canada will lose thousands more lives (most, unvaccinated or very old).

We're all eager to see that bright future we imagine after it's over. But it ain't over.

http://brander.ca/c19#zapeakdeath


January 21: They Lost Another Vietnam: A Vietnam-War's-Worth of Young

Is a 49-year-old "young"? Ask a 63-year-old like me, and the answer is a kind-of "yes". They say it's at 15 years difference where you call people "young" or "old". (45 is "old" to a 30-year old; 60 is "young" if you're 75.)

So, when I checked whether people under 50 "even remembered Vietnam", the thing that stuck with me is not just that they couldn't remember it, the oldest of them being just 3 when the troops pulled out, but that they weren't old enough to see "Rambo" (1985), or "Platoon" (1986), or "Full Metal Jacket" and "Hamburger Hill" (1987), when Hollywood went to Vietnam in the late 1980s. All four films were restricted, and they were just mid-teens.

Have I buried the lead? Those numbers at left add up to 58,438. The United States of America has lost more people under the age of 50, to COVID, than the 58,220 they lost in the Vietnam War - and not one of the dead was old enough to remember it.

It's been the pandemic of the old, of course, and people this age were the last to vaccinate, confident of their safety. Even here, the majority were in the last decade, the "70s kids" as I call them at right. I'm sure they paid as little attention to Vietnam history as possible, since this is that "Gen-X" bunch, that the "Gen-X" novel said hated us Boomers, and our endless nostalgia for our youth, of Vietnam, civil rights, and hippies.

The 80s kids, in their 30s when COVID took over fifteen thousand of them, maybe didn't feel that way about Boomers, maybe they caught the Vietnam movies on VHS.

The 90s kids not only don't remember "VHS", they were too young to die in the Iraq War. They were just hitting 18 when people were no longer being sent there. But more of them died than if they'd been old enough to go.

They probably didn't see Vietnam movies, either - they would want to watch cooler, up-to-date war movies about Iraq and Afghanistan. HBO's "Generation Kill" was a big hit with them.

There's not much more to say, I'm just relating a simple statistic. It's the context that highlights the meaning, though. A sufficiently-large "pandemic of the old" is still a war-sized disaster for the young. My generation thinks of these people as "kids", certainly the Millenials born after 1980, and America's lost over 20,000 of them.

That was the kind of death-toll that the Iraq War was supposed to prevent, by stopping all those terrorists from ever setting off a "dirty bomb" or "anthrax attack". We got our disease attack, all right, and it's killed more Americans than could have died from any one "dirty bomb", or even an actual nuke.

I did all those posts comparing the losses to war. Now, I can do it again, this time with those young enough, that nobody can dismiss them as "unworthy victims" with just a few years left.

Canada's grand total under 50 today is 875, which would be 7656, if we had America's population. (13% as bad as America, per capita.) Same age profile, where over half of ours (518) were in their 40s. Our figures are sobering. Theirs are devastating and practically criminal. We know that the number of younger dead has been higher in 2022, because it's the younger ones that don't vaccinate, egged on by politicians who actually want more death. The under-50 crowd has been losing 800 and 900 each week I watched that web page for the previous month. Then last week was 1200 dead, all under 50.

That's the same as their Iraq War casualties for all of 2004 and half of 2005.

The 16 months of Iraq War casualties got a lot more coverage, than "those under 50 who died of COVID-19 last week", I have to say.

http://brander.ca/c19#vietnam3


January 20: Power Outage Day

I'll have a great post tomorrow, promise, but BC Hydro is gearing up to shut down my power in minutes, so it'll have to wait a day.

http://brander.ca/c19#powerout


January 19: We Would Have Had 100,000 Dead by Now, If...

...we were Americans.

Worldometers is the official pandemic dashboard of CCCC, and it uses news stories, not health authority reports, so it runs thousands of deaths (in America) ahead of the official announcements. Johns Hopkins and CDC and so on won't say America has hit 875,000 dead for several days yet.

But last night was the point where worldometers proclaimed that America's COVID-19 death toll had hit the 875,000 mark. It's hardly a round number, so it won't be news when it is passed. I don't recall any stories at 750,000, or 800,000, for that matter. They're just so numb to it, at this point.

But, 875,000 in America is a round number in Canada, because they have almost exactly 8.75 times as much population, so yesterday was the day the 100,000th Canadian would have died of COVID-19...if our country were run by Americans.

Or, I guess, contained only Americans. Have Americans got over three times our infection rate entirely because of their government messages? Or is it just more inherent in their national character to resist advice, limit their freedoms out of community spirit, endure some inconvenience for others?

We seem so similar, love the same foods and movies, work together so well. But then you read about torture chambers, and you can't imagine how they think. I can't imagine their current politics coming to Canada, and neither can Canada's foremost cultural pollster. Michael Adams has the statistical proof that we are actually so very different, in crucial psychological ways.

Our culture has done pretty well in the COVID Cup. The "rough figure", of Canada doing three times as well, turns out to be 31.8% as many dead (31,825/100,000) as America. Our number stacks up very well against all but the best (South Korea, New Zealand, Australia) though we have a handicap they don't: we are on the border of the industrial world's worst pandemic performer and they are 75% of our trade! More proof of the CCCC motto that safety is not a place, but a set of behaviours! We should be celebrating those 68,000 Canadians who are alive and with us in 2022.

Another round number is imminent, this one for the Americans. When you take the inverse of that 31.8% death-rate, you find that, if American had Canada's death statistics, some 596,000 Americans would still be alive. And so, three days from now, on January 22nd, the 600,000th American will die, who would have lived, had they been Canadian.

Weirdly, as a wave crests and breaks upon our poor hospital staff, today can be a day to give thanks. That we are Canadian.

http://brander.ca/c19#can100000


January 18: The American Pandemic of the Young

This post won't add much to the "Dying Young" post of nearly a year ago. I just wanted to check in, and oh, lord, the numbers have just gotten way more awful.

You couldn't even see the Canadian columns if I didn't first multiply them by 8.75 to allow for population size difference.

The interesting bit here is that the ratio between the two health-care outcomes actually gets worse with age, even though the overall outcome is "just", "merely", 3:1, because our care-homes lost so many, the outcome for the very old is much closer. (It's still a 3:1 ratio, even for 80-somethings; the overall outcome is a little worse than 3:1, because of these staggering differences under age 50.)

It's nearly six times worse to be an American under 30 than to be a Canadian, but that rises to more than 8 times worse to live in America if you're 40-49.

Is this about them having worse hospitals, sicker people? Their hospitals are at least as good. They are almost as healthy, though the obesity difference (A third of them, only a quarter of us) accounts for some of it. But mostly America just has 2.75 times as many cases as Canada has, per population. More of them died because more of them got sick in the first place. End of story.

But the "more" was a pretty consistent 3:1 throughout age groups, so the higher death rate for the 30-49 decades comes back to poorer access to health care, the obesity and hypertension. It's a real condemnation of their system, a fantastic failure at the COVID Cup: suppose the game to decide the winner for the medal for the "Age 30-49 Middle of Life Years" (where you have kids, make your career, pay off your home)... was a basketball game where Canada beat America 83-to-10.

I have to bring it up again, because nobody else is. I haven't seen this mentioned in any news, written or televised.

http://brander.ca/c19#dyingyoung2


January 17: Our Massive Moral Majority

Here's the problem with all the anti-vaxxer arguments: they mysteriously become hard to believe at greater ages. What kinds of "truths" depend upon the age of the one hearing them?

It's not a week since CCCC linked to my post of last year, showing how vaccination rates perfectly track your risk of death, but let's do it again: the older a group of people, the more of them got vaccinated.

Canadians with a first-dose are almost exactly 90% of all those aged 40-60. The anti-vaxxer-friendly National Post is relentless in claiming that 10% of Canada are being "marginalized".

For age 60-69, however, the number of unvaccinated is abruptly cut in half. 95% vaccination rates, so we're down to only 5% of the 60-69 gang being "marginalized".

Then, past age 70, it's all over. The 70-79 group are at 99%. Apparently, the believabilty of all the many anti-vaxxer arguments drops a further 80% when the big seven-zero rolls up. So only 1% of the Canadians over 70 are being "marginalized". (Of course, the big jump downward around 70 may relate to "over 70" being the age at which you remember polio.)

Even at 90%, of course, it's one of the largest majorities you can imagine for a political issue. Our massive majority is being incredibly kind to not just steam-roll over the tiny, immoral minority that care so little for other's lives. It's amazing the calls aren't to charge them every penny of what they are costing us, deprive them of any privileges whatsoever. We are so nice.

The National Post article, above, pleads for the anti-vaxxers, but admits that cracking down on anti-vaxxers is among the "most popular political issues in the country, right now, according to polls."

A new Atlantic article calls us "The Silent Vaccinated, Impatient Majority". It leads off with Macron's declared intent to piss off the unvaccinated. (This is widely assumed to be the source of Legault's wondering-aloud-about-taxing.) The Joke-ovick tennis mess is another indication of a public tired of pandering to arrogant voodoo believers.

The Atlantic has fun facts about how massive this moral majority really is: "being vaccinated is more common than drinking coffee, owning a television..."

Why is Macron confident? France always wins for "best health care system", where government-paid doctors make house calls. But nearly half of them want the unvaccinated to pay for their own health care(!) Sacre bleu! Previously unthinkable. So Macron is actually picking a fight with them, as an election looms. The article finds similar sentiments in Italy.

The article points out how we are the Moral Majority in every way of considering the lives of others. Despite needing them less, we mask more. And concludes with remarks like "Begging is not a strategy." and "Sorry. Time's up."

It allows that we must consider their feelings; but it has to be admitted: they don't give a crap about our feelings of wanting to school safely, work safely, travel safely. Considering their feelings is asking a lot.

http://brander.ca/c19#mmm


January 16: When The Conservatives Were Pro-Vaccine, Liberals Against

The one at top is from 2014, when the heartland of conservatism, Wm. F. Buckley's National Review, sported an editorial from Buckley's hand-picked successor on how wrong anti-vaxxer Jenny McCarthy was, how silly they all looked as evidence debunked their conspiracy theories, which they clung bitterly to in spite of all the facts.

The one at left, is from the next year, spurred by a measles outbreak at Disneyland, a Magic Kingdom with obviously limited magical powers. There wasn't really much debate, either, about who was responsible: hippy-dippy liberals, of which Jordan Klepper of Daily Show fame, made fun of the other month. Yes, the liberal anti-vaxxers are still around, but they were just about the only anti-vaxxers in the news, back in 2015.

Speaking of The Daily Show, then-host Jon Stewart mocked "science-denying affluent California liberals", who'd presumably been listening to Jenny McCarthy the last year, for the outbreak. "They practice a mindful stupidity", Stewart grated.

For all these links, I'm indebted to Adam Serwer, at The Atlantic, who was writing about the Supreme Court now on-board with the Brand-New Conservative Doctrine that Vaccines Are Bad. (Serwer's particular issue is that the Court arguments often pre-supposed the notion that vaccines are some kind of significant risk to ask an employee to accept.)

The WSJ article he linked to, at left, also quotes none other than Ted Cruz, giving an impassioned defense of vaccination, how it had done so much for MMR and polio: "...why would we go backwards?" Why, indeed, Ted? Something to do with pleasing the man who insulted your wife, I'm thinking.

It also links to a 2015 survey by Pew that has young people the more likely to say "vaccinating kids should be a parental choice", a not-terrible proxy for it being the more-liberal position. You'd think so, with those old enough to remember polio being, surely, the most pro-vax people in society.

But, alas, you have to be over 70 to really remember polio. How well do those oldsters vax? A new topic for tomorrow.

http://brander.ca/c19#conservax


January 15: Canada Actually Rocks on Hospitalization

The BBC article is actually about "The Puzzle of America's Record COVID Hospital Rate".

America's is so much higher than those of other countries, the article moans. (The absolute figures are all higher today, 3 days after it was written, but the relative situation is the same.) The USA then had over 400/million in hospital, rather than 300 in Italy and the UK. The article digs in to the USA having higher rates of obesity and hypertension, but homes in on the 63% vaccination rate, compared to numbers in the 70s for the other two.

And compared to 78% full-vaccination, 83% partial, for Canada.

And that's the funny thing about the article: look again at that graph. Canada is as far below the three European examples, as America is above them. Just 200/million, half of America's rate. A completely legitimate article to write, after looking at that graph, is "The Puzzle of Canada's Low Hospitalization Rate".

Canada is better at obesity than the USA: about 24% of our population vs 34% of theirs. You can guess hypertension is about the same, both diet-and-exercise related.

But France's is a smidge lower than ours, at 22%, so that's not all of the explanation. Is it really our vaccination being about 4% higher than France's?

Nope.

Look at the rest of the graph, look at how the red line for Canada is always lower than all the rest. Right through the pandemic, back to when there was no vaccination at all. The UK and Italy have dipped down to where Canada is a few times, but "we own the podium" of being on the bottom of that graph.

Is it our generally-healthy, young population? UK, Italy, France, are all a bit older than us, and age is cruical in COVID. And then their hospitals might just be more welcoming, too, more likely to take in a marginal case. But, look at last Fall: we were half the hospitalizations of Europe, never mind the huge wave that hit American hospitals, but barely touched ours.

Our news media have a "good news is no news" policy, you won't hear it there, only that our hospitals are stressed and breaking. But other countries have it worse. The USA, much worse, literally twice as bad.

http://brander.ca/c19#bbchospital


January 14: Listen to the Nurses

I came across some first-rate journalism yesterday, and the truth of it is almost too much to bear. It's actually harder to take the stories from people who are still in there, still handling the load, than stories from people who've broken - left the profession, changed jobs within it, given up.

The "journalism" is the most-amateur effort possible, by non-journalists. It's our friends at PopBC, that is, "Protect our Province", which CCCC has relied on before, and has some excellent online lectures.

ProtectBC did something that the "real" journalists didn't even think of: just put the missing voices right out there, for all to read. They asked the front-line people, all the doctors, nurses, caregivers, what they felt like telling people about their careers recently, and it's all just devastating.

The page leads off with a few statistics. 58% thinking of leaving.

"Working short, under high stress and with more acute patients has become the new norm. There are higher emotions as we all live under more stressful conditions."

"I stopped seeing all my friends and family, and hardly go out besides groceries. Used to do gym, run, ski and dine out frequently. My mother died of dementia and I couldn't touch her for the last 6 months of her life until on her deathbed as LTC locked down. I also do exams on anti mask pts and am doing them on active COVID pts. I'm struggling to keep working & recognize the mental impact on my wellbeing."

"I was an introvert before, now I am almost reclusive. I want nothing to do with restaurants or crowds. I am saddened by people's selfishness and every time I see our PHO at a sporting event I am angry. It's like being kicked in the face. I can't believe that the government values healthcare workers so little that we have to fight for the right to protect ourselves and our families. With n95s and vaccine access and adequate break rooms. I can't believe that there have not been safe zones established around hospitals to prevent protestors."

"Impacted every aspect of my personal life. Shown me the best and the worst of human behaviour. Made me more guarded in my interactions. Made me more committed to beat this virus."

"Covid has made everything worse. Everything is so much harder. It's made me too exhausted to care about so many things."

"I am fearful of being around people"

"...there is a new level of scientific illiteracy/paranoia/craziness/nastiness here that has really made me lose my hope in humanity to a degree"

...I picked those out of the top 10% of the page. It goes on. And on. And on.

I kept coming back to it, all day. I'd take several of those, be worn out, do something else for a while. But I just couldn't ignore those people. They all had their story, and such hard-won stories.

Confession, this has been sitting at the ProtectBC web site since last November, I didn't notice it. But bringing it up now, while the ICUs hit 100% and the staff are facing their worst crisis yet.

We should start banging pots again. Let them know that so many of us do care.

And after we've banged some pots, we need to tell our politicians that they need more resources, and we are willing to sacrifice to pay for them, as they have sacrificed for us.

http://brander.ca/c19#nursesvoices


January 13: No, We Can't Smoke Our Way Out of This

The stories are all over, this one in The Daily Wire is nice.

So somebody put cannabinoids and covid cells together, and A killed B.

No, it was not a joke. It was very serious, and indeed might be medically valuable. The paper is at the Nationl Library of Medicine, is published in a real journal.

Super briefly, certain cannabinoid acids turn out to bind themselves onto those darn cell-invading spike proteins, gumming them up, and preventing their infectious cell-wall-poking. (Well, I did say, "super-briefly".)

There's just the two problems with it all. Both were identified by the commenters on Slashdot.

The very first Slashdot post was just a link to the XKCD cartoon at right, which I've shrunk here, because it's a one-panel cartoon: I'm stealing the whole thing, and you should just click through to XKCD, read it all, buy his books and his swag. XKCD is the best. Again, here, he points out that this is just a lab test, not in-vivo. You'd have to expose a bunch of people to cannabinoid acids, see how many fewer are infected. It may also have power as a therapy after infection, preventing replication in the body. You can absolutely count on people taking a bunch of edibles with their symptoms, starting today, so we'll hear how that goes, I guess.

Secondly, as noted, we can't smoke our way out of this, because another knowledgeable Slashdot commenter noted that smoking destroys the acid forms of the cannabinoids: you'll have to rely upon edibles.

More seriously, they may find some cannabinoids that cause relatively little intoxication, have a useful therapeutic effect, and generally make this disease a little easier. It's progress.

And that's no joke.

http://brander.ca/c19#cannabis


January 12: No News

No, really. It's getting late in the day, I've skimmed over all sorts of news, and nothing jumps out at me. The wave in infections is cresting, which is great, but that means we have waves of hospitalization and death to come. It's just an in-between time. A light glimmering at the end of the tunnel, but too weakly to be sure.

Best "joke" of the last day does come up. A physician in South Africa remarking bitterly about how everybody tried to make the best of Omicron, that it was "mild". He wrote, "After a wave of 'mild' infections, we are now seeing a wave of 'mild' deaths, I guess."

That's the physicians' perspective, of course: they fight for our lives retail, one at a time, every loss a tragedy. But, in statistical terms, you have to call the size of the wave of dying, right now in South Africa, "mild", in that it's going to peak at a daily death-count a quarter the size of the previous one.

The dead are just as dead, but those who survived, don't know they might not have. Our failures are easy to see, our successes, invisible.

http://brander.ca/c19#nonews


January 11: Omicron Boosts First-Dose Numbers

I checked the change in the graph most carefully. Blowing it up a bit, you can see the change in slope of the vaccination tracker, it hits right at the end of November.

In one month, almost a three percent jump in total vaccinations, which is sure to be more by the time people get less scared again. The dry figures are that total age-5+ vaccination went from 83.1% to 84.5% in the 40 days before December 1, a gain of just 1.4 percent. In the 40 days since December 1, it went up to 88.7%, a gain of 4.2!

CCCC noted, where the rest of the world never did, that vaccination rates almost precisely track the recipient's risk of death. Of course, that risk is proportional to all other risks, of ICU, hospital, just having two bad weeks. It's the overall risk, IF PERCEIVED, that gets people out to the clinics to take the jab.

Fears of Omicron started rising in November, but by December, two things had happened: huge waves had hit in South Africa, and the variant had reached every other country. The clinics started getting busy immediately after that, so much so that public health was caught off-guard and had to ramp them up.

Connie got her booster yesterday, and I was impressed by the speed and efficiency of the clinic at Canada Place. They were in the news for a 2-hour lineup a few days ago, so they really smartened up. Watching the crowd just flow through the place, for an hour, impressed me that they were clearly vaccinating somebody about every ten seconds. Surely over 3,000 a day at that site alone.

CCCC can only more firmly stand behind the prediction that vaccination will dry up in just a few weeks, when people's perceived risk levels drop, of course. It cuts both ways: vaccination benefits from the fear people have of those full ICUs right now, and when the wave has clearly crested, the hospitalization declining, even people with vaccine appointments will suddenly lose interest in showing up.

But, we got our three percent, and it might go to four or even five in these last few weeks. Every bit helps.

http://brander.ca/c19#vaxboost


January 10: My Comment to the National Post Comment-Section Nuts

It's becoming a game: do I skip the blog entirely today, for lack of data, projections worth beans, clarity itself? It's been some short posts, lately. Today, I abased myself, foolishly, shouting into the endless wind of the National Post Comments Section.

More news sources are just giving up on comments, and the National Post should. They're worthless, just an ocean of arch-right-wing, and currently, anti-vaxxer ranters that are way, way off the Canadian mainstream of thought, not at all a cross-section of Canada.

My own contribution (in red box, left) was just to remind them what outliers they are. Should you be pandemic-bored enough to ever look at newspaper comments, keep in mind they have become a place strictly for the fringe.

The other comments visible are literally randomly-chosen, by being the ones next to mine in the stream. As you can see, the other five, no exceptions, are not suff you'd likely hear from an actual random sample of Canadians.

  1. Conspiracy.
  2. Mandates = Rape.
  3. Physical threat to the Prime Minister.
  4. Outright statement that vaccines do not work.
  5. Advertisement for horse de-wormer as an alternative.

Which allows me to rest my case. Why participate at all? Well, boredom is a factor, but so is irritation that this is our biggest national newspaper, this is the audience their paid performers pander to, this is how Canadians look to curious onlookers, the world 'round.

But, in fairness to the National Post Comments section, I also copied off this note from a physician in Nova Scotia, which I then screwed up by not copying his name...and you can never again find a comment in the National Post Comments Section. So, this is without attribution, but, while right off the topic of vaccination, I want to save it as a comment on medicine, and bureaucracy, and the modern world. I don't think his complaint is limited to Nova Scotia, Canada, or the medical profession.

Can I bore everyone one more time? When I came to Canada in 1985 from the UK, to be a rural physician in a post no Canadian had been willing to fill for the two years it had been advertised, I ran, with one other doctor, a 29 bed rural hospital, with 24 hour ER, lab and X-ray. We had one administrator, the board in charge were local worthies (unpaid) and the budget was just over 1mCDN/year.

How the mighty are fallen! Now it has eight beds, the 'urgent care' is open 7 hours a day, but not every day, it has no lab and X-ray availability is sporadic. And it's run by five docs, two NPs and we were up to 14 administrators when I quit in 2015. Goodness knows what the budget is now, but it's whatever is spared us by the large and greedy regional hospital (75 beds and 4 admins in 1985, 50 beds and 70 admins when I quit). They also make all decisions for us and there is no local control.

Seems to me the old ways, before the government decided to reign in health care spending by appointing managers for everything, were cheaper and far more effective. But I'm just a dinosaur, apparently, so don't listen to me.

...that, that was worth reading. No additions needed, that speaks for itself. Will there ever be reforms of this problem, will our many bureaucracies ever turn around and become more efficient over time, instead of ever less-so? Not in our time, I'm sure.

So, point taken, there are a few people putting in useful, non-nutty comments at The Post. But so, so few. It's such a terrible habit of mine, going there, like a guy who can't stop turning into the bar, and always regrets it.

http://brander.ca/c19#natpost


January 9: Remember the Long-Haulers and Remain Cautious

Long-Haulers were on the front page of the Vancouver Sun yesterday.

It's a topic I've just avoided, partly from squeamishness. Being sentenced to awful, immiserating symptoms, with little idea what's going on, and no idea when it will get better - maybe never - is my idea of minor hell. And most people's.

Better to just cross your fingers. Life is full of dangers, if you can't avoid them, best not to obsess on them. But avoiding "Long COVID", can be done by just avoiding COVID, and by getting vaccinated, so that if you catch it, the symptoms will be mildest.

Vaccination doesn't just prevent Long COVID, it can actually alleviate Long COVID if administered after it develops; it's the only way in which vaccines are ever a therapy.

You can have COVID, develop Long COVID, and be almost disabled - without ever needing a hospital. Making our medical system almost blind to it. We know that Omicron is less-likely to hospitalize, and we can project it is less-likely to cause Long COVID, but we just don't know. It might specialize in Long COVID. It's too new to be sure.

I'm eager to get back out there - once we are both boosted. But, while there's any chance of Long COVID - and that is obviously much more likely than hospitalization and death - I just don't want to take that chance.

The article says up to a third of COVID cases qualify, by having symptoms after the 3-month mark. Probably only half of those are serious, debilitating, really long-lasting.

But, "One in six" is "Russian Roulette" numbers. The only winning move is not to play.

http://brander.ca/c19#longhaul


January 8: No Information on When Hospital Load Will Peak

Well, I tried. We should be able to guess where our hospitalizations will peak, from the comparison of cases and hospitalizations in the earlier-hit countries, primarily South Africa, and Denmark.

I'll spare you the links that would lead to proof there was none. A dashboard for South Africa was up-to-date on every statistic - except current hospitalizations, gone dead for a month. Denmark's was still running, but running over a week behind, shows hospitalizations still soaring.

News from Denmark is all about how hospitals are filling slowly, ICUs even more so, and they have yet to hit their peak from the previous waves. Their doctors sound pretty confident in interviews, though, while our doctors (at least the ones the news shows like) are filled with trepidation.

We just don't know right now. That's the story this morning.

Everybody is certainly fingers-crossed that hospitalizations are bearable, that this wave innoculates most who don't have vaccinations, and that this is the Beginning of the End.

But, we just don't know. Not for sure.

I'm still hunkering down. I'm sure we will know, in about two more weeks. Patience is a scientific virtue.

http://brander.ca/c19#noinfo


January 7: Stores are Still Clear in the Mornings

We're taking the "time to hunker down" advice very seriously. I was up early this morning, went to Safeway, got all the stuff we need for a few weeks. I was surprised by how quiet it was - I'd thought more people would be taking the strategies of April 2020, not just talking about it.

Coming out, I groaned that I'd forgotten a few things, but the risk seemed so low, I went on to the other grocery store, No Frills (Superstore). This one had often had lineups in the early morning, back in early 2020, but this morning, was so quiet only one till was running. I could shop at leisure, not coming within four metres of anybody, much less two.

So, I filled up on non-necessities as well, and we're set for a few weeks, save for one vital outing on Monday - Connie has her booster appointment!

I'm not sure why people are much more casual now than when a fraction as many cases had everybody frantically washing hands. (Remember washing hands all the time? Remember sanitizer every where you turned? Ah, early-pandemic nostalgia...). Does everybody simultaneously think that Omicron will be just a bit of sniffles for them, even as hospitals fill up?

Well...actually...if you're double-vaccinated, your odds of hospital are terrible, and even your odds of two-weeks-on-your-back-groaning are pretty bad. There's obviously not just a lot of Omicron going around, but a lot of Omicron stories, "I got it, and it was just a cold".

That's not actually wise to believe - anybody can roll snake eyes and be in the few percent that have a bad, bad, Omicron week or more - but it is the start of a new psychology about the pandemic. Psychologically, I think it will soon be over, if 20,000 cases per day isn't making people go early to the stores.

http://brander.ca/c19#storesfree


January 6: Got Enough Toilet Paper?

We are at last at the classic epidemic problem (can happen with any epidemic, doesn't need to be a pandemic): everybody is off sick at once.

This is the flu epidemic scenario that the emergency services train for. In 2006, I got to go to a conference mostly attended by City Mayors. (I was a presenter.) In idle time, I was able to go to various presentations I normally wouldn't: how a city can handle gang violence. And this one, about the flu-pandemic planning.

As you can see, they were very well warned about a flu that might put ten million Americans in hospital. The slide shows "1957-like" with under a million, and "1918-like" with nearly ten. And a need for 745,500 ventilators!

Much of the discussion, though, was how we in the essential services would keep the roads open, the sewers flowing, the water and power on, with half our staff either off sick, or nursing somebody who is.

Now we'll find out who had buddy systems, who had office staff identified to take over the real work, who has to just close. If the essential services have kept up their planning - which you'd think would be heavily over-planned by now, with 22 months of warning - the lights will stay on.

Other products may run dry, though. Hope you stocked up on toilet paper.

http://brander.ca/c19#hoarding


January 5: Israel Must Be Sick

The news that Israel is going to go for a fourth vaccine dose, for those that want it, because they all got boosted months ago now, rocketed around a world scrambling to get third shots.

Oddly, Israel didn't vaccinate all that well: just 71%, so far; Turkmenistan did better. Nobody beat Israel at making vaccines available, but they turned out to have an actual higher rate of vaccine-refusers than America (74%), much less Canada (84%). Talk of "herd immunity" through a fourth shot was insane to read; that's not about how many shots, but how many arms take it.

But it raised the question of how many first-shots they offered to Palestine, before they went on to their own third shots. We're all guilty of taking our own vaccines before sharing much with the third world, but Israel actually has a third world nation under its direct control and occupation.

And, now, Palestine is at 39% first-doses; one can only hope its all their health-care people and their oldest. That's at least something.

But the sheer self-regard and prejudice needed to not vaccinate the people next door, that you have under your thumb, while making sure your own have fourth doses, it's just sickening, and I don't understand how good and decent Israelis can stand it.

I know there are still a number of them, from reading Larry Derfner's "No Country for Jewish Liberals". But they sure have been quiet lately.

http://brander.ca/c19#israelsick


January 4: America: 2.8X as bad, plus 100,000 More Anti-Vaxxer Victims

I was caught yesterday by an estimate made by Vaccine Hero, Dr. Peter Hotez, yesterday on Democracy Now!. (below) Dr. H simply tossed off the figure that anti-vaccination propaganda, by raising the American rate of vaccine refusal, had cost 200,000 lives that need not have died.

Wow.

Earlier in the pandemic, as we marvelled, in a bad way, over the sheer body count, CCCC had posts to note when the pile exceeded, the military losses in Vietnam, or losses in multiple wars combined.

But this isn't due to "the virus", it's due to the anti-vaxxer propaganda on the news, social media, dinner tables.

I tried something I never have, before: two screen-snaps from Worldometers, overlay Canada and the USA. It took barely a minute, and the result was fascinating. At left, the Canadian graph in blue, the American in orange, for cumulative deaths over the last 22 months.

The outlines are broadly the same, the same waves hit about the same time for both - the sudden steep slope of increasing death when Delta hit late last Fall.

But, you can actually see if you peek at the left Y-axes, overlaid on each other. The Canadian axis counts 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 deaths. The American, 250,000, 500,000, 750,000, at the same intervals.

The American population is just under 9X as large as Canada's, but to superimpose so well, the American axis has to be 25X as large! Just in gross terms (it's worse if you're young!), America has had 2.8X as many deaths as Canada, per capita.

And that's up until Dr. Hotez' cut-off point for where you (very likely) didn't have to die, if you'd just gotten the vaccine, which was June 30, 2021. I believe he ascribes 85% of the total deaths after that point, to non-vaccination (compared to if all of the eligible population were protected, I assume).

Canada had its anti-vaxxers, too, so the blue line goes up higher than if we'd had perfect vaccination, for sure. The two lines part company at the beginning of September, when the USA was at about 680,000 dead, Canada at 27,000. (The USA exactly 2.8X as bad, per capita,from dividing by 9).

By now, Canada has risen to 30,200, which would be almost exactly 750,000 on the American chart. Instead, worldometers has them now at about 850,000, or an extra 100,000 dead - that's even compared to them being 2.8X as bad per capita to start with. Or, to put it another way, since June, they've gone to 6.3X as deadly as Canada, from 2.8X.

That's what their higher anti-vaxxer beliefs have led them to. Dr. Hotez' estimate is confirmed by CCCC. They could have saved 200,000 with world-beating vaccination, or saved 100,000 if they'd just toned down their anti-vax hysteria to merely Canadian levels. Sorry, their added, extra, 2021 hysteria, no doubt resulting from sheer anger at being saved by Joe Biden's government; they were already losing hundreds of thousands, compared to Canada, to their already-worse performance.

Dr. Hotez would presumably estimate our anti-vaxxer-caused deaths at about half as bad. Perhaps half of the 3,000 Canadians lost since June 30 could have lived, if we could have promoted vaccination better. But that extra 1,500, we already knew about - the news stories recounted their deaths, and often their regrets. Dr. Hotez' 200,000 is so mind-boggling - the anti-vaxxers have killed more Americans than WW1, plus the Pacific-side of WW2. In just months - it's probably not in the news because nobody could accept it.

Sigh, it's just hard to express how badly America is performing. Dr. Hotez' interview yesterday was an emotional balm, reminding me that he, too, is America - place with so very many very good people. You can only wish her well, to get better soon.

http://brander.ca/c19#usaworse


January 3: Why Do We Always Have to Wait for Amy Goodman to get the Real News?

I'm a (free) subscriber to "Democracy Now!", a daily YouTube news broadcast by Amy Goodman, who's been bringing the news, that others don't, for a quarter-century.

It's not just a "left wing view", as I'm sure anybody on the right wing would say. It's not about the editorial viewpoint, but whether certain kinds of news are covered at all.

Amy has been interviewing Dr. Peter Hotez throughout the pandemic. He's a vaccine resarcher and developer, and the image at left links to her short piece on the triumph of his project. They've developed a good vaccine for COVID-19, it's patent-free to the whole world, cheap, stable, and "old-school" vaccine technology, that factories all over the world can make.

This guy is in the real pandemic fight. Not the fight just for "our population", but for the world, to finally end the pandemic itself.

Democracy Now! covers the news that the larger news systems don't: the poor. I notice, every time I scan the New York Times, the Washington Post, our own big papers, that most of the people discussed above-the-fold are all rich. When the giant US bill was shut down a few weeks ago, the Post headline was "Bill's Defeat Causes Problems for Biden". Never mind all those poor people that were actually going to get the help. Biden is the only player of real interest.

It's like watching a Marvel movie. The mere policemen, much less the citizens cowering on the sidewalks, are not characters of interest; only the superheroes (of Congress and White House) get lines. Heck, Cabinet Secretaries are bit-players, most of their names unknown, except for State and Defense; they merely execute policy. Only the Struggle for Power is really interesting.

Vaccines for poor foreigners? Not 1% of the screen-time devoted to following billionaires into space.

Peter gives a short, but fascinating talk, digging into the Why of the lack of vaccination around the world. At one point, he congratulates Joe Biden on the vaccines he's already sent around the world, enough for a few percent of the world's population - then almost casually notes that his own project has already done just as much, (with a fraction of the budget).

His comments on the technicalities of his own product, and how he estimates that 200,000 Americans died because they believed disinformation about vaccines, ("anti-science aggression", his term), are badly needed.

And leave it running. The next "Democracy Now!" article to come up after that is the one about Irene Bosch, who developed a cheap rapid test in March 2020, and was ignored.

We didn't have to have the absolute latest in vaccines. We could have rushed some into production, followed up by the cheaper ones as they became available. And of course, we could have made enough to share, and the developers didn't have to become billionaires on the backs of public research. As the pandemic peaks and winds down, some, ahem, post-mortem will be in order.

http://brander.ca/c19#hotez


January 2, 2022: Quick Napkin-Calc for "Why They're Scared of Omicron"

This blogging is clearly habitual: I'm thinking up short ones even with nothing to write about until we have some data.

Today, I avoided getting out of bed by just mentally running the numbers on the dreaded "hospital overflow", despite Omicron being so hospital-averse.

We certainly know that we've got "double and more" the 4,000 cases we were able to count, the other day. So, round it to 10,000/day, and cheerfully guess that it will top out at twice that, 20,000/day. (Even exponential waves have limits, as South Africa and Norway show.)

So, 20,000/day is 140,000 per week, you'd hit 500,000 in just over 3 weeks: let's say that January has 500,000 infections, to pick a round number. It's 10% of the whole province.

South Africa, had 1.7% hospitalization rates. We're so vaccinated, let's roll that down to a round 1% : 5000 hospitalizations. Omicron hospitalizations are only 3 days, average: 15,000 bed-days.

In 30 days of time! That's 500 beds, which is just our peak bed-usage during the third wave. Yay!

But, the peak will probably be double the average: a week or so where you need 1000 beds, and we don't have them. Even this conservative napkin-calc says the hospitals will be jamming them into corridors.

So, have some sympathy for them, (if not yourself) and take care to get Omicron as late as possible, if you have to get it at some point. Don't "get it over with", at the worst possible time for your doctor.

http://brander.ca/c19#whyscared


January 1, 2022: Vaxxed but Unboosted? Omicron Calculations Not Reassuring

In spite of yesterday's positive view of the peaking wave of Omicron, it's a bit soon to start acting like things are about over - and certainly not that you can skip your booster.

I just read through this up-to-the-moment news from Alberta, with recent infection and hospitalization numbers.

The numbers it offers are these:

All data about vaccination and hospitalization that includes data over a month old, I consider worthless; Omicron is a whole new game for vaccination-vs-not.

Alberta is barely 85% vaccinated, maybe a little over that for the adults who are nearly all the hospitalizations. But if 80% of cases are vaccinated, then vaccination indeeds provide but a slight edge against infection at all. Just 15%, from recent figures.

The key thing here is even double-vaccination is significant protection from hospital, though you now need a booster to get the old, reassuring, "way under 1% odds of hospital" that we used to have from double-vaccination... before Omicron.

Consider 1000 Alberta cases, 800 vaccinated, 200 not. Suppose that Omicron, being so nice, sends only 20 to hospital, instead of 100-150, like Delta.

To get the Alberta hospitalization ratio (38% vaccinated), there must be seven are fully vaccinated (35%), 13 unvaccinated.

So, how much did vaccination help? The hospitalization odds of the vaccinated 800 cases were: 7/800, or "just under 1%". For the unvaccinated 200 cases: 13/200 = 6%+ of them had to go to hospital. Seven times better knowing you're vaccinated, when the sniffles start.

Double-vaccination is still very good, though vaccinated-in-hospital numbers will actually rise. But you want that booster. Nobody would get on a plane that had a 1% chance of crashing, and your odds of getting Omicron in the next few months, without total isolation, are "nearly certain". And 1% odds of hospitalization mean 2% or 3% odds of "really bad case at home, maybe Long COVID", since those cases will be much more frequent than hospitalizations.

If you're old enough to remember a non-Internet world, definitely get your booster.

http://brander.ca/c19#whybooster


December 31: New Year's Eve, Indulgence in an Appalling Habit

Right on, Sherlock Holmes! And I have tried to avoid guessing, even when the temptation is high. Always go with the data, and don't, ah, extrapolate very far from the data. Utterly non-linear things like human behaviour, exponential growth, and how the two interact, will ruin your "extrapolation" (guess) every time.

Jason Kenney guessed it would be the "Greatest Summer Ever", and hats bearing that now-infamous slogan, are going to be a top collectors' item for sheer irony, in 2022.

Certainly, governments and businesses are not guessing. They're all just assuming that Omicron will be bad, if not by itself, then by sheer weight of numbers, and everybody is cancelling, and closing. But, of course, the evidence is rising that Omicron is what the CCCC post of South African data the other day indicates: a quarter, a fifth, maybe a sixth as hospital-filling as Delta.

So these guesses are pretty much based on the hoped-for, is-it-too-good-to-be-true outcome, where Omicron immunizes the population against COVID-19s, at very little cost in hospitals and death.

Here's the timeline for 2022, your SWAG (Stupid, Wild-Assed Guess) to be used for laughs at New Year's Eve Parties. (i.e. "Entertainment Purposes Only")

So, here it is, I'm pulling the Jason Kenney (for entertainment purposes only): this will be realized by June 21, and

Summer 2022 Will Be The Best Summer Ever!

http://brander.ca/c19#guess


December 30: No Moe, No Mo'

I was about to put in a one-sentence entry that there wasn't any real data to blog about, see you in a few days. (The vaccination rate of BC may be irrelevant now, but I liked watching it rise - and they haven't reported it since Christmas. The case-rate numbers are all wild underestimates, and I just wrote about the hospitalization, so, not much data.)

Then, I remembered that the last days of the year are good days to clean up stuff you forgot to mention. I'm indebted to a Canadaland panellist (I think it was Jaskaran Sandhu) the other week for reminding me to dump on Scott Moe, the premier of Saskatchewan. He's one of the two pictures at right. One Moe played a goofy moron in movies; the other in a government.

Jason Kenney was more flamboyant, Sandhu notes, got the press, but Moe did every stupid thing Kenney did: lowest vaccination rates, highest Delta wave, kept pretending he could open up at will. And dumb sabre-rattling? Who has the nerve to call Saskatchewan, of all provinces, a "nation within a nation"?

That's all I got. I just didn't want Moe to get away entirely with 2021.

http://brander.ca/c19#nomoe


December 29: Non-Murder Will Out

Johannesburg is looking at the news from Denmark, that "Omicron Less Severe...". They might as well be looking at their own graveyards, and all the grass that is undisturbed.

"Murder will out", goes the saying. Unlike so many other crimes, unlike an assault the victim can cover up with make-up and claim to have walked into a door, murder produces a body, a hole in society, wondering relatives and friends.

"Cases" are uncertain, how bad a sickness is can be debated - unless it produces a body. We can't really be sure what's going on in places with broken, or half-there medical systems, until the bodies are counted. Not even then, in India, where we had to estimate from numbers floating in the Ganges, the plumes from the cremation fields.

South Africa is not that bad. Their medical systems aren't at our levels, but I'm highly-confident that their death-counts from COVID are reasonably accurate.

And they're small. There's no longer any doubt about it - whether crushed by immunity, or people getting scared and distancing, the last wave in South Africa has now been declining sharply for two weeks, despite being less than six weeks old. The fourth wave, at right, started November 24, when cases jumped from the 500s to the 700s in one day, and the 7-day average is now down to the 13,000s from the 21,000s on December 18th.

The death rate is still rising, the presumably is a week or so away from peaking, three weeks behind the case-rate peak. And it's small. The case-rate peaked a little higher than their third-wave peak on July 5. But where that wave was followed by a wave of deaths that hit 388/day in late July, the latest wave is so far causing about 55 deaths/day, and the trajectory seems unlikely to reach 100.

This is still no "little flu", but on the final testing ground, the graveyard, Omicron is a quarter or a fifth as deadly. In South Africa, at least, and I can't think of any reason why their supposed natural immunity from all their suffering, should be any better than our vaccinated immunity to over 80% - and over 95% of those who do nearly all the pandemic dying.

The general public will not breathe out until the same figures do show up in UK and Denmark; but CCCC is going to make the brave call that our ICUs and hospitals are going to be OK this January. What a relief.

http://brander.ca/c19#nonmurder


December 28: The New Wave Is Just In Lower Mainland (so far)

At left, all of December for case-counts in BC. The red bars are "Vancouver Coastal", for the parts of Greater Vancouver that touch the coast, plus rural areas to the north, up past Whistler. The purple, are "Fraser" for the rest of Greater Vancouver, starting with Burnaby and on east, up to Hope. The two regions together are 3 million people, 60% of the population, and almost all city.

And almost all of the new cases. Omicron hasn't gotten out to the boonies yet, maybe it can't leap across the downed bridges. It's pretty boggling to see Coastal alone, my area, hit 1000 cases/day, by itself - and to know that is probably half the real number.

This is a flip from much of the rest of the pandemic, when it was the cities that had the low cases, the country, high rates. Blame assigned to fact that they do all the real work, while we city folk sit at computers, sipping latte'. I'm sure Omicron will get around to them, but as we have the majority population, the biggest wave is the one already rolling.

The wave is over two weeks in. The "elbow" on the case-chart for BC is so sharp, you can pick it precisely: December 12 was way up from December 11, so Boxing Day was the two-week mark.

Deaths usually follow cases by about three weeks, in previous waves, but hospitalization has to go up first. Ours is still flat as a pancake. 4500 active cases, 43 in hospital, or 1%.

Britain currently has 2 million active cases, and 8000 in hospital, barely half that rate. They're a week further along. However, they are starting to spike up in daily hospital admissions. While Omicron develops symptoms quicker, and you get over it quicker, that might not apply to everybody. Maybe 0.1% of Omicron victims go real bad, a month in, and 0.1% is enough to "overwhelm", because over 10,000/day are being infected in BC. This might not "be OK", we still don't know.

http://brander.ca/c19#onlyvan


December 27: Just End The Controls - We'll Soft Lockdown

I was introduced this last week to the concept of "soft lockdown", which pre-dates the pandemic, and means a strategy of self-enforced extreme caution, rather than mandated set behaviours.

A really mature society, and one not driven to take unwise risks by need for money, would need no pandemic controls at all, just information and warnings.

The link is to The Atlantic article about New York just locking itself down, despite flat statements by government that none were ordered. There's two levels of soft lockdown: people just being cautious and cancelling all their parties and restaurant reservations, going back to work-from-home, and so on. Then there's businesses closing because the staff are calling in.

That's the actual "flu epidemic scenario" that emergency and protective services teach their staff, and train for: how to keep society running when everybody is either home, groaning with flu symptoms - or sitting with a kid who is.

I decided I had to flip CCCC to full-on, crazed-libertarian mode, when I read what's at right, in The Herald, this morning. This guys knows what he's doing. He'll measure his own risks, figure if the game's worth the candle, do the right thing. A society full of Tristans would be pretty mature, and fight the pandemic pretty well.

The Vancouver Sun also had a Boxing Day Sales story this morning: that it looked like any other day in Best Buy. Open, sales happening, but the crowds are thin as a regular Monday. There are a lot of people as smart as Tristan, it turns out.

The excuse for mandates was that we had to protect ourselves from people dumber than Tristan, people who'd definitely go in - to a Quebec bar with a 2-metre ceiling from 1872, shoulders rubbing.

And, as noted, if Omicron can use the vaccinated as vectors, then vaccination no longer protects others, only the recipient. So we might as well let Libertarianism loose: if you want to run a dangerous restaurant, and can keep it open only doing business with the risk-takers, Tristan and I will just "not go in". Soft Lockdown.

The air travel industry is in that kind of soft lockdown right now, with half the flights cancelled. Sane people are avoiding airports, cancelling plans right now, anyway, after seeing photos from inside airports, as in CCCC, Christmas Day.

CCCC turns all Libertarian all of a sudden at a chosen moment: such restrictions as we've got will blunt the Omicron wave as much as they're going to. (Not much.) How little they did will be part of the reason for dropping any more.

We should, of course, "Vaccinate the world and end the pandemic", since nothing less will end it. But while we're waiting for it to end, we might as well protect ourselves, stop trying to force others to protect us, and let the virus continue to educate them.

http://brander.ca/c19#libertarian


Boxing Day: Tired of Fatigue

No, really, because I already wrote the "pandemic fatigue" takedown nearly a year ago. The headline at left is WaPo, I think, but links to the first click that came up from a search on "pandemic fatigue". It produced 3 other links to major news sources, with those words in the headline, in the last 24 hours.

(The headline at right is also from the WaPo, an hour after I posted here. Just to confirm it's The Current Topic, for the big papers. No, it doesn't link to the WaPo story. Stop reading them.)

Everybody's talkin' 'bout it, talkin' 'bout it - mostly because everybody who planned to travel or party is feeling crushed by the ruination of their plans. Those of us who had no plans but to stay home, eat, and watch movie marathons, are all feeling fresh and chipper. We are not interviewed for the news.

Do jump to my Feb 23rd, first article on "what is pandemic fatigue", for the picture I found of truly fatigued soldiers in WW2. But never mind the utter exhaustion of combat, how about a recognition that my father missed five Christmases, five Easters, five summer vacations with family. There was also no Zoom, indeed no phone calls, and no telegrams except about death. They wrote letters, which took weeks to travel, not being e-letters.

At no point, did anybody voice the idea that people were just tired of fighting World War Two, so maybe we should surrender.

What would be "this point" in World War Two? Let's equate March 2020, to September 1939: that would make the current moment about June 1941. America hadn't even joined the fight, France was occupied, England had barely pulled through the Battle of Britain, Germany was still allied with Russia.

In short, things looked very grim at this point in WW2, unless you were German Army, partying in France. Everything turned around in the next few months. Hitler insanely opened a second front. (Russians killed 88% of the German Army who died in WW2. Our front was the sideshow.) America was attacked on their own territory (if not State), and joined up, more than doubling the forces on Our Side.

"Nearly two years" into war was not the time for fatigue, nor is it now.

There are signs that the Omicron Wave will indeed be much less than our worst fears; we'll get through it, and many will gain immunity. Vaccination rates will get a shot in the arm. (Sorry.) We will very likely get a breather, and we've had the strongest reason possible given us to vaccinate the world. Maybe this is where it all turns around.

http://brander.ca/c19#fatigue2


Christmas Day: Reluctantly Bearing Witness To Xmas Madness

The compelling images are at "blogto.com", which I'd never heard of, not being a TO guy.

I wasn't even going to blog today, take the day off, nothing to write about, no data. But this just made me cringe and be so glad I was home.
The story adds pictures, one from last night at left, the other today, and people's social media comments on how great it makes them feel to be frog-marched through a massive infection risk.

The continued case-count explosion of yesterday - again, all reports are a day behind, now a significant delay(!), and all reports are widely agreed to be undercounts because of insufficient testing - ensures that this is superspreading.

Fun fact about Omicron - we don't know whether it spreads so fast, because it raises the number of mean spreaders, or the number of superspreaders. Recall that original COVID-19 mostly didn't infect people - except where one case in ten infected many. Suppose Omicron doesn't infect four people per person, but one or two - except one guy can infect hundreds, easily.

If that one guy is in this crowd, with the bad masks, the generally steamy indoor climate, the packing, it's going to be quite the superspreader indeed.

In a couple of days, the price of it all will be high.



http://brander.ca/c19#pearson


Christmas Eve: Perfect Time for Lockdown, Really

You keep reading "It's like March 2020" - except for the most-important thing about March, 2020, which was a total lockdown. The streets were empty at rush hour, the air went clear in cities around the world.

The two differences are that:

  1. There is a much faster spike, way better reason for a lockdown;
  2. There's no lockdown.
Except here. I've been working on this all week. The N95 mask trip, the booster, the last groceries. We are now holing up until the smoke clears, and the risk can even be assessed. Oddly, the ten days or so I expect that to take are the time I need to get over Short-Timer Syndrome, being four days past my booster. My odds of medical trouble drop rapidly, starting in about 10 days.

There's just no clue what the risk is. What we don't know, could fill a blog post:

It's a holiday for home with family, and we have a full fridge, lots of books, and a faith that things will be clearer in a few days. Or several. And until then, there's no reason to leave home, and almost none to blog. It's going to be a great Christmas for us, we have all we need, in a world of want.

And we have our health! Definitely a Merry Christmas.

http://brander.ca/c19#blogdown


December 23: Forget the Vaccination Percentage! No More Herd Immunity!

The original hope for Boris the Bug-promoter, and his colleague in corruption across the pond, was that American and Britain could reach "herd immunity" - maybe 70% of the population would be enough - by letting all the non-old people get infected, taking the 0.2-0.3% population loss, maybe losing a few hundred thousand old people, oops, but then the virus would go away, and the surviving olds would be safe, protected by the herd.

Then the hope was that vaccination would get us there - and we weren't to 70% yet, most countries, when Delta came along, and now it was at least 90%. Before nearly anybody made it to 90% - except Singpore, which CCCC followed with interest, perhaps able to fully open, yet still crush a curve.

Now it's meaningless, twice over. Even if it did not infect the vaccinated, and make them spreaders, (if not patients), the sheer infectiousness of Omicron would have driven the herd-immunity number up past 95%, pretty hopeless to shoot for. But the greater infectiousness (it was never zero) of vaccinated people means there's just zero herd immunity.

It's nice in a way, the CCCC job just got easier: I can quit monitoring that percentage as it hits 87% in BC today, may make it to 90% in January - now pointless, but nice to know.

Now, there's no more community-protection angle. They might as well drop vaccine mandates! The excuse for mandates was not forcing people to protect themselves, but to protect the community - which it no longer does, not much. It reduces transmission, but probably not enough to be worth the societal pain and conflict.

Now, vaccination is about protecting yourself, because the Devil will take the hindmost, whom the rest of us can no longer protect.

May there be mercy upon them from above, for the virus will have none.

http://brander.ca/c19#noherd


December 22: Sigh, Again Compelled to Shill for Tyee

Oh, just click on this link, never mind me.

I do not want to be a fan-boy, and relentlessly advertise everything that comes from Andrew Nikiforuk of The Tyee. But, again, I find myself with no choice. Yet again, the man lets loose with a choice blast from the plasma-cannon of his disdain, and I found myself grinning and bouncing in my chair. "You tell 'em Andrew! Both barrels!" (It must be one of those new double-barrelled plasma cannons from Stark Industries.)

First, if you were wondering how Omicron could be vastly more transmissable, and yet only call for fairly modest restrictions, theatres and restaurants still open, it isn't just you: they're wrong.

He quotes the alternate advice of epidemiologist Yaneer Bar-Yam, who champions the hardass Lancet strategy of getting to zero.

Bar-Yam: "Omicron is spreading very rapidly. The responses of many countries are insufficient. Please protect yourself and your families. In the next few weeks shelter in place, and be prepared for the shock that will occur as cases rise."

Shelter in place. Absolutely god-damn right. My Moderna reaction yesterday (and a bit of today) was significant. It kept getting worse all day, feeling fatigue and muscle aches, my temperature peaking at 38C. Maybe worse than my first shot, though my second was almost nothing. An interesting data-point, perhaps, that when you switch vaccines, you're back to the reaction to shot 1. But it only made me more glad I'd taken it, because it was such a reminder how bad actual disease is. I don't want even the mildest touch of it.

Nikiforuk's article goes on to the larger story: we are not getting away from this virus until it is beaten, world-wide, and vaccines cannot do that. They operate on a scale of a year to develop and deploy. The variants, take just weeks. It's vital that we acknowledge our technological infrastructure of world-wide cheap travel, travel that takes hours, not weeks as it used to, and our indoor spaces that are not well-ventilated enough, as the keys.

But: upgrading our standards for ventilation, and, worse, renovating our existing structures, is so expensive, nobody but scientists seeing the obvious has the courage to even suggest it. It's not even a topic. But it was the lack of ventilation in that drug store the other day, and in the waiting area, that had me stressed and worried; even a small space is safe with steady air-flow.

I had some other ideas for today, but never mind. Everybody just read The Tyee article.

http://brander.ca/c19#niktyee


December 21: Pathologically Bad Choice for a Vaccine Clinic

Never mind whether it was such a distant place for me to have to go to, an hour's walk away on Main Street. I couldn't see any close clinics, even the ones that were all booked up already, when I booked a week or so back.

My complaint is that it was "pathologically" bad in that I don't think I've ever seen a smaller drug store. I didn't take a picture inside, quarters were so close that would have felt like invasion of privacy. Through the glass, though, you can see it's just over 4 metres wide, and a metre of that was "behind the counter". It only goes 3 metres back, too.

I sat on a chair beside the cash register, nearly rubbing the front window with my right shoulder, so there was no choice but to take it in my "good arm" (left-handed). A minor point, though the sleeping on the sore shoulder woke me up a few times. Barely two metres from me was the other medical person, vaxxing a guy in the chair opposite. A third person waited on a yellow dot, barely inside the door, that might have been 2m from both of us, in a triangle, but I doubt it.

Another person behind the counter made for six of us in about a hundred square feet.

Corner Drugs is about six blocks from the huge London Drugs on Hastings, two stories tall, much higher ceilings on each story, and with access to an indoor mall space where people could have waited out of the cold, but with four stories of atrium air circulating above them. The choice was just baffling.

All credit and thanks to the staff, mind you; the lineup moved fast, they collected my card outdoors, called me in only when they had my shot in hand, my certificate in the other, as my butt hit that chair. I was out of it in 90 seconds, out the door in 9 more. So, not much risk, probably - except for Omicron's legendary powers, of course - we just don't know how "fleeting" a contact it needs. I was glad of my new N95 mask.

Much more glad when I stepped outside and was politely requested to go into the door two feet away, which was to a staircase up to the second floor of the mini-mall, access to various rented offices. They had zero space in the store.

The "waiting room" for 15 minutes, right, was the 1m-wide corridor, low ceiling, with the chairs a minimal 2m apart. There's another person behind the lady standing, and three people in the last five metres behind me, chatting together.

I'm not sure why I stayed, rather than insisting on doing my wait out in the cold; trust in my keen new mask, perhaps, and also, of course, not wanting to be that guy, who makes a fuss, when everybody is already edgy. I'm Canadian, for God's sake.

I was offered an mRNA choice, between mRNA Coke and Pepsi, and picked Moderna, having read they're pretty sure it's good against Omicron. Today, the sore shoulder of last night is on the mend, I lost some sleep to feeling dehydrated and (a bit) head-achy. If I had a job, I could be at it.

I'm grumpy at BC Public Health because they could have done better, but they did OK, I give them a C- : "adequate pass". Mostly because of those efficient, polite, staff at Corner Drugs - not any smart moves by Public Health.

News today is indicating that Dr. B and her minions are starting to really anger the population with their lack of federally-funded "lateral" tests, still gathering dust, their lack of urgency on vaccination. (Clinics closing over the holidays? When people have time and stores are closed? Are they mad?)

But that probably deserves a whole post.

http://brander.ca/c19#vax3clinic


December 20: Feeling the Risk

I talked Connie into taking a dive through that "closing window" mentioned yesterday, and getting out to see "Eternals" yesterday.

Daring action! Nerve-wracking danger! The movie was exciting, too. (It was good; don't listen to the bad reviews. A ensemble cast, all of them good at their jobs, is a relief from the Lone Hero of most superhero stories. Surely "group heroism" is the right theme for a pandemic superhero movie.)

I had my new personal protective equipment, my KN95 Christmas-themed mask from Dollarama (no longer available). I was glad of it; we looked at putting in 10 minutes in this lineup and nearly turned around. We've been watching a lot of news, and feeling the risk, feeling jumpy. But the doors at back kept opening wide a few times a minute, throwing a nice chill breeze past us all, and up the chimney of the theatre's staircase. As you can see, it's hardly the fog-causing bar crowd of my "fog and filthy air" post from Revelstoke last summer.

But, my brain is adjusting to new rules. News from UK says that the huge "official" cases are probably a fraction of the real ones, because testing is so backed up and behind. Lineups for testing have started in BC, too. And measles, to name one, could certainly have transmitted, even in that lineup. Connie and I are going to avoid others for some days. We're all snuggled up for Christmas, now; three of the Xmas movies seen, our stuff bought. A few N95-mask trips to the grocery store will see us through the next few weeks.

This is a blog, not a diary: I'm just the example of what I think is widespread mental changes, the last week in particular. Everybody's drawing comparisons to April 2020, that "yikes! Hide at home!" feeling. SNL last night didn't have to be told by any government to slash their Christmas show; they had to plan the barebones substitute show since days ago. The sports leagues didn't have to be told, either.

Well, if we show symptoms in a few days, man, Worst Christmas Present Ever; but otherwise, we'll just, ah, join the crowd ... so to speak ... by staying home through the season. And, from the news, man, I'm glad to be just 6 hours from a booster, and just that two weeks away from the extra layer of insurance I'd like before hitting more movies.

http://brander.ca/c19#movieline


December 19: The Closing Window

I often start the day off by looking over The Guardian, figuring that much of the UK news for the day has already happened. These days, that means reading dire warnings and frightening numbers (26,000 cases yesterday...just in London) that are a glimpse into our own future in perhaps two weeks.

And I was just getting excited about having an almost-normal crop of Xmas blockbusters to go see in the theatres!

It's not about whether they'll close the movie theatres; it's about whether we'd even want to go - soon enough, we'll have alarming numbers, too.

I'm one day away from a shot, thus two weeks away from the first sign of added protection. My two doses, not yet six months old, make me pretty safe from Delta, which is still in the majority, and give me good odds against even Omicron.

On the other hand, the big jump in cases, this last week, was concentrated in my own health region, we've spiked up from 1.7% positivity (very good) to 3.5% (still not that bad) in a few days.

It's the "still not that bad", that makes me think I'm in a closing window - still open, but just a week, or even a few days, left, to catch a show or two without getting jumpy. It wouldn't be all that risky.

It's easy enough to scare people. TV news yesterday showed a guy in a hospital bed, "early 50s, previously healthy, double-jabbed" ... and currently unable to walk 10 steps. Shiver. His case is rare, of course, but risking much of anything, just to see a movie big-screen and big-sound, is a lip-chewer.

Except that seeing "Dune" with the Big Sound was absolutely crucial. The Hans Zimmer soundscape is a huge part of the show. I think I just talked Connie into seeing "Eternals" immediately, the one likely to leave theatres soonest.

There should be a lot of calculations being done right now, around the Closing Window. Office parties should be gotten over with early this week, stores visited, family seen.

The irony of these calculations, is that in aggregate, they bring on the wave a little sooner: of all those making the calculations, some are going to gamble and lose, and either catch it, or spread it.

And, of course, all the movies that planned to just open this Wednesday or later, gambled and lost their big opening. (Matrix, King's Man - sorry, guys, maybe in two weeks, if the data on booster-protection is encouraging.) Congratulations to Spider-Man for so agilely swinging in through the window in the very nick of time.

http://brander.ca/c19#closingwindow


December 18: The OMACRONION: "Omacron Is Less Severe", Say Odd-Numbered Scientists

Omacron Has A Fraction The Hospitalization!

According to the first, third, fifth, and seventh stories I read this morning, Omacron puts only 1.7%, or 5%, or 10%, of the patients in hospital, in contrast to 15% for Delta.

We Are All Going To Die

According to the second, fourth, and sixth stories, Omicron has nearly the same hospitalization rate as Delta, the wave will hit ten times as many people, overflowing hospitals and reducing us to India of last May. War-sized death toll.

That's all she wrote, folks. I'm down to the jokes. There's no point in blogging about the previous pandemic, the one from a month ago. All the rules for that pandemic are out the window. And we still aren't sure what the rules are for this new pandemic. It was hugely respected Neil Ferguson of the UK who came out with the most recent "just as bad" evaluation, so, frankly, CCCC is preparing for the worst.

I went out today to get N95 masks, a 90 minute bus adventure to Canadian Tire, just for fun, because learned doctors are saying nothing less will do in prolonged indoor exposure, not any more.

And we're almost smug, sort of, that we made the painful call not to fly or otherwise visit family this year.

Stay tuned.

http://brander.ca/c19#omacronion


December 17: Is Christmas Coming, or Passover?

The figures are, umm, "pre-apocalyptic". Omicron has to put less than a tenth as many people in hospital, per thousand cases, or it's going to be a Slaughter of the Innocents, just like the First Christmas. (Biblical story of Herod killing thousands of babies, aiming for The Christ.)

There's the other Biblical story, of Passover. Those who marked their doors with the Blood of Lamb, indicating their Faith in the God of Moses, were passed over by the Angel of Death.

And vaccination opponents of the nuttiest grade, are fond of calling vaccination scars (used to be a thing) The Mark of the Beast.

Well, all that stirs around in my brain into one stew of religious metaphors:

Hear me, O Israel! (The 30.7% of you still unjabbed)

Hear me, O Canada! (14.3% of you over age 5)

Mark Thyselves with the Insignia of Immunity!
...and the Angel of Death Shall Pass Over Thee and Thy House.

Pretty much last chance, too, gang. My booster is probably not life-saving, but could be week-on-my-back saving, and I'll take it. Three days to the shot, and three weeks to antibodies, seems very long right now. Book today.

Otherwise, for thousands of Canadians, this is going to be the Black Christmas.

http://brander.ca/c19#passover


December 16: The Gathering Storm

The link is not to the 2002 movie, or to Churchill's first book about WW2, but to the "live feed" page of The Guardian for December 16. (Not sure how live-feed pages archive, I may change the link tomorrow to an article about Denmark or UK case-counts.)

I certainly felt, reading the European news in The Guardian this morning, like Churchill surveying the rising militarism in Europe in the late 1930s. Country after country reporting "highest daily cases - ever", just days after being, um, normal. It's not even clear yet that this is all Omicron, though the UK is pretty sure. One UK researcher opined that there are far more than that, that everybody who thinks they have a cold, in London today, actually has Omicron.

Denmark is the one that gave me shivers. One-seventh our population, they had ten thousand cases yesterday - and they're only 2% behind Canada at vaccination. Worse, Denmark is pretty sure that Omicron hasn't even become dominant yet - most of those cases are Delta. That's seventy-thousand cases in one day, for the Canadian population - and we had 9,000 as our maximum 7-day-average once.

If the storm does come, it's a scenario that's always been implicit in that "R" number. If it gets high enough, a pandemic is not a "war", just a slaughter. Fighting back is like "fighting" a hurricane. It happened in India, we watched it happen on TV. Oxygen tanks in our hospital parking lots, awaiting a bed, are not impossible for us, either.

75% of Denmark is double-vaccinated. 75% of their Omicron patients are double-vaccinated. I suspect that Omicron means we can drop vaccine mandates! The excuse for them wasn't forcing people to protect themselves, but to protect others from infection - and vaccines can no longer do the latter. I'm not sure what percentage of Denmark is boostered, but 9% of their Omicron patients are - it's not clear that boosting does more than protect the one recipient, as well.

So the storm will come. We can delay it, only a bit, and we can beg, perhaps on our knees or something, for the unvaccinated to jump on their absolute last chance.

The storm will come, and it will rain upon the vaxed and the unvaxed alike.

How much rain? The one South African study just done, suggests one-third less hospitalization. I'd thought one-third the hospitalization would be good, but only 30% less won't help much. We have three drugs that properly test out as reducing hospitalization, if you get them soon enough: plain 'ol Prozac. The new Paxlovil. The much-hyped Merck Molnupiravir, just approved in Denmark. I can only assume that efforts to secure huge supplies of them in every clinic are frantic right now. Together, they might knock hospitalization and death down by an order of magnitude. Treatment, rather than prevention, would become the new front.

But that's all talk about treating the unvaxed, save a very few freak cases for the vaxed. India, we are not, as long as it was mercifully wrong to fear that Omicron would hospitalize children. We are at only 82% vaccinated, but more like 90% vaccinated for those over 30, 95% for those over 50. That does let us divide the Indian experience by 10.

Between vaccination and the treatments, we might avoid India. But we might not.

http://brander.ca/c19#gathering


December 15: The Alternative Facts

The graphic at left links to his article in The Atlantic, but comes from the Catholic Information Centre, where Matthew Walther is listed as editor of "The Lamp" (a Catholic literary journal), and writes for a few magazines, including The Atlantic. He's from a small-town in southwest Michigan, somewhere near Kalamazoo, and Battle Creek (a name known to all Boomer kids as where you sent your Kellog's box-tops to get your toy). His article burned up the Internet for a few days, caused a few angry readers to cancel their subscriptions.

His story is that, in his town, "No One Cares About COVID", and have been living their lives, mask-free, vaccine-indifferent, not discussing the issue with any medico throughout a pregnancy, didn't come up.

That's all possible; it's not denialism, it's risk-acceptance, like driving after drinking, knowing your increased odds of harm, just shrugging at them.

The piece raised anger about "COVID denial", however, and I must agree on some points. Walther simply shrugs off what hospital staff are going through, with a comment that these decisions are not made despite, but after considering: "... hospitalization statistics, which are always high this time of year without attracting much notice; or death reports."

Hospitalization, in Michigan, as he wrote, was described as so full that they were crowding furniture aside, shutting down the neurology unit to fill it with COVID beds; one ICU at 140% of its normal capacity.

That's some pretty industrial-strength rationalization, sir; I think "denial" is a fair word. The article already has its own reply articles. That link to Slate.com notes that Walther is both White, and white-collar, thus in the lowest risk group. Other groups do not get to shrug off the risk of COVID.

The article is deliberately trolling, in some respects: it takes a thinly-veiled tone of suggesting that, not only is the whole risk wildly exaggerated and over-hyped to start with, that only nerds and weenies go through the empty performances of safe behaviour, but that this dumbness is only found in "the professional classes" of "a few" large urban centres. (I'm not sure how many "professional classes", plural, Walther believes in.) For one thing, it's a solid majority that think this is serious, and "care about COVID"; if that is more a City thing than rural, well, city folk are 80% of the country, buddy; rural just ain't the "real America" since WW2.

I found the article very valuable, and wrote The Atlantic to thank them. Walther doesn't rant about stolen elections or ivermectin, doesn't insult public health officials, he's a good writer and expresses himself well. To shrug off COVID, you have to be willing to not look at certain things, like how much worse it is for the poor, the old, the sick; how hard it has been on the medical people; how the numbers are just far higher than for seasonal diseases. But that exercise, of not looking, is normal. Americans could never have tolerated how bad things were for the poor, the Black, the undocumented doers-of-shitwork, the foreign sweatshops making their stuff, if they weren't good at not looking. His end of the political spectrum are just much better at it, and their not-looking skills proved equal to COVID.

So far.

Matthew's Michigan, ten million people, is a quarter the population of Canada, and currently has twice as many cases per day. Their daily death-rate has been steadily increasing since September, now reaching up over 100 dead/day, seems certain to spike soon. They may race ahead of all-Canada (currently at 21 deaths/day) to have higher total pandemic deaths than our whole country by late January.

I'm sure that Mr. Walther can ignore the dying, which, again, will disproportionally happen to people he's already good at ignoring. If Michigan gets much worse, it may exceed 3000 deaths/million, while Canada stays below 800. Thing is, New York and New Jersey are past 3000 already. The only thing that might crack the bubble around them, is the upset it would cause, should hospitals really hit their wall, and start telling people to get personal oxygen like in India. It would have to be out in the streets, impossible to ignore; because if it's possible, he'll ignore it.

I think that smart people will adopt safe behaviours and crush the wave when it comes near to that bad; I think the medical profession will work its fingers to the bone to keep Matthew able to deny. So, as bad as this next wave might be, I hold out no hopes for this Catholic even eventually offering a mea culpa.

http://brander.ca/c19#walther


December 14: Good Riddance

This is not about those who can't take a vaccine. And, certainly, of those who won't get vaccinated, there are a few who just have a sad phobia problem, or only the one concern, quirk, that they can't get rid of, and are utterly cooperative, helpful, generous people in every other way.

But on the average?

On the average, you could hardly pick a better question to ask somebody, to find out if they have dark, conspiracy-obsessed corners in their minds.

Suppose there was no pandemic, and you just wanted a test for "finding toxic employees, who think everybody else is wrong, and they are right?"

In every workplace, including farming, forever, there are risks, and employees take risks for each other, if they must. Workers themselves bend safety rules for falls, for being injured by equipment, for chemical exposure - just to help other employees, or help the place stay open and running, by cutting corners.

They shouldn't, of course, but it's normal. And you want employees that will go that extra step, "take one for the team", look out for their co-workers.

And you ask somebody to take on one more risk - a microscopic one, if they believe the truth, and a very small one by their own beliefs, since even they have to admit that bad vaccine reactions are not even one percent of cases, or everybody could point to examples in every workplace.

And, no, they won't take any risk for the team. By our standards, we're not even asking them to take a risk - but by their own beliefs, they are refusing to take a small risk to help save workmates from a larger one.

Employers around the globe should be thanking and praising public health authorities for giving them an excuse for finding these poor attitudes out, and improving the workplace for everybody.

http://brander.ca/c19#goodriddance


December 13: The Crucial Need to Get To 90

This all may be about to become obsolete...but I don't think so. If Omicron really just breezes past all vaccination, as far as barely-symptotic infections go, at least, then vaccination might lose all ability to slow transmission. It seems more likely that it will change the numbers shown here upwards, a few percent.

What the graph is showing for BC is that 88% seemed to be some crucial point, for a location, most of the time. There are high-case locations past 88%, but those two clusters at the lower right - places over 88% that are around 500/day, and places just barely under it that were up over 1000/day - hint that it is, if not a herd-immunity number, an inflection point.

I say only "hint", because it's just a correlation; maybe those communities were just more transmission-friendly, more blue-collar work.

But, take 88% for sake of argument, and worry that Omicron transmits twice as easily, to pick a number. If Delta starts having trouble below 12% of the population easily infected, even Omicron would have trouble at 6%, or even higher (it isn't linear). Once we "Get to Ninety", every additional percent vaccinated takes away 10% of the vectors.

So ignore the news from the UK of the vaccinated, even boostered, catching Omicron. It's all the more important to protect yourself, but you're not doing nothing to save others, either; with BC and Canada at such high levels already, each jab still counts.

Remember that whooping cough takes 93% - and before the loopies started getting away with "philosophical objections", we used to get it.

It's a worry, that Omicron's mildness (so far) will discourage young people, already feeling pretty immune to COVID, will lose interest in getting in for the shot. Bluntly, while Omicron is still a question-mark for a few more weeks, a full-court-press of publicity and incentives should be employed to get them in.

Omicron could still be a terrible wave, and we have just a few precious weeks to head it off, it's still possible. We might need a few more percent, but for 2021, I just wish we could finish that "Get to 90"; it does seem to be the crucial number.

http://brander.ca/c19#get292


December 12: Anti-vaxxers Aren't Anti-Antibiotics

I'm going to continue on my rant about anti-vaccination philosophies, which, again, mostly come from the Loopy Left corner of the culture. (Which makes me wonder if Wellness-Industry, Paltrow-worshipping, Lefties bump into MAGA, stolen-election, protofascists at anti-vaxx rallies and have a moment of cognitive dissonance.)

I'm staying on the topic because a little coincidence on Slashdot, the nerd-news website, with a "This Day in History" feature, of a popular discussion from December 12, 2014.

The topic was "Time To Remove 'Philosophical' Exemption From Vaccine Requirements?":

Michigan has a problem. Over the past decade, the number of unvaccinated kindergartners has spiked. "Nearly half of the state's population lives in counties with kindergarten vaccination rates below the level needed for "herd immunity," the public health concept that when at least 93 percent of people are vaccinated, their immunity protects the vulnerable and prevents the most contagious diseases from spreading." Surprise, surprise, the state is now in the midst of a whooping cough outbreak. How do these kids get into public schools without being vaccinated? Well, Michigan is among the 19 U.S. states that allow "philosophical" objections to the vaccine requirements for schoolchildren. (And one of the 46 states allowing religious exemption.) A new editorial is now calling for an end to the "philosophical" exemption.
They then link to the original story, an editorial calling for an end to that exemption.

In the pandemic, of course, with 10 million dead, we don't have "exemptions", so much as "no school vaccine requirements", in most places, not even for university students. It's a painful reminder of how long we have been warned about this, how great the need has been for a decade to crack down on this "philosophy".

The Slashdot discussion is recommended, because if you look for the posts with 5 "mod points", they're the ones from knowledgable people with first-hand expertise. Well, a few are just very eloquent: "There is no vaccine for the worst diseases: Stupidity and Fear". Some are those who had a bad vaccine reaction. But more are authoritative, well-done replies, like this reply to the guy with the bad childhood experience:

I'm a pediatrician. ... Vaccines are safer than riding in a car and swimming in a pool. Antibiotics have way more adverse events than vaccines and have not saved as many child lives (look it up). The anti-vaccine parents NEVER object to antibiotics, and often ask for them unnecessarily. Only clean water is considered more important in saving lives than vaccines.

That's a great comment about the antibiotics and the eagerness of of antivaxxers to access that intrusion into their bodies. I bet if the old antibiotics don't work, and they're still in pain and fever from infection, they have no qualms about "experimental" antibiotics, either.

Also of note, is that whooping cough is so infectious, it takes a 93% vaccination level to get that "herd immunity". The first version of COVID was actually pretty easy on us, with an R of 2.8, and "only" needing 70% vaccination. Delta would be more typical for the diseases we have always vaccinated against.

Omicron might not require more than 90%, of course. I've got a cool graph about that 90% level to show, tomorrow.

http://brander.ca/c19#oldwisdom


December 11: Woke Up Angry at the Grinches Who Stole Christmas

I just don't feel like doing any news-research this morning, finding you an especially useful or entertaining bit of pandemic info. I woke up angry.

It's just an accumulating realization that Omicron isn't the Grinch Who Stole Christmas, it's the unvaccinated. The news is sinking in that case-counts will be heading way up over December, and many families and friends will cancel parties and suppers, or shrink them.

But with the lowered severity (which South Africa becomes more sure of every day, including today's news), Omicron would be just the 2021-2022 winter flu, for the vaccinated. Spiking case-counts mean nothing without hospitalizations, and we vaccinated just wouldn't make the news on our own.

I guess it was how funny it wasn't for me, on last night's Daily Show, where correspondent Jordan Klepper walked ultra-liberal last-hippies-refuge of Venice Beach, CA, and reminded us all that the real home of anti-vaccination isn't right-wing politics: it's the "wellness industry". In Venice Beach, you can pay for breathing lessons and herbal treatments that will "strengthen your body against COVID". Unvaccinated people with bizarre "wellness talk" excuses were rife, on the street. And they were smug about their total rightness.

Yeah...that late-night smugness is what did it. So I'm not angry at any one political view. Just the unvaccinated. We, who are in no real further danger from the virus, are letting them "close society", causing hundreds of billions of dollars in economic damage, and hundreds, maybe thousands, of lives - yes, it's their own lives, some poetic justice there, but I don't want to see any more horribly pathetic stories of unvaccinated weeping their regrets as the ventilator goes in. I just want it over.

http://brander.ca/c19#angry


December 10: Yoicks! Barely Got In for Booster!

At first, I thought the booking system must be malfunctioning. This morning, I got an "invitation" email to go ahead and get that booster. I was a little puzzled. I'd thought it was just 70+ until the turn of the year, and that I'd be getting my shot around mid-January. It's only four days since I was calculating an optimal moment for vaccination, definitely in January.

So, I clicked on the link to see if it indeed had a message about that, and was only offering me bookings in January. I fumbled around to pick a nearby clinic, was surprised so few were in the crowded West End, and there were no booking days in December, January, or February. I clicked on a few other pharmacy locations before finding any bookings. I'll have to walk two miles, to get one of the few bookings left at all.

So, yow: I'm booked for December 20, 158 days after my second shot, just over five months, so my immunity should be pretty fulsome by January 10th, a month from today.

It's possible that Omicron will be doing that exponential spike thing in BC as early as Christmas, so we might be seeing thousands of cases per day by that January 10th. The booster is a few weeks before I wanted it, originally, but, as a preparation for the worst case, it's a good idea.

I was surprised to see the clinics so booked up; my generation in particular, are advised to book now.

http://brander.ca/c19#vax3


December 9: The Fog of War

And everybody knows that the Plague is coming
Everybody knows that it's moving fast

-Leonard Cohen, "Everybody Knows"

This war is all about fog. The Big Discovery, still not really sunk in, some places, is that COVID can infect via "fog", aerosols, travel across a room, survive a long time. Bars and restaurants still haven't upgraded ventilation enough, so I look for windows. (Which works, in Vancouver, even in winter.)

But "The Fog of War" refers to how badly wars are fought, many of the actions directly the opposite of good, because combatants can't tell what's really going on . And few wars have that kind of fog, like a pandemic.

The virus is always acting today, whereas we, the opposition, are forever acting on information that is weeks old. The best decisions are all statistical, and statistics take time.

CCCC has already reported some wrongness ('we think', he said in the fog), about Omicron hospitalizing children. No further reports of that, and one comment that kids were hospitalized in one location, "abundance of caution" thing.

Reports do continue that Omicron is crazy-infectious, one today that it infected 4.2 times as many as Delta in comparable situations, which is just wild. Also, reports continue that it seems to average milder, though Africa does have hospitalization going up. Cases went back up today, from 13,000-16,000 the last three days, to over 20,000 - which is large, but not as extreme as the first week.

The death rate continues to be about the same as Canada's, 20-ish per day, the same as 3-4 weeks ago.

The problem that the Fog of War is causing South Africa right now, is that they have long-standing protocols for infected health-care workers: ten days of isolation. The problem is, that nearly 20% of them are infected, and they'll lose care-capability.

The vaccinated workers seem to be all asymptomatic or barely symptomatic; belief is rising that with careful masking and other PPE, they could work, and they're having frantic meetings about reducing the ten-days to five, too keep staffing up. Early studies seem to indicate that Omicron might also be more short-lived; and it's been known a long time that most transmission happens early in the disease, when symptoms are still developing.

Rigidity of rules has been a problem through the whole pandemic; the stiffness of our public-health bureaucracies has been shown up painfully clear. (We still can't get Bonnie Henry to give us our rapid antigen tests like Ontario has so many of.) But you don't change rules like the isolation rule without data, and South Africa will just have to guess.

Despite all the fog, this is clearly the end-game, though. The sheer infectiousness means it will soon be everywhere on Earth, and what happens, happens.

The funniest thing in the ZA papers is probably everywhere else: "Bill Gates Predicts Pandemic End Date", which is like click-bait promising you a pretty picture, only to give you that Bill predicts: 2022. Sometime. No wonder he's a billionaire.

http://brander.ca/c19#zadox


December 8: Rising Hopes for (more) Benign Omicron?

I wasn't going to get back to Omicron this early, but, but I'm too excited.

And I'm not even excited because Omicron might be some saviour mutation, which (almost) never causes severe disease, does confer immunity to others, and out-reproduces even Delta to swoop in and save us all.

That's not impossible, but all I need to get excited is the possibility that Omicron will be (a) no worse, and even (b) just a little better. If Omicron only dropped us back down to the fatality rate of original COVID (Delta was twice as bad), that would be terrific. 10% less-bad would be good. Equally-bad would be fine.

If Omicron is merely "no worse" than all those travel bans and stock market crashes can just go reverse themselves, and will. The travel bans should be dumped right now, obviously, because we know of enough community transmission to know that just extra testing and quarantine of African travellers will do just as much good, limiting the spread for a while while we gear up.

What's my reason for breaking silence and expressing hope? This three-hour-old article, hot off the press of the Johannesburgnews.net, which I advised readers to watch four days ago. Three quotes are given. One, I'm sure is already widespread, is Dr. Fauci, not known for understating risks, that it does look encouraging. Second, Dr. Angelique Coetzee, chairwoman of the S.A. Medical Association, whose announcement triggered the bans (to her disgust), said:

This version of the virus had been circulating in southern Africa for some time ... Let me be clear: nothing I have seen about this new variant warrants the extreme action the UK government has taken in response to it. No one here in South Africa is known to have been hospitalized with the Omicron variant, nor is anyone here believed to have fallen seriously ill with it.
...and there were upbeat estimates (carefully phrased) from American and Russian research scientists.

Most importantly (since you can always find a headline-hungry researcher), these guys are sticking their necks out because we really are at 3 weeks since Omicron took off, today, and we should be seeing the typical 3-weeks-later rise in the death rate. And we are not. There are no lineups for hospital space yet.

Even the frighteningly-soaring infection rate seems to have slowed. Cases were literally doubling every day there for several days, but yesterday was 13,000 some cases, after it had been 16,000-some for two days in a row, not rising.

The Johannesburgnews.net pages should have been filled with stories of rising hospitalizions by now, at least. I went looking for them, and found one story about hospitalizations increased fourfold since the start of November. November? The story was ten days old. All the recent stories were like the one on Johannesburgnews.net: cautious optimism.

Let's just go with that and have a nice week while we await confirmation.

http://brander.ca/c19#risinghope


December 7: The GOP, A Party That Will Live in Infamy

Eighty years ago this morning, the Empire of Japan attacked the United States of America's Territory of Hawaii, killing about 3,000 people. Democrats Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman led the country to victory against the attacker. Their electoral opponents in the GOP provided unstinting support the whole time.

Two years ago, SARS-COV-2 had just arrived in the United States, we now know from samples collected around December 13th, 2019. But wherever the Republican Party held sway, in a state, in the federal service for the first year, or just had a grip on the psychology of a local county, the fight only went a third as well. The GOP were effectively siding with the enemy. Their philosophy of self-reliance, and hatred of community action, be it vaccines or trains, was the worst thing for responding to a pandemic. (They really hate public transit.)

That's pretty much it. The GOP, everywhere and always, weakly echoed by many of Canada's Conservatives, and strongly echoed by our PPC party, have opposed any community action to prevent disease, from distance, closures, and masks, to the miracle of vaccines. The results are in the graphs, in the NPR story the image links to, and summarized in this Guardian article.

The summary of the summary, for the busy: you have to go down to the county level, in the USA, to see Party effects, because their states are all a mix of rural (GOP) counties and urban (Democratic) counties. You have to "control for age" so that older counties don't falsely appear worse. They did all that.

And GOP-voting counties were nearly 3 times as likely to die, since vaccines came out in May. Republicans are at 59% vaxed, Democrats at 91%. Add in more masks and distance, and you have 2.7:1 on the average. In October, mid-wave, the ratio peaked at the most-GOP 10% of America had six times the death rate of the least-GOP 10%.

Funny thing, here's another Canada comparison: the ratio between Democratic-thinking places and Republican-thinking places is just about the same as the ratio between America (just over 2400 deaths/million) and Canada (under 800 deaths/million). I'm not going to grind numbers on such a thought, just roughly estimate that the American Republican Party has gotten half of their 800,000 killed, sacrificed 400,000 of their countrymen to the Enemy.

One thinks of Republicans fighting on behalf of Japan, to hand over ports in Texas and Florida, say, and the mind boggles. Republicans would never have sided with that enemy, just to make the hated FDR of the New Deal, look bad.

This Pearl Harbor Day, they should be shamed into joining the new fight.

http://brander.ca/c19#GOPsick


December 6, 2021: Booster-Shot Calculations

Yesterday was a long post, time for a short one. It feels like every time I look at any pandemic news, I'm being hectored to get a booster shot.

It should probably go double for us AstraZeneca cases, that vaccine has always been deprecated as a bit less (if not a lot less) effective than the mRNA vaccines (or even the overlooked Novavax 'traditional' vaccine).

The most-personal reason to get a booster, one's own protection, doesn't impress me much. I still get the impression, from Delta cases around the world, that the double-vaccinated are still very safe from COVID death or injury. News that Omicron was more dangerous than Delta might change my mind, but there's zero sign of that so far, and even rising hopes that it's milder.

The other argument is that I would be less vulnerable to being turned into an asymptomatic, unknowing disease vector. For that argument, I'm a sucker, so I think I'll have to cave. It helps that there is absolutely no way to leverage my not-boosting to encourage another dose be sent to, say, South Africa or Peru. Might as well.

The optimal time for a boost, I have been told for many months, is six months after the second shot. For me, that would be about January 15. At the moment, that's my schedule, but I will be recalculating almost daily as Omicron news starts to come in this month.

As things stand, cases in BC have been in general decline with a few bumps upward. The positivity rate in my health region is under two percent. There's just no reason to think I'm at significant risk of becoming that vector.

If Omicron news coming in is that (a) it's here, (b) it's growing, and (c) quickly, I'll go for my shot almost at once, as soon as the exponential increase is confirmed.

Why? Because it'll be a race between the rising case-count around me, and the rising effects of the booster, which will take a good week to do any good, two weeks to be approaching full effects, and a third, to hit full effect.

The spike in South Africa is just hitting 3 weeks right now, and cases grew twenty-fold in that time. Positivity up ten-fold from 2% to 20%. I don't think other countries, with much more vaccination and medical systems, will grow like that, because we now know that Omicron has been around in Europe and America for weeks, and they aren't spiking that fast.

It helps that there's no sign of a rush for the vaccine clinics (DAMN!) which means that if I see case counts start to rise for more than a few days in a row, I'll be able to get that booster in a day or two.

So, for now, I'm going to keep to my six-month schedule - but on a hair-trigger to call my pharmacy the moment a couple of days of bad-news, in a row, come in.

http://brander.ca/c19#boostercalc


December 5, 2021: The Awful Truth: Cuba Beat Capitalism

Besides this link, to U.S.News and World Report from the Reuters image at left, you can do a CCCC memory-lane of my Cuba coverage, their DIY Vaccine Development, their recovery from their one-and-only wave with those vaccines, and even their world-wide doctor army, from just last month.

Even doing all that coverage, I didn't connect it, somehow, to the remarks of one Friend of the Blog. He noted that the Pfizer/Moderna/AstraZeneca vaccine stories, all come up with deseperately-needed products in record time. It was THE big victory of this pandemic, and proves that global capitalist Big Pharma is actually a pretty good system: it got results.

Sure, the "system" is that governments do the unprofitable, basic-research work at public expense, then hand over these billions of dollars worth of intellectual property to the global oligopoly, for free. Government regulators practically ensure that the oligopoly makes some of the highest profits of any industry, with approvals for high prices, so that they can afford their part, the research and development of the final product.

The high profits for them, mean it's less-efficient for us customers (the human race) than a low-profit solution, but it's a quick, high-quality solution. We want that, so have agreed to their prices, their oligopoly.

But that's compartmentalizing into "I just do my job", not the big picture. The reason we want the pharma is to save lives around the world, end the pandemic - which ain't over until nearly everybody gets the shot.

And Cuba beat Global Capitalist Big Pharma to that final end goal, the real measure of success.

I'm not aware of many vaccines around the world going to waste, or idle factories. The undeveloped world is at very low vaccination rates, not just because we've hoarded them to ourselves (and we have), but because there just aren't enough vaccine factories. It wouldn't have been efficient to have had twice as many, wouldn't have allowed high profits. So we don't yet have enough vaccines for the world yet, or an end to the pandemic.

But Cuba, an island at over 90% full-population vaccination, down to age 2, may have just ended it, for themselves. The top link is to their frantic efforts to upgrade their three vaccines to beat Omicron, and while they can't develop as fast as mRNA, they will very, very likely again be a leading nation at getting that booster out to the full population. Unless their existing vaccines are "good enough" to beat it in Cuba, anyway, because of their awesome vaccination rates.

What CCCC is really praising Cuba for is not technical excellence, with their old, tried-and-tested vaccines (like our overlooked Novavax), just their willingness to spend money on self-reliance. Cuba adopted a strategy of resilience, not efficiency. Our Big Pharma bunch have to be efficient to be profitable, which means they can't be resilient. It's too expensive.

Before his TV Show "The Awful Truth" in 1999, Michael Moore had an earlier one: "TV Nation", in 1994, where he did tiny "Roger and Me"-type documentaries. He once (episode 4, August 9, 1994) did a "Health Care Olympics" contest segment, with teams filming in emergency rooms in Canada, America, and Cuba, to see which would best perform on various speed and quality metrics for basic walk-in ER. Real network anchors were charmed into providing Olympics-like "colour commentary".

Canada was declared the victor, after all three had handled some serious cases. Moore later explained that the Cuban team had actually won hands-down, as was obvious in the actual footage of their speed and work. The Cuban ER had simply been handed more staff-hours per patient than the other two, had more nurses to hover over the room. It was more resilient.

But Canada was declared the victor anyway, because NBC told the production crew that they simply could not air a TV segment claiming that Cuba had beaten America at anything. Period. Censored.

What about other nations, with Cuba's level of money and expertise? That's over half the world. Not only could the some of the Caribbean done this, so could most of Central and South America, some of Africa. Instead, they went with efficiency, too, and kept up their good relations with rich nations. Cuba has almost no bridges to burn, in that respect: but other nations can be bullied to not have their own vaccine industries, buy Big Pharma instead. Not saying they were, just that I wouldn't be surprised.

What can we say to them now, at 40% vaccination and less, but the famous line from "Animal House", when Stephen Furst's Dorfman complains that the Tim Matheson's "Otter" has destroyed his brother's car, the greatest victim-blaming chortle and mocking of all time:

http://brander.ca/c19#cubawon


December 4, 2021: All Eyes on South Africa: Don't Read Our News, Read Theirs

"Africa's Best Read" is the motto below the "Mail and Guardian", the South African paper. Good enough for me; that makes it the world's best read for the next two weeks, as the properties of their wave of Omicron become clear. Hot competition is to be found at the aggregation site, Johannesburgnews.net

CCCC was going to avoid Omicron coverage for another week at least, there being little point in spinning our wheels with no data. But the Mail and Guardian stories indicate a few preliminary findings.

  1. Their spike is cases is so sharp, and lacking in any recent behaviour changes (re-opening), that it seems certain to be even more transmissible than Delta. R of 10? Even worse? Impossible to say. But, worse than Delta.

  2. There are very preliminary concerns that it is not as merciful to children as previous variants have all been. They have a lot of kids under five in hospital. At present, that may be because they're totally unvaccinated; but they've been that all along, and South Africa has more kids in hospital than previous waves. So that could be serious.

  3. So far, though, it's not. All the childhood hospitalizations so far are mild - as hospitalizations go, that is. Described as "abundance of caution"..."under care for a day or two". It's all so preliminary: 113 under age 9 out of 1,511 hospitalizations is several times the proportion in Canada, or South Africa's previous; but that means a jump from "way below their proportion of the population" to "the same as their proportion of the population". Which is still pretty low.

  4. Vaccines are clearly still working, though everybody expects their effectiveness, at least against mild infection, to be lower. But, no question, vaccinated people are not getting it as seriously.

    It was worth a post, just to give out the links to good news sources. It's way to early to make plans, but there's enough information to drop any plans for living in a tent in the deep forest.

    http://brander.ca/c19#za


    December 3, 2021: Sorry, Did You Say "Literally Herculean"?

    From CTV News, November 30:
    Clearly, Bonnie Henry does not watch the cartoon "Archer", where Archer is endlessly frustrated by people using the world "literally" for metaphors that are definitely just "figuratively".

    With the kind assistance of Friend of the Blog, Hugh Costello, and our memories of a certain 1960s cartoon, we present what it would look like if the effort had been "Herculean", literally.


    http://brander.ca/c19#herc


    December 2, 2021: A Great Rant about Police Who Won't Vax

    From the podcast "Lovett Or Leave It", November 27, 2021. I believe the credit goes to journalist Tre'vell Anderson, who did not say his name as he said "I'll take that" when "Cops Who Quit" came up on "The Rant Wheel".

    The "Rant", of course, is now a recognized comedic form. Perhaps most-popularized by John Belushi on SNL's "Weekend Update" over 45 years ago, where his signature, "But, noooooooo" singsong indicated the serious ranting was to begin. The harsh words of a rant are softened, sort of, by the obviously crazed, hair-tearing, lost-it screams of the ranter. (Various speeches from the last president were actually softened by his lack of coherent sentences. Journalists began referring openly to his interview answers and rally bits as "ranting".) The podcast invites several comedians to rant about something each week, and Anderson had this to say about police who quit over vaccine mandates.

    "Oh, this could be filed under 'Don't threaten me with a good time like that'!
    Okay, so let me get this straight: you're telling me that the there's a simple way to improve public health, while simultaneously getting rid of the one percent most conspiratorial-minded, and willing-to-violate-the-law-if-it-suits-them, members of a police force! This is great ****ing news! The police have begun to defund themselves!"

    ...

    "It worked out so much better than we could have predicted! They were trying to stop covid, but they ended up forcing the dumbest people in police forces across the country to tell on themselves, and resign without having to involve internal affairs pretending to investigate anything!"

    "What unbelievable whine-babies these police are: they rush into harm's way, in like, a gang den, but then they're so scared to of a little shot that they snip the supposed blue line that stands between us and chaos. I mean, I know it's like, they're like: 'Oh, no, it's different, this is about body autonomy and me doing what I want"... Which I just translate as "I enforce the law, until the second the law actually affects me, and then I stomp off like Baby Huey."

    It would be great if the senior brass of the Calgary Police Service could take that attitude: what a great way to clean out the force.

    But, nooooooo.....

    Instead, Calgary Police brass chose to help their employees, instead of protecting and serving the public trust, by helping them avoid vaccination.

    The details are dull, frankly, read the story. The City was going to make it expensive to cops that didn't want to vaccinate, but the police made sure the public would have to pay for their testing that was an allowed alternative, if significantly less safe for everybody the police officer comes near.

    It's called "Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy": that people who protect the bureaucracy, at the expense of the actual job of the bureaucracy, tend to rise to the top of the bureaucracy. By the second generation, the bureaucracy always protects itself, its members, its future, first, and does its damn job, second. The Chief served and protected that most dark, conspiracy-minded, contemptuous-of-regulation portion of his force, rather than those paying their salaries.

    CCCC would like to take this opportunity to invent a new word for the "unvaccinated". Let's call them the "covid vulnerable". The covid-vulnerable cops will need two $40 tests per week, or $4000 per year, each. If 10% of the 2500-ish cops of the City of Calgary choose to go with publicly-funded test regimes instead of publicly-funded $20 vaccinations, the 250 of them will cost Albertans $1 million per year...all to fund the public being endangered, so that 250 cops can have their paranoid conspiracy theories.

    And, no, they don't even have to wear any badge that lets the public know they might elevate citizen disease risk - which would also identify the cops with the most-concerning attitudes and beliefs. Every poor person is instantly stigmatized as a poor person by their dress, and cops treat them accordingly; cops with nutball beliefs will get no such exposure. I bet their partners don't even get to know whom they're in the car with.

    Can the test costs come out of the senior staff salary budget?

    http://brander.ca/c19#vaxrant


    December 1, 2021: Do You Have Bad Genes For COVID-19?

    10% of Europeans Do

    I wouldn't be linking (from image at left) to the Guardian story on the death of John Eyers, for the he-skipped-vaccination pathos alone. We've had a bunch of them, now, healthy fitness nuts in mid-life, struck down by COVID, as family and friends (and the hapless, regretful victim) are astonished that COVID could destroy such a strong body.

    But this article had a cause, other than, "well, it happens very rarely to the young and healthy, but it does happen, sometimes, it just happens"...which has been pretty much the message so far.

    This article links instead to an easy-read for laymen article in the science journal, Nature, about the genes that make you vulnerable to COVID.

    Briefly, that study found nine genetic sites where variations on those genes are associated with increased severity of a COVID case, four more where they increase your susceptibility to catching it.

    The increases for each genetic effect are often just 20%, or maybe 50% for a few of them. But, one on the "chromosome 3 region" makes you twice as likely to develop severe COVID - and those are the variations 10% common in European ancestry. You can have multiple variations, and the effects would add up. So some people can be, as the first article says about John Eyers, "primed to react with maximum violence to the Covid virus".

    It doesn't matter, if you're one of them - as long as you're vaccinated. The doctors who are sure that John's extraordinary case is genetic are also sure he'd have been fine after a few days, if he'd been vaccinated. Instead, the athletic champion, former bodybuilder and stripper, workout fanatic, went into hospital four days after testing positive, and dead after a month in hospital, half on a ventilator. A classic case for a 90-something, not a 42-year-old with a nominal 1-in-1,490 chance of death on average.

    Honestly, I looked at that 1-in-1,490 paragraph and thought, "Isn't THAT high enough? I wouldn't get on a plane that had a 1-in-1,490 chance of crashing."

    But the 1-in-1,490 is a grand average, including the genetic unfortunates. The other 42-year-olds actually have a 1-in-1700 chance of dying, the average brought down by that 10% that have double, triple, octuple odds of ending up dead like John.

    The story includes family and friends begging John to get the jab. They listened with eye-rolls to the anti-vax lies he repeated to them from social media, (and which he repeated himself as a "Facebook ranter", who "couldn't put his phone down"). He also got anti-vax rhetoric from Tony Robbins, whom everybody should have been ignoring long before the pandemic. I got the impression they are left with little survivors' guilt, because they genuninely tried to save him.

    I hope his story can save others.

    http://brander.ca/c19#badgenes


    November 30: Just the Three-Day Weekends

    I got frustrated as the case numbers went up and down, and I was never sure what the trend was. Back in September, I started tracking just the 3-days-of-data we got every Monday afternoon from BC Health, giving a kind of automatic 3-day average, once a week.

    I just graphed a few months of weekends at left, and the limited data is simplifying and clarifying: we've had an "R" so close to 1.0 for two months, that any little outbreak, in a town, a few care-homes, can send the cases back up for a while, but they steadily have trended downward. At this rate, the other metric I've been waiting for - the ICU occupancy to drop below 100 beds - is probably finally coming in early December. We made it below 100 cases/million/day weeks ago, and we're closing in on 50.

    Here's the thing: it's entirely the story of the Fraser Health Region, which is the eastern cities of Metro Vancouver, and some of the places now under water in the Lower Mainland. The graphic at right is just the Fraser positivity rate for the last seven weeks. Northern was bad positivity, but with only 6% of the province's population, they were only a real contributor to cases when they were at their worst, sending sick people to external hospitals.

    The other regions had quite steady positivity, and low. The sum of the rest of us was always more than half the cases, but Fraser, with 1.8 million people, our largest region, was always the biggest single contributor.

    The slow progress may be vaccination, or gradually dawning sensibility of how to behave. It's not natural immunity, because with hundreds of thousands unvaccinated, a few hundred cases a day won't shrink that very fast.

    Vaccination in BC is as uneven as anywhere else: from 97% of all over 12, in the heart of Vancouver, down to 30% for the 12-30 ages in some small towns in the interior.

    It's all about those locations, at this point. There's no need to push for more vaccination in places that are already past 90%.

    http://brander.ca/c19#3day


    November 29: Perhaps "Cheap" Travel is Very Expensive

    Perhaps it was lucky that I got on and off 14 airplanes in the 16 months before the pandemic, kissing the ground at home in mid-February 2020. I haven't felt the slightest urge to travel, not by hated airplanes from hated airports, yet.

    The urge to fly might never return, though the urge to see family is constant.

    I was caught by the lead "grab the audience anecdote" on the story at left; a woman is stuck in South Africa for a few weeks, because she flew down to see her son, recovering in hospital from a snake-bite. She said she "couldn't afford to quarantine" and I dropped my jaw. How can you afford to fly to South Africa on a whim, but not have a few thousand to spare for a hotel? Turns out another clueless Boomer doesn't understand modern air travel costs: there are flights to S.A. for five hundred pounds, not even a thousand Canadian dollars. The magic of modern technology and mass-production of airline flights.

    I've had some (dark) "fun" in comments about climate stories, the last few years: Greta Thunberg showed the way, became world-famous for simply not flying - but absolutely nobody is emulating her, certainly not other climate activists. 140 Indigenous activists flew to Glasgow for COP26, to complain about, well, other people's carbon emissions, since they didn't apologize for their own, or even mention them.

    Could they have demonstrated at home? That way, they could have mocked all the private jets. (Boris Johnson declined to take a train home to London, just had to fly - in a particularly luxurious small jet - because of schedule. He needed to be at a dinner of former journalists, most of whom had mocked climate concerns.)

    But, back to the pandemic, international travel also spreads disease around the world. Maybe that's a cost we can just suck up, during most times, as we mainly only spread human diseases. But during a pandemic? Only because our leaders a slavish to every single businessman who claims he's losing money and can't do payroll, are we even talking about international travel for fun, just now.

    Nobody used to be able to zip around the world because of a sick family member; heck, it's only a few generations since we've had telephone to call them with, you'd just get the story of their survival or death by mail. As for air travel just for vacations, that came in during my lifetime - only after I grew up, for anybody middle class. (There used to be a term, "jet set" for rich people. It's now everybody.)

    It's not that CCCC is stepping up with some kind of proposal for illegalization or even rationing of air travel. (That can come from the climate people, when they get serious.) It's just that the newspapers should be mocked for expecting any of us to have sympathy for the plight of international air travelers. CCCC will reserve all sympathy for people so poor, they not only can't travel, they can't get a damn vaccination. There are billions of them, so screw the air travelers.

    The lady should have Zoomed her son, like I've had to Zoom all my relatives in Spain.

    http://brander.ca/c19#intertravel


    November 28: The Wolf is Out of the Fold

    I can't watch news channels much, because there's this thing I hate: talking and talking about a news item that is basically pending, as you await the election outcome or whatever, to fill time, while just waiting for the actual news.

    The three things we need to know about Omicron (has it a higher R; does it sicken more; is it vax-resistant) will all take weeks to learn. We will learn one thing within the week: "Is it already prevalent around the world, and no point in African travel bans?"

    That news will be so big, either way, that the world's smallest pandemic blog will not be needed to spread the word. So everybody else's topic for the next few weeks, is not mine.

    Nope, why not cheer myself up on rainy day XXXVIII, than celebrate the departure of Matt Wolf from Jason Kenney's government? The departure of Kenney himself will have to await an election, unless he is removed by his own party - but the odds on that being for "not enough pandemic fighting" are 50/50: just as likely a mutiny from the Matt Wolfs of the party will throw him out for not being courageous enough to just "let the bodies pile up" as Boris Johnson would (if he could).

    There's little need to harp on Wolf's misdeeds, which are neatly summed up in a few words at left. Oh, what the heck, twist my rubber arm. We all know what happened next, but I'd like to rub it in with the reminder at right.

    It was his chasing around an activist doctor that was almost funny. Dr. Joe Vipond, who is a long-time NDP donor, but has turned down every offer to run for office, made it a practice to speak at rallies for more pandemic fighting of every kind, critical of Kenney's approach.

    Calling him an "NDP activist" was kind of bizarre. It was like advertising for the NDP, in certain quarters: associating the NDP with doctors and disease fighting? Please, Matt, throw more of us in that briar patch. The only place where the approach made sense was in the darkest corners of the Conservative Party, where embracing infection was brave, and avoiding it was not just cowardly, but a political expression, like wearing an NDP T-shirt.

    The physician responded that this is the opposite of being paid by the NDP. His politics are clearly driven by his policy interest in "fighting disease", a position not formerly controverisal or political. He'd been an NDP donor for years because they favour more nurses and hospitals, but now it's about, well, even using nurses and hospitals, fighting disease at all.

    We shouldn't have to defend that from Matt Wolf. We shouldn't have Matt Wolf near any public policy. He can't leave soon enough.

    http://brander.ca/c19#mattwolf


    November 27: Oh. My. Cron.

    Apologies for the day off; new monitor, and it was hell to install. (No, seriously: old computer, new monitor, adapters for the HDMI cable needed, and my computer basically hates having three monitors to start with.)

    Stock markets crashing, panic in the streets! (At left, movie poster for 1950 film about a man with Plague hunted like an animal.)

    First of all, let's admit that part of the fear might come from the awesome name. A favourite Greek letter since college equations, it has three syllables of rolling thunder, sounding like a lesser Mordor Wraith from Lord of the Rings: "Omicron, Lord of Thrargrarsh". That might be part of the problem.

    Secondly, let's get one thing out of the way. If it transmits well, if it transmits 1% better than Mr. Modi's Malady, Delta, then it will arrive at your door. And your restaurant. We've seen this movie over and over: travel and border restrictsions are speed bumps. Useful, valuable delays, but only delays.

    The graphic links to a quick read about what little we know so far, from Salon.com. Here's the even quicker version, get on with your day.

    There, that wasn't hard, was it? For sure, shit happens; giant floods, giant floods followed by even more rain and damage; giant pandemics, and giant pandemics that linger on even longer and do even more damage.

    But the probability runs heavily against this being a major disaster.

    What this underscores is how very right vaccinators are, how wrong anti-vaxxers are, and how "not vaccinating the whole world as a policy" is basically being another anti-vaxxer.

    I almost hope this is bad enough to get notice, in contrast to the fears that were cranked up (including by CCCC, working from fears expressed by Gwynne Dyer, who is rarely wrong) about the Bolsonaro Blight, the P1 variant, and P1 did not become another pandemic. (Of course, we were "wrong" only in that Delta was actually worse, and beat out P1 at Badness.)

    If Omicron is bad enough to prolong the pandemic a bit, cause some alarm, we proponents of "vaccinate the world" might get some more traction. That effort has been disorganized, underfunded, and generally pathetic. It's on track to keep the pandemic going with new variants every year for the next decade.

    Let's vaccinate the world before it gets to Omega.

    http://brander.ca/c19#omicron


    November 25: New Low in Vaccination Stories?

    I'm kind of reeling from how bad it is in Laval, Quebec, for a few families that took painful losses to COVID-19 from lack of vaccination.

    Often the loss is more tolerable because of the age and health of the deceased. At least three men have died there in recent weeks, all unvaccinated, all subjected to anti-vax messages by their own friends. One was in his thirties and an athlete who put in five miles per day as a golf course marshall. The other two were in their mid-50s and previously healthy.

    They all met regularly with a social circle at a restaurant run by an anti-vax activist, plan strategy for suing over vaccine mandates.

    Now, of course, the families are very, very upset at the surviving anti-vaxxer circle. But they are defending themselves with vigour, and it's getting pretty ugly. There was a fourth man, who survived after some time on a ventilator, and the experience didn't convert him. He describes friends as being "called to God", and accuses pro-vaccine people of "being in a state of psychosis" for being angry at anti-vax.

    You read these stories and realize there's nowhere to go with some people, no point in trying.

    As I anxiously await whether the next month or so of kid vaxxing and ongoing slow adult vaxxing, to hit a number that might work (unlike Singapore's 85%), it's discouraging. But I'll put it down to the awfully depressing weather, and soldier on.

    http://brander.ca/c19#newlow


    November 24: Vermont Also Chimes In, That 80% Will Not Work

    Another post that's just an ad for the one article, and you barely need to read it, anyway. In recent days, we've surveyed that both Denmark and Singapore, pandemic exemplars to the world. Both found out, the hard way, that vaccination to 80% and even more, is not enough to prevent a massive infection wave hitting the population if you completely re-open.

    America is anything but a pandemic hero, but it is large, it contains multitudes, and the most-impressive pandemic nation-state within it, Bernie Sander's Vermont, (he started as Mayor of Burlington, right), which is 95% white and wealthy, has been the example.

    Until it hit 80% first-dose back in June, four months ahead of BC just getting there about Halloween - and completely re-opened. They are now up to 300 cases/day and 3 deaths, rather where BC is today. Except BC has 5 million people, and Vermont, just 625,000 - so it's giving us a preview of BC hitting 2400 cases/day and 24 deaths, worse than we've ever had it so far.

    So, we simply cannot be foolish enough to completely re-open and drop all restrictions. The "population-level experiment" (hugging at family gatherings this Christmas) will hopefully be the biggest experiment we conduct for the next few months.

    I feel like CCCC articles, as best I try to find matters of interest, are just vamping until the next experiment - Singapore dropping restrictions (again!) next Monday, now with 92% vaccination, supposedly "enough". But Monday won't give any answers, nor two Mondays after that. It was a month, for Vermont, and Denmark, and Singapore, before the effects of re-opening clearly showed up in the case-counts.

    Worse, variability in how long that takes means that the LACK of cases, is still not any clear proof. At the one-month mark from next Monday - the very end of the year - we won't be sure that a wave won't start in Singapore the next week. There will just be slowly increasing confidence.

    Singapore isn't the only experiment running - the whole world is running a thousand slightly-different experiments. But the Vermont, Denmark, and Singapore experiments, which had the very best examples to start with, declare clearly now that nobody can competely, utterly re-open, not at just 80% or less.

    http://brander.ca/c19#vermont


    November 23: Population Prepares Population-Level Experiment

    As we learned yesterday, Denmark shot up into full-ICU-land when they totally re-opened at 75-78% vaccination. Singapore is the one that CCCC will be watching the next two weeks: having done the same at over 85% vaccinated, they pulled cases down very rapidly with some limited restrictions, will be re-opening again Monday, at 93% of population-vaccination. (Which must be 98% of adults!)

    If Singapore can fully re-open in six days, then not be showing a new exponential taking off a week or so later, we've found the vax level high enough to beat Mr. Modi's Maladay, Delta.

    In the meantime, Canada may be repeating the first Singapore experiment this Christmas. Seems that about half of Canadians have plans to ditch social distancing over the season. We'll be back to hugs and shouting at each other across the turkey, to be heard over the kids.

    It's a happy image, but fingers crossed. We won't be at higher vaccination rates than Singapore of September was; we just hit 80%, and it's slowed down so much that in four weeks, I wouldn't expect to make it all the way to 81%.

    Except for kid vaccination, otherwise, I'd just be confidently predicting a nasty wave in January. Kid vaccination should give us another 3%, if the parents indeed vaccinate about half. And I'm even hoping for a few more adults getting in, stimulated by their own kid getting it - or needing to take the jab to get the kid to do it.

    There's no hope of getting to Singapore's current 93%, of course. We're probably in for that January wave, even if we make it to 85%.

    http://brander.ca/c19#holidistance


    November 22: If It Isn't Over For Denmark, It Isn't Over For Us

    I looked for a pretty graphic of Denmark, but I can't get around the drama in yet another boring old case-count chart from worldometers. (It links not to worldometers, which has 100 links from this blog, but to the MSN story on Denmark.)

    Denmark hit 75% population-vaccination three months ago, had a sharp decline in cases over the next month, from 950/day (like Canada having 6000) to 300/day (like Canada having 2100, about 20% less than we have today). So they opened up completely, no more vaccine passports, nothing...and the vaccination rate hit zero, basically, as everybody presumably just relaxed. It was over.

    Oh, my god, no, it was not. As the graph shows, Denmark shot up to 3800 cases/day (like Canada getting 25,000 per day, triple our worst days of last Fall and Spring), so, of course, they are grimly restoring restrictions.

    We are only a little ahead of them on vaccination rates. Denmark still stuck at 78%, we at 79%.

    So it isn't "over" in the no-vaccine-passport, totally unrestricted sense. We've seen the warning from Denmark. We have only one more percent first-dose, and one less percent "fully vaccinated".

    It ain't over, then. But the kid vaxxing is here. Fingers crossed that it closes the gaps.

    http://brander.ca/c19#denmark


    November 21: No News Is Good News

    No picture today, no link, because there's no news.

    The news, rather, is that:

    That required keeping my media shopping in British Columbia, where a major disaster, gas rationing, and that drug crisis heavily competed for media attention.

    But still - more people died of COVID-19 ON THURSDAY, just in BC, than died in the whole disaster so far (9).

    Of course, if more news organs followed worldometers, as CCCC does, yesterday would have been a news story where the US death rate slipped below 1000/day for the first time since mid-August: down to 983. And yet, I just went over the main page of the Washington Post, and there were zero pandemic stories above the fold, no opinion columns about it. The "more top stories" section, below that, finally had a single story about vaccine mandates at Disney world. It was below the story about Adele convincing Spotify to not shuffle her album play.

    When is the pandemic over? In sociological terms, it can end before it ends epidemiologically. That 983/day death rate would have been a big story a year ago, now it merits no mention. They're used to it. Canada, down below 25/day, much more so.

    As I said, not a story, it's a lack of story. "Indifference" is a hard thing to measure, let alone track. But it points a way to us all remembering how to go to theatres again, and relax.

    http://brander.ca/c19#nonews


    November 20: Invading Cuban Army

    The real Cuban Army is the one that can invade other countries. Granted, Cuba did kinda-sorta invade Grenada 35 years back (they claimed they were helping out), but realistically, they have no army for doing anything but defending Cuba were it invaded.

    Nope, the powerful, respected Cuban Army that is welcomed in 40 countries around the world is their "white-coat army" of doctors that have been very active during the pandemic.

    They've been doing it since 1959, for PR and for hard currency. (The US has attempted to criticize it as "human trafficking" because 75% of the payment goes to the government, not the doctor, who is still earning more than at home. The doctors are not coerced, and if anybody could run away from Cuba, it's somebody already on foreign soil, wielding a useful skill.)

    They even assisted wealthier nations than their own, Andorra and Italy, because of pandemic pressures.

    They are also called the "white-coat battalions", but "army" is more appropriate; we're talking some 32,000 people around the world. Jamaica added 137 to the 296 already practicing there for the pandemic; they're "the backbone of pandemic response" in some Caribbean countries.

    Caribbean countries. The ones that are a half-hour flight from the richest country in the world, and yet they depend on little Cuba.

    Between Costa Rica, the Public-Health Superpower, and Cuba, the active-response superpower that has its own vaccine industry, and has brought in 30,000 foreigners to its International Medical School for training, it seems like the Gulf of Mexico is better off with self-reliance.

    Of all the countries that touch the Caribbean or the Gulf, the USA and Mexico have done the absolute worst in the pandemic. Leadership isn't so much a thing in itself; it's just conducting your affairs in a way that others want to follow. Who'd want to follow the USA, these days?

    http://brander.ca/c19#cubanarmy


    November 19: Pandemic End Will Be Delayed for Pfizer Pfrofits

    Google News is good at searching for phrases, but not for concepts. I can't remember the phrases used in articles a month or two back, where pharmacists wanted permission to start child vaccination immediately, with their existing stock, when approvals came. (As they did this morning.)

    There's nothing to it. Pharmacists are trained to do far more complicated drug preparation than diluting one-fifth of a little bottle and putting it in your arm, or even disregarding the "adult" instructions on the bottle, and giving a kid exactly one-third as much.

    So that's what they asked to do. At the time, I didn't see articles about them getting any reply, which is normal for our public health. They don't communicate much detail.

    Understand, this means that if they'd been given permission, you could be walking your kid into Super Drug Mart right now, and asking for a shot. That would be it.

    But the stories all have our answer this morning, which is that our children (and their grandparents) must simply wait until:

    1. 2.9 million "pediatric doses" (same bottle with different instructions) start to be delivered, on Sunday;
    2. Then those doses have to be distributed.
    3. Only when steady supply is confirmed will they begin scheduling appointments
    It'll all be an extra week, at least, which means the whole project will back up a week.

    A week, not a big deal? Even if kid vax doesn't "end the pandemic", just a transition from Canada's 2500 cases/28 deaths, per day, right now, down to, say, 1800 cases and 18 deaths/day, if delayed by a week, has a cost of 70 lives.

    A vastly higher cost has been endured simply to respect our process of testing, testing, testing, every single new treatment, then all over again for kids; they're getting vaccinated nearly a year later than the first health-care workers last Fall. (Again, recall that Cuba, with its own sovereign health-care system and vaccines, vaccinated down to age 2 right off the bat. Successfully.)

    But this cost is being paid just to let Pfizer sell special "kid bottles" of vaccine, rather than use what's right there in the pharmacy today. Seventy lives(!) It comes on top of the news story today that Canada has thrown away a million doses already.

    With vaccine, that's obscene.

    http://brander.ca/c19#kidsdelayed


    November 18: Bioterror? Negligent Homicide? And Now, "Malignant Normality"

    Chauncey DeVega, at Salon.com, has always been one of their best truth-tellers.

    While others use the careful language of journalism, couch statements in the subjunctive, add tentative qualifiers, DeVega is mostly blunt and plain-spoken.

    I just found the review of the last American administration that I've been wanting to read for ages, since the devastating documentary "Totally Under Control", by Alex Gibney.

    There's no news here, though. We've been following the whole story all along, we know it. DeVega simply reacts to it, the way we all should still be reacting:

    None of this should be a surprise. Trump and his regime committed these crimes against humanity in plain sight. These "revelations" are simply providing more evidence and clearer details of how and when these crimes took place.
    He quotes Charles Pierce in Esquire:
    The sheer contempt for active national leadership and the sheer disregard for the public health illustrated by this material has no parallel in American history. For the sake of their own public image - which, ironically, was headed for the storm drain anyway - members of the administration abandoned even their most rudimentary obligations as public servants. The country was denied the information it desperately needed because some time-servers and coat-holders were trying to avoid a tantrum from the Oval Office. We are lucky we survived this long.
    Salon interview with epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves about his use of the word "genocide":
    Trump's pandemic response is not the same as Nazi Germany. It is not Rwanda. But Trump's response is something that is well beyond a policy mistake. One hundred thousand people are dead. There are likely to be 150,000 or perhaps even 200,000 dead from the coronavirus pandemic in the United States. The estimates are that two thirds or more of the deaths could have been prevented. ...

    Moreover, it was premeditated. There were people in the White House and elsewhere warning Donald Trump, "People are going to die. We need to do something about this." And the White House made a concerted policy decision to let people die. Their response to the coronavirus was death by public policy.

    We can parse words about whether that is manslaughter or mass negligence. Part of me, in retrospect, feels like using the word "genocide" made it too easy for some critics to deny the reality of the situation.

    Incidentally, Dr. Gonsalves' July 2020 prediction that 'two thirds' of deaths could have been prevented is 16 months ago: and Canada's deaths-per-capita is 32.6% of America's today. Nice estimating, Dr. Gonsalves.

    Dr. John Gartner, who psychologically profiled the ex-president:

    Donald Trump's behavior with the coronavirus pandemic is intentional. He is malevolent. He is a first-degree mass murderer. This is a plan.
    ...
    Donald Trump, the president of the United States, is going to be the most successful bio-terrorist in human history. Let me repeat myself so there is no confusion. Donald Trump is the most successful bio-terrorist in human history. This is not an accident.

    Former federal prosecutor Glenn Kirschner:

    Some jurisdictions call this involuntary manslaughter or negligent homicide. The lowest level of homicide has three elements to the crime, and Donald Trump satisfies them easily.
    ..the details of the three elements are in the Salon article. I've done so many quotes, this is like one of those movie trailers that gives you all the best scenes. DeVega actually has a lot of company on the plain-speech, and he brings them all up for review. We've been hearing one commentator after another say all this for 21 months, but then they are diluted again by journalists using softer words, and reminders that millions of people have come to agree on the "controversy" of masks, distance, and vaccines.

    The conversation turns to this all being "normalized", accepted, not called murder, or bioterror, or even negligent homicide, for which a literal court-case could be constructed - just not talking about it at all, because we feel helpless to ever have accountability. A great new term, "Malignant Normality", is coined to describe our current psychological position.

    It IS painful to look back on the era, of course; Holocaust survivors also actively avoided memory, to reduce their pain. But CCCC is heavily breaking its rule to not mention the former president's name, if avoidable, because we mustn't avoid this: making it go down in accepted history that this was all as good as mass murder.

    You can have truth without accountability. We don't shun from talking about the sins of other countries just because we can't hold them accountable without a nuclear war. We do call the treatment of Uighurs in China, "genocidal".

    Indeed, the previous administration very much wanted China to be held accountable for their seminal part in this. I completely agree. I just think that every such administration should, too.

    http://brander.ca/c19#bioterror


    November 17: Calgary Skyview Has The Right View

    When I want to point out to American commentators how different Canada is, I point to Calgary Skyview, the federal electoral district that covers most of Calgary's northeast.

    As As this Globe and Mail piece from 11 months ago notes, Skyview is 80% visible minorities. And it was one of those "racialized communities" with the highest COVID-19 case rates.

    The election graphic shows how American we aren't. Instead of being gerrymandered into some bizarre district shape, instead of it being a fight between one party (of colour) and another (95% white), in Canada, it just means that every candidate was "of colour". The Conservative lost, but didn't do that badly. Skyview may have been an immigrant destination, with cheaper housing, for fifty years: but they came in one year at a time, and absorbed the local culture, so they vote Conservative, just a little less than Calgary ridings of Less Colour.

    And, they fight COVID. In fact, their high community spirit may have given them advantages. They are no longer in the news for their high COVID-19 rates, but how low they are. And should be, at NINETY-NINE PERCENT ADULT VACCINATION, the best in all Alberta. Or, maybe, anywhere.

    They turned their negatives into positives. It's a community with multi-generational homes, which creates risk for the elders. But that also gives educators the hook to call upon the whole household to vaccinate, when grandma is. It's multi-lingual: but that means those who speak the language are automatically more-trusted when they call. Volunteers set up faith-informed appointments at a religious centre; drive-thru vaccine clinics, and a "vaccine rodeo" at the Leisure Centre. It takes volunteers, creativity, community knowledge of where you catch people.

    Community leaders of every stripe, but especially public health departments, should be studying their tremendous success the way Harvard Business School studies "unicorn" super-success companies.

    It has a population of over 150,000, has had 3 deaths since early September. By population, their share of Alberta's 700 deaths since then would be about 25.

    Alberta Skyview has pretty much won the pandemic, at this point. The upcoming child vaccination is pure gravy - and from the network of good relationships they've built, I bet they vaccinate about 80% of their kids, instead of the expected 50% in most places.

    Wouldn't it be something if more "racialized communities" pulled together to become the pandemic's biggest winners, instead of their current stereotype as its losers.

    http://brander.ca/c19#skyview


    November 16: Cuba Deserves Pandemic Hall of Fame Star

    About five weeks after my praise of Cuba and their DIY vaccination strategy, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! did the video piece on Cuba's successful pandemic fight, praising how they'd kept cases way down until their vaccines were ready to go.

    Then all hell broke loose. Amy's praise was almost comically mistimed. When Amy did her story, Cuba was having about 5 deaths per day. They have a quarter of Canada's population, so that's like 20/day for Canada, lower than our current count. It hovered at that level until cases went exponential in June, and as seen at right, deaths exploded at the start of July. They peaked at 100/day, as bad as when the USA hit 3000.

    But the vaccination program kept going faster as well, took off when they hit 50% about Labour Day, and they are now almost the most-vaccinated on Earth at 89% to one dose, for the whole population. As also seen at right, cases went down rapidly after that, deaths are now back to 3-4 per day.

    And this is not entirely due to the lockdown they had to implement: yesterday was the day their airports reopened. They area also reopening restaurants, theatres, everything. They vaccinated from age two up! That's why they're at 90% of the total population already.

    The Cuban vaccination program, being their own DIY thing, is fascinating, after the year of agonizing and debate about ours. They developed three vaccines, and used all three. I guess case-counts in coming months will tell them which worked best. They all involve three doses, no less; with a very tight social community approach, they can count on people getting all three, too.

    I'm so impressed by Cuba, I think I'll stretch their coverage over two days. Tomorrow, about how they helped fight the virus around the world.

    http://brander.ca/c19#cuba2


    November 15: PoP Nails BC to Wall on Testing

    The third P.O.P. (Protect our Province) briefing came out just a few days after I covered the second briefing, on strategies for schools, so I didn't catch it at the time.

    It's still there (linked from graphic) so you can "Hop on P.O.P." for their very nice, friendly, easy-to-take lecture, this on testing, and how bad BC has been at it.

    Right out of the starting gate, moderator Melody Ma points out that only 10% of the tests just gifted to BC by the federal government have even been used.

    It includes explanation of what PCR tests are, versus the faster, easier Rapid Antigen Tests that we haven't been using. (The joy of internet video lectures is how easy it is to skip ahead if you already know all that.)

    But there's also positive history, of isolated sites where heavy testing was made to work: a homeless shelter, acute care outbreaks, a long-term care pilot. Dr. Victor Leung was involved in some of it, and has prepared a quick, clear lecture with slides and all that.

    It's a very nice volunteer service, but especially needed since the one complaint that really stands out for the basically successful BC public health work, is how bad they've been at information we need and want. Especially about testing!

    For the modelling - how much good testing should do, theoretically - Dr. Paul Tupper, an actual math professor, takes over. We're apparently talking about preventing 50% of the infections in long-term care, that are brought in by staff.

    Since the rapid tests have flaws, there are situations where they do good, others where they do little, or as much harm as good. The problem of "false positives" is pooh-poohed, frankly; since positives are rare, they can all be followed up by a second rapid test, and/or the full PCR test that is still trusted.

    This issue also affects our biggest political trouble, right now, whether you have to use the slow, expensive PCR test to get back across the border, or can we get by with the rapid, cheap one? From the lecture, I get the impression that the rapid test would also be good enough for border control, and the current regulations are just unsupportable.

    Lastly, Dr. Lisa Barrett talks about her use of rapid tests in the community, in Nova Scotia, and how well it worked.

    It's an "informational" lecture with a very strong political message, to be sure: start using those 3 million unused rapid test in BC. The case is very strong indeed, and I hope public health is listening.

    http://brander.ca/c19#poptesting


    November 14: Hoping for No Animal Die-Off

    Just to dig into a pandemic side-issues (I just checked: this is post #573, we are down to "side issues"), what if we don't yet know that COVID-19 has a high mortality in some other species?

    We might lose much of a species in a sudden die-off, if they're vulnerable to COVID-19, and it just hasn't hit them yet.

    I don't know why that hadn't occurred to me before, it was always there. We know lots of species, particularly cats, can get COVID, but it never seemed to be more than a cold to them, when stories surfaced.

    Well, no more: a children's zoo in Nebraska just lost, not one snow leopard, but all three. They caught it last month, along with two tigers, who both recovered. But the mortality for their snow leopards was 100%.

    Gorillas can certainly catch it easily enough. a single zookeeper, double-vaccinated and wearing PPE, nonetheless passed it to 13 of 20 gorillas at the Atlanta zoo, last summer.

    The remainder are being vaccinated! The 13 were treated, including a 60-year-old that got monoclonal antibodies. The zoo is also vaccinating its cats. San Diego announced recoveries for all eight of its lowland gorillas. Snow leopards in California responded to treatment and are going to be OK.

    In nature, however, there are no monoclonal antibodies, vaccinations, or anti-virals. If COVID proves high mortality to something, we may have a die-off of a whole species to lay at the door of a certain pack of dictators who let it get out into the world.

    http://brander.ca/c19#animaldieoff


    November 13: Agents of Chaos

    I hadn't thought of the great Norman Spinrad novel Agent of Chaos, for years. I was reminded this morning by Peter McKnight's op-ed in the Vancouver Sun, about "The Plague Doctors" (link from graphic).

    In the book, Spinrad, mostly a clearly leftist writer, anti-war, anti-big-business; saw that a cradle-to-grave nanny state would be an oppressive state, too. An opposition was needed, that would first have to champion the notion of Change, at all, because every big state resists change. So there were "agents of chaos" that simply disrupted society, and were, if anti-heros, still the heros.

    It turns out we have exactly that among us: people who just see the society as a bad thing, and rather than working towards incremental change, or even violent change, just want to burn it all down, like The Joker.

    McKnight's op-ed brings up the findings of a psychologial study by Asher Lawson and Hemant Kakkar in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, that found that sharing of false science news was not, strictly, a conservative or liberal phenomenon. It was only common in conservatives that rated low in "conscientiousness", a term for traits of impulse control, delayed gratificaion, planning, goal-directed, respectful of accepted norms.

    High-conscientiousness conservatives did not share "fake news" about hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin any more than liberals did.

    All of this seemed pretty straightforward - how could a person with conscientious traits be so irresponsible as to spread deadly lies - until I got to the "chaos" motive.

    They found among the non-conscientious conservative subjects a "need for chaos". To quote:

    The need for chaos is described as a drive to disrupt and destroy the existing order or established institutions in an attempt to secure the superiority of one’s own group over others.

    I had thought of Steve Bannon and his "fill the zone with bullshit" strategy as one somewhat-crazed ultra-partisan using a public relations strategy, an wild one. I hadn't thought of a whole psychological class of people - who are clearly at least several, maybe tens, of percent of the population - have an active need to disrupt our whole society, just trash it, like a mob breaking all the store windows on Main Street, and throwing Molotov cocktails into the broken windows.

    You can only hope that society has an "immune system" to protect itself against such madness. I mean, if "filling the zone with bullshit" worked, then we wouldn't have made it this far.

    But it was the most-depressing pandemic article I've read in a week or so, which is really saying something.

    http://brander.ca/c19#chaos


    November 12: Marginalizing the Unvaxxed

    I remember the moment clearly: it was a rare moment when a remark is both a cynical joke, and the cruel truth. It's decades back now, I've lost the exact year, but mid-nineties, when eventual management superstar (sent over from Water to Parks to clean the dysfunctional department up) Rob Pritchard, was holding a very open workshop for Waterworks staff to discuss water metering.

    Water metering was (is, no longer, read on) a hot-button issue that also caused some customers to get emotional about government tyranny. Calgary was still almost 50% flat-rate, and the flat-raters, most of whom we could show were actually overpaying for the privilege of being able to maybe-overconsume someday, were holding fast to it.

    We were clear on one thing: City Council must be persuaded that no new houses built could go flat-rate, and then, that nobody on meters now could switch to flat-rate. Both of those were relatively easy fights, because nobody with a water meter had to have theirs taken away.

    When could we go to that difficult pass? Rob was asking what else we could do besides stop meters growing, and the room went quiet. Thats when I spoke up, and I used that lilting voice you use when making a funny remark. But it was kind of calculated. If the remark didn't go over well, it was just a joke; if it scored, then the joke-voice wouldn't keep the suggestion from landing.

    I used this technique countless times in my career, and I'd say it had a 90% fail rate; mostly the audience would accept it as merely-a-joke, no doubt with relief. I had a number of too-radical ideas in my career.

    Rob Pritchard, however, got it in a flash and highlighted it. For years, just at coffee, I claimed credit for the strategy, which was absolutely, certainly never discussed as such.

    I said, "we have to let the no-growth work, because Calgary is growing fast, and just gently convert for now. But when it hits 80% water-meters, we can start demonizing the flat-raters as water-wasters who are costing everybody else money, and push for forcing them to switch".

    I punched up the joke-voice on "demonizing". I think I even did air-quotes, it being the mid-90s, and we'd recently invented them.

    I'm not sure what made me say "80%" as the sociological tipping-point where you can demonize, but it still has a good feel to it. Minimal, even: you definitely need a huge majority to marginalize the remainder.

    We may be reaching it with the unvaccinated, as we reach 80% population-vaccination here in Canada. It's not us, yet, I was inspired to write by Austria putting only the unvaccinated into full don't-leave-home lockdown. Wow.

    And Austria may be the leading warning for Germany, Netherlands, and Switzerland, which are all seeing soaring cases just now, despite vaccination to about 70% for most of the area. All the stories mention vaccination, that the new restrictions will apply to the unvaccinated. Germany is just reaching the point of banning the unvaccinated from entertainment, but they're talking like they're ready for more.

    There's some reason why Aaron Rogers is "furious" that he was outed as unvaccinated. Sports stars depend on their reputations for their income, their endorsement millions, which is why they avoid politics. (Except Colin Kaepernick, whose very successful cancellation will ensure no other Black football player makes a political statement for years to come.)

    This LA Times Op-Ed is gentle about the unvaccinated, only angry and blaming about those who spread misinformation...but it records all the other op-eds and speeches that are much angrier.

    If child vaccination, and the slooow march of adult vaccination don't get us to a point of naturally declining cases in the New Year, I think it's going to get much uglier. At the moment, we can point to child vaccination and gentle persuasion as still getting us out - at least, those of us already past 75%. In parts of Europe and America, it could get uglier before Christmas. The vaccinated supermajority will start feeling both outrage, and the reassuring presence of great numbers on their side.

    http://brander.ca/c19#vaxmargin


    November 11: Military Has Lots of Required Armour

    At left, modern body armour (extreme version) which you are required to wear if you wish to work for the military. You might have done your own research into bullets, and concluded that it would slow down your dodging, that is a far better way to avoid getting shot. But, alas, there's your way, and your daddy's way, and the right way, and the military way, and in the military, you have to do it the military way. Or you don't get the job.

    For the military, vaccines should be just another life-risking, annoying part of and endless list duties heaped upon you because you were crazy enough to sign your life away in the recruiting centre. (It's the one place where "sign your life away" is completely literal.)

    That's certainly how Canadian military are taking the mandate. Over 90% were already vaccinated when the order came down.

    And then we come, of course, to America. From the "US Naval Institute", an article on American military vaccine 'hesitancy'.

    It goes back a long way with them. They lost something like 16% of the Guard and Reserve officers from the Air Force, in 1998, when they mandated anthrax vaccinations. And that was where they were afraid of anthrax being used as a weapon in theatre. Any disease you can vaccinate against offers possibilities for germ warfare, because you can arrange for your own forces to be immune, then just spread it generally. And still, left, or went non-active, to avoid it.

    There are some lessons learned: they didn't provide a lot of information about it, depending on the mandate to just force the issue. But this meant a lot of their people "did their own research", which of course involves stumbling into confidently presented lies and misinformation.

    On a day when we remember those lost to the air having an unhealthy content of iron and lead, we should also have remembrance that half the dead of World War One died of disease. It's part of war, and part of survival to fight disease as the enemy. The doctors are certainly not.


    http://brander.ca/c19#military


    November 10: How Is Singapore Like The Yukon?

    Well, their signature super-building patio where the Crazy Rich Asians got married, looks like a great base for a giant Yukon "Inukshuk" man to stand, as the fine, skillful photoshop-art at left makes clear.

    But, also, both have massive levels of vaccination - 90% of the over-12 population, nearly 90% with both doses - and also, are fighting big waves.

    Not big in the absolute sense. Singapore was mentioned by CCCC just over three weeks back, trying to get back down to an "acceptable level of violence", and have now had some success. The wave broke, with cases coming down - though deaths, lagging, are still up around 10-15 per day, twice as bad as Canada, given under 6 million population.

    They are back on the CCCC radar for coming up with a typically Singapore, hypercapitalist solution to vaccination. (Singapore came in second, behind Hong Kong, on a listicle of "hypercapitalist nations", at Yahoo.) Singapore is actually going to start charging COVID patients for their treatment if they are not vaccinated by 8 December.

    The article doesn't mention the costs, but over here, they are hundreds per day in hospital, over a thousand a day in ICU. I don't see our culture going to this pass, but I'm kind of glad somebody did, just to make the point.

    Meanwhile, in Yukon, the stories about it are frustratingly lean on detail of who is transmitting, and how. They literally are not reporting contacts any more, as they say that all community contacts are currently dangerous. It's clear most cases are in Whitehorse, as you'd expect.

    Comments on one story stressed that everybody seems to be home with a sick kid, and demanded to know how many cases were children, in school. The news won't confirm the number of children vs adults; no story indicates the number of cases that are vaccinated, either. It's pretty frustrating.

    It would be great to have a sense of whether we should be optimistic for the situation after ages 5-11 can be vaccinated, or if that's likely to be only an incremental improvement, like getting past 75% was.

    http://brander.ca/c19#singyukon


    November 9: Yes, Vaccination Keeps It From Spreading. Even Delta.

    I'll put off until tomorrow looking at Whitehorse, with its state of emergency despite 80% vaccination.

    I just had to pass along the article just today at The Atlantic, on How Easily The Vaccinated Can Spread COVID-19.

    The question has been up since the Provincetown story last August, where a large number of cases were all to vaccinated people. It raised the question of whether they were still transmitting it just as much as sick people, perhaps worse since the vaccinated may have no or few symptoms and continue with their lives.

    The Atlantic article clears it up, at least somewhat. My post on Provincetown linked to British studies that showed vaccination reduces transmission by a factor of six. One-third as likely to get it (that's still roughly true even with Delta), and half as likely to pass it on if you do become positive. The latter was true for Alpha, in Britain (the BoJo Bug), but not so much for Delta, the Modi Malady.

    The new study that The Atlantic links to is very recent, references the previous British work, and has new data for Delta. Vaccination still reduces transmission from infected vaccinatees, but 'merely' by 25%-50%, rather than 50%-63%. (The number drops with time after infection; vaccination makes you much less infectious for the first few days, but then only somewhat less infectious by the end of the week. That's oversimplifying what I read, but it's the rough idea.)

    So we should continue to count on vaccination reducing total caseload of society, benefiting the unvaccinated as well as the protected. But the reduced protection compared to earlier variants may explain much about Whitehorse, while we'll tackle tomorrow.

    http://brander.ca/c19#vaxtrans


    November 8: Keeping Pandemic Protocols ... That Save Money

    The dumpling place we'd wanted (Dinesty on Robson) had a lineup outside, so lots of people have taken the vaccination level to heart, it seems, we're stragglers. We had Malaysian a few doors down. I suspect their (mostly theatrical) hanging plastic sheets between the tables will stay until they next renovate, since nobody seems to think there will be an "It's Over" day coming up.

    Which pandemic changes will hang on for as long as it takes to completely shake up a business with a big makeover? The ones that save money.

    For months now, I only went to the "Delany's" coffee shop on Denman, though a Blenz a few blocks closer is now acceptable. There are now two that have put the sugar and cream back out on a condiments table, so you can get your coffee/sugar/cream mix to that perfect proportion your habit requires.

    Starbucks, I confirmed the other day, still just asks what you want (I say "double double" grateful to Tim Horton's, not for their unexciting coffee, but that handy phrase) and provides something close. I let myself be irritated, this once, and went back to ask for more. I was provided with a few white sugar packets and a little cup with at least an ounce of cream in it, a bit of a waste. And it struck me that they haven't even had to buy brown sugar since the pandemic started, since brown-sugar fans no longer see the sugar go in.

    That's got to be a bit of a time saver for the staff, not having to tidy up the condiments stand every 20 minutes, probably saves a few dollars for the store, as well. Things that dispense cream, handless, the way washroom handless soap dispensers work, could have been around by now; it wouldn't be hard to do a handless one-teaspoon-of-sugar dispenser, either. But, they're more expensive than just putting out packets and jugs, I suppose.

    Robert Heinlein once wrote that the answer to every question starting with "Why don't they..." is "money". "Why don't they go back to pre-COVID customs?" about any business, is undoubtedly the same.

    http://brander.ca/c19#starbucks


    November 7: In Vancouver, Just Forget COVID

    I can't help it, I like the news website Vancouver Is Awesome, in spite of the goofy name and its dedication to news that doesn't challenge. There's a lot of ugly news, and ViA can provide a lift, when it gets too much.

    It really provided a lift the other day with this article on vaccination rates across Greater Vancouver.

    It's a quick read, check it yourself, but the upshot is that with the exception of Vancouver's most-troubled areas, like the Downtown East Side, the whole greater city of nearly 2 million people is at more than 95% vaccinated for those over 12.

    My own home area, both "City Centre" and "Midtown", is over 97%. That's downright amazing for vaccination levels, the flu vaccine can't even compete. I'm not sure our measels or smallpox vaccinations would ever have reached that height.

    It struck me, thinking about the under-12 part of the population, that I don't see them in restaurants. We don't go to "family" restaurants, mostly, and everybody in the place is 12 or up, which means if there are 12 other customers in a restaurant, the odds are 75% that all twelve of them are vaccinated. (0.975^12)

    The staff would have to be, of course, and we are, so we can be subtracted.

    While the vaccinated can spread COVID, the odds on them doing it across a restaurant, to another vaccinated person, are just not worth worrying about.

    So I'm going to stop. I just talked Connie into hitting an old favourite Chinese Dumpling Restaurant tonight, one that has kind of close quarters; I've missed it, and I miss eating Chinese food hot from the kitchen.

    We're going out, we're going out carefree. This thing is ending.

    At least in Vancouver.

    http://brander.ca/c19#van97


    November 6: Costa Rica, Public Health Superpower

    For some really upbeat, life-affirming, moral and practical uplift, read the New Yorker article by famed physician and author Atul Gawande ("The Checklist Manifeto", look it up) that's linked from the hero picture at left.

    Gawande investigates something that's becoming plainer and clearer over the years: impoverished Costa Rica is, for its budget, at least, a public health superpower. They live longer than Americans, and not because of their reactive, acute, care, but their pro-active public health system. It's amazing.

    They are in the pandemic news today, because of their logical, but brave-sounding (to us) COVID-fighting strategy up next: legal, mandatory vaccination of the whole 5-12 age group.

    Costa Rica hasn't had a great pandemic, about twice as bad as Canada's, with nearly 1400 dead/million, and the vaccination rate is 73% to one-dose so far. That's a few percent behind Canada, but looks very good compared to their neighbours: Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Belize, all in the fifties or lower. Panama, El Salvador...and The United States of America, are all several percent lower than Costa Rica, in the sixties.

    And now, the bravery to just tell people to vaccinate their kids! This is on-top of several other diseases being mandated for vaccination. I couldn't find a list of them, but I'm sure it's the usual stuff all our kids get vaccinations for.

    Vaccination would be a really classic Costa Rica move: huge medical outcomes value for the minimum in cost. Their whole program runs on shoestrings, so they ensure they get topnotch shoestrings, at least. Their vaccines are the Western brands, in contrast to Chile getting to a hugely impressive 86% vaccation - but with Sinovax from China, which may limit the effectiveness. Indeed, it may explain why Chile hit 80% vaccination a month ago...but has also seen rising cases the last few weeks.

    Costa Rica's cases are currently down to a few hundred a day, slightly worse than Canada's rate per-capita, and declining. Fingers crossed that their continuing vaccinations, and the children's, will see them out of danger.

    http://brander.ca/c19#costarica


    November 5: Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November

    "...the gunpowder Treason and plot. I know of no reason, the gunpowder treason, should ever be forgot".

    It's just the day for conspiracy theories, like Halloween is the day for superstitions. Well, why not a new conspiracy theory? And for extra drama, I'm just going to accuse the fair-haired Doctor of BC, Our Hero, with conspiracy.

    My scurrilous accusation isn't complicated, and it doesn't involve a lot of conspirators, the one kind of conspiracy theory that has a hope of being true.

    Suppose the top few people who decide on our level of restrictions, actually wanted the currently-too-high, and very-slowly-declining level of cases, to be just that?

    This article this morning on CTV is about modelling how lucky we are to have vaccines, that's the message.

    But the modelling they're doing is an assumption of an R of 1.07, juuust enough to keep cases up there. As they say, around 500/day now, down from 700/day at the height of the fourth wave. (CCCC has resisted noting any decline, because of just that R number: if it goes down for a few days in a row, count on an increase, like yesterday's jump up to 596.)

    The current case-load is bumping off a few, to several, of our citizens per day, has killed 10% of the total pandemic losses (200 of 2200) since that fourth wave hit. Failing to shrink the case-load with some more restrictions, "circuit breakers", or otherwise, has costs.

    The dark thought occurred that this is mostly a pandemic of the unvaccinated: only a few dozen of that 200 were vaccinated people, all of them very old and frail, with few years left either way. Such sacrifices might be, however unconsciously, deemed acceptable for the Greater Good.

    As long as the cases continue, as long as tales of the ICU are on the news, as long as somebody down the street emerged shaken from a week in bed to talk about how they regret not getting the jab, there's pressure on those last unvaccinated to fold.

    If we had a period of restrictions, and cases plummetted to, say 50/day instead of 500, one can see vaccination cratering: the hesitant, the just-procrastinators, the "busy", would all call the pandemic over and not get around to it.

    Sentencing themselves to a fifth wave, a second pandemic of the unvaccinated. Bonnie might well think that's the worse outcome, a total death-toll that's higher.

    Bonnie and her bunch can always say they're just balancing restrictions for health against the need to re-open, the wave is being pushed down as best as possible, the ongoing case-loads are a frustration.

    On the fifth of November, however, the unworthy thought presses in: is this the "acceptable level of violence", not for enduring over the long term, but for harrying the stragglers to the clinic? For making the fourth wave very long, but the last?

    CCCC is conflicted over whether to decry this 'conspiracy' or join it.

    http://brander.ca/c19#R107


    November 4: Lessons From Western Europe

    Germany: 68% is not enough

    UK: 73%, also not enough
    And Boris is Terrible

    Netherlands, Belgium,
    France:
    76% can do well,
    with Macron's Mandates

    Spain and Portugal:
    Over 80% starts to work

    The news today is that Europe is back as the centre of the pandemic. What?

    As you look around that end of that continent, you get widely-varying results.

    One might tentatively conclude (especially since epidemiologists have said this) that 68% and even 73% total-population vaccination, as in Germany and UK, are simply not enough to prevent what Russia is having a much worse case of right now, "The Pandemic of the Unvaccinated". (Russia is so bad, I removed it and confined this to Western Europe. Maybe when I get interns I can handle that much more data.)

    The head-scratcher is the comparison of France, and the Low Countries on her borders: Netherlands and Belgium. They're all at about 75%-76% total-population vaccination (one dose), yet while France is only starting to worry about a slight uptick in cases, Belgium and Netherlands are dealing with big waves like those last spring when vaccination was just the doctors and olds.

    I started googling around for how those countries followed the tough vaccination policies of Mr. Macron. Absence of evidence isn't much, when you can only look at English news about non-English countries, but I couldn't find anything: more about demonstrations against restrictions and mandates. So I have to wonder if the major difference between France and the other two are those mandates: same percentage, but it's the people in business and service that are at near-100% in France.

    And then we come to the Good Kids of Western Europe, who did their homework and ate their vegetables, and got their dang vaccines. Why can't you other kids be more like Spain and Portugal? Look at their results, they passed their Fall COVID-19 exam with flying colours and can now graduate to Normality.

    Well, one hopes. It may be that Spain and Portugal are still just also behaving better, have more of those "Safe Behaviours" that CCCC champions. But it all goes together: countries and provinces and cities where behaviours are better, are also the places with the highest vaccination rates; vaccination and low-case-numbers may be both symptoms of the same cultural priorities, rather than vaccination being the cause in this correlation.

    Despite BC only declining slowly, and the prairies struggling to get their cases down, Spain and Portugal point to Canada being another major nation about to join those looking at the actual end of the pandemic.

    Not much point in belaboring this point, as it will only become clear on a scale of months, not days or even weeks. Much depends on the child vaccinations, and on Canada reducing those clusters of rural unvaccinated. But I'm starting to hope for a Merry Christmas.

    http://brander.ca/c19#westeurope


    November 3: CCCC Declares Kingston Experiment a Success!

    Huge Outdoor Parties Now OK for Vaxxed Teens
    The image links to the October 23rd story decrying the foolish homecoming at Queens, as covered also by CCCC tentatively approving it, with finger-crossing like "Perhaps...we'll find that even 8,000 students, under a vaccine mandate...can meet, outdoors, even in a thick crowd, without a serious spike in cases..."

    CCCC declares full vindication of the prediction, based on sixteen days of subsequent case data, at right. The kids were alright; we were timid, and the foolhardy students right to have their homecoming party.

    True, Global News is fretting that cases have jumped to levels not seen since May - though the story doesn't mention the party, or even Queen's university; it mentions young kids and schools.

    In any event, put the "jump" in perspective: it seems the price of the party was increasing cases from 6/day to 9/day a few days later, then a huge spike of 25 cases in a single day, October 27, ten days later - and a few days after that, still at 8-10/day.

    All told, the bottom graph of currently-active cases jumped from well under 50, to about 75-80, but that seems to have been the peak. Yesterday's case-count was back to three. It's five days past that spike, 16 past the party. The total addition seems to be maybe 50 cases.

    It's not spreading. The extra cases did not lead to still further cases; R was one or below, for the vaccine-mandated community of Queen's College. The thing about university where the students live there, is they hardly have contact with anybody else, at least not during the middle of term.

    A party like this probably wouldn't be so "low-cost" in cases, in the general population where vaccine rates are a "mere" 80%. This crowd, even with some non-students mixed in, was likely over 95%, and if they caught a case, they were way less likely to spread it, at least around Queen's. (And their youth may help.)

    Because it's not spreading to the older population, these extra cases will almost certainly not lead to deaths or injuries. The party, in COVID terms, came free, no butcher's bill. Including the secondary and tertiary infections, maybe 80 got sick from 8,000 partying, virtually all had mild symptoms, and back to work and school. A 1% risk of a few days or at most a week in bed; no real risk of harming the family - for homecoming? An easy risk decision. Have the next party, kids, enjoy.

    I'm not sure what to make of the Ontario dashboard that has a ZERO for outbreaks in post-secondary settings. If true, then the whole "spike" I'm writing about was due to something else, like elementary schools full of unvaxxed children, a problem everywhere else. In which case, that party had no cost at all, no cases, zero. CCC is being conservative and "generous" to the scolds, to guess at 50-80.

    Either way, I think this party shows that it's possible to get back to normal, at least outdoors. You couldn't get less distanced/masked/safe than that crowd.

    Let's celebrate along with the kids.

    http://brander.ca/c19#kingstonwin


    November 2: Police Accept Civilian Control (whew)

    Salon reports that the NYPD has "caved", that is, accepted a vaccine mandate that most of them likely didn't hate to start with.

    Think about that, when you read of unions or associations of any non-political kind suing or fighting over vaccines: there can't possibly be an internal majority against vaccines, because only a small minority of the general population are anti-vaxxers. By the time a mandate is discussed, and some union starts protesting, a solid majority of the profession or whatever group, have already vaxxed, most of them eagerly.

    How can it be? Easy, when you've ever been part of a voluntary association, right down to cub scouts and condo boards: a loud, angry minority can chivvy along a shrugging, largely-indifferent majority if the issue isn't that hard for the majority to take. People would rather get along.

    With the NYPD Benevolent Association and union, a small smile of victory can be had, discreetly, over their early bravado saying "officers would resign in droves", that they would sue the city, that there would be "fewer officers on the streets" - in the end, came down to 34 officers (out of 50,000 employees) being given paid(!) leave. And vaccination in the NYPD has gone from 70% to 85% since late October.

    There is something special about police unions. The entirety of the New York public employees were mandated, but only the police union had this small core of anti-vaxxers that harried their majority into a futile fight. Of course, we know from the summer of '20 that police have good reasons to see themselves as beyond external governance. These are the same guys that turned their backs on their Mayor when he spoke to them; they knew there would be no consequences.

    I'm glad for all of New York they lost this one.

    http://brander.ca/c19#nypdvaxxed


    November 1: Is It Really More Like Ten Million Dead?

    I almost laughed at the very idea when I saw a headline today that the COVID-19 global death count worldwide is five million and rising.

    Hah.

    The graphic at left links to a story from last summer, where studies finally concluded on India's horrible surge last spring: that while the Indian death toll remains officially at about 450,000, it's certainly over 4 million.

    I won't bother copying the graphs, but there's something very odd about the Indian statistics again. After they fought their surge down in June, the case-counts continued to slowly decline down to 14,000 per day (which is like Canada having under 500/day), and the deaths down to a few hundred per day (like Canada having 10). But a few weeks back, the death-counts ticked way up, now at 750/day, without the cases going up first. Rather as if cases weren't being reported unless they went to hospital. In short, another Indian wave may be starting, and the government still not able (or willing) to report on it.

    India is not the only country to undercount. The world total by this point is surely at least ten million. The global sum on worldometers has been showing a declining wave for some weeks (frustrating, as BC stayed and stayed at 700 cases/day - we were behind the whole world...) The last two weeks, however, have been ticking up, hinting the next wave (world average) is already starting. We are still losing, at a minimum, 7000 humans per day to this enemy.

    The world vaccination is going so slowly that one despairs of seeing it done in 2022. For all the progress, that ten million looks glumly certain to hit fifteen million next year. I pick the number because that would be "the 2000 club" that America and UK managed to fall into, except the whole world would qualify.

    I see now that my group, the double-AstraZeneca gang, are approved for a third dose. Bluntly, until I see some indication I'm at significant risk of a bad disease event without it, I'd rather see it expended overseas. (Certainly not vaccine-hesitancy: got the flu shot yesterday, no reactions at all!)

    We should vaccinate the world, not just because it's the right thing to do, but because it would give us a kind-of funny line to pull on our own anti-vaxxers: "Don't be so ungrateful! There are people in India who have no vaccine at all!"

    http://brander.ca/c19#10million


    October 31: Savage Killer Gets Loose in Paradise, Spree Kills 675

    That seemed an appropriate headline for Halloween. It's how we don't think of the virus, and should. The pandemic is so large a story that you can miss whole amazing stories, lost in the shuffle. I never noticed the Fiji story.

    I only came across it as a mention in the story about Tonga getting its first case. Which, by the way, gave a shiver: the traveler from New Zealand had tested negative in NZ, then positive after his plane flight to Tonga. They slapped him and everybody who'd dealt with him into quarantine. (The rest of the airplane? No mention. Let's keep an eye on Tonga.) If it had taken him a couple more hours to turn positive, he'd have been away; and so would COVID-19, across at least the main island of Tonga.

    But the story mentioned the comparable incident in Fiji, which had many travelers quarantined over the course of the pandemic, but never had an outbreak. Then ONE "community transmission" was found last April 19th. He was the first of the outbreak at left: 50,000 sick, 675 dead so far. (The dead rise for weeks after the outbreak ends, as the ICUs gradually lose their fights.)

    As always, it doesn't say whether the community transmissions that then got away, were all contact-traced back to one infection. Fiji being such a small place where "everybody knows everybody", it strikes me as very likely that the whole thing could be, and was, traced back to the first hospitality or travel worker who got it from a traveler.

    That would be weird. All you are is another disease victim, not somebody who did anything knowingly. Yet, you've been traced to be the first case of the outbreak that got away, and 675 died, rather like somebody who unknowingly dropped a match and started a fire.

    The graph at left tells a typical story. From those first cases in April, they worked hard at tracking, tracing, small lockdowns of areas; they had a terrible problem from the start, since one of the early cases attended a funeral with 500 people. It's clear that Delta keeps surprising us: one transmission was when a helpful person caught it by handling traveler's luggage.

    But, it was all in vain. It completely got away anyway. If I had to pick a turning point, this June 7 report on Fiji News that has 83 cases in one day, some outside their "containment zones". The story ends with pleas for vaccination, and wow, did they vaccinate fast, look at the graph at right. Man, you get no better uptake than in the worst period of an outbreak, with cases every hour and deaths day and night.

    The vaccination leveled off at about two-thirds of the population. Does that mean even in the fires, people just won't step up? Not really. Fiji is a group of Islands. Two-thirds of the population live on the one biggest island, where the outbreak was. The other Fijians had no such sense of urgency. They've just hit 70%, well ahead of the USA, and the rest are trickling in.

    The island nations of the world had a real advantage at the pandemic, but the virus becomes a wolf in the fold if it gets in. We have to vaccinate the world.

    http://brander.ca/c19#fiji


    October 30: What, Exactly, Would Be "An Acceptable Level of Violence"?

    We put up with traffic deaths.

    They were a pretty new thing, once. People died in horse-related accidents all the time; but the licensing and regulation of motorcars meant we started tracking their death-toll, and we've always accepted it.

    We did work, and still work, at reducing it: there's a budget for policing, a budget for interchanges, a budget to maintain traffic lights. But those budgets are not infinite. We don't set an infinite value on human life, because we can't. We put up with some dying.

    I studied it a bit, when researching the Titanic, and lifeboats, and double-hulls. I read Barry Glassner's "The Culture of Fear" about how we spend more on some threats than others (more on EPA keeping cancer away, than traffic deaths, as it happens: one is invisible, and scarier). And, fascinatingly, we absolutely hate to put a known number on the value of human life, though the EPA and traffic departments, and a hundred kinds of industry, simply must. We implicitly put a limited value on human life with the highway-interchange budget, the smokestack-scrubber budget, and of course, the public health budget. And we avoid showing the implied value, or even calculating it. (When we do, we often find it scandalously small.)

    Canada currently accepts about 1900 traffic deaths/year, about 5 per 100,000 population. Which also means accepting about 9000 "serious" (think, life-changing, crippling) injuries. So there's even a similarity between COVID deaths, and the larger number of "long COVID" injuries. Let's assume we will basically stop thinking about COVID, save as part of the slightly-expanded ICU budget, if it drops to 5 deaths/100,000/year, across Canada.

    Case-fatalities are still close enough to 1% for estimation, so that's 180,000 cases/year, or roughly 500 cases/day, across Canada. BC would be allocated 64/day, so we have ten times the acceptable rate, now. Ontario, 200 cases/day - and yesterday's post was about Ontario levelling off at 500, picking that as their acceptable level of violence. Are we willing to shrug at over twice the traffic accident rate?

    Actually, maybe. Traffic accidents are highly random about who gets hit, but have some preference for not killing the very poor (don't have cars), and the very old (don't travel much). COVID, on the other hand, loves killing the poor and people of colour, really loves killing the old, especially the very old. As our care-home story reveals, we don't value their lives highly, either. Our tolerance for deaths among the poor and those of colour are, of course, well-known indeed.

    And the unvaccinated. Nearly 90% of the deaths are going to look, to many of the vaccinated, as basically suicides, or, ahem, "evolution in action": killing the dumb.

    So, yeah, I think that while the death-toll of traffic would be the maximum we should accept, we're probably in a mood to find two or three times that rate, "acceptable", and just vote to expand ICU sizes to handle the load.

    The Ontario graph from yesterday, just below, gives the pandemic a new fundamental equation, changing it to endemic: a steady-state level that leaves the ICUs with a few free beds. Maybe we're ready to just find 4000-5000 deaths per year in Canada, to COVID...acceptable.

    http://brander.ca/c19#calculatingtheacceptable


    October 29: Ontario Picks an Acceptable Level of Violence

    From the BC volunteer group yesterday, to the COVID-19 Science Table today, fairly good news!

    The group is basically putting forward the yellow line at left as the most-probable future for Ontario: the same as the recent past.

    As BC continues to, sadly, have 700 cases/day that we've had since weeks before Thanksgiving, as our "acceptable level", Ontario is in a much better place with only 500/day for three times the population - a quarter of the per-capita toll. And their modeling group predicts that their behaviours, even into more re-opening, will be cautious enough (and vaccinated enough) to hold at that level indefinitely.

    We all, of course, continue to hope for some sort of final exit, cases petering out as kids are vaccinated, holdouts converted, 90% exceeded, by...New Year's? Valentine's Day? Spring? But, we've learned the hard way to only predict six or eight weeks ahead, and the modeling group is too canny to go past late November, at left.

    But my topic, which is becoming the CCCC theme topic through repetition, is the "acceptable" part. Except for the worst-hit health regions, like BC's Northern; and except for the two worst-hit provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan, the feeling of "emergency" is leaving the news. Where the ICUs still have beds left, where surgeries are back on schedule, the medical system is apparently accepting of a certain level of COVID work, the population accepting of this level of COVID risk (i.e. very, very low indeed for the vaccinated under-85).

    We are transitioning to "endemic" and a new normal, you can feel it. We're just trying to figure out what the acceptable level of violence is. Let's think about that weighty issue, tomorrow.

    http://brander.ca/c19#ontviolence


    October 28: British Columbia's Hottest New PoP Group, Live Concert

    BC has had a good pandemic by any relative measure (except relative to our Maritimes and a half-dozen superstar nations), but they've been justly criticized for not providing enough information. Volunteers have stepped forward to fill the gap, and it's one of the best COVID-19 briefings I've ever seen at any level of government.

    This is in spite of their total lack of performance chops. As seen in the screen-snap at left, audience questions were flashed up as chyrons on the screen-bottom. At first, the audio just went silent as we all read. Which is fine, the whole audience is literate, but showmen abhor dead air. It was only about the 4th question where moderator Jen Heighton (left) started reading them aloud, too, with an apology that she's never hosted before. That cracked me up, because the presentation was already multiple times as useful as professionally-delivered equivocation, generalities, and bafflegab I'm so used to.

    Not that it was all amateur-hour. They were all prepared, delivered their messages well and clearly, it's obvious they're all educators. The slides were excellent, I just wish they'd had time to make more. (Says the lover of data-graphics.) The technology did not work on YouTube, but the stream on Twitter was fine, though I don't have the Twitter app - just another web page with a video frame.

    Some figures I hadn't heard from the officials:

    What really pleased me about the show was the focus on safety strategies for schools, of immediate value. You see the question on the screen, and it was answered at length with multiple suggestions about behaviour, like taking breaks to let the atmosphere in the room change over. Like the amount of air circulation found necessary, and how to test for whether the air is changing over enough.

    I won't try to summarize more: the presentation isn't that long, and the papers have already done the same. This is just my recommend for how good and practical it all was.

    Their strongest editorial position is that BC doesn't do enough testing, that they're really "making it hard" to get data and respond effectively. Which will segue into their next show, about the need for RATs in the schools (Rapid Antigen Tests). The lack of those has been just baffling in BC, and I'll be glued to my seat for their next lecture.

    http://brander.ca/c19#bcpop


    October 27: Delta Just as Good as Vax? (for the rest of us)

    On compassionate grounds, we should still recommend vaccination to all, even people who've already had COVID-19. You can get it twice, and the second time can be worse - in a few cases, much worse. Some who had sniffles on encounter one, went through hell and "Long COVID" on number two. Everybody should get vaxxed, for their own protection.

    But, as far as demanding vaccination, even for previous cases, on the grounds that the unvaccinated risk the rest of us by spreading it, the argument for vaccination may just have been, ah, spiked.

    It's CCCC's friends David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters, number-crunching for The Guardian, again, that have the tale, linked from the graphic at left.

    Earlier versions of COVID conferred less immunity than vaccination. It was like previous-infection was good for a 65% reduction in risk, but vaccination for 80%.

    Delta is a harder challenge for the immune system, though, and current vaccinations are down to 65%-70% risk reduction. But those who have had Delta itself, are just as resistant to Delta again, that same 65% (or so) that getting Alpha gave you to Alpha.

    So that kinds of cuts the legs out from under our "you're hurting us, you're endangering the old" side of the argument. If they don't want to accept the risk to themselves, the risk of their family losing them, we no longer have a "selfish" argument to use against them.

    I'm fine with that - no skin off my lungs, and after polite efforts to be compassionate, I'd leave them to their risk, as one must with drinkers and bungee jumpers.

    The great news here is that we are more-vaccinated than we thought. Indeed, a fair number of vaccination-avoiders may be doing so because they feel they've paid their dues already, with a case of COVID, and can rely on natural immunity. Turns out they're now right!

    British Columbia has had nearly 200,000 cases that we know of, who didn't die, and the overlap with "also vaccinated" may be only 60% or so, if a lot of people can't be bothered with vaccination after illness. We might have another percent or two of BC "naturally vaccinated", and be not at 80% of the population, but 81% or 82%.

    That's not big deal - until you get closer to 100%. As we approach 90% of the public, every extra percent we get "free" is one-tenth of the remaining unvaccinated.

    One hates to give any ground, of course, hates to give anybody an excuse to not get the jab: "I'll just wait to catch it, I barely get colds, I'll be fine, and then I'll be naturally vaccinated." Argh. Science doesn't support that decision, only the decision of an already-infected not to vaccinate.

    But, you can't appeal to science, and then ignore it when it comes down on the other side. Already-infected vaccine-haters should be just as welcome in restaurants, and I'm fine with them at the next table.

    http://brander.ca/c19#justasgood


    October 26: Defend the Police (from COVID)

    Viewers of "The Rookie" TV show had it made clear that nearly all police start that career by their mid-20s, have their 30 years in by their late 50s, few work past sixty. (The Florida cop that was called "coward" for not going into the school shooting, simply avoided further controversy by retiring at 55 on over $100,000 per year, good 50% more than I did at 58.)

    So you'd think cops would have a much better COVID-19 survival rate than the general population; they lack the old people who did 80% of the dying. The USA in general has lost about 2.2 people per thousand. Times 50,000 New York Police Department employees, that's 110 people, but because of age profiles, you'd think more like 20 dead.

    But, their NYPD COVID-19 Memorial, screen-snap at left, is a video of 63 names and counting. Over one dead per thousand, from people nearly all under 60, is appalling and frightening. You'd think that cops, so exposed to the public, would be eager vaccinators.

    But, no.

    This is different from groups of school teachers getting together to sue over vaccine mandates: this is the NYPD officer union, the official representative for the officers.

    There's something about literally toxic masculinity in there somewhere, I think, that weird Joe Rogan/Jair Bolsonaro belief that "strong" men who exercise have such "strong" immune systems that they'll just... "not get sick", naturally.

    I guess you can always believe those 63 dead were somehow weak people, unlike yourself. One does hear of vaccine-dodgers coming to Jesus when somebody they know personally gets a bad case: they have to know the person, know they were not somehow weak? After all, care-home workers who'd attended the dying were often against vaccination, too - possibly because they'd gone that far without catching it.

    I dunno - I'm guessing at their thought patterns.

    So are we all.

    http://brander.ca/c19#nypdvax


    October 25: We Have No Vaccination Problems. Look at Russia

    You think we don't trust our government? Think of the Russians. Imagine being decades in to rule by the KGB. I mean, we think America had an extreme case of lying head-of-state, but he was nothing by comparison.

    It gets worse: the vaccine available isn't an international product, from labs and pharma-factories across the world; it's the local one, purveyed my Mr. Superliar.

    So vaccination stalled dead at 40% of adults, 35% of the population. The infection rate went exponential a month ago, and now the death rate has climbed above 1000/day, for less than four times Canada's population.

    The linked article is a bit painful. Painful, because the guy putting out all the right messages, about "your options are to get vaccinated or get sick"...is Vladimir Putin. So you have to sympathize with Russians who don't trust him - at least, not about Sputnik V, the Russian vaccine. I'd need a minute to get over my fears of the stuff, myself, were it offered.

    Russia is better at sticks than carrots, of course. No Jason Kenney $100 for them, it's more like "ordered to stay inside for 4 months except for food runs, unless you get the shot".

    It's funny: I'm prone to saying stuff like that myself, about our anti-vaxxers, though I'm 90% kidding; they just frustrate me, and cranky responses come easily. Humbling.

    The article ends on a downer note, that Russia will just have to keep imposing restrictions, for an indefinite future of ICU-capacity managment.

    http://brander.ca/c19#russia


    October 24: The Vaccine Rural/Urban Divide

    Today's post is a segue from the last, starting with a pregnant woman from northern BC is now passing into a third week in a coma on a ventilator, will probably die.

    But her reluctance to get vaccinated wasn't just from a misunderstanding of risks to her pregnancy: it was likely because she was from a small, remote community, Ft. St. John. It does have 20,000 people, but that makes it the largest city in the Peace region. (The local MLA has also noted that it's very close to Alberta, and the attitudes seem to spill over.)

    But, generally, it's coming out, for all the lack of data from public health departments, that there's a rural/urban divide on vaccination.

    In America, NPR was noting it at a national level, early, back in May.

    The graph at left actually dates back further, to February, and show survey results taken in December and January about intentions, not completed vaccination rates.

    Some fascinating things about it: the rural/urban divide is not seen in Asia, and in Africa, it's reversed: greater vaccine acceptance in rural, than in African cities. And it's worse in Latin America than Canada, Australia.

    Canada's spread, from 76% to 81%, frankly seems smaller to me that what happened.

    This story from two days ago shows bad news like County of Forty Mile with 33%, Taber under 40%. The ruralest of the rural, High Level, Alberta, at 18%.

    The source of all those infections in a "well vaccinated" country or province suddenly coming clear, no?

    The problem with COVID has been that it isn't deadly enough, in a way - there can be high infections, full ICUs, but for people who don't follow the news about that, life seems normal. But really high infection rates come with their own price, finally: a salon in Three Hills saw more business with Mr. Kenney's "re-opening", but business is now falling off again as people get scared. A local pharmacist says that vaccinations have ticked up from nearly zero in summer, to 10-to-20 per day now.

    So, the our rural areas will learn, as the Dakotas and even Wyoming gradually learned the virus is real.

    I sure wish they were less susceptible to misinformation, more likely to see themselves as part of a community, but there you have it. Rural areas are were non-vaccinated people are still clustering. They'll be the last places where the dying stops.

    http://brander.ca/c19#rural


    October 22: Losing Pregnant Women

    No, not losing the pregnancy, losing everything. 22 dead in August alone.

    Kate Cray, at The Atlantic, has an urgent article on vaccination of pregnant women.

    You barely need to read it, frankly; heck, I can give you the deets you need in a short blog post. There is no reason for the pregnant to fear vaccination, none.

    Only 25% of pregnant mothers got the shot in their pregnancy, though. Concern about every single thing you do to your body while pregnant, is understandable, but every health agency has found no concerns about it, and all recommend it.

    Those 22 dead in August alone join some 200 women in America that have died of COVID-19 during pregnancy. Mercifully, one can't do the old joke of "divide by 10 to get the Canadian number" because we've had so much better a pandemic than America. One-third the dead per capita, no doubt that applies to the pregnant, as well, and for Canada, the 200 becomes not 20, but, ahhh, "several".

    Still adding any is a great tragedy, when the disease has mostly confined itself to the end of life. We don't need to lose any more, before life even got to start.

    Dental appointment in an hour, so you just get a quick thought for the day, here's another. I'm not even going to dig up the link, I could barely stand to read the headline, and skipped the article myself. Two COVID-19 victims in the USA were parents of five kids, now orphaned. And the orphans get to deal with people in their area calling the story of their parent's deaths, "fake news".

    Damn, that's awful.

    http://brander.ca/c19#pregnant


    October 21: Should Boris Also Be In The Dock?

    It was gratifying that a panel said Bolsonaro should be criminally responsible for all the deaths in Brazil that would not have happened if anybody remotely sensible had been in charge. It'll never happen, but at least it's been said.

    The world is getting over the Fourth Wave, in general (left), even Canada (inset) is definitely on the downside of the curve. That's no thanks to the prairies, or even BC, which continues to orbit about 700 cases/day, with only tentative and easily-reversed signs of progress. Dr. Bonnie presumably knows better, as she's going ahead with re-opening plans, while targeting only very specific locations in one health region for additional cautions.

    But there are not even signs of progress in Britain, not since that one dip in early August after the "football game" spike was over. All that gained ground has now been lost, all October has been steady increases.

    But Boris, just today, said no changes in plan, that these increases are expected. That our position "going into winter is incomparably better than 12 months ago". No, it's easily compared: it's about 10% better, but won't be in two weeks of further case increases.

    But, then, we knew Boris is delusional, and keeps returning to his delusions; the virus has to keep re-educating him, over and over, that he can't wish it away with cheery words. That only works on political problems, even for Boris: it doesn't work on the real world.

    We forget that it wasn't just America that had an active traitor against the pandemic fight in charge, and not just Bolsonaro. Boris is much smarter than both those men, is able to back down, and knows when he must; but he's the same underneath, he will always revert to magical thinking and "heroism" by embracing risk (for others).

    Pity the poor UK: Boris is going to get a bunch more of them killed, currently at a rate of 40,000 deaths/year, for the last two months and 8,000 dead. Britain finally joined that 2000 club, has reached 2,036 dead, to Canada's 750, just today. We'd have another 50,000 dead in Canada, had Boris been running the show.

    When I started this blog, I thought it would just be about how different nations strategized and strove to oppose the pandemic. I thought the differences would be kind of minor. While it started by noting that the US would do badly, I'd kind of thought their politics were pretty unusual. As it turns out, the differences are huge, an order-of-magnitude between the really good performers and the worst; and that the worst are worst, not from poor fighting, but for their leaders basically going traitor, helping the virus win.

    The human species is coming out of this looking fairly good, statistically; most of us have done the good things, personally. It's our politics that look bad, and some nations are going to have to reassess their whole political culture.

    Eventually.

    http://brander.ca/c19#UKcrazy


    October 20: Terrible Losses

    From "Retreat from Antietam; The Battle of Shepherdstown":
    The biggest loss was in the 118th Pennsylvania Infantry. A brand-new unit of green troops, the Colonel of the 118th PA refused an order to retreat and his men became trapped between the bluffs and the oncoming Confederates. In the fight, many of the men discovered that their newly issued Enfield rifles were defective and would not fire, giving them no means of defense. Of the 363 Union casualties of the Battle of Shepherdstown, 269 were from the 118th Pennsylvania. The regiment reported 36% casualties (269 out of 739 men engaged), and Shepherdstown was the unit's first and deadliest battle of the entire war.


    Fact #7: Breckinridge's charge on January 2 was one of the most violent charges of the war.
    ...
    Over 1,800 attackers became casualties, roughly 36% of Breckinridge's total force. This places the charge at Stones River behind only Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg in terms of attacker casualty percentage.

    Yes, I got both stories by googling on the phrase "36% casualties". Since there have been so many battles in history, you can google any percentage and come up with a few examples.

    But note that both these battles are accounted as particularly terrible in their losses. Thirty-six percent is a lot. It might well break the morale of a battalion, leave them unable to put their heads up out of the foxhole, sure they were next.

    Why am I on about 36%? The story at left is high up on the Vancouver news this morning. We move from the Battle of Stone Mountain, to the battle of Little Mountain Place, against COVID, from last November to this spring.

    Little Mountain Place is being taken over by the government after their battle management. The stats:

    That's 41% casualties from COVID-19. But 36% casualties from just deciding to stay at Little Mountain Place - several months into a pandemic, where they were hardly unwarned how careful they had to be. How care-home patients die of COVID had been well-established. Other care-homes did not have this happen.

    When a captain loses 36% casualties from a 100-man rifle company, we don't charge him with murder. But we don't let him command any more rifle companies, either.

    The Great Care-Home Shake-Out has yet to happen. It's been needed for decades, and there were multiple reports about it, often in every province. (The reports in Ontario were scorching. The new reports about Quebec should perhaps call for actual criminal charges.)

    We can't let this go. Don't forget The Battle of Little Mountain: we need web page memorials like those War Battles pages I leeched from here.

    http://brander.ca/c19#36percent


    October 19: We Interrupt This Blog...

    This is a pandemic blog, the COVID-19 pandemic. So, for the very first time, I think, I'm going off that topic, and the 1991 newspaper story at left highlights the word "epidemic" for a thin connection.

    I'm just grumpy that Colin Powell is being buried with the journalistic coverage of a saint, a good man with one flaw. I actually saw the headline "The Moment when [he] Squandered His Spectacular Career", as if the UN speech were his one sin.

    To start with, he didn't just make the one speech (which had no effect, the UN remained against), he sold the war to the American people, for months, with lie after lie after lie.

    But, never mind that. Between the tragic bookends of Vietnam and Iraq, surely the Liberation of Kuwait was a shining moment of American arms, diplomacy, and altruism? Oh, my God, no. The 1991 Gulf War being "The Good War" is the worst new American myth, certainly helped sell the debacles in Afghanistan and Iraq, Powell's biggest achievement.

    But the highest strategies of the 1991 war, where Powell was Chair of the Joint Chiefs, Shwarzkopf's boss - was what we'd call "genocidal", today. They very knowingly destroyed (not temporarily damaged, just destroyed) 75% of Iraq's power generation capacity. This lead to the loss of all water treatment, and the massive typhoid and cholera epidemics that killed hundreds of thousands, half of them little kids. Read the article. The generals talk calmly about how this wasn't needed to win the war, but to provide "postwar leverage" and perhaps even induce the citizens to revolt. And, of course, they weren't really innocent (right). I guess the innocence of those 170,000 kids was also "unclear".

    Powell signed off on the lot of it, likely sat in on the planning meetings that computed which water treatment plants would close. A friend I described this to, popped back with "that's germ warfare, by proxy" - well said, Tom.

    To drag the topic back towards our pandemic, the darkest suspicions about the pandemic are that it is Chinese Germ Warfare, but even the Qanon crowd can't quite put their hearts into it, because a "weapon" that affects everybody, including your own, is beyond stupid. Even if the Chinese had "miraculously" produced a vaccine in December 2019, and been the only vaccinated nation, they'd still be hugely damaged by the loss of trade. So it's nutty theory too nutty for the nuts.

    But, Colin Powell's germ warfare on Iraq really did just massively hurt and impoverish a nation of 30 million, and the sufferings were confined to those whose water treatment plants he bombed. Germ Warfare Success! It didn't do America the slightest good, but if definitely killed lots of "enemies", and so he is being buried as a "soldier and statesman", with just the one speech a "blot on his record".

    Me, I just spent a quarter-century providing safe water, the proudest achievement of my life, and I still mean every word of the sentimental speech I gave on retirement. So, when I came across this story a few years ago, I figured this nice man was my bitter enemy.

    A few years ago? Yeah, I didn't know the story, either. Thank-you, Jon Schwarz of The Intercept for unearthing it. Matt Taibbi is right: the worst "conspiracies" in the world, are the ones happening in broad daylight, duly covered by newspapers, just in paragraph nine. Actually, paragraph twelve of the linked Washington Post story. Normally, "If it bleeds, it leads", but the headline was not "US Bombing Killed 170,000 Children", it was just "Allied Air War Struck Broadly In Iraq". (Though none of us "allies" struck civilian power plants.) Virtually nobody knows this story, nor will they, after reading his obituary coverage.

    Intercept readers are better informed, about that, and later lies.

    So bury him, but excavate into the harsh light, the record of his germ warfare sins.

    http://brander.ca/c19#powell


    October 18: Kids of Kingston Bravely Experiment With COVID

    For once, I'm going to watch the silver lining, instead of going all judge-y about "covidiots". We're late in the pandemic now, Ontario is well past the peak of its fourth wave, and cases coming out of Kingston will probably bump into a larger population that has R<1, so this won't get a whole lot of people killed.

    If any!

    Perhaps, says Mr. Silver Linings, we'll find that a even 8,000 students, under a vaccine mandate (the party would have been joined by non-students, of course, but even there, 80% vaccination rate in general for 18-29 in Ontario), can meet, outdoors, even in a thick crowd, without a serious spike in cases a few days later.

    If the local health region sees a spike this week - and, worse, if the cases in older citizens go up late this week, early next - then the gathering will not only have gotten students sick, but their elder contacts. Vaccinated college-age people getting sick doesn't bother one at all, obviously, 99% will barely know they were ill.

    The Kingston-area health region covid dashboard (linked from chart) certainly shows what a college-town the place is: 18-29 group has had more cases in the pandemic than all the other age groups put together. Charts just above it show that cases were already rising in the area, the last two months, are highest now. Kingston is NOT on the downside of the fourth wave, like the rest of Ontario.

    So, it's a pretty good experiment, in a way. The test subjects, vaccinated teens and just-older, are at very little risk from the transmissions that actually happened at the party. (If any! Outdoors, during the daytime...) Because they are "away at University" unless they actually come from Kingston, they won't be taking it back home to the parents very often.

    We could gain some valuable information from this, with few sicknesses, and maybe even zero deaths. Call me optimistic.

    http://brander.ca/c19#kidsofkingston


    October 17: Praise Proud Portugal II: Best Vaccinators in Class

    It's over six months since I had to change my 2020 post "Pity Poor Portugal", when Europe's poorest country was in the throes of a bad wave, to "Praise Proud Portugal", because they beat that wave with a disciplined, hard, lockdown, and got back on track.

    I have to re-visit again to pile on more praise. Canada is one of the world's better-vaccinated nations, but we have peers in South Korea, Uruguay, and Singapore, and betters in Spain, Iceland, Chile, Cuba...and Portugal, the highest vaccination rate of the lot of us nations with populations in the high millions.

    How did they do it? 88% of the whole population, which certainly means over 95% of the adults. They got there months ago, so that now 85% are fully vaccinated.

    And they have reaped the rewards. Unlike Singapore, yesterday, they have few cases, about the same number as BC, despite over twice our population - and about six deaths per day, also the same as BC.

    If our population seems to think we have "an acceptable level of violence", surely the Portuguese find half that to be tolerable. They are monitoring it closely, and not afraid to discuss measures against it. That link is to Portuguese news in English that notes they have seen "R" hit 1, and transmissions rates rise slightly,(but 1%) the last few weeks.

    The photo on that article shows people wearing masks outside, which is a pretty cautious thing to do. That seems to be their acceptable steady-state: when a 1% increase over weeks makes the news, you've found your steady state.

    It's sobering that even 95%+ adult vaccination is not enough to push R below one, by itself. But kid-vaccination is coming, and I'm sure Portugal, with all their budget limitions, will still be leading the way as we find out if that will do it.

    We should be glad to follow.

    http://brander.ca/c19#praiseportugal2


    October 16: "Acceptable Level of Violence": Singapore

    Singapore is being singled out by vaccine critics as proof they don't work. The city-state of five-ish million population, not much bigger than New Zealand's, had an equally disease-free, death-free pandemic - until a month ago.

    Reaching 80% vaccination, they completely re-opened, after being very closed for the whole pandemic, almost nobody having natural immunity. Cases began to soar, doubling every 8 days, and are now at 3700/day. Gathering restrictions have already been re-implemented.

    So much for vaccination.

    Except:

    80% is not 90%. There are twice as many disease vectors still wandering about with 20% unvaccinated, rather than 10%. The many outbreaks and spikes to similarly-vaccinated places might have warned Singapore that cases would indeed take off. They are still vaccinating, though slowly; Canada may catch up in 6-8 weeks, with our Maritimes already comparable, and BC about 3 weeks away.

    But, mainly, so what for the 3700 cases per day? Of the vaccinated, 98.5% of cases are asymptomatic, or "mild". For the medical system, 50 serious cases per day from the vaccinated, and another 50 serious from the unvaccinated minority, are a medical problem, hence the restrictions. But for the great majority, the restrictions are an annoyance to comfort people who didn't get the shot.

    It's a first case, where there's this horrifying-looking spike on the dashboard (right), but the population are unworried. The bug has been de-fanged of its fearsomeness.

    In short, it's a more-extreme version of the "anger at the unvaccinated" story we have at home. Not to mention the "just desserts" attitude, when one hears that the very few unvaccinated deaths were all to the very old, and already sick, or the not-so-old, but very sick with multiple conditions. The rest are all unvaccinated deaths, as here. They don't make for very sympathetic figures.

    The Ministry of Health page has a fascinating picture of a spike in a heavily-vaccinated region. Kids are a surprisingly significant part of the "hospitalizations", because they're all unvaccinated, of course. But the kids drop off the chart when it escalates to "needed oxygen". A few thousand kids have been through hospital, but only for rest, not heroic measures.

    Unfortunately, of course, this means that any place not reaching at least 90% (and that may not work, either) may have to have gathering restrictions for months more or even years, until herd immunity is finally reached slowly, without blowing up the hospitals.

    I hope this spike gets Singapore's vaccination program re-started; that would be even better.

    http://brander.ca/c19#acceptable3


    October 15: "Acceptable Level of Violence": UK

    Since it was the UK that came up with the phrase, I suppose it's not surprising they're pioneering the https://www.news.com.au/technology/science/cases-skyrocketing-in-heavily-vaccinated-singapore-as-locals-beg-for-more-freedoms/news-story/140d80c6ea19856c13e1268763066965discussion of how much dying to just put up with as background noise. This is an ad for the Guardian article linked from its sub-head at left.

    It's a one-article blog day, because this article discusses in great detail, the phenomenon of a previously-alarming death toll becoming "normal" - or not. The main headline notes "this may not last".

    Some good bits in the article include the note that they used to talk like Dr. Bonnie in the UK: that "today 15 have, very sadly, died", but now they just say "70 died" and have dropped the "very sadly". (Apparently, no intermediate period where the they "sadly" died, dropping only the "very". They went straight to not-sad-at-all, one guesses.)

    There are scientists that have opined that there are countries just tolerating high rates of infection, maybe it's time to just accept the disease as endemic; and in the UK, at least, these have basically sabotaged the pleas of other scientists: as soon as the government has two sets of science messages to choose from, Boris can pick the "endemic" philosophy.

    A good point is made that humans react to change: when cases keep going up and up, that's alarming. If they persist around one number - like BC holding at about 700 cases/day for weeks - people come to accept.

    Or not! The counter-argument is that Britain is hitting over 800 deaths per week, a steady-state would be 40,000 per year. They've long accepted 10,000 deaths per year from flu, but 40,000? Discontent may set in. The UK government, it is pointed out, is attempting all possible spin to make this look "normal", an acceptable level of violence.

    It's all a good discussion, with no right answer, and Britain's own longer-term all quite uncertain. But with terms like 'new normal' and 'steady state' in every other paragraph, it's all about finding the public's "acceptable level".

    More on this tomorrow. It's really THE topic for ending the pandemic - it's not going to end with "zero"; so what's our acceptable level?

    http://brander.ca/c19#acceptable2


    October 14: On The Other Hand...

    ...maybe there's no lab leak. Canadaland has had another "lab leak" podcast, this time with the other side of the issue.

    Angela Rasmussen brings a lot of direct expertise to the subject, whereas Elaine Dewar of the previous podcast is a general science journalist.

    Both journalists and scientists commit to truth about facts, and there are not just disagreements about analysis and speculation, but about some facts, so it gets awkward from the start.

    It's not just that I'm not about to adjudicate such controversies in a 500-words-a-day blog, but that CCCC is repeatedly on record with the opinion that "it just doesn't matter", because CCCC holds China very much at fault for the pandemic, whether it was a lab leak, a food-system leak, or an illegal-homeopathic-viagra-industry leak.

    I was disappointed with only one facet of the second podcast: while Dr. Rasmussen addressed most of the issues raised by Dewar's interview, the story that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was doing research with a coronavirus at a Level-2 lab, when such should have been done at Level-4, was one of the strongest parts of Dewar's story.

    This podcast goes on at some length about the how unlikely it is that a sample from a bat cave (with superhuman effort, I insert no Bat Cave joke here) was really the ancestor of COVID-19. But you don't have to track a claimed story back before a virus was handled by the WIV; it can be taken for granted that a virology lab has a lot of virus samples in storage; maybe they let leak something they'd had in the freezer for years. Basically, you just need to believe that China's first Level-4 virology lab, which they had to ask the French to build for them, made a mistake with one of their virus samples. Any earlier background is nice, but superfluous.

    It's a great podcast, though, recommended to all, as is Canadaland in general, they need your support! If you need some more China-negativity at the end, though, check out the The Fifth Estate on CBC, about China pulling the rug out from under our vaccine deal, and not even telling us. Months and millions wasted. All business with anybody in China, is business with the government of China, we're going to have to learn that on a deeper level.

    http://brander.ca/c19#nolableak


    October 13: 2000 Vaccine Refusers? Actually, minor.

    There will be minimal posts for a day or two. I'm kind of in a waiting loop, fingers crossed that the fourth wave is finally leaving BC, fingers crossed that all these vaccine mandates will mean a get-to-90 soon for the over-12 set, at least, fingers crossed that getting-to-90 will mean something.

    In the meantime, it sounded bad when I looked at the headline that said as many as 2,000 care-home workers in BC had refused, or unknown vaccination status, were about to go on leave.

    Then, a paragraph in, I was stunned to see it added up that we have nearly 49,000 care-home workers, that this is just 4%. 93% of them have both doses already, three more percent have more-recently agreed to one dose. 4% more overtime, (or, in these folk's case, just less part-time!) is not going to be an insuperable burden.

    Many "refuseniks" are simply retiring a little early from a back-breaking, poorly-paid job. There's a LOT of that going around!

    One hopes that a silver lining of the pandemic is a great improvement in employment opportunities for young people, and increased wages. That would be some inflation I could feel good about paying for.

    http://brander.ca/c19#2000refuse


    October 12: Lessons from the BC Modelling Group

    The BC Modelling group is a gaggle of scientist-volunteers who are supplementing the unfortunately tight-lipped public health officials. BC may have had one of the best pandemic outcomes in the world, but it wasn't because of their transparency, their fulsome offerings of data. The Modelling Group, however, just dumps easy-to-read advice, with well-presented graphics that I wish I had room to show you. At right, just a thumbnail of their "closing the circle" chart for vaccinations actually made the pie chart work well at something, when data-visualization guru Edward Tufte (my hero) had dismissed pie charts 30 years ago as useless.

    At left, one that would also delight Tufte, who preaches the use of "small multiples" - many repetitions of the same basic graphic, with data about different situations, rather than trying to cram 8 lines onto one graph. It pulls out something that hadn't been reported in media, hadn't been communicated by the public health authorities: those soaring cases for the under-10 set are only in three of our health regions. Vancouver Coastal, the biggest, has no sign of it. Interior and Fraser have some commonalities, but little in common with Vancouver Island, they've had very different pandemic statistics: so what's similar about Fraser, Interior, and Island, with respect to kids, this last month? I'm guessing a look at the schools is in order...

    Another interesting fact that should surprise nobody, since getting vaccinated is all about acknowledging your own vulnerability and need for protection, paying attention to your own health: men over a month behind women. Males reach a given vaccination rate five weeks later that females in their age group at 18-29, but it keeps getting worse: 5, 7, 10 weeks as you go up to old age. Except the worst are males in 50-59, worse than the older ones. Of course, the older ones have heard their age range mentioned far more often in the covid obituaries.

    Anybody who thinks there's even a chance that we don't need to vaccinate the 5-11 aged children needs to just look at the second half of the report; the benefits vastly outweigh the risks for them, and the secondary effects to older people are dramatic. The fact that kids are more-likely to be asymptomatic means they are far more likely to pass it on to those near them. Most of the remaining pandemic fight is vaccinating them, as far down in age as can be approved.

    The graphics link to the PDF of the actual report; it's very accessible, mostly a powerpoint-type series of slides with lovely graphics, and well worth a bit of your time.

    http://brander.ca/c19#bcCOVID19group


    October 11: Adding Up Things to be Thankful For

    ...above all, the fourth wave seems to be breaking. That's pretty hard to spot in BC, where we keep circling around about 700 cases/day, but in most places, infections are trending down, and the problem areas in BC are showing signs they might soon do the same.

    Fall is in the air, but so is hope.

    http://brander.ca/c19#thx


    October 10: Can Child Vaccinations Get Us To 90?

    So, you can now register your 5-11 year-old kid for their vaccination. Pretty good hint that approval will be routine. (Hardly surprising: besides the tests, over 10,000 kids of that age in Canada are already done, because of special medical reasons, over 100,000 in the States. No news of trouble.)

    We've all watched glumly as we vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate, but the outbreaks, and surges, and even spikes keep happening. They're happening in the Northwest Territories, despite vaccination rates well past 90% for the over-12 population.

    So, with 5-11 vaccination, kids, the hopes and fears of all the years are set on ye, tonight. It's up to you lot to stop getting and transmitting the virus, and shut the door on it, so the waves go away.

    The demographic pyramid at left is the most-recent I could find, let's assume the age distribution hasn't changed. The Age 05-09 bars are all included, and estimate the two 10-11 population as 40% of the 10-14 bars above that. That adds up to 325,000 kids from 5-11, or about 6.5% of the BC population.

    We aren't getting them all vaccinated, that's for sure, and getting that group to 90% is dubious - unless it is made mandatory for school. Let's hope for only 75% vaccination, to be conservative. That's 5% of the total population.

    We're going to pass 80% of the total population with one-dose on Monday, for sure, it already being 79.9%. The number of mandates now coming down for large companies, and governments give assurance that we will keep going, at a rate that recently has been 1% per week.

    So, in a week, about the time the 5-11 vaccination is considered for approval, we should hit 90% of the over-12 population, we are already at 89%.

    Over the weeks of kid-vaxxing, it's possible we'll even get to 93% of the over-12 population, stopping only when we hit that hardcore 7% that are anti-vaxxers. Who knows, some of them may grit their teeth and take the shot, if it means their job.

    A smidge over 93% of the over-12 population should be 84% of the total population.

    84% plus the extra 5% from the kid vaccinations, which of course will take well into December, will get us to 89% of the total population.

    There isn't much epidemiological difference between 89% and 90%; when they estimated that as needed to quell this variant, it was a round number. If it was a little rounded-up, we should be celebrating Christmas with few and declining cases, despite no more restrictions.

    If it was a little rounded-down, and especially if the remaining 10% are clustered in rural towns, or age-groups that socialize (i.e. if the current problems continue) then Christmas will see only some relief: a little room in the ICUs, maybe, regular surgery returning.

    Many provinces already took the attitude that any kid going to turn 12 in the calendar year is eligible, and vaccinated some 11-year-olds. If Xmas brings no joyeux noel to the hospitals, 2022 should start with a similar declaration about 4-year-olds, even if that's only one more percent. And of course, it should be implemented with a vaccination program right in the school, be combined with a mandate.

    If vaccination doesn't work - we need to bear down on it. It's not crazy to talk about getting past 90% - smaller provinces like the Maritimes are undoubtedly be doing it. They may be the first to really re-open.

    http://brander.ca/c19#kids90


    October 9: Political Profit from Vax Villainization?

    I have to hand it to Willian Saletan, whose whose piece at Slate.com I can't finish because of a paywall. Just the teaser paragraphs, though, point out a coincidence that should be uncomfortable, about Joe Biden's vaccine rhetoric of recent weeks, where the unvaccinated are "overrunning" hospitals and vaccination is "patriotic":

    It's a formula that Republicans have often exploited in other contexts. Here's how it works: First, you identify a politically vulnerable minority. Then you accuse that minority of deviant behavior. You depict these people as a threat to everyone else, and you blame them for the country's troubles. Over the years, conservatives have cynically applied this algorithm to many topics, such as homosexuality, welfare, immigration, Islam, and kneeling for the national anthem. But now it's being turned against Republicans, because they've chained their party to a genuinely deviant minority: vaccine refusers.

    It's certainly uncomfortable reading that, until you get to the word "genuinely", of course. By the Republican's own lights, Biden is doing what he should to protect America, because the threat is actually genuine, this time. It's by liberal lights that one should be more like Bonnie Henry and try, try, try to protect America with soft words of sweet reason. One defending Biden's tactics could point to how badly America has vaccinated so far, and plead that throwing elbows has become necessary. (Bonnie is about to celebrate 80% vaccination of her whole population today, easy for her to moralize, eh?)

    Speaking of Canada, This episode of Canadaland's 'Short Cuts' podcast talked about how Trudeau kind of suspiciously had trouble keeping all those anti-vax protesters away from his speeches during the last weeks of the campaign. They were often heard, or even in-shot during the coverage. And Trudeau's speeches were clearly running against anti-vaxxers, not against Erin O'Toole.

    That implicitly made O'Toole on the side of the anti-vaxxers, by conversion; and the difficulty that all conservative parties across the world have had keeping anti-vaxxers from their ranks (where they even try, unlike the USA) make it a weak point for conservative politicians.

    I'm pretty much on the side of demonization, as long as it doesn't get personal, or involve any threats. Except threats to their employability and ability to accept hospitality business, of course. But just calling them names, like "unpatriotic", and "dangerous", and "leeches on tax dollars", that's all fair game. It's not slander, because it has the defense of truth.

    It's not often that cynical politics is an actual, genuine public service. (The "public service" of "getting the right guy elected" is their opinion, and doesn't count.) But, as Saletan says, where politicians tie their wagon to a "genuinely deviant minority", of less than 10% of the population, aggressively spreading lies - unlike most political lies, these are long proven by peer-reviewed research to be lies - we have the extraordinary situation where Republican political tactics are briefly moral. The lies are getting people killed. Demonizing? They're self-demonizing.

    http://brander.ca/c19#vaxvillans


    October 8: Don't Say Delta Never Did Anything For Us: Saved From Mu

    The winning variant is the one that spreads the best, not kills the best.

    I've been often highlighting stories that are prominent in the news already, not that helpful. I nearly did one today on transmission concerns in the BC Interior, or on care homes still not having enough sick leave; but this story is almost untouched except where I found it at Salon magazine, on the disappearance of variant "Mu".

    It's been out of the news for a bit, so a reminder that a strain found in Columbia, earlier this year, and named "mu", had indicators of vaccine resistance, understandably scaring the pants off everybody who read the article.

    The Salon story, and this one, from Newsweek, just about the USA are tremendously reassuring: the variant has disappeared. Not a sign of it in weeks, all around the world. The Newsweek story is actually over a week old, about it vanishing from America.

    We never really had time to get scared of Mu; Delta, the Modi Malady, is so spreading like wildfire down the Coquihalla in July, that it's outcompeted all others for access to humanity's virus-replication services.

    Maybe it's twice as bad as the original, but at least it loses to vaccines, and actually protected us all from loss of vaccinated status.

    So, credit where due. Thanks, Delta!

    http://brander.ca/c19#mu


    October 7: COVID Drugs Just Take Us Back to Square One?

    We've been hearing this for months, but now it's a careful study, published in Canada: all the variants make you sicker, more likely to die: the current one, worst of all. "Delta" - or, for CCCC, the "Modi Malady", out of India's pandemic blunders - is 108% more likely to put you in the ICU, over the original strain.

    It's kind of funny (not) to have this confirmed even as everybody celebrates the new anti-viral pill treatment ($17 to manufacture, on-sale for $700) that "halves" the risk of ICU and death.

    The two cancel each other out, roughly: if you get the current COVID-19 today, and get the pill as soon as your symptoms are clear, the test in, then you have the same risk of death you had without the pill in 2020.

    There may be another cavalry coming over the hill: global clinical trials will be moved to standard practice immediately, to give COVID patients blood thinners while still moderately ill, and signficantly reducing ICU and death outcomes.

    They found last December that blood thinners for patients in ICU are a negative, come too late. But if administered while "moderately ill" (just reaching hospital, as it were), we can save a lot of lives.

    So maybe all the news still adds up to a net positive. But surely, no big one, no "game-changer", no end to the pandemic. Back to the vaccine strategy.

    http://brander.ca/c19#squareone


    October 6: Asymmetric Warfare

    Two stories just hit me with a one-two this morning. The contrast was pretty extreme. On the one hand, if there's anti-vax information put out, it takes nothing, really nothing, to get 200,000 hits. That's what the city councillors of Dawson Creek, pop 12,000 found out when they let some demonstrating anti-vaxxers make little presentations to council, with the camera running.

    A faith healer/psychic type claimed to be a "molecular biologist", and that bit was singled out, the city logo displayed prominently, and boom, 200,000 customers on YouTube for the distinguished molecular biologist working officially for the City of Dawson's Creek. Tell me, can you imagine if somebody presented to Dawson's Creek, or Orillia, Ontario, on how you can live longer if you exercise and eat your vegetables, getting 200,000 views? That would be the correct life-saving information, and you can't give it away.

    So, on the bad guy side, instant fame every time you can get the slightest wisp of a platform granted to you. On the good guy side, this is how hard it is:

    A single anti-vaxxer being convinced otherwise was a whole news story. The headline has some positive spin, that it was "one sincere conversation" that flipped him, but it was a two-hour conversation. With two people. Who were family members. And health-care workers. And his presence at a wedding was up for discussion.

    Well, great: on the one side, you can win a single vaccination, under absolutely ideal, perfect conditions, and great effort. On the other, almost no effort for far better results. Of course, I know that over 99% of those 200,000 views were just anti-vaxxers wallowing in how right they are. But if even a tenth of percent (200) were shown to not-yet-vaccinated friends and family, if a half-percent of those (1) were enough to stop that friend getting a shot, then it was the same win as the two-hour marathon.

    We were invited last year to try to imagine what it's like for Black people, and the "work twice as hard to go half as far" rule. For vaccine teams, it's Black times ten: twenty times as hard to go a twentieth as far.

    Which is why we have mandates. No need to link to the announced federal mandate this morning, it's the top story everywhere. And the big headline on my Vancouver Sun this morning, is "Public Servants Welcome Vax Order", with unions requesting even more protections. A reminder that Canadian vaccinations are just about to hit 90% of possible recipients, by month's end, we are the overwhelming majority. We might get past 90%.

    It's really just 7% or so, watching a faith-healing psychic on YouTube.

    http://brander.ca/c19#asymmetric


    October 5: Facebook Returns, In All Its Glory and Horror

    The Facebook outage actually affected me, because I've picked Mondays as the day I gingerly scan Facebook for several minutes in search of friends who've had a nice hike or family occasion in the last week.

    Facebook is great for that, it must be admitted. My High School class declared at the 25th reunion, there'd be no 30th; it was getting hard to find people, and to get volunteers for all the work. But there was, amazingly, a 40th reunion five years ago this summer - because Facebook connected us. Credit where due.

    And I have friends who message relentlessly on the system; one friend put up the message at left. When you happen to agree with the message, that all seems nice, too. This one, credited to a Maggie Haywood, is an excellent reminder of how odd it is for medical personnel, of all people, to balk at vaccination, when they've already accepted so many.

    Is my friend's message reaching people who might be convinced by it, or just preaching to a choir? On Facebook, you can always hope it'll get around to people you don't know, if popular enough. It's just tossing it out there, and crossing your fingers, trying to do your bit.


    And then I came to this. This is from a college-era friend I haven't seen much since their son's wedding, save on Facebook, where he's a Facebook-activist. At least, he doesn't mention going out to any physical activism, but he does a lot of this: posting up memes, or stories circulating in the anti-testing, anti-lockdown, anti-mask, anti-vax communities. (With frequent forays, last fall and winter, into pro-Trump activism. Yes, he lives in Airdrie, but felt strong sympathy for Trump activists on January 6.)

    This frankly surprised me, for all I've seen. CCCC has covered (and refused to link to) those who run blogs like the "Herman Cain Award", noting the many deaths of anti-vax activists when they caught COVID-19 themselves. That stuff is pretty bad, too.

    That post shows my own struggle with the topic of misfortune to those you disagree with: as I say it's "not funny", I'm reminding the reader to be conscious it's not funny, when your subconscious just might be thinking just that. A measure of how ugly the atmosphere has become.

    The thing at left is going around the anti-vaxxer community indeed. I sure won't provide links, but alas, just googling the mother's name finds several, at the top of the google list.

    And, yes, they are all, like my friend, implicitly blaming a grieving mother for the death of her baby 8 days ago - that the child died because she got vaccinated.

    And, no, it's not worth engaging with as a medical claim, because they don't even attempt reason, offer a mechanism, an explanation: the mere fact that she was vaccinated, and indeed had the temerity to proclaim it, and its benefits, on social media ("gloating" about it, as one blog put it) is sufficient to convict her of infanticide.

    There's just no need to reply at all, much less argue the point.

    And that's Facebook for you. There are real benefits to the thing; suitably reconfigured to only contain family-and-friends content, it would be a great thing or everybody to check out every day, stay in touch.

    But, needless to say, I'm going to continue my policy of skimming it briefly once a week - skipping past the awful stuff, looking for the photos of mountain hikes.

    Has Facebook been of value in the pandemic? Honestly, I think we can probably blame it for many, many thousands of deaths. It's hard to even guess an order-of-magnitude. Add it to the pile of their offenses.


    http://brander.ca/c19#facebook


    October 4: Nikiforuk Has Wild Dreams of Accountability

    Most-likely, it's just a rhetorical stance, but if not Andrew Nikiforuk is dreaming in technicolour.

    (Canadian Content question: "Technicolor" is an American commercial term. Can one even Canadian-ize it into "Technicolour"?)

    Nikiforuk's analysis-and-opinion piece should be read by all, but not with any glimmer of hope that Jason Kenney will suffer any consequences whatsoever. Sure, he may fail re-election, but we might have gotten that with no fourth wave, or even with no pandemic at all.

    It should be read just for the hard, plain speech, a real breath of fresh air:

    Instead, they pretended that "personal responsibility" and "choice" was a public health measure. It isn't, and never will be.

    "In a time of crisis (war, depression, natural disaster, health pandemic) - an ideology that emphasizes the individual, the market and small government does not work,"

    ...that last quote linked to the CBC article by professor Duane Bratt, about how the classic conservative ideology is not the right response to a pandemic.

    That's hardly a knock on conservatism, of course: small-government, do-it-with-private-enterprise is not the right response to war, either. Good conservatives understand that extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary solutions.

    So their thesis is that conservatism offers Kenney no excuse: it was negligence, criminal negligence. Nikiforuk ends only by asking for Kenney to be forced to resign by popular demand, not that he be charged in court.

    But even that "consequence" is not coming. It hasn't come to a single conservative on Earth. Not Modi, not Johnson, not even Bolsonaro, though demonstrations have been held in Brazil. (They already had nine reasons for those before Bolsonaro aggressively did the worst pandemic moves.) They'll all retire peacefully, surrounded by affirming supporters reassuring them they were right.

    There's no triumphal march into Paris at the end of this, for the good guys. Just the knowledge that they saved whom they could.

    One can only hope it is taught in schools in future years, with the behaviour of the virus-collaborators and public-health saboteurs as cautionary tales.

    http://brander.ca/c19#accountable


    October 3: Speigelhalter Stresses Behaviour

    It's been too long since CCCC touted a most-favoured analyst, the "Weekly Stats Uncovered" columns at The Guardian, with David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters.

    This week's is nearest to the heart of CCCC: safe behaviours are everything.

    The analysts go over the reports from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), who ask people about their direct contacts.

    This is the fine-grained data below the public rules and requirements. We talk and talk about masking in restaurants, but the real story is in how much people contact each other. Feared spikes have not come, because of something CCCC has always suspected, and mentioned: just because the rules "open up", doesn't mean that people lose all their fears, and change back to pre-pandemic behaviour.

    School makes kids go up to 10 contacts per day, but work only brings adults up to six. Mask use declined, but stabilized, for those over 60. In Britain, fewer than half of young adults are masking in supermarkets, but what I see around me in Vancouver is over 90%. These differences really count in what "R" you have that week.

    All this dovetails with the CCCC contention of four days ago, that the BC (and UK) populations find the current level of fright over the ICU to be acceptable. The UK has 30,000 infections per day - but that's not enough to scare young people into masking at the store. People are having this many contacts, because they aren't anxious enough to avoid them. They've accepted the feeling of risk.

    It's unfortunate, how many young people in BC are finding it acceptable that a lot of moms are anxious about their kids at school, are continuing contacts, not to mention so many avoiding vaccination.

    But I'm sure that the LSHTM could query across BC on our contacts, and find it's just the number needed to keep R around 1.0

    http://brander.ca/c19#behaviour


    October 2: The COVID Kids of BC

    The embedded graphic there is from a July post about the price of not vaccinating children. Well, we still aren't there quite yet, and the bill is coming in. The graph shows this report from two days ago. It notes that of 1,086 kids under 17 diagnosed, five have been hospitalized. That's really low, very reassuring. But we still don't need tens of thousands of kids getting sick, and a hundred hospitalized.

    Partly, it's vaccinations: The story notes that those places generating most of the cases - Fraser and Interior - have vaccination rates as much as 20% behind the lower mainland. The result? CTV News reporting "92 different schools in Fraser Health" reporting exposures. 92! The number in Coastal is 10.

    But, secondly, it's how you run those schools. CTV News also has an analysis comparing the BC infection rates to Ontario's, and comparing how Ontario schools have been much more pro-active about fighting transmission with ventilation and HEPA air filtration. And that our provincial health officer is not only reactive instead of pro-active, but "reacting slowly".

    Also up for criticism the BC "weak testing regime". We've always had low test numbers, well below the national average. That was fine as long as we were having success, but now, we're not.

    We are so near to shutting the door on this virus, and it looks like schools this fall are a key battleground. Let's not lose this battle.

    Besides ventilation, and testing, let's turn the schools into pop-up vaccine clinics, the better to canvass Fraser and Interior - and to prepare for vaccinating all the schoolkids under 12, preferably next month.

    We are so close, you can see the end from here, the light at the end of the tunnel. Now is the time to finally lose patience.


    http://brander.ca/c19#covidkids


    October 1: New Pill Makes You Ten Years Younger!

    Top of the fold, on many newspapers today, is the announcement by Merck, of a pill stuffed with multiple antivirals that cuts hospitalization and death rates in half.

    Which is nice.

    Is it one of those "game-changer" drugs, like aquarium cleaner and horse dewormer were touted to be? Not really. Readers can go back to CCCC post #1, almost exactly 18 months back, for the exponential increase in death with age: it doubles, very roughly, every decade.

    So, halving your risk is to be "10 years younger" when your symptoms get bad enough to be given the pill. Soon, I would be suffering only like a sprightly young lad of 53, instead of 63.

    Since I note people of 43 still nervous about COVID, it's not the game-changer we need, not yet. Certainly a step along the road.

    Vaccination lowered our risks by more like a factor of 20, than two, and people were still nervous! (My own risk-reduction is worst, says new data today from BC: those of us with AstraZenecaX2 are "merely" at 93% lower risk for hospitalization. With this pill, almost 97% lower!)

    More help is on the way, of course: because of the odd animal origin, pandemic-news fans were intrigued by the National Institute of Health getting excited over llama nanobodies. Yes, llamas, apparently they are immunological wonders. However, that story came without even a faint timeline for implementation, one suspects it's not 2022, much less soon. (The story uses the term "eventually" about human trials. Sigh.)

    So, we're stuck making Merck richer, as they're ready to ask for "emergency use" authorization. This is a nice little "bonus improvement" on top of the massive improvment in my odds from vaccination, so now I'm really ready to hit any bar or theatre. Only concern for the unvaccinated is keeping me down, at this point.

    PS, added later on Oct 1:
    I saw the story on this at the National Post, with its comically-bad comments column of right-wing nutcases. Sure enough, the top comment was from some guy flatly saying that men on this drug are completely infertile, and pregnant women can't take it. On zero evidence. Anti-virals have no history of risk for pregnant women, and they certainly don't affect male fertility. The utter, lying horseshit began same day.

    http://brander.ca/c19#merckpill


    September 30: The Case for the Lab-Leak Theory

    This is basically an ad for both Elaine Dewar's book on the "Lab Leak Theory", and for the Canadaland episode that interviewed her and summarized her story.

    I've never been that interested in the story, not just because I, too, wrote it off at first hearing as a conspiracy theory, and, as I noted in my post on The Tyee's review of the theory last June, "it just doesn't matter".

    I figure that China is responsible for this pandemic; if not a lab-leak, then their food-handling, or their extinction-causing superstitions about wild animal parts being viagra. (And, like we didn't hate them already for cyberterrorism, Uighur genocide, extreme environmental crimes...)

    Journalist Elaine Dewar is a much-applauded writer with a large back-catalog, who's tackled many topics, none of them conspiracy theories or political polemicism. Her work on this topic has been exemplary, and done the hard way: stuck at home, she just did the I.F. Stone thing: read the publicly-available documents for thousands of hours.

    We were all easily convinced that the first "lab leak" stories had to be conspiracy theories, because it sounds like a movie: biowar, or at least biowar-research, shadowy cooperation between governments, cover-ups.

    Dewar's narrative is considerably simpler, can easily be seen as something that could happen by accident with some poor procedure - and the cover-up notion fits in rather nicely with the timing of a January 2020 trade-pact announcement that nobody would have wanted to ruin.

    In short, it's "compelling", as the Canadaland host called it, and the book is recommended. It's been out for a month, and really should have made a bigger splash by now. Particularly in Canada, which plays a part - mostly because our security people were awfully lax about the National Microbiological Laboratory in Winnipeg, and whom they worked with.

    http://brander.ca/c19#lableak


    September 29: "An Acceptable Level of Violence"

    In 1973, Northern Ireland had about 1.5 million population, and had suffered 480 deaths in "The Troubles", the previous year, 255 more that year, for a loss of 490 deaths-per-million in two years.

    That was the year some British official coined the phrase "an acceptable level of violence". It was used again in 1988 by a police sergeant on the 'front lines' interviewed by American journalist P.J. O'Rourke, perhaps because by then the deaths-per-year rarely cracked 100.

    Northern Ireland's loss-rate in 1988 (104/1.6M = 65 deaths/million/year) is far lower than what BC is losing in the pandemic (about 5/day = 360/million/year), much less the UK (~120/day = 644/million/year), but back when the phrase was coined in 1973, the numbers are kind of comparable: between the BC and UK current losses.

    I'm raising a much bigger question than what John Horgan or Boris Johson is willing to lose of their population. It's what the population is afraid of, how much sense of danger it takes to modify our behaviour.

    BC has barely closed a business in months, reportedly because most transmissions are not happening at work. School outbreaks explain some young cases, but most of them seem to be happening, in personal, social, family contacts. People are just exposing themselves more often, because they're not afraid to.

    The old are vaccinated and not that afraid of dying, maybe enough to mask and distance more often...except from family. Younger people aren't even afraid enough to vaccinate, despite the drumbeat of ICU news stories.

    I'm just saying, that this business of both BC and UK circling around the same daily infection numbers, is new. A disease that we're used to seeing expand exponentially, or die away exponentially, is just ... coasting at one level, with an "R" that never strays far above or below 1.0. So the dying continues, at a pretty steady rate: and people's behaviours aren't changing - like the Irish starting to shrug their shoulders at another bombed police station or pub.

    Perhaps that's how the pandemic "ends". Maybe we just increase our hospital capacity, double the size and staff of the ICUs, and this is the new normal. Or, at least, if it were the new normal, the population would just live with it.

    It won't work, of course. As long as the planet is unvaccinated, there will be another variant, and another, until there's one that does scare us into crushing the pandemic at last. It would be nice if we could just do that with our human intelligence, looking ahead, instead of being reactive, frightened into it like animals being herded with a lash.

    If that wasn't guaranteed, I could go along with this average of opinions; I, too, am vaccinated, and not driven by fear. But it is, and we must not let this be an acceptable level of violence.

    Those wanting to create a "meme" political cartoon can just grab that photo, paste "140 dead/day" on the fire, and "Very Young Boris Johnson" on the kid, and you're done!

    http://brander.ca/c19#acceptable


    September 28: Death Rate Not "De-Coupled", Just A New Ratio

    I don't know if my data-graphics idol, Edward Tufte, would be proud of me, or appalled for putting one graph inside another, at left. Outside, the UK covid cases the last two months, since their football-pub-crowd-fuelled spike over 3 weeks in mid-July. Inside, the death-counts of the same period, shifted a few weeks.

    No, the graphs are not the same shape, the death-rate was "de-coupled" in the sense that most of the spike was younger, pub-going football fans, and they didn't die like old people do of COVID-19.

    But the overall community transmission that followed the spike has gone up and down, but circled around an average in the low-30,000s-per-day area for six weeks. And during the last month of those, the death rate has quietly crept up from 90 a day to 140/day.

    While the two graphs don't track closely, they still have a rough correspondence, where 30,000 people become infected every day, and about a third of a percent of them die, some weeks later.

    That's a huge improvement upon a couple of percent! The UK has slashed the COVID-19 death rate by a factor of, umm, several. But not quite a whole order of mangitude. But any notion that the UK could jump up to 60,000 per day without the death rate also doubling is nonsense. Hospitalization, death, and infection are still, surely, connected; the ratio has just dropped.

    At right, the familiar case-graph for BC for the last couple of months. How similar to the UK! We, too, have been dawdling around a similar number of daily infections for nearly two months: it goes up and down, but circles around about 700. Our deaths-per-day have jumped as high as 11, low as zero (once) and one (once), but mostly, we have 4-6 deaths per day, with an average for the last month of five.

    So ours, too, is still connected: the connecting ratio is just 5/700, or 0.7%.

    There's no comparing the UK and BC ratios. BC has always had low case-counts, because we don't test as much as most other places. We had a "case mortality rate" as high as 6%, early in the pandemic, because we only knew about the fairly bad cases to start with. We were testing enough it was already down below 3% by this time last year, though there were no vaccines. So our drop in mortality from the vaccinations is comparable to the UK - a factor of "several", if not ten. (CCCC is too smart to give more-precise figures about such an imprecise area of study.)

    Why are both the UK, and BC, wandering around at this steady level? The same deaths per day for months, not going up or down much? There's an ugly theory to be said about that, but it's for tomorrow.

    http://brander.ca/c19#decoupling


    September 27: Quebec Really Is A Distinct Society


    Source Data Here

    Just scroll side-to-side; I couldn't bear to shrink it. And, Quebec-baiting aside, a far better case could be made that "The Maritimes" are all a "distinct society" with a pandemic like New Zealand, far better than the rest of us.

    Quebec is only a five US states worse than Manitoba, though if Quebec had Manitoba's death-rate, then some 4000 Quebecers would still be with us.

    Save for Quebec and Manitoba, Canada could claim all our provinces are better than all but two US states: Hawaii and Vermont. The US zones that everybody is concerned about have of course hit over 3000 dead/million, a "club" inhabited only by Brazil, Hungary, Peru on the international lists.

    We are used to thinking of that quarter of the USA as some kind of "distinct culture" in its own right, a near-third-world with awful statistics on every measure of human success: health, crime, corruption. It's surprising still, to see really high numbers over 2000 dead/million, worse than most nations, in middle-America states like Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas.

    And weirdest of all to see it in northern states that border near Canada itself: New Jersey and New York. (Worldometers acted swiftly, many months ago, to correct their corrupt, gropey governor's lies about the death count in New York). If you get COVID and go to a New York hospital, bring your luck - if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere! Sorry. I'm sure it wasn't the hospitals.

    I may be wearing out the theme of "be glad you're Canadian". Our election was, of course, a time for politicians and journalists alike to claim that we live in a hellish place. I think I've heard us called "a laughingstock" over Afghanistan, Trudeau's opinions, and of course, over China and hostages.

    If anybody calls us a "laughing stock" to our faces, we just have to point at, well, not just America, but most other countries, and name the number of additional dead Canadians that would be in the ground now if we had their pandemic performance:

    PolityPandemic
    Losses
    Additional
    Canadian Dead
    Super-Vaccinator Israel824/M3762
    Merkel's Germany1118/M15,000
    Herd-Immunity Experimenter Sweden1452/M27,600
    France, most-admired medical system1780/M40,000
    Wealthy Connecticut2379/M62,800
    Spacious Arizona2722/M75,900

    Who's laughing now? A whole lot of live Canadians that can be glad they don't live in disease-ridden hellholes like Switzerland, France, and Rhode Island.

    http://brander.ca/c19#statesprovinces


    September 26: Think of the Children

    Some days, even the random news bulletin page reads like it has a narrative to it.

    The linked article is just the "Latest News", a few paragraphs each in the Vancouver Sun about different COVID stories. There's a connection between two adjacent stories, though: on the one hand, BC cases for kids under 10 are trending way up, almost certainly because of school outbreaks.

    On the other, Pfizer is "days not weeks" away from asking permission to vaccinate the 5-11 age group. What timing! Just as kids seem to be imperiled, it's Pfizer to the rescue.

    It would be terrific, awesome, perfect, if Canada approved them as well, this next month, and began a school vaccination program by November. BC, at least, might actually be on track to hit 90% of the over-12 group in just three weeks, even before the "October 20" date predicted by CCCC just a week back.

    Once we hit 90%, there's not much more the adults can do. A recent story noted how uneven the vaccination is in our Northern health region: lowest in some smaller centres, but Kitimat has reached 96% of adults(!) Nonetheless, you can also find stories of cases going up and down in Kitmat all this last month. It's not clear whether most of those are children - or even adults, who caught it from an asymptomatic kid that never got tested.

    To some extent, we won't even know how much vaccines can do until we can vaccinate those kids. I still have fingers crossed for that discovery being our big Christmas Present.

    http://brander.ca/c19#children


    September 25: American Voting Predicts Death

    With more thanks to Charles Gaba, whose graph at left is the payoff, the result of his graph from yesterday.

    The general idea was already plain enough: the places with local cultures likely to vote American-Republican are also more likely to not-distance, not-mask, and not-vaccinate. Yesterday's graph showed the truth of the last, in county-level detail, thousands of counties as data points.

    This graph is just brutal, however: the death rate, since vaccines had become widely available and mostly-accepted, last June 30 (most places had vaccinated down below age 50 by then, down to ages who do little dying anyway). Canada was 67% vaccinated by then, so were three US states. But rather than aggregating rural areas and cities together by giving state-level death rates - which also show the vote-vs-death relation less clearly - it goes to the county level again, and the correlation is painfully clear.

    The graph is making the rounds among epidemiology coverage, in recent weeks. Or reduced to a line, that the highest-voting counties now have 'nine times the death rate' of the lowest.

    If I may go back a whole year, here's the CBC story on how "Alberta has more 'cynical spreaders' than other provinces", people who ignore all the public-health advice.

    From the following December, the Herald story on 'how did we get here' , to Alberta's brutal second wave.

    The government rules and rhetoric may drive some of the infections, but they are also symptoms of the local culture. People aren't ignoring distancing and masking dozens of times per day because they fear Jason Kenney will call them chicken: they already felt that way.

    In these American communities at the right-hand side of the graph, it's that times ten.

    It would be nice if the pandemic could change the attitudes of certain governments; but they'll change on their own if the pandemic actually changes public attitudes. Their belief system, their worldview, doesn't just make them easy prey for a virus. It makes them poorer competitors on the globe, stuck in a provincial, inward-looking, unadaptable culture.

    As long as you still need statistical analysis to see it, of course, they don't have to be affected by it. For the rest of us, it's a sad story to watch.

    http://brander.ca/c19#votevsdeath


    September 24: American Voting Predicts Vaccination

    I don't know how to thank a Mr. Charles Gaba enough. His name there links to what he describes as his web site, which is a page promoting "ObamaCare" signups. A page inside that web site is linked from today's graphic, at left, where he has it twice as large so you can read it properly: consider mine just an ad for him.

    (He also has some presence on Twiddler, or whatever you call it; I can't bring myself to provide a link to that.)

    But the graphic is also enough to clarify the whole theme of the graph, for those with just a few minutes to waste on America's poor democracy and the terrible effects thereof. While the R-squared here is a mere 0.44, meaning that a Democratic-leaning county might have a vaccination rate of 30% or 65% - most of the ones that voted 60% Democrat are clustered around 45%-55% vaccination. And most that voted 60% against the presidential Democrat are lower, around 40%-45% vaccination. And so on down. The 0.44 means it's a rough prediction, but it's also stable from 20% to 80% voting groups.

    (A side-note: America is so much more polticially and culturally polarized than Canada that you, amazingly, can find counties that voted only 10% or up to 90% Republican. To a Canadian, both seem weird, even though the mostly-Democrat counties resemble us a lot more. Canada has very few places where the NDP, much less the Liberals, get under 10% or over 70%.

    This is much more fine-grained data than looking at vaccination rates for a whole American state, because all their states have more Democrat voters in their cities, fewer in the rural counties. In Canada, you can barely see the effect, visible only in the lower vaccination rates of the more-often-Tory prairie provinces. But! There are almost no higher vaccination rates on Earth than in Nova Scotia (89% of 12+). But, Nova Scotians, despite a champion, New Zealand-grade pandemic (barely 100 dead/million, a seventh of Canada's average), by their former Liberal government - they just tossed out Liberals, albeit by just 38% to 36% in the popular vote.

    But in America, politics and local (county-level local) culture are welded to each other. Even in America, most of their conservatives affect to be vaccine-positive in their direct statements, like our Jason Kenney. But they are far worse than Jason Kenney at deprecating the whole pandemic and real underlying need for vaccinations with the subtext. (You can't say that re-opening is possible now, and also promote vaccines in the same breath; the two contradict.)

    The effect is not certain for any county (a cloud of points) but very clear across their nation. It has a cost. Which I'm going to delay until tomorrow, but you can jump ahead if you look around Mr. Gaba's web pages a bit.

    http://brander.ca/c19#votevsvax


    September 23: Probably Just a Nutty Idea

    I was warming up to a post on how BC is clearly dropping in case-loads and positivity, then yesterday, 759 cases, a big jump. Post postponed.

    For a fresh topic, why not a nutty idea? This article on the office-space going to waste caught my eye. It's always the greatest thing if you have two problems that happen to be able to cancel each other out.

    (Traditionally, that involves a small kingdom that instigates war between two large ones over "who gets the small kingdom", and sells arms to both.)

    But it's hard to get around the fact that the difference between office space and housing space is the amount of plumbing, and ventilating kitchens instead of coffee rooms, plus more bathing. It's not an insuperable conversion.

    We have a shortage of housing, and a surplus of office - can't those two cancel each other out somehow?

    The problems are basically legal. The shortage of housing isn't about a lack of land, timber, or roofing: it's about zoning and legal restrictions. However, it's probably easier to overcome NIMBYism when the "back yard" is commercial land, and all the owners that might protest are commercial office owners, going broke.

    It's particularly painful to think of that warm, dry, running-water-equipped space sitting empty while people camp in parks: they wouldn't even care about upgrading it to what most would call "good housing".

    That's probably the place to start: look into alternative to the execrable nightmare SRO buildings in Vancouver, so we can tear them down and end the blight.

    http://brander.ca/c19#nutty


    September 22: If We Want Our Stuff, Vaccinate Our Employees

    Another single-article-recommendation here at CCCC. Some mornings, I'm on the third paragraph when I know this is the "thought for the day" article to focus on.

    As often, it's at The Atlantic, the article by Amanda Mull on our supply chain.

    It's very simple, we just don't think about it any more than we are forced to. Wealthy countries don't make much of the goods they consume, any more, we employ the rest of the world to make stuff for us.

    And our prices are rising, shortages still growing, because we haven't vaccinated our employees that make our stuff. We haven't vaccinated the Asians in the factories, the sailors on the ships, truckers, miners around the world.

    One after another has to shut down for weeks at a time: factories, ports, companies. It's not a robust, resilient system. All that was sacrificed for efficiency and cost-savings. So every closure causes snarls down the line.

    The pandemic has tied the supply chain in knots because it represents an existential threat to the lives of the humans who toil in it. The fact that Americans now can safely go on vacation does not mean that people half a world away can safely make new bathing suits for them.

    So, get in there and lobby for "Vaccinate the Planet"; it's not charity. It's just supply-chain management, necessary to production.

    http://brander.ca/c19#vaxsupply


    September 21: First Day of The Fall: Anti-Vaxxers Enter Politics

    CBC reports that the PPC pulled in "5.1% of the popular vote, some 726,000 votes".

    It was supposedly 1.6% last election, so I'm going to credit the whole difference, almost exactly 500,000 Canadians, to anti-vaxxers.

    That's using "anti-vaxxers" a little loosely - to sum up the whole cluster of beliefs and complaints about public health measures, from masks to mandates, that also motivated a few thousand Australians to get violent with their police, yesterday.

    I've just been reading the neglected book (all three copies at VPL were "in" this week, until I took one out), "Could It Happen Here?" by Michael Adams of Environics. Adams shows pretty dispositively, with polling data, that Canada and the US are in very different places on topics like immigration and race. Yeah, we're racist and sexist and all that, too, but the degree of difference is a degree in kind. No Trump.

    Indeed, the election showed that, with the pathetic 5.1% showing that didn't approach a seat in any riding. People are just "viewing with alarm" (something journalists do professionally) the 500,000 vote increase. And they look at the violent Australia protests, the hospital protests and rock-throwers here, and get scared.

    The good news, I think, is that this next month or so will be Peak Anti-Vaxxer. The time new rules are introduced is when the passions are highest. Passions are hard to sustain. (No George-Floyd type protests lately? Because no recent passion-inducing video, frankly. Revving up a protest without something like that, is just hard.)

    Summer is over, and the re-opening that vaccines (and mandates at businesses) provide is going to have people back at work and school, and just busier. Lockdowns can create ongoing protests, because the lockdown continues irritating and inconveiencing people, shutting down jobs. But you don't have to get vaccinated again every day - and vaccination mandates mean the reverse of lockdown: a situation that is creating job openings and money changing hands.

    So CCCC is predicting "it'll be shrinking by Thanksgiving, over by Christmas", as a political issue. And that the next election will toss the PPC back down below 3% again. Not back to 1.6%, alas, there's a rachet effect.

    But, as long as they're a joke, we can laugh and get on with our lives. And, right now, we can say to every anti-vaxxer that they've been heard, had their say, been proven to be a tiny minority that deserves no power over the rest of us, and get on with our pandemic fight.

    http://brander.ca/c19#antivaxpols


    September 20: At Least Lives Are Not on the Line, Today

    I was going to write something else, when I realized CCCC should commemorate Election Day.

    Save for the mathematically unlikely (astronomically so) outcome of the PPC taking 170 seats and forming our next government, this election is not about our federal pandemic response.

    Conservative provincial governments have piled up an appalling record, I'll concede. And as a political lefty in general, I'm happy to pile on Doug Ford and Jason Kenney, though I've also given credit when due, to both.

    Favourite line from that post:

    Today, it's really time for left-wingers to begrudge that Jason Kenney, and even Doug Ford (choke) are simply not idiots of the American conservative variety; they're only idiots in Canada, where we have much higher standards.

    I would tremble if Erin O'Toole had a record like Doug Ford, much less Kenney, of trying over and over to dismiss the pandemic as "only old people", "just a flu" and "bad, but got to get back to work". But he doesn't. I think a federal Conservative victory would not be much worse, cost any lives (or be any better). It's not an election issue. Trudeau ran on his past, but not on threats of future losses if his opponents win.

    Unlike November of 2020, in the United States, there's just no chance of an electoral outcome that would sabotage our pandemic response. Even the worst Canadian response (Alberta) has a current caseload better than New York; Massachussetts; and forty-five other US states. There's just no comparison between the countries. Canada has had a third of the losses in America or the UK, 30% less than Austria, Germany, Switzerland.

    In Canada, bad pandemic response is not even on the menu.

    So, vote your political preference, today. Grandma's life is not on the line.

    Oh, Canada, Oh Canadians, I feel so lucky to have spent the pandemic with you.

    http://brander.ca/c19#canada


    September 19: Analyses That Say We Still Need Restrictions

    I must break a little rule and provide a link to the detested twizzler or twaddler, or whatever it's called: it seems to be the only Internet presence of Gosia Gasperowitz at the University of Calgary, who has taken it upon herself to do a little basic pandemic modelling:

    At left, how cases would react to vaccine alone, public health alone, or both together, for the original virus: they all shut down the pandemic.

    At right, the model re-run with a variant with an assumed R-nought of 6.0, probably conservative for the current one. Neither one can beat it alone, both are needed together. Yikes.

    Note, that Dr. Gasperowicz is working an Alberta model, with just 70% of the poplation vaccinated. BC is already passing 78% by tomorrow. I wouldn't hold out any hope for better outcomes, though, as she's assuming "99% effectiveness", which is liberal, even after full-vaccination (BC is just hitting 71% on that, tomorrow.)

    If past performance is a guide to the future, we can't count on anybody paying attention to her, however. The "past performance" is to sit about, waiting for vaccination alone to save the day.

    If we do reach 90% of the over-12s in 31 days, as CCCC has estimated, it might also take that long to realize that it, alone, isn't working. Perhaps then, we'll see some action.

    CCCC is, again, indebted to Andrew Nikiforuk of The Tyee, in this case, his opinion article, "Resign, Kenney, Resign", for the link to Dr. Gasperowicz.

    http://brander.ca/c19#gosia


    September 18: OK, Be a Little Smug

    There's absolute, and there's relative. The pandemic being over is an absolute, and BC is not heading there. The graphic links to a good Tyee article, which is not about any new restrictions to get cases down in the hard-hit Interior and Northern health regions of the province; just about getting them more hospital staff. They have put in some new public health orders there, to limit gatherings, not business. BC health is continuing a policy, they say based on data, that our current woes are all from personal, private interactions; they haven't shut down a business to prevent intra-employee transmission in months.

    It all sounds pretty wishy-washy, to those of us accustomed to two-fisted pandemic fighting after 18 months of it. But. On the relative scale, it must be admitted that BC is still doing fairly well, even as I've given up hope that the weekend numbers will show any decline at all, on Monday afternoon. (See yesterday's post, below).

    The graphic is the story: a thousand words to repeat it would be redundant. We're twice as bad as Ontario, yes, but less than half as bad as Alberta...and Alberta, for all of being the laughingstock of Canadian pandemic progress today, is better that all but a dozen-odd American states. Some of their worst are also their most rural and spacious: Montana barely fits into the chart, but there are seven states worse than it.

    So are whole nations. The UK cases have been finally coming down, but they're still about the same as Alberta's. The American national average is a bit higher again.

    The whole world is struggling with this wave, and BC is actually the best-poised to come out of it, with our champion vaccination rate. There are multiple stories this morning about the Alberta rate tripling, so there's hope even there. But we need percentage gains, not tenth-percent gains. One keeps wishing for public health to lean in, creatively, on that sales job.

    http://brander.ca/c19#smugbcok


    September 17: Don't Look So Smug, BC

    The graphic at left is appropo of nothing in the post, actually; I just had to show it. It's the thumbnail on YouTube for the CTV piece on hospital protests. Best image of the vaccine controversy so far.

    BC better not be smug about Alberta having twice the cases, and having to flip-flop on vaccine passports and closures. We've little to brag about except a difference of degree.

    At right, the chart for positivity in BC for the last month. The alarms are being raised by the green line, for "northern" health region, which has only 6% of the population and 15% of cases, and also by the yellow "Interior Region" line.

    But never mind them. The Blue and Red lines are for Vancouver Island, and Vancouver Coastal, respectively - and it isn't just that 4% and 5-6% positivity are also pretty bad, but they are STEADY, not going down, no hint of that.

    So, these regions would have higher vaccination, maybe 90% of adults, pretty good masking attitudes...and none of that is making cases actually decline. Cases would be well over 100/day and climbing slightly, even if only the Lower Mainland and the Island were counted.

    So, BC has a problem with COVID-19. Still! It will surely cause problems in schools and hold people back from fully enjoying re-opening, losing their fears, until it is addressed.

    Maybe those 5 weeks of patient vaccination will do it, and we have to hope so, as there's no indication that this level inspires our public health officials to do anything. Possibly, they're just waiting for all the unvaccainated to "reach natural immunity" by risking their lives. Pity.

    http://brander.ca/c19#smugbc


    September 16: I Have No Art Talent, But...

    I simply can't resist some way of illustrating the joke.

    That's it, folks, save that I recommend everybody read the funny, viciously-headlined take from Jen Gerson, writing at "The Line", my new favourite Canadian news/opinion site. I'm on the brink of handing out gift subscriptions to friends.

    I subscribe to a couple of relatively-lefty news sources (Tyee, CanadaLand, National Observer) and had wanted some views from the right, too, but there's just too much of it at the major papers like the National Post and even the Globe and Mail.

    The contributors to The Line all seem to hail from generally right-of-centre: a former Harper campaign manager; Gerson certainly leans a bit right, so do other contributors. But none of them are out there on the conspiracy-believing, socialist-baiting, cultural-issues-complaining, alt-right. What a relief to find people just concerned about overspending and over-regulating.

    And this piece is quite the example. I agree with Jen that even Kenney's enemies did (or should have, certainly CCCC did) hope that Kenney's summer gamble would work. The Stampede, in particular, seemed a small gamble, being an "outdoor show", and CCCC was cheered when it caused at most a few infections.

    But Kenney, Gerson stresses, had to gamble last spring, as his political situation was already dire: he badly needed a big win. He bet all, and lost. It's a good take on it.

    The Line is a new attempt at a journalistic platform, using the newly-popular substack system. I subscribed, I'm glad to see it, and recommend it to all.

    http://brander.ca/c19#theline


    September 15: Steady Vaccinations Predict 90% in 5-6 Weeks?

    I was looking for some sort of pattern in BC's vaccination rates: whether they'd jumped up in the last week as the passport rules loom. I thought I'd spotted something, in that the last 7 days, the first-vax number jumped up 0.94% - the week before only 0.57%. But the weeks before that, going backwards in time, were this list of numbers: 1.02%, 0.39%, 0.94%, 0.63%

    Vaccination would seem to be an area where even a 7-day average isn't a wide enough sample to be steady. But when you look at the graph going back four months, it's actually steady as a train on rails.

    The red line is dead straight through this graph of the 12+ vaccination rate. It's dead easy to extrapolate it forward another 5 weeks and see it reach the needed (please, let it be enough) mark of 90%.

    I'd stretch that extrapolation to six weeks at least, as one would expect it to slow down at some point, as we get to the actual anti-vaxxers, not just "hesitators".

    As noted yesterday, late October might be the point where we also get notified that vaccinations for the under-12 set can begin soon. 90% vaccination of adults certainly suggests their kids will get the same protection, so a few months after that, one might expect 90% of the full population, at last.

    News stories today note that vaccination rates are low in the Northern health region, suggesting that we in Coastal are higher, perhaps at that 90% already - and our positivity rate is still about 5%, our cases 100/day, just in the one region. It's clearly not enough. Maybe with the kids, done, too.

    With school in, and some schools already getting outbreaks, it can't come soon enough. Starting in less than 6 weeks would be perfect.

    Please.

    http://brander.ca/c19#steadyvax


    September 14: Can We See The Crest, Yet?

    Time for some cruel mockery of pandemic predictions:
    First, this article from WebMD, Aug 3: "Will the Delta Variant Peak and Burn Out", including:
    Andy Slavitt, former Biden White House senior adviser for COVID-19 response, tweeted July 26 that if the Delta variant acted the same in the U.K. as in India, it would have a quick rise and a quick drop. The prediction seems to have come true. As of Aug. 3, U.K. cases have dropped to 7,467, compared to more than 46,800 July 19.

    Then this one from the day before, August 2nd: "How did the UK overcome its delta surge? Experts point to 3 key factors."

    The articles were still on web pages being viewed when the "sharp drop" reversed itself and started climbing again. What had really happened all along, goes the current theory, is that there was this very, very sharp surge because Football caused everybody to hit the bars. But then, England lost, games fell off, and the surge from football faded just as sharply.

    The green line on the chart indicates there was a real surge going on underneath, that had nothing to do with football. The fans were the part of that surge that's above the green line, where the point of the arrow is. But below the green line, was the real delta curve in the general population.

    As you'll note at the far-right of the UK graph, though, it looks like a week ago might be the real crest, and now we're past it? But look just left of that -another similar bobble two weeks before.

    The Canadian and American graphs might be showing the same thing. Perhaps we've hit peak at last - as they say, you can only see it in the rear-view mirror. Canada's shaky drop in the last week or so is mainly because Ontario really seems to be on the downside. Quebec cases, however, are still steadily rising. Across the prairies, still sharply rising, and BC can't seem to make up its mind - if this BC hit peak a week ago, we're staying on it, at an "R" of one. Great.

    This may be the peak, behind Ontario, and about to drop for the rest of us, or it may be a little bobble like UK at the end of August.

    The pandemic "predictors" are pretty exposed as "guessers", at this point, and CCCC is not dumb enough to join them. We're at the "nobody knows anything" point in the pandemic. There are just too many variables: high vaccinations creeping up, slowly (too, too slowly) slowing the transmission medium, behaviours changing weekly as governments try different measures, and people gain and lose courage every few news reports.

    It's pretty hard to have faith in anything but 90%+ vaccinations, down to age five, which isn't coming until late Fall, at the earliest - and probably 2022. But a crest in the rear-view mirror is certainly not beyond the reach of hope, and it would make a lovely, no, PERFECT news for Thanksgiving, that we are now definitely going steadily down.

    The Canadian Thanksgiving is four weeks away, American ten weeks away. Given the differing problems of the two, that sounds about right, as something to hope for, at least, for both nations.

    http://brander.ca/c19#pastpeak


    September 13: Off To the Movies

    I got (almost) nothin'. A few days off, and I'm depressed to dig into most pandemic news, most of which is Obvious Dumbness vs Common Sense.

    Relatives visiting, and I'm off to the movies in a few hours, the latest Marvel punch-fest. It's day one of the new "vaccine pass" era, and I feel like Wayne and Garth, proudly holding up their backstage passes at Aerosmith, just aching to have somebody see them and envy them.

    Of course, as the saying goes, the Vaccinated Club is "about as exclusive as a rainstorm". Anybody can join for free. Everybody is actually begged to join.

    I'm really just proudly displaying my common sense and lack of Obvious Dumbness. I am not the sort to go on an on about the possible dangers of something already tried for a year by tens of millions of the old and vulnerable, surely the best canaries in the health-risk coal mine you could ask for - and then gobble horse de-wormer.

    "I'm no fool, no sirree!" sings Jiminy Cricket. in a Disney public-service cartoons for schools about elementary safety measures in traffic and home accidents.

    That's it. But apparently, this is a political position these days, and I'm happy to take it.

    But, the happiness is just that where I live, we have this thing, this new attitude towards safety. That my right to see a movie in a relaxed state of mind is as important as a small minority's right to put me at risk for their convenience.

    Alberta and the entire UK are not so lucky. There, the rights of a minority as small in Canada and the UK as, say, Muslims are in the United States. (6% of the population are Muslims, about 7% seem to be your serious anti-vaxxers.) Imagine if Muslims began to complain that their beliefs forbid them to get driver's licenses, and that you should be able to drive a car without having one, to cater to their concerns.

    That's how nuts this is, and yet, in Alberta and UK, it's a dominant political ethic.

    But BC has Common Sense, and I'm off to the movies, relaxed about it.

    http://brander.ca/c19#passes


    September 9: Ventilation Avoids Ventilators

    I've been grumpy about this for some time, because it's an "infrastructure thing"; my beat. With better infrastructure, we'd have less pandemic. Also, fewer colds and flu. We always should have been doing it.

    The Atlantic article really pushes that: "The Plan to Stop Every Respiratory Virus at Once" ... is a bit over the top, since the article is about having to change every building in the world to pursue it.

    We've been seeing through the whole pandemic how crucial airflow is for this virus. Remember the guy visiting beaches as "the grim reaper" to tell people not to play in the sun and wind and salt spray at the beach? Boy, was he wrong. Very little outdoors transmission, and 90% of that is at night. Salty sea air was just confirmed as the worst air for the virus transmission. And beaches are never crowded, in the each-other's-faces sense.

    There was the restaurant where only the people downstream in the air-conditioning flow got infected. The article notes a 1977 case of an Alaska Airlines flight, where they were grounded for 3 hours with the air-recirculation off: 72% of the passengers were infected by a single flu sufferer. The Zeynep Tupfekci note at right links to The Atlantic's other article, by her, on the same topic ...from a year ago. It's time to push harder on it, from the lack of progress.

    In the middle of a financial catastrophe, nobody knew how to advise hospitality venues to somehow put in all-new air circulation systems. A restaurant where there was an incoming airflow at your feet, and a big fan duct above the table, sucking away everybody's exhalations upward and out, would be much safer - but how to retrofit?

    The teachers are certainly getting it. Demanding better ventilation in schools. If you're short on time, read that article, rather than the longer one in the Atlantic, which dives into the history of ventilation (Big Ben is mostly a ventilation "chimney" for warm outgoing air from Parliament). The teacher article gets into the real problem with no ventilation improvements so far in 18 months: the managers aren't exposed to the poor ventilation.

    So, coronavirus risk, like all forms of crap, flows downhill, and the teachers are being told to "open a window" - or, in short, "you figure it out". The victims are blamed if they can't save themselves.

    Ventilation has been an overlooked need in good building design for a long time. It's the one part of it that is still being overlooked, because now is an emergency, and you can't heavily renovate deep structures in buildings on an emergency basis. But the upwards-airflow restaurant will be a diner favourite when it's built, because the pandemic will cast a long shadow on public risk-assessments.

    It'll become a new standard, with any luck. The pandemic will have done a good thing for once.

    http://brander.ca/c19#ventilation


    September 8: I Got In A 20-Minute Queue For This

    It's been smeared so that the QR code can't be used, but that's my passport. (The advice is to not share the QR code, though you need photo ID to use it. One can certainly imagine a harried waitress not looking closely at the ID.)

    This is exciting for me for multiple reasons. I had bitter experience to tell me that government IT departments are scarcely able to do new things on short schedules, and it's clear the passport was not a long-held plan. They've come to them reluctantly, after recent spikes showed that we can't just vaccinate to herd immunity and watch life go back to normal.

    I watched the presentation live on the web (how dead is TV, when you turn to the web for live coverage?) and Dr. B mentioned the coming interoperability with federal passports, and that it used a "global SMART Health Card framework", certainly the IT department's best decision: I'm sure 99% of the programming for this was already done, free.

    Even the ACLU, formerly a mandate critic, is on-board with COVID-19 health passports. The public support for them is massive, overwhelming.

    So I wanted in ASAP, for no good reason other than excitement. I hit on the website named in the presentation, while it was live. I was greeted with a polite, very accurate estimate of my queue position (20 minutes), and it counted down steadily, then let me in. The two minutes of entering my health care number, and the two dates, went smoothly, and I was issued my QR code in a second. I had to stop and figure out how to screensnap my phone, but then I had it, and logged out. Dr. Henry was still speaking.

    That is not a normal experience with government bureaucracy! Congratulations to them all for delivering a needed service, in good time, with no glitches!

    Also, of course, I printed it off, have a copy in my wallet. I forget my phone all the time.

    On TV last night, bar owners were skeptical, afraid their place would be empty this time next week. These folks need reassurance and support! I will have to make an effort to get out to all the bars I can.

    To support pandemic rules, of course. Going to a lot of bars will be this selfless public service I provide.

    http://brander.ca/c19#passport


    September 7: Back to School, Vaccinated

    I found the image at left just looking for a fun vax-at-school image, but the story is worth a click and a glance. It's from 2015, about school vaccination rules being cracked down upon, resulting in "132 shots to 82 students" and also "143 emergency expulsions", of those who wouldn't vaccinate.

    Perfect. Just the attitude we need. There's a few polities right now with anti-vax regulations slapped on their schools so that COVID is the only thing they can't require vaccinations for, just the many other diseases that got those 143 Spokane students sent home.

    Canada's 12-17 set is about 73% vaccinated, about the same as the 18-29 crowd that also need a major boost in jabs.

    We've been slack about vaccinating them because of their own low risk. But now, the 21% of Manitoba that is 0-18 are 33% of the COVID cases. Just over 1% of them, 17 of 1554 so far in Manitoba, have entered hospital, and none to an ICU. That'll change if Manitoba's problems are multiplied by thirty as the same happens to the whole country. So far, about 1500 of that age have been to hospital in the whole Canadian pandemic, 174 to ICU, 12 dead.

    It would be great if the fourth wave didn't abruptly double those numbers in the next few months.

    Much more importantly, far fewer vaccinated kids asymptomatically bring the virus back home from school, causing a breakthrough infection that kills grandpa.

    Vaccinations should be required for school; it's not like the kid can't attend school at all without, because the last 18 months have certified that it is officially "schooling" to have the kid attend by Zoom. So: unvaccinated kids can keep Zooming, vaccinated can come in person. What's your complaint?

    And, certainly, vaccinations should be available at school. In fact, I'd make the exception that kids who get vaccinated at school can continue to attend while it takes effect. The few weeks of declining risk are a minor risk to take, if it'll promote more shots.

    Lastly, the provinces that vaccinate 11-year-olds if they turn 12 "this year" need to extend that rule to "this school year" immediately, catch about a third of the 11-year-olds; every bit helps. And, needless to say, every kid that turns 12 in 2022 needs to be vaccinated in early January of 2022. That'll get a bit of the 5-11 set done early. It hardly needs to be added that approval for those vaccinations is a burning need.

    Everybody seems content to not rush that in any way, so CCCC will just fume and vibrate with impatience. The mechanisms and supplies to vaccinate them should be all lined up, though, so that mass clinics (in school) can begin the day after the first approval.

    http://brander.ca/c19#schoolvax


    September 6: Finally, A Community Mask Study

    The image at left links to the one article today. Finally, we have a randomized, controlled, fully-scientific study of the effect of masks in a community. It involved 350,000 people, went on for months, in Bangladesh.

    There have been studies before, in hospitals, with everybody wearing proper surgical masks properly, all the time, and we know masks have a huge effect in that case.

    This was more about letting some villages do as they pleased, and some got encouragement to mask. The big jump was from 14% masked to 43% masked, as counting the faces shown in public squares. That jump reduced the number of people infected by about 10%. Not huge, but quite significant - especially in that cases for older people dropped 39%, probably because they were much more diligent about actually wearing them.

    There can be little doubt that getting masking way above 43% would have much more effect again.

    The things that worked to get people to mask were few. It came down to personal contact, to reminders. Nudges, money, texts, signs, none of that worked. Just personal reminders.

    It's good to at least have data.

    http://brander.ca/c19#maskstudy


    September 5: The USA Joins The 2000 Club

    Back to vaccines later. Today, back to the origin-job of CCCC: staring in horror at the Worldometers Dashboard of Death, left. Having exhausted the attempts to make the pandemic costs hit the gut by comparing them to wars, and then to city sizes, the back-to-the-origins is to look a the "deaths per million", the CCCC metric of national performance.

    The occasion is that today, the United States of America will enter the "2000 club", those nations that have lost 2000-per-million, a fifth of a percent, of their population, to the virus. (Duly noted, some of the recorded, died with covid, not of covid, but they are certainly outweighed in every country by the covid deaths that were never recorded, so there.) The USA will become the 20th member of the club on worldometers.

    Dishonorable mentions are due to countries that certainly belong there, but are just lying about the number of dead. India is reasonably reckoned to have hit 4 million dead during that staggering wave that filled the rivers with bodies, backed up the burning grounds; they're in the 3000 club, and headed for 4000.

    The members vary. Some have had just a few dead, but joined because of their tiny populations, like Gibraltar and San Marino. Some joined because they were previously so successful at giving people long lives, so long they had large care-home populations, like Italy, and Belgium.

    Most are simply some combination of poverty and poorly-run health care, like Peru, Paraguay, Mexico, Bulgaria. Corrupt, fascist-leaning countries are over-represented, like Hungary, Brazil, and again, India. The USA clearly showed how even some fascist, authoritarian, the-truth-is-what-we-tell-you-it-is thinking can destroy a pandemic response.

    The "New Deaths" column in red tells you how quickly the number is rising. The numbers are from two days ago, Friday, when reports were complete. The USA, with 1500 dead, went up by over 4 that day, every 332 deaths another death-per-million. They have long since blown way past the UK at Death Race 2021, left them behind at 1950. UK deaths are still rising, now past 100/day. They may peak at 130/day, or 2 deaths-per-million per day. but they're far behind the USA now, at 1950, and I don't think they can (be stupid enough to, even with BoJo) "catch" the USA now. They'll surely enter the 2000 Club, though, by early Fall.

    That's it, today. Mostly, CCCC has been commenting on the pandemic fight, all about the vaccines and transmission restrictions. Today, let's just stop and look at this table. Over 2 million dead on it, nearly half as much as India. All of them left behind typical "flu deaths" and "traffic accidents" a long time ago. Most of them, despite their various challenges of demographics and money, could have had half or a third the deaths: there are millions dead by mistake and incompetence.

    A reminder on the USA: Canada just passed 700 dead per million a few weeks back, and our current death rate is barely one per million per two days, a tenth of the current American rate. They'll certainly exceed three times our death-rate. America maybe couldn't have done as well as us with any federal and state administrations, but they could surely have halved their deaths, saved hundreds of thousands of people. On the September 11th anniversary next weekend, they'll surely lose about half the number they lost on the original, most of whom wouldn't be dead if they'd lived in Canada.

    As we go into a Canadian election, let's just patriotically appreciate how much better our culture is than theirs, how much better our politics. We don't inflict wars on others, and we take care of each other. Oh, Canada!

    http://brander.ca/c19#2000club


    September 4: BC Modeling Group Presents Well; Ontario Science Table, Not

    For visual filler, hard to beat the graph at left, from the "BC COVID-19 Modelling Team" publication of last August 18. They really pack in not just the case numbers, and reductions of what the "R" was every week, but the reasons for the changes ("No indoor dining").

    The group are not affiliated with any government body; they are actually light on epidemiologists, they are physicists, chemists, mathematicians, who just track numbers and create models that appear to match the past, and show promise at predicting the near future.

    With the government, you wonder if the study results have been limited, enhanced, distorted a bit to sell the government message, even from the most-honest government. Groups like this are a true public service.

    I can't recommend enough clicking on the graph to go to their report, skipping that, and instead watching their YouTube video, which is very much for the wide population (carefully explaining log graphs about 3 times) and comes to clear, simple conclusions.

    But, if you don't have fourteen minutes, here's the gist of the gist:

    By contrast, a group called The Ontario Science Table incurred the wrath of Twitter and journalists by publishing the range of possibilities as a single chart, instead of walking everybody through two different modelling assumptions. So the one chart shows an 18:1 range of outcomes: from 500 cases/day to 9,000.

    "These guys have no goddamn clue what is going to happen, and they'd be better off just admitting as much." huffed the indignant non-scientists at The Line. I attempted to clarify, in the comments, how these things should be read, and used. To no avail, I'm sure. It's part of the general right-wing suspicion of science that they want black-and-white, hard predictions of the future, or you're useless. They aren't as blatant about insulting scientists as the new alt-right are, but staid, stolid, grey-wool-suit conservatives have been pulling this on scientists for decades: Economists that tried to say tax cuts don't pay for themselves, climatologists, and, before them, lung cancer doctors. You're either precisely, indisputably right, or you're not to be listened to.

    Offer statistics and models with a range of outcomes, and you're uselessly vague. Offer hard predictions, and you're selling an agenda, a narrative created by your liberal assumptions.

    But the well-presented BC models, and the more-confusing Ontario presentation, both come to the same conclusions: we really, really need to vaccinate to 90%, and even so, need to go back to at least medium-tough restrictions while we get there. And if we don't, the fourth wave will be larger than the third.

    http://brander.ca/c19#bcmodgroup


    September 3: Only One Out of Ten Voters Will Be Unvaccinated

    A column today at a much-recommended news/opinion site, The Line, today tossed off, casually, the idea that there's a "reviled 20 per cent of the electorate that won't get the jab".

    Perhaps the exact number of them that "won't" get it is unimportant, but CCCC is all about number-crunching, and it's especially important with vaccine numbers as they get high. The difference between 87% vaccinated and 92% vaccinated is just 5%, but also might be the difference between R>1 and R<1 (i.e. "herd immunity"). So CCCC will be a number nitpicker today.

    Firstly, Jen Gerson at The Line was rounding way down: it's 83.6% of the over-12 ages that are first-dosed today.

    Secondly, "The electorate" are not those over-12, but over 18, and the 12-17 cohort are low-vaccinators, so "the electorate" is at nearly 85% vaccinated.

    Thirdly, Trudeau won't really face "The Electorate", he'll face actual voters, and the least-likely-to-vote age cohort, 18-29, is also the least-vaccinated (even lower than the 12-17's, whose parents made them go). 18-24 had 54% turnout in 2019, 65-74 had 79% turnout. And nearly 95% vaccination rates.

    Other less-vaccinated groups include all "persons of colour", who, hey, also have low vote turnout. I'm not going to run exact numbers, but all this pushes it up to 87-88%, of "probable voters", the real, practical "electorate", being vaccinated.

    And, fourthly, yes, fourthly, it ain't over, yet. Most of the unvaccinated aren't anti-vaxxers, or even vaccine-hesitant, they just haven't prioritized it yet, especially the day-of-feeling-crappy part. The passports have improved rates up to over 0.13% per day, and the next 17 days should round it up by another 2.2%.

    It's just an estimate, but CCCC is going with those who cast ballots being 90% vaccinated on Election Day, and calling that conservative. So to speak.

    That's one overwhelming majority, and an overwhelming majority of them, will also either support health passes, or not be angry enough about them to switch votes. By focusing all their public vitriol on the PM, and associating "Liberal Hating" with the same bunch that scream at health care workers going in to work, and harassing restaurants,the anti-vaxxers are actually handing Trudeau a helping hand.

    I'm not a big fan of Mr. T., and I'm not voting Liberal, but if they want to super-polarize the whole discussion down to Nazi Vaccinators vs Unvaxed Patriots For Freedom, then I'm in Trudeau's trench on that issue, and I'm glad to see them make an unforced error.

    What an error yesterday. I checked my numbers this morning, and was a good 2% off. It's 90% voter vaccination, not 92%. Only those over 60 even have 92% within their own group; reducing the young people voting isn't that big a help. So it's about 87%-88% right now, and maybe 90% by Election Eve.

    http://brander.ca/c19#vaxvoters


    September 2: Get To 90

    "What Can't Be Cured, Must Be Endured"

    Well, "Get To Zero" was a possible ambition before the variants, before we all got too tired of restrictions. As detailed yesterday, public health is now touting an all-vaccine strategy, no more restrictions. (Though if our future is entirely about rising cases, one can't see a point where masks indoors will be removed again...)

    So, our new strategy is basically "Get to Ninety" - that is, percent vaccinated. First, the adults, giving us 80% of the total-population done, then the kids, apparently at no rushed schedule at all, so, February or later.

    CCCC has already made, and some state or province or country has already tried, all the public methods of getting people out: lotteries, concerts, dancing stuffed animal mascots.

    We do have everybody caving to the notion of passports, and praise be...not least because I shamefully enjoyed the schadenfreude of seeing Doug Ford turn a 180 and eat his own words; not to mention the fun of him somehow complaining about the lack of federal passports, which he was against just days ago.

    Our own passport declaration in BC hasn't done all that much, for vaccination. We've vaccinated 1% of our population in nine days since the announcement, a tiny bump up from 0.07%/day to 0.11%. One might hope for a little rush around September 13, the way some people file their taxes on the last day possible.

    But we need another 5% !

    What's left? Well, plenty can be done, it's just expensive in time and people:

    Above all, I would love to see a survey of the unvaccinated. Who are they, where are they, how do we find them and what do they want? Some work on that has been done, let's review in another post.

    http://brander.ca/c19#get290


    September 1: It's All Your Problem, Now

    Before we even dig in to the main topic, I've got a respectful question. The linked story notes that 33 people died in BC, and a third were in long-term care. That's got to have huge overlap with the stat that 39% of them were to the fully-immunized, since LTC must be about 98% vaccinated. (Just that age group is 95%, so 98% is probably conservative.)

    So, the respectful question is, "How many of those 11 deaths in LTC came from a care-worker who was, as was her right, unvaccinated?"

    If it is, oh, I'm guessing at least 5 of the 11, then the decision, since reversed, to permit them to keep their jobs without vaccination... just had an identified butcher's bill. So, asking. Why aren't journalists?

    But the main topic for that presentation was the modeling that showed anywhere from 400 cases/day to 1,600 - if vaccination doesn't improve and there are Bad Behaviours, as well, I suspect. Even a slight drop from now, to 400/day is with a "high vaccination" future that they don't actually expect. The most-probable median in the "projected vaccination" model is close to a thousand cases a day, and 50 hospitalizations, which is, frankly, Not Good. Fifty hospitalizations per day, means several deaths per day for a few months: the bodies could really pile up.

    But the presentation had no discussion of any more restricting, though we just went back to mask-requirements. Maybe they're planning on more, but waiting for more full-ICU news broadcasts before they announce. But, at the moment, the strategy is to just let what happens, happen, and say "it is what it is" about the results.

    I'm not sure I'm against it! Maybe public health has done all they even should, and put more pressure on the private decisions.

    At some point, where we have >95% vaccination for the high-fatality demographic, and >85% of all adults and adolescents, even I'm ready to lift the hand of Public Health protection over the remainder, and call it "consequences". Just hope for those straggling unvaccinated to show up, and for behaviours to be generally restrained (as CCCC's "when it's over" post notes).

    In which case, we really need to hype vaccination now. That'll be the CCCC focus for some posts to come.

    http://brander.ca/c19#vaxonly


    August 31: Pandemic Over! Homeopathic Cure Found!

    Trick Was To Combine Aquarium Cleaner AND Horse Dewormer in Homeopathic Dilution, With Topical Zinc, Say Real Scientists
    Homeopathic Dilution advocates have been cruelly mocked for over a hundred years. "Most of their quack herbs are of little value at full-strength, much less diluted by a factor of a trillion", say mean killjoy scientists.

    Well, the Real Truth is now out: COVID can be beaten, if you just COMBINE the awesome powers of aquarium cleaner and horse dewormer, then dilute by a factor of a trillion. This homeopathic treatment is then activated by slow absorption of zinc through the skin.

    The instructions are perfectly simple, can be followed at home! First, you need to purchase the aquarium cleaner, at right, from any pet store. Ignore all the warnings and concerned looks you get. Tell them you really need to clean your aquarium.

    Secondly, you need to purchase the horse dewormer. This may be a little awkward just now; you may need to use photoshop, because some veterinary supply stores are demanding that you show a picture of yourself with your horse, before they'll sell it. Definitely tell them you have a horse that needs deworming. Details count! When asked, confidently state that horses have four feet, and yours eat oats and hay.

    The product at left, is preferred by homeopathic scientists, because the "Apple Flavour" (note lower right of package) has been found to enhance the medical effects.

    Thirdly, combine the two. Fill one-half of an eighth-teaspoon measuring spoon with aquarium cleaner, the other half with horse dewormer. Be careful not to ingest any, they are at far too high a concentration to have the proper effect, and may spoil the results of the homeopathic solution when it is ready.

    Fourth, dilution. Put the one-eighth teaspoon into a gallon-sized pot of water. There is no need to stir. Wait one minute, then put in an eyedropper and remove half a dropper-full. Put this into a fresh gallon of water, and do stir. Wait one minute, then remove half an eyedropper from that.

    Lastly, prepare your pandemic medicine that will see you through to the end. Put the half-eyedropper into an two-litre pop bottle with distilled water, and put it up on your shelf.

    Take a quarter-teaspoon full of this every morning, and you will not only be proof against COVID, but also proof against the malign effects of the vaccines, which of course are related to the antibodies created by the virus. Now that you are completely safe against both COVID and the vaccine effects.

    The medicine is not fully effective unless activated with zinc. The third major discovery, along with the combination and dilution, is that zinc must be absorbed into the body, not through the digestive tract, where it would cause chemical changes in the other medicines, but through the skin. This is fortunately no more difficult or expensive than picking up zinc sunscreen! Research continues into the best colour. Scientists are still nailing down whether red or green has the strongest zinc-enhancement effect; each colour dye multiplies the zinc effects in different ways, and for the moment, it is best to go with multiple colours, as shown by the medical-research model at right.

    Early work shows that if you elect to combine this treatment with a vaccine, the zinc is no longer necessary: as the body fights off the damaging vaccine, with the help of the homeopathic cure, the body's own zinc is made more "bioavailable" to cells fighting vaccine and virus alike.

    But if you don't go with the vaccine approach, which works best with older cases, definitely go with the facial zinc application.

    The cure found! Boy, now nobody will be laughing at homeopathy.

    http://brander.ca/c19#homeopathy


    August 30: Winnipeg Dead

    Just as we got to the USA having lost more people than their worst war, (The Civil War, with an approximate 650,000 dead, by most guesses), they've shifted the metric. From "more than war X" to cities.

    So, America has now killed off all of Winnipeg (632,063), at least. Canada has only managed Brandon, MB (26,234) so far. We might make it to West Kelowna (28,793) if we can't slow down before spring, whereas America is concerned it might run close to another 100,000 (at least, Edmonton: 712,391) before their Republican states admit the truth learned by the folks in the last post.

    http://brander.ca/c19#winnipeg


    August 29: Not Funny

    Above all, do not laugh. Even if you are so angry about it all that you regard this as a kind of war, these disinformation profiteers as enemy soldiers: we don't actually, laugh, when enemy soldiers die in a war.

    There might be a certain feeling of satisfaction allowed. Mark Twain said something about never having wished anybody dead, but he had read some obituaries with a great sense of satisfaction. Your reactions are your own, but your laughter is public. Keep it inside.

    I'm not providing any links with these, and if the headline doesn't mention the name, I'm not even doing that. These people deserve no more commemoration than any other of the 650,000 dead in their country...many of whom would be walking around if they'd not listened to disinformation.

    Yes, "their country". This is just in America. I could not only find more just there, but of course many more around Canada, UK, Europe, definitely in other countries afflicted, as America was, by fascist idealogues: Brazil and India, where not only did this ilk get people killed: they got variants created.

    Also, please note, this is just August 2021. It's breaking news. We might get another couple by August 31, to round out the total.

    The other reason I'm not providing links to these stories, is because you really should just try a search on "anti mask died", and up they come. I started off just looking for the three I personally remembered.

    I only just stopped at six, because the post was getting too long. I was paywalled away from an article listing many more, as counted by their criteria: of influence, anti-health words or efforts - as given a "Herman Cain Award". I'll leave a search for that list as an exercise, because it's Not Funny.

    But man, what a humiliating way to be remembered.

    http://brander.ca/c19#notfunny


    August 28: Confirming the Truth

    It's a mantra that we must be guided by science, by a rigorous search for the truth. Not to use hydroxychloroquin or invermectin because of the first few reports, but nail down their exact value with double-blind studies. (Value: zero.)

    There's funny non-news in the pandemic: reports of something being true that only cause a moment of surprise that we didn't yet know that "for sure".

    The biggest, of course, is that vaccines are safe. That was the basic message of the former FDA approval of Pfizer the other day, the confirmation that Moderna was OK for the 12-17 set, just yesterday. We are awaiting, in agony as the dying continues for lack of it, confirmation that they're no more danger to the 5-12 kids, either. (Canada has vaccinated some ten thousand of those already, because they had special concerns, or are part of a study. In America, it's some 200,000. No reports of concern yet.)

    On the list today is a clear work of statistics from Britain, reported on CTVnews.ca, that the Delta Variant really does double risk of hospital. Delta is a two-fer: more than twice as transmissable, and twice as nasty. Let's count ourselves lucky on it not beating vaccines.

    That last is confirmed "for sure" by a peer-reviewed paper in the journal Immunity yesterday: 12 of 13 antibodies in the vaccines still recognized Delta, and all five of the monoclonal antibodies tested were able to reduce it - in comparison to only one or two that could beat some of the other variants. You got that right: by out-reproducing Beta and Gamma, Delta actually "protected" us against its cousins from Brazil and South Africa, which were better at breaking through vaccines. If Delta hadn't run 'round the world, we might be fighting them.

    This next is more like the opposite, it's an anecdote that may be proven out later, on just how transmissable it is: "A Calif. teacher took off her mask for a read-aloud. Within days, half her class was positive for delta.". We'll be some time sorting that out: was this a class that interacted a lot with each other, so that two or three infections directly from the teacher became the other dozen, as secondaries? Because we haven't a lot of other examples of Delta just running wild through schools, but that can't be the only teacher to remove a mask for a bit.

    It's a very different war, where we'll only know if we won it, why we won it, how we won it, a year or so after it's over and we can figure out, for sure, what happened.

    http://brander.ca/c19#truth


    August 27: The Poll That Says "When It's Over"

    Many articles have asked "when will we know if the pandemic is over". They're often looking for some scientific measure of case-counts or mortality rates. Only the dumbest would say it's over when some politician declares it: those declarations, and re-opening plans, have become a joke. (A bad one. Not funny.)

    I spotted the answer this morning, in the final paragraphs of a story about vaccine-passport polling of BC adults. (Support is up since March, to around 66%, which trails the number vaccinated, over 85% of adults. But think about those both vaccinated and young: very immune, why would they care about mingling with the unvaccinated?)

    Would Feel Safe Going To: Percent
    Restaurant Outdoor Patio 70%
    Restaurant Indoor Dining 56%
    Barber Shops, Salons 54%
    Libraries 53%
    Bus or Skytrain 37%
    Community Centre 34%
    Gym 28%
    Music Venue, Concert/Dance23%
    Live Sporting Event 20%

    My eyes were opened by the other poll questions, about where people would "feel safe" going right now, without passports, Poll released August 26, but conducted on Aug 19-21, before the province announced the passport plan:

    If I ran live sporting events or music concerts, I'd despair. The politicians that always positioned public health experts as closed-minded, overprotective meanies (or flatly describe them as communistic dicators), who are holding back a bpublic eager to get back to acting normally, that is, going out and spending money. What the public wants, though, is for their risk level to actually be normal, so that they can then act normally.

    The list is a fascinating look at the psychology of risk-assessment. There's a mix of two things: how risky the place is considered, and how badly the public wants to do it. Close-in theatre packing, elbow-to-elbow at sporting events and music, is riskiest, and the most-optional, so it's still toast. A bus is also an enclosed area, can be fairly crowded - but you gotta take it to get to work, so it has nearly double the numbers of sports (37/20). You get the same meal at the patio and the indoor table, so though restaurants are not that tight, there's a substantial drop (70% to 56% is exactly one diner in 5 that would go outdoors, won't go in.)

    When is the pandemic over? When those numbers - perhaps just after the passport sinks in, who knows - hit levels that allow venues to open because they are again able to make money. It's not about them being "allowed" to open, because the Free Market really controls our economy in the end - government can only tweak it and nudge it. It's when the public confidence that their personal pandemic, for themselves and their loved elders, is "over", safe enough to be worth it; when that feeling reaches a proportion that lets business again be profitable.

    The public in general will decide that, it's utterly democratic. It's just up to government and business to serve them well enough that they vote with their wallets that it's over.

    Then it's over.

    http://brander.ca/c19#notover


    August 26: The Vaccine Bump Won't Save Us

    It's great news that vaccinations bumped up to more than double after Dr. B announced our health-pass plan the other day. But it won't be enough. To repeat the French graph of August 9th with a few more weeks of data, the laggard population of France may have bumped up their total vaccinations by about 5% (now at 70% when they would have been at 65%), but the Quebec population were already champion vaccinators before their health pass announcement. So there were fewer to be nudged, and while vaccinations jumped up, you really can't see it in the big-picture graph at right.

    I've shrunken them a lot, just enough to see that the red line of the previous slope, for France, has a real "bump" above it, but the Quebec slope is unchanged. Quebec did get a "bump", too, but it was barely a whole percentage point added to where they were heading anyway. And, already after three weeks, they're back down to 0.1% per day, where they were in early July. Of course, at 86.3% of the eligible population reached, they're just over a month away from 90%, at that rate.

    BC was the champion vaccinator (large) province before their health pass, and possibly ours will let us catch up that percent they surged by, put us on track for 90% by Thanksgiving, at least. But even 90% isn't a win, not anymore, see left.


    This has been clear since Yukon, already past 90% of eligibles vaccinated, had a bad outbreak, now faded, just among their kids. We need both the adults at 90%, and the kids to some high percentage, before the outbreaks just die away from population immunity. Of course, it's possible it won't die even then, just keep circulating, with very few hospitalizations, among even a fully-vaccinated population.

    One wonders whether there is any herd-immunity from the variants now, that we see nontrivial numbers of "breakthrough" cases among the fully-vaccinated. Maybe we don't stop seeing cases until well into spring, when we not only have 90% vaccination down to age one, but most of the rest have survived it, and many of the vaccinated have had their immunity boosted again by contracting it anyway. Maybe only then.

    The health-pass is important, but with "the end" not coming until spring, the health pass is just a step along the road, not even one that takes us into the home stretch.

    http://brander.ca/c19#nobump


    August 25: Why Didn't They Vaccinate Afghanistan?

    The image at left will take you to a terrible story about how hard it is to vaccinate in Pakistan, especially the tribal areas. Some are still shooting vaccination teams, because they aren't trusted. The assassination of Osama bin Laden used a fake vaccination team to confirm where he was, and the price has been paid by the local physicians.

    Maybe vaccination could have been revived in the area: maybe the US could have partnered with "locals" (as long as they didn't call themselves "Taliban" while partnering and taking US cheques) to provide security, while they toured the whole country, vaccinating everybody for free.

    Wouldn't that have been a wonderful opportunity to locate everybody who wanted to leave, get their contact info, and arrange early departure months ago?

    Just asking.

    It must be conceded, CCCC should have promoted this idea months ago, at the same time it demanded we "Vaccinate Palestine!". Afghanistan felt like the virus wouldn't come there, so few tourists! But of course it was coming, still is, and we'll have very few options to help when it does.

    Mostly, I wanted an excuse to mention Afghanistan so that I could link any reader to the do-not-miss, appointment-reading article by George Monbiot in The Guardian, on those to blame for Afghanistan that the media are not mentioning. That would, obviously, be the news media.


    P.S.: CCCC is declaring a bounty: a free drink will be provided to anybody could can find a commentator who is both (a) saying stuff like 'why won't the Afghans fight for their country like we did?', and (b) an anti-vaxxer who won't fight for OUR country like we are.

    http://brander.ca/c19#vaxafghanistan


    August 24: CCCC Will Generously Take Credit

    I think it was the Soviet General's Hat that did it. Even the most even-tempered doctor can only take so much. CCCC has been ragging on the provincial government for some weeks now, since our new surge started. A health pass was demanded, and a superspreader restaurant was exposed. So CCCC called her a failing general and told her to ignore the noisy minority.

    And, by God, she actually did it. The whole careful plan, with its schedule of dates, was tossed unceremoniously in the dumpster this morning. That's after the almost-as-surprising health pass announcement the day before. That last was going to be today's topic, but it's been superceded.

    Looks like the war is back on, with a bold counterstrike. I can't wait to see what the vaccination rate ticks up to, for the next few weeks. Quebec only jumped ahead a few tenths of a percent following their health pass, but they keep pulling ahead of BC. Now, their rate-of-increase, at 0.1% of the population, per day, for the last week, is almost half-again ours, which has been 0.07% of our population per day, last week.

    We are closing in on theoretical herd-immunity levels of course, so fast progress is now impossible; so few left to lean on, whatever the pressure. Health passes should be great for reaching the younger set that have had the least incentive until now. If we could get a few tenths of a percent in the next week, and if it bumped back up to 0.1%/day for all September, we'll be very close to 90% of the over-12 population, if still under 80% of the whole population.

    But the "over 12" population numbers strongly imply what the whole-population percentage will be after kids can get it: a family that got vaccinated is likely to protect their youngest, as well.

    While we're on the military metaphors, think of this month, not as a reverse, as lost ground: think of it as the Battle of the Bulge, the enemy's last Big Push to hold off our win. After we crush this curve, it's a steady march to the endgame of childhood vaccination.

    http://brander.ca/c19#allcredit


    August 23: Schedule My Booster When "That Could Have Been Me"

    I could do a post today that involves some graphics, even some research. Or I could goof off and just vent an opinion. (Keep in mind it's free, and I'm much less irritating than Rex Murphy, though admittedly, so is everybody else.)

    I just read the top lines of an article about a 72-year-old, dead of COVID the other day, despite full vaccination. But people only take action when they read of a death and think "that could have been me"..and not even then, when it comes to traffic accidents. Drownings. Lightning strikes, certainly - and most diseases. We write them all off as unlikely, so that we can get on with living instead of worrying.

    All the COVID coverage can skew your risk-assessments the other way, make it seem like a stalking terror, when even one vaccination lowers its risks into the zone of many others we face, including seasonal flu. Two vaccinations definitely lowers the risk by more than 99%, i.e. my 63-year-old risk down to what teenagers had without vaccination.

    If you are in a special risk group - which, a year after vaccination, this December for the 85+ demographic, might include a few million people, then OK, a booster. But if even they are not at as much risk as seasonal flu that many of them don't vaccinate for, it's hysteria (by comparison) to rate your need for a booster over a 60-something, 3rd-world healthcare worker's need for a first dose.

    Those who are dying despite vaccination do not give me a "that could have been me" sensation, any more than I get that when reading about a lottery winner, and go buy a ticket.

    Should variants and mutations raise my risk of serious illness and death way, way up, all the way to 0.5% again, I'll think about it. In the meantime, my long-term risk is minimized by lowering the virus' chance of coming up with those new attacks: by vaccinating the every human that it can experiment in, and dropping global cases down to ignorable numbers.

    http://brander.ca/c19#nobooster


    August 22: Shut Out the Noisy Minority

    Basically a single-article reference, to David Graham at the Atlantic, writing about the opposite of Nixon's (fictitious) "Silent Majority". Those vaccine-freedom-fighters are an unpopular, but very noisy, minority, distinctly.

    Graham's working from multiple polls. An Aixos Poll shows a solid 69% of Americans favor mandates in schools. At left, the summary of the Gallup Poll indicating similar support for mandates in workplaces. Graham wrote in May 2020 about the remarkable American "unity" supporting social distancing, with 80% opposing the re-opening of theatres, gyms, restaurants.

    We are all beset by the noisy minority. I have to blame them for the wan, weak response to the fourth wave that I've been decrying the last few days: I think the public health officers are afraid of them, not without reason.

    The politicians above them are leery, too: they know that those willing to demonstrate and act up for the cameras can place disproportionate weight on public perception of the politician: and heavy-handed reactions can backfire.

    If they've been waiting for a better moment, surely it has come: the Gallup poll at left shows how the support has been rising for four months straight, and now the case-loads are squeezing the hospitals.

    The majority may not be silent, but they haven't been loud enough, either: maybe we should make some real noise.

    http://brander.ca/c19#noisymin


    August 21: Fog and Filthy Air

    "Fair is Foul, and Foul is Fair;
    Hover through fog and filthy air."
              -Witch's Chant, Macbeth

    That was pretty much the choice we had in Revelstoke, earlier this week. Outside, air so smokey, we had to wash our car off in the morning. On the inside of this pub restaurant, there was little ventilation, to keep the smoke out, the place was packed with a pre-pandemic spacing of tables, no plastic sheets up, no masks anywhere.

    Revelstoke is JUST outside the Okanagan segment of the Interior Health Region, thus the restaurant was not required to observe any of the minor restrictions that General Bonnie had applied, so surgically, only to that sub-region. She's now applied it to the whole Interior Region, after cases continued to climb, as noted yesterday.

    What a perfect day to bring this up. My fave guy at The Tyee, Andrew Nikiforuk, has just published an article about how wildfire smoke makes COVID 10% more likely to infect. Whether it does this by reducing lung function, or just giving covid particles a free ride on smoke particles, will be studied for some time yet, but the point is that the pandemic fight should have been even more conservative during the wildfires. With cases rising not just in the Okanagan region, but even on Vancouver Island, everywhere in BC, restrictions should not have been so narrow.

    Most of the restaurants in Revelstoke seemed to be closed. The half-or-less that were open, were pretty busy, making them all risky-feeling. We weren't bothered, because of our vaccinations, and our intent to stay pretty close to home for some time after arrival. If we'd been on our way to visit an 89-year-old, it would have been more worrying. For all I know, we're infected, asymptomatic, and shedding virus right now.

    Probably not, but we'll be informally isolating for a week yet, just because that supper gave us nerves. But we had only a choice between eating vending machine food out in the filthy air, or going inside, into the foggy air.

    Macbeth cursed the witches with the imprecation "Infected be the air on which they ride". Fingers crossed, it didn't apply to that pub.

    http://brander.ca/c19#revelsmoke


    August 20: Generals Fighting the Last Wave

    With military generals, the cliche' is that they're always fighting the last war, (now, we'll get it right). I'm losing faith in our pandemic generals, they seem to be dealing with the new variant like it was the last wave, and it's not working.

    Today is two weeks since Hiroshima Day, when our good Dr. B. announced more restrictions for the BC Interior to fight the obviously-starting Fourth Wave.

    Two weeks later, cases are higher than ever there, and her restrictions did not have any nuclear bomb effects on the Interior's COVID wave. Actually, there are no detectable effects of any kind. Interior numbers did go down for a week, but they're springing back to where they were when restrictions started.

    It's not just that the Interior cases (orange) are pretty static so far, in the high 200s per day; the Coastal region is steadily climbing towards 100/day, and the perenially-worst Fraser region is climbing, too, towards 200/day. No restrictions of any kind have been announced for either region.

    The vaccines aren't going to save us before spring, that's clear. More-highly-vaccinated places like Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Vermont have had waves worse than this already. Our number in critical care has more than doubled in three weeks, no reason for it not to double and double again by mid-September.

    The public is absolutely in the mood for vaccine mandates, mask mandates, actively-safe schools and workplaces. Our generals do not lack for ammunition; but they seem to be lacking in the fortitude to use it.

    It's like waiting for the Conservative party to ponderously, langorously, finally, turn towards acceptance that Global Warming is really a Thing.

    Generals should keep up to the tempo of the war.

    http://brander.ca/c19#lastwave


    August 19: Plus Ca Change

    My French is so deteriorated, I can't even finish that famous phrase without looking it up, but it's "the more things change, the more they stay the same" in English. The cartoon, you see, dates to 1930.

    After a 10-day vacation from blogging, what the heck, back to it. The virus hasn't quit attacking us, and the morons of the world haven't quit helping it, so CCCC sadly still has work to do.

    There's serious issues happening (as always, during a pandemic) but for an easy return day, let's just regard this 90-year-old cartoon. The villains are "anti-vaccinationist", who are still around, and still going strong, albeit really just a few percent of the population. It's "Faddist" that I'm going to jump on. Anti-vaccination was a liberal fad for a while there: liberals distrust The Man, right? Big Pharma Corporations and their "thimerosal" denial. Haven't heard much from them, lately.

    It's the alt-right, quasi-fascist bunch that I call out as faddists. They aren't anti-vax because they came into 2019 hating vaccine companies and technologies: it's a fad way to own the libs. They've always looked for whatever liberals are serious, solemn, and judgemental about, then aggressively done the opposite. If the liberal anti-vaxxers had been able to convince many other liberals to go along, you just know the alt-righters would be militant pro-vaccinators by now.

    Then there's "Mr. Careless" - the majority of the unvaccinated so far just aren't alarmed about the issue. A lot of them are young, and have absorbed the year of reminders that they aren't in danger of much more than a bad flu experience, just a few percent odds of hospital - which they also risk at work or in sport. We can only work on them with patience.

    I like the "anti-everything" guy, though, particularly his outfit. Another eternal constant in society.

    It may not be a focus right now, but the number that sticks out for me is the low vaccination rate of the 12-17 group. Nobody is really leaning on that one, with clinics tailored to them. (School access would be ideal, and Dr. Bonnie is not making sense when she avoids them: for 12-17, the public clinics are just not getting the job done.) These are the ultimate "Mr. Careless" cases, where they'd get it if you made it convenient (or required) enough; they just have no personal incentive. But we need to remove them as vectors.

    The value of an all-vaccine strategy, currently in favour, versus returns to some restrictions, is another topic. More tomorrow.

    http://brander.ca/c19#antivax1930


    August 9: What We Could Do With a Health Pass

    We went to Black Widow a few days back, and there was plenty of room. Lots of restaurants have room, too, and all the bars. Business is not that good.

    It goes without saying that a French-style health pass would make a lot of us more likely to put our butts in seats if we were sure the whole place was fully vaccinated, (or recently tested negative).

    But I'm on about the other effect, that CCCC touched on immediately, but now has four weeks of data to confirm it: the jump in vaccinations. The graph at left is almost unique in the world at the moment, though Italy and Greece should be doing the same soon: the vaccination rate went up, instead of steadily down, like everywhere else.

    The red line is me taking a guess where vaccination rates would be if they'd continued on the curve that preceded the health pass annoucement on July 12. I think they'd be at about 60% by now. (First dose). Instead, they hit 65% the other day, and it will continue.

    Canada seems to be on a fairly steady trajectory: we've gained about 3.4% in those same last four weeks. It keeps slowing, so I can't assume we'll make only 3% in the next four, from 72% TO 75%. That extra 5% would take us all the way to 80% of the population, 90% of the over-12s, by the day after Labour Day, with classrooms filling.

    90% of those surrounding the kids would give them a semblance of herd immunity, keep a lot of schools open. Dr. Bonnie herself notes, in stressing vaccination over restrictions, that just a few percent can make crucial differences in case-rates. Only 10% of adults not-vaxxed could be a huge difference from 15%.

    So for multiple reasons, a French health pass could be all the difference between a slow stagger towards normalcy by spring, and a steady stride towards it by Thanksgiving. The difference between normalcy only after spring child-vaccination, and reaching it with adults alone, months earlier.

    There are other things, of course, and the media are on them. Some hope comes from polls that show official "non-emergency" approval for the vaccines would help, and being able to get the shot from your family doctor. The first has to wait; the whole reason it confers trust is the plodding, careful pace of the approval process. The other, we could start looking into as vaccination rates fall even further.

    The way we've been running things, it'll be done as a hasty desperation move when outbreaks start in schools and a fall wave begins. Our public health people are not pro-active go-getters, I'm afraid; they've been reacting, a beat behind, through the whole emergency.

    CCCC will be on a vacation break for a few days.

    http://brander.ca/c19#healthpassvax


    August 8: Outbreaks in Hypervaccinated Zones: Yukon vs Gibraltar

    The places with small populations, that make for a tight community spirit, are the best vaccinators, by far. Iceland, with under 500,000 people, at 80%.

    Canada's own Yukon, with just 36,000 people, is our best, at 73% fully-vaccinated. It's also got our worst virus cases, if you measure per capita. Yukon looks bad if it has five cases a day - and it's getting them, despite the 12+ population at fully ninety percent vaccinated.

    But nobody can beat Gibraltar, population just under the Yukon's at, 33,000 - because they're at 116% vaccinated. They vaccinated the Spanish workers that come for the day. They vaccinated British tourists before they went home, when supply was just starting to hit Britain. Alas, that overachieving kind of hides what actual percentage of real residents didn't step up.

    Gibraltar recently had its 95th death, putting it very high on the deaths-per-capita. It's their first death since the vaccinations, though, and it was to a 65-year-old with pre-conditions, and was unvaccinated.

    Basically, the virus hunted down the one unvaccinated guy left in Gibraltar, and killed him out of spite. No. Kidding. Viruses don't hunt. This tells us that the virus is still circulating around Gibraltar - perhaps partly the unvaccinated children - Gibraltar is just recently going down below age 16, so nearly 20% of the population actually isn't vaccinated, right there - partly the very few unvaccinated adults, partly just spreading through the vaccinated.

    It pretty much implies there's no such thing as a herd-immunity percentage for Delta, at least not without kids included. Eight in hospital, out of 244 cases, suggest these mostly are not vaccinated cases. It's able to reach them through the "screen" of the vaccinated.

    Yukon has been forthright, that for them, it's a pandemic of the children. They have had six deaths - five unvaccinated, one partially. Gibraltar simply hasn't said whether its cases are mostly adults, mostly vaccinated, or not. But what they have done is probably instructive: they've cancelled large parties like the one in the picture.

    That's the big difference. Gibraltar is a vacation and party town, for Spain and Britain alike: it specializes in events like the above. If your behaviours are unsafe enough, there's just no protection for the unvaccinated, due to "herd immunity" of the more-responsible people around them.

    Yukon's youth issues (which may well affect us all come fall and school) will go away when kids are vaccinated. Gibraltar's, apparently, will only go away if they either give up those parties forever, or the remaining few percent of adults quit depending on the rest of them.

    http://brander.ca/c19#yukongib


    August 7: USA Beating UK at COVID-catching Olympics

    It's time to give Jason a break by putting Kenney in context with the real COVID-promoters in the USA and UK. (Brazil and India are in a whole other league that more-advanced nations simply can't compete in.)

    There's no point in showing the soaring curves for cases, and now for deaths, in the USA. They're just the classic exponentials we were already tired of last year. The UK cases-per-day chart, though, is different, interesting, and not predictable (I'm going to anyway, because, again, the CCCC superpower is its irresponsibility). It's at right.

    All were alarmed when an absolute spike happened from about Jun 20 to July 20, from 9000 cases/day to 45,000, in one month. But then the spike reversed, daily cases plummeted for nearly two weeks. Articles came out suggesting that Britain had beaten COVID, that BoJo's gamble had worked - the spike was just a temporary, one-time problem with men; in England; because of soccer matches. Hooray!

    Then, a few days ago, the plummet halted, cases may even be going back up again, though the 7-day average has only leveled off so far. Predicting the future after that, is folly. I will, anyway: cases will rise, fall, in different places, to different groups, and probably stay up at what Canada would call an unacceptable level. They're currently at 26,000/day, about 14,000 a day for the Canadian population. We actually have 1,000 now, peaked at 8,000 on our worst day - puts Kenney in context, no?

    There are more unvaccinated bodies for COVID to eat in the UK than here in BC, where cases are soaring. There's no reason it won't circulate around, finding one "unvaccinated cluster" after another, in various towns and industries and sports groups, any gatherings of any sort. I don't see any chance of the 7-day average dropping much.

    But America is still just slowly accepting these same truths, in the worst places, and many places have a deeply-ingrained ability to ignore it, after all the propagandizing. Whereas Britain's death-rate will probably drop from recent days, over the next two weeks, because we're now 18 days past the sharp peak they hit, so this weeks' death rate will be a peak, too. America's case-count is still just rising, so even if it stops going up in another week or so, the death-count will keep going up for a month yet, certainly past a thousand per day. (7-day will pass 500/day on this weekend).

    So, CCCC is irresponsibly ready to predict the outcome of its "Death Race 2021", grim-joke of a contest. The industrialized-nation Olympics of killing your own population is going to be won by the USA and its tenacious anti-mask, anti-vax nutbars, who have their own TV network.

    While the UK death rate loiters about in the dozens per day, their "deaths per million" column on worldometers barely going up by one per day, the American death rate is heading up to a thousand, and that column will rise by two, then three per day, until it finally surpasses the UK pandemic total at last. The two countries had the gap between their numbers down to 10 in the Death Race 2021 post, and America has already closed the gap to 8. I think they pull into the lead in just over a week.

    Both nations are out of the medals, they can't catch Belgium and Italy. But those worthies kind of "won" the game unwillingly; America and UK are actually trying to win, you'd swear.

    http://brander.ca/c19#ukvsusa


    August 6: Other Journalistic Treasure Goes After Kenney, Too

    I guess it's just Jump-on-Jason week, here at CCCC. Yesterday, I called The Beaverton a Canadian journalistic treasure. I think I've already lavished comparable praise on the recent work of Andrew Nikiforuk over at The Tyee.

    Well, the Tyee's top story today is Nikiforuk doing the smackdown on Team Kenney, with the headline "Alberta Joins Team 'Just Give Up'".

    The article contains extensive comparisons to Florida, which is at 58% vaccinated, to Alberta's 64%. It's also five times the size. Even dividing by five, though, is Alberta really going to 4000 cases/day, 40 deaths? That's twice as bad as the worst of the last peaks.

    As highly as I regard Nikiforuk, I'm not sure that'll happen. I've come to think there are just inherent cultural differences between Canadians and Americans, and those differences are deepest with their "deep south", like Florida. So I suspect that, as cases rise, and hospitals even start to fill up, the Alberta populace will do their own self-protection, which Floridans are just starting to think about, as their hospitals max out.

    Nobody, even Florida, will get to India's situation, for sure. When there are tent hospitals and no ventilators left, people dying for lack of equipment, they'll turn it around; even the India did that, despite their government being worse than useless.

    Speaking of India, I have to preen how on-same-page Mr. Nikiforuk and myself are on specifically blaming some covid-denialist authoritarian (or would-be) specific leaders for the variants:

    Boris Johnson's lax approach in England created the Alpha variant. Jair Bolsonar denied biology and cursed Brazil with the Gamma variant. Modi's shoddy governance of India gave the world the Delta variant.

    Right on! It's the BoJo Bug, the Bolsonaro Blight, and the Modi Malady that are ruining 2021.

    But, we can all help out change the trajectory, by mocking, insulting and criticizing Alberta to the max. We all need to start emphasizing what a majority we are: three-quarters of the population, over 90% of the elderly. This isn't a political "controversy", it's a settled question with a small, very loud minority disputing truths accepted by nearly everybody.

    So that's why it's Jump-on-Jason week at CCCC. For his own good.

    http://brander.ca/c19#teamgiveup


    August 5: Two Truths About Kids and Covid

    Well, the whole nation, it seems, is teeing off on Alberta, and their apparently-insane decision to not even test-and-trace, not demand isolation, any more. Canada's great national journalism treasure, The Beaverton, is diving in with the story at left, and also Alberta relaxes COVID precautions, demands Trudeau build them a COVID pipeline for exports.

    Deena Hinshaw is attracting particular scorn, or pity, for her quote that "It's important to remember that COVID-19 isn't the only risk our kids face. For children under 12, COVID-19 infection is equivalent to, or even possibly slightly less risky, than seasonal influenza."

    On the one hand, she's provably correct. That link is to the big CDC summary-of-mortality page, where you can check the numbers: for kids 1-14, there have been 160 COVID deaths in America, so far. It's just over a percent of all the deaths in that age group, from all causes. It's roughly doubled the "deaths by pneumonia" over the same period. The influenza deaths, in a low-influenza year, were 145, nearly as high as COVID. So she's right.

    On the other hand, the column in the Washington Post by Texas pediatric care professor, Heather Haq is also a truth:

    Over the course of the pandemic, our hospital system has diagnosed more than 15,000 children and adolescents with covid - a number that is trending up. About 10 percent of them have required hospital admission. Up to one-third of children admitted to our hospital have required critical care - including oxygen delivered through high-flow nasal cannula, noninvasive ventilation, and intubation with mechanical ventilation. When I discharge children from the hospital, I know that many of them have a long road to recovery, and many will require follow-up for cardiac clearance and long-term care in our hospital's long-covid clinic.
    These truths do not exclude each other. COVID can require hospital treatment of 10% of kids, but kill only 0.01% of them, like the kid sprained an ankle. Hinshaw is looking only at mortality, not how many flu patients have "long flu" symptoms for months and years.

    Kenney is taking the same gamble as Boris Johnson with the UK, and the UK having a sharp drop in cases after one spike, is probably Hinshaw's real backing for the bet. Politicians live or die by public perceptions, however, and low death counts won't beat pictures of multiple kids in hospital beds getting oxygen. If the new variants rip through the kids of Alberta the way they did through kids in Yukon, we may get them.

    I wish the kids luck, even though it means wishing Jason Kenney political luck, in the bargain.

    http://brander.ca/c19#kids


    August 4: UK Studies Counteract Bad Coverage of Provincetown

    I won't provide the WaPo link to their bad coverage of the Provincetown outbreak in Massachussetts. The link is to SFGate crticizing same.

    The Post was echoed around America when they implied that the outbreak, where 75% of people testing positive were vaccinated, showed that vaccination can't prevent infection or transmission. If 75% were vaccinated, and 75% of those positive were vaccinated, then vaccination gives you 0% protection against infection, just against symptoms; that erroneous conclusion, just implied, became the takeway.

    That stank, to me, from the get-go. I'd long since read very clear results showing vaccination reduces transmission by a factor of six. Examination of 500,000 UK households showed the vaccinated are a third as likely to catch it, from a given exposure, and just over half as likely to transmit it. (I think the WaPo story also noted that there was "just as much virus in the nose tissues" in the vaccinated, implying that they were just as likely to transmit, but not saying it. Just implying. Another false takeway.) The story did not note the conflict with previous information. It didn't note how many out of the vaxed and un-vaxed populations were infected, just reports on those already positive. It was bad statistics; it was bad journalism.

    It's great to have a second study, from England, confirming the original numbers are changed only a little by the Delta Variant, as opposed to the Alpha Variant common during the first study.

    The new study, taken after Delta had become dominant, found "50%-60% reduced risk of infection", almost as good as the 66% reduction for Alpha. 59% for actually getting any symptoms. At all. Across a random sample of people, 1.21% of the unvaccinated were actually positive, 0.4% of the vaccinated. Three to one.

    The study also confirmed that "young people" are driving the UK wave, a quarter of the population with half the infections. They are the least-vaccinated cohort, and the most-likely to have unvaccinated "clusters" at workplaces and schools.

    http://brander.ca/c19#provincetown


    August 3: Pity

    A private school in Miami banned teachers vaccinated against COVID-19 from contact with students because of its co-founder's misguided beliefs in anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.
    ...
    She noted that vaccinated individuals "may be transmitting something from their bodies" that could harm others, particularly the "reproductive systems, fertility, and normal growth and development in women and children."


    Amid recent surging coronavirus cases in Florida, a top Republican National Committee official in the state has spread anti-vaccine rhetoric and misinformation, comparing the Biden administration's vaccine efforts to Nazi-era "brown shirts," and twice calling the vaccines "the mark of the beast," comparable to a "false god."

    Tennessee's top immunization official, Dr. Michelle Fiscus, said she was fired this week after distributing a memo that said some teenagers could be eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine without their parents' consent.
    Whether Jason Kenney deserves the "killer" jokes about him, at left, is pretty much still to be seen. Alberta hasn't had the best pandemic response, but the gross (very gross) numbers are about 400 deaths/million vs 350 for BC. He hasn't been awful, just bad when graded on a Canadian curve. His "Darwin Stampede" has been blamed for "only" a hundred-odd cases, probably not even the one death, since most over-65s don't hit the Stampede, are mostly vaccinated by now, even in low-vax Alberta.

    His huge re-opening, amid high cases and Canada's worst vaccination drive, probably will get more people killed than a "Friday the 13th" movie, but, grading on an American curve, (see above), he's only poor, not terrible - like Doug Ford.

    They are the worst we've got - and Canada now stands remarkably well in the CCCC standings. Most of the nations that have fewer deaths/million than Canada are either very small, more easily-isolated (Australia and NZ), or are Scandanavian.

    We get to pity a lot of nations that you'd have thought would be really great at the pandemic: much of Western Europe, certainly, and of course the very proud one that always chants "#1, all the way" after their name.

    http://brander.ca/c19#notamerica


    August 2: Fatalism

    Everybody knows the boat is leaking
    Everybody knows the captain lied
    Everybody's got this broken feeling
    Like their father or their dog just died
    ...
    Everybody knows the Plague is coming
    Everybody knows it's moving fast...
    - Leonard Cohen, "Everybody Knows" excerpts

    Everybody knows the wave is coming. Certainly Tony Fauci knows there's more pain and suffering ahead. Tony's opposite number, Theresa Tam, knows, even if she's far too dry and disconnected from the patients to talk of "suffering", just "cases".

    Global TV is interviewing the public health officers who know it's coming for the kids, including teenagers who do suffer the agony of "long covid" diseases.

    None of this is having the slightest effect on re-opening plans, or creating any more urgency for vaccinations.

    The "teenagers" interview on Global made me sit up. It may still be illegal to vaccinate under 12, but our rate for those 12-17 is just 37%. We really need to be talking about vaccination requirements for schools. Not what's now "The M Word" (mandates), just requirements that non-vaccinated kids have to distance, mask, and test constantly, as they were all last year. Make some noise about that, so that sane parents go "oh, hell, nah" and get those kids in to the clinic during summer. Point out that the rules will apply to all who aren't, say, 14 days past their second dose, that if they get in immediately, their kid can qualify September 7 if they get in this week. (Also, target children directly with advertising: they can come in on their own.)

    Canadian fatalism is as nothing to American, certainly. Here's some really fatal fatalism for you: Florida's death count has mounted up past 50/day, lately, based on the ~4000 infections/day three weeks ago. It's now passing 20,000 per day, so you can fatalistically forecast 200+ dead/day in three weeks or so. They saw those numbers back in January, a few weeks after passing 20,000 cases/day back then. Florida history is not repeating as farce, just as another pile of dead bodies, probably about 10,000 of them in total before the "avoidable wave" subsides.

    And everybody is fatalistic about the coming fatalities. Maybe its a kind of psychological immune system that we're developing instead of a physical one.

    http://brander.ca/c19#fatalism


    August 1: U of Sick

    There was this low point in my university years I've never forgotten. It was my second degree, mid-80s, and I was working for The Gauntlet, the UofC student paper. I was sitting in on a presentation to the Student Council, I think, where liberal arts students that had been sent over to the Engineering Building for classes because of space limitations, wanted their classes moved to any other building. Or, rather, not to chemistry or physics buildings, either: a liberal-arts-only building with no labs.

    They'd seen these plaques on doors, required by safety regulations, as seen at left. The laser one. But, especially the "radioactivity inside" sign. They complained that they were in danger. They said they shouldn't have to face danger, like the "students in the hard sciences". They shouldn't have to walk though halls that had radioactivity, just on the other side of a door.

    I'll spare you the debate that ensued. Suffice to say that the point that there was no danger, that "hard science" students were emphatically not expected to face any danger to get their degree, that the signage was the first of several layers of protection that any worker or citizen of any kind was always protected by, just as are medical personnel and patients...leading to a zero radioactivity accident rate, then or since...none of it impressed them.

    The low point was that the University administration agreed to let them move. I wanted them publicly flogged with embarrassment and mockery, apologized to that the University had failed to teach them critical thinking and simple arithmetic. It's a pretty recent thing, for me, that it's the crazed populist/fascist right-wing that are the anti-vaxxers. As recently as a few years ago, it was the liberal left that were the anti-science bunch, mistrusting nuclear and chemical industries. (I have a problem with a certain sort of liberal that says "follow the science" until the science says a small nuclear reactor should be very safe, then they start ranting about compromised, industry-shill "scientists", with insults added.)

    This time, the University is going along with similarly-ignorant politics, even if much of the faculty isn't. The faculty, at least, are calling for vaccine requirements. It's a no-brainer. Vaccination rates go lower with younger groups. This is Canada, so even our 18-29 group are at 68%, and I like to think (don't want to know) that the University crowd are higher than that. But, it's not enough. A University, students sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in friggin' theatres, is a perfect transmission environment.

    This note from one of the lab instructors is almost painful to read:

    The fact that I'm not *allowed* to *require* masks in my lab course of 800 students feels dangerous. It's not a matter of if, but when my students get Covid, what's the protocol for their lab mates and TA?
    You shouldn't have to make plans for when something avoidable happens. You should be able to just make the plans to avoid it.

    Perhaps the thing to do is just slap another of those signs, only on the whole University. (Right).

    http://brander.ca/c19#university


    July 31: America Is Vaxxing Faster Now, For Some Reason

    The CCCC news is that Canada got first doses of vaccine into an additional 1.7% of its population in the first half of July, dropping to just 1.4% in the second half; America only got 1.1% vaccinated, July 1-15, then it ticked up - to the same as Canada, 1.4% vaccinated, July 15-30.

    Every nation has been slowly declining in vaccination rates - except France and the other European nations that followed along with Macron's new policies, and now, America, despite a complete lack of vaccine requirements from government.

    I'm looking forward to the end of my Washington Post subscription in 12 days, it'll be good for my mental health: way too much Washington Soap Opera about Evil Mitch vs Good Joe, and what are Susan Collins and Manchin thinking today. But I have to admit, they have the resources to get out there and investigate, sometimes.

    The Washington Post story about "A Rush to Get Shots" are the anecdotes behind the CCCC statistic. The 25-year-old woman who'd be avoiding the shots because of false reports they cause infertility.

    The lady running the vax clinics in a Houston hospital notes the increase "...correlates with delta's rise and hospitalizations". She adds "unfortunately", people don't make the decision until they have a personal encounter, a family member or other loved one sickened, even hospitalized.

    There's one fair point in the anecdotes I'll concede: it's easier to not be the pioneer, that a month or two after a hundred million people got shots, it's easier to trust they aren't harmful.

    But then the story is back to the Arkansas governor has had to combat the idea that the shots are a "bioweapon". (You'd think they'd be cheering on the hated liberals subjecting themselves to its terrible harms; America will be theirs for the taking after all the liberals die or turn into zombies.)

    You have to sympathize with the 12-year-old that was led to believe the shot would magnetize her, based on TikTok videos of people with spoons stuck to them.

    It's all too little, too late, of course: at 0.1% per day, America is about 250 days away from passing 80% vaccinated. At least by then, the kids will be getting it too, and it'll jump to 90%.

    But 200 days is a long time for covid to run rampant. Too little, too late.

    I looked up the one state mentioned. Oklahoma vaccinated 1% of her population, July 1-15, and 2% for July 15-30. It's at 47%, so it needs about another 30% to really reduce infection rates. If it could double the vaccinations again, to 8% per month, they'd be into Canada's territory by the end of October.

    Too little, too late.

    http://brander.ca/c19#usvaxup


    July 30: Is This Another Forever War?


    It's easy to get depressed this week, if you're a number-cruncher. Nothing but soaring numbers locally, and in Canada, upwards in general - despite all those vaccinations!

    The sudden plunge in numbers in Britain may have reversed, again, even - case-counts straight upwards for three days in a row, now. Or is that a bump before the still-mysterious decline continues? Nobody even knows, and the honest experts are saying so.

    Bad news across Europe, terrible news in Australia, China battling the worst outbreak since Wuhan, what happened to our happy vaccinated summer? (It's just over a year since CCCC declared the "maybe it will go away in the heat" theory dead. Well, now, it's dead, fed into a woodchipper, and used to fertilize the garden.)

    But, take heart.

    If you're vaccinated and not in really bad health, then the case-count is unimportant to your personal safety. Heck, walk through a COVID ward, get coughed on, go ahead and catch it. Your odds of hospitalization are still just 1%, your odds on that being for more than rest and some oxygen a tenth of that. Your life is now full of worse risks than COVID. Worry about traffic or drowning at the beach instead. All of the current pandemic fight is to save the lives of the unvaccinated.

    We vaccinated types have actually won our war. Now we're fighting for others. That's a very Canadian thing to do, of course: we only ever had to fight for our own country 55 years before it existed, in 1812. Every Canadian fighter has died for some other guy's country.

    While CCCC humbly recognizes that exactly nobody has gone along with the new terminology for variants (The BoJo Bug and the Modi Malady), it's needed to come up with a single, clear word for the unvaccinated, that avoids all judgement about anti-vaxxers, vs vaccine-"hesitant", vs vaccine-"procrastinating"... or other nuances.

    They are all, of every stripe, generically the vaccine-wrong. Whatever their reasons, whether they are passionate or just lazy, they're wrong. And here we vaccine-right are having to put on masks to protect them.

    But we do have the virus on the run. The Battle of the Bulge was horrendous, but Germany was already as good as defeated, it just took time to wear down the last resistance. Vaccines are coming for kids by spring at latest, and by then, I strongly suspect that vaccination rates will have crawled up to the 90% level for everybody else, at least in sane countries like ours. If even that doesn't mean herd immunity, it does mean so few people will be at serious risk that it finally will be "just a nasty flu".

    It's a dark week, but have a little faith that dawn is coming. (He told himself, over and over.)

    http://brander.ca/c19#forever


    July 29: COVID Can Be Beaten

    As we watch cases in BC and Alberta just soar higher every day, it's easy to get discouraged. Starting so late today, I'll just dash off a paragraph. Let's point out that both India and Brazil were written off as COVID basket-cases, with terrible leaders that denied the very problem and exacerbated the spread.

    Both nations are unquestionably beating the wave. Their awful leaders can lie about only so much, not about there being less than half the cases now than were there at peak. Without government regulation or help, people protected themselves, their families, their neighbourhoods, and those informal measures alone broke the pandemic.

    The one I guess I can note, though I'm still a little skeptical, is that something bizarre is happening in the UK: it was having explosive case growth and was predicted to be going from 50,000/day to 100,000 or 200,000 soon. Instead, it seems not to be reporting error that cases have plummeted for the whole last week. Their experts are baffled, and offering very different explanations. One is just that the aborted wave already burned through the available "unvaccinated cluster" groups, leaving mostly well-vaccinated communities that hadn't already caught it.

    Wouldn't that be nice.

    http://brander.ca/c19#goingdown


    July 28: As the Fourth Wave Starts: Who's Still At Risk? How much?

    Well, the fourth wave is here, and I am heartily sick of monitoring its upswinging exponentials. Here's some simpler arithmetic. At right, the full table of vaccination-by-age from "health-infobase.canada", with some added columns.

    The first column, giving percentage and number vaccinated in each age group, allows a quick calculation of how many are NOT vaccinated, in that age group.

    Beside that column, the same numbers I keep using at CCCC, from the very first post, for the fraction of that age group that would die if they contracted COVID-19. The age/mortality numbers for the latest variants are not posted anywhere: but while new variants may be more deadly, we also have treatments now that Wuhan did not, so let's go with them.

    Multiply it all together, and you get the hypothetical butcher's bill for the following (extreme, ridiculous) scenario: that every unvaccinated person gets the disease, with full mortality probability, and the vaccine is 100% protection for all of us that have had even a single dose. Oversimplified, but useful for estimation.

    It's my own age group, the sixties, that's the worst contributor. There are twice as many 50-somethings not vaccinated, but they're a third as likely to die, so we're the biggest problem. If we could vaccinate as well as our elders (we're at 90%, the over-70s at 95%) we would cut our death-toll in half.

    The 50-somethings are the worry, for society: these people are at the peak of their life's work: the last decade of the job, where they're senior and relied-upon, raising teenagers, and being community pillars. They're only at 82% vaccinated, and they should be cutting their deaths in half by getting past 90%, as well. Because of their much-higher mortality, I'd make them more of an outreach target than those darn 20-somethings that are still under 70%. (Shame on them for being less-vaccinated than their younger siblings in 12-17, who have almost no mortality at all, and are totally doing it for grandma.)

    Keeping in mind that it's preposterous to imagine them all catching it in a fourth wave. The pandemic to-date has hit less than 4% of Canadians, tested, and almost surely less than 10% of the country, even counting cases that never knew they had it, or suffered through it without getting a test.

    So a fourth wave, even supposing "total opening" and the virus running wild, would probably only have 10%-20% of the death-toll at left, about 3000-6000 Canadians added to the 27,000 dead already. We lose about that number to flu every year! However: flu kills very few in their fifties, whereas COVID-19 would charge us 500-1000 of those prime-earner parents and bosses.

    So, I'd really rather see all those vaccination percentages get 5% added to them, probably cutting the toll in half again - and even some partial herd-immunity, perhaps, meaning "enough to slow it down", until the child vaccinations are approved, and we can maybe finally shut this bug down in 2022. Hope remains.

    http://brander.ca/c19#popatrisk


    July 27: Schadenfreude

    I have to use that word at least once a year to confirm I still know how to spell it. The title of a song in a Broadway Musical ("Avenue Q"), the German word for "taking pleasure in the troubles of others", where you enjoy it at the end of the movie when the villain monologues their Evil Plan, and it turns out the TV cameras were watching them the whole time, and they have to explain, as the heroes tiptoe out for a beer and a laugh. Of schadenfreude.

    Paul Krugman's newsletter this morning:

    It has also been amazing to watch many conservatives do a complete 180 on the rights of business owners. We've seen repeated court cases in which conservatives insisted that employers had the right to deny employees benefits based on the owners' religious beliefs, sellers could refuse to provide service to gay couples and so on. What you do with your business, the doctrine seemed to be, was up to you.

    But in the pandemic we suddenly had conservative politicians trying to prohibit stores from requiring that their customers wear masks, trying to prohibit cruise ships from requiring that passengers be vaccinated, and so on. All that rhetoric of freedom suddenly didn't apply ...

    Meanwhile, multiple papers are running columns like the one at left. The anti-vaxxers have been treated meekly and solicitously so far, but now that they are revealed as a truly small minority - and now that Mr. Modi's "Delta" contribution to the situation has made even 25% non-vaccination a risk - they're in for more serious opposition. Italy and Greece have rapidly followed the courage of France in demanding vaccine "passports" for all hospitality venues!

    Germany is lagging a bit on vaccination, so Ms. Merkel is only "expressing support" for passports until everybody has been offered the shot, but 60% of Germans want them. If Germany goes with them, that's it - the system will cross all Western Europe and set a world standard.

    The new standard basically says that "anti-vaxxers" are not acceptable in the polite company of decent people. There's no more need to shout at them, or engage with them in any way. It's up to them to join society, or just be shut out of gathering places.

    Which feels so good.

    The pandemic has been very hard on all conservative economic philosophies; the conservatives inexplicably threw in their lot with the nutcases who've always plauged (heh) the public sphere with superstitions that got a lot of kids infected with measles and other defeated diseases. Now it's all crashing down on them and they can explain to the TV cameras why it's the places where they hold sway that have the only choked hospitals and dying citizens.

    It's a serious situation, but I just can't help the schadenfreude.

    http://brander.ca/c19#schadenfreude


    July 26: Not a Great Day

    Well, I had the most-frustrating day today, and did little on this. But, suffice to say that BC is now taking off. Infections did not continue to skyrocket over the weekend, staying around 100/day. But they stayed around 40/day for a week just a week or so back. There's no reason to imagine they won't go like other countries with their surges. Dr. Bonnie, far from being reassuring, actually assured us that infections will just continue to increase in coming days and weeks.

    As we watch infections explode all over the world right now, in Australia, France, Japan, it's clear that the old levels of protection aren't working any more. And the health authorities are all about managing it, rather than "Get To Zero", which is just abandoned as even an aspiration.

    The only bright spot is purely competitive, and not practical: BC is, again, about to beat Quebec for "most-vaccinated large province", maybe even tomorrow, or certainly Wednesday. (Of course, I thought that before.) But this time, for sure!

    Mind you, that requires a redefinition of "large province" from just excluding northern territories and PEI, to excluding the million-some people in Nova Scotia. At 75% vaccinated by next weekend, they're hard to catch.

    And Canada has lost the hope of being "most vaccinated nation"; not only did United Arab Emirates suddenly declare themselves at 77%, Chile, of all places, has pulled ahead of us. Good for them. It's a silly thing to be competitive about (not as silly as several Olympic sports, of course), and the relevant thing is that none of us are particularly safe from outbreaks - until we get to 90% of adults and about 80% of all the kids.

    On a depressing day like this, I can admit it's going to be a two-year pandemic. About all you can say for 2021 is that it'll teach us to vaccinate, overcome the "skeptics", the "hesitant" and even, the "stupid". By spring 2022, when we can vaccinate kids, the adults will probably be mostly in line. Or naturally immune. Or naturally dead.

    http://brander.ca/c19#notgreat


    July 25: Macron's Program Nearly Doubled Vaccination Rates

    CCCC has already declared Macron of France a hero for his forthright, bold position on virtually-manadatory vaccinations.

    Today, the word "effective" can be added to his laurels.

    The CTV page on vaccinations (link from graphic) has the numbers from 'round the world, and just copying the last month of "first dose, population" numbers for France provides the two tracks at left. The slope jumped up from a quarter of a percent per day, to 0.43%. Multiply the difference (another 0.18%/day) and he's already stimulated an extra 2.4% of all France, one and a half million people, to get protected and saved from high risk of death.

    It might have something to do with it that France has experienced another classic exponential increase in cases during those weeks (at right); but, like Britain before them, this has had no effect on the death-rate (yet), so CCCC figures that a distinctly minor part of the story.

    Again: the French program is serious: medical workers won't be paid if unvaccinated past Sept 15; the "health pass" will be needed for most hospitality venues and transport; students and workers will need them, constantly pay for their own disease tests if unvaccinated. Fines are ruinous, and jail-time can result.

    The health pass is so vital, this could actually drive vaccination up to that needed 90% level. We now have a template for a real hope to beat the virus, to finally win that "race". It's not without political risks: 161,000 demonstrated against it, yesterday. But people are complying, and if the demonstrations die away, but the vaccinations continue, Macron wins. The results will surely see him forgiven this, at election time - as long as France vaccinates itself all the way up to safety.

    Or, as long as its safe for most. The health passes, even if they don't quell the case-load, will get all those bars and theatres and trains back into full business again. That will count for a lot.

    I hope our leaders are listening and watching. They've taken opposite positions - most insanely, in BC, where Dr. B is just too nice to ask care-home workers to vaccinated - but the virus is going to school them on the folly of that.

    France is still 13% behind Canada at first-dose-for-population, and I don't envy them. Yet. They may be ahead of us by September.

    http://brander.ca/c19#francevax


    July 24: The Price for Not Vaccinating Children

    We will go into the fall, we can now see, with accelerating case-loads, the virus all about us, and the kids sent to the petri dish of school.

    The unvaccinatable under-12s are 12% of the Canadian population, over 4 million people. The 5-11 group are more than half of that, at least two million. What if 5% of them catch COVID-19? Surely that's not a wildly high estimate, if the new variants are so transmissable.

    The American CDC published their data on school-aged children last October.

    I picked 5% not just because it's reasonable, but, as it happens, the CDC had data on just over 101,000 infections to kids aged 5-11. Yes, the outcomes were worse for non-white kids. Indeed, white kids were just 26% of the cases, probably half their representation in the population. No, it was not all about kids already very sick with underlying conditions. Only about one-third of the kids with dire outcomes had prior problems.

    Of the 100,000, about 1000 had to go to hospital; 145 to ICU; twenty died.

    On the other hand, the Canadian statistics are that the previous waves have "only" killed 14 youths, age 0-19, out of 275,000 cases in that age group. Less than a fifth as bad? Possibly, the American kids are just more-susceptible than ours - or, possibly, we keep worse statistics.

    Calling those ends of a spectrum still gives us the concern that NOT vaccinating the schoolchildren may be a much bigger "experiment", with more-deadly results, than vaccinating them. It's hard to believe that vaccination would be as dangerous, from what we know with the 12-17 kids.

    If the American figures are right, not-vaccinating all schoolkids is downright immoral. You don't avoid a small risk by taking a much-larger one. If the American figures are an order of magnitude high, and "only" two kids would die, a dozen go to ICU, it's more of a wash: maybe vaccines would be that bad. Even then, the additional risk the kids then pose to their elders, as disease vectors, should tip the decision.

    I know this is pointless; the public health bureaucracy is just not going to bend its rules, because they understand very personally that they will not be blamed for COVID deaths resulting from their "cautious inaction", but they will be blamed for vaccine problems resulting from "incautious action".

    So my proposal is merely to consider vaccinating the kids aged 10 and 11. Children get more gregarious, the older and more-confident they get: more friends, more activities, more independent action. We could probably eliminate over half the age 5-11 infections by vaccinating that 2/7ths of that cohort that are 10 and 11. If "bad outcomes" keep getting rarer with youth, then we might eliminate three-quarters of those.

    The choice of "12" as the vaccine age-of-majority is arbitrary. No immunologist is going to claim there's a stark difference between 11 and 12. We've now vaccinated over a million of them in Canada - over 150,000 twelve-year-olds. We have, by the way, vaccinated over 10,000 kids in the 0-11 group already, presumably because they have conditions that gave them special consideration.

    I'm just working from the sure fact that any bad vaccine reaction in a child would bring swift attention from the news, but I believe exactly none of this million have had scary reactions, save for a slight elevation in the background-rate of chest pains (heart inflammation), mostly in teen boys, and so far, without serious injury.

    So, that's the CCCC proposal: open up vaccination to 11-year-olds in mid-August, before school even starts. If nothing bad happens to them in the following month, go down to 10-year-olds in mid-September, before the "school wave" can get going, as it surely will. Vaccinating kids nearest to the already-tested age-12 level is the smallest risk, and the biggest payback.

    Canada led the world by being the first to approve 12-17 vaccinations; let's lead the world again.

    http://brander.ca/c19#kidvax


    July 23: Virus Wins Virus/Vax Race

    The media attempted to gin up a "virus/vaccine race" some months ago. The latest variants have rendered the question moot. Yukon continues to be the world-wide poster-child for the phenomenon: it's not just the most-vaccinated place in North America, but it's up there with the best in the world: 79% of the total population, from 96% of the 12+ population. It's also the worst coronavirus hotspot in the country, with 156 cases/million, making it just below Texas, #14 on the list at left. All the other Canadian regions are down below #45. Yukon is incapable of having an epidemic in those over 12, so it's having one for the under-12s, leaving some pretty sick, but nobody in hospital.

    The variants have ensured that no vaccination level that anybody is going to reach will stop a wave of infections. They're capable of explosive growth in the UK, with 68% of the population at one-dose, 54% at two. The UK has nothing on Vermont, the most-vaccinated US state, and better than all of Canada, save the Maritimes (right). But, at left, Vermont has the infection rate of Canada's second-worst vaccinator, Saskatchewan, which has 12% less population vaccinated than Vermont.

    We are all behaving as if we could re-open because the vaccines have saved us, when they haven't, and can't. The impression has been fostered by examples like Canada vs the USA. As these three graphics sum up, Canada is much more-vaccinated than all but the best US states, and also has far lower infection rates than all but their lowest. This is a great example of correlation that is not causation! The common-cause is that places that had low infection because of good behaviours, are all also the places that have high vaccination, because that is a good behaviour, too.

    Canada is clearly about to take off in infections, like the UK, moving on to the new, morally-disturbing "pandemic for the unvaccinated" phase of the story.

    Yikes.

    http://brander.ca/c19#vaxrace


    July 22: Deaths in the UK - Take the Log View

    No, not the long view, the log view. Logarithmic graphs have been essential since the very start of the pandemic, since the first CCCC post. They're the only way to see the problem as the virus sees it, as the epidemiologists see it.

    Those who are imagining that the UK death rate is now trivial, not worth staying closed over, are looking at the linear graphs, such as at left. Back in mid-January, there were three weeks of over a thousand per day dying, some 30,000 dead in all. The death rate this week has been about 35-40, it would take a month to equal one day's coffin-filling from six months back.

    But pandemic-clueful readers know how deceptive low numbers can be. When the problem expands exponentially, they become big in no time. The death-count of today is based on the case-count of about three weeks ago, as usual: not today's 50,000/day, but early July's 25,000/day. Neil Ferguson, again, has predicted 100,000 and even 200,000 per day will come quickly, given the "Virus Freedom Day" that Johnson just engineered.

    The log-graph makes what will clearly happen to the death-rate then quite plain, because on log-graph, that's just drawing a straight line.
    The first few weeks of the straight line, as already predicted by Ferguson, are clear enough. When they today's infections are dying in three weeks, their rate will be hitting 90 deaths/day. By then, Ferguson's 100,000/day prediction for cases will be there, allowing anybody to guess that 200 bodies/day is in the offing, inevitable. (99% unvaccinated, of course.)

    That's 6,000 dead per month, surely a figure to give pause to even the most-hardened pandemic-denier. There's no point predicting past the end of August, actually, because the numbers will become dramatic enough to arm-twist even Boris into change.

    Again, CCCC must remind readers that Canada is in the same position, potentially: we have only 2% more first-vaccinations, and the same full-vaccinations. They just have Delta running wild, while our behaviours, not our vaccinations, kept Delta Down over here.

    The UK is about to demonstrate, again, how foolish denial is, as a strategy. The virus will, again, patiently school them, handing Mr. Johnson his desired "bodies piled up", to drive home the lessons. It expands exponentially. Even with 20% of a population to work with, it can find enough people to kill to fill up the wards, much less the 30% of the UK that Johnson is feeding it. Again. Boris Johnson is that classic Fool: the one who will "learn in no other" school than experience.

    Let's learn from the UK instead, and keep our Delta Down, while Vaccinating Up, all summer.

    http://brander.ca/c19#ukdeathlog


    July 21: If There Were Virus Generals, Reveling in Johnson's Mistake

    Brevity is the soul of wit, and I have none. I tossed off a hopelessly-long, tedious punchline in an email to a Hugh Costello, and he 'tooned up a cartoon for it.

    Not great humour, especially since the real "joke" will be upon us all if those million walking "labs" in Britain (it really hit 1 million active cases there, yesterday, see worldometers) succeed in their generals' campaign. They are all shedding viruses, probably each one sheds some mutated ones. Those batter on the vaccinated population, like a hacker trying millions of passwords per minute.

    The chance of the viral hackers finding the password past the vaccinated is very small in Canada, providing only 5,000 human "labs" to work in, today. So it will be with most well-vaccinated countries that will also have low case-rates through good behaviours.

    It takes the toxic combination of enough wealth to vaccinate, with enough authoritarian stupidity, lying fabulism, and cynicism, such as Boris Johnson or a Ron deSantis can produce, to somehow have a large sick population and a large vaccinated population, together in the petri dish.

    They are handing a massive advantage to a common enemy, and undercutting the protection of us all.

    http://brander.ca/c19#virusgenerals


    July 20: Republicans: Call Them "Enemies of the Stock Market"

    (If only Democrats could make speeches like this...but they can't. Just can't. I don't know why. Karl Rove could tell them that your most effective attack is against what your opponents imagine to be their strength.)

    My Fellow Americans,
    I must tell you with sorrow today that my Republican opponents are starting to succeed in their efforts to sabotage the stock market and your jobs. The stock market closed down on Monday, analysts blamed fears of a new wave of illness.

    The Republican's pet news organizations are pumping out anti-vaccine lies and propaganda, and my Republican opponents are tacitly supporting them. They claim that people don't trust the government, when they know that their own side is bombarding Americans with conspiracy-theory propaganda. Oh, they weasel away from it when you ask them a direct question, but try asking them to say these words:

    "I got vaccinated; I made sure my whole family got vaccinated, to protect them. I urge everybody to get vaccinated, to protect us all. It is nonsense that vaccines are dangerous. The virus is the danger, to our lives, and to our economy, to our jobs."
    You'll find they weasel away from those statements, even though they are true. They are vaccinated. Their families are vaccinated. It's you they want to be sick, and afraid for your job, afraid of your own neighbours.

    And, now, their sabotage of America's economy is starting to take effect. They don't want it to be morning in America any more, they want it to be another hour of a long night, for America to be afraid in the dark. Well, we can step into the light, by following the truth. It can be morning in America, if you stop listening to their lies, and start listening to your doctor. Ask your doctor. Get the shot: For your job, for your family, for America.

    Yes, that was silly. I just needed to vent some of that anger, holding over from yesterday. Telling a pack of lies, which will get huge numbers of people killed, is practically their signature move. Ask any Arab. Or Vietnamese.

    http://brander.ca/c19#stockmarket


    July 19: Anger

    I can't even imagine their anger. I'd have to quit.

    I spent years, angry at work, at least angry whenever I wasn't distracted by getting the current job done, over mismanagement of a problem. I used - and had to develop - a municipal mapping system. Others who design them wanted a new one, very different from what I wanted. I knew their design would waste millions and make my job (and several other people's) more difficult - maybe even make some work-goals almost impossible, deny the organization their benefits.

    That's it. It was a big deal to me - it was my job to save those millions, and especially, spending large sums in order to produce a worse system than we already had, like an expensive home reno that made one shower unusable and made two people in the kitchen trip over each other, drove me a little crazy.

    The project was cancelled at the $8M-spent point, the money down the drain. And it was actually a relief, because at least that way we didn't get the functionality degraded. (The old mapping system, my mapping system, is still in use, 10 years later; it never really needed replacing. Eight million!)

    But I still remember that feeling, it was awful: getting angry every time I thought about work, angry while I biked in to the office, angry after every meeting as I grimly did my job of cooperating with the project. It was a bad place to live in.

    My anger, of course, would be as nothing compared to the utter fury I would feel, working in a UK COVID ward, today.

    The author of The Guardian article is a better person than I, though. They (anonymous article, gender unknown) seem almost embarrassed to admit to anger; it starts with "It is hard to summarise exactly why I feel so angry", when I wouldn't find it hard at all.

    The language is so faint, compared to the throat-hurting rants I'd be shouting on the roof: "..it is hard not to feel undermined by the relaxing of all restrictions..". "..levels of unhappiness in the staff are high..".

    The word, "anger", only comes up after several paragraphs of such mildness:

    "I think that the patients I see have been following the rules. But if people are allowed to do something, they will. And this is what makes me most angry. When rules are relaxed, people will quite reasonably relax their behaviour. Urging caution thereafter is as nonsensical as asking people to "stay alert". ... All that the current verbal gymnastics can do is to shift the blame away from those in power ... once again, we will be bearing the brunt of our leaders' mistakes."
    I never really had to bear the brunt of my leader's mistakes; except, man, what I could have done with that $8M. But I didn't have to watch people die, all the while admitting sadly they were "one of those idiots" who didn't get the shot; but now there's nothing more to do to save them.

    Speaking of vaccination, though, the article is reassuring, in a way. The author notes that half the admissions are vaccinated, but almost none of those go to the ICU. Unless you are very old and already-sick indeed, your COVID trip to the hospital, after vaccination and "breakthrough" infection, is almost certainly just for rest and some oxygen.

    I'll just hold that thought, rather than imagining what it would feel like, if the top leaders above your whole bureaucracy sentenced you to another terrible winter of overwork, shifting schedules, watching people die.

    I'd probably turn terrorist.

    http://brander.ca/c19#anger


    July 18: Neil Ferguson on the Real Population-Level Experiments

    I'm glad to see Neil Ferguson is back in the headlines, predicting that BoJo's astonishingly stupid population-level experiment will result in 100,000 to 200,000 cases per day, before he has to give it up.

    The experiment, of course, is "what if we watch the cases climb right back up where they were at Christmas, to 50,000 (left) per day, and then open up?"

    It's one of those experiments up there with sticking your finger in an electric pencil sharpener to find out if the power is on.

    There are other experiments of a similar vein going on in America, of course. Florida wants to know "What if we sneer at all public health measures and demonize public health officials, even as we become the most-infected state?".

    Meanwhile, in Tennessee, they're experimenting with actively preventing vaccination ... for good measure, all vaccinations, not just COVID-19.

    CCCC had previously written about the real population-level experiments are being run by the virus. This is providing more of them.

    I strongly predict that the virus will find that people who are easy to infect, will turn out to be easily infected.

    They didn't really need to run the experiments.

    http://brander.ca/c19#ferguson2


    July 17: A Simpler Option, for Florida, Arkansas, Missouri, and others

    It was just a tasteless joke, but a friend said it was funny. The decision tipped when this stock photo came up at the top of the google search - it's something about the enthused, lets-go look on the model. Will be withdrawn if the stock photo company (linked) objects to the "borrow". (Gotta keep the name "dreamstime" on file, they have some awesome images.)

    If you need a news link to make it more than a nasty joke, here's The Atlantic on the miseries of ICU staff in Missouri:

    The grueling slog is harder now because it feels so needless, and because many patients don't realize their mistake until it's too late. On Tuesday, Hill spoke with an elderly man who had just been admitted and was very sick. "He said, 'I'm embarrassed that I'm here,'" she told me. "He wanted to talk about the vaccine, and in the back of my mind I'm thinking, You have a very high likelihood of not leaving the hospital." Other patients remain defiant. "We had someone spit in a nurse's eye because she told him he had COVID and he didn't believe her," Edwards said.

    http://brander.ca/c19#euthansia


    July 16: Death Race 2021: Nail-Biter Between USA and UK

    I don't often write as if this blog were really about following a game, with the point-score in deaths-per-million. It's morbid and gross, and worst of all, it's easy to flip the scoring from golf (lowest wins), to a truly sardonic tone, when you'd swear that terrible leaders were actually competing to get their citizens killed. (Bolsonaro and Modi would be the "winners", there.)

    Close runners-up, though, would be the Boris "Let the bodies pile up" Johnson regime in the UK, and the American Republicans, whether in or out of power. I hardly need provide links to the talk of the American town square in recent weeks, that all the most-Republican areas have their case-counts, and death-counts, rising again, the amazing levels of anti-vaccine ravings on Fox.

    As the graph at left shows, the two countries have mostly matched each other, the UK usually ahead, but the USA quickly catching up, always, in their mortality rates.

    At right, the difference between the two lines, so you can see how tight the race has become, as we presumably near the end. The USA was closing in on the UK at last, narrowing the gap down to just 10 deaths/million (1873 vs 1883) in early July. The American death rate is staying up above 300/day, rising by about 1 death/million/day, whereas the UK was down to below 1 per week, just a month back. But now, the UK case count is exponentially soaring, and when the death count follows it in a few weeks, the US will stop closing in; the UK might even pull ahead again.

    See how easy it is? You just need to graph the numbers, watch the stats-grid change day by day, and you start "cheering for the team", quickly losing sight of it being the height of a pile of bodies.

    My money is on the USA, though. Boris won't actually let the bodies pile up for too long, nor will the unvaxxed of Britain stay that way. Low vaccination in the UK isn't because of a sustained, quasi-official, regional-pride anti-vax campaign. It's mostly laziness. Over the pond, we have a nation that can ignore TV coverage of an invasion of the Capitol, call it vacationers, we have a TV network devoted to worsening the pandemic.

    Nobody is about to beat the staggering death-toll in Peru, but in USA vs UK, it's going to be USA, USA, number one, all the way.

    And they'll beat that Civil War death toll (~640,000) around the time they do, too. The only suspense is how they will blame it all on Joe Biden.

    http://brander.ca/c19#deathrace


    July 15: Vaccinate or Else

    Well, finally, a leader with real courage. The courage to say "screw you" to the proponents of superstition, paranoia, and conspiracy.

    Emile Macron of France just flatly announced that you'll need vaccination or testing to enter a cafe, and 3 million appointments were booked the same day. 800,000 arms were jabbed, a record.

    Damn Straight, Emile. You're my hero.

    While I was noting Bastille Day yesterday, the French cranks were in the streets, waving signs about tyranny because of COVID-19 restrictions. Macron wasn't listening to them. He was looking at the graph at left, the one showing just the first few days of an exponential curve, now hitting 9,000 cases per day, about 12 times Canada's current case-rate, by population. Macron knows the upswing in coffins starts next week. His vaccination totals so far are 53%/38%, which isn't terrible, but isn't remotely good enough to hold down the Modi Malady, Delta.

    Macron needed a game-changer, and picked the one that will get him called a fascist. Not by everybody: polls indicate 65% support, which I think is the minimum you'd see in Canada. Macron protests that he is not "making vaccination immediately obligatory for everyone ... but at pushing a maximum of you to go and get vaccinated".

    If that 3 million are joined by another 3 million over the next week or so, that's a 10% jump, up into the sixties, a good start. But the UK experience - cases continued to soar, the last few days, up into the high 40,000s per day - shows that you have to at least reach up into the seventies for percent vaccinated, to suppress without restrictions.

    I hope that Macron's bold strategy works - and then inspires other leaders to, well, lead. To listen to the majority of voices, not the loudest.

    http://brander.ca/c19#macron


    July 14: The Nightmare Race

    It's a common nightmare to be running from some terrible pursuer, but to only be able to run in slow motion. The last post but one, about the UK being our future, if we don't vaccinate better, is continuing to come true. Since nine days back, daily cases have ticked up from 25,000 to over 33,000 on the 7-day average. Deaths, as predicted, continue to rise, now hitting 30/day as the 7-day, while Canada continues to push them down as our case-rate holds steady or declines a bit.

    The UK is still vaccinating, glacially, a slow-motion race against a fast pursuer. We are still just 2% ahead of them, although we will surpass them on second vaccinations in a week.

    Our own first-dose race is the same speed: 0.75% per week of the population. But we are holding steady at that, there was no "plateau", just a slowing. At the end of August, we could have just continued up to 75% first-dose, 65% second-dose. Even that won't be enough, if Delta digs into us the way it has in the UK.

    But so far, that's not happening, we're keeping Delta Down. If we can hold it down with good behaviours combined with the world-beating vaccination program forthe whole summer, we might be the one place to dodge a Delta Wave in the fall.

    A vaccination Big Push, combined with a fall early-approval for vaccination down to age six would definitely save us, but I'm likely dreaming. For lack of that dream, we get the Nightmare Race. Best I should hope for is that it be put off until fall, and be a lot less-bad than Britain's, when it comes.

    http://brander.ca/c19#ukscary


    July 7: Well, MY Vaccine Lotto Would Have Worked (still could)

    Another one-link day, there's some great appointment reading (again) in The Tyee, with a great article by Brian Owens about pandemic lessons. The headline on it is that an analysis of the Ohio lottery indicates that pandemic lottos don't work.

    But CCCC suggested one that had a chance to. The lotto they did try was to register you for an eventual spin of the wheel went you got your shot, would find out if you won months later. We have those lotto experiences weekly, and people pay $2-$3 for them. Not a big reward, really?

    The CCCC suggestion was to budget several dollars per vaccination, and spin the wheel on the spot, with everybody in line seeing your spin. If your random number ends in one zero, $10, on the spot. Two zeros, $100, on the spot....six zeros, a million dollar cheque rushed to the scene. Since every tenth line-up member would get a crisp $10, and since at least a few in a long line would see $100 won, I think it would generate excitement, like everybody in a Vegas casino getting pumped when a slot machine vents a few pounds of quarters.

    Just saying. Gambling experiences are designed by experts to create addictive behaviour, and you need some ruthless bastads like that manipulating the reluctant and the procrastinators with the best of nudging.

    But there's much more. The extremely rare heart inflammations from mRNA are painful but so far, not deadly or even dangerous; they're to be shrugged at. Travel restrictions, like Canada's controversial ones, really were important at controlling outbreaks. And vaccine immunity lasts at least a year.

    Don't miss The Tyee!

    http://brander.ca/c19#lottong


    July 5: Delta Dawn in the UK

    I should say "The Modi Malady", in CCCC tradition, of course, but the old Helen Reddy pop tune came to mind. The Delta Variant, if you prefer, has come into its own in the UK, cases taking off like a rocket the last month or so. Just a classic exponential curve, again.

    The kicker here is that this is Canada's future, unless we vaccinate another dozen percent or more, the minimum needed to quell Mr. Modi's gift to the world. As shown at right, Canada is only 2% more vaccinated than the UK - and much less double-vaccinated. They're undoubtedly more resistant to Delta than we are - it would sweep through Canada, better than the UK, right now.

    Why are we not on that curve? Only because Delta never got a real foothold in Canada. It came to us when we were still distancing and curve-crushing. Delta cases were tracked with extra vigor, and it is still just a few percent of our total cases. Let Delta become 99% of all new cases, as with the UK several weeks back, and the UK curve will come to any country.

    The UK, incredibly, is going ahead with complete re-opening in two weeks. What the hell? Well, that link has quotes from their health minister that the deaths are simply not tracking the new cases, here's the flat, near-zero chart for the deaths over the same month:

    The explanation for the low level of deaths so far is at right. The UK may not have done quite as many first vaccinations as we have, but their vaccination rate above the age of 70 is basically 100%, for full vaccination. It's like ours for that age group, some 95%, for those 60-70. It's slashed the deadly effects of COVID-19 by about two orders of magnitude. Basically, BoJo and Co are figuring to go right ahead with a new raging wave, because it won't kill enough people to cause political mayhem. Screw those younger people who haven't vaccinated and will go through a nasty disease, and maybe some long COVID, and the fraction of a percent that will die.

    Or will the death rate stay down? The chart at left seems to show no increase at all, but there already has been one. Their death rate was down to 5-8 per day in early June, three weeks after the cases-curve at top went through its minimum in mid-May. A month later, it's been 15, 17, 18, the last few days, it's doubled. That is three weeks after the cases went up from their minimum point, about 2500/day, to about 8000/day. It's tripled again since then, and it's hard not to forecast that 15-18 becoming 40-60, per day, a couple of thousand dead per month. Maybe that is politically acceptable. But how high will the cases go, up that exponential curve? Perhaps by the July 19 opening date in two weeks, the numbers will start to make them uncomfortable.

    Canada should be very uncomfortable, right now. Early is the time to become uncomfortable with pandemic statistics. If anything could prove the epidemiologists correct, that we need 80-90% vaccination to beat this variant, the UK is our wake-up call.

    Not uncomfortable? The UK doctors are currently crying out that BoJo's strategy is turning the unvaccinated into "variant factories", the million new cases that will happen in the next few weeks, each a chance to mutate a variant that can kill better, infect better, or beat vaccination. I may soon have to think up a new nickname for a new Boris Johnson variant; he seems not content to have killed thousands with his last one.

    http://brander.ca/c19#ukourfuture


    July 3: Old People Aren't As Dumb As We Sound

    The very first post in this blog was about the exponential increase in mortality with decade of age. I thought of it again when I saw at the Canada Vaccination Tracker, that the vaccination rate went up steadily with age - 30-somethings higher than 20-somethings, all the way up. (Past 70, everybody is now 93% vaccinated or more).

    The graph at left doesn't show the ages of the groups (though the dots are just 20s, 30s, 40s, etc, left to right), just their vaccinated percentage, on the horizontal, and their mortality probability if unvaccinated and going through the original COVID-19, on the vertical.

    The vertical is, again, a log scale axis. But the correlation coefficient is still a stunningly high 0.98; not remotely a coincidence. Vaccination rate goes up linearly with age, though even the 20s are over 60% now in Canada. Actually, the last line on the tracker is quite unfair, giving the rate for "0-17", combining six years of kids that can get vaccinated with 11 years of kids that can't. You almost need to triple the number - and we're back in the 60% range again, even for kids.

    Further, I'm delighted to see that a sixth of a percent of BC got their first shot on both July 1 and 2 - despite Canada Day, despite all the heat. I was sad when it fell to 0.16% per day, but it is holding there, and if it holds for all July, we're getting near the target.

    How much does your odds of death affect your interest in vaccination? The graph is a log-relationship, so the factor of increase in death relates to the linear increase in vaccination percentage. For every 20% increase in their odds of dying, a one more percent of that group gets vaccinated. If one group only gets 50% vaccinated, another with double their odds of death will get 58% vaccinated. Double the odds of dying again, and it goes to 66%. At eight times the original odds, 74%. It really takes a lot more risk to get them out to the clinics, since the odds are so small to start with.

    One has to wonder if people aware of other risks are affected the same way. If mid-30s diabetics have double the odds of healthy mid-30s, do 8% more of them get vaccinated? That's for people with way more data than I've got, to answer.

    So, old people may have more conservative views, but if so, it's not holding them back from vaccination. Which means very few will die if we do have another wave. They'll be telling kids off their lawn for years yet.


    http://brander.ca/c19#vaxvsmort


    July 1: Canada Day Re-opening, Ready or Not

    The case-rate is stillabout half-again that of the last July 1. No, look it up (I won't be doing a lot of graphics while away from home), the total Canada case-load on July 1, 2020 was just 311, today is about 550. Our 550 feels like a bigger victory because of the huge mountain we've climbed down, compared to the little hill of wave #1. (The "Alberta Cliff" at left, is so dramatic I had to put in that graphic; still, the most amazingly fast case-reduction I've seen in the whole pandemic.)

    The numbers haven't changed, of course. They say a fall wave will come, even at our current world-beating vaccination level. We are now down to a sixth of a percent per day at vaccination. If we really can vaccinate over 85% of the population, get to Modi/Delta Variant herd immunity, great. Maybe it's just a matter of time, because people will keep trickling in all summer (sixty days is 10%, if they keep showing up), we'll be new pandmic heros, up there with New Zealand and South Korea. If we do get a fall wave, hey, the last post pointed out that most won't care, outside the ICU, and surely that wave will bring in a bunch of "vaccine-procrastinators".

    But here's how re-opened my own brain is. I'm here in Calgary, seeing multiple people. My oldest friend, my brother and his partner, my mother-in-law. We're ALL double-vaccinated. I hesitated about the few hours I spent in the house I'm dog-sitting, two kids are below twelve. My hosts were very reassuring: the kids are getting rapid-antigen tests regularly, everybody is notified if any kid they're in with is positive, much less the kids themselves. And the Alberta case-rate and positivity rates are so low that the probability per contact is very small indeed.

    Not that I got that close. It'll be hard to break habits for a while to come.

    But clearly, my brain is re-opening, regaining ease around people. It feels good. It's a Happy Canada Day.

    http://brander.ca/c19#canadaday


    June 29: Who Will Care About the Fall Wave?

    It's both disturbing and familiar to read the timeline of events for April 2020 in this article about Republicans losing interest in the pandemic as soon as they found it disproportionally killed minorities and the poor.

    Familiar, because we know all that; disturbing because the timeline indicates they really spun on a dime - just days, some of them just hours, after that news went around, the Administration changed, the right-wing pundits changed their talking points. (Also disturbing, because they didn't seem to "get" that "disproportionate" didn't mean white people were safe, just only half as endangered as they'd thought. Still very dumb.)

    It was almost like the point of the upcoming book, "The Sum of Us", by Heather McGhee. It tells the story of segregation taking away public services from Whites, because their government didn't want Blacks to have swimming pools, for instance - they were filled in, rather than be integrated. A lot of White people died of covid let run wild, too.

    Today's story about the superspreader party in Australia has me thinking about it. At the party, 30 attended, 24 were infected, the other six were the only vaccinated. For Canada, at least, the only unvaccinated by fall will be that tiny number with medical issues with vaccination, kids, and (I hope) barely a fifth the adults that didn't want to, or didn't care enough to bother.

    Those getting vaccinations, but understanding they also depend on everybody else too, are not likely to be sympathetic to them. A person of my aquaintance yesterday grumped that they should be denied hospital help, go get better at home. That will NOT happen, but the shoe may be on the other foot as to lockdowns to control a fall wave.

    It's been assumed that the pandemic-deniers are both anti-lockdown, and anti-vax. That's not all of the non-vaccinators, but they're not about to change their spots just because they're now in a small minority at risk. Unless a great majority of the vaccinated, at almost no risk themselves, are good with a lockdown to benefit those they've been upset at for months, only suffering ICU staff are going to be able to talk anybody into one.

    If we don't beat that 80% target, including required vaccinations for school attendance over 12 - and I'll repeat, maybe also, if we don't bend rules and vaccinate down to age six - Fall could bring the "Who Cares, You Deserve This" wave of deaths.

    http://brander.ca/c19#whocares


    June 28: Did I Say I Envied Australia?

    Australia has done admirably at the COVID fight, held up as a model. As I've noted, they lockdown fast and hard and contact-trace like no other. Mr. Modi's Delta variant is challenging that, though, it requires hard lockdowns indeed, and how long can they keep it up? They're in an awkward place right now, ranking #93 on the CTV web page for the vaccination race. At 25% first-dose, and managing maybe 0.4% per day at the moment, they're two or three months away from vaccination quelling their pandemic to any great degree - though the death-count and ICU-count does drop after you vaccinate the old.

    Canada, for all our Ford/Legault screwups, is now #11, hitting 68% by tomorrow. We passed Kuwait on the weekend, are now the most-vaccinated country of more than a half-million population. I don't know if Mr. Trudeau deserves re-election, but he's certainly set himself up well for it.

    CCCC has devoted itself for weeks to being cranky about not making it past 70%, where we do need to be to really win. But, reading about Australia does put things in perspective.

    http://brander.ca/c19#australiavax


    June 26: Vaccinate The Kids

    But first, a word about the ludicrous understatements of public health officials. Theresa Tam's the other day was about the LXXXVIII edition of:
    Delta poses more of a threat to those not fully vaccinated, Tam said Friday She means "a hundred times the threat", of course. "More", indeed. Always so careful not to say more than is needed, they couldn't sell water in Death Valley.

    The same modeling that produces the results we see all about us for two months, the declining cases and dwindling ICUs, suggests a fourth wave in the fall if we don't reach 80% of the whole population. Period.

    In America, they've given up on that. As we continue to crawl, at a sixth of a percent per day, from 67% today, towards 70% of total population, we don't have to. We can practically see the goal from here. There seems to be enough "momentum" left in the first-dose dailies to get us to 70% by mid-to-late-July. But we'd need ninety percent of the over-12s to reach 80% of the total population.

    I wish we didn't have to consider "rushing" the vaccination of those under 12. Last I heard, the trials with younger kids were going great, no problems yet, but the grind of regulated procedures means no shots for them until 2022. Of course, they all have to go back to school in September, or about a million parents will go frantically insane.

    We could protect them if everybody around them were vaccinated, no holes in the wall. Rather than consider rushing their vaccinations ahead by four or more months - and starting in September itself, at school, like the polio and smallpox vaccinations I remember so well, would be soon enough - I'd press for all the programs I've already suggested at CCCC, redoubled:

    Anything.

    But if that doesn't happen, then let's talk about the rules, let's talk about special consent after a brief lecture about it being irregular, may come with some risks.

    Yes, it comes with some risks. And you don't risk children.

    But if your only other choice is the risk of COVID - and a whole COVID wave closing schools, sickening kids, and killing their elders - any sane parent would take the risk of the vax.

    http://brander.ca/c19#vaxkids


    June 25: The Overlooked Novavax

    Just the one link, today, but it's appointment reading. Linked from the image of a Novavax vial at left is the article by Hilda Bastian in The Atlantic, on how Novavax is the best vaccine yet tested.

    It was simply overlooked by the media, the last week, because we're awash in vaccines that people aren't asking for. Who needs another? Not me, I admit, nor will Novavax reach approval and distribution before Canada and the States, at least, are full-up on second doses.

    But it's going to be a big player in the global second act on the fight against the virus. Novavax is:

    • Easier to manufacture, will surely be cheaper;

    • Is based on older vaccine technologies, familiar to all;

    • It displays fewer side-effects, word of which has bad effects on uptake, is hard on people who have to get back to work.

    • Did I mention cheaper?
    But the key point is that Novavax, last week turned in efficacy results the same as the mRNA vaccines. Remember the glee when they turned out to be over 90% effective? Well, old vaccine can do that, too.

    (As a side-note, mRNA turns out not to be some new silver bullet. Another mRNA test showed less than 50% efficacy in a trial some weeks back; it'll be dropped from consideration. That's common, but shows the technology itself is no guarantee. All in the article.)

    The virus, through evolution, does appear to be fighting back, coming up with more-infectious variants. It's nice to get a reminder that we keep coming back better, too. Onward to India.

    http://brander.ca/c19#novavax


    June 24: Travel Troubles?

    Well, I'm just about outta here. My main "travel trouble" is trying to dodge the heat wave. I'm thinking of taking off late-afternoon Saturday, when the heat is already passing. I can take advantage of a clear night and a full moon to drive half-way there by late night. Then the trick is to be up before five, on the road well before six, and dodge both the heat and the construction.

    Then it hit me to wonder how legal it all was. There's legal and "legal" - the latter being, "if they don't have roadblocks up to stop you, it can't be all that illegal". I'm pretty sure it'll be that legal.

    The BC page for travel is clear, travel "for essential reasons", is OK, just obey BC rules. My "89-year-old who hasn't had a hand around the house for 18 months" story should suffice.

    The Alberta page is not clear, giving rules for outgoing travelers, incoming international travelers, and...that's it. No mention of what incoming Canadians should do.

    So, silence gives consent. It's probably not there because the Kenney government would not risk a single tourist dollar over the pandemic they keep wishing away, and wouldn't even raise the issue.

    My second vaccination will be 18 days old when I cross the border. Dora's, over a month. I'd cap it off with a test, but you can't get one on a whim, to this day. (Alberta has $40 rapid antigen tests at drugstores, but they're useless for the vaccianted.) I'll go back to worrying about the heat wave.

    http://brander.ca/c19#traveltroubles


    June 23: Scared in Sydney

    News this morning from Australia has me appreciating those sweet, sweet vaccines. We talk about the "virus/vaccine race", but Sydney clears up that they're already saving us. First, a refresher about Australia: they rock at contact-tracing. That's a link to the sudden Melbourne "draconian lockdown", which was extended out to two weeks from five days, because of one outbreak of Delta.

    Melbourne and Victoria State are emerging, but over in Sydney, they just had to announce restrictions.

    Their peerless contact tracing is confirming that remark about "fleeting contacts" in our previous Melbourne story. Here's a few quotes:

    If you remember at the start of this pandemic, I spoke about 15 minutes of close contact being a concern. Now, it looks like it's five to 10 seconds that's a concern. So it's just the risk is so much higher now than it was only a year ago.
    - Queensland Chief Medical Officer Jeanette Young.

    Young also confirmed ... genome sequencing had shown two people staying at the Brisbane Airport Novotel had caught the virus from another person staying in an adjacent room.

    Let's all cross our fingers, that one was the two sets of travelers meeting each other in the hall for a few moments. And not the virus wandering between rooms just via the hotel air system.

    Of course, you just have to scroll down two days to June 21 to see the mini-graph of the uptick in cases in Britain, now 99% Modi Malady (Delta), and rising, despite 63% of the population vaccinated, only 3% less than Canada (and much more second-vaccinated).

    Canada's cases are probably going down because of our behaviours, on top of the vaccine. As we re-open, we may be in for an ugly surprise. Or at least, our younger population may be. Indeed, the UK cases may be because of uneven vaccination, more than the virus defeating the vaccinated. That's for another day.

    http://brander.ca/c19#sydneyscare


    June 22: I Got Nuthin' (But Gripes)

    I find myself busy with a family project , as I'm getting busy preparing to travel on the weekend. There was just nothing engaging in the news this morning, except the ugly details about how very bad it was in Quebec care homes, which I can't stand to comment on.

    But, I do have gripes, let's make them brief:

    • Why should I care how many people over a certain age are vaccinated? That's a bureaucratic measure of "what we can do", not a medical measure that has any meaning. Only the whole-population percentage matters to the virus.

    • The writer at the Toronto Star (no, no link) who did a front-page complaint about dutifully getting a double-shot of Astazeneca, like me, and now feeling all betrayed. By what? 92% protection from hospital rather than 96%? Most of the world has no vaccines at all, lady, and most of the value of them is there being no cases near you, not your personal protection. Just living in the most-highly-vaccinated large country is a huge #FirstWorldPrivilege. Shut up.

    • Re-opening dates being described as provisional, depending on medical data, when they're clearly pre-selected, much-prepared-for, politically-necessary. Just admit you're going to throw the dice.

    Actually, I'll finish with the reverse of a gripe: a celebration of good news, good news that nobody noticed because it's "no news", an absence. When's the last time you heard a "crazy anti-masker" story on the news, somebody screaming and assaulting staff? I think they've tired of it and given up!

    http://brander.ca/c19#gripes


    June 21: "Oh, You Don't Need to Diet" ... Or Vaccinate.

    I wish I were a better example of it, but everybody who's kept their weight down on into a certain age, (or kept themselves really trim in youth and middle age), has heard the same refrain when they pick the fish and veggies, or turn down dessert: "Oh, you don't need to diet, you're so thin".

    And, worst of all, you can't say "That's because I keep making these choices, and every one is a struggle." It would come off all judge-y.

    The US States that should care the least about vaccination would be the two that had the least-bad pandemic. If you sort the 50 states + DC by their deaths-per-million, the two that were barely touched by the pandemic (about half as bad as the Canadian average, i.e. the same numbers as BC) are Hawaii and Vermont. Maine, not far behind.

    If you sort US states by the total percentage of population with at least one dose, guess who comes out on top?

    Hawaii and Vermont, with Maine, again, not far behind.

    It's hardly a perfect rule. I chopped off the next-best vaxxer, New Jersey, which had just about the worst pandemic. In Canada, the champion vaccinator province until this morning was Quebec, our worst-case pandemic province.

    But, this morning, Quebec was overtaken: Nova Scotia, which had a New Zealand pandemic, with only 90 dead of 900,000, a only a third of even BC's death toll. Joining Nova Scotia and Quebec up on the podium of champions are pandemic-non-victims in the North and the rest of the Maritimes.

    It's a common-cause phenomenon, of course: they had a least-bad pandemic because of their community-spirited Safe Behaviours (always capitalized words for CCCC), and they're having the best vax drive for the same reason.

    I just wish BC could join them up there, with a few more percent, preferably five or six. Why? Because the UK is 64% first-dose vaccinated, has been for months; they've reached 46% fully vaccinated, too. At the graph at left is their case-rate, the last few weeks - in spite of all of that. Delta took over there, now all of the cases. Soon here, too. UK data is the main reason for that "90%" figure, yesterday.

    You can be too rich or too thin: ask Midas, or Karen Carpenter. But you can't be too-highly vaccinated.

    http://brander.ca/c19#dietvax


    June 20: 90% Not Gonna Happen. But maybe 80%?

    I cannot find it at Global News, so I get to do the other CCCC superpower, which is the ability to capture, edit, and re-present over-the-air TV, the way those with cable boxes cannot. Of course, this is just a 30-second "fair use", and all my readers should patronize Global News.

    They set me back last night, with the so-far new word from epidemiologists that the Modi Maladies (Delta and Kappa variants) are so catchy that we'd need 90% immunized to reach herd immunity.

    That's not going to happen. Not from vaccination.

    We have to try, though, save the most lives we can, and shorten the trip to herd immunity through waves of disease. Slow down those waves, and keep the most over-40s we can out of ICUs.

    A couple of things give me hope. Quebec is just surging ahead, still getting a lot of first-vaccinations daily, has just hit the two milestones of 70% total-population and 80% of over-12s.

    If the whole country could join them up there in the heights, we may not have herd immunity to totally shut down the new variants, but it will certainly slow it down make the waves non-emergencies.

    I was delighted to read this morning that the 32-hour Surrey Vaxathonhad over 5000 vaccination slots booked up. The event is hoped to pull out people with no first dose yet, but we won't know for a day how many were first or second. Maybe BC was only about to plateau at 68% for lack of good clinic provision; I'd like to believe that.

    In particular, I'd like to believe that BC and her population are at least as good a community as Quebec, and the three Martime provinces that have already breezed past us towards the Vaccination Cup. You read that correctly: we've been beaten by Newfies.

    The public health authority has so little game when it comes to PR and sales. That's a good thing, really, they should be dedicated to dry recitation of facts, to protect their reputations, have no staff with an (ugh) Communications Degree. But the premiers should hob off the job of "selling vaccination" to a marketing firm that has nothing but game. And I keep saying "game" because they should activate provicial patriotism on this one: point out we're all being beating by Quebec, not just at hockey like usual, but at saving lives; at being good citizens; at community spirit.

    And then Newfoundland. The humiliation should electrify the other provinces, especially proud Alberta, which really needs a vaccination kick.

    People might show up to Beat Quebec, that can't get excited about Beating Covid. Just saying.

    http://brander.ca/c19#vaxsurge


    June 19: The Darwin Stampede

    So, the news media are pretty skeptical of Jason Kenney's most-aggressive re-opening by the least-vaccinated province. Me, too.

    If enough unvaccinated people are present (40% of the population and 100% of the kids under 12) then the Stampede and other events (mostly, the other events, the ones in crowded tents with no wind and much drinking) will be able to function as transmission festivals, where the virus slips through the very large cracks in the vaccine wall, spreading it to those who will go home.

    The death rate will never rise high again. Even in Alberta, the 80+ age-group is 81% fully-vaccinated, the 70-79 bunch at 70%. Both groups are past 90% for single-vaccinations. A Fall wave wouldn't have the death-rate be 1% of the case-rate anymore; barely a tenth of a percent.

    It hit me that Jason Kenney has created the ideal situation to bump off anti-vaxxers, or at least give them a hospital trip from the nasty-cold of their lives. You vaccinate just enough to tell yourself you can re-open, but leave loads of anti-vaxxers still exposed when you do. The vaccinated get to read about the ICUs filling up with anti-vaxxers, some still unrepentant, some still unbelieving.

    The vision had me thinking about going to the Stampede - as an anti-vaxxer activist, a killer one. I'll be fully-protected by then, and it's 100% effective in preventing severe disease and hospitalizations. (85-90% against any symptoms at all). So I can go, wandering the crowds with impunity, wondering if I'm asymptomatically infecting an unvaccinated person, starting a chain of events that puts them in a bed. Or a box. Poetic justice for anti-vaxxers? It's downright Darwinian, with "Acceptance of Vaccine Medicine" as a survival trait. Let the smart survive!

    I'm not admitting to any evil glee at the thought. And it all comes crashing down when I remember that an asymptomatic case is the most dangerous of all; despite the vaccination making my case twice as hard to transmit (as well as three times as hard to catch it, really frustrating my Typhoid Mary ambitions), I could infect many. Including my 89-year-old host, herself double-Pfizer'd, but we know from a case of her age at the Foothills recently, that age-group is the one that can still have a bad, even deadly "breakthrough" case, so risks of that will not be taken. Also, those anti-vaxxers I'd assault with my virus particles, have old relatives, too.

    I might just go to the last day or two, and head straight home, goodbye to Dora said through a mask. It really is the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth (if you grew up there, at least), and we've known since the Floyd Marches that "outdoor" is pretty darn safe - IF people stay at arm's length, aren't eating together, facing each other to talk. If the Stampede can hold down the indoor events, they'll probably get away with it.

    http://brander.ca/c19#vaxstampede


    June 18: Once More With Feeling - Vaccine Risks and the "Time-Value of Risk"

    For me, the second Astazeneca dose was all set up. I could have it about two days after they authorized them, because the pharmacy had been waiting for it, was ready, the doses lined up.

    I could already have gotten an appointment for mRNA, but that would have taken days, maybe weeks; 62 isn't a high-priority age.

    So, what if yesterday's news that mRNA was actually recommended as a second-dose, because of those great synergy effects I was eager to try, had already come out? No difference. I already believed that, just based on vaccine history. It's in the linked post above.

    Why was I unwilling to wait even a few days?

    The numbers for a first dose to not be delayed, are as obvious as a pea on a plate, let's run them one more time:

    • BC was aquiring 500 new cases/day at the time, or one resident in 10,000;

    • For my age, round it to 10% odds of a disease I'd call an "injury" - either "long COVID" actual injury, or just hospitalization and near-death. Or even death. Round it all to 10% odds of something as bad as a blood clot.

    • Per-DAY(!) risk without vaccination is 1/10,000 X 1/10 = 1/100,000.

    • VERY CONSERVATIVELY assume that first-dose only drops that risk in half. It's much more.
    If the vaccine risk is 1-in-100,000, then it's like the risk of going one day without it. Cutting that risk, even in half, should not be delayed two whole days while you dither about a one-time blood-clot risk. (Because I was very conservative above, the real time-value is in hours.)

    It's distressing and eye-rolling to read stories of people now "frustrated" and "confused" by the announcment that mRNA is now recommended as a second-shot, for the additional protection, because they would have waited for it, or something.

    People are only talking that way because they're ignoring the ongoing risk, in a pandemic, of not being vaccinated. Everybody understands "The time value of money" - the interest rate is huge news whenever its changed, the economy is regulated by it. People are not understanding the time-value of risk reduction.

    You would feel the risk if people were shooting bullets at you, instead of invisible virus particles. Imagine a TV gunfight, everybody has clip after clip of 20 bullets. You were out in the open, were lucky not to be hit before you were able to dive behind a car. (First AZ shot). This gives you cover, and the engine block might even stop a bullet, but you still might be hit by four bullets of the 20 in his next clip.

    When he reloads, and you have a second to move, do you spend it jumping behind a wall, (second AZ shot), which will stop bullets better, and only 2 from his next clip can hit you...or do you wait behind the car, risking four bullets, because during that clip, an armored car will pull up beside it, letting you get to cover that will stop all but one bullet? (Second shot with mRNA.)

    From his next two clips, you can risk four bullets behind the wall, or four bullets behind the car, followed by one more behind the armored car?

    Obviously, you get shot at with one less bullet to take the wall. It's a minor gain, but these are bullets. This is your life. If you had a decision to make between one bullet and none, it wouldn't be "minor" at all.

    At this phase of a pandemic, the risk is dropping every day. Enduring risk today is much worse than enduring risk in a month.

    So I took the shot. And dodged a bullet.

    http://brander.ca/c19#2ndnow


    June 17: Well, I guess it's just 68%

    Man, I thought we could beat Quebec, the Maritimes, go on to beat the best in the USA: Vermont, barely a half-million population, mind you, with 72.6% of the whole population vaccinated. We seemed to be headed there. But today, the rest of the Maritimes will pass us, joining Quebec on, apparently, a trip to 70%, since they are all still going up at nearly half a percent per day.

    We staggered above 67% yesterday, having dropped again down to 0.17% in one day. That's been decreasing every day this week. If the decrease stops, we'd still need another whole week to make it to 68%. The decrease seems unlikely to stop, as everybody sees restrictions ending, creating a mental atmosphere of "it's over anyway"; the news crowing about the high rates doesn't help. So it'll probably be almost the end of the month when we hit 68%; that's our plateau, the way 62% was Israel's.

    It's not bad, of course: that will take us just past the "sacred" 75% of all-over-12, the number the last model said was enough for partial re-opening. Of course, that model pre-dated the obviously-worse Modi Variants, Delta and Kappa. However, we have until fall to come up with some new sales pitches, some workarounds that hold back transmission in other ways. Obviously, we can lavish the now-unwanted Moderna waterfall on second doses, get that number way up.

    It's a silly thing, me taking the "COVID Cup" concept so seriously, that I wanted, for provincial pride, to be up there with the best of the best at community spirit, at logistics, at common sense. But, maaaan, just 69% would have allowed us to also beat Hawaii, and large-population Massachussetts, which plateaued just above 68% a few weeks ago. We could claim to be better than all but the one small-population US state. I should take comfort that we at least are not in the Canadian remedial-reading dunce class of Alberta and Saskatchewan, fully eight percent behind us - they're worse than eight US states.

    At least, there's some acknowledgement of it, on Global News, yesterday. It's weird that the piece describes the fall-off speculatively, as if it weren't already happening.

    Lastly, my new-best-friend at The Tyee, Andrew Nikiforuk, was named commentator of the year. That links to a page with links to his best articles, but don't miss his first-person article "by COVID-19", explaining itself. Science meets dark humour, to the benefit of both.

    http://brander.ca/c19#68


    June 16: Different Day, Same Topic

    Well, the news yesterday confirms my fears. The first-vaccination rate dropped again, down to 0.2% of population. It'll be today before we even hit 67%, then it will take at least until Monday to reach 68%. Unless it continues to drop, in which case it could take weeks to reach 68% - the British Columbia vaccine plateau number. We won't hit 70% until Fall. That's if we follow the sharp drop-off and plateau that Britain did, that Israel did.

    The total vaccinations dropped too, down to 50,000-ish again. Since the clinics can handle 70,000, I think it qualifies as a genuine drop in interest, and I'm wondering if those gallons of Moderna about to be delivered are going to sit in freezers.

    It sounds like a minor complaint, it's a great number compared to those two nations, it's very close to the herd-immunity estimate numbers. But it's not enough to really go back to normal. You can have outbreaks at 82% vaccinated, like the Cottonwoods Care Home.

    It's all a matter of degree. The Cottonwoods outbreak was slower, milder, nothing that would have made the news if it were flu. BC can handle those kind of events. But the difference between 82% and 68% is huge.

    So far, I've been mentioning PR approaches like lotteries and promotions used to sell products. Clinical psychologists are for lotteries.

    But the other approach is through the carrot of permissions. I know that the public health people don't want to issue passports (more fools they) and they certainly don't want bar owners making the case-by-case call on whom to let in.

    Only at the actual border are we willing to check for vaccination and give people a perq (no hotel stay).

    We can urge some kind of social/commercial benefits for the vaccinated, but if the government won't show some spine against the anti-vaxxer superstitions, the private sector will have to step up. Employers can require vaccination to return to the office. Schools for adults can require them, too.

    Every gathering place (schools, work, entertainment) that can require vaccination, should. It's not just that those people would have to, every additional person on "our side" makes the other side smaller and stick out more, have fewer excuses.

    In BC right now only 5% of residents are truly opposed to vaccination! But 23% have "some form of vaccine hesitancy". I could give you similar statistics on "losing weight". And we all know how many people are generally in favour of losing weight, but don't.

    We have another 10% out there, at least, that can be persuaded, nudged, hectored, embarrassed into getting around to it. The government seems content to let them slip away, like a faint-hearted suitor that ne'er won a fair lady. The rest of us have to get in there and ask them for a date. At the clinic.

    http://brander.ca/c19#sametopic


    June 15: Will We Snatch Defeat from the Jaws of Victory?

    Yes, I'm pessimistic. Yesterday's news of cases couldn't have been better. Dropping so suddenly below 100/day was a huge relief, proof that our current (mild) restrictions are still enough to push our current mix of variants - including the "P1" variant (The Bolsonaro Blight, which I'm happy to admit I and Gwynne Dyer were too scared of. Should have saved our wolf-crying for the Modi Misery.) down in numbers.

    But we haven't shut the door. We've snatched defeat from the jaws of victory before, every time we did not Get To Zero, and we won't get to zero this time, either. We can only get to a low number, then get enough vaccinations. Every other polity in the world is resigning itself to an endless, permanent covid fight. We, the most-vaccinated large country, have the possibility of really shutting the door on a comeback.

    Imagine a tile floor, with big tiles, over half a metre square. Difficult but possible to step over one entirely. A two-thirds of the tiles become "lava", can you still cross the floor? Definitely.

    That's the situation the virus is in, with a 70% vaccinated population. The virus can cross right past the vaccinated; we're more-difficult to infect, most of them are asymptomatic, and less-likely to transmit, but it can happen. That's the occasional stepping right over a tile. With a little of that, and a lot of stepping on adjacent tiles very possible, you can go right across the floor.

    That gets exponentially more difficult, just lowering the remaining tiles from 30% to 25% and 20%. That really shuts the door. If the new variant didn't have an R of EIGHT, way up from the R=2.8 of the original, if vaccination made asymptomatic transmission impossible, we might have done it with 70%.

    Vaccination does reduce transmission by a factor of six, but with an R of 8, even a vaccinated population would have an R of 8/6 = 1.33 (very roughly...the point is, it's over 1.0)

    So, it would be great if BC could follow after Quebec, get back to catching up with them. But, as the graph above shows, our first-dose vaccination rate plummeted more over the weekend, down to 0.26% per day. If it doesn't drop further, we might hit 70% by Canada Day. But it keeps dropping. I'm not sure if it's second-doses crowding them out any more. The total vaccinations over the weekend dropped below 50,000 per day, from over 70,000 just before it.

    We need to go on a full-court-press, advertisements, celebrity endorsements, special travelling clinics, "The VaxMobile!" The re-opening is the Enemy of the vaccination campaign. I'm reading articles about America's problem: the re-openings they've celebrating cause people who did intend to get vaccinated, to think "It's Over" and lose all urgency to get around to it.

    Just one more push. Two more weeks of pressure and progress, and we really could shut the door, become the best place on Earth to visit, do business, move.

    Even pessimists can have hope.

    http://brander.ca/c19#snatchdefeat


    June 14: Counting Health Care's Casualties: Worse than Afghanistan

    It's been 50 weeks since I last linked to the site at left, an amateur effort by the nurse's unions of Canada to count their dead. Apparently, nobody else is. At the top of the list, a year ago was 16, now at 53, are the "Anonymous health care worker" listings, where the nurse's union volunteer spotted the news story, but it didn't have a name.

    There's little question the list is not all of them, because so many are just those underpaid, often immigrant care-home-workers-of-colour that are the backbone of the care-home system. This is a follow-up to yesterday. They should all get that thousand-dollar bonus, as combat pay. Our health care system, if you count in the other workers, from surgeons to orderlies, has probably lost more than our military did in Afghanistan, with considerably more ceremony when they died.

    That's the public reaction I pointed out a year ago, that even the paramilitary services like fire and police get enormously more public acknowledgement and mourning when they die on the job. Constable Patton receives a hero's mourning, but "Anonymous Hospital Cleaner, Ontario" was just a statistic in another CBC story 13 months back.

    I'm guessing that we've really lost more than we did in Afghanistan, because America lost far more. Granted, they've had 3 times as bad a pandemic as we've had, but on the other hand, the worst part of ours was those care-homes. They were far more likely to die than staff in hospitals, nurses more likely than physicians.

    The Guardian and Frontline put in a non-amateur effort at counting America's toll, over 12 months. They came up with much higher numbers than our nurse's union volunteers. The ABC News story at right notes that, as a group, health-care workers had three times the death rate of the general population. That makes it crystal clear: this profession is taking the same kinds of risks - and perhaps statistically higher risks - than police and soldiers. They should be remembered as well, on Rememberance Day, when we remember that people died protecting us.

    That similarity - and the complete dissimilarity in how they are mourned and honoured - was plain enough last June 28. I'm just repeating myself, with a measure of "See? Prediction fulfilled". The care-home workers I advocated for yesterday deserve more than that bonus, but also, they deserve and need to be nudged, paid, cajoled into vaccination. They're taking risks for us, and we have a responsibility to protect them, however we can.

    http://brander.ca/c19#casualties


    June 13: Pay the Care-Home Workers to Vaccinate

    At left, a link to the NY Times story about one unvaccinated health care worker setting off a COVID-19 outbreak of 26 infections in a care-home.Twenty-two were vaccinated, and most had only the mildest symptoms...but one vaccinated person died anyway. Care homes have very vulnerable people, even the to-others-mild flus every season kill thousands. Two unvaccinated residents also died, for a total of three dead, killed by the decision of their health-care worker.

    Your first reaction, is the stick. How dare a health-care worker,of all people, expose fragile lives to such risks? This CityTV story lays out the case for vaccination being a mandatory job requirement and I agree with it. I'm dumbfounded they decided not to go with that, at least not yet.

    (Just as I'm typing, my Washington Post page pops up the news that the tiny minority of staff in at Houston Methodist Hospital, that refused vaccine requirements, have just had their suit tossed out of court. The story links from the judge's words, at right.)

    But, second reaction, remember how poorly-paid and treated these staff have been. They aren't considered "professionals", are lightly regulated (which means, unprotected). About 80-90% women, a third immigrant. A lot are part-time, meaning there are a lot of people needed for all those hours: 100,000 LTC workers in Ontario alone.

    One wonders how much can be done with the carrot. We owe all these staff so much, they've been through so much. With the amounts being thrown around, I don't see an extra $1000 bonus for a couple of hundred thousand people as a wild extravagance. Let's try announcing a bonus that size, send cheques to all the ones that are already done, and dangle that carrot for the rest.

    I'm not sure even one life would be saved per million spent, but, hell, they deserve it to start with. And it would get us started on admitting we need to be spending a lot more on LTC anyway, have for two decades since the shocked, shocked reports of conditions in LTC started coming out.

    http://brander.ca/c19#pay4vax


    June 12: Unconcerned about Rising Cases Because They're Young?

    I sighed when yesterday's case-count was up, again, to 180. The news and officials hardly noticed. "Below 200 for X days in a row", "All trends are good", they all chortle. If you keep averaging higher numbers from weeks ago, averages look good. But if you graph just the last six days, (left), not so much.

    Why aren't they getting alarmed? Are they drunk on yesterday's buckets of Moderna (below)? I've got a guess. They're getting cocky because they figure the cases aren't that scary.

    The bar chart at right, quoted in a Kamloops paper on May 25, shows how well-vaccinated the old population of BC already is. The red line is just above 75%, where they're fairly sure of "herd immunity". If only you could keep old people from contacting younger ones, if only age groups were geographical communities, then all of BC over 60 would be there already.

    But that's a real thing: by 60, so many are past going to work, can just stay home, and if they're careful about relatives, they kind of are in a herd where old people mostly socialize together. And, of course, the very high rates past age 70 mean that even an outbreak that hits them will most likely be survivable or even negligible - which also describes most cases for the under-50 cohort.

    Overall, for the pandemic, by far the most cases have been in the 20-29 group, and their comparatively low vaccination rate, which now won't be rising very fast, suggests that they are a huge proportion of new cases now. (I couldn't find the daily-new-cases numbers broken down by age, not anywhere. Just by region.)

    One needs to remember it isn't their job to prevent cases, just "severe illness". If either youth or vaccination prevent most of that, the public health people can kind of clock off work.

    As long as yesterday's hopes for us actually taking in all that Moderna come true, they're very probably right. Right now, they're really focused on getting a million of us over the age of 65 to get that second shot, and letting only about 20,000 first-shots per day get through to the 800,000 people, age 18-50, that don't have a first shot yet. At 50,000 per day for the olds, that's 20 days; at 20,000 per day for the under-40, that's about the same time to get them from 50% to 70%.

    It's a tough call, whether the reduced deaths from second-shots to the greyhairs are more than the reduced deaths from first-shots to the under-40s. The over-70s have almost 20X the death rate. If a first shot "only" protects them by 90% from death itself, then arguably, second-shots for over-70s do indeed save more lives than first shots for under-40s. But, the young have to work, take kids to school, socialize more widely; each shot to that group prevents more cases than second shots to the old.

    The Moderna deliveries will eliminate the tough choice. Apparently, the first is not for a week yet, "next week" meant "next Friday". It can't come soon enough, and the ability to do over 100,000 per day needs to be ready by then. It's a race, one we can win.

    http://brander.ca/c19#youngbc


    June 11: Can We Soak Up the Vax Glut?

    Clearly, CCCC is guilty of the blogging sin of Poor Research to have worried about whether the drop in first-doses per day was the result of sudden public loss of interest. The Vaccination Tracker last night was showing, for the BC row, some 73,000 doses administered yesterday. That's about the max they've ever done.

    Dr. B has mentioned "The cohort that are coming up on sixteen weeks", are currently the top focus for appointments, they have to clear off the first-dose backlog. The page above shows that only the 80+ age group are even past 25%, for second-shots - and the rest of them and nearly all the 70-80 group were vaccinated when the graphs start at April 24, are at 10% second-shots.

    We may not have to stretch out the first-dose schedule so much, we can have it all - catch up on second doses, get back to full-speed on first doses - if we can soak up the gallons of vaccine about to pour down upon us.

    Yes, gallons. Yesterday's remarkable announcement that Modern intends to drop 7 million doses on us in the remaining two weeks of June, starting Monday, comes on top of 2.4 million per week, steadily coming from Pfizer.

    So, 7 million over two weeks means the total is 2.4M/week + 3.5M/week = 5.9M/week, for Canada. The description page says they're all 0.5ml per dose, so that's 2950 litres per week, or 650 gallons. Canada has to soak up about 100 gallons per day of vaccines for the rest of the month.

    BC is 13% of the population, that's 767,000 doses per week, or just under 110,000 per day. (Twelve gallons a day: the guy in the picture is being drenched with about six.) We've yet to manage 80,000, so it's a new challenge.

    If we can meet it, we can step up the second-dose program further, and get back to full speed on first doses soon. I'm daring to get excited.

    http://brander.ca/c19#vaxglut


    June 10: I'm Done. Now, Vaccinate Palestine!

    I was warned that if my first Oxford/Astazeneca shot gave me 'reactions', then I was likely to be in for the same or worse on the second. I'm pleased to say that if I hadn't been "looking" for aches and pains, I barely would have noticed them. A slight headache, a little fatigue got me to bed early. I, alas, already had a "crick in my neck" from the previous day, and that did get worse for some hours instead of better; but as the 24-hour mark comes up soon, I'm about normal.

    The pharmacist gave me a current number of one life-threatening blood clot in 600,000 doses. Australia just had its second death, may have one or two more - out of 2.8 million doses. It really is a nearly one-in-a-million lottery. I told him I'd probably taken a higher risk walking the kilometre to the drug store. (Not quite: 300 Canadian pedestrian deaths per year, about one-in-a-million per month, not per kilometre...)

    I'll have to put aside my yesterday worries over our vaccination rate dropping. Dora's Page has my photo of the line-up at Canada Place; that was reassuring. Canada is going to be more-OK than nearly any other large nation. We have to step up to help the rest of the world.

    Yes, we should mostly just contribute generously to the Covax project of the WHO. But, Canada is big enough to tackle one small nation of just 2 million, on her own, as a special project. Let's vaccinate Palestine.

    We have enough Moderna on the way to float the Bluenose. We could start skimming off our own supplies as we get down to nothing left to do but second doses for those under 60, that can be stretched out a bit.

    Palestine is 1/7th the size of Canada; stretching out our second-dose program by one-eighth in time, would skim off enough to give them all a first. (They're at about 5% now.)

    We should do this, without ever mentioning politics. The conflict with Israel should be ignored utterly. "Our sole concern is global public health, and this is a project where we can contribute to that." should be the answer of every PM, Minister, bureaucrat, doctor, nurse, and janitor connected with it.

    Without saying a single word about Israel, we could speak with actions, instead of words, for once. Normally, you can only speak with bullets, or with dollars - dollars that can be called "support for", absolutely anything the beneficiary is doing, including "terrorism". But if you just give vaccine doses, nothing else, it's safe from all attack. The attacker just hurts their position.

    (I had been thinking of recommending that every Canadian in the project reply to political questions, or will-this-cause-conflict-with-Israel questions, with a "Oh, is there some conflict in this region? I don't follow the news. I'm just here to vaccinate"... but the region is not noted for its sense of humour.)

    America is already working hard to forget January sixth. It's quite forgotten it tortured anybody, that it bombed water treatment and power plants in Iraq, not to win the 1991 war, but to "create postwar leverage" against the cholera-and-typhus-ridden civilians. (Harvard estimated the death toll at 177,000.)

    But Palestine is a part of the world where things are not forgotten. Let's do something they'll never forget.

    http://brander.ca/c19#vaxpalestine


    June 9: BC Bows to Quebec. Shame!

    Well, our vaccination rate fell off a cliff, yesterday. It had been trending down slowly, but then more quickly last week, from 0.7%/day to 0.6% over the weekend, then this jump down to 0.36% in one day.

    This may just be the second-doses clogging the clinics and forcing them to schedule later. The total shots done yesterday were still nearly 50,000. I'm just not sure, because there was a day when they did 70,000, so I think the capacity is there. I've been waiting for a decline as we went past the points where UK, USA, and Israel had the lineups dry up.

    Unlike the USA and UK, which have had terrible pandemics and probably have 30% of the population already immune from exposure, BC has only had a few percent of the population immunized through catching it. We really do need that 70% minimum, preferably 75%, or a Fall Wave is going to come.

    The "abundance of caution" principle is really being applied to children under 12 - vaccinations for them are apparently not expected until 2022. It's so crucial for all parents that school go back in, in person, all the time, in September. All the parents I know, are at the end of their rope. So we have to protect those kids with a surrounding 90% of the population that's over 75% immune, between the Vax and the Virus, or we're all screwed.

    Bring on the lotteries. Get Ryan Reynolds to give out autographs at Canada Place, with one shot in 10,000 awarded a crowd-scene walk-on in the next Deadpool movie. Free joints! Concert Tickets!

    Oh, and I didn't get to the worst of it: Quebec is beating us. We touched their numbers, just one day, now they've pulled way ahead on vaccination, and are beating the whole Rest of Canada. So we need the Canucks, and other hockey teams, pointing out that we're all being beaten, by Quebec.

    Maybe that'll work.

    Addendum, 3:39 PM
    Today's rate was "up" to 0.38%, while Quebec is still doing over 0.5% per day; we'll never catch them now. I went to BC Place, and it has a lineup. Nobody seems sure whether actual first-dose bookings are down that sharply, or just delayed by the second-dosers competing for slots. We really need the public health people to acknowledge the issue and bring on the incentives.

    http://brander.ca/c19#bcbad


    June 8: In Defense of Jason Kenney

    Jason Kenney has been busted for running a red light at 3AM. Have we all done that? I have. I don't mean just driving through at speed, I mean stopping, looking with boredom down an empty cross-road, then just starting the car again and continuing, nobody in sight.

    That's still a crime. A cop who did see it would have to bust me. Not because I created any risk of an accident, but because if I saw the cop not react, I'd think it was OK to run red lights. Cops have to enforce the law.

    This is the key of the pandemic-restrictions-resistance problem: we say the rules are there to protect you from disease, and we enforce them because they're rules, people have to respect rules, or they don't work at all. We force people to obey them when they're clearly idiotic (the golf-course thing in Ontario is almost comically bad).

    There was no significant transmission risk in that meeting - obviously! Nobody's even talking about that. Outdoors, up in the higher wind speeds, Kenney Klowns are either distant, or not facing each other as they speak. I'd have cheerfully sat down in that wide space at the back, next to the Jamesons, at least long enough to drink one, with no concerns.

    But they broke the rules - when their job is to be leaders, to show how it's done. It's most important, because the rest of us have to obey stupid rules. Stupid rules are the ones that need the most leadership! You don't need leaders, TV campaigns, and police enforcement to make people not put their hands on hot stoves.

    As the cases go down, and the risk declines, the rules effectively become stupider and stupider. I'm wearing a mask in a large, empty pet food store, save for one employee in a mask and behind a plastic shield at the counter. And we're both vaccinated. I know that my mask is as pointless as Jason breaking up that meeting into three tables. But, if I don't follow the rules, if I make up my own, others will make up their own, in situations where transmission really is possible, and cases would stop going down.

    We just need a few more weeks of them going down - and another 10% vaccination.

    So, having defended his rational risk analysis as quite correct, I still agree, for his dereliction of leadership: off with his head!

    http://brander.ca/c19#kenneydef


    June 7: A Dose in the Arm is Worth Two in the Experiments

    Yes, if I had time, I'd be up to be a medical experiment. Or, I would have happily tried longer between-dose intervals.

    But. I've committed to something even those asking me can't be sure will happen, a vacation for them starting at the end of June, and they need a dog-sitter. And of course, I'm burning to go to Calgary and help out various friends and relatives I haven't seen in a year and a half. So when this hit:

    ...I realized my best move was to get that shot ASAP. My highest risk in months will be going to Calgary and seeing several people. My risk is most-lowered by being that full three weeks past a second shot by then. I'll be doing that, three weeks from today, as it happens.

    With luck, I'll be in by my "10th-week-anniversary" this Thursday, close enough to the 12-week studies that showed it actually improved resistance compared to three weeks. And 17 days is about the point where others showed you have over 80% of the benefit at 21 days.

    As much safety again would come from my environment simply having way lower cases and lower positivity rates over the next three weeks. We still have some work to do, and I'm on pins-and-needles that today's announcement of 3 days of data for BC, reassures me that we're back to an R below one. Let's just do that, get our second shots, and have a great summer.

    http://brander.ca/c19#my2nd


    June 6: Canada at Forefront of Sewer-Tracing Studies

    CTV News this morning has an article about tracking COVID back through sewer networks, with a link to the peer-reviewed study from U of T and University of York (also linked from their graphic at left).

    The advance they discuss at length is moving forward to the badly-needed next step: 7x24 monitoring of a set of chosen, far-downstream sewer manholes, with automatic alarms when COVID is detected. Then, the field work begins: working upstream from that manhole, a network search. They calculate the number you'd have to monitor permanently, so that a given search takes only one work-day. It's astonishingly small! (And therefore, affordable, the crucial engineering criterion for a project greenlight.)

    The article is not that long, and accessible to the lay reader, particularly if you skip the bit in the middle with the math for faking up research data to study, by creating a randomly-generated network. The American town they worked with doesn't have a connected-network database map of their sewers.

    Calgary does; I helped build it. The real work was done by the Drafting group, which faithfully recorded the direction-of-flow (that being "down" with sewage, there's a whole saying about it) and end-manholes of every sewer main since 1985. I merely built the SQL database on top of their work, 20 years later, and was able to do tracing through it for about the last 8 years.

    "Upstream tracing" of a tree network (like a sewer) is a classic computer-science problem, given out to second-year students as an exercise. I was learning it about the time the draftsmen started storing manhole numbers in their new CAD computers. Twenty years later, I applied it to the sanitary and storm networks, and it worked perfectly within hours. At right, a click on the point where the storm network dumps multiple blocks of street catch-basins into a storm pond, and it traces through all the upstream mains and turns them red.

    The computer then can also show a list of every main upstream...and every sewer service line, complete with building address. Calgary has had this capability since about 2013. I was doing regular traces of huge areas - 2000 pipes serving the whole downtown, say - just to check the integrity of our data. If there was a green pipe left in the downtown, it was because the pipe wasn't properly "connected" to the rest of them, in its database record.

    So, Calgary, and by now other cities, I'm sure, can directly implement the ideas in this paper. Calgary could be monitored, 7x24, for signs of COVID anywhere in town, and the source-pipe tracked down within a day, by service personnel working their way up the tree with their laptops, or even their phones.

    We read just this morning that a WHO official believes that eradicating COVID is not a "reasonable target", so we'll have many years to come where COVID is "absent", except for constant little outbreaks that have to be quelled.

    If this system can even provide a day's earlier smackdown efforts, it could halve the number of cases.

    Every city should install such a system. It's as cheap a health-monitoring system as can even be imagined. And if every city has to pull up their socks and get a proper sewer NIS (network information system) database as well as a GIS, then they should have done that already. Like Calgary.

    http://brander.ca/c19#sewersensors


    June 5: Victoria/Victoria: Take Warning

    A dozen articles like this one are calling Canada the 'race of vaccines versus variants'; and vaccines might just do it despite our behaviours, but I'm nervous.

    It's a week since I was envying and studying Melbourne, because I was sure that their instant, very hard, lockdown, combined with awesome contact-tracing powers, would crush their outbreak in its cradle.

    I was unaware that there was a second India-origin variant, this morning named "Kappa" by the WHO, and the "Modi Misery" by CCCC. Even worse? The whole state of Victoria just extended the lockdown; six more cases slipped through the lockdown on Wednesday. That excellent contact-tracing is verifying that people can catch the Modi Misery from "fleeting encounters".

    While our vaccination rates are still high, higher than any other large country's by the time they passed 60%, there are signs of decrease. I think we'll make that supposedly-crucial 70%, but epidemiologists were clear that was barely enough, against the original, much less the "fleeting encounter" virus.

    My nerves mainly arise, though, from how the BC new-cases number has stopped falling. Four days in a row with basically the same number is no blip. Yet, the media keeps spinning it as a positive, "Fourth Day in a Row Below 200", when it's four days in a row between 180 and 200. And it's clear everybody is feeling frisky, emboldened by the recent drops and soaring vaccinations.

    We could still snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, if our Victoria doesn't heed the warnings from their Victoria.

    http://brander.ca/c19#vicvic


    June 4: Fight the Fascist Flu

    Location NameWHO nameNew NameCCCC Name
    Wuhan COVID-19COVID-19Xi Virus
    UK (Kent)B.117AlphaBoJo Bug
    India Don't care anymoreDeltaModi Malady
    There needs to be a third side of this debate. One side wants to promote racism in a very sly way, by heaping blame upon entire countries, which of course just means whole peoples. Bluntly, if "Wuhan Flu", "Kung Flu", and "China Virus" were to only cause anger and condemnation of the fascist, racist, Uighur-and-Tibetan-killing, own-people-oppressing, leaders of the Communist Party of the People's Republic of China...I'd use them myself. But, of course, they don't work that way, they get fourth-generation Vancouverite senior citizens pushed to the sidewalk.

    The other side doesn't want to blame a single soul, wants utterly neutral terminology: alpha, beta, gamma, delta. (Your mnemonic: India looks like a Delta).

    But there are people to blame for variants, and I'm happy to heap blame on one Chinese dictator for the original. (It's just another variant these days, too, since it's now in the minority.) These leaders run at quasi-fascist regimes, even if elected; they at least partially meet the definition, of popularity through sexism, racism, and religious bigotry against scapegoat groups; violent suppression of opponents-as-traitors; incessant lying; chest-thumping their own personality cults. The pandemic brought out a common fascist trait in them all, flagrant lying about inconvenient reality, the worst pandemic response possible: denial it existed, denial it was serious, denial that proven public health measures worked, promotion of "herd immunity" that science showed to be a mass-murdering fantasy.

    Not in the table: Beta, from South Africa. Leader Cyril Ramphosa is a far from perfect leader running a far from perfect state, but his pandemic performance has won wide praise, doing very well with very little money. Beta did not arise because they let the disease go out of control, were reluctant to lock-down, despite their grinding poverty. They had a bad second wave, quickly controlled. It was just bad luck.

    The other variants, we could literally have done without, could have escaped, save for terrible leaders brought to power through lies, demonization of immigrants, appeals to racist concepts of patriotism (and religious bigotry, in the case of Modi and Xi).

    If we get a fourth wave in fall, because the Modi Malady overcomes our counterattack, say its name.

    http://brander.ca/c19#fascistflu


    June 3: British Columbia and Canada: Champion Vaccinators!

    I've been aching to write this post for three days, because I could see it coming, but it doesn't do to count one's vaccinations before the needle sinks home.

    Of course, the party could have stopped at any point, too: Israel was vaccinating at nearly a percent per day in late February; two weeks and five percent later, the clinics were like ghost towns. They finally made it to 63% this morning, six weeks after they reached 62%. It's over.

    The USA and UK slowed down over a longer period, and are still vaccinating at a little over a percent per week, but there's no chance of Mr. Biden's "70% by July 4" plan, not at 50% today.

    These percentages will all leap up when shots for children under 12 are approved. About 10% of the population, and if most get it, that'll be several percent in a few weeks, across most nations.

    For now, though, Canada surpassed the UK a few days ago. The only nation with a population greater than Hamilton (~500K) that is more-(first dose)-vaccinated than Canada is Israel. If you take the CCCC political position that Israel has a moral, if not legal (Oslo Accords) responsibility to vaccinate Palestine, then Israel is actually well under 50%, and Canada is Grand Champion World Vaccinator, Non-Tiny-Nations Division. (Gibraltar is 116% vaccinated, with 77,000 people done, because they vaccinated Spanish day workers.)

    The upper-left graphic shows that BC is really the Champion Vaccinator for Canada, (non-tiny division: territories under 100,000 people are excluded). At least, every afternoon. When I went to grab the graphic this morning, we were back to second-place, behind Quebec, because they report first thing in our morning, BC late in our afternoon. We've been creeping up on them by a quarter-percent per day, or so, and at this rate, we be far enough ahead to stay there all day at some point into the weekend. Quebec will be ahead in the 'race' all weekend, because BC won't report for 3 days; but on Monday, we'll take the lead and stay there. A day or two later, Canada should be ahead of Israel by any reckoning, Premier on the Planet.

    So far, there's only a slight sign of Canada falling-off in vaccination rates. I've been expecting us to follow the pattern of USA and UK for weeks now, and it's simply not happening. I could do a whole post on that, for real number nerds, and may, especially if we just keep going.

    I sure hope.

    http://brander.ca/c19#vaxmax


    June 2: Good Story on the Wuhan Lab Theory in The Tyee

    If you want to read a really proper pandemic blog, by a lifelong journalist (and a long life; hitting 80 this summer) Crawford Kilian, who knows how to run one, try his blog, "H5N1" which has been on the public health beat for some time. He's been in BC journalism forever, is a professor, and SF paperback author (which for me, is the most endearing thing of all).

    This week, he's added to the excellent pandemic coverage at The Tyee, with a simple reporter's reaction to the Wuhan-Lab-Leak theory.

    By "reporter's reaction", I actually mean a lite version of a police detective's reaction, a judge's reaction to a story in court, an academic's reaction to a historical theory.

    We disparage journalism (and so much of it deserves it), but the core function of journalism is still the same as science itself: get to the truth. To do this, every journalist, like detectives and judges, have to ask whether the facts "add up", whether they make sense.

    Kilian takes more time disposing of the probability that the pandemic is an actual attack, and act of bio-warfare, than I could be bothered to, but I'm glad he expended 400 words. Because that's the only one I cared about.

    My reaction, to the "accidental lab leak", here on May 27, is best articulated by Bill Murray, in Meatballs, 1979: It Just Doesn't Matter. (If it's been a while, take a minute for the clip; Bill at his best; I spent a minute fantasizing about drowing out a conspiracy theorist ranter with this clip).

    One more time, I think it's China's fault even if not a lab leak. So the exact incompetent screw-up (in labs or food markets, or superstitions about wild-animals-as-Viagra) is boring.

    But I wouldn't have taken a post just to point to another Lab Leak story. The article goes on to an excellent summary of good reasons why the UN and WHO are not trusted when they speak, not anymore: the stupid cover-up of UN Peacekeeper guilt in the cholera epidemic in Haiti. "The cholera outbreak in Haiti should have ruined the authority of WHO and perhaps even of the UN itself. But as it is a small, very poor Black country...".

    And then there is more, about the origins of automatically assuming Asians are sources of plague in America, and a review of some early COVID history I'd only glanced at: the indications that COVID might have been around many months or even a year before, and a discussion of how badly the Chinese government needs to be seen as "competent", if they don't want to finish up like Mussolini.

    As a bonus, go to The Tyee today, and see up front an article by Andrew Nikiforuk on the guy who tried to stop residential schools. As you read, note the complete lack of ads, pop-ups, and web crap. They're reader-supported journalism, and I'm supporting.

    http://brander.ca/c19#tyeelableak


    June 1: News Round-Up

    I'm undecided between multiple news stories this morning, I think I'll just do a quick-hit on them all:

    • BC Back On Track:
      It was a relief and satisfying that the BC case-count did the same as Alberta's: shoot way up for just two days last week, and come right back down again over the weekend. No sign of a continued "bump" because of the minor re-openings last Tuesday. At left, the "R" value for BC, which hasn't dropped to Alberta's planet-beating lows of 0.63, just the 0.78 mentioned yesterday. The "bump" is working its way through the "R" calculation just as a temporary increase up to 0.81, which is still good.

    • Manitoba Can't Do Much More:
      "Manitoba doctors call for complete lockdown as hospitals reach breaking point" on Global News. Alas, the CCCC-method of calculating "R" gives a Manitoba number of 0.75, which is really good. The problem is that the plummet, from 480 cases to 336 cases, is just nine days old. The Manitoba ICUs unfortunately are a python with large pig to digest, a lump of cases that must make their way through the system, to home, or grave.

    • Peru Couldn't Have Done Much Less:
      The CCCC arbiter of Covid-Cup position, Worldometers, hasn't yet processed the news that Peru's death count is actually almost triple that announced. They'll handily "beat" the world with over 5000 dead per million. The country is not in the CCCC "major league" of course, won't be "graded" against countries that can afford modern health care. Apparently, part of the problem was an inability to do even simple messaging. Keep in mind that very poor countries like Cuba did so much better.

    • I'll STILL take Astazeneca:
      So I'll surely be offered both Pfizer and Ox/AZ for my second shot, with today's news about mix-and-match being OK. The one Spanish study even makes it sound desirable, as immune response may be higher by mixing as I'd hoped. However, if me picking Pfizer meant any chance of any vaccine being wasted, I'd take the Ox/AZ. If it means getting my shot before I leave for Calgary, I'll take Ox/AZ. If it means getting a shot a few day's earlier, I'd take Ox/AZ. The thing is, when the basic protection is very high, improving on that can't do much more good. It's just not a big decision.

      http://brander.ca/c19#newsroundup


      May 31: Props for the Alberta Cliff

      Belatedly, I have to admire Israel, if not for their foreign policy, then that they did finally produce that "cliff"-shaped falloff in cases I was expecting when they vaccinated at great speed.

      As you can see in the cases graph at right, Israel was falling off very rapidly, when Purim Parties hit and the cases levelled right off for weeks. I was looking away in April, when the cases finally fell off a cliff, with a CCCC-type "R" of 0.64. (CCCC just takes 7-day average of cases, five days apart, and divides, to get a rough "R" estimate. I haven't heard any news about the "average time between infections" being changed from about five days.)

      I had been celebrating the recent continued drops in the "R" value for BC. At first, it was something over 0.8, but over the last few weeks, kept dropping - that is, we were restricting transmission better and better, either through continuous improvements in behaviour (maybe) or the growing power of vaccinations, especially those "smart" vaccinations a month back, when they targeted "hotspots" and workplace outbreaks. Just before that "bump" in cases from the long weekend, BC had actually dropped below 0.8 to about an R of 0.78.


      Then I looked over at Alberta, and holy cowboys, they were even better. Except for Israel for about three weeks there, I haven't seen a drop like that in any polity on Earth. Alberta is rocking the lockdown.

      The evil, dastardly rodeo actually was only associated with the one infection! I wondered about that. It was a very outdoor experience, like the George Floyd Marches that infected few. More to the point, I think this shows that Alberta, actually Canada's most-educated province, actually has a solid majority that don't agree with the antics of a few preachers and activists. The Alberta cliff started too early to credit vaccination: it was at that "R" on May 14, when only 33% of the province was more than a week since their shot. There were some safe behaviours going on.

      It's great to see that Alberta's "bump" up to 500+ cases a day for two days, five days after the long weekend, swiftly fell back to just over 400 and now under 400 yesterday. The "bump" was only for the weekend, it was right back to crushing the curve last Monday. Today, BC will give the three weekend days' figures, and I hold high hopes we'll do the same. (We need to.)

      This week will tell if all this wonderful news will continue: will the already-started re-openings push R back up? Will our vaccination rates continue upwards when America, UK, and Israel fell off, right about this point? If the answer to both is actually "yes" (I hardly dare get hopes up), then when the Summer of '21 starts in 22 days, and it's going to be awesome.

      http://brander.ca/c19#ABcliff


      May 30: The Real "Population-Level Experiments"

      When I first saw the phrase, I thought it was anti-vaxxer rhetoric; they're always ranting on about a 200-year-old technology being "experimental". (I don't wish these people polio, but I do wish they could spend an hour inside my Mom's head, worrying about her two kids in 1956, then another as she saw them vaccinated against it. I mean, our next-door neighbour, and the guy across the alley: my brothers dodged a bullet.)

      You know who's doing the serious "population-level experiments"? The virus. It's constantly experimenting, not on individuals, but on the overall population, through its mutations, and now, hybridizations. Here are its experiments: "If I change spike proteins a bit - let's try a thousand different ways - do any of them propagate faster?", "What if I mix characteristics from two faster strains, will they find synergy and improve on both?". Well, that particular series of experiments just found a winner (for the virus) in Vietnam.

      An admission, before I start with the ranting: I joined the many who experessed great concern about the P1 variant from Brazil, but it seems to have been contained well-enough to have not taken over the world. It's good to be concerned, bad to panic. Maybe the Vietnam Hybrid won't be much worse than our current problems.

      The new hybrid may cause terrible problems around the world, certainly in unvaccinated countries. If one of these "experiments" turns out to not just be more-transmissable (which evolution will tend to press for) but more deadly (which would just be bad-luck), the world could lose many millions.

      The connection is that the virus gets to keep on doing population-level experiments until we take its toys away: the populations it's experimenting with all need to be vaccinated. If we just vaccinate the First World, the virus still has a massive, 5-billion-person lab to play in, until it figures out how to come back, and kill us anyway.

      So, far, its experiments have turned up faster-spreading, and we have heaved sigh after sigh of relief that one variant after another is still fairly suppressed by our current vaccines. If we let it keep experimenting for another year, it may well crack that research problem.

      We need to vacciate the whole world, or we won't be safe from the real Mad Scientist.

      http://brander.ca/c19#poplevel


      May 29: The Price of the Long Weekend (Statistically Happy, Though).

      Alberta's cases were almost in free-fall; dropping at several percent per day. Our "R" value was dropping below 0.8 into the high 0.7s, the shrinkage-rate improving, even. Then the last days of the week went: 289, 250, 378(!), and 317.

      Daily numbers can go down and up: if the next day had been again, about 250, or a little more, instead of dropping, that would have been unsurprising. But a jump-upward of 30% from the even the 289 of day before 250, was clearly because five days earlier, the Saturday of the long weekend had some socializing and other activities that caused maybe a hundred extra cases, compared to previous Saturdays.

      BC has over a million households; if 1% of them - 10,000 - had held BBQs, and 1% of those caused one extra case each, that's all the explanation needed.

      The 317 of yesterday was also up about 30 from where the trendline would have had it. (I'm estimating very casually here; again, the CCCC superpower: it's irresponsibility.) Those 130 cases will have secondary cases; even an "R" of 0.7 means another 90, and those have tertiaries. I think I'm really compensating for the casual estimation, with conservate rounding-down, to say the long weekend cost us an extra 200 cases or so.

      Which means a life. The vaccinations of the old have dropped our case mortality rate from over 1% down to about 0.5% - 200 cases, one dies. We don't know who died for our long weekend. He'll just be one of many that week, it might be any of them that would never have caught it.

      Stalin probably never uttered the line, that "The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of a million is a statistic." But here, we have the death of one man (most likely male, and over 70) as our statistic. He's still with us, won't die until mid-June - if he's a tertiary infection, he hasn't even caught it yet, still blissfully healthy. Sorry you're going to die, buddy.

      There's at least one more in Alberta, whose case-counts this last few days were: 452, 387, 390, 512, 513...clearly up a hundred on Thursday and Friday, each. Another death.

      But you know something? It's absolutely typical and normal. The long weekends always killed a few people with traffic accidents. It was a routine Tuesday morning news report, the long weekend traffic deaths, several times per year. Traffic accidents, industrial accidents, vaccine accidents, just the prices we pay for the benefits of modern technology, transportation, medicine, good jobs.

      Or even a good weekend.

      The 3-day report on Monday will tell us how expensive it was in total, but I suspect that the above "bump" in cases, is about it. The larger picture - the statistics Stalin would notice - is looking good, so tomorrow's post will be positive.

      http://brander.ca/c19#weekendcost


      May 28: Envying Melbourne. Studying Melbourne, for Next Time

      I wanted Friday data before I breathed out that the long weekend didn't cause a spike. Since yesterday's numbers, the usual five incubation days after Saturday, abruptly jumped up 50% from the day before, I know I need it. That post will have to await tomorrow.

      In the meantime let's all just envy the every-single-person contact tracing they've already done in Melbourne to stop their outbreak. From the news last night, the "15 cases" of the link are already 26. They've traced out some 10,000(!!) contacts-of-contacts-of-contacts already, getting them all tested. Compared to our tracing system, they're awesome.

      At right, the graphic from the story showing how the public health has not only done the trace out through multiple connections, but revealed all to the papers, though with privacy for the patients.

      Consider that they just did a hard, severe, stay-home lockdown on seven million people, based on five cases when they did it. That's how you respond to this thing. You have to move fast, and you have to really restrict, hard. Then it can be brief.

      10,000 contacts traced in sixty hours, about forty waking hours? They must have dozens of people working the phones all day. That sheer effort means they have a high probability of running them all down in days, getting them quarantined and tested, being able to end the lockdown, early next week.

      That's what every country needs to do, next pandemic. It needs to be the policy. It needs to be a standard operating procedure that a weak-kneed, ideological, science-denying politician can't undermine, any more than they could order a change of surgical procedures on kidneys.

      We all need to study and admire and emulate how Australia and New Zealand and South Korea, and so few others, have handled this pandemic, for decades to come, and build a pandemic-response bureaucracy and body of practice that can't be turned into political pawns, next time.

      Next time.

      http://brander.ca/c19#melbourne


      May 27: Of Course It's China's Fault. Not Important.

      I'm baffled by the sudden concern over whether COVID-19 really came from a lab error, rather than terrible food-handling with wild game. Neither one is a really "natural" explanation, both are the fault of humans and their bad behaviour.

      The food-handling, we were kind of used to, I guess, after SARS and MERS and others: we put up with China being a ruthless, murderous dictatorship that behaves genocidally towards Tibetans and Uighurs; with international bullying and crimes against dissidents abroad, environmental poisonings, with currency manipulation and cyberwarfare and industrial espionage, and...never mind. We put up with oceans of awfulness from China, because they make us so much money. Full stop.

      What would one more screwup matter, after all that? Surely, it was an unintended accident, either way; they lost thousands of dead, too.

      If it were on purpose, it's the stupidest "attack" in history. The biggest harm was to our economies, from lockdowns, though least to those who followed medical science, like Australia is today, with a one-week lockdown over 15 cases in Melbourne. (They've just found the hole was in the hotel quarantine system.)

      But those lockdowns hurt China nearly as much. Their whole economy is based on selling stuff to our economies. The real underpinning of my "D-fund D-fens" post just below, is that the business model of war is failing, what with your opponent being your biggest customer in a globalized world.

      Cui bono? Who benefits from the pandemic? Nobody. If it was deliberate, it was stupid. If it was not deliberate, it doesn't matter much what dumb mistake caused it. They probably need both: better food-handling, and end to the superstitition that wild animal parts are some kind of Viagra, and, also, great care in disease labs. That said, I'm happy to see China beaten like a gong, see the second paragraph.

      The guy you'd really suspect of doing it deliberately are all the lukewarm "socialists" that have been proven right about everything they've been saying for so many years. I just can't figure out how Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn did it.

      I will be posting late afternoon tomorrow. I'm afraid to really believe in how good the case-counts have been so far this week, after a long weekend, and don't want to post on it without two more days of data.

      http://brander.ca/c19#chinasfault


      May 26: Income Inequality, Vaccine Inequality

      State or Province by Percentage with 1 Vaccine
      It's been over a year since I mentioned The book, "The Spirit Level" in a CCCC post. Confession: I had the book, then, and really meant to read it soon, but I just got around to it the last week.

      It really is excellent. It's full of graphs, but they make them a quick-glance by not including any numbers at all; each just shows that just about every bad thing, from teen pregnancy to bad health to crime and punishment, goes up with income inequality. The richer people do worse in income-inequal places, too; it infects the whole of society.

      I thought to see how vaccination percentages for a state or province related. I'm pleased to note that American vaccinations don't just track with average state income. There's a relationship there, but not a strong one.

      What you really notice is that the vaccine rollout has been much more even across Canada. I have rudely excluded PEI from my red box around the Provinces, because PEI is just 140,000 people that hardly had a pandemic. I think their case-rate peaked at THREE per day, the equivalent of BC getting 80. They are being really good to show up at the vaccine clinic at all.

      Even if I included PEI, then 40% of the US states are less-vaccinated than the least of Canadian provinces. Nearly 50% of them are lower than the other nine.

      But also, a quarter of US states are more-vaccinated than the best Canadian province, Quebec.

      Canadians have stuck together tighter in the pandemic, in every way. Despite the huge area, the great social differences, we look pretty unified, when you compare us.

      It's really the US that sticks out, here. On all those dozens of graphs in "The Spirit Level", Canada is generally in the middle of the pack of developed nations. Better off than the UK and Portugal, (Europe's least-equal), not as great as Scandanavia.

      On such graphs, the US is generally way out in its own space, far from the others, with worse health, worse prisons, worse obesity - by a distinct amount. The link above to my Spirit Level post shows one such graph.

      What you'd probably find, if I could dig up the stats that "The Spirit Level" used, would be that it isn't so much average income, as the amount of income inequality inside the state that would show a correlation with higher or lower vaccine success.

      The more unequal any culture is, the less trust there is, the fewer public services, the less public spending on anything good - like health systems. There is also greater mistrust of others, all others. People surveyed have higher percentage of saying they'd take their coat to the washroom in a restaurant, for fear of theft. Imagine the fear of vaccines - the ones that come from the government that pays cops to keep your whole neighbourhood down.

      Canadians are showing a much higher surveyed intention to get vaccinated, and I'm hoping, this week, that vaccination rates per day don't slow down, the way they did in the USA at the 40% mark. Just think, every person getting vaccinated is basically saying "I trust my government to make sure this injection is safe". That's just a more-likely statement in Canada than the USA, and the next few weeks will tell, by how much.

      America beat us by a large amount at immunizing her population by getting them sick and risking their lives. They've probably got a 20% "advantage" on us, paid for with an extra 400,000 dead, but we can catch up by vaccinating to 70%.

      Which would be so great. Come on.


      http://brander.ca/c19#vaxinequality


      May 25: A Different View From India

      I noticed that India has really fallen from our newspaper pages, after all that agony and attention, just a few weeks ago. Less than two weeks since CCCC posted about the real death-rate possibly in the tens of thousands per day, but, once the case-rate finally went down, and the shots of people fighting for oxygen tanks had all been done, we looked away again.

      Abruptly, it hit me that in the 21st century, I'm not dependent on our news. India has more English speakers than Europe, and the Times of India is a venerable and respected newspaper. Off I went, and I recommend it.

      As you can see, the front page is NOT full of covid death stories; the big news is the appointment to the head of their version of the FBI. But it's not some cover-up, the Times subservient to the Modi government's insane deprecation of the pandemic. You can see, at lower right, the headline about "India seeks to restore image", and they have a whole Coronavirus section, like most newspapers.

      Indeed, here I finally bothered to read up on the "black fungus" stories from India, which I hadn't, because it hadn't appeared here, and I was right. The story is about doctors wanting a study on how overuse of zinc might be causing the 8000 cases so far, not just overuse of steroids. It notes "India is already the mucor (generic for these kinds of fungus) capital of the world", with 70x the global rate. In short, this problem is small compared to 3,000 dead per day, and will not be reaching much farther than India.

      I've been remiss in pandemic coverage: I often follow foreign stories without reading the foreign papers. Still adapting to the 21st.

      http://brander.ca/c19#timesofindia


      May 24: D-Fund D-Fens

      I'm anxiously awaiting the verdict of the weekend: have May 24 social activities caused a "bump" in infection rates, even to the extent of just cutting down on the rate-of-decline? I'm really hoping to get to Calgary in late June...

      While I'm waiting, this is not really off-topic, honest: never mind police for now: lets just defund our defense department. Mostly, anyway, then re-build it with a lot of new hires. A lot more women.

      Yes, the proximate cause of my ire is the excellent Canadaland Podcast on Military Sexual Assault. Do listen, (and do help Canadaland!), it's a grim tale of a bureaucracy that is deeply entrenched. The rot goes all the way to the top, it will, well, D-Fend itself from change until severe measures are taken.

      Even cutting their budget sharply for a while, preserving the equipment, and firing a lot of the officer ranks, would be a great start. Listen to the podcast, if you want to join my vengeful, "times-up" mood. This is beyond your feelings on the actual issue, and goes into whether our military are respectful of civilian control. They can't become an untouchable institution, a law unto themselves.

      But the connection to the pandemic, actually pre-dates this blog. I got the idea for the blog after doing a second pandemic essay, about the "COVID Cup", but the first was "US Military Kills a Million Americans", though I'm certainly glad they'll only get to 2/3rds of a million. (604,000 this morning, up 20,000 in the last month. It's not over.)

      It's all about how the military get a trillion a year (literally, when you add up various budgets) to defend the US against largely imaginary threats, while the real threats to life and property: pandemic, and cyberattacks respectively, are all but ignored.

      Canada could d-fund that d-fens department, which soaks up $20B a year right now, by literally billions per year, to fund public health with. Vaccine factories that do just sit there, if necessary, for "resilience", for next time.

      We could also use a "battalion" of cybersecurity warriors. (Mostly, they'd work in concert with the private firms securing all our infrastructure and companies, providing communication, tools, and back-tracking of attacks.) No reason for that new military arm to be even half male.

      The Americans are ready for more imaginary threats with "Space Force": the real needs are for "BioForce" and "CyberForce". They'd need very few military traditions and culture, but they could sure use those military-sized budgets.

      There's no room here to get into a topic Gwynne Dyer has devoted whole books to: The Canadian Military have never defended Canada. It only needed defense once (1812), 55 years before we were a country. They have only ever fought for other countries, to maintain our foreign alliances. Chretien was smart and lucky to have Afghanistan to send them all to: a legal, UN-sanctioned war... and have an excuse for not going to Iraq, the illegal one, as our foreign ally would have demanded. Having a military now can get you into foreign trouble.

      Iraq really showed the limits of what violence can accomplish in the modern world. What struck me as amazing is how much better the American war machine got for 20 years straight. Drones hardly existed in 2001, now they're incredibly effective, and they have thousands of them, to kill specific people they can find by surveiling every phone and radio wave on the planet. Their commandos are super-professionals.

      And none of that made the slightest difference. They still lost! (As Kurt Vonnegut wrote after Vietnam, "Let there be a deathly silence as our armada sails home".)

      If the mighty USA couldn't beat a bunch of rice farmers 50 years back, and couldn't beat goatherds for the last 20 years, what's the point of an army? Nobody is stupid enough to oppose us with armies any more, so we find ourselves fighting the wind. The US spent $2.2 trillion on Afghanistan alone; for most of the time, the war was costing three times the Afghan GDP. It would have been 60% cheaper to pay them to lockdown like a pandemic, let the crops go fallow, import all food. Think of that. The war was three times more expensive than the entire civilian economy. The 10,000-year-old "business model" of war is dead.

      If they'd invested the $2.2 trillion, the interest would provide the current Afghan GDP, for free: they'd have Universal Basic Income. Future conflicts may be cheaper to solve with money and kindness, than paying for the defense gold-plated Cadillacs.

      For instance, would Palestine have launched 4500 rockets over those evictions in Jerusalem, if there were a lot of goodwill circulating, if Israel had vaccinated 2 million Palestinians in the previous two months? Wouldn't that have been cheaper?

      Having circled back to the pandemic, I rest my case.

      http://brander.ca/c19#dfunddfens


      May 23: Oh, BULLS#!T, Brian!

      How full of it is Brian Pallister? If you just read the lead paragraphs, or just catch the TV news 3-minute story, you might think he's not completely full of it. It must be frustrating to be vaccinating away, (at an already-impressive pace of 0.8% of his population per day), and know there are even more vaccines just south of the border. Pallister claimed he could be going faster if he had that additional supply.

      Credit to Pallister's opposition, NDP Leader Wab Kinew, who busted him by pointing out there were a mere 55,000 spare vaccines available in North Dakota, according to their own dashboard.

      But Pallister is truly humiliated by his own appearance on our dashboard, at right. He's used one of the lowest percentages in Canada, (82.7%, second-last column) of the vaccines distributed, meaning he has 152,063 patiently waiting in Manitoba freezers; nearly three times as many as North Dakota.

      He's been shipped vaccines equal to 68% of the population he has to reach. Alberta, just 63%, but they're two days ahead of him on vaccination progress. In BC, we've received a percent less, by population, but at 50.5% reached, we're five days ahead of Manitoba.

      Wab Kinew probably has the right of it, saying that it's a "desperate attempt to distract". Pallister is embarrassed by Manitoba's new status as the worst hotspot on the continent, and wants to talk about anything except bulging ICUs.

      Lastly, even his notion that he can vaccinate his way out of a wave, is nuts like a squirrel. Restrictions can get your R down to 0.8, many places have done it. That's a drop of 50% every 15 days. Super-fast vaccinations might reach 20% of the population in 15 days, and only the first day would be starting to kick in at the end of it, relief still weeks away. (Manitoba managed an R of 0.8 for the last week of February, the first of March, halving cases.)

      Pallister isn't up there with the outright liars that have caused pandemic nightmares around the world. But his nickname is now "BS Brian" around here.

      http://brander.ca/c19#bsbrian


      May 22: Times-Colonist Covers Privacy Commissioner on Vaccine Passports

      The name is starting to sound like an insult, but the Victoria Times-Colonist is still around. The link is to their story I haven't seen elsewhere this morning: the BC privacy commissioner has confirmed that the Province is exploring vaccine passport ideas.

      Wonderful.

      Frankly, I want one of those QR codes. I might tattoo it on my forehead. The restaurant the other night hates menus (unsanitary!); they have a QR code on the table, and it opens up a Web PDF...just the worst way of putting up a document, of course, it should be a nice HTML app... but it works.

      A bar or theatre owner should be able to grab my QR code and see from a reliable provincial database that I'm covid-safe. (Either vaccinated, or both positive and negative tests on file from the last year. If you didn't get tested, you can go get an antibody test and a negative test. Proof you've had it.)

      The fascinating thing about phone-app based identification is that it could be a civil libertarian's delight. I remember a Libertarian surprising an audience with the statement that your driver's license should not contain your name: "What do they need your name for? They need to know you are licensed to drive, period. Being able to check your warrants for laughs is nowhere in the Highway Traffic Act."

      Well, the QR code could lead you to (1) my photograph from two angles, and (2) confirmation of safety. No names.

      We won't get that, of course, (nor do I care; obviously, any blogger is pathetically begging for attention).

      But I'm so glad to hear of passports not being deprecated as some unfair social pressure on the differently-mentally-abled-about-vaccines. I'm sure that bar owners and theatres will be happy, too, because it was going to be much, much longer before I went to one, without them.

      Let's get them going. We need at least a public-health order, and probably a law. Get going, Mr. Horgan.

      http://brander.ca/c19#vaxppt


      May 21: V for Vax Victory

      We nearly made it yesterday, at least for the CTV tracking page that had us just a hundredth of a percent behind America. Today, we'll breeze right past them.

      There's not much 'yippie' in that 'contest', which isn't. One could only wish the US was vaccinating better, it's our primary source of infections!

      Nope, the "victory" is the other numerical event to celebrate today: even as I write, BC is passing the 50% mark for vaccinations. Canada will follow by the end of the weekend, holiday and all. 21 US states will actually still be ahead of us, many may stay there. Vermont is at 66%!

      CCCC should probably join those graphing their state vaccination successes against income inequality, income, percent White people, etc - Vermont is probably their Whitest state. (But Hawaii, their State-of-Most-Colour, is at 63%. It's not race. It's how race is treated there.)

      Some places there may be struggling to get above 50% vaccinated for years yet, and others, around the world. I don't understand Europe. Why is Switzerland less vaccinated (28%), than Mississippi, America's least (32%)?

      For a real harsh comparison between Canada and the US, compare the differences across the country: America varying from 66% to 32%, but - if you'll just except the North from the counting, because it has under 100,000 people - then the variance across Canada is from 42% to 52%. Our income inequality is less, but our vaccination inequality is way, way, less.

      The big V-for-Victory as we pass 50% on our start-of-summer weekend is actually the first derivative, the direction, of our vaccination chart: it's still going up, faster than ever. We are past where America slowed down at 40%, covered 3 weeks ago. Since then, our rates kept up as we passed 45%, where the UK rate abruptly slowed. We seem to have appointment booking to take us at least to the 55% mark, where Israel suddenly slowed down.

      When Canada slows down, is yet to be seen. We seem to be booking appointments like crazy, so far. Again, to repeat: the US and UK had very bad pandemics, courtesy of very bad governments: they obtained at least 20% immunity through infection, Canada at most 10%. We need to pass them, we really do need that 70%.

      So, come on. Onward to Victory.

      http://brander.ca/c19#v4vaxvic


      May 20: Astazeneca Equal to mRNA, Let's Not Waste It

      I'd still love to be sold off for medical experiments, like those Monty Python kids in Yorkshire, as long as the experiment was a vaccine mix.

      But recent statistical innumeracy has Ox/AZ in the doghouse, and I'll also stick my hand up to take a second dose of it, and leave the allegedly-safer products for the fearful.

      This morning brings us tentative, but still great, news from the UK via Reuters, that Ox/AZ is 85-90% effective, upon a second dose, statistically equal to both Pfizer and Moderna. It had been imagined to be somewhat-less effective until this study, and then the clot issue really kneecapped it.

      What a year for vaccines, you can't get over it. We have two distinct new technologies for making them, proven and used in the widest practice. Not that the old method wasn't still available; we're just richer.

      When it really sinks in, that the risk is, once again, comparable to two weeks of life in Canada using our roads and risking "normal" injury and death from traffic, people may react the way they did to polio vaccine, exultant.

      People used to be afraid of flying. The airline industry really put in years and decades of work, with astonishing success: speaking of traffic deaths, it's far more risky to drive to the airports, than fly between them.

      If you look at the vaccine news correctly, even the side-effect reports have been good, because those numbers are so low; and the effectiveness reports are just spellbinding. Certainly this one.

      The report also indicates that it might be time to start thinking about the second dose as early as 10 weeks, though 12 is definitely fine. Since I'm at seven weeks now, I'm eager to hear their plans for mid-June.

      http://brander.ca/c19#azgood


      May 19: The Other Way to Kill Palestinians

      Israel has no legal obligation to vaccinate Gaza and the West Bank. It's right there in the Oslo Accords. Principal drafters of them do believe there's a moral obligation, and an epidemiological self-interest, but Israel doesn't feel like it, so there's been basically none.

      The story at right, from Feb 22 by Doctors Without Borders, was published when Israel had already hit 50% vaccinated, eight weeks from scratch. Palestine is still at 5%, three months later. That was also the week that dying started to spike up in the territories, a few weeks after cases did, and some 1,500 Palestinians have died of COVID-19 in those three months.

      Deaths go on, because vaccination is still not even started, and the war (offer me another word) will, as always, make plague worse. The number of dead from it will far dwarf any from military attacks. (The reported case-rate was down, before the new war, but I suspect the coughing has already started in those "UN Schools" that people are packed into, their homes destroyed.)

      About half-way through that three-month period, the story at left came out. Israel did have this sudden fall-off in vaccination rates when they hit 50% in late February; by late March, the clinics were empty, the country stalled at 60%.

      So, they just didn't pay Pfizer for the last 2.5M doses of vaccine delivered, causing Pfizer to withold the next shipment of 700,000. I'm not sure how that story finished, nor care. The point was just how much spare, already-ordered vaccine they had lying around. Who knows? They might well have gotten away with these recent evictions that started all the backlash, if they'd made heros of themselves by vaccinating Palestine. The whole war might have been averted, not to mention the 1,500 extra Palestinian deaths.

      I have to admit that I'm looking forward to two expected developments by the early 2030s. We will have converted a lot of our transportation away from oil, the industry in decline, and the world need for Arab dictator oil, disappearing. Meanwhile, immigration to both North American countries and Europe will continue to be high from Arab nations, Muslims in general. Oh, and the percentage of diaspora Jews who approve of Israeli politics will continue to decline, that's a third development.

      Where we'll be then, I can't predict, but my gut-feel is that we'll be capable of a more-honest foreign policy. Anyway, "just thought I'd mention", those 1,500 dead. Nobody else is.

      http://brander.ca/c19#palestine


      May 18: One Day, Two Round Numbers

      CCCC has always been a little numbers-obsessed (it's a blog on the Spectrum), and its attachment to Worldometers is in the blurb. But it's been a while since posts about "OMG look what a large number have died" (a round number, or something worse than some war).

      But I'll haul it out, just one more time, because two of them hit on one day, by pure coincidence, and they're sure a dramatic comparison:

      Canadian news announced our total had reached 25,000 dead, the same day that Worldometers showed 600,000 American dead. Slide your eye right, and they also passed another round number, on the CCCC pandemic score metric of deaths per million: 1800. This vaults them past previous badness-champions Spain, France and Portugal in recent days, and, as UK deaths drop to 1-per-million-per-month, while the US continues to rise by 1-per-million-per-DAY, they may actually pass the hideous Boris Johnson per-capita in Old Blighty.

      Canada, mind you, has the same per-capita death rate, at present. But, we're an awful long way ahead: just over a third their overall death rate. (Far right column.)

      Which is my cue to subtract the "care-home pandemic" from the total to get "community-only" pandemic. (Besides, we know at least one governor undercounted their care-home deaths. Was Cuomo the only such governor? Four of the last seven governors of Illinois went to jail. These are not trustworthy people.)

      The American total up to age 65 is 113,651.

      Canada, about 2000. Say, 17,000, American-population-equivalent. Less than one-sixth as many.

      We have laurels, but no reason to rest on them. The American death-rate is slowly, but steadily going down, and they may not pass the UK if they can keep crushing. Canada, of course, went UP for two weeks recently, thanks to Ford and Kenney, and it won't even start to go down for a bit yet, as the now-shrinking-at-last Ford/Kenney wave is processed through the ICUs and into the graveyards.

      http://brander.ca/c19#tworound


      May 17: Just Avoid One Of These, and Get That Astazeneca

      I will again be celebrating another excellent Guardian column by David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters, "How Big Are the Risks from the Astazeneca Jab?" by cribbing some of their data.

      Their column uses the now-prevalent figure of one case of blood clots for every 100,000 doses administered. I can't find some reports I read about a week ago, of a study that found blood clots as often as one every 29,000. I think the difference there is that they were looking for any blood clot, as opposed to those serious enough to cause pain and have recipient report a blood clot. So, the news is about the 1-in-100,000 figure.

      Many of that 1-in-100,000 just go away, or require some treatment and hospital, first. Maybe half(?) cause real injury and loss, the most frightening being clots in the brain, and the most famous now being the guy here in BC that got a huge blood clot in his intestines, such that 2m of them had to be removed. And somewhere between one-fifth and one-tenth, either one person in a million, or two in a million, die.

      But, we'll just talk about 1-in-100,000. And to give Astazeneca a five (or ten) to one handicap, we'll compare clot risks to death risks. (This is like having your local hockey team play the Canucks, by requiring the Canucks to score 5 or 10 goals for every one your team scores.)

      You can undo your total risk level, by just not taking a similar risk that you're already taking.

      If you are a parachutist, skip one jump. They all come with a 1-in-100,000 risk of death. Per jump.

      If you ever go near a Canadian road, as a driver, cyclist, or pedestrian, stay away from them for ten weeks. One Canadian in 21,000 dies every year on the roads. (And five times as many are "seriously injured", so the real comparison is to avoiding the roads for two weeks.)

      Skip plastic surgery, or any other voluntary surgery where you'd go under general anaesthesia. Risk of 1-in-100,000 per hour spent under.

      If you are on birth-control pills, switch to another contraceptive, for a week. That actually is just a blood-clot risk (most minor), not a death risk, but it is one in 100,000. PER WEEK.

      Lower your risk of getting COVID by just 8%. Twelve times the risk of getting a blood clot with the disease than with the jab.

      We take a lot of risks. This is a new one, and focus on the "reverse lottery winners" can make them seem larger that those we are surrounded with daily, but they aren't.

      The news needs to be telling these stories, along with the horror stories of lost intestines. And the government really should establish that "sympathy fund" that would not be "compensation". That was my most serious suggestion, yesterday.

      http://brander.ca/c19#AZriskcompensation


      May 16: I Can Quit Now, You Can Just Read the Professionals

      I kind of hoped to quit around the 1-year mark, last April Fool's Day.

      I'm still having enjoying it, blogging random outrages and fun ideas like yesterday, but the original conceit of CCCC was to follow the pandemic as a national game, compare national responses and outcomes. Alas, I knew I had only rough data, from worldometers.

      I did write, early on, that excess deaths were clearly much higher than the "covid" figures, that we'd only know good numbers when we really did that math.

      Too deep for CCCC data, and amateur effort, with amateur tools. But I've found my professional, that I'll be reading.

      David Spiegelhalter is the best stats commentator I've found. He's chair of the "Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication", at Cambridge. He's been writing for The Guardian for some months now, and I've been remiss to take this long to find him. He usually co-writes with Anthony Masters in a feature "The Weekly Stats Uncovered", and several in a row are gems:

      It's a full month since they published the answer to the great CCCC question, Which Countries Have Fared Worst in the Pandemic?. They link to a deep, huge report from the Office of National Statistics that just goes straight to the "Excess Death" figures for countries, since so many have different covid reporting systems. Deeper, they "normalize" the meaning of the numbers to how many old people the country has. Britain fares very badly, when you limit the statistics to "deaths under age 65". It's a better metric for how your "community pandemic" went, than only your "care-home pandemic".

      They give a clear, explained answer to the burning, vital, can-I-rip-this-mask-off question Will Vaccines Reduce Virus Transmission? And oh, yeah, the answer is: By a Factor of Six.

      We already knew it protected you 2/3rds from even being infected. Turns out it makes you half as infectious, when you are. It's only 1/6th the risk to have a beer with a vaccinated person as un-vaccinated. Bars take note.

      We know from "The Pareto Pandemic" that 80% of transmissions come from 20% of the spreaders, that those gregarious types infected a dozen others. Vaccinated, they can still infect two, which explains why we need both herd-immunity, and restrictions while getting there, why 75% is barely enough to get R down to 1.

      So, repeat repeat repeat: another month (or so) of restrictions, and get everybody vaxxed. The professionals are lighting the route home.

      http://brander.ca/c19#spiegelhalter


      May 15: When the Momentum Flags, Haul Out the Cash Rewards

      In response to a reader question, I have to say that I'm an earnest, over-the-top proponent of free swag to vaccine acceptors. Economists agree: money, amazingly small amounts of it, will get people to things they wouldn't quite find the time for, otherwise.

      I'd thought of a budget of $10 per vaccination, just enough for a minimal cheap T-shirt, but consider two things: The cost of the pandemic, the economic benefits of ending it one month earlier, and the joyous, marvellous fact that Canada is currently vaccinating up a storm, bonus free. We knocked off nearly 450,000 shots, yesterday. The USA at its best was doing about 2.5M a day, equivalent to us doing 275,000. We're rocking. We'll only have to "encourage" the last five million.

      The story from every other country, says that enthusiasm flags at the 50% mark, and we're about to hit it. I think we'll get to 60%, because I'm comparing to nations that couldn't vaccinate kids, yet, and we can.

      But when we hit that wall, when the clinics go quiet, I want a budget of at least $20, of federal money, allocated to get the last 5 million done. That would take us from 60% to 73%, roughly, and as done as you'll get, since about 14% just won't, and the 12% under age 12 won't be approved soon.

      I wrote my reader that we should be hiring ad agencies, pollsters, and the most PT-Barnum-like sales huckster Canada can find. I want a "panic", as in "panic buying". So, I'm all for the Ohio Vaccine Lottery concept, only much bigger.

      $20 per vaccination would be divided into three lotteries (says the guy who is not PT Barnum, and is just guessing):

      • $10/person would pay for a $1M prize for every 100,000th shot.
      • Another $5/person would pay for a $50,000 prize on every 10,000th shot.
      • Then $4/person would hand out a $4000 prize on every 1000,
      • and the last buck would hand a nice, quality "Vax Summer 2021" T-shirt to every 15th person. Or nearly everybody, if we could get some corporate sponsors, the back of the T-shirt covered with all-Canadian company names like Loblaws and The Bay.

      I said I'm not PT Barnum, but think about it: they'd be announcing a $1M prize at noon. Another in the evening. That's with just 200,000 per day. (We'd start the lottery when it fell below 150,000.) They'd be announcing the $50,000 prizes in every large city, and some small towns - every day. The $4000 prizes would be handed out by every clinic, every few hours.

      I don't think we can apply it to the under-18s. I think, legally, it's probably still gambling in some fashion. Rather than risk a court-call on that, the under-18s simply all get T-shirts.

      Panic (the good kind) would be drummed up by the immediacy: the prize would be handed out on the spot. This would be a computer lottery: with every patient submitted to the database, a random number would be generated, and you'd win right then, with full social-media coverage. (That system means the number of prizes would not be exact. Might be more or less than the average. Even more fun.)

      This is what I mean by "panic", which did not have an original meaning of "afraid": Black Friday is the ultimate panic, the Fear Of Missing Out. Because we'd only let it go on for a week, before the PM announced it was just too expensive, we'll have to consult the cabinet, probably cancel it after the weekend. Monday might be too late to win. I'm figuring we go right past 450,000 per day, that whole weekend. Then, Sunday night after crowds demand the clinics stay open late, the PM announces the lottery will continue another week.

      $20 for each of five million people, would cost us $100M. To end the pandemic, that's nothing.

      (Of course, another $100M should be budgeted to offer "sympathy gestures", that would emphatically not be any compensation or admission of fault, to those who suffer blood clots or other illness from vaccination.)

      I'm encouraged in this fantasy by an excellent article on CBC News just now, by Data Analyst John Santos. My God, it's so good when barely-numerate reporters ask a real data scientist to take over. Santos plys his trade of multiple regression analysis, picks out which characteristics really associate with anti-vaxxing. Conservatism is NOT! Populism is. The two have been much-confused in recent years, with Our Ford, and Their Dumpsterfire. I read about the anti-vaxxers, and thought, "Half these people are the kind that love lotteries." Convince me I'm wrong.

      http://brander.ca/c19#moneymomentum


      May 14: Keeping Up the Vaccine Momentum

      I could hardly be happier with the progress on vaccination, the last week. All my family and close friends are now protected, including a 12-year-old, getting his shot today.

      If you're me, this little table is thrilling:
      DateCanada Total VaxCanada Last DayBC TotalBC Last Day
      May 737.141.0237.740.84
      May 837.930.7937.74 0
      May 938.60.6737.74 0
      May 1039.450.8539.88 1.14
      May 1140.210.7640.981.1
      May 1241.040.8342.0 1.02
      May 1342.000.9643.041.04
      May 1442.610.6144 0.96
      BC basically didn't report for two days last week, but the upshot for both province and country are the same: nearly a whole wonderful percent of the population - thus, about 1.2% of the eligible population - are coming in to get that shot, every single day. Six percent in a week.

      America is down to less than two percent per week. If we can only keep up this momentum - at a point where so many nations began to flag and fail - we'll pass them in another week(!) - after trailing them badly for two months.

      America will keep the repuation of the country that can move out logistics fastest, get there "firstest with the mostest" - but Canada will be the nation that can enjoy the results better, because we have better people, better culture.

      If Canada could only just keep up this momentum for two weeks, we'd pass the UK's 53%, and be the most-vaccinated large nation, save for the ten million of Israel. (62%) All the heavily-vaccinated places that have actually reached 70% numbers are tiny.

    • Push it for children. They'll be able to play at will, you'll feel safe with them at school. And they have the least reactions to vaccines.

    • Sweep through work campuses with stickers and treats Peer pressure is powerful. Where essential workers have to be present, hit each workplace with a vaccine "clinic" be it only a store with 10 employees. Offer injection, but also just stickers and swag, free corporate sweatshirts, anything. This has to be done in partnership with the corporation. They can't fire people for not being vaccinated, but they can make them stand out like a sore thumb, and not receiving small backpat awards. This stuff works.

    • Jason Kenney Has to Fire People (See below.)

      Albertans have been poorly led on this issue for months. Now, 18 Alberta Caucus members are doing negative leadership. They're also challenging their own leader, and Ken Boessenkool of The Line is calling for a purge of Kenney's disloyal.

      Kenney actually has no choice. He looks very weak already. If he puts up with challenges without response, it's almost a resignation, because his threat of five weeks ago will be humiliated.

      I feel like a sports fan, whose underdog team has made it to the finals, and I have so much hope that Canada can beat the world at vaccine uptake. C'mon, we can do this.

      http://brander.ca/c19#vaxmomentum


      May 13: The Virus is a Harsh Schoolmistress

      "We can do this the easy way, or the hard way", the old threat of superior force that says, "you're losing, no matter what, I can always just beat you up".

      We have such a civil-disobedience-tolerant society that it's actually a fun outing to have a demonstration. More-so, after prolonged confinement.

      It's much harder to sass back at something willing to kill you.

      I heard a story so horrifying yesterday that I hesitate to repeat it. I heard from a friend yesterday who's still at work, though he could have retired five years back when I did. He said that he worked with three younger women, all new Canadians from India, whose parents were around our age, well into their sixties.

      All three women, he reported, had lost both parents to covid, in recent weeks.

      I'm still wondering if I heard that right, if he got the story correct, it's so staggering. I've just written about how India is much worse than recorded, but here's today's link, a longer-form New Yorker article from inside India:

      "It's a war zone," Laxminarayan said. "It's worse than what you're reading in the papers or seeing on TV. Whatever the numbers are, they don't tell the full story. The human toll is devastating." The current surge differs fundamentally from India's experience last year. "This is truly a national wave," Laxminarayan said. "It's not urban. Itís not rural. Itís not north or south. It's everywhere." He went on, "During the first wave, the poor suffered the bulk of the health and economic toll. Now everyone is affected. I personally don't know a single family that doesn't have COVID in it right now. I don't mean in their extended family. I mean in their nuclear family."

      In late April, after his dentist's parents both died and after a colleague fell ill and couldnít get oxygen...

      That explains why behaviour in India has changed, after all those confident festivals and rallies:

      New Delhi is roughly as dense as New York City, with some thirty thousand residents per square mile. But now Laxminarayan passes just a few scattered people; almost everyone stays inside if they can, venturing out only in search of food, medication, or medical care. Before the surge, mask-wearing had declined, but now everyone's face is covered again. "You need public-health enforcement when the pandemic is invisible," Laxminarayan told me. "Now fear is the dominant force changing people's behavior."

      There you have it. Eventually, every population gives in to disease-avoidance behaviour. Certainly, they did during the Middle Ages, with no medical advice at all.

      It's fair enough to cheer on the free-speech rights of pandemic protesters; as long as you remember that they are campaigning to have us become the next India. The notion that something is a "hoax" fades fast when it comes into your house and kills both your parents.

      http://brander.ca/c19#indialearns


      May 12: Vax Populi: Everybody's Gettin' It, (In My World)

      My wife will be getting her jab, if on-schedule, about the time I hit the publish command on this. I spoke with three different friends of my age group in the last week, all had gotten theirs, so had children and a few grandchildren. The one 12-year-old I know is scheduled for Friday.

      I did have a few words, urging a reluctant neighbour in my building, but she got hers when the 'dreaded' Ox/AZ option was replaced with Pfizer. Only the two youngest residents of my building haven't gone, I think.

      It's a little frustrating. I wish I knew more vax-avoiders, so I could do my bit. I suspect this is like those elections where "Nobody I know is voting Conservative" (shortly before they win). We just live in a part of a Venn Diagram circle that doesn't overlap with the other one.

      I'm frustrated by the meek and gentle words of the public sales pitches, I want to browbeat and insult people, threaten career consequences, no theatres, no bars. (It's probably a good thing I'm not involved in sales, of this, or anything else.)

      As I noted a few days back, we're right at the uptake point where enthusiasm started to flag, and I want to keep up the momentum. Here's hoping that getting kids in will help it stay in motion.

      http://brander.ca/c19#vaxpopuli


      May 11: Can I Be a Medical Experiment? Pleeeeze?

      When I was little, I subjected myself to a lot of medical experiments. Salt, sugar, vinegar, baking soda, green food colouring: will they give you superpowers?

      And now, I have the opportunity to be part of experiments that will benefit for the whole world, possibly conferring disease-fighting superpowers...and the experiment is at roughly the same risk level as my superpower formula.

      I'm already accepting the risk of blood clots and any other negatives that Oxford/Astazeneca can throw at me. They're orders of magnitude smaller than the risk they prevent, we've been over that, repeatedly. The only additional risk I'd be taking is whether the two might have some synergy at causing blood-clots, which is very unlikely. It's very likely, though, that they have synergies in doing their main job of getting me to crank up some antibodies.

      The big experiment(s) now are, can we mix vaccines?. Does it work the same? Less well? Does it work better? That's actually the most-likely outcome!. As the linked CTV article notes, this is standard practice, in vaccination studies where the problem is old, and well-understood. It's routine to mix mulitple vaccines together for synergistic effect. Since the Ox/AZ and mRNA vaccines use completely different mechanisms, the possibilities for synergy, and no interference with each other, are excellent.

      Some of the experiments are driven by necessity, as with that article from Dhaka, Bangladesh, where they are considering mix and match out of a lack of supply.

      Canada kind of applies, too: Alberta is restricting Astazeneca supplies to second doses, because we can't get any more right now.

      Well, I say, screw that. Give all the remaining Ox/AZ in Alberta to Pfizer first-dosers, and second-dose us(!) Ox/AZ cases with Pfizer. Or anything else. Let's make Alberta, BC, heck, Canada, a World Centre of Excellence for vaccine testing. Let's not have more than 25% of our population get two same-product doses.

      I'm so excited by the possibility of this doing the world some good, that I'd volunteer for a clinical trial where I'd have a 50/50 chance of being given placebo. It would be a privilege. (After one dose, I'm offering very cheap, small, "heroism": my odds of a really bad case of COVID are tiny. This is precisely the kind of sensible heroism to offer, of course.)

      But, ultimately, proper clinical trials are mostly about maximizing the data from a smaller dataset. You could just try everything on a much larger group than a miserable 30,000, and find out how good all the mixes are from sheer large numbers, without any placebo tests.

      I nearly cracked up LOL the other day, when a very old friend who posts memes to Facebook about four times a day sent me a link to the video: Dr. Lee Merritt Interviewed by a Health Ranger: Forced Vaccines Are A Holocaust-Level Crime Against Humanity!.

      I only lasted a few minutes, because of the mentioned crack-up when she got to the part about them being "experiments on whole populations". Because, you see, the real experiment is the one that the virus is running: what percentage will survive me?. You don't have a choice but to participate in that experiment, because COVID doesn't ask your permission to infect you, like the nice needle lady at Super Drug Mart.

      The vaccines give you the option to experiment on your body with a vaccine. (Or two!!) Or, to experiment on your body with a virus, and by surprise. I'm picking any door, except Door #5, Monty.

      http://brander.ca/c19#vaxmix


      May 10: Canada Will Have to Vaccinate More Than The USA


      ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...   ...  

      Reader Alan Beairsto gets the hat-tip for pointing out that the USA just hit the milestone of 100,000 cases per million. 10% of the USA has contracted coronavirus, for certain, and we know that the ratio of known-to-unknown cases is at least 2:1, may be over 3:1, even in advanced economies with lots of testing.

      The USA is ninth-worst in the world on this metric, and the worst of countries with high incomes population over a few million. Canada rates far, far better, down at 80th in the world. I've included Greece, #79, to rub it in that it doesn't take money to win a pandemic.

      Partly, this is about testing. For instance, you can see in the top chart that Belgium, bottom, has had 13% fewer cases/million, but, ahem, 13% more deaths/million, which of course implies they've actually had 13% more cases/million, too.

      Not an accusation to level at Canada: we've had 34% as many cases, and taken 36% as many deaths. We really, truly have done three times better. Fifty thousand Canadians are alive because we weren't as badly-run as America in 2020. (We pause to reflect when people die, so take a moment to reflect on 50,000 alive.)

      However, this means that a lot more Americans and Israelis are immune from surviving the disease. Maybe less than 10% of Canadians got immunity that way, and over a quarter of them!

      So, we probably have to vaccinate another 10% or more of Canada, that Americans vaccinate their population, because they probably have at least that many immunized through disease. The good news, is that we seem to be on track to do that.

      Vaccinations in Israel are already dead in the water: not even a percent more of their population vaccinated in the whole last month. The USA is clearly slowing, and struggling to keep their clinics busy. I seem to have stumbled into one point where their rate dropped, just doing the graph at left.

      It shows both countries, adjusted so they hit 39% on the same day. That'll be later today for Canada, and was April 19th, for the USA. In dark blue, the actual vaccinations for USA, in orange, Canada.

      What I noticed was that 39% was an inflection point in the American vaccination curve. The light blue line is drawn through the days after April 19th, the green line through the days before it. They cross at April 19th. The slope dropped, the USA going down from 4.5% gained in 9 days to 2.5% gained each 9 days. It's a sharp drop.

      Canada, by contrast, hits the same 39% milestone at a higher rate still, some 7% vaccinated over the 9 day width of the graph.

      Go, Canada! The two situations aren't entirely comparable. Doug Ford and Jason Kenney have thoughtfully supplied Canadians with a terrifying 3rd wave to keep them moving to the clinics, and another 3 weeks of time have allowed Canada to be first in the world to approve vaccinations for minors. So the customers will be plentiful.

      Do your part. Urge people, shame people, and consider getting them drunk - so that they will get vaccinated on a dare. It's all good. Unlike the much-diseased Israel and USA, Canada probably really does need 70% vaccination. Let's do it.

      http://brander.ca/c19#canvsusa


      May 9: Do I Need To Say More?

      Congratulations to The Tyee, article by Kaitlyn Fung, for spotting this clear fact from the new, more granular data issued by Vancouver Coastal Health, that at least indicates to the neighbourhood level whether the neighbourhood is considered a "hotspot" or not. (The story doesn't offer a definition. Hotspots are getting higher vaccine priority. Good.)

      Alas, The Tyee only thought to publish a table of numbers, and not an HTML table, forcing me to basically re-type the thing, the cut/paste all mangled. So, I have put in a contribution here, graphing their data so that the picture slaps you in the face.

      I don't need the thousand words, I trust, to say how clearly this pounds it home, that minorities and "frontline workers" are basically the same thing, at least to the accuracy needed for public health. We don't have to debate whether vaccines are deserved by the colour of your skin, just the content of your job, and it works just as well.

      The degree to which White people have been sitting comfortably inside, serving the, ah, White Collar economy with "Zoom" (a dynamic name for a product used on one's butt), while our Blue Collar Workers of Colour took most of the risks, as they continued to do all our society's hard work.

      The "Hot Spot" vaccine program is the first appreciation they've really been shown. It should be expanded. Go door to door. Anything. It's so deserved, and the situation so unfair.

      http://brander.ca/c19#YVRhotspots


      May 8: Searching for Good News

      After India, I really need some. Let's see what I can find in the news if I look only for the good:

      Alberta may finally have peaked in case-growth. The 7-day average was 2058 on Thursday and 2054 on Friday. 2054 is lower than 2058. Fingers crossed.

      Maybe so have Alberta hospitalizations. This is odd, because normally you'd see hospitalizations going up until a few weeks after the peak in cases. But it's possible: suppose most of the recent cases have been very young and not headed for the hospital - older people having taken restrictions a few weeks back, more seriously. Fingers and toes crossed!

      BC has the lowest "R" in Canada. Don't let those last two days of higher counts fool you: the 7-day average is still down, and in fact, the R of 0.9 that CCCC celebrated last week, is actually down to 0.88. Tiny differences in R are significant. Ontario is struggling at 0.93. Our 0.88 will cut cases in half in about a month, whereas Ontario would still be at two-thirds.

      One percent of all Canada was vaccinated. YESTERDAY!. Now that's what I call good news. That month it will take to halve the case-rate in BC? We'll also be at 70% vaccination by then, if only we could keep it up.

      Canada makes headlines around the world as the first to authorize vaccination down to age 12. Which makes us look forward, dynamic, scientifically smart, and stuff. But, mostly, it protects people and will help end the pandemic. That, too.

      http://brander.ca/c19#goodnews


      May 7: First Indications from India of Actual Death-Count

      We have the problem ourselves, of course, and it cuts both ways: if somebody was dying of cancer for the last year, and contracts the disease from a nurse on what was already their deathbed, is it a COVID death? But if somebody dies of pneumonia in a care-home and never got tested - at the same time six others in the home also died of "pneumonia" - were they 'missed' COVID deaths?

      In countries with well-funded medical systems, there's been both problems, but I believe those just looking at "Excess Deaths", months ago, concluded we were certainly undercounting our actual COVID losses, by tens of percent.

      Then we come to a country without a well-funded medical system. It was eye-opening to see a horrifying story from India yesterday on a small, local, community hospital, where the staff had been instructed to run from their posts when the oxygen ran out...because without oxygen, the patients would die whether they stayed on not, and there had been multiple incidents of families assaulting doctors when this happened. The story was appalling, of course, but the eye-opener was the hospital. It was not temporary, tossed together for the pandemic; itwas what that neighbourhood called a "hospital". And it was what you or I would put together, if you gave us a worn-out strip mall and a dozen-odd beds from Ikea, an assortment of medical equipment.

      So the official death-counts would be very low, even if the country weren't run by a fascist religious bigot that lies like, well, lies like a fascist: it's what they do. ("Democracy relies on shared truths, fascism on shared lies")

      I've been waiting for somebody to count all those open-field crematoria, get a rough count of their business, publish some kind of idea how many people are really dying. All that real journalism had to be done across India, by many journalists across a hundred cities and towns, of course. The Washington Post gets the click, however, with this first article about it.

      The graphic, from the story, is from the city of Rajkot (pop. 2M), some of 240 obits currently being published: Four times the usual number.

      The story notes that nobody is releasing official statistics on all deaths, so the "excess death" phenomenon cannot be properly studied. Even the Post won't pick a coefficient, just demurring that "considerably higher" and "state authorities appeared to capture only a fraction".

      This is a job for CCCC! This blog's superpower is its willingness to brut about rough numbers that real journalists would never commit to. So, we have four times the obits in Rajkot;

      Cremations in Bhopal are 34-100 per day, with official figures at 10. Let's apply "CCCC math" and call that five.

      In Agra, in the shadow of the Taj Mahal, the second-largest crematorium has also been handling 100 bodies a day, implying at least 200, if there's a larger one. Official count was never over 13. That multiplier is more like twenty. (A second Agra story implied at least that multiplier.)

      The state of Gujarat, where Rajkot is just one city, reporters have indiciated they believe the multiplier is at least 10, between official and real deaths. Their story notes that doctors report being told to keep the count low; it's only a covid death if a committee rules it was. Any comorbidity makes it a non-covid death.

      The multiplier is at least five, is probably ten, and may well be higher.

      This, as we hit 4,000 official deaths per day. A real number of 40,000 would mean a million will die in the next 25 days, and the wave is so intense that 25 days seems a conservative estimate for the length of it.

      Can some of this be applied to India's existing 240,000 deaths? Probably, though the multiplier would be much higher now, with so many cases not even reaching a real hospital. They've probably lost over a half a million already, will lose over a million more.

      One can only hope it turns India away from fascism.

      http://brander.ca/c19#indiaobits


      May 6: Pandemic Crashed Canada's Immigration Almost Down to Biden Levels

      It's funny how Canadian news stories about America's immigration controversies rarely put them in Canadian context. To us, they should be just little stories about a little project.

      As a reminder, immigration crashed under the last administration, of course, particularly refugee admissions. Theatrically, Canada took in an extra 50,000 Syrian refugees early on, providing this sharp contrast. The photo at left is from Trudeau's "Welcome Home" at the airport, a ratings smash.

      Biden is now hesitant as he un-does the changes, hesitated to lift the "refugee cap" (the very term breathes their reluctance and distaste) from about 15,000 to 62,000...admitting they just won't make it to that last number this year, too hard to do.

      Canada is one-ninth their size. So, to keep the numbers easily compared, I will multply all Canada's numbers by nine henceforth, followed by "(AmEquiv)" for "American Equivalent".

      Canada took in 81,000 (AmEquiv) refugees in 2020, during a pandemic. The pandemic really knocked us down. We normally take in over three times that, and have a target of 324,000 (AmEquiv) in 2021, so we can catch up a bit.

      Our acceptance of those 50,000 Syrians...sorry, "450,000 (Amequiv)"...was an extra, on top of that.

      As for non-refugees, America might take in a million legal immigrants, in a good year. Canada is aiming for 3.6 million (AmEquiv), going forward.

      It's sobering to think that our crushed-down pandemic work exceeds America's best efforts in a good year. The funny thing, is that if Americans want to go outward into the world, invade somebody, that, they can find resources for. Declare an invasion, and they can drop $100 billion in a year flat, put 100,000 troops and all the materiel they need on the far side of the world.

      This skill has made them poorer - $2.2T poorer, for nothing, in Afghanistan. Canada's superpower has made her richer. There are multiple economic studies now showing that, and of course our "livability" is better, usually the highest in the world. So much for the 'costs' of refugees and immigrants.

      It's kind of funny to me that Canadian broadcasters covering these numbers don't snort at the end of the article and say, "62,500? C'mon Man, that's pathetic"...and turn abruptly to hockey.

      http://brander.ca/c19#immigration


      May 5: Cinco de Mayo, Get Angry at our Treatment of Immigrants

      What? Our treatment of immigrants? No kids in cages, here. But worse, we make ours work in meat-plants. (OK, in the States, they also go to meat-plants, after being let out of the cages.)

      Cameras are not allowed, of course, but the movie "Fast Food Nation", available at your library, provides a simulation. The book, by Eric Scholsser, is also required reading. (But only for people who eat food in our society. If you live off the garden, you can skip it.) The image at left is actually from the movie, not real life.

      Meat-plants are the awful dark corner of the free-market system. It relentlessly demands that meat be made a little cheaper, a little more, a nickel per burger cheaper, until the only way to do it is with human bodies abused by crowding and RSI-causing robotic work. Only the most-desperate will take the job. I recall when times were really good in Alberta, just before the 2014 Crash, an Olds meat-plant owner complained about having to hire actual citizens. He really preferred people who'd go straight back to Africa if they gave him any trouble. He put it just short of that plainly, right on the news. Nobody even pretends.

      Well, the CBC has at least done some nice long-form journalism on our pandemic disgrace. Well, our other disgrace, after the care-home debacle. Two outbreaks, with death-counts. They let it happen again.

      Ultimately, the whole industry needs reform. They couldn't do much except shut down the meat-plants (and shoot all the animals queueing up for them, in a line that stretches back to the animal's birth) and drive us all vegetarian. The way to make them pandemic-safe is also the way to redesign them from scratch, to make them somewhat humane workplaces in non-pandemic times. Less crowding. Better ventilation. Less speed.

      I won't even start in on sick-pay, the dead-obvious stuff that the news has been all over for months. It speaks volumes that this minimal step is still controversial with goverment regulators. The government regulators, the CBC story makes painfully clear, are worthless. They were willing to let Cargill stay open, when Cargill itself knew they had to close - shortly before cases spiked from 326 to 500 in a matter of days. Worthless. Reform the inspectors first.

      A culture that, in my lifetime, went from coffee being coffee, to having endless grades of perfection, and breeding, and "terroir", has already discovered upscale meat: organic; free-range; grass-fed. It's great the free-range chickens experience less cruelty.

      Let's all be willing to pay more for meat that relies on less cruelty - and death - for human beings.

      http://brander.ca/c19#getangry


      May 4: Vaccinate Iqaluit. Today.

      We could. The vaccines have just arrived for the week, and the Feds could absolutely tell the provinces that the expected doubling of Pfizer doses will be 0.4% light this week. Then carve out 8,000 doses and send them straight to Iqaluit. Military plane. Today.

      That's physically possible, but bureaucracies never seem able to do such things, no matter how dynamic and action-figure the politician at the top, would love to be. We can respond quickly to things like fires, but only because a "fast response bureaucracy" has been built to deliver it.

      The problem, check your CBC News, is that Iqaluit has declared a state of emergency, as it scrambles to contain a major outbreak. They're at 85 cases, enough to put people in hospital and ICU..of which they barely have any.

      This should provide clear warning about the limits of vaccination: Nunavut is already at 41% vaccinated, but it's not nearly enough.

      The town is a mere 8,000 people. I bet, being in town, more than 41% are vaccinated already, and only 4,000-odd doses would get them to 100%. They are now doing studies of vaccine in children. Let this be a great location for one of those tests.

      These remote, hard-to-reach locations are such perfect places for vaccination. Other small communities, like Gibraltar, the Falklands, the Seychelles have become the world's first truly post-pandemic places. Canada's North could join them. Starting with Nunavut, today.

      Remember: if there's bad news out of Nunavut in the next few weeks, it's all because we didn't just stop it, when we could have, with one plane-load.

      I wanted to write about the abominable situation at the Cargill meat-plant this morning, but it's as well the Iqaluit story caught my eye. The meat-plant pandemic has been so infuriating, that I need a day to save up bile.

      http://brander.ca/c19#iqaluit


      May 3: I Finally Lose It on Facebook

      I didn't lose my cool in anger, but of suppressed need for sarcasm. I'm a naturally sarcastic person, needed decades to realize what a bad thing that was, and rein it in. (Mostly.) It builds up a need to vent some sarcasm now and then.

      This particular Facebook post - a claim that India(!!!) was not really having a wave of death due to COVID-19, set me off on a total stranger I will never meet (with luck). I felt better, but I need to get that grip back. There's too much of this stuff to address.

      http://brander.ca/c19#facebook


      May 2: Unbelievable, Twice

      They're interpreters, not translators. My relatives that work in the field smack me on that one, every time. Those who work on texts are translators; those who work live audio in real-time, are the elite, they're interpreters. It's like regular doctors and specialist doctors, they're a cut above.

      It's bewildering that Parliament would treat them this way. It's beyond stupid. What kind of message do they want to send, this allegedly "liberal" government? That they agree wholeheartedly with Doug Ford on this issue?

      It's an issue of employment standards and fairness, and an issue of pandemic safety, all in one.

      But, beyond political stupidity, the sheer arrogance of thinking yourself not vulnerable. Parliament is utterly dependent on just 80 interpreters that are required for Parliament to sit. They can't do their job without them. So, they gave them, not permanent jobs, but freelance gigs, and told them they have no sick pay, no coverage for requirements to isolate.

      The second thing that is unbelievable is that just 80 people can't form a union. No formalities, no union vote, just everybody walk off the job the same day. Parliament would be brought to its knees within hours.

      I'll chip in to the strike fund.

      http://brander.ca/c19#interpreters


      May 1: Fascist Losers

      Is Modi a "fascist"? Is Bolsonaro? How about Boris Johnson, who sold Brexit by basically promising to stop letting in so many brown people?

      The F-word is not to be thrown around lightly. Here. In Spain, where I've vacationed for at least a year or so of my life, out of dozens of visits, my relatives use the term quite casually, and so do most of the Left (of various parties, they have a few on left and right, each). In Spain, they know their fascists well. They were governed by quite open fascists for decades, and are perfectly aware that the successors of Franco are completely fascist in outlook and opinion, restrained only by implied threat of force when they get power.

      Can I take a note from autism discussions and just call them all on the "Fascist Spectrum"? The Faspecs, let's say, are the world's most consistent losers. When did they ever win a war? When the United States stopped prosecuting torturers at Nuremberg, and started learning from them in the Vietnamese jungle, they stopped winning wars. The nation of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib couldn't even beat the poorest country on Earth, not in 20 years of trying with thousands of drones. (Not saying they're a fascist country; but if the connecting thread of fascism is lies, then America's wars were started with them, and continued endlessly because they couldn't face the truth on the ground. It's pretty fascist-type behaviour...)

      And now, the Faspec leaders are doing the absolute worst at the war with the virus. The United States was a global hotspot, when government changed hands, (to one that accepted the truth, from one who kept calling it a hoax), and the case-load plummeted that week. The UK has had one of the worst pandemics in Europe. As their case-load finally stops, we were reminded of that this morning, by this article about Johnson's charge sheet.

      And then we come to Brazil and India, where it may not be possible for foreign aid to bring in mass supplies of oxygen, medicine, and equipment, fast enough to save even half the lives that their fascist leaders have as good as murdered.

      The follies of Modi and Bolsonaro are now covering the news, no need to repeat them - I'll just note, that this morning, Modi's whole party is denying there's even a problem(!)

      A lot of my political comprehension comes from one very defining book for me, "The Dictator's Handbook", by Alastair Smith and Bruce Bueno de Mesquite. The authors spend most of it explaining how dictators are men with very few choices: they have to be brutal thieves (who distribute the booty to supporters), or their supporters will toss them out for somebody who is. A later chapter digs into considerable historical record, about the Third Reich, to explain that fascists don't actually have the belly for a fight. Since they're in government for themselves, they run the moment a fight begins to turn, and abandon their countries. (So much for their super-nationalism and hyperpatriotism.) The wealthiest of Germany began pulling their money out soon after D-Day, and the German war funding shrank exponentially as they fled.

      Modi and Bolsonaro will continue shouting that there's nothing really wrong, to the very end. Fascists cannot face the truth, cannot handle reality. Others will have to clean up their messes, and bury their dead.

      http://brander.ca/c19#fascists


      April 30: Revised and Heartening BC Vaccination Schedule

      It implies about the same for Alberta: similar-sized provinces with similar systems, and identical per-person vaccine access.

      It's all from one article in CTV news, promising "every BC adult could get vaccine by mid-June".

      I really have to snipe at Fraser McDonald of The Line, who baffled me with the criticism, "If this is a diversified portfolio of vaccines, it's not working great". It's just brilliant that we bought heavily into every vaccine product from Western companies.

      At the moment, three of the four are not there for us. Johnson and Johnson is about to send enough to vaccinate 0.77% of the country, then nothing until June. Moderna has stopped deliveries, has no timeline for resumption. Astazeneca, exactly the same. Three out of four have failed us, at least, for May.

      But the fourth is about to double delivery! That's the substance of the article: Pfizer is about to bump up Canadian deliveries:

      PeriodDoses/Week, BC% BC Pop/Week
      Up to now138,0602.7%
      May274,9505.3%
      June337,0006.5%
      June - JJ?40,000?0.8%?

      We end April, this afternoon, with almost precisely 33% of BC's population vaccinated, a small minority of them twice. We only need to give second doses to 1% or 2% of the BC population in early June, as we were at very low vaccination up to four months before that. (We went from 2.5% to 3.5% single-dosed in February, and must give them a second dose four months later, in June.)

      By Monday, the "start of May" in weeks, we'll be at almost exactly 34%. Alberta will be a smidge under 30%. Then we have four straight Mondays of going up by over 5%, over 21% in total, to over 55% on May 31.

      Then, with luck, things pick up. If we're getting 6.5% per week from Pfizer, and nearly a percent from the Johnsons (I'm assuming the same weekly dump as we get one time this week, then it goes up to 63% and 70% on those next two Mondays.

      And that's the end of the model, because nobody on Earth, in a polity of millions, gotten to 70%, yet. As noted yesterday, everybody hits vaccine no-shows at 60% at most, so far.

      That's why they're saying that "every Canadian adult will have access" by mid-June, though they couldn't say that if everybody actually showed up. It's like a bank promising to have your money, knowing there'll be no run on the bank.

      The revised schedule makes a great June possible. If every dose is grabbed up the moment it's available, even the variants will be on the run by early June, and the last of the curve will be crushed as we cruise on up past 75% by the end of the month.

      That's statistically unlikely, given other places not doing it, but why not Canada, why not BC and Alberta, for the win? Urge everybody you know.

      http://brander.ca/c19#vaxbc


      April 29: Will Canada Break the Vaccination Limit?

      It's so heartening to see stories about people lining up for vaccine, making great efforts to get it.

      The story, so far, from nations that have faster vaccination programs than ours, is not encouraging. Nobody vaccinated faster than Israel, they were the envy of the world. And the UK redeemed itself, somewhat, for incredibly stupid pandemic behaviour, by a remarkably fast vaccination program.

      And then, they both faltered, and...just...stopped. Not because the governments were incompetent (for once), but because people just stopped showing up. And now, in the US, there are signs of the same thing, as they pass the 40% mark. (In the last week, a gain of 2%, from 40.6 to 42.6. The week before was a gain of 3%.) There are Americans skipping their second shot, even.

      In Israel, business slowed right after 50%, was dead by 58%, has taken over two months to reach 62%. In the UK, it began to slow at 45%, has now almost stopped at barely 50%. UK vaccinations remained stale even as their infections soared past any previous peak, just last week. I don't know what to think about such stupidity. It's like reading that the new reality show is a stick-your-finger-in-your-eye competition.

      I'm pretty contemptuous of the vaccination-promotion efforts to date, everywhere. I'd be advocating something pretty aggressive, involving major employers on TV, talking about how important vaccination is to their workplace, that unvaccinated employees may have to continue working from home, while vaccinated can return to the office. I'd have stories about how unvaccinated workers won't be able to do renovations for people, or go on construction worksites, how all warehouses and factories will require vaccination for on-site work.

      I'd be requiring it for school, or a doctor's note explaining the medical condition,which would also go on file, so the workplace could protect that employee.

      Oh, and obviously, politicians should announce that a major re-opening will occur the moment a province hits 70%, and Trudeau should announce a billion-dollar prize of parks funding to the province that reaches it first.

      And I'm totally down with "vaccine passports" to bars, restaurants, and theatres. None of that forces anybody to get a vaccine, just like nobody is forced to get a social insurance number. So it's legal, which is all I care about. I have no interest in whether it triggers conspiracy nuts.

      Screw them. They'll get people killed.

      http://brander.ca/c19#vaxmax


      April 28: A Depressing History of the Next Nine Weeks

      I'm a hard guy to please. The great news, clear a few days ago, is that we are for sure on the downside of the case-rate curve, as Alberta, Manitoba, and even Nova Scotia, are not, yet.

      The bad news is that we have enough days of trend to estimate an "R", and it's 0.9. I'll spare you the tan-coloured graph image from CTV, you've seen them before. It's point-nine.

      We could have done better, Quebec is a very impressive 0.8! But, I have a grim suspicion that point-nine is the best we're going to do, because BC has never done better than 0.88 in the whole pandemic.

      There's no news about more vaccines coming. It's unlikely that BC will add at more than 5% per week to the percent vaccinated. Rounding down today's figure of 30.72% to 30%, to be conservative, here's the next nine weeks. The cases/day are the 7-day average for that day, not the daily.

      The calculations assume a drop to 0.86 of the last week's figure every week, at first. I lower that slightly as vaccinations hit 50% and the first real effects of it are felt. Then the R is dropped a little more every week for the last three; I'm estimating an R for five days of 0.7, a weekly drop to 60% of previous, at the end.

      The other phenomenon I have to account for, though, is the sad fact, from the UK, and other countries, that even sane, well-educated populations seem to fall off on vaccination as their country approaches 60%. The UK has leveled off at 62% for some weeks now, and the US is already faltering. This is crushingly disappointing (even infuriating), but it must be accounted for in the model.

      DateCases/Day,BCVaccination%Comments
      Apr 2888330%
      May 5761 35%
      May 12657 40%
      May 19567 45%
      May 26489 49%Vaccine uptake slows
      June 2422 53%Vaccines begin to reduce R
      June 9360 57%R down to 0.8
      June 1633760%Vaccine uptake begins to plateau
      June 2323562%
      June 3014164%R down to 0.7
      The depressing thing is that it's June before we are down below the bottom of the valley between our fall and winter waves, the point from which we took off in November.

      It's really hard to read a fun June into this table. The weather will be pure summer, school will be ending, people will want to be gathering at the barbeques, but we'll still be spending the month, 50% vaccinations and all, getting the numbers down from 400/day to 300/day, which is still a rate from which you could take off to ICUs-full in a few weeks.

      I hope this is depressing because it's pessimistic. Maybe this "vaccinate the hotspots, vaccinate the businesses" strategy will pay off big. Maybe the R-value will plummet in a few weeks. Maybe well-educated, liberal, not-much-lied-to BC will keep getting those vaccines and be at 70% by the end of June, and R down below 0.5 - down below 1.0 even with a re-opening on Canada Day.

      One can hope, and I will. But if trends from our own past, and vaccination trends in several countries, predict our future, this, alas, is it.

      In the movies, the "fix" is always quick. The snake antivenom begins to make them breathe easier while you watch. Even the movie "Contagion" started to move time more quickly when the big vaccine clinics started, the drama was about over. For us, the fight is a patient, wearying slugfest to the end.

      http://brander.ca/c19#next5


      April 27: The Vaccine Wisdom of Crowds

      As one of my graph sub-titles says, well, duh. Hey, the regular news gets to fill space with boilerplate reports on the current hospital statistics (they must have an MS-Word macro that writes the story by now), so I get a day just reporting the obvious. But I'm doing it with statistical rigor.

      This blog will have to end soon, not just because the pandemic hopefully will, but because it's all a single HTML file, now 396 posts long. The very first, for April Fool's Day, 2020, was about "You Chance of Dying Grows Exponentially With Age", and you can jump down there for the log graph, rather than this post repeating it.

      The fun news just in, about the Calgary/Edmonton Battle-of-Alberta for vaccination rates, had a tidbit at the end of the story that made me perk up:

      Vaccine uptake has ranged from 80 to almost 85 per cent in people over the age of 70, the numbers show, and between 54 and 77 per cent amongst 60 to 74-year-olds.
      ...

      However, vaccine uptake in the 55-59 age group is just 41 per cent, 30 per cent in 50-54, 25 per cent in 45-49, and 23 per cent in people aged 40-44.

      I did a little interpolation with those numbers, and produced the graph at upper right.

      The vaccination rates don't quite go up linearly, there's a bit of a curve to it. If you throw out the age variable, and just graph the vaccination rates against the log-of-mortality as your XY, you get a very good agreement, an R-squared of 0.95, at left. You graph log-of-mortality, because that mortality goes up exponentially with age, so it's log is linear with age.

      But, I noted that the graph of vaccination uptake was also a little curved, could it have a slight exponential to it as well? The "Wisdom of Crowds" phenomenon would suggest that, in statistically large numbers, people do have a strong sense of their risk level, and act to address it. If the risk goes up exponentially, the desire for vaccination should, as well. What happens if we graph the two logs against each other?

      At this point, the graph is kind of meaningless numbers: no ages or raw rates left, just two logs against each other. But the meaningful number is the R-squared in the trendline. It's gone up from 0.95 to 0.98, which is significant. (The degree to which a prediction using the trendline would be wrong, has dropped by half.)

      It's a pretty faint signal, I wouldn't write a paper on it, especially since my data are interpolated and approximate. But it's definitely worth a blog post, or an argument over a beer. If I could have an argument over a beer. Maybe after the vaccination rates pick up.

      I now fully support frightening young people about COVID-19 with the most fulsome news coverage and overheated rhetoric about "they're coming in younger and sicker" that the journos can stand to write. I want those "young people" as worried as 80-somethings are today. It drives vaccination. Duh.

      http://brander.ca/c19#vaxmort


      April 26: Good News From Brazil

      No, really. Well, relatively good news. Since "Good News is No News", CCCC would like to be your source for good pandemic news, on occasion, when the regular media have moved on to cover the next tragedy.

      Brazil is an ongoing tragedy, of course, but when all the cameras moved over to the pathos of India, they missed a remarkably heartening phenomenon: Brazil's cases, and soon, its deaths, were going down. Cases are down a good 20%, and deaths already down 15%.

      This is so heartening, because the Brazilians are doing it alone. The government is not only no help, it's a hinderance. Nobody is getting pandemic money relief; they're under the highest-possible pressure to keep risking themselves to work, most were desperately poor before this wave started.

      But they're fighting back, and winning. Brazil (and, now, India) must both remained quarantined, of course. But we must offer any help we can. Their fight against the virus is our fight against the development of new variants.

      Brazil's beginning-of-the-end (we hope) gives us reasons for hope in India, itself burdened with a quasi-fascist government that lies incessantly. Even when "led" by such fools and swine, people's common sense eventually triumphs over the lies, and they fight the plague the way they've been fought since ancient times. Stay in.

      If only Doug Ford and Jason Kenney had such common sense.

      http://brander.ca/c19#brazilgood


      April 25: New Kids on the Block?

      It's a Younger Pandemic. HOW much younger?

      Another Friday, another weekly news round up at the national statistics site, the one that had the data-glitch last week, where the number of people that had been hospitalized with COVID-19, Age 59-59, went down, so I could hardly show graphs with negative people. This week, it seems to be OK, and I'll just do stats for the last two weeks, versus the grand average for all the pandemic weeks before that, basically a year from March, 2020 to March 26, 2021.

      It is indeed a younger pandemic, but the graphs are not exactly shocking in their sudden leaps and bounds of young people flooding into ICUs and subsequent graveyards. The rhetoric on the news is not accompanied by numbers: I suspect, not because the TV news crews are unable to get them - certainly, they're able to get the same numbers I am, at least weekly - but because they don't look very dramatic. It's TV: they prefer drama to data.

      The graphs below are very different from the ususal pandemic statistics, which focus on absolute numbers. The absolute counts of deaths and cases are the important metric for following the pandemic, assessing your risk. And of course, the absolute numbers of deaths have plummeted with the vaccination of the care-homes and the elderly in general. By March 26, that much was done, and the orange bars on the right of the charts reflect the new elderly-vaccinated pandemic.

      Cases

      This is showing that the vaccines actually prevent becoming a case, at all. The over-80s are down from 7% to 2% of cases. Yes, they were only ever 7% of cases. The 70-80 gang that are mostly not in care homes are only down a little, and we 60-69-ers are barely down at all. The big jump in percent of cases, is actually the really young, the under-20s. But all of these changes are pretty minor, save the over-80 change.

      Hospitalizations

      Hospitalizations, the same only more so for all the younger demographics. The change for the old is actually smaller than the drop in cases: cases dropped by more than two-thirds, but hospitalizations only by about half, for the over-80s - probably indicating that the ones that are getting it, are often not yet vaccinated, so when they get it, they get it full-force.

      Still, for the first time, hospitalization doesn't just keep going up and up with age. It goes up and up until you get to the age where we've vaccinated, then down and even further down for the oldest(!) because they're more-vaccinated.

      Where you hear "they're coming in younger and sicker" in the news over and over, well, the percentage of age 40-60 is up from 19% of their beds to 40% of their beds. The number of people they see with decades left to them, has doubled. A very slight majority of COVID-19 hospitalizations are now under age sixty: 52%.

      ICU Admissions

      The drop in ICU admissions for the very old mirrors the drop in hospitalization: to less than half. The 70-79 have dropped somewhat, but the over-80s have dropped so much the 70-79 are a slightly higher percentage, as of everybody else: al l those younger than 80 are now a higher proportion of the ICU.

      The "New Kids on the Block", of my truly tasteless title, is that those under 60 are now up to 44% of an ICU: not a majority, but up from 39% for the overall pandemic. Yup, it's gone up from 39% to 44%. That's why the actual number isn't in the news. It's not all that dramatic.

      The undramatic numbers, if you're under 80, is that everybody is up a few percent, except the over-80s. Not a long story.

      Deaths

      And, of course, we come to the end of the story with death, which has a less-dramatic drop than the drop in cases. The over-80s have gone from 69% of the dead, to 44%, a drop of less than half, when the drop in cases was by two-thirds.

      But still, those under age 70 are only up to 28% of the dead. It is still very, very dangerous to be an unvaccinated old person in Canada. We have heard of so few "breakthrough" cases, where a fully vaccinated person gets a bad case (a few have even died, but very few) that basically all those 72% of the dead that are over 70, are all from the minority that are unvaccinated.

      If you know people in that demographic who are holding back from the vaccine, stress to them that we may never chase away all the variants, that vaccination around the world is topping out at 60%, not enough to ever be sure. Tell them they have to protect themselves, that this is their life. It is.

      http://brander.ca/c19#deltas


      April 24: On the Downside, We May Not Be On The Downside

      Alberta and Manitoba don't appear in the summary at left, because they're still going straight up in case-counts. Quebec, I really think is on the downside, down 20% over ten days of pretty steady decline.

      BC, however, seemed to be heading down, then, two days in a row back up over 1000. It'll be into next week before I have any surety that the current restrictions are enough. I thought we were restricted enough back in February, too, but the decline stopped, we hung "on a shelf" at 400-500 cases per day, then headed back up, all in basically the same restrictions level.

      As the sensible continue to scream for a "get to zero" approach, nearly every health system outside the Maritimes (and North) is so weak-kneed and tentative about every restriction, that we seem to be doomed to, at the best, a slow, halting decline in cases. And, at not best, to have people get "tired" and non-compliant, and not opposed, and to have the decline just go onto a shelf again, this time at 700 cases per day.

      Folks, the vaccines are not the cavalry just barely over the hill. That particular cavalry is still stuck in traffic, and we shouldn't expect much for a month. This article is unintentionally pathetic, with it's title of "Canada's supply of vaccines set to ramp up in coming weeks, despite supply cut from India".

      I mean, that sounded good, because all we've heard lately is 15M Johnson doses lost, India holding back its own output. So I eagerly clicked, hoping to read that we'd soon be at not just 2 million doses per week, but, say, 3.8 million, which would be 10% of Canada per week. (Well, 5%, since two doses needed, ultimately).

      The actual facts:

      • The one-dose JJ product, 300,000 doses next week, not even a one-day supply, and then nothing until JUNE.

      • Moderna is being cut next week, and it will accelerate "in short order", which sounds like the last two month's vague promises of "next month".

      • Oxford/AZ supply from India is cut, and direct shipments from AZ itself are expected in, wait for it, JUNE.

      • Pfizer didn't come up in the story. Presumably, they, at least are not cut, but we also can't get more to substitute. We can expecte 1M doses per week through May 10, enough to vaccinate 2.5% of Canadians.
      With the cut in Moderna, nothing new expected from AZ or JJ, we'll be lucky to see the continuance of 2M doses per week, for the forseeable future. It's a month yet before half of them are "lost" to second doses, so our vaccination rate should go up by 5% per week. 33% by the end of April, and over 50% by the end of May. That's the point where the vaccines will start to make a real difference in transmission rates.

      For those next five weeks to the end of May, though, it's all about the restrictions, which are weak and timid for the problem at hand.

      http://brander.ca/c19#downside


      April 23: Ox/AZ is the Real Gold Standard, But the Mask Stays On

      Yesterday afternoon, I hit 21 days since the Oxford/Astazeneca shot went in, and I had all the protection I'm going to get from the stuff, for the next 100 days. (Unless, we, too, are soon "awash" in vaccines, and they tighten up the 4-month dosing gap.)

      Some fresh data just hit The Guardian: "One dose of Pfizer or Oxford jab reduces Covid infection rate by 65%"

      The article notes that the risk of symptoms bad enough to cause hospitalization drops by 94% with Oxford/Astazeneca, but only 85% with Pfizer. Yes, you got that correctly: despite journalists rushing to declare Pfizer/Moderna as "The Gold Standard" for their "greater efficacy", it turns out to be Ox/AZ that has the real goods you want: not to go to the hospital.

      I don't care much if I get a day, or a week, in bed; I don't care at all about an asymptotic infection, obviously: I care if I get so sick I need hospital. And that's more than twice as likely with Pfizer than with Ox/AZ. It's "94% reduction" in hospitalizations leaves only 6% of us in beeping beds, not the 15% you get with the inferior brand. So there. (All figures for first jab only.)

      A 6% chance of becoming one of those tortured bodies on my nightly TV news, is still too high. Currently, over 100 people in their sixties are going into hospital beds every day. Six per day is still a bit much, for me. My real route back to normality is to participate in crushing the disease out of prevalence. Then the vaccines, and a little good behaviour, can keep it crushed down.

      It will take both vaccines and behaviours. Think about that "65% reduction in infection" for a second: the original "R" was 2.8. The variants are definitely over 3.0, so they're above 1.0 when reduced by 65%. When we all get a second jab, it might be below 1.0, depending on how bad the variants have gotten in four months. Until then, I'm still an infection risk to others.

      http://brander.ca/c19#azgold


      April 22: Rush to Blame Politics for Vaccination

      America finally had a drop-off in vaccination rates last week (11%) and CBC quickly got an article out on it: "...will demand keep up?". Why would anybody be reluctant to show up for a shot? CBC is quick to do a bunch of work to show off a keen graph, and blame You-Know-Who:

      It's a lovely bit of graphic design, with many of the state names beside the data-point, the Biden-winning states in blue. The trend line is terribly important, here; I used them myself to make graphs more-pursuasive at work. The trend line draws the eye along with the argument, the lower vaccination-rate as you go from left to right into the red states.

      Without that line though, it's a fairly plump, diffuse cloud of points, and the angle of decline is pretty low: big Biden state Oregon has a lower rate than over half the red dots. I recommend clicking on the graph to jump to the CBC article, where you can get the exact figures for each dot by just touching it with a mouse-tip. Which I decided to do, for all fifty, and typed them in, so you don't have to: CCCC double-checking the CBC.

      After I got those into a spreadsheet, it was off to a nice stats website that gave me average income for each state.

      So, at right, the CBC graph all over again, basically; it's the same data. The difference is that I had my spreadsheet label it with the formula for that trend line. The "-1.921 x" means that the GOP vote margin goes down 1.9% for every 1% the vaccination rate for the same state goes up. Or, another way, for every extra percent voting Republican, half a percent haven't been vaccinated.

      The more-imporant number is that "R-squared" below it. The "correlation coefficiant" is 1.0 if every dot were exactly on the line. If it's 0.9, the graph is considered very predictive, you could learn a state's voting or vaxxing number and predict the other with good confidence. Anything over 0.7 is often pretty useful, too.

      But 0.273 kind of sucks. It's saying, mathematically, what I just said about Oregon being lower than most of the GOP states: don't use the vote to predict the vax, or vice-versa.

      So, let's try the same vaccination numbers for those states, with the state's average income. This time, the graph slants upward, as the more money your state has washing around, the more vaccinations are going on.

      To my eye, it's a slightly "tighter" cloud of points, but it isn't, very: notice the R-squared has only gone up from 0.273 to 0.292, which still sucks. Income isn't a very good way to predict vaccination rates, either, at least not at a state levl. I would very much bet that it is a better predictor at an individual level. We know that society's least-powerful have had the worst pandemic, and of course, they're having the worst vaccination. The correlation we are seeing is probably not because people making $60,000 get vaccinated less often than those making $70,000: it's because the low-income states have a lot more people making $30,000 - from two jobs they have to commute to on a bus.

      Reporters just love, love, politics, and their first thought with so many public issues, is to make it political. The vaccination-rate story did not have to go political. It's a crappy correlation, and there are better ones that are more-neutral. Never mind income, how does it correlate to the state medical expenditures, the budget for their public health department? How does it correlate with rural-vs-urban ratio?

      Politics really is so often to blame, especially for public health problems. There's no need to go drumming up extra examples.

      http://brander.ca/c19#politivax


      April 21: Day Off, Apparently

      Sorry, got busy with a project today, and the day's about over. I'll have to put off my cool data-reduction, complaining about CBC blaming American politics for poor vaccine uptake, until tomorrow.

      In the meantime, all I can offer with short time to write is that, once again, I have to promote Andrew Nikiforuk in the Tyee. I'm still shaking my head over how a guy I'd written off some time ago, because I really disagreed with his take on the AIDS epidemic, is doing the best writing anywhere, on the Canadian COVID pandemic. Again, credit where due: Andrew Nikiforuk's article on "Canada's Crazy Pandemic Reponse", in The Tyee, is an excellent fact/opinion piece.

      Maybe nobody beats Andre' Picard on pure daily reportage, but for the weekly (or so) sum-up and opinion pieces, Nikiforuk slices them fine with the sword of facts, then puts the slices on the griddle of his acid opinion prose, so scorching, that it's entertaining, at least for those not the target.

      Some original work tomorrow, promise.

      http://brander.ca/c19#dayoff


      April 20: Oh, I Know How To Shut Down 4/20...

      At left, the problem. How to get a bunch of stoners to not congregate at Sunset Beach in about six hours? The police have already noted that they didn't hand out tickets at English Bay Beach for two nights in a row of condemned, if pretty outdoor and mostly-distanced, partying.

      I'm not all that stressed about it, really: every time they study outdoor transmission, they get more reassuring about how difficult it is: most of the "outdoor transmission" has been at patios, with people sitting across from each other, doing that "speaking moistly" thing as they eat and drink. Continuing the party after sunset is bad, they're also finding outdoor transmission is multiple times more common at night. But 4/20, at least, has always been a daytime thing, the tents fold at sunset.

      At right, the solution. We were roused by more pounding construction equipment, this morning, as they laid down that asphalt patch and tamped it. But it was as nothing to the sheer racket of the vacuum excavator ("Hydrovac") that dug the hole. For hours. Yesterday morning. Right outside our window. We had endured months of that, for nearly two years. It's tolerable, but hugely annoying.

      This pain can be inflicted on any city resident, if they have water pipes nearby. A beach doesn't need them, but Sunset Beach has some doozies, massive "feedermains" that supply whole neighbourhoods:

      This is the Sunset Beach area where 4/20 always congregates. The huge mains run not just through it, and across False Creek: one runs along the beach.

      The number after the material type, the "1800" in "Steel 1800" is the diameter in millimetres. 1800, six feet in diameter, would serve half of Vancouver. It's the same main that goes past our house, and was the subject of so much work since early 2019.

      In my opinion, it's about time the VPD called up the Vancouver Water District to express concerns those mains might be leaking. They're very important! The only way to be really sure they aren't is to dig some holes and inspect. Time is of the essence, we want to be done by sunset, so let's bring out three vacuum excavators and dig three test-inspection holes simultaneously, from 2:30PM-6:30PM this afternoon.

      An aggressive construction schedule will be helped by various trucks moving back and forth with equipment, workers, and supplies, though for some reason, they will have to be driving backwards, nearly all the time, adding three different BEEP....BEEEP....BEEEEP... singers to the construction song.

      Loud rock music annoying? Hah; such children have no idea about annoying - these people would be professionals at it. The noise would be annoying to the condos up on Beach Avenue, but it's much further away than our condo was from our two years of construction noise: only about as loud as we had to put up with.

      It's any beachgoers that would be chased away.

      4/20 is Vancouver's summer kickoff, a month earlier than the May weekend that the rest of Canada uses (we're a month warmer), and I'm sorry to lose it a second time. Like Easter, it was perfectly positioned on the calendar to be hit twice.

      Just above, the official message from the Vancouver 420 organization. It's a unique circumstance where they and the Authorita are sending the same message; never happened before, and won't again. Let's listen this year.

      http://brander.ca/c19#shutdown420


      April 19: Don't Delay, Not Even a Day

      There's little doubt, any more, that Oxford/Astazeneca shots are correlated with later blood clots. The probability may be as high as 1-in-100,000, a one-time risk. That's the risk of blood clots; about a sixth, or even fifth, die of them.

      But there are chronic risks, too: every day you live is another risk you'll get hit by that bus everybody talks about. The risk of dying in traffic is 1-in-100,000 every ten weeks. Just living a normal life that includes going on or near roads, in Canada, is one Astazeneca shot every two weeks. (Every ten weeks is the chance of dying; like the blood clots, 5/6ths of car accidents just injure you.)

      What's the risk of COVID? Well, today is the last day that AZ is confined to the 55-65 band that Calgary was having trouble getting out to the clinics, just yesterday, so let's look at our risks.

      There are 5.3 million of us 55-65 cohort in Canada. That cohort, last week, had about 6500 new cases. So, your odds on becoming a COVID-19 case work out to 1-in-819, per week. If you get COVID-19, your odds of blood clots are about 15%, so, just being a 55-65 Canadian, in the current infection environment, are odds of about 1-in-5500, per week, of both getting COVID, and then getting blood clots.

      We have reached the title of the blog post, when we divide by seven: your odds of getting blood clots because you didn't take the shot, are 1-in-38,000 PER DAY. On the day that you take the shot, you receive a risk of 1-in-100,000 of getting blood clots, and let go of a 1-in-38,000 risk of getting blood clots. Your vaccination-risk is "paid back" in nine hours.

      I assumed total mitigation of COVID clot risk. The shot gives near 100% protection against having a disease that serious, close enough to be a fraction of a percent, so I can neglect it.

      Skipping blood clots, and just going straight to "death", well, if one-fifth of the blood-clot cases die, then that would be 1-in-500,000 from taking the shot. Our odds of getting COVID, and dying of it, from blood clots or twelve other horrible things, mostly your lungs, are about 1-in-200,000, per week, right now. So that same 1-in-500,000 risk of dying is from not getting protected for 3 days.

      To avoid death, don't wait three more days. To avoid great sickness from blood clots, don't wait a day. Don't wait nine hours.

      Just get the shot. Protect yourself. Protect everybody else.

      http://brander.ca/c19#notaday


      April 18: Frustrating Screwups in Health Stats

      I remember a great truth mentioned in a discussion of violence against women, asthey struggled with the question of whether the phenomenon itself was increasing, or whether it was just being reported more. A criminologist pointed out that the murder rate was not rising, and "murder will out": it produces a body that somebody has to deal with, and records are kept of that, if nothing else. Other, lesser harms tend to rise and fall along with murder itself, so the other harms were probably not rising. This has been great advice in attempting to follow statistics about the pandemic, as it's much easier to lie (or screw up) figures of cases, tests, hospitalizations, than it is to lose count of dead bodies.

      So the death statistics are upper left are about the only ones I can trust from Health Canada, this week. They screwed up very badly on the similar charts to the one above, which track hospital admissions and ICU admissions: the number for the 40-49 group went DOWN substantially in one week. Not the numbers of new cases, the pandemic total went down. Somebody both screwed up the data input, and didn't check against previous numbers. (They even went down compared to the totals of three weeks ago.) So, I can't, not for sure, tell you whether "young" people, under sixty, are now crowding the ICUs of Canada. (Unless you'd like a reassuring report that "-209" people, aged 40-49, entered an ICU.)

      I can tell you that nearly as many people of all ages entered hospital, or into an ICU, in the last week as in the two previous weeks, except for the oldest groups, the two over 70: they added somewhat fewer in one week than two previous.

      For dying itself, the data at upper left tell us that we're down from the over-70s doing 88% of the dying, down to 75%. The 50-59 gang are up from 4% to 7%. (Less terrified now?)

      But because "death will out", I'm getting the impression that the news is exaggerating somewhat. Listening to the nightly anchors interviewing exhausted ICU doctors, you'd get the impression that most of the beds were essential-services workers in the prime of life. I think it's closer to say, it's gone up from a third to just over half that are 30-59. And the 20-29 crowd, that they'd like to scare into not having parties, are still just a few percent of the ICUs. "Just" six of them died in the last week (up from 38 last week to 44, shown in graph). Worth noting though, that the six in the last week, is one-seventh of all the 20-29 Canadians that have died in the last year. It would be fair to describe their death-rate per week, as up by a factor of seven!

      And having found a scare number to promote, I'll sign off, and mutter my disgust at Health Canada's incompetence. Maybe they'll fix it next week. The numbers will keep getting worse for at least 2 more weeks, so that'll be a more dramatic post anyway. I'd really planned on this post, I like finding numbers that are not making the news, show something you can't get anywhere else. So, in part, I'm posting about the frustrations in reporting on a pandemic: so dependent on good data that often is not there, or clearly erroneous.

      http://brander.ca/c19#youthstats


      April 17: How Full of Crap is Doug Ford?

      I have a bunch of new data to crunch today, but that's for posting tomorrow. I hope to get clear numbers on just how much younger those younger ICU patients are getting.

      For today, I'm basically taking the day off by just piling-on Doug Ford. It's not needed; the least-useful thing a blog can do is point at mainstream news and say, "Yeah, what she said". I wish I'd noted the name of the CBC analyst who followed Doug Ford on TV this morning with his rant about "how this wouldn't be happening if we had 300,000 vaccines a day back in February".

      Doug, we didn't even approve Oxford/Astazeneca until February 26, and I think every Canadian is aware that we had bad vaccine deliveries before mid-March. (Blame the feds or not; most look at other countries, and don't.)

      Ford's "It's all their fault" doesn't pass the laugh-test, of course; all the other provinces have the same Feds, the same vaccine situation. CBC brought on an analyst who sounded more like a prosecutor cutting a weak defense to shreds with fact after fact:

      • The current rise is just what was predicted by epidemiologists if Ontario didn't shut down more in response to the variants increasing;

      • The government didn't listen, kept travel and business going.

      • Ford was warned about the vaccine situation all along, knew what he had to work with.

      • Doug is asking for 300,000 vaccines a day, but has never delivered more than half that into Ontarian arms. There's no proof at all he could have used 300,000 per day.
      It's as if Ford expected the Feds to bail him out...with a time machine.

      At upper left, the mountain Doug Ford has built with his pandemic response rules. Way back on March 11th, CCCC hilariously worried whether variants could give Ontario 2,000 cases per day, in a month?. It in fact took just 16 days. Everybody else has done better, Doug.

      What if Doug got his wish, starting today, and could fully act on it, deliver 300,000 per day? Well, that would, for sure, get Ontario from 22% vaccinated to 50% vaccinated in two weeks. That's not herd immunity, but the curve would certainly begin to bend. The reduction would be visible by the end of April, and by a month from now, it would be going very well.

      But, what would happen in the next two weeks, under Doug's old restrictions level? Well, obviously, cases would go up another 58%, just like the last two weeks. That would be 7,000 cases per day. It would be another 84,000 cases, total, and many hundreds dead.

      And it would all be Doug Ford's fault. I don't believe this was medical-officer incompetence. I believe that public health has been overruled in nearly every case where a province has behaved badly: BC, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec: I blame the politicians, not the doctors.

      And certainly not the vaccine-delivery operation, which has performed multiple miracles, exceeded every expectation. Dunking on them is really low.

      http://brander.ca/c19#fordcrap


      April 16: Graphically, How Well Vaccinations Work

      I guess it's OK to publish this, though if you click on the graphic, you'll be led the URL at its lower-right corner, which is entirely in Hebrew, and has no obvious path to find the chart, or supporting data. At least not if you don't read Hebrew. The graphic actually comes by way of friend Mike Babulic, who put it up on Facebook (Roy admitted, with a blush). I found that it was also put up on a Quebec Reddit Forum and on Twitter by one Eric Topol, physician and author. So I don't think it's made-up, just hard to find, buried in a Hebrew-language government data report.

      Yet another picture worth a thousand words, you can't even be bothered wanting the scale to give you the exact numbers on the risk-reduction. What's plain to me, is that I was a little wacky even having short-timer syndrome in the second week after my vaccination. The bar is so short even for the "under two weeks" at far left.

      The Twitter post is answered by a Yair Lewis, who provided the "raw data":

      57% of population received at least 1 dose; over 5 million people.

      Out of 458,503 COVID cases in this period:
      - 388,789 (84.8%) unvaccinated
      - 65,916 (14.3%) partially vaxed
      - Only 3,798 (0.8%) fully vaxed

      And I write this on Day 15, now part of the cohort in the second column, half as tall. What's interesting about those tiny columns is that the studies show just 50% protection after two weeks. Why aren't the columns half as tall, instead of such a small fraction?

      I've got a theory, at least: the article notes that the effectiveness numbers come from those first vaccinations of medical staff - heavily exposed, so you get good numbers for effectiveness. But medical staff are also much better symptom-reporters and test-takers than the general population. General population that get a day of mild chills, and some headache, have certainly become part of the 50% that "weren't protected". But did they bother to call their doctor, report a case, get a test? It was over by morning. They just got on with their day. A nurse, on the other hand, is hypersensitive to those symptoms, gets a test within hours, and takes time off work.

      Just a theory. If your standard for "protection" is that the disease doesn't even slow you down, then I suspect that the graph at left is the accurate picture, for you. It's not like 50% protection: more like 95%. And 99.5% against hospital.

      Get the shot.

      http://brander.ca/c19#israelvax


      April 15: Can the Canucks Take a Dive, Please?

      I haven't had a hockey hero in decades; but Canuck Forward JT Miller just qualified, with his "brutally honest" answer about not being "ready at all" to hit the boards.

      No Canucks have been hospitalized, which I, with no grace or decency at all, will kind of regret. A bad thing to wish on anybody, but the public service of it would have been awesome. We'll have to content ourselves with JT's honesty. Miller wasn't speaking for anybody else, but it was clear that a number of Canucks have had a rough couple of weeks: "...skating a couple of times, my lungs are screaming and definitely not in game-shape at all right now..."

      Miller's response is rare in sports, where "suck it up" and "walk it off" are mantras, along, always, with "play with pain". Except for Boris Johnson, we've not had the public spectacle of a prominent person really struggling with COVID, clearly down from it for weeks on end. Since that's a real thing, it could use some celebrity dramatization that we get with every other problem in our culture.

      So, I'm asking: could the Canucks, as a public service, take the same kind of dive that hockey players a famous for taking when an opposing skater elbows them? Could they just, again, over-do the pain and suffering a bit, really moan and whine into a TV camera? We really need it right now, really need to change people's behaviour, and on a dime.

      Season's over anyways, guys, this is the best thing you can do for your town and your country.

      http://brander.ca/c19#canucks


      April 14: Vaccine-Hesitation is Like Titanic Lifeboat Hesitation

      How would you like to be crowded in with dozens of other people in a wooden shell that was then hand-crank-lowered down a building some seven stories tall, and into the ocean?

      That was what the staff on-board the Titanic urged people to do, and they quailed at the risky-looking idea. They didn't line up, held back. When the owner of the ship, Bruce Ismay, was criticized for getting aboard a lifeboat, when so many were lost, he defended himself by pointing out that he boarded a lifeboat with seats left when nobody else wanted aboard, no women in sight - after he'd urged other people to board it the whole time it was loading.

      In the end, the total lifeboat seating, of nearly 1100, saved just 706 people. That was 109 years ago tonight: 1500 people died, April 14, 1912 - some hundreds of them because they didn't get in the boat.

      There were other screwups: it didn't help that one lifeboat was nearly lowered on top of another. (The Lusitania sinking had that actually happen, too: this is why you have lifeboat drills, which they did not.) And some of the lifeboats got tangled in the ropes and were never deployed.

      But the biggest problem was that the lifeboats looked riskier than the big, solid, iron boat you were leaving. Alas, there was no time to give everybody a tour of the lower decks, where water was gushing in at great speed, just like we can't give everybody a tour of the ICUs just now.

      But the risk, see my last few posts, of not getting in the vaccine lifeboat, is much, much higher than the vaccine lifeboat.

      Get in the boat.

      http://brander.ca/c19#titanic


      April 13: Blood Clots and Gender - Risk Calculations

      So now it's the Johnson and Johnson vaccine that may be held up due to blood clots. So far, that's based, in America, on six cases out of seven million. The odds are probably higher than one-in-a-million, however: all six were women, aged 18-48. That cohort is halved by gender, and again by age, so for them, the risk is perhaps one in a quarter-million. Of the seven, one dead, one in critical condition.

      There may be similar associations for Pfizer or Moderna. This article in StatNews keeps coming up with those million-to-one ratios, however. The numbers are so small that separating "causation" from "correlation" is difficult.

      If we had confidence that some vaccines didn't have the risk, the solution seems simple: confine younger women to those products, and give the AZ and JJ to men. I have no idea whether that causes social side-effects (one can imagine areas where only one vaccine is available, so only one gender is getting jabbed); but surely we can work it out. Ship them in pairs.

      I knew nothing about gender, of course, when I very cheerfully accepted the blood-clot risk to get my own AZ jab. I think most people would prefer the clot-risk from the vaccine to the clot-risk and sixteen-other-risks from the disease. The risk is so high that patients that make it to ICU are routinely put on anti-blood-clotting on the spot. The referenced article notes that clotting problems were found in 10% of the patients that enter hospital. (Not ICU, hospital.)

      Run that math: about 10% of cases wind up in hospital, so abou 1% of COVID-19 sufferers get blood clots. Several percent of BC has how had COVID-19, so that's a few percent of 1%, or a few citizens out of 100,000 that have already had blood clots, because of COVID. When I took that AZ jab, therefore, my odds on getting blood clots in 2021 dropped ninety percent, from one in 25,000 to one in 250,000...if I'd been younger, and female. Those were my odds, as far as I knew, then.

      Most of those COVID blood clots were survived without damage, as were most of the clots that may have come from the JJ jab; but the risk is still ten times higher. For every percent of the BC population (it's already probably 3% or more), a hundred people, at least, will get blood clots; only a few if we jabbed 3 million people with Johnson and Johnson.

      The pauses and concerns thus sound crazy. They're all about the way we process risk, a topic for tomorrow.

      http://brander.ca/c19#xxclots


      April 12: Is Israel Showing 60% is Good Enough?

      I'm still grumpy about whatever data-glitch (was it just at CTV? I didn't check anybody else) that had me thinking Israel was nearly all vaccinated, when the numbers suddenly jumped down to 50% last February.

      The story gets weirder: it wasn't data-trouble, but a sudden loss of interest in vaccination by Israelis, that stalled the vaccination at about 60%. The linked story, from two months ago, stresses that Israel had not "beaten the pandemic", that it still had high case-counts, some 5500 per day at the time - basically, you get Canadian equivalents by multiplying by four, so that's like us having 22,000 cases/day, three times as bad as our current troubles. Imagine having 3X Canada's cases, and still down to having the GP phone patients individually to beg them to get vaccinated at the empty clinics!

      My post then, of "Israel, WTF?" was almost too weak. Or was it?

      Israel, in two freaking months, only went from 58% to 61% vaccinated, a total stall. And yet, that case-count dropped from over 5000 to just 280, now. The death-rate is down to a few per day, like seasonal flu. The pandemic, by gross evidence, is over for them. They still have some restrictions, are moving schools away from bubble systems bit-by-bit, and they are using some kind of vaccine passport, as story in Haaretz notes that they have "re-opened commerce and culture for vaccinated people" (italics mine), which makes the reluctance of that last 40% even more puzzling.

      But the decline in cases, while not that dramatic "cliff" I was hoping for, shows that restrictions and vaccinations can work together to end the pandemic, long before you reach that 70% "herd immunity" point. They still have some restrictions, but I scanned over the whole main pages for The Jerusalem Post, and Ha'aretz, and the only pandemic stories were about Pfizer not shipping any more vaccine, because Israel didn't pay for the last 2.5 million doses, and Israel now making masks.

      Canada hits 20% today, and should rise at nearly 1% per day, soon. Six weeks until we hit Israeli numbers.

      http://brander.ca/c19#israel60


      April 11: How to Throw a Pandemic Funeral

      It turns out that you follow public health guidelines. Sorry, I guess that makes for a pretty short post. I could expand, I suppose, but I'd just be just repeating my August 25th post.

      Which bears repeating, not because of the doddering, raving, former politician needs any more dumping on, but because the newspapers do.

      Given the antipathy between the very-ex-president and the press, given the seriousness of the American pandemic last August, and given the election ongoing at the time...I still can't believe the utter lack of criticism for the sense of entitlement in holding a 150-person funeral in the White House..

      Those links, I just googled up today. I couldn't find ONE article where the journalist took the White House to task for inventing its own pandemic-gathering rules. They all reported it as if giving everybody tests an hour earlier, then requiring no masks, was all the protection needed. (We know the tests can fail, and with 150 people, the odds of at least one failing are pretty good.)

      But again, no physician weighed in on this. Public health was simply bypassed by the sheer power giving the orders. What was public health to do, send DC police up against the Secret Service? They did it because they had the power.

      Well, so do the Royal Family. If they'd really wanted, they could have thrown their considerable weight around, said everybody would be vaccinated, everybody would be tested, we're at least bumping 30 mourners up to 60 so that we can invite the whole family, and the top politicians. Or Dukes. Whatever. They could have done it, too, and they didn't.

      They are not being given any credit for this. It's just what's expected of real leadership. What I can't get over is that there was no criticism of the previous failure of leadership, and no comparisons being raised now. Except at CCCC, of course.

      I'll throw in a bonus. I missed this hilarious example of sheer entitlement at the time. The headline is "Funeral Guest Hit Restaurant Worker".

      It seems a bunch of the elite mourners headed for the Fig and Olive, were seated to pandemic maxima - four tables of six - then more showed up, and the restrictions explained. Whereupon a mourner (not a celebrity name), broke the nose of one of the restaurant workers. "Then it just escalated for no reason", said a restaurant spokesman. I think anybody who's seen "mask derangement syndrome", from store owner's videos on TV news, knows what that looked like.

      There were no arrests. A lack of police presence to which the guests were, I guess...entitled.

      Those who have real Titles have just shown us the price of them.

      http://brander.ca/c19#funeral2


      April 10: Back to the Future with Laurie Penny

      I discovered Laurie Penny's writing a couple of years back, and have been following her career ever since. She's a very talented and very passionate writer, has done some outstanding journalism by just getting in there and talking to people, and her insight is like an MRI machine. She's had very precarious employment, journalism being what it is, and went away from it for a while when Joss Whedon also spotted her writing talent, and got her to try her hand at fiction with an episode of The Nevers, now imminent on HBO (and Crave in Canada).

      But she has some support - CA $3,824 per month, according to the Patreon web page - from people like me, who just, umm, well, patronize her, in the oldest sense of the word, via Patreon.com. In return we get access to all her writing, and e-mails to push them at us. I got one this morning, and it's from our future:

      For me, the after times came all at once. I'm one of the few people who got to step from one reality right into the other. ... I'm now in Melbourne, where there's no COVID at all. None. For me, there was a specific hour, a specific second, when the after times began. ...

      In Australia, COVID has been almost entirely eliminated. In Victoria, where I am, there are no cases at all. It's not that the country has been untouched - Melbourne had a hundred-day lockdown last year, which meant jobs lost, businesses closing, communities struggling, families fractured, the special hell of homeschooling for some and the grueling routine of isolation for others. ...

      On my first day in Melbourne, I put on a real coat and boots for the first time in a year, and off I trotted out into the world, wanting to see everything, to go in everywhere. The department store! The supermarket! The library! I found somewhere to get a haircut after a year of auto-topiary that left me looking like an extra in a 1960s musical about orphans.

      Just hold that image, as we have to lock down again, here, and watch newscast about ICUs stuffing patients into operating theatres. It is coming. Just to rub it, Laurie is living in what Canada could have been, with the Canadian Shield strategy, last fall. Sigh.

      I let Laurie write my blog this morning, not just to get my money's worth out of the patreon.com expense ($3/month: you have no excuse), but because I'm grinding numbers.

      I'm comparing the Canadian COVID stats for ICU, hospital, and so on from the last two weeks, to the previous pandemic sum totals. They're shifting, but not as much as the news would have you believe. For instance, the over-80 demographic are 70% of our pandemic dead, overall: but still 50% of our dead, the last two weeks. More tomorrow, and much more in coming weeks as the numbers are tracked while vaccinations rise rapidly.

      http://brander.ca/c19#laurie


      April 9: Worth a Thousand Words

      Between these two images, everything you need to know about Alberta, and also, Ontario, really, our two most-conservative-leaning provinces.

      At left, from CBCnews, all applause for the info-graphic that tells a story, as the best info-graphics do. At right, a comic from BC Data Modeller Jens von Bergmann, who clearly loves "XKCD", and has the same sense of humour.

      That one is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it's pretty close - and I'm talking the mentality of health ministers and premieres, not the people protesting restrictions. Their ability to look at growing numbers and see nothing there is already legendary. Why the public health ministers "average in" their views to get a feel for what they, as politicians, should be doing, is beyond me.

      It's certainly the source of our current problems.

      With luck, we are at least on the downside of the roller-coaster for a month - that's even assuming current restrictions get even P1 down below an R of 1.0.

      With luck.

      http://brander.ca/c19#1000words


      April 8: Church Does Right Thing

      ...is that ever supposed to be not news. But, alas, it is.

      The Reverend Dr. Greg Glatz, left, (links to nice story about him) is of the lovely and historic Knox United Church in downtown Calgary, right. And he just did something that I can't recall another local reverend getting in the news for, not this whole pandemic. I'm wracking my brains, but not google: if you have to use a giant search engine to find something, after a year as a news junkie, it was a fairly obscure event.

      The Reverend Dr. Glatz said it was "good" that a fellow churchman had seen his church shut down, fences put around it. There have been major religious figures stand up for things. From the Pope on down, the top guys in most denominations have put out messages of stay safe, stay home, tried to provide for Zoom-type worship services.

      But, when I read the story and was moving along, it suddenly struck me that this is the first local pastor, in the same community, to condemn fellow churchmen, for spreading disease. For deliberately mis-quoting from scripture that for 2000 years, has been seen to counsel acceptance of worldly authorities, to focus upon the saving of souls.

      It's one thing to stick to positive messages, add to the voices calling for distance and stay-home and so forth. A negative message, basically an attack upon a fellow Christian, is a whole other level. Christian soldiers, could be saddling up; Dr. Glatz could well be the object of attacks on himself, his church, his whole denomination, in return. (Link to story from church graphic.)

      Congratulations, Dr. Glatz: you've displayed the virtue of courage. Anybody could have stepped forward, but you are conspicuously alone, always a courageous thing to be.

      As for the rest of you, show some spine. If you don't give Caesar a little support, there could be a lot more of God's souls rendered back unto him.

      http://brander.ca/c19#goodchurch


      April 7: Shocked, Shocked, That Ontario Needed Lockdown

      What a surprise. Nobody who was determinedly looking away, and avoiding all the gathering data, and not-listening to multiple warnings, saw that one coming!

      I won't even bother with a link; it's the top story on the major papers, and TV channel news sites. Except The Herald, where Alberta's own problems have their increased restrictions as the top story, and the Vancouver Sun, which of course is obsessed with real estate. (People have been dying for a year; but these bidding wars are news!)

      There's a great line, I won't bother to look up - I think the original is about "America" - which can be recycled here as: "Doug Ford will do the right thing, only after exhausting all other possibilities". Hey, remember Doug and Jason briefly distinguishing themselves by doing the right thing? Those were the Good Old Days.

      Now, it's not just Doug and Jason holding back, and holllllding back, until the virus throws them into a come-along armlock, and forces them to do what they should have done a month earlier - other provinces have fallen into their bad habits. Remember when Saskatchewan was a safe place? Sigh.

      Once again, I have to tout Andrew Nikiforuk in The Tyee, and his article on a major French study about pandemic response strategies.

      Seems that they reviewed all these many countries, and the different health regions, states, provinces within federated countries like ours, and determined that Get To Zero is the best strategy. The one that Australia, Taiwan, South Korea, all those pandemic champs followed - it saves not just the most lives, but the most economy, the most money, the most schooling, the most jobs. That was yesterday's article. Today, he has another on how BC slipped up from doing well until Fall 2020, to the mess we are in today.

      Andrew and Andre' (Picard): Canada's best reporting right now.

      http://brander.ca/c19#shockedshocked


      April 6: I Am Hiding Under the Bed This Week

      Yesterday's "Short-Timer Syndrome" post was a little tongue-in-cheek, of course. I went out soon after, and took many pictures of the West End cherry trees in full-bloom, as they attracted their yearly fan club of admirers. As you can see in those photos, it wasn't "crowded" like a civil rights demonstration, and those were pretty low-risk.

      Then, my first news story this morning was posted up on Facebook by a tiny newspaper for just the West End, at right. Well, great. Those crowds loving the cherry trees were in BCs worst hot-spot, apparently.

      brea And, oddly enough for the "blood clots" issue, The National, last night, had an entry in their new series of stories about COVID-19 cases. The doctor stressed how this guy was in his early 30s and completely healthy before contracting it. He wound up intubated for a period, and also the victim of, wait for it, blood clots in his brain. This guy is not one of millions of vaccine recipients, because Canada's only had the one million cases. It's much, much more likely for COVID-19 to give you blood clots, than any vaccine. The disease is getting more frightening, every variant that comes up.

      I've got a new thing for CCCC. Because I record television Over-The-Air, with an antenna, I have a power that cable/sat subscribers don't: I can record my TV, save it, edit it, shrink it down to half-size, as below. It's just a 30-second clip...but look at that man's eyes.

      I have to credit The National, and the fashion-courage of their correspondent, Dr. Michael Warner, for just appearing on-camera in his scrubs - and his clear fatigue and depression. He's far more effective than any chipper public health spokesman spieling about washing your hands.

      Effective enough that I'm going to be in hiding from the thing for a couple of weeks to come, and wary even after the protection kicks in. I'd sooner kiss a cobra.

      http://brander.ca/c19#westend


      April 5: Short-Timer Syndrome

      The novel about Vietnam war experiences was turned into the movie, "Full Metal Jacket". The movie doesn't much mention the title of the novel. A "tour" of Vietnam was precisely 365 days. On the day you arrived, you'd be told, "you have 365 days and a wakeup". You'd lay your head down in Vietnam 365 times (if you could sleep), and on the 365th wakeup, you'd get on a plane.

      These 365 were counted down obsessively by those who didn't want to be there. When the count hit 30 days and a wakeup, miltary superstition would start to kick in. Soldiers, the novel explains, are the most superstitious people in the world; an athlete unwilling to change socks during a winning streak has no comparison. Since life and death in modern battle are terribly random, any angle to improve your luck is believed: lucky rabbit's feet are held tight.

      One thing that can drive you crazy is the thought of getting hit on your last day, your last week. It was actually at the last month that everybody would conspire to help a "short timer" avoid further combat missions. Partly from superstition, partly because: as he lost focus on being a soldier, and began to imagine actually making it home to the world, he'd become a liability, not an asset, in the field. So your last month was often almost all on the base.

      I'm now four days after vaccination, and very little protected. There aren't figures on the protection level at this point, but they're pretty near zero. There's some significant protection as early as 12 days, and high protection by 15 days.

      Now would be a very, very slightly better time for me to be exposed to COVID-19 in medical terms; I bet I have a few percent lower odds of hospital; but it would be the WORST time for me to get it in irony terms: the vaccination wasted, my disease basically unchecked. I really, really, really don't want to take risks now, just like a Vietnam short-timer: not when escape is so close.

      So, even though we could use some milk and other groceries, I think I'll stretch it to tomorrow before hitting the store: Easter Monday is still the weekend, it might be crowded. It'll be another week after tomorrow before I'm ready to take risks like entering a store for non-essentials. Now is just not the time.

      http://brander.ca/c19#shorttimer


      April 4: Open Letter of Apology to Paul Godfrey

      Dear Sir:

      I write you at random, having selected you second from the top of the contact on the nearest school to my house. The first guy might be senior enough to be over 55; you, probably not.

      So, notionally at least, it's your vaccination's last bit of soreness that is leaving my arm today, as I start to build immunity from the Oxford-Astazeneca vaccination that was meant for you, and I'm sorry about that.

      It's no fault of either of us, and it follows accepted medical practice. The vaccinators are running scared of the anti-vaxxers, like elephants terrified of a mouse. Our culture has no greater heroes than those who invent and make vaccines right now, they should be all-powerful elephants. But the mice are empowered by Fear and Stupidity, great powers of the universe, and the elephants must tread very lightly.

      So, even though the worst of your math students could easily compute that any risk from the vaccine is enormously outweighed by the risks of you not getting the vaccine, you will be denied it. Oddly, we give people great freedom to refuse a risk that is so small it may be imaginary - but no freedom whatsoever to accept a risk, though the acceptance may be mathematically obvious. I bet 90% of teachers would have signed any release form at at all to get my shot, but that wasn't an option.

      It's as if seatbelts were associated with skin cancer (from contact with the plastic belt if you don't wear a shirt in the car), so you're being denied a seatbelt, then told to get back in the car and drive cross-country.

      If I read about a single BC teacher actually dying from coronavirus contracted in the weeks before this is all sorted out, I'm going to have an ugly case of survivor's guilt.

      "Having survivor's guilt" isn't much of an apology if it's you that doesn't make it, Paul, but it's there for what little it's worth.

      I write that last, because that's the point of picking out a name and printing it, the same as Maclean's now-regular feature of "They Were Loved", putting faces and bios to the pandemic dead. We need to remember that we're talking about people's lives, people serving the public trust. Stay safe, Mr. Godfrey. Your medical system has failed you, and you're on your own for at least a few more weeks.

      http://brander.ca/c19#apology


      April 3: Good Saturday

      Just to confirm, all those annoying reactions were down to a tolerable level a few hours after I posted yesterday morning. I got some mid-day sleep and was functional, if not vigorous. By nightfall it was just a one-asprin headache, and all my energy came back right around the 24-hour mark after they started, about 11PM.

      So, that's that. Back to normal this morning. I enjoyed a Zoom chat with some friends last night, including a guy who'd gotten Oxford-Astazeneca several weeks back, along with his wife, in Britain. He'd had no reaction of note, but his wife was laid up for a day in bed with my set of reactions, only a bit worse. Chatting with people in the area, that was not uncommon.

      I managed to find a comparative table for different vaccines, and Astazeneca does have higher odds of some reactions - but very slightly. They all have more than 50% of protectees having a few of them. (Fatigue and headache are the most common, after "pain at the injection site", which I did not get.) The other two vaccines are actually more likely to have such reactions on a second dose. Oh, yes, you can get the issues after the second dose: something to look forward to. But, hey, only about 20% get nausea, though it's 40% for Moderna on second dose.

      The article also notes something about "efficacy", where doctors have hastened to reassure people that Astazeneca's "76%" is really just as good as the Moderna/Pfizer 90%+. The article points out that Astazeneca figures come mainly from where it had to deal with the B.1.1.7 variant, that's more transmissable, by about 40%. Oxford-Astazeneca may actually be just as protective as the other two. (The other way to look at it, is that they will all be "only" 75% protective soon, as B.1.1.7 and P1 take over the field. Try to remember that a 75% vaccine is awesome by all previous vaccine standards.)

      I joked with the party, that it was weirdly good, in a way. It would be a total act of faith to trust the vaccine without such reactions. A guy pokes you with a needle, nothing happens, was it a vaccine, or tap water? But if you go through a 1%-as-bad version of the disease, you know something is happening in there: for your T-cells and white cells, that day of malaise for you was the Rocky Training Montage, and they now have the Eye of the Tiger fastened on COVID-19.

      http://brander.ca/c19#goodsaturday


      April 2: Bad Friday

      My vaccination went off without a hitch. I had been thinking of an amusing(?) post where I randomly picked out a local teacher - perhaps there's a 'teacher of the month' page at some local school - and apologize to her for taking her vaccination. That took a minute to sink in, when I saw it on the news: we 55-65 lucky duckies are getting the dreaded Oxford-AstroZenaca meant for essential workers, particularly teachers.

      I can only hope the decision is reversed quickly. Britain is now up to 30 cases of the blood clots - but out of 18 million doses. If that body of people also got 30 blood clots in the couple of weeks before their vaccinations, then I think we're done here. Fingers crossed.

      But, alas, poor poor me is having a Bad Friday. I got picked, also at random, to be one of the guys that got a bunch of side-effects, closely resembling a super-mild case of the disease itself. A few hours of feverish chills and body aches last night, which combined with a dull headache to ruin my sleep. This morning, only the headache remains, and fatigue, though that may be more lack-of-sleep than a reaction.

      I am still feeling very lucky and glad. With any luck at all, by tomorrow it'll be Good Saturday. And April 23rd, of course, will, statistically, be "75% protected against any symptoms, 100% against the ICU" Saturday. Also 67% protection against spreading the disease.

      That is so worth a headache.

      http://brander.ca/c19#badfriday


      April 1: Anniversary Post: Hallmark Ending(?) ... Blog Birthday Present

      The first post, here at CCCC, was April Fool's Day, 2020. The single most-appropriate "2020 Day". Christmas 2020 was not much of a Christmas! But April Fool's Day, 2020, was very much an April Fool's Day.

      The April Fools this year are all the polities - Canada's provinces, save the Maritimes and North, basically - that just foolishly thought cases that were going up, would start to go down if they did nothing more than plead for caution from podia. ("Podiums" is allowed, but I always go for the "ia" ending: "Stadia", "Millenia". It's just nicer.)

      So, the blog's Least Surprising Birthday Present Ever, we get "sudden" lockdowns that are a "surprise" to the affected restaurant owners and so forth. I actually saw a ski resort pub employee (at Whistler, not the Kelowna place that disgraced itself and lost its lease) say "nobody saw this coming". Seriously?

      There's nothing to say about it, no stories worth linking to. ALL of the stories for weeks have been about rising case-counts, variants becoming dominant. It was like "predicting" that sunrise was imminent, as you watch the eastern horizon get too bright to look at.

      I'm able to summon up anger, even as I get my Hallmark-movie moment. Who the heck could have predicted I'd be scheduled for vaccination on the very anniversary of starting a pandemic blog? I mean, to a Hollywood scriptwriter, at least, it's hard to maintain dramatic tension after that needle goes in, and the protagonist is out of nearly all danger. Time to jump-cut to the "six months later" scene around the Thanksgiving table, start rolling the credits.

      There's been some almost-movie-grade drama. I got a call yesterday afternoon, that, sorry, appointment cancelled, the government didn't deliver. Then, she called back at 8:30 PM, from her personal phone, to say that was reversed, the truck came through, the appointment's back on.

      The appointments were done just as you may have seen on the news: a sign-up sheet. My vaccination actually kind of depends on nobody losing an 8.5x11 bit of paper. But with people like the young lady from Shopper's, calling me at night on her own phone, I'm actually very confident of success.

      Given how bad the people at the top are, who led us so timidly and vacantly into a new wave, I think that young, conscientious, ordinary workers - with sign-up sheets - can frankly do better.

      http://brander.ca/c19#anniversary


      March 31: Tomorrow, Tomorrow, The Sun Comes Out Tomorrow

      Fingers crossed for it, at least.

      I thought, "what the heck", and walked to my nearby drugstore about 8:30 this morning. Deserted. "Yes, do you need a refill?". "No, I say", pointing at the "VACCINE APPOINTMENTS HERE" sign. "I'm 62, and watch the news."

      She smiles, but shrugs. "The lineup went out the door yesterday, while that news was still on. The list filled up in minutes, also the waitlist. The Davie street location got a lot more, you could call."

      The number in my pocket, I take a 20-minute walk, instead. No hurry, it'll have filled, yesterday, too. But maybe they'll tell me how many doses they got, how long they took to fill up - nice bit for the blog.

      At the pharmacy window, a couple were finishing up, and a guy stepped forward from my right. "Hey, I'm right here." "I was over there, on the dots", he replied, pointing - I hadn't actually been in the line. "But go ahead".

      I didn't step forward; just called over to the pharmacist, "Just wanted to ask when your vaccination appointments filled up yesterday?"

      She blinked. "I have two left, 5:55 and 6PM tomorrow". I waved the other man forward. (I really like to think I would have done it if she had said she had only one left. Pretty sure, anyway.) He got 5:55, and I got the very last vaccine appointment for tomorrow. I'm sure, the last in the West End. Booked by 9AM, the day after the news.

      I already posted "I Ain't Afraid of No Blood Clots", but that does come with the caveat: I'm very afraid of the blood clots you can get from COVID-19. Not as afraid as I am of the neurological damage, and not nearly as afraid as I am of the lung damage. But much, much, much more afraid than I am of Oxford-Astazeneca blood clots, which occupy a reality zone between in the triangle between "fear-based myth", "hypothetical", and "only visible with the best statistics".

      I joked with the first pharmacist that I was overjoyed to hear I had no appointment there because of the huge, round-the-block response. She nodded rapidly; from the news, health professionals are scared that vaccine fearmongering was going to have a win from this. Very reassuring to know that most people have more sense.

      http://brander.ca/c19#tomorrow


      March 30: Dumb and Dumber and Dumberer

      In order, Dumb is confusing "circuit breaker" with "rheostat". A "circuit breaker" briefly stops all electrical transmission while you make sure a fire won't happen. A rheostat just turns down electrical flow by a bit, turning a valve. In British Columbia, just closing bars and restaurants and gyms, not all businesses, not schools, is a rheostat, not a "circuit breaker". They're debasing the terminology, but more importantly, being timid and weak about an already-desperate, time-sensitive fight with the variants.

      Dumber is Ontario, where they've seen this coming for weeks, known it well from two previous waves, and have still bumbled into 67% variants, and the pandemic "completely out of control". The "dumber" title comes from this story, actually, the tidbit that hospitalizations are this time 20% higher than they were at the start of the last lockdown.

      Think about it, that means that instead of getting smarter every wave, saying earlier and earlier that "this is the start of a wave, let's stop it early", they're getting dumber every wave, taking longer to accept the obvious. If a cancer patient allowed more and more cancer symptoms to appear and worsen, every time the cancer came back, you'd say they deserved to die after the tumours grew for a third time, ignored.

      And Dumberer is this story about the most-Republican of American states, where the governor is now touting her bravery at never locking down, any business, never recommending masks, as a campaign feature, a triumph of governance. It's a Bush speechwriter and lifelong Republican columnist who is saying of that:

      Now let me be clear. South Dakota has the second-highest case rate and the eighth-highest covid death rate in the country. In that sparsely populated state, the disease has taken the lives of nearly 2,000 people. And Noem's defiant inaction has made that number higher than it should have been. What level of hubris, extremism or insanity does it take to crow about one of the worst covid records in the nation? Noem might as well be campaigning for higher office in a hearse.

      It does help put BC and "dumb" in perspective, and one might even be glad to live in "dumber" Ontario, given the amount of "dumberer" out there. Ah, well, I will cheer myself up by promising to get back to Brazil, soon. Good news: Bolsonaro is doing badly.

      http://brander.ca/c19#dumbdumb


      March 29: P1 in Vancouver

      I just don't know whether to be frightened or reassured that St. Paul's Hospital found more cases of the P1 variant than are known to be in the whole United States. St Paul's is almost exactly a mile from my house.

      Normally, that would mean that my post of the other day, about "The balloon goes up", had gone up about P1, that there would be twice as many cases per week of P1 from now on, that it would take over during the course of April. That has been happening with less-bad "UK variant", B.1.1.7, but P1 would be worse.

      What's reassuring, is Dr. Bonnie Henry, staunchly claiming that this very large cluster, along with several clusters of B.1.1.7, have all been "contained". That's a very large claim to make about so many cases, a statement of remarkable trust in the sheer thoroughness of the contact-tracing. It would require that everybody with any contact with any of all those cases, has been not just checked for symptoms, but tested, since so many are asymptomatic.

      I can only hope she's right; certainly, she won't escape criticism if she's wrong. What was solidly reassuring is her statement that virtually all tested cases are now also being checked for what variant they are. We'll be able to track the progress of the "new pandemic" (and it is), as it happens to us.

      The real hard question is what the public health doctors will insist upon if the P1 variant (in particular, but also B.1.1.7) moves into a high "R" value and control is lost. Those of us calling for "Canadian Shield" and "Get to Zero" and all that, for two months, have been proven right so far. If P1 can cause severe symptoms to the already-vaccinated, then we're in for 2021 as a Groundhog Year re-run of 2020.

      So, they'd better be right.

      http://brander.ca/c19#yvrP1


      March 28: Brazil Faces the Test: Will Bolsonaro Hang?

      Eventually, the nicest people have had enough, enough to make them a raging mob. Our hearts all went out to the people of Myanmar, the other day, who didn't just oppose lead and steel with fragile flesh...they come back for more, when they regrouped. It's happened before, and will again. I read the same story in Red China Blues, by Canadian journalist Jan Wong, who had a ringside seat at the Tiananmen Square uprisings. She reported with awe that people would be driven from the square, with machine guns, leaving bodies all over the ground...and then, they'd regroup and come charging back. At machine guns. There were similar acts of courage in Tahrir Square in Cairo, now a decade back.

      The photograph shows Mussolini, and some cronies, who were shot and strung up, not by the allied troops, but by Italians:

      After being kicked and spat upon, the bodies were hung upside down from the roof of an Esso gas station. The bodies were then stoned from below by civilians.
      I was joking, right at the start of this blog, when I asked on April 30, "Where is BoJo's Noose?" about Johnson, though resignation was certainly appropriate (and still is).

      Bolsonaro, on the other hand, really has gone an order-of-magnitude past Johnson at getting his people killed. His P1 variant (yes, he gets to own it; there wouldn't have been enough cases to produce new mutations if he'd done his job) is now going to kill millions around the world - but most, in Brazil.

      Brazil pulled into the lead, the other day, at most deaths ever declared in one day by any country, well over 3,000. It exceeded any American numbers from their last wave, though Brazil has just two-thirds the population.

      But the thing is, the dying of yesterday is based on the case-count of three weeks ago. When the hospitals were at the breaking point, but mostly still functional. This article from Friday describes 15 patients arriving, for two beds - 13 turned away to die. Those terrible choices that Italian doctors were just starting to have to make in Lombardy a year ago, where you take an 85-year-old off the ventilator to give it to a 75-year-old with half a chance - that's now every day and hour in Brazilian hospitals.

      The case-count is not rising all that rapidly, recently: the dying would only go up to 4,000 per day...except the hospitals are now turning most away, and it will probably be worse. They're running out of oxygen.

      Gwynne Dyer, wanting to "hit the panic button on Brazil", is not of the opinion that the people can remove Bolsonaro (Tiananmen Square failed completely), but I'm starting to wonder. Every population has its breaking point. Watts, Tahrir Square, the Orange Revolution - they were all surprises when they hit.

      I look at those graphs and I see that record-breaking death rate doubling in a month. How much can they take?

      Bolsonaro might want to avoid gas stations.

      http://brander.ca/c19#lynching


      March 27: The Balloon Goes Up

      One of those phrases you use, know what it means, but not where it comes from. Turns out that the best way to get all the WW1 artillery guns to start shooting simultaneously was to just release a balloon that they all could see, up and down the line. More reliable than wires (fail) or making a noise (might be drowned out). So the heart-lifting sight of a balloon rising lazily into the sky, beloved by every child, was used to signal "time for death".

      The covid balloon went up over the last two days across the nation. It was just 14 days after I asked whether Ontario was just a month away from 2,000 cases per day, that Ontario posted a number quite a bit higher. I wondered for a day if that was some kind of weird spike in reporting, it was so fast. Five-fold growth in 14 days? But then yesterday was also over 2,000. It's on, the variants are growing faster than even the pessimistic models predicted, and Ontario is in trouble.

      Alberta and especially BC may be in more trouble. I haven't seen a jump like the last two days in BC, in the whole pandemic. How could it grow from 716 to 800, then 908 in seventy-two hours?

      If it keeps growing like that, we'll be in a fear-based lockdown in days, whether the government calls one or not. I feel like stocking up at the store today, preparing to hide inside for a spell.

      I wonder if the store will be busy. Maybe I should stock up on toilet paper. If increases of 14% per day - an R of TWO - continue over the 3-days of tests that will be reported Monday - then BC will hit 1200/day early next week. The Ontario growth suggests an R of 1.7. These numbers are hard to believe, R values higher than any reported from UK - but if some local stupidity and superspreading are at work, they'll go on until people stop, or are stopped.

      It may grow out of control, until we are in real trouble. Fair warning, you should prepare.

      http://brander.ca/c19#balloon


      March 26: An Extremely Short Summary of Yesterday's Press Conferences

      1. Cases are skyrocketing!
      2. The variants are taking over!
      3. Now, let's talk about our continued re-opening plan!
      Well, fine, I'm exaggerating a bit, and it wasn't that bad in every province. In Alberta, the re-opening discussion was about putting off the next stage...but noted that most transmission is at home, please be careful of others at home if you feel symptomatic. Yeah, it's all our fault.

      Here in BC, the whole conference went on and on about new closeness allowed in care-homes, because they, at least, are vaccinated and somewhat safe from severe disease. There was just no discussion of the shocking jump to 800 cases per day, and whether that suggests a response.

      I'm going to save Ontario for tomorrow. That article makes me too angry.

      http://brander.ca/c19#biteme


      March 25: The Tyee's Nikiforuk Rubs It In

      I try to provide more value than the usual blogger's "You've got to read this" link; but, today, anything I could add would be weak, both for information and entertainment, than Andrew Nikiforuk's you-idiots review of the last eight weeks. It's eight weeks today since a strategy was put forward, called "The Canadian Shield", praised by CCCC. (That was six weeks after CCCC hugely enjoyed Nikiforuk's scorching of Jason Kenney's pandemic performance.

      The Canadian Shield strategy actually could run in six weeks, if all went well, exactly as it did in Portugal, covered yesterday. Following the Canadian Shield, our graph could have looked like Portugal's, below. In fact, oddly enough, Portugal's cases-per-day started plummeting exactly on January 30th, exactly as if they were the ones who'd read the article two days earlier.

      Nikiforuk does a Sherman's March across the country, "congratulating" the offending premieres one-by-one; every province had its own screw-ups, but they all boiled down to weakness in the face of protests, lack of courage to move quickly, to trust in science. Politicians all, sitting tight and keepin their heads down, not real leaders.

      I linked directly to Canadian Shield on Januarly 28th, only noticed Nikiforuk's "Get to Zero" article a week later, but it's the one he links back to, pointing to all the nations that did basically get to zero in six to eight weeks: New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam, Iceland and Taiwan. Oh, and all of Atlantic Canada and our North. It could have been done. He is especially excoriating about how we've not learned from our mistakes in previous waves. It's aggressive dumbness.

      We can still do this, to squash down the variants. If we don't control the variants, they may well get around the vaccines; that's what evolution will naturally tend to do to them. It's quite urgent.

      http://brander.ca/c19#nikiforuk2


      March 24: Praise Proud Portugal

      It was just two months ago tomorrow, when I posted "Pity Poor Portugal", which had been exemplary, at low cases the whole pandemic, until last fall, when their second wave was one of the worst it Europe. Here's the peak death rates, when countries started to turn it around, in terms of deaths per million population:
      • UK: 1200/68 = 17 deaths per million per day
      • USA: 3300/332 = 10 deaths/million/day
      • France: 600/65 = 9.3
      • Portugal 300/10 = 30
      Portugal hit a bad place before they got serious, but holy cow, did they ever get serious. I haven't seen a decline like that, in any country, the whole pandemic.

      Portugal is perhaps the single poorest country in western Europe; with a tourism-dependent economy that was hit hard. Nonetheless, when they locked down, they really locked down. Articles about it quoted government and medical people, talking about the details. There were simply no stories of protests, defiant restraunteurs, backlash, nothing. They just locked down hard for two whole months, everybody took it seriously, and that knocked the case-rate down from 12,000/day to 3,000/day in two weeks flat. That's an "R" of around 0.65; I can't recall a steeper decline in my whole time doing this. In the last five weeks, it's from 2500 to 500, about 0.8 - that's the shallow portion of their curve, but it is like the best-performance for any other nation.

      Portugal is about a week behind Canada at vaccination, just under 9%, to our 9.5%. Their remarkable discipline, and cautious re-opening. Population-adjusted, their case-rate is now half of Canada's.

      Praise Proud Portugal. I am so very happy to say a 180-degree turnaround of my own words of two months back.

      http://brander.ca/c19#praiseportugal


      March 23: America's Mass Shooters Herald "Return to Normalcy"

      After many months of near-dormancy because of the pandemic, America's purveyors of mass gun violence today held a press conference to proclaim a "return to normalcy", and a resumption of regular mass-shootings in the news.

      "We felt America was simply tired of crouching inside, afraid of being killed by a virus", said mass-murderer spokesmen, "when, as a good, strong, red-blooded people, they needed to get back to crouching behind counters and desks, afraid of being killed by us."

      Continuing the news conference, by taking reporters hostage, and crouching behind their podium, the killers re-iterated that this was "part of America's great re-opening plan".

      "There were mass shootings constantly in the news, until this stupid disease came along, killing people the old-fashioned way", noted spokesmen.

      "It's just so out-of-touch in the 21st century to continue with these obsolete ways of dying. Republican rhetoric about 'culling the herd', with the virus, is just stuck in the Middle Ages. We mass-murderers can cull the herd with much greater speed and efficiency, without wasting medical resources."

      Reporters commented, after taking a few casualties, and regrouping when the spokesmen fled in a car (swerving to hit pedestrians), that the shooters have certainly being getting back to it with undiminished vigor. "At least, it's not a racial thing", noted some police, with relief. "They said so".

      The database at right, from "gunviolencearchive.org", only goes back one week. (There were 25 injured and 3 dead in the two days before. You're welcome.) The graphic links to their database. The rest of the chart, not highlighted by the comments, adds up to another four dead and 35 injured.

      We are not, alas, all in this together.

      CCCC is not going to turn into The Beaverton. This was just how I coped.

      http://brander.ca/c19#normalcy


      March 22: Vaccine Supply and Demand, British Columbia.

      I was much taken by the vaccine appointment schedule on the news, last night. It was down to specific ages, for the next week. Age 79, age 78 two days later, age 77 two days later...age 75 by March 27.

      If you compare to the BC population-by-age chart at left, which is cumulative, you see it grows by about 35,000 people for every year younger you go, so two days apart means they currently can get through appointments for over 15,000 population, per day. Of course, not everybody is coming in. Vaccines have only been arriving at about 10,000 per day, recently, so uptake of appointments on first offer is presumably around 65% right now.

      By the end of March, we should have taken care of everybody down to age 75 who's going to show up early, so April starts us off with age 75, "done", for now.

      The trouble is, that the number of people per year takes a jump at age 75 and downward: they're into the baby boom. There are about 44,000 people age 75, but over 55,000 age 74, and then it goes upward by 1000-2000 per year.

      The chart at right is a model and here are the assumptions:

      • The blue line assumes 75% uptake, and 30,000 delivered per day.
      • The yellow line is optimistic, assuming only 70% uptake, and 33,000 per day.
      • The orange line is pessimistic assuming 80% uptake and only 25,000 delivered per day.
      As you can see, it doesn't make a ton of difference. My favourite number, the day that I can make an appointment (age 62) varies from April 18 at best, April 21 medium, April 26 pessimistic.

      BC and Alberta are similar enough in population profiles, and are in any event getting vaccines supplied based on population, so Albertan readers can assume about the same thing.

      Age 60 is a milestone, which looks like about May 1. 96% of Canada's deaths have been to those over age 60, so we can assume that, even if the case-rate in Canada is high, the death rate will be negligible.

      Unless the P1 variant does just slip past vaccines, of course. I continue to beg every government to quarantine Brazil.

      http://brander.ca/c19#vaxupply


      March 21: Think Spring

      Fear of Brazil, and variants in general, has had me getting a bit dark, the last few days. And the first day of Spring in Vancouver is typically being celebrated by pouring rain.

      I've decided to think of some silver linings in the dark clouds, by an effort of will. Here's my best shots:

      • The new vaccine technology. We've had many articles about it, but it's just our nature to take good things for granted, all too quickly. Anybody complaining about vaccination taking a long time needs to remind themselves that the whole program is a year early, by any previous standard.

      • The new vaccine technology. This isn't just useful for this particular disease, the human relationship with disease itself could be about to undergo nearly as big a revolution as when vaccines were first invented. One of the developers said that her team is going to tackle cancer, next. Cancer.

      • The pandemic is showing up authoritarians. China, in particular, has spent years touting that their controlled society is actually good for people, riding moral high-horse on the strength of so many hundreds of millions lifted out of poverty in recent decades. (Mostly by selling to us.)

        But China's information control, the authoritarian impulse to deny that anything is wrong on their watch, prevented the pandemic from being stopped inside their borders, let it loose upon the world. Another big embarrassment is their vaccine safety scares and ineffectiveness. Brazil, I don't need to repeat myself; and half the postings here have been about the awful American response..which is obviously improving with a change in administration.

        All around, if you hate authoritarians, you have to love how the pandemic showed them up as no-good, terrible, awful, pathetic excuses for governments.

      • The pandemic is giving aid and comfort, if not to people, to the ideas that left-wingers (like me) have been trying to sell for decades. The United States may finally get, perhaps by 2026, the universal health insurance that Canada passed in 1966. Canada may advance on to a universal income support of some kind, like Spain, which announced a Universal Basic Income plan 11 months ago.

      • You appear to be able to significantly reduce your risk of infection with nothing more than good vitamin D levels. I've been a vitamin D fan since remarkable studies a decade back showed it was a clear cancer preventive. Everybody take their vitamin D. The first day of Spring is a great day to advise a (careful) increase in sun exposure, too!
      I was going to add in "we at least are now aware of our care-home failures"...but I cannot, in good conscience, assume that now we'll address them. Which is a sad thought, I'm going to put it away now, and focus on the good ones.

      http://brander.ca/c19#nice


      March 20: Follow-Up: The Variants Are Still Coming

      First a follow-up to yesterday's post. BC was unfairly given a great rating of merely 3% variants in its cases. Yesterday's public health announcement, that we had 737 new cases in 24 hours, of which 68 were variants, is much better data, comparable to what was used for other provinces.

      And that comes to 9% variants, not 3%.

      In short, Ontario is a few weeks away from huge case numbers as the variants become dominant this week; Quebec is a few weeks behind them; and Alberta and BC are just a few weeks behind that.

      By the time BC is in a variant wave, even my age group could be getting vaccinated, but that will only reduce the death toll, not the misery. COVID is still a hellacious thing to get in your fifties.

      Brazil was on the CTV news, last night, but still not as a menace to the world that needs to be nationally-quarantined; just as a local tragedy, which reminds me of coverage of Wuhan 14 months back. You'd think we'd have learned something.

      http://brander.ca/c19#bcvar


      March 19: What's Different About Ontario

      I think I've resolved a bit of a head-scratcher about the total counts of variants in different provinces. When you look at the grand totals that each province has encountered (at left, with thanks to Alan Beairsto; it links to similar numbers at CTV) it looks like BC and Alberta are up in the same Danger Zone that has everybody concerned about Ontario: over a thousand in both Ontario and Alberta.

      The thing is, variants have been trying to get going in Alberta and BC for some time; the numbers haven't grown rapidly - one doubts that's some divine miracle limiting their enhanced reproduction, it's laudable work from all those contact-tracers, running down all the connections, to draw a limit around the spread from each case. So far, the numbers, at any one time, are not nearly as high as Ontario's.

      Counting the variants is not like counting the cases. We have tests now that let us tell you every day, how many positive tests there were that day. How many were variants, is not always checked for every positive tests; the DNA sequencing is mostly not as available. So we have statistical measures, often, how many out of a hundred random COVID tests were also variants.

      We have snapshots of the how many variants are identified out of the currently-active cases, or how many were found in a day, versus the daily COVID case count, giving us a rough idea of the percentage of cases out there in the community that are the variants. Here's the numbers I could find in the last few days of news reports:

      ProvinceNews~Variant%
      BC British Columbia currently has "some 143 of 4,941 active cases are variants": 143/4941= 3%
      Alberta "Variant Cases make up 12% of Alberta's active infections" 12%
      Quebec Variants jumped up by 179, as total cases jumped by 764. Very roughly : 179/764= 23%
      Ontario "42% of new cases are variants" 42%

      In short, Alberta and BC have higher total numbers because they've trickled in slowly; are growing, but slowly.

      Quebec is Ontario, a week or so behind; they recognize that the variants will have taken over in about four weeks, at the rate they're growing.

      Ontario has enough data for statistics: the regular form of COVID is still being defeated, has an "R" of 0.9, the cases shrinking by about 10% every five days. But the B117 variant has an R of 1.3 or 1.35 growing rapidly as the other shrinks, so that Ontario is just days away from "over 50% variants", two weeks from them being the huge majority. The differing growth curves make them the "pandemic within the pandemic" of the article title.

      B117, not much worse than regular COVID, is giving us a heads-up about P1, the even faster-spreading Brazil variant. While we need to hit that Brazil panic button, that will only give us time. We should start preparing now. For all we know, that one will need both the vaccines we've already got, and some activity restrictions, until we can formulate a booster. Sure hope not.

      We are very lucky that B117 can be controlled by the vaccines; it's apparently 67% deadlier - five dead in Britain of B117 for every 3 that catch the regular. P1 is infecting people in Brazil who've been infected with the first one, so the vaccines probably won't stop it, alone. If it's also deadlier, then Bolsonaro will have effectively murdered millions.

      http://brander.ca/c19#onvar


      March 18: Hitting the Panic Button on Brazil

      Dr. Gwynne Dyer is one of my very few North Stars, writers I automatically trust. I'm sure he's made mistakes in 40+ years of it, but damn few, and almost none that could have been avoided with more due-diligence at the time.

      So I assume he's done his homework with this frankly scary article about Brazil and its new variant.

      Excerpts:

      They'd have to lock Bolsonaro up first because he flatly refuses to do any kind of lockdown. He also regards vaccines as sissy and will not support a national program to vaccinate the population.

      ...

      Because Brazil's infection rate is so high, it is an ideal pressure-cooker for new and sometimes more dangerous versions of the coronavirus. ... What makes it so frightening is that it spreads twice as fast as earlier COVID versions - and it seems able to reinfect people who have already had COVID once.

      If it can do that, it can probably also get around the immunity conferred by existing vaccines.

      This combination of facts makes Brazil out to be a clear and present danger to the entire rest of the world. By letting the disease run rampant, Bolsonaro bears responsibility for the existence of P1, a threat to human life much more serious than Iran could conjure with a dozen nuclear bombs. By letting it continue and not quarantining his country, he is, at one remove, staging a biological attack upon us all.

      Dyer ends by calling for complete quarantine of the country. What's bothering me, is that I found the article last night, already over a week old. There are indeed other articles in the news that seem to concede the same basic facts, if not all as urgently. (There's apparently hope that vaccines will still work, at least partially, against P1; and Bolsonaro announced a change of mind on vaccines, the day after Dyer's article - which still strikes me as a remarkable case of "too little, too late", given how Canada itself shows how slow a vaccine rollout can be. Brazil, a much-poorer country with a far weaker health system, can't possibly do anything useful against P1 in time, not with vaccines. Bolsonaro still won't lock down, or restrict travel.

      So, Dyer's right, and we're just not facing up to the obvious risk coming in from another country, exactly like this time last year.

      We're looking forward to the end of the pandemic over the summer, but if we don't hit the Brazil panic button, even out of an abundance of caution, we're taking a stupid risk of a second pandemic.

      The term "crimes against Humanity", normally refers to a crime against any humans that denies their rights, and therefore all of ours. In this rare case, he's committing an actual, physical crime against all humanity, far worse than the usual meaning of the term. As his behaviour is willful, and follows multiple warnings, he's arguably the greatest criminal on Earth right now, trying to kill not just a million more Brazilians, but tens of millions of other humans.

      Hit the panic button.

      http://brander.ca/c19#brazil


      March 17: Variance of Variants

      The Provinces are Laboratories of Pandemic Behaviour

      I was going to hold off a little longer, after the modeled March 4th "takeover" of the variant in Alberta, was clearly not happening. It's only two weeks past that, tomorrow, and while it's nice not to have that major exponential rise in the model, yet...it could start happening any day.

      But what caught me today was the big difference with Ontario, where that has already happened; but only in Ontario. Why Ontario? What are they doing wrong, or other provinces, right? Here's the variance of variants:

      BC: 116 of 544 = 21%
      Alberta: 62 of 355 = 17%
      Saskatchewan: 66 of 156 = 42%
      Manitoba: 14 of 111 = 13%
      Ontario: 1034 , estimated: over 50%
      Quebec: 179 of 703 = 25%

      Why Ontario? Mind you, Saskatchewan has more cases per capita, and almost their variant percentage. It's easy to point out differences from huge, urban Ontario and the rest of Canada, but why does Saskatchewan have over three times the percentage of variants found in Manitoba?

      I doubt the public health officials have time to chase down these questions, before the question has changed. One can only hope that we figure it out eventually, figure out what went wrong and right.

      BC has been an conundrum for me. I've been railing that we have to change our behaviour, have to restrict more, it's about to take off - but I've been wrong. BC has been wandering up and down, spikes and dips, between 400 and 600 cases per day, for over two months. It's weird for pandemic count-numbers to do that -most stories are like Gibraltar yesterday, either soaring or plummeting, (or at least, sinking steadily).

      I'm not complaining. The number is low enough, that with the old vaccinated, we aren't taking many casualties. If only Ontario could do as well.

      http://brander.ca/c19#varvar


      March 16: Let's Hope We're Like Gibraltar

      I normally ignore places like Gibraltar; they show up as separate entries in the "worldometers", but with just 33,000 residents, aren't a fair compare to what I called "The Major League" in my initial essay. Gibraltar, at left, is actually the single worst "standing" in the COVID Cup, with "2700 dead per million", despite under 100 deaths, some half again as bad as the catastrophes of the UK and Belgium.

      But it's also the place that has pulled off the tremendous response to the recent wave that began in December and did all the killing. They instituted a tight lockdown at the start of the year, and it worked immediately, cases falling rapidly just a week later.

      A few days after that, a major vaccination drive began, reaching past 40% vaccinated in just two weeks; by the third week, they were announcing the coming end of the lockdown, and by week four, February 1st, they started a re-opening that was completed over the course of February.

      But not too quickly, or too soon; they didn't fully re-open until the start of March, they waited until cases were down to almost nothing...and until they were past the 70% mark for at least first vaccinations, and only people in their 20s were still exposed.

      And now, they've reached that wonderful spot I only thought Israel had reached some weeks back: 88% vaccinated, cases at a couple per day.

      Gibraltar, as said, is too small to compare to large nations. But, as an aspiration, their story of the last three months is one to hope for.

      We've fallen off in doing comparisons to other nations. It's been some time since I read a story about South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Australia, the COVID Cup Champion fighters. I did see one recently about how Taiwan was already marketing itself as a safer place for business and tourism - not based on the current case-count so much, as bragging about how well it has done in the overall pandemic fight.

      I think that business and travel alike are going to be taking a hard look at pandemic performance, once all the dust has settled, late this Fall, and investments may move around, the same as they do when a nation displays political instability, or economic fragility. COVID's judgement will be noted, for us all.

      I loved my visit to Gibraltar, some years back. Climbing that whole mountain, and down again, to shop in town, was a magnificent view and a fun day. I'll have to go back; maybe stop in at city hall and offer congratulations. The COVID Cup's worst sufferer also played a near-perfect game.

      http://brander.ca/c19#gibraltar


      March 15: I Ain't Afraid of No Blood Clots

      ...at least, not compared to how afraid I am of COVID-19. It causes blood clots, for sure, instead of a barely-possible, hugely-unlikely maybe.

      The doctors have to act this way; they basically aren't allowed to use "common sense", since, in the long run, science has often triumphed over common sense. Things that "really just couldn't be", turn out to be the unlikely truth.

      But the price of science is patience, and I have none, just now. It's correct, over the long run, to be wrong ten times to be right once, follow the science. Four cases of blood clots just happened to follow vaccinations of the old, just as kids tend to show signs of autism around age 3-5, the same as when they are vaccinated, and you get a time-correlation, that is very probably not causation.

      With autism, multiple careful studies established that there's no causation. NO, I'm not linking to them. If you still need that proven, then go away, I don't even want you reading my blog.

      With blood-clots, we can no doubt gather data together fairly quickly, since so many are being vaccinated, that the rate of people developing blood clots, around their vaccination, is the same before and after the vaccination itself. Old people get blood clots. If you vaccinate hundreds of thousands, then the causation-proof would be that (say) 1 person per 10,000 per day gets a blood clot in the 7 days before the vaccination, and 2 or 3 persons per day, in the seven days after.

      That's almost certainly not going to be the case, because of that "common sense" thing: nothing about the vaccine, or immune responses to such vaccines, has ever been associated before, with clotting.

      Scientists have to check, that's science. But politicians have been overruling them, for economic, lobbyist-borne reasons, for the whole year. Let's overrule their caution, and volunteer Canada to receieve all the Oxford Astazeneca products that other countries are currently not taking.

      I'll take the first shot.

      http://brander.ca/c19#bloodclots


      March 14: Did I Call That One, or What?

      It's six weeks since I predicted that Biden's "Path to Victory" was to shoot for their Independence Day for the victory party. As linked to at left, he just announced it.

      To be exact, my words were:

      Then he can stand up on the steps of the Capitol again, on Independence Day, and declare American Independence from the tyranny of the virus.
      And his words, the other day, were:
      "That will make this Independence Day something truly special, where we not only mark our independence as a nation but we begin to mark our independence from this virus,"

      Not that it was hard. Anybody who loved Bill Pullman's speech at the end of the movie, "Independence Day" could see it at once. The trick is to turn it around, and consider what a failure it would look like if July 4, nearly seven months after the first vaccines got out of labs, had still left Americans unable to have their summer kick-off party? Unacceptable.

      Moving at least some kind of major social-events re-opening to the beginning of summer is an obvious morale need for us, too. Because Canada got off to a later start, I'm not sure we can do the same for Canada Day; that's why I went for the Fireworks, (and the August long-weekend) as BCs target holiday.

      Calgary, of course, is going to want the Stampede, and that may be tricky, at least without "vaccine passports" at the door. Hardly surprising that Jason Kenney just raised it as a goal, though without commitment. I wouldn't commit, either, not with half of Europe re-introducing restrictions. These new variants are proving to be as scary as predicted. Fingers crossed we can get the case-count way-low by late June.

      http://brander.ca/c19#bidencalled


      March 13: Underground Calgary

      I now have multiple friends linking me to the Centre for Health Informatics at the U of C. They are publishing COVID-19 test levels from three sewer sampling sites, each of which agglomerates much of the city - there are just three zones being accumulated into one big reading. (Map at left).

      Well, finally.

      CCCC, having a history with sewer management, has long since published links to similar projects at Ottawa, and Guelph, both last October. Those projects followed a successful project in New Jersey colleges.

      Everywhere it's been tried, it's worked, been a fine idea. It just doesn't catch on, doesn't get real funding. Everybody doing it is doing research, not active public health work. Hugely frustrating! But, typical. I realized, last spring, when innovative ways of testing were unable to get traction, that public health bureaucrats are too conservative to innovate on-the-fly. We can only hope they pick up reports from the researchers that will cause them to add these tools to the next fight, probably decades from now.

      But, just FYI, this is a map of Calgary's sewer catchments. There are over 50 of them, though only 25 have more than 1000 pipes:

      The fun thing about a blog, is you can't run out of room. Want to fantasize about really bringing accuracy to this fight? You can also name the 500-some manholes that just collect a subset of each of those, the sub-catchment, and Calgary has over 500 of those, though just 450 with over about 20 pipes.

      Most likely, you'd want a mix: go to sub-catchment level with the biggest catchments, basically break the city up into about 200 zones of comparable size. Then you'd be down under 10,000 people in every test zone. You could put test-collection at all the "campuses", every institutional site that has its own collection system: Skyscrapers. Schools. Industrial areas. Food production.

      I can almost hear some Calgary researcher breaking out into laughter: 200 test sites? Does this CCCC idiot have any idea how much it costs to run one test site? The staff-hours, not just the equipment?

      If so, he's a researcher that don't know business. The pandemic is probably costing Canada hundreds of millions of dollars a day. Strategies that would let us get more work done, save lives, would have been worth going into mass-production on that equipment, and mass-production (training) of staff, eleven months ago. We certainly could have been ramping up a heck of a lot more than this, since October, when the other projects showed success.

      I tend to think, that higher-ups don't like to even think, about wastewater projects. The whole subject is distasteful. Like really old people with dementia in care-homes: the subject gets forgotten, over and over. Remember how in "It", all the awful things that happened in the town of Derry just...slipped away from people's minds. In the Stephen King novel, that was magic, but he was riffing on a real phenomenon: people want to forget some things. Until it's your grandma, then you can't.

      And we all want to forget the sewers. It's caused us to miss an opportunity...so far.

      http://brander.ca/c19#yycsan


      March 12: Calling All Dentists

      People have complained that lockdowns deprived them of movies; of restaurants; of bars and gyms and friends. I can't recall a single person complaining that they'd have to delay their dentist appointment.

      I know, that in my heart of hearts, I was kind of smug about it, though I've had many dental issues over the years, and am hugely indebted to the miracles of modern dentistry (three implants..or is it four?) I had one implant replaced during the pandemic, under all kinds of extra PPE that made me feel my least-safe moment was in the entry room, when another guy walked in.

      Six weeks ago, Dentists in BC asked for early vaccination, so they could get back to work. For many, that's just about them, but for medical practitioners, it means getting us pro-active care we need (if not want enough to protest about it), rather than only emergency care. It's an entirely reasonable request, from the public's point of view, much less theirs.

      But CCCC would like to go a step further, and do a little social engineering. Dentists are obviously able to administer vaccine. Hell, they're the only people who have to give you shots into your gums; your arm, they could do blindfolded on a trapeze.

      CCCC hereby proposes making all dentists offices vaccination centres - but only for patients! If you come in and get your dang checkup and cleaning, you can have an early vaccine shot.

      They would, of course, be fully booked as fast as their receptionists can type.

      Perfect.

      Of course, I'd also tell all the meat-plant, and other neglected "essential workers", about the idea, a day early.

      There are about 3,000 dentists in BC, and I'm sure they can all see a dozen people a day for basic services. And they'd be happy to put in six-day weeks for a few months, they've lost a lot of work. That's 800,000 people in a month.

      Just brainstormin'.

      http://brander.ca/c19#dentists


      March 11: Ontario A Month Away from 2000 Cases/Day?

      Alan Beairsto is doing reporter work for CCCC now, as I'm not working hard at it recently, distracted by another project.

      He writes that I would really love this CBC story with five excellent infographics (some moving ones, always cool), not just about disease, but shopping and work patterns, home prices, and travel.

      That linked, top item, to breaking news about the growth of "variants of concern", in Ontario. They've nailed down the R value for the biggest variant, at 1.24. That means, as you can see from a graph of the last four weeks, that it will about quintuple in a month. By the 11th of April, todays average of 450 cases/day will be over 2,000.

      If all goes well, they should have everybody (sane and) over 70 vaccinated by then, and the death rate from those 2000, per day, will be a fraction of a percent. The hospitals will be "only" as crowded as when they were getting 3500 cases/day in December.

      But, still, it sounds nuts to open up in Ontario, unless the variants are very resricted to some regions, and the others have a little more time.

      Here in BC, many have been baffled that Bonnie Henry is talking both with concern about variants, and about doing some re-opening, presumably because she's confident about keeping a lid on it with contact-tracing. I don't think Ontario has that luxury.

      http://brander.ca/c19#ontariovoc


      March 10: We Need to Hit 50,000 vaccinations per day

      Huge family milestone the other day, our oldest relative, 89, just got her first shot, and is now less likely to be hurt by COVID-19 than her children. A real relief, as safe as she's behaved for the whole year.

      I've been running numbers on how, damn, if they want to vaccinate over 4 million British Columbians by August, they need to do 32,000 a day from now on - and at present, they have a spike of 12,000 per day, every week when the shipment arrives, then less for the rest of the week.

      This article at the CBC does the correct math, where we will take time to ramp up to that, so we'll have to go past it to make up, with a peak at 50,000 vaccinations per day, just in BC. The overall nation will be needing almost exactly ten times that, over 3 million per week all summer.

      It's reassuring to hear the confidence with which the political announcements are claiming that level of supply will be coming in. They just have to not screw up the deployment, and all those early supply problems will be forgotten, all forgiven. They know that if they do this really well, they'll probably get away with a lot of their worst failures, in care-homes and rapid testing and schools.

      It's also nice that Israel tried out Pfizer on 600 young children, with no ill-effects, even some with cystic fibrosis. Somebody has to try things first, and we are all in their debt.

      http://brander.ca/c19#bcvaxsked


      March 9: MTV is Dead: I Want My Fireworks

      Nobody is committing to anything. The trouble is, events don't happen unless you commit work to them months in advance. But if there was one bet you'd think was decent, it would be the Vancouver Fireworks ("Honda Celebration of Light", fine) that come at the end of July.

      We're currently figuring that everybody who wants a vaccine will be able to get one by then. It's a really good bet that high vaccination rates for the previous two months, combined with summer, will have the case-load on the run by then, as well.

      Yes, it sounds insane: you can get up to 250,000 people watching, they say, probably over 200,000 just on English Bay beach. But everywhere except the most-popular spots right at the centre (where the rock bands also play for hours beforehand) is fairly spread out; I've mostly had over a metre between our blanket and the surrounding ones. It's not much closer quarters, out of doors, at a beach where there's always some breeze, than the Black Lives Matter gathering near Sunset Beach last summer.

      Further, the fear of "superspreader" events is two-fold: the actual infections, and the secondary infections from those. As the event would be near the end of the vaccination schedule, the number of people who can even get the secondary infections would close right down in the few weeks after the end of July.

      And why restrict ourselves to the normal date? The date could be pushed back about three weeks, to just before the end of August, and still be summer. By then, we'll probably be slowing down on vaccination, from lack of customers.

      It would be a great moment to pick as the point where it was basically all over. Fireworks would be the perfect end-of-pandemic celebration.

      http://brander.ca/c19#fireworks


      March 8: The Limits of Vaccination

      First up, a retraction of two posts is needed, as they were based on incorrect data. The Israeli "cliff" post and the "Israel, WTF?" post were both based on data from the source at left, which was showing Israel as having vaccinated 70, then 90+ percent of its population - until recently, when the number jumped down to just over 50%.

      I was at first wondering if Israel had taken to heart the SNL joke about "Israel is half vaccinated - the Jewish half, I'm thinking", by Michael Che. (In point of fact, Israel is not vaccinating the Palestinian Territories yet, save giving some leftovers to their medical staff.) But, no: while Israel is vaccinating Muslim Israelis, (not "Palestinians", citizens), I think that the tracker service simply confused "doses per 100 citizens" with "percent citizens vaccinated", or some such. In any event, the reason they've hit a plateau on cases is now clear. We'll all need some patience to see the miracle of herd immunity make that cliff happen.

      But the limits to vaccination that caught me this morning was the news of not just one, but two outbreaks at a hospital in Kelowna..

      These are recent. They happened after we'd vaccinated (nearly?) all our medical staff, who were in line starting December, and are not anti-vaxxers. These hospital outbreaks are happening despite the staff, who should be about the only humans in contact with patients, having at least one shot.

      It's much too early to tell just how effective vaccines are at stopping the spread, as opposed to stopping the symptoms, but news stories like these urge us all to caution. As the vaccine rollout hits high gear in a couple of weeks, by a month from now, people will be wanting to "act normal".

      Don't let vaccination drive your behaviour. Let the case-count drive your behaviour. If the vaccines are working, the case-count will show it.

      http://brander.ca/c19#vaxlimits


      March 7: How to Take Over the World

      Permit me to go off-topic for a bit; there's just a fine contrast, in my media mix this morning, between two ways of "taking over the world".

      Salon.com has an excellent (non-pandemic) article, linked at left, about how the media sells war to liberals by portraying each intervention as a necessary humanitarian effort, or a "tragic failure" if we don't drop bombs.

      It contrasts all the many, many articles over the years that have headlines like these, with how well that worked out in Libya - the country fell to warlords, is still a charnel house - with slave markets. Curiously, new articles about Libya all wonder how it could have happened, often not even mentioning the massive NATO bombings.

      The same morning, I read at the National Post, about Russia, China, and India moving aggressively to provide vaccines around the world, China to more than 50 countries.

      "No strings attached" has legal merit, but emotionally, this is going to have positive impact the way that "vaccine nationalism" had negative impact - people remember who their friends were, when they were in need.

      I suspect that vaccines themselves are going to be awfully plentiful in a few years; as CCCC has documented with sanitizer, the free market aways overreacts to any strong stimulus. Drug production, on the whole, however, is still an industry Canada could look into, again, for the whole world.

      This 2018 Gwynne Dyer article, "Only the Poor Die Screaming" will tear at your heart: how the very cheap new opiates that are killing so many in the first world, are not cheap enough, in the third, to prevent terribly painful deaths to many.

      Canada could push back against Big Pharma, by becoming a Very Big Pharma player -and not for excessive profit, just for good jobs doing good deeds. Vaccines are just a part of it.

      http://brander.ca/c19#takeover


      March 6: BC and Alberta Have Switched Places

      Well, things have gone south, or, rather, gone west, since my January 16 post about BC being "twice as smart" as Alberta.

      We all went through the up-tick in cases a month later, but Alberta, the last week, leveled off and even posted a slight reduction, like most provinces. BC, on the other hand, just keeps heading upward, starting to look like that frightening variant model from February.

      Worse, the two provinces have now fully switched places: after a whole year where BC had half the cases of Alberta, it's now Alberta that's down in the mid-300's of new cases per day, BC over 600.

      I do not credit Jason Kenney.

      One could certainly heap blame on BC politicians and public health officials, for not being harsher, and CCCC certainly has, repeatedly. There's a lot of blame due for not using enough of those rapid tests, too. What probably hasn't been done, is enough credit to all the contact-tracers that have held down the growth as much as they have. The curve still doesn't look exponential, and the fact that we have days where the new-case count goes down, tells you the battle is still joined.

      But the bad guys are winning, in BC, at least, and from that recent desperation move, it seems likely they've pinned every hope on vaccines holding down the death count until they can hold down the case-count, months from now.

      http://brander.ca/c19#aboverbc


      March 5: Grim Graphics: Meat is Murder

      As a lover of information graphics, may I ask everybody to click on the graphic at left to jump to the fine CBC article using that art and science to show the pandemic, particularly the "risk your life to work in a meat plant" part of the pandemic.

      This article needs an extra headline: At Least Vaccinate the Meat-Processing Staff.

      We're vaccinating the care-homes, as the highest of high priorities, but the only transmission difference between those homes, and The Line, is the relative youth of the victims, holding them down to a few deaths per hundred. The workers are telling their union they're scared. But, if they had any power or money in this world, they wouldn't be working there to start with, so they've been abused by their management and multiple levels of government. A few bucks' worth of vaccine is the least we can do.

      The CBC article is about the Cargill plant in Alberta, but the news is also fresh because of the re-opening by Olymel of another one in Red Deer - just in time for that March surge every epidemiologist is expecting. The article contains a very telling sentence:

      The Quebec-based company said reopening has become possible because "management and the regulators are satisfied that employees can return to the plant safely."
      Conspicuously absent, is any indication of whether the employees think that they can return safely. Normally, in any other line of work, that would be the criterion; in the circus, nobody asks the clowns whether the trapeze is safe for the acrobats. You ask the acrobats who depend upon the ropes.

      The employees may have been distracted. They still have 78 active cases out of the 515 who became infected, over a quarter of the 1818 staff. A fourth case died just yesterday, as the Olymel annoucement was coming out, which puts Olymel ahead of the Cargill outbreak for total deaths.

      Remember to multiply by, umm, "several", to get a count of infectees who won't ever be quite the same, sustained permanent organ or nerve damage.

      We have no excuse. We're eating meat, and sneering at the butcher's pathetic, avoidable death. Vaccinate them all.

      http://brander.ca/c19#grimgraphics


      March 4: Venceremos, Virus

      Mostly, the world is more complicated than we imagine, and anybody who attempts to "DIY" profesional products or services, learn they can't even come close.

      But not always. My career included the very origins of the first GIS, "Geographic Information Systems", i.e. smart electronic maps like Google Maps. On that first project, I got to study the database that early GIS used, the code that worked it.

      It wasn't that hard. This world has some really complex computer programs, labyrinths of logic, but the problems of "mapping things in XY" and "tracing networks of nodes and links" (like that shortest-path for your car, on Google Maps) are not among them. They're 3rd-year undergrad computer science problems, at best. (Maybe 4th year if you get into spherical trig of the actual 3-D globe, which we didn't.)

      As my employer struggled to get a large corporate GIS working, for years...and then, years more, when we concluded that original product I'd studied had to be dumped and replaced with ESRI, the big industry standard package. During those several years, I simply created the GIS functionality Waterworks needed, on top of our simpler CAD (Computer-Aided Drafting) package.

      I repeat, it wasn't hard. The database design was a few weeks of work, not months. The CAD coding contractor ultimately charged me $400,000 to rewrite the code for both water and sewer, after charging maybe that much again, for the first water-only version over the previous few years. It was all less than a million.

      It did all the GIS stuff I needed for my job - and for other people, many dozens of jobs - for twenty years, so far, and counting. They're still using it. About 10 years back, the corporation launched a massive project, about 30 staff, to replace it with a new Water/Sewer GIS based on that standard ESRI. The project was cancelled at the $8 million dollar mark, when a review showed they were $3 million away from producing a not-superior product, so mine's still there. (Why could $10M not replace my $1M? Overambitious project, badly managed...but the key, I thought was that the programmers were NOT GIS professionals, and not engineers, didn't understand the industry. They spent millions just deciding what to do, whereas I knew what I needed, going in.)

      So there's "DIY" working, where the "real professionals" didn't. Sometimes, customers go with the big commercial offering because it was there, and "bigger is better" remains a default assumption, but it can be wrong.

      And so we come to Cuba. This is different than my September 13 article about DIY vaccines and how we should just try them.

      Cuba, pariah to America and abandoned to dire poverty by its original Communist sponsors for decades, simply ("simply"??) went DIY on vaccine. . The first two candidates are both called "Sovereignty" (Soberana 1 and 2), rather than "ScrewYouToo", because Cubans are nice people.

      That's different from some meatball-vaccine experimenters at home, because Cuba already does this: produces 8 of the 12 standard vaccines for its own vaccine program. My "DIY" term is actually an insult to the Cuban professionals that have been doing this for a long time.

      The connection between my story and theirs is that: I, too, was a GIS professional, in command of all the relevant knowledge actually needed for the job. (The better-funded guys that tried to replace mine, not so much.) I just wasn't as big a deal as a big GIS company, so seemed to suffer in comparison. But you don't need to buy your fish from a giant fishing boat: the fish from a little fishing boat are just as good, because even that boat is big enough for that job. Bigger is not always better. Pfizer and Moderna are bigger vaccine makers than Cuba, but Cuba can, in fact, do it.

      Even though, they're just this little island of 11 million people and about nine spare dollars. These news articles kind of surfaced, only when they got into trials, recently.

      There's a whole proud Cuban history in medical care, at this point. Medical brains are pretty much their best export. Fidel himself oversaw the development of their biotech sector 40 years ago. The Soberanas are just the first two of five vaccine candidates they have in development. They believe they can crank up production to 100 million doses per year.

      Quite the contrast to Canada, four times larger, seventeen times richer (GDP of $1.7T rather than $100B), which can't produce the needed vaccines now because we abandoned the capability.

      I'm confident, lately, that we'll soon have a pretty fast vaccination program with our imports. But I almost wish we could instead just plan a vacation to Cuba for some vaccine tourism.

      And those limes. And the Afro-Cubana bands alternating with Salsa bands in the bar. How the hell did just eleven million people invent two whole musical genres?

      Hats off to Cuba.

      http://brander.ca/c19#cuba


      March 3: Scenery, Cycling to Canadian Tire

      Hey, it's just a blog, some days I only journal. My January 18 post about finally having too much sanitizer clearly needs an update. Stock up for the next pandemic, now's the time to buy! Remember when it was $7.99 for 150ml?

      That's available at Canadian Tire right now, so hop in the car. Remember that you can burn it for heat, in other kinds of emergencies. Not a huge drop, really, just down to $14/L from January's $21/L, but it stores better in your shotgun shack.

      En route there, on a Monday, I crossed paths with a demonstration, oddly at the Law Courts rather than the usual public square behind the art museum, making it kind of cramped and harder for the public to be in awe of. Maybe they liked the cramping so that they could better deny that there is even a pandemic - or "casedemic", as the sign says. (If it's a world-wide "casedemic", of cases of a disease, isn't that a pandemic? Never ask.)

      There's a certain peace descended upon me since the American election went off-the-rails. (It mercifully went off the rails only a month or so after it was over.) As one listens to the bizarre, fragmentary, and so, so vague clouds of conspiracy theories about the "steal", you have to realize how hopeless it always was to convince some people of anything they don't want to believe.

      So I smiled and even waved, as I cycled past them. After all, they were on the other side of the road, so I wasn't going to catch wrongness from them. NB: I did clip out the sign that read "Lock Up Comrade Bonnie", alas, but I liked the one turning "Global News" into "Globalist News"; I'd send Keith Baldry a fedora so he could look more spy-like, but I doubt he'd wear it on air.

      http://brander.ca/c19#scenes


      March 2: BC Vaccination Schedule Reeks of Desperation

      I shouldn't use a negative headline, I suppose. (I really do read too much American news: "reeks" belongs in a Fox news headline somewhere, owning the libs.)

      It's kind of bold and daring, the stuff that we pioneering Westerners imagine as a cultural feature out here. Nobody else on Earth, so far, is stretching out the gap between doses to sixteen weeks, 116 days. And it was fun, seeing the previous, plodding schedule get a major goosing forward. We should be done all the receptive vulnerable people by the end of March: not just the over-80s, but now all the 70s, and at-risk people down to 60.

      The very first CCCC post was about the age-related odds: the 70s are the 4.3% mortality group, we 60s just 1.9%. Then, for the 50s, it leaps down, 3-fold, to 0.6%.

      There's undoubtedly desperation, because we've clearly given up on that next wave that I've been predicting for ten weeks. By April, they're probably figuring on over 1000 cases per day, and exempting nearly everybody over 70 means 1000 cases becomes only 10 deaths.

      People are kind-of shrugging at 10 deaths per day right now, so that won't cause a panic, though I hope it bothers somewhat that they'll mostly be in my age group, with a few decades left.

      Having tossed out the strategy of minimizing transmission,in favour of "protect the old", it's my own age group, and a smaller number of 50-somethings, that will be taking it in the shorts. More total cases, almost none over age 70, so those extra lives lost will mostly be in their sixties.

      Of course, that Simon Fraser paper with the "600 lives" calculation may have assumed the R-value of the original COVID; Dr. Bonnie may be afraid that even frantically vaccinating essential workers instead won't hold down transmission enough, any more, as the variants spread.

      Either way, it boils down to:

      1. The wave is coming. The officials are planning for it.

      2. Get your jab as soon as you can, oldsters. This one might be the worst.

      3. Young people, you don't need as much good luck, but good luck. Once again, try to stop being the reason we are having this wave, for what it's worth, for anybody to repeat it again.

      4. Fellow sixty-somethings, understand the next eight weeks are you, going under the bus, and you have to protect yourselves. Many of us have the great luxury of retirement, can just stay home, act like it's a year earlier. If you're not retired, look into vacation, unpaid leave, even early retirement. Unless you have total telework, of course. If you can just stay safe until May, many of us will be vaccinated and protected by then.
      After early May, the vaccination rate will drop again, as they will have to go back to ever-other-dose being a second shot. The desperation move will work out pretty well, though, as long as the amount of vaccine flowing at least doubles during those ten weeks. Dr. Bonnie is clearly counting on it. Fingers crossed, for her and us all.

      http://brander.ca/c19#desperation


      March 1: Decline Over in North America

      I'm putting no more effort into straightening out those graphics from worldometers and CTV; the point is that they're all the same shape, all over North America. Mexico still has some decline, but nearly level.

      They say that the goose at the point of the "V" in a formation, is not the leader; they all have a consensus about where they're going, even the "leader" is constantly adjusting his flight as he notes where the geese on either side are turning. You'd swear that coronavirus response had turned that way across a whole continent. States and provinces that had different curves a month ago, are all now just...hitting bottom, and starting slight inclines in cases.

      This isn't true in Europe. Spanish cases are still in steep decline; the UK has moderated the rate of drop, but still dropping. (A bigger exception is Portugal, which has done the most amazing decline of the pandemic; they deserve their own post.)

      The bad news is that Germany is looking just like North America (slowly rising at about 8,000 cases/day, worse relatively than Canada now), France has been rising from bottom for a month, and Italy has just started to curve sharply upward.

      So, it's a mixed bag, but even worldometers grand-world-summary "New Cases" graph has leveled-off in the last week. The predicted Revenge of the Variants would seem to be just about upon us. The case-load is as low as it's going before the next wave hits in a week or so.

      That's it, today, just data observed and reported. I'm done railing at it; now it just has to be dealt with.

      This story ain't got no moral,
      This story ain't got no end;
      This story only goes to show
      There ain't no good in Men!

      http://brander.ca/c19#declineover


      February 28: Fighting COVID With Hippie Voodoo?

      The National Observer has a headline up: Other countries are treating COVID patients with probiotics and vitamin D - why aren't we?.

      Because this is the 21st century, I thought, but clicked, and it has a link to a paper out from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, which has this in the summary:

      The CUHK team recently developed an oral microbiome immunity formula for COVID-19 patients and postulated that this formula would improve clinical symptoms and decrease proinflammatory markers in SARS-CoV-2 infection. In a pilot study in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 7, significantly more patients who received the formula achieved symptom resolution and a reduction in pro-inflammatory immune markers than those who had standard care. Relative abundance of favourable bacteria species also significantly increased after synbiotic therapy compared with baseline3. These preliminary data suggest that modulation of gut microbiota offers hope of boosting immunity against COVID-19 and other emerging viral infections.

      I am duly corrected. If the new Canadian study, PROVID-19, at U. Sherbrooke, pans out, at least.

      And I am duly reminded of the great statement about this formulated by musician/comedian Tim Minchin, and his song/poem, "STORM", which you should click on immediately if you haven't heard it. Storm has the greatest statement about this topic, ever:

      No, there's no such thing as "Alternative medicine that has been proven to work". "Alternative medicine", by definition, has either not been proven to work, or has been proven to not work. Any alternative medicine that is proven to work, is simply called...medicine.
      Best of luck to U. Sherbrooke. We could absolutely use a new medicine in our toolkit. I am also reminded of the greatest quote from the movie Wargames: "God Damn it, I'd piss on a spark plug, if I thought it'd do any good".

      Let's try the hippie stuff instead.

      http://brander.ca/c19#storm


      February 27: Israel, WTF?!?!

      So much for Israel falling off a cliff (in COVID case-counts, when vaccines took hold).

      For the last week, it would be fair to say that Israel has met the conditions for "herd immunity". As of seven days ago, February 20, Israel had:

      • 83% population with one shot in them;

      • 73% population where one shot had a week