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, 2022. All non-commercial use is granted.)
It had not crossed my mind that a public library might get into loaning out CO2 monitors. They don't loan out power tools. Basically, they didn't loan out a lot of movies back when there were video stores, either; they don't want to be accused of taking bread from private business's mouths. There must be no good way to rent a CO2 monitor, so the libraries of West and North Vancouver have started stocking them, and they are flying off the shelves; more being purchased.
What a great idea. Bless the library! I can't think of a need in my life, just now, but if I were going to an event, I'd really consider it. This could really help places like schools and offices realize they need to improve their ventilation, particularly this winter.
Nope. Half are utterly unvaccinated; only 14% have a booster; 90% have no flu shot.
I think I'm done, what else can you say? They aren't afraid for their kid's very lives, and that seems to be what it takes to get people to jab. COVID-19, Flu and RSV are all only rarely fatal for children. You'd think the very idea of weeks of bad illness, even at home, would be enough, that the mere prospect of even a short hospital stay would be enough, but no.
No wonder doctors quit.
There's nothing for this population, but to expensively supply them with a lot more health care, just keep hiring. For lack of vaccination, they will just have to pay more taxes.
The wave of children is bad enough; if we get an actual, 2021-style COVID wave now, it'll be bad. I'll be a couple of days yet, wondering if the maskless day on the 30th will hit myself or Connie with a case. If the wave hits, though, we can't say we weren't warned. The doctors have been trying.
My excuse was that we were there to eat and drink - and also, we hadn't much choice but to go there or the library. It's weird, that I felt social pressure to not just knock back my coffee and spend the next hour, reading, in a mask. It's always odd to be the only one doing anything.
But, we'll be a lot more careful in the run-up to Christmas, when we'll be with a 91-year-old that hasn't had that 4th shot, yet. It's not really over, though we're trying to make it look that way.
Well, the other odd fact is that 80% of "health-care providers" are women. And that doctors are still majority male. We've been losing some of our most-trained emergency and ICU staff, yes, but they're hiring the women who take care of elders and patients in standard hospital beds.
I see that they are now, at last, promoting a vaccination campaign for the elderly, essential to escaping the trap without massive deaths - but they still aren't buying our vaccines, that would be going backward.
The most-nuanced article, that digs into some of the backstory, that I've read this week is from Michael Schuman, at The Atlantic. Schuman lives in Beijing, tries to read the, ahem, tea leaves of the Communist Party full-time. Just a few minutes of your time, very recommended.
The comparison to what we put up with before an uprising, and what Chinese put up with, is of course pretty dramatic.
CTV reports on the prospect of mRNA technology giving us a "universal flu vaccine". Not the "end of flu" or anything, maybe not more effective than the vaccines of today: it's just that there would only be the one vaccine, rather than a yearly guessing-game of "which variant(s) should we vaccinate for?"
It's good odds on a real step forward, heartening to those of us getting towards those years when flu can be very serious indeed.
Since we are doing well here, no lockdowns, we're now looking at China's extreme lockdown policy with bewilderment. As the story notes, they never vaccinated more than half their elderly population! India.com notes in their story that this was because of concern the vaccines would harm their health!
And now a whole nation is paying the price for vaccination concerns. And they still aren't vaccinating them! There's no end in sight.
COVID in the Ottawa wastewater is slowly falling, if anything, as November wears on; whereas the hospitals are more clogged with Flu and RSV than they are with cases of COVID.
One good definition for when the pandemic is over, is when it's just another seasonal virus, like flu. Well, now it's like flu, and less prevalent.
This is not to say it's less deadly or disabling. There's no such thing as "Long Flu" or "Long RSV" than I'm aware of.
But it's certainly a milestone.
I just realized that my snapshots from the Government of Canada tracking site for cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, had the same total dead (46,029) yesterday, as it had a month ago. And then I checked, and that number was the same as a few weeks before. They've stopped updating it - and not mentioned that on the page!
Total neglect. More and more dashboards have gone dead, lately. CTV at least has a note at top, saying so, and that it is now an archive.
People are still dying in alarming numbers, of course; we've just gotten over our alarm, and stopped tracking it, at least publicly.
At right, one of the several graphs provided in his article, showing the CO2 level in PPM, with notes about where he was. Lower levels at breakfast and in most meetings than sleeping in his room with his own CO2!
But, he cautions, hallways and breakout rooms, where mask protocols were relaxed, were the riskiest rooms. And buses, just avoid them if you can, N95 the whole time if you cannot!
Which is fine, now. Having upgraded to N95 masks, I'm much less worried about whether others in the store or theatre have theirs on; mine protects doctors in infectious wards!
And, after two years of this blogging, I feel pretty expert in knowing when they are needed. Basically, not, in most very-high-ceiling, very-uncrowded grocery stores, except maybe near the checkout for five minutes. Certainly not in the nearly-empty theatre I saw "Black Adam" in, on a Wednesday matinee.
But in any place that's close, low-ceilinged, with a lot of people? Of course, at least for the next six or eight weeks.
That's my choice.
Well, in China, they've really pounded on "pandemic fears" for almost 3 years now, and it's worked. Fascinating little article today at Bloomberg, about panic in Shijiazhuang, the test-city for reopening. There's re-opening, but everybody's staying home and keeping their kids in, out of fear of everybody else.
After the journey we've been on for the last two years since the first vaccines came out, what a contrast.
This should make schools thoughtful for the next month. The epidemiologists are picking the next four weeks for the peak of flu season, and perhaps the worst of the RSV that's going around kids. And the other headline news, is Ontario Public Health practically begging for masking, particularly in social situations, where they can't mandate it anyway.
This isn't indefinite: this is not like the COVID pandemic, with its waves that kept coming back. "Seasonal flu" is seasonal - just hold the bugs coming out of the schools, and into the rest of the population, right before Christmas; six weeks at most. Teachers are feeling their oats, right now: they should stand up and make this a public call.
There is indeed backing for the "greater infections" theory, but not for the hospitalizations of RSV patients. Two years away from RSV exposure might indeed cause two years worth of infections to come at once, but not a spike in the fraction of those that need hospital: and that is what we've got. Not just double the RSV hospitalizations, but much more.
The actual culprit might even be COVID-19, according to immunologist Colin Furness at UofT. If the problem is that the kid's immune systems have been harmed recently, COVID-19 would be the chief suspect for it: most kids have caught it in the last year, and damaging the immune system is a standard viral strategy.
Which brings us back to masking and all that. But, CCCC has tired of repeating itself. Also of first-person plural. CCCC will switch to third-person, for variety.
Or not. The image links to the "full hospital" story, which emphasizes that they aren't full because of COVID-wave cases, though they have a fair number, and of flu, and of RSV.
They're just full because the system is stretched. They're nearly ready to put patients in corridors - because business is a little brisk. They are so hard-up for staff, and a few other resources, that they're running on the ragged edge for every upswing.
We don't need a wave to put us in "Hospital Hell" anymore; Ontario is in perpetual "Hospital Heck", even on good days.
But the point actually doesn't change: whether you should get a shot, to avoid hospital, because great pandemic waves are crushing the hospital system, or because the hospital system came pre-crushed by government inattention, you should get a shot.
And people are not. They're still trusting that hospital system that the news had been telling them is wobbly. More accurately - since nobody wants to go to a perfectly good hospital, either - they're just trusting the disease to not put them in hospital, much less a coffin.
Since most people have had it by now, we survivors probably tend to be cocky, unless you've read our CCCC article about how your second and third infections are more likely to cause serious damage than the first.
We do get it, now, that people keep being dumb about risk, right up to the point where it happens to somebody they know, and have to believe it. I guess this one will be no different.
Sure enough, we not only still have China - now vying for just how badly you can manage a pandemic, for the COVID Razzie cup, despite how many lives they've saved with their painful lockdowns - but we have our own Theresa Tam flatly telling us it isn't over, get your mask, winter is coming, etc.
Fine; mostly, there's so little of that news, that I can't imagine readers who want it pointed out to them, so as you can see, I'm posting but rarely.
What CCCC will not do, is broaden out our coverage to RSV and the Flu, and the "tripledemic". I've seen no coverage that suggests RSV is a new pandemic; mostly, the opinions lean to this wave being caused by "immune debt" piled up from two years of childhood isolation. That suggests it will not be a prolonged or horrible wave, that the population will absorb the assault and bounce back in a few months.
It's a story worth covering, but "COVID Cup Colour Commentary" was about a global pandemic, affecting all, and we aren't going there.
We will, however, continue to use first-person plural, when we consider the announcement to be important.
That's it, that's the news. It'll take years to build, and when done, still won't be able to suddenly supply 38 million people with a vaccine for the next pandemic. But, at least, we're no longer wholly dependent on others for those jabs of life. The next pandemic, could be much, much, deadlier, too, so it could be a very important factory in some dark year to come.
We have the clogged hospitals, but that keeps being described as the "tripledemic" of childhood RSV cases, flu cases, and COVID.
If all this low vaccination and tripledemic exposure doesn't cause a wave of COVID very soon, even epidemiologists are going to declare the pandemic is now just an endemic. A trying, costly one, but a steady drag on our lives, not one that comes in waves.
Which does not feel like "victory"; just a steady thousand dead per month, in Canada. Just steadily sad.
The company has just claimed in a press release that their new bivalent booster pumps up your antibodies four times as much, as a booster of the old vaccine formula.
Even better, if you're over 55! The new bivalent, they linked to a 13-fold increase in antibodies, compared to 2.9-fold for the old vaccines.
I won't deny it, that 4th shot was as hard as any before it, though that may have come from doing COVID and Flu in the same day. But, reading this news, either way, I'm glad to have done it. However easy the virus is going on us this season (see last post, below) safer is better.
Not only a good day to re-watch "V for Vendetta", but it's exactly 45 days after September 21st, the first day of fall. Half-way through a 91-day season of the year.
And there's just no Fall Wave. School has been in for eight full weeks, no school closures with coughing teachers. Here's the BC weekly report, for fall:
I had been preparing to write that a wave was indeed hitting, but with our current medical system, was only showing up in actual mortality rates, not hospitalization or ICUs. If you look at just the "death" column, it goes: 16,19,25,32,44, which is nearly triple in just four weeks. Maybe not an exponential increase, but a steady one, even if the other two numbers didn't expand the same way.
But then came this week's figure, dropped by half, and the jump to 44, last week, suddenly looks more like a blip than a wave. Because waves don't take a week off, not when you carefully add up a whole week at a time, as they've been doing for months.
I'd wondered if the dying was all in care-homes, the victims not getting hospitalization or ICU, just dying in their care-home beds. Might still be the case. But the drop in death means there's no province-wide "wave" happening even there, just little outbreaks that cause blips.
This is despite the miserable uptake of boosters! The virus is certainly circulating, causing mild illness that doesn't put people in hospital, mostly.
A wave can still come, obviously. I'd thought the Fall Wave was just delayed by warm weather keeping people outdoors. But we've been indoors a few weeks, now, and not much, but a few outbreaks in those poor care-homes.
Let's just breathe out, for now, and give thanks, a few weeks after Thanksgiving.
Well, of course not: we poll everything. The numbers vary, I suspect depending on how the question is asked. On Valentine's Day, when the Act was dropped, 72% wanted them to go home; 93% supported some sort of action to remove them, 68% approving police or military doing it physically.
The righter-wing Toronto Sun asked if the Act was 'necessary', in May, when a lot of second-guessing had been done, and the number dropped to 46%.
Which was quite a drop from March 3, just a week after they'd finally been pushed out of their various camps, when Daily Wire reported 68% approved the use of the EA.
This is tangential pandemic news. But it's all part of the Canadian psyche that followed rules, got vaccinated, showed community spirit. I blogged about Canadian community spirit today in response to The Line, where Andrew Potter thinks Canada has little societal trust, when it's one of the best nations at it. So it's on my mind, today.
The "pink tide" is a term that's had a comeback, like the phenomenon itself. The graphic links to a story about how the "new" pink tide, of the last few years, is different from the first one, the creep of very socialist (in the case of Venezuela, dictatorial) new governments. Most of them were gone by the time Trump took office up north - the worst flip being huge, rich Brazil, going to Bolsonaro, and all-but-open fascist. Bolsonaro was a COVID denier ("a little flu") and vaccine opponent.
Which connects the new pink tide to the pandemic. Across the world, many on the left equated lefty thinking of all stripes, to better communal, public-health, voluntary-cooperation approaches to pandemic fighting; and "righty-thinking", in its many forms across different nations, to COVID denial, vaccine and mask opposition, and cries to "open for the economy".
Further, those (I mean "we") lefties believe the pandemic largely validated our thinking, and condemned our opposition as bad for life, and also worse for the economy in the end.
My niece, on vacation from Spain, said she believed there would be a leftward shift in voting around the world, in general: for her country, the death rate was higher in the more right-wing provinces and cities, not just whole nations. I agreed, telling her about the death rate differences between lefty BC and righty Alberta.
The linked article notes how the new pink tide is less socialist than the previous one - which itself, was called "pink" to contrast it to the "red" revolutionaries, calling for Marxism, in the 20th century.
Today, it's South America that contains the "laboratories of democracy", and the "laboratories of leftism", as they find positions that win long-term support, not just passion that evaporates when it turns out the new government is neither an economic miracle, nor free of its own political corruptions.
If the pandemic got Brazil out of Bolsonaro before he could turn it wholly back into another tiresome right-wing dictatorship, it's at least a silver lining - though Brazil's nearly 700,000 dead were a terrible price to pay.
I liked an article at something called TRT World, which goes over some positives and negatives - particularly that these new governments and the USA are antagonistic.
About all you can really watch any more are those wastewater results. This CBC story makes clear that they are noting the wastewater data as the most reliable. Of course, back in January, CTV was already reporting that wastewater was the only useful monitoring left to BC.
And that wastewater data is ... flat. There's no "Fall surge", not yet. We're five weeks into Fall, of course. The epidemiologists are continuing to warn about November being when it will come - perhaps put back by all that warm weather. Well, everybody's been inside in the parts of BC where 90% of us live, for over a week, now. Perhaps the death business will pick up right after Halloween.
Hope not - it would not be Good Pandemic News, and I'd like to start a long streak.
Alas, pandemic news is so avoided these days (it tends to remind us that we're still dying at rates that used to horrify us) that "favourite pandemic news" site probably still ranks below "Togo Today".
But here it is: an inhaled vaccine is in production, being given out as a booster in Shanghai. There's certainly nothing to the administration: over in 20 seconds, tastes like weak milk tea, slightly sweet, nothing.
They don't mention whether you still have an immune response that makes a lot of us feel crummy the whole next day, but I'd assume so. I can't recall where I saw something recently (or I'd provide a link) that those with the worst next-day blahs tended to have the most immune system response, presumably the most immunity. If so, I'm the most-protected guy around, all of my shots have been trying. That's good news, too: if you have a bad time with vaccination, at least there's payback: something for your sufferings.
The bad news that's on every front page this morning are two small studies indicating that the new shots are not that much better than the old, though we won't really know for months. If you ask me, that's still good news, because it also means they aren't worse - when we've been frightened by the possibility of "immune escape" and a whole new pandemic, since the first variant appeared at the same time the vaccinations did.
So it's a good news day, amidst all the rising-wave, long-covid Bad News.
I've a longing for good news, and I've saved up a few day's worth, just reading this morning's news. (Coming tomorrow: China tries new vaccines!)
But the good news for today is that a recently-rising variant of Omicron has just been certified "less lethal". A Harvard Study of outcomes for different COVID patients has found that Delta had a mortality rate of 0.7%, Omicron Original was 0.4%, and BA.2 just 0.3%.
It has been hoped for a long time that COVID would become more "moderate" with age, as the 1918 flu apparently did. It happens easily when transmission happens after symptoms, because severe symptoms floor the patient and keep them away from work and school. With COVID, transmission has mostly been before symptoms, and Delta was worse than Alpha. But, some transmission happens after symptoms, so the evolutionary pressure was still there, just gentler.
Let's hope it continues. Twenty thousand dead in Canada, this year, most likely. Even a drop of 0.3/0.4 (25% less) would save 5,000 lives.
That's two Astrazenacas, a Moderna, and a Pfizer, now. It's not really clear, yet, whether the shot with specific BA4/5 elements in it will really be better, for the next several months, than the Moderna. But, it's not a bad bet, and I finished the tour. (I got a second laugh by asking if she had any Johnson and Johnson.)
I would join those who say you should just get it over with: get a day, or at least a morning, off, and take both shots at once. Yes, I feel low and headachy today, as well as having two sore shoulders. (The flu shoulder, much less ache than the Pfizer, FYI.) I'm glad I don't have to work, though I could manage it.
The "low and headachy" may have some fault on my part, too. Pleased that I wasn't already feeling crappy last night, I sat up past midnight, had an extra drink or two. At my age, that counts as a wild night you have to pay for, the next day.
Uptake of the fourth shot has been really bad. 14% nation-wide, and BC is just about national champion province, with a miserable 17.0% up to four doses.
I tried to prevail upon a 90-year-old of my acquaintance to sign up for a shot; she pleaded that she never goes out, is safe by her isolation. I'm going to have to try again, pointing out that the one deliverer of groceries could pass it along before he saw any symptoms himself. Omicron is that kind of tricky.
It's still killing people: forty to fifty a day in Canada, since early summer; it just touched 30,000 dead in Canada last New Year's Eve, will be pushing close to 50,000 next New Year's Eve. 20,000 dead in a year, while the news coverage of it vanished. 350 and more in hospital, in BC, three or four dying every day, all the time, that's just become normal now.
I'm not sure how much universal booster take up would cut that, but I'd sure like to see.
Look at the peaks along that chart, and find me one that doesn't have a brief high point, followed by steady decline for a while. The dip bottoms out, then another wave rises. But they all look like waves, like ocean waves, all the same basic bell-curve shape, some narrow, some wide.
Until last August.
With August, the "Fall Wave" began, according to the news media; but it isn't a wave. Look at it: there was a nearly-flat plateau from late August through all September, a shape never seen before. Then a dip, but a curious, flat-bottomed dip, as the previous wave had gone flat.
Now, hospitalizations are rising every day, and perhaps that will become a proper, wave-shaped wave, but I wonder if it will just flatten again - chewing away at a mostly-vaccinated-and-exposed population with a lot more immunity than ever before. We've not only had a lot of vaccination, but a lot of infection, and despite all "escape" by new variants, it seems to be admitted that even your new infection may be less-bad than the old ones.
That's not contradicting the "Strokes Scare Me" post of just two weeks ago. It's quite possible for the disease to mostly spare prevous infectees a bad, hospital-grade case on a next infection, while also having higher risks for those that do have a bad one. Odd, maybe - normally, chances of 10X decline with chances of X - but this whole disease has been odd for that small percentage that have other symptoms than pneumonia that has been the most-deadly effect.
If we are now into plateaus that spare the medical system a crush of work, that would be mercy enough in itself, to celebrate.
Now, CCCC has covered this issue before, which was already statistically proven. But that was nearly a year back, and it always feels more certain to conclude things looking backward. The graphs in the linked article are a little harder to follow than the plain ones in this new study, with the main one shown at left.
The article says the effect is mostly due to vaccination, but, beg to differ: the death rates were already a third higher by Fall 2020, when almost nobody was vaccinated yet. After vaccination was rolling, however, by summer of 2021, the difference between the Democrat's death rate, and Republican, is nearly double.
The article doesn't attempt to compute the number of dead people, just observes different percentages in the variation from an average-year "excess deaths", but the point is hardly the number dead. The main point, is that many GOP politicians, and their Fox News cheering section, are still, today, giving advice that gets their own followers killed. Amazing, really.
The one bit of news that hit me personally, is that it looks like I'll have a choice of Moderna (B1) or Pfizer (B4/5) in a few weeks when my vax appointments comes up.
It's not so much that the BA4/5-based vaccine is really going to be that much better than the Moderna product: it's that I now have two AstraZenacas, and one Moderna, so asking for Pfizer will allow me to complete the tour of pharma profiteers, like getting your whole card punched by the bar with 20 different beers.
But, absent that, I wouldn't place any bets that statisticians will be able to declare Pfizer a lick better than Moderna, six months from now, when most of the good they can do will have been done.
In BC, it's still summer. Kids have been back in school for a month, and that's clearly not starting its own wave; more people are at work, and that isn't, either. Indoor socialization still isn't up much, CCCC is thinking, most people are still enjoying all that fresh air that is over 20C in mid-day, and conspicuously lacks COVID particles.
The weather is going to hold through the Thanksgiving festivities, mercifully, and hopefully won't even start in earnest until after October 25.
A curiously-specific date until you know it's my next vaccine appointment.
The number is kind of silly. Getting that many dead would have required everybody to completely ignore the virus and go on as normal with every crowded bar and restaurant, as a thousand died every day...in tents outside the overflowing hospitals.
It assumes zero pandemic-fighting, and obviously, a whole lot of vulnerable people, in particular, would have started staying home at all costs when the freezer trucks backed up to the hospital doors. From their travails, the public-health officers might have seen themselves as having to force everybody to distance, but most people did so entirely on their own, as medieval peasants reacted to plagues with no public health officers at all.
What's the worst really believable number? I'll go with 200,000. I get that by taking the rough estimators at their word, who say that, while we may never know, India may have had 6 million COVID deaths.
In India, public health just failed them, and the hospitals did overflow; literally millions died for lack of an oxygen mask. India has about 30X the population of Canada (1.2 billion vs 40 million), and one-thirtieth of 6 million is 200,000.
On the one hand, Canada's medical system is better; but on the other, India is a very young country, with a far lower percentage of old people to kill.
I'm not sure if those two neatly cancel each other, or if my 200,000 is actually low because of our extra old people. Hard to see even that being more than a factor of two, however, and 400,000 is still half the report's estimate.
Whatever, public health can take a bow for saving hundreds (plural) of thousands of lives. The fact that we could have held it down to 400,000 or even 200,000 with obvious behaviour that even medieval peasants understood doesn't change that.
It was sad that he was right, but oh, so right he was.
And again, here is Ed Yong at long last uncovering what CCCC wrote about early on, and then kept on returning to, because nobody else was noticing: that the USA was not merely losing three times as many citizens to COVID-19 as neighbour Canada, it was losing a far higher ratio of younger citizens.
The "pandemic of the old" that was 90% of the dying, was only, say, about twice as bad, in the USA, than in Canada (though we would have looked better without those awful Quebec care homes, that disgraced us, even if Legault is about to be forgiven). It was the people in their fifties and forties that were much, much worse. According to the chart at right, three to four times as many "excess deaths" - though CCCC noted (links above) that for strictly tracked "COVID deaths" they were up to seven times as bad as Canada, for people in their forties and thirties.
The media missed it, because they were focussed on the numbers of dead, which, again, were mostly for the very old. Ed Yong spotted the reports on the ratio at left.
His article excoriates the many authors of the tragedy: American culture towards the poor and brown, American health care, American public health systems.
The harshest criticisms are not actually about the pandemic response itself, because America has always had high excess death rates for the middle-age group, especially since about 1980. They keep going up, and the pandemic made them absolutely spike.
Canada is doing little better at preventing the next pandemic. But, as we can llook to Russia for how not to behave militarily, to the UK for how not to run your economy, we can look to America for how not to keep people healthy.
But it does seem to have happened that a number of stroke cases are arriving at the hospital COVID-positive, too many for coincidence. Worse, no other symptoms of COVID.
Apparently, it can cause inflammation of blood vessel walls, can cause clots; all you need for a stroke. Even for younger patients.
The "new normal" may include a higher incidence of strokes in our society, like we needed that. Keep your overall risk level down with healthy eating and living, I guess, like we needed to be told.
If we aren't going to fight this disease with infection-reduction measures (masks, distance) any more, we really need those miracle, pan-COVID vaccines that three or nine different labs are working on.
Researcher Natalie Freund in Tel Aviv, and team, have identified two antibodies - with appropriately badass-sounding names, "TAU-1109 and TAU-2310" (if not "THX-1138") that go badass on every COVID we've got. 95% neutralization, which I assume means, you go home healthy and stay that way.
I have some concerns about abandoning vaccination along with all other virus-fighting, and just hoping that people will go to doctors, to hospitals, in time for the advanced antibody treatment to work; so many will stay home until they're on death's door. I have more concerns about this being no help in places where teh public health budget is $10/person/year.
But, I'll take any good news I can get, and this is good news.
The "Paperless Office" was predicted in the 1970s, expected in the 1980s, imagined to never be possible, after all, in the 1990s. Paper usage had gone way UP because of computers.
By the 21st century, nobody even talked about it any more, and through my 15 years of work in it (half my career was 21st century; so there, oldness-shamers!) the printer was still used often, by old and young both. Especially for meetings! Even years after most people could bring in a pad, phone, or laptop to the meeting room, the whole infrastructure of "passing out a handout", (often only ready about 5 minutes before the meeting started, we've all been there) wasn't up for handing it out electronically.
In 2009, I remember noting to colleagues that we'd be past paper when the scene from "Avatar" was real: in it, a soldier touches his hand to his desktop screen, pulls it over to his pad and touches that, and that means "drag the paper onscreen over to my pad". The Avatar sequel took 13 years, and that user-interface trick is still not here; but the pandemic got us to paperless, anyway.
As the pandemic made remote work more common than "going in", everybody talked about how the distributed office was here at last, would anybody come back? I've never doubted that. For a lot of jobs, there's no point going back; but for organizational jobs, it's hard to avoid. But: paper died, finally.
What we have reached, for sure, is the paperless office, at last. Now that even a substantial minority of those in a meeting, are joining electronically, it is necessary for a handout hand-outer to be able to do so electronically. Post it as a web page, mail it, put it into the zoom as a shared desktop, whatever, paper will no longer do.
It's one of the few good things the pandemic has done.
Researchers, as reported by CBC (link from their graphic, left), have found one point on the virus that can be attacked by one antibody that will affect every variant found so far. (Story from last month, well after BA.5 was out.)
This is not about a vaccine, it's about a treatment. Since COVID is now cheerily evading vaccines right and left, the news that there is something better than Paxlovid, perhaps coming over the horizon, is very welcome.
Not soon, unfortunately. Discoveries like this are usually a year or three away from deployment as a new treatment. It does "neutralize, at least to some extent", every variant known so far. No promises that goes on forever, but it's just very promising.
It's depressing in its own way to be cheering discoveries that will help us with COVID in 2025 or later; we thought we wouldn't have to. But the world is not what we wish it was, and COVID, like Putin, may go on tasking us for years yet.
Pandemic pessimist (which means, he's been right, over and over) Andrew Nikiforuk at The Tyee, has written over and over against pandemic triumphalism, and his latest article about an immunologist who was permanently injured by a COVID re-infection after four vaccinations, is chilling indeed.
Turns out, the for those who do get COVID, again and again, despite vaccination, it is not "just a cold", or a "flu", or anything else you think you just just "get it over with". This has stunned immunologists who imagined it would become quite mild for repeat sufferers with vaccinations. 2.3% of athletes who catch it suffer heart inflammation, and your odds of that, or kidney damage, brain decline, blood-clotting problems - the odds go UP, sharply, with each re-infection, not down.
Nobody is about to lock down society again over a mere death rate that's double or quadruple our old "seasonal flu" butcher's bill; as CCCC has written, we've let those dozens per day in Canada, hundreds in the US, become a background-noise cost, like we have with traffic accidents (and American gun deaths). So, nobody is going to lock down over Dr. Goodnow's injury statistics, either.
We, the people, of course, can take our own precautions. I'll get on with scheduling my October vaccination for ASAP after my six-months-since-COVID date; and if cases do spike up in coming months, I might just get back to that mask.
I saw a scene in a show the other day with a birthday-cake getting the candles blown out, and remembered how people freaked at the same sight at a Kardashian party two years back: it looked like somebody just spitting on everybody's dessert to many, and there was commentary about how we'd never go back to blowing out candles after this, made so aware of all that spit.
Already forgotten by most, I'd wager; we're back to having birthday parties, and since everybody is drinking and talking into each other's faces, above the noise, what's the difference with a few droplets on the cake?
The picture links to Rolling Stone's article on Biden, for the headline. But the better article is at The Atlantic, where they rather sadly note that 400 dead/day is "what normal looks like" now, and the best bet for the effects of the Fall Wave and attendant new vaccinations, are reducing that by half - down to 200/day, that's 70,000/year, or at least double the death toll exacted by the yearly flu.
Canada, by the way, is no longer at 1/3rd the American death toll per capita; we are having about 33/day pass, the equivalent of 290 in America; but the daily, weekly, monthly numbers are no longer news. The trackers are not maintained.
It's sad that COVID-19 browbeat us so thoroughly that we've come to accept this, but not shocking; the urge to "get back to normal" was so strong, we just redefined normal.
It's the "Compare Canada to Other Countries" page, which I should have been all over. Too late now, mostly! Except I get to keep chortling at China, responsible for the whole mess really, suffering (see previous post) because they blew their window to vaccinate before Omicron evolved.
What did strike me as fascinating, was one master graph for the whole world, that you can flip between "cases" and "deaths". Both reproduced here, at smaller size, do go to the real thing and do the flipping.
The cases graph certainly has Omicron put the previous waves, which seemed so tall at the time, into the shade. The deaths graph is very different.
The Omicron wave is still a peak, but actually the shortest one. And previous waves, so small next to Omicron that you can barely see them as such (more like ripples) become great waves again, by their death-counts.
In particular, the very first wave, subject of a documentary that's just painfully affecting, about a New York hospital, "The First Wave" - which shows up clearly at day 93 on the death-graph, can barely be seen as even a ripple in the case-graph.
We have come a very long way indeed, to making COVID not such a killer. It's all about the vaccinations, of course, we keep saying over and over. But those who free-rode on our vaccinations won't be convinced.
We've beaten Omicron, guys. Best Summer Ever!
Here's the thing: as I compliment our vaccination, we have actually sucked at it since that spring wave was not a big killer. This article, from mid-July, urged us all to get boosted and start masking, as the "BA.5 wave was here".
We did none of that. We ignored the medical advice, for once. Weren't we feeling invulnerable and frisky. Normally, such pride goeth before a fall, and CCCC has done many posts over two years on how not heeding such advice led to sickeness, hospital, morgues.
Not this time. We ignored all that, and did not suffer from the BA.5 wave, for the last three weeks; not death, not hospital, not even time-off-sick. The numbers stayed steady. When it came to BC, the experts are now over-cautious. The booster shots, alas, are going fallow; maybe 100,000 of the population has boosted in the last few weeks, but that's just 2% of BC. If there's no wave of infections in the next week or so, we'll continue to ignore them unless a fall wave is bad.
Meanwhile, in late-to-vax China, the popular vacation island of Hainan, "China's Hawaii", they've just decided to utterly lock down. Don't leave your hotel room, no beach for you, back into quarantine.
It's all over 470 cases that were recorded Sunday, showing the number was just going up on an exponential, and though 245 were symptom-free (which indicates that the people who can afford to go to Hainan to tourist are vaccinated), they've hit the roof, freaked out, and locked up 80,000 people.
China probably needs several months at 90% vaccination to relax; and, of course, Omicron will be hitting them no matter what, and toughening immune systems at a higher price.
But Canada vaccinated early and heavily. We're now reaping the rewards. Let's just wallow in it. Off the Aquarium tomorrow, and it may be a little crowded, and unmasked. But we'll be OK.
The dispute was hugely important. The 6-foot rule was relied upon, and it was actually not very useful advice. Masks were actually deprecated for a few months, when they were badly needed by hospitals, so it was doubly difficult to mandate them when the error was reversed.
The story behind it, I'm finding fascinating, as I read a great little article on it at WIRED.
Very briefly, research determined 60 years ago that water droplets less than 100 microns in diameter (1/10th millimetre, big enough to see) float indefinitely in the air, do not fall to the ground. These are big enough to hold viruses like COVID-19 for long periods, alive, infect people clear across the room.
Then, the question is not about distance, but about time in that room, and the density of exhalations in that air. As we've seen, that was the key to understanding COVID risk, until now we use CO2 detectors as useful COVID-risk monitors.
What happened? At the time, the thing to study was tuberculosis. Particles more than 100 microns in diameter can't get down into mammal lungs very easily, particles that big didn't infect test subjects with tuberculosis. Only particles under 5 microns, could carry TB way down into your lungs and infect you. So they were only worried about particles under 5 microns.
And, when information was copied from one project to another, somehow, the 5 micron limit for TB got conflated with 5 microns being the size at which particles were aerosols, rather than droplets that can fall. Oops.
Well, now we are wiser. Mask-wearing may become more common around the world, as it did in much of Asia after SARS. It's clearly useful for a number of diseases. And, at the very least, we won't have to go through all those floor-stickers next time.
One can only assume that they can put it out without months of testing, first, since Big Pharma is hoping they can get them out the door by October - but the FDA is pushing them for September.
Whichever, I'm glumly certain that Canada will be in line behind America itself, on those latest-and-greatest new products. Even so, I'm willing to stand on my partial-immunity granted by some Omicron variant that we survived in April, to keep us safe enough until October or even November. The "Fall Wave" doesn't really get going until then.
I'd really like a BA.5-specific protection, because I have fingers crossed that it's close to the last, that any COVID-19 variants for years to come will be BA.5, or very close to it, what Fauci calls "sub-sub-variants" in the article.
It's clearing up that the current wave is not that bad, though it may be hitting lightly because it's summer. If we can all get BA.5-specific protection and hammer down the BA.5 (ish) waves, we may be able to stick a fork in this thing. I know that depressed analysts are now talking as if COVID-19 will be hanging around our necks for decade(s) to come, but call me an optimist.
I'm indebted for that link to the guy in TheLine commentary that called Ling a "propagandist" against the convoy. I looked him up, and Ling's top article was the one for Maclean's.
The Ipsos Survey that Ling links to, has one "low" number in it: 67%. That's the percentage of Canadian Conservatives who support vaccine passports. A normally door-slamming number, in politics; nearly the Trump support in Wyoming, his best state.
For every other kind of vaccine requirement: mandatory vaccination for public servants, 80%; for taking a plane/train, 82%; for healthcare workers, 84%.
Those were the Conservatives. Liberals were in the mid-90s, for a Canadian average above 80% for everything, except "vaccine passports" for hospitality venues, a mere 72%.
The Convoy Controversy I keep bringing up, is how many of them were not just "anti-mandate", but "anti-vaccine", because the newsies really had trouble finding a convoyer to interview that was only the first. Generally, a few more questions had them going on about the vaccines themselves.
But, I hardly needed to bother: support for those rotten, fascist mandates was only about 10% behind support for vaccines themselves.
Talk about a small fringe minority. Never mind the handful of Confederate Flags; their whole reason-to-exist has less support than parties that the journalists routinely ignore.
Here's the thing. All we've got, except the sewer studies, to guage how bad covid is in our population, is the hospital reports. We don't actually care about the sewer stuff, either: just how badly this is hitting the population.
We certainly still have staff issues in many businesses because off people off sick. This is really hurting medicine, because they actually take time off. They get COVID tests, obey the results. I strongly suspect that most shoe stores, at this point, are not making staff test, and will turn a blind eye to somebody working "a bit under the weather", as we always did with colds and flus.
All of which would be disasterous, if this were early 2021 and vaccination was still building. But the proof in the pudding is those hospital numbers, and they just are not up much. Not enough to scare anybody.
This is after the big Calgary Stampede, after weeks of being told we're in the seventh wave and not changing our behaviour a bit. We'll know in about two weeks if the upcoming Pride Week in Vancouver - which is a lot of filled bars and restaurants, on top of the parade - causes some debilitating spike in serious illness.
I would currently bet: not. The numbers are too low all over the USA, where they've been behaving badly all along, and they have less vaccination.
Man, that's good news.
Alas, no. The great story is that one of the researchers who found that some people are completely immune to AIDS, escaped unscathed from a super-spreader event, and wondered if she had the same property vis-a-vis the coronaviruses.
Alas, no. She later caught it. Fascinating that she didn't catch it when about 20 people around her did, but, alas, no perfect immunity. (The AIDS phenomenon is a mutation that prevents the virus from entering their cells, at all.)
It turns out that perfect immunity from any disease is vanishingly rare; AIDS is one of only three where it has been shown to happen at all. Where it happens, it's a tiny, tiny sliver of the population.
The article notes that people do want to believe they have such a superpower, and may believe it if they have events far less convincing than the AIDS researcher had happen. But it is so very rare, so beware.
I just stopped to look up the basic figures for just how tiny a fringe movement they were, and are. Yes, sure, some 29% of Canadians generally agreed with the views of the Convoy - didn't like masks and distances and having to get a vaccination to go out, or do some jobs. But how many actually got out and protested? Several thousand. I'll give it to them, when they round up to 10,000 that actually went all the way to Ottawa for at least a weekend.
(Keeping in mind, fellow Westerners that "going to Ottawa" is a half-day drive for most of the national population.)
On the day those 10,000 rolled in to protest vaccines:
That's 250 jabs delivered for every person who protested.
Because of media attention, we forget that protest groups are all tiny fringe minorities. Climate protesters got nothing until the climate itself began to frighten the powerful. Anti-war protesters got nothing. Black-Lives-Matter protests not only failed to abolish or defund any police, there have only been the palest nods towards reform. No politician has stood for their causes, will speak of defunding police in high offices. Occupy got no financial reforms other than those already under way before 2010.
So: they were a fringe group, not because they had a few Confederate flags aboard, but because they were anti-vaccine, and nearly everybody is pro-vaccine.
You can forget about them. I'm going to try.
Then there's this one, suggestion BA.5 isn't making things any worse than previous variants.
The article's main point is that reinfections are not coming closer together. They run about nine months apart, not nine weeks. There's more reinfection now, because there are loads more previously-affected for the virus to choose from, not because BA.5 is that much worse at re-infecting than Omicron Original and the other subvariants.
Unless we get objective, macro-scale damage to society - basically, the ICUs filling up again, and offices losing too many staff to work - we're going to stay "open", no restrictions, and just bear the costs. Where "we" is mostly elderly and disadvantaged groups, doing the cost-bearing.
Well, that's us, that's our values. A bunch of us are getting sick and some are going to die, and we're just going to put up with it. No editorial here, just a statement of fact.
Nobody needs easier, cheap vaccines more, than India, who lost a good 4 million dead, maybe five million(!) - we don't even know to the nearest million.
They would certainly be easier to administer; may well work better, delivering immune response to the tissue that needs it most.
Alas, the article ends with "Long way to go", and how they are still trying different vaccines with the approach. In short, not this year, probably not next.
The old COVID dashboard for BC is now quite unreliable, on every count except deaths, since they decided to just report how many in hospital, anyway, for anything, as COVID cases if they test positive. The numbers "in hospital" go up and down with no discernable connection to the general public risk. If deaths spiral upward and keep going, I guess that tells us a wave started a month earlier (and, like other Omicron waves, may be short and already declining).
The useful addition to our tools is the Government of Canada Wastewater Dashboard, which gives all the wastewater test results, up-to-date, across the nation.
For sure, the various "Vancouver" area wastewater plants are showing an increase in virus comparable to last March, last January. But lots of them show multiple spikes that end a week later, all through the spring. It all seems pretty disconnected from the number of people very sick.
For now, CCCC can't recommend you being the paranoid that's wearing your mask outdoors, or in a well-ventilated restaurant, to your table. If the numbers on those dashboards break out of the low hundreds where they've been meandering for months, CCCC will advise caution. And it probably is coming, and soon. The numbers just aren't there, not yet.
The BC Coroner reported the other day, that the province lost about 6 people per day - over one in a million residents, per day, over 400/million/year, to drug overdoses.
And it was barely a ripple. Not on the front page, not news for long, passed over, accepted, shrugged at.
We've heard, repeatedly, that many of these victims were sucked into addiction by medical prescription, for chronic pain. The losses in 2021 were 2,232 people, well above our 2021 COVID deaths. But we just are not about to change behaviours, or spend money, because of all those dying people: not our problem.
As people get a sense of personal safety from COVID - catching it once or twice with little long-term harm - a large majority will start seeing COVID as "somebody else' problem", the way they do with fentanyl.
We just ignore traffic deaths, smoking, and drinking deaths. America has decided, repeatedly, to ignore their wildly high gun deaths. COVID is starting to be added to the list.
Two-thirds of humanity has now been vaccinated, just one-third to go, so you might estimate that in a year, we'll be done that last third.
Of course, lots of those six million are second and third doses going into wealthy arms, whereas the poorest nations of the world are still at 20%.
Canada is near the top, though some much-poorer countries like Cuba, Vietnam, and Brazil, are even more-vaccinated. (What humiliation to be beaten by Brazil, beset with Bolsonaro and his anti-vaccine bluster; they just ignored the bastard, and went ahead. No "convoy" belief-systems for most of them.)
The bottom includes belligerent nuclear powers with space programs, like Russia and Pakistan, (50%-60%) so it isn't all about money. Egypt and Ethiopia field well-equipped armies, but not armies of vaccination doctors. (40%-50%)
Nigeria has "Nollywood", a whole film industry of its own, a burgeoning middle class, growing influence (there's a lot of oil money). They're at 13%
So we have other problems than just wealth. There's some very bad politics out there, poor priorities, magical thinking.
But that 66% already done is staying with me. It's a hopeful day. The story and the data at "Our World in Data", which is now in heavy competition with "worldometers" for the attention of CCCC every day.
I took a look at it today, and it's at 1,063 - 62 higher, just over 62 days later; COVID is still killing almost 300 Americans per day, and one of them is just a kid, who never got to take a legal drink, or vote.
That's what we're normalizing, that's what we're saying is "COVID is over".
All that's over is the change from the old normal to the new normal, where we just accept a new form of daily life risk, on top of the cars and the guns.
I'm glad all the vaccinologists I've been touting on this page for the last few weeks do not think it is over, but just getting into the real slog: they still plan to win, when the rest of us have basically capitulated, like a kingdom just conceding they have to throw somebody into the volcano every few weeks to keep the Gods happy.
Keep going, vaccinologists; kids are depending on you, whether they know it, or not.
What's getting some attention, not that I can find the news story twice, is that your PPM (parts per million of CO2) is a great measure of COVID-catching risk in the room.
Sadly, normal outdoor air is now up to 420PPM, when it should be below 350. But indoor air, with humans and their pets exhaling 4% (40,000 PPM) CO2 in their breath, rises to 800 PPM (the recommended maximum) and past 1000 PPM to 2000 PPM, recently, with 3000 people in a ballroom for the "White House Correspondent's Dinner"...which proved to be a super-spreader event.
Embarrassingly, when I went looking for the news story, what I found were far-more-scientific sources, like CCCC is supposed to be finding for you, that dated back almost 15 months to early 2021.
Here's q quick easy read at Science Daily, with a link to the paper about just how much CO2 you should tolerate.
The short answer, for now, is simple: they say, don't go above 800 PPM all the time, well let's knock that down to 700 or even 600 and turn around and leave the restaurant if it's higher. Maybe it's a patio day.
Except the UK, where an article pops up this morning that case levels have gone up 30% in a week. Huh. Will it be serious?
Yeah, it's serious, because, of course, it's BA.5, which has combined the greatest-ever infectiousness, driving BA1 extinct at lightning speed, and now displacing BA.4; with apparently-more "pathenogenic", likely to give you symptoms. And, it resists monoclonal antibodies made for "Wuhan Original", has greater escape from older vaccines, and even prior Omicron-original infections.
Yahoo-news is calling it the "worst version of COVID"!.
Back to The Guardian for the article on how we are not getting any "herd immunity", and even prior BA.5 infection won't save you from another.
So, all that sucks. OK, there is some good news to finish. They are coming around to the opinion, from all this, that they have to go for it and get BA.5-specific vaccines out to us, and think they can, by late October, or early November.
Speed the day.
Today's shortest-ever is that somebody, finally, finally gave us a rule for "fully vaccinated". It's "your last shot was within 9 months". Four shots every three years, until it's over, I guess.
But this means they really have to loosen up the "over 70" rule I've been complaining about, for the fourth shot. Presumably Dr. Dix will unbend in a couple of months at most, that being the time it seems to take accepted facts to actually affect policy around here. Story in the National Post, quoting the Federal Health Minister! Surely that's clear enough, Dr. Dix.
I know there are a bunch with no third shot yet, but still, it felt like they were trolling me.
I can send you nowhere else but to this Georgia Straight Commentary by Charlie Smith, for the complaint that BC, of all places, is lagging behind in vaccination, when we have always been a vaccine leader.
Nobody has much faith, any more, in vaccine shots giving really good COVID protection beyond several months. COVID infection itself, not much better. Less than half the province even has a third dose, meaning this fall, over half the population will be years past their last shot, and nearly everybody will have only half-assed protection.
Everywhere else that has plentiful vaccines - except BC, apparently - has allowed a fourth shot for those over about 50, sometimes 60. And many have OK'd a fourth shot for everybody over 18. Why not, honestly?
In BC, it's still just for those over 70. Glad they have it, but we 60-somethings, and a lot of 50-somethings, could easily be clogging the ICUs by Thanksgiving, if this Fall has a seasonal surge, like the last two Falls had.
That sums it up. Dix needs to bend, here, follow the lead of the rest of the world, practically. There are Omicron-specific boosters on the way, and a program to push them out en masse by Labour Day is really called for. And we could clear out some of the lineup, by lowering it to 60, then 50, over the course of the summer.
Personally, I'd rather wait to the first day of Fall, roughly, even that is just five months after I got better from an infection. But, of course, the shot will take a few weeks to provide protection, and October 20 was when the 2020 Fall Wave started. 2021, courtesy of Omicron, had an August Wave, and then a huge start of December Wave. In Ontario, it was just the December Wave, with 2022's starting in November.
So, and early-Fall vaccination is a great strategy for anybody to have maximal protection when their infection hits, and we can certainly do it.
Dix just has to get out of bed and do his dang job, sometime this summer.
And, oh, man did we rock. Only Japan beat us for "fewest infections and deaths", however measured. And we beat even them, if by 1%, on vaccination.
The report does note that our GDP lost a few percent, whereas the American GDP, amazingly, grew a few. However, even there, they had a few percent more inflation, cutting in half any relative gains. CAMA is quick, however, to not associate our GDP woes directly with our pandemic restrictions. As it turns out, ours were only a little more dire than America's, on the whole.
I've sucked up a lot of page-space with the graphic, because I love the look, making the pandemic look like a race - races where Canada always pulled ahead and finished on the podium.
It's great that the CAMA describes the death-toll in the same bald terms that CCCC did, only worse. The CCCC post was that Canada would have had 100,000 dead, last January 19. The CAMA report estimates another 70,000 dead on top of the nearly 42,000 we've had by this point, so 12% worse.
The CTV article moves on to CCCC's next crusade: getting people boosted. Canada beat nearly the whole world at vaccination, at 81.7 double-vaxed - but only 48.6% boosted. A smooth fall and winter, rather than another bunch of filled ICU beds and calls for restrictions, needs those jabs.
The BC government, by the way, is disgracing itself on the booster question, but that topic is for tomorrow.
He was on the cover of my Vancouver Sun this morning, but for some reason that is not likely a big conspiracy, I can't find that big National Post article with any googling. What the image links to, is the Lord's own business web site, where he's written a lovely article about how awesome Canada feels at the end of the pandemic.
Concerned that our Convoy Blockade was a sign that we'd aquired the same family-dividing politics as America and post-Brexit UK, he asked 10,000 Canadians what their concerns and hot buttons were.
At the link, you can download his report, or even his raw data. (Abortion, we're at 70% "legal in all cases" and 21% "illegal in all cases", with women 4% higher than men on "legal".)
But the upshot, for the pandemic-related concerns that we now don't trust each other, distrust our government, are polarized, radicalized, unhappy campers: that's all nonsense, promoted by loudmouths. The Silent Majority in Canada, as the National Post story by Joseph Brean puts it, "seem a lot more confident, empathetic, proud, and trusting of their own democracy and national identity than the loudest cultural voices often suggest". We mostly agree on what our problems are, have a lot of agreement on how to fix them, and 70% of us think Canada is one of the best places on Earth to live.
Absolutely freakin' right, Lord Michael Ashcroft. You're not the first to test this, and anybody reading the news closely knows that newsies love to generate conflict, drama, and divisiveness.
This poll was a very Worthwhile British Initiative! (sorry).
Today, it's a National Post story by Harry Rakowski, about other new developments. A nasal vaccine - a fourth way to vaccinate without needles. The new vaccines that should provide broad-spectrum immunity to many COVID variants, can be expected by fall - just when needed.
He ends with this, which is sweet:
It is time to reclaim the pleasures of everyday life and take comfort that we live in Canada, a democracy that, despite its strains, is the envy of the world around us.Damn straight, Dr. Harry. Well said. On with our lives, courtesy of vaccinology.
It discusses the whole waning-immunity problem, the best timing for a dose to blunt the expected fall surge, and extensive discussion about how effective different vaccines are likely to be. There's certainly great concern at this point that the original vaccines are of lesser effectiveness against the coming Omicron variants, which are resistant even to those who've had Omicron already. (Since a good half of us have had Omicron, that's disappointing.)
The good news is that Omicron-specific vaccines are in the offing, though the article questions whether even they will beat the new variants that may come by fall; most are based on the very first Omicron.
The upshot is you should vaccinate as near to the actual infection as possible, wait until it is nearly fall. One hopes that, after the embarrassments at airports and passport offices during this sudden surge in business, they'll be ready for the fourth dose program to be a quick surge beginning around Labour Day.
Labour Day would be less than five months after my actual Omicron infection, so I'm not sure but what I'm good with waiting until October. Maybe they'll have a new round of vaccines by then.
Wondering how China was getting along with the emergency vaccination program so they don't have to lock down in safes, I did a google, and was amazed at all the positive coverage of new Chinese vaccines. They've done their own mRNA vaccines now, with 95% efficacy at avoiding ICU.
That was a study in Chile, and across Latin America, they're Sinovac buyers, the second-rate stuff, and the new stuff, both. And the old Sinovac is credited with bringing normality back to Brazil and Colombia and Argentina; they're also through much of the Caribbean.
I hate to see China being the Hero, of course, but I'm glad somebody came to help that continent.
That would be early April, 2020, when articles about the dying had titles like "The Desperate Hours". Of course, they were mostly happening in a few states, with packed ICUs. Now, the dying is widely distributed, slower.
Of those 1.04 million deaths, just 143 were between the ages of 1 and 4. Twice as many kids who were not yet 1 year, some 399 died, reminding us how fragile life is at the start - and how even this new vaccination will not be allowed for little babies.
143 dead, out of some 5% of the population (16 million), of whom at least a quarter caught the disease, is a death rate of 0.003%. In comparison to so many diseases (cholera, typhus, measels, whooping cough) that prey by preference on the very young, COVID is almost harmless to this age group.
If you vaccinate kids, they are less likely to catch the disease. Not a whole lot less likely, with Omicron, one must admit. With early variants, it seemed to reduce actual infection by 2/3rds. With Omicron, it's probably more like 1/3rd - but that's not nothing, not when infection spreads exponentially. A child catching it, getting a few sniffles, and passing it on, may infect multiple others - including grandpa with the blood pressure issue.
None of the vaccine injuries analysed just yesterday (below) involved teens, or kids 5-14. There were questions about heart inflammations with young boys, but they've been pretty much dismissed as really minor and rare; no real injuries.
So, it's free, it's safe for the kid, it'll maybe save them from a miserable experience (just because they don't die, doesn't mean that some don't spend a week on their backs, hating life), and it might save somebody else.
With most medical problems, we read about statistics - how many thousand dead per year from influenza was much-compared to early COVID losses, and even rare deaths like drowning have to be discussed as statistics, even if each drowning was a news story when it happened.
But what was noteworthy to me about the "rare vaccine reactions" story in the Vancouver Sun this morning, is how individual the stories were. There were a half-dozen stories, some quite frightening, but no deaths. The thing is, they were all unique. There was one major stroke; one Bell's Palsy/GBS; one set of lung blood-clots. The story doesn't mention the guy everybody read about, who lost two metres of intestine to a huge blood clot after Astrazenaca. There didn't seem to be multiple cases of any one thing. And the overall number suggests they were about right that your odds of a really injurious reaction were nearly a million to one (~4 in BC), or perhaps twice that. Of course, many people had minor injuries, I'm sure. But the overall claims of the vaccine doctors, as they tried to reassure the "hesitant", have been proven about right.
Fingers crossed this will mean easier vaccination programs in future.
In search of a story for you, I looked up David Spiegelhalter at The Guardian, previous source of many statistical enlightenments and entertainments..
His latest interesting fact comes out in an article where he admits he was too optimistic about COVID at first. Offhandedly, almost, he mentions that 300 young lives were saved by COVID. About 300 in Britain; that's after subtracting the 100 young lives (Age: 15-30) that were lost to COVID. They were countered by 400 who didn't die in car accidents, over-drinking, fighting.
All of this causes dangerous levels of smugness, here at CCCC, where one can go back 25 months to the CCCC article for May 2, 2020, "The Lives Saved by the Pandemic". You're welcome.
I didn't know that, by the way they measure the population's feelings of trust, Canadians are among the most-trusting on Earth - twice as much so as Americans.
And the good news is that, on the whole, it's up a bit from the pandemic. At least if you have money. Poor people have shown a distinct drop in trust of others in general, and a fifth of the population, no change, but the majority have become more trusting of their fellow public since 2019.
Here's the March article ,about the survey going out, and discusses how vital societal trust is.
And then here's the article from yesterday, giving the (mostly) happy results.
We could have more trust from the poor. If only we deserved it.
The trick was, that vaccine can't make it through the sub-lingual skin, as thin and delicate as the underside of your tongue may be: the molecules are too big, and the tab kept moving around before they could penetrate.
The self-dissolving tab that starts off very sticky, apparently threads the needle through this problem, and has been delivering useful amounts of vaccine. The tests so far are HIV vaccine in mice. (I'm wondering about the job advert that specifies a need for the skill of getting mice to put a tab under their tiny tongues.)
Better yet, the vaccine is protected by the "alginate" polymer from seaweed, so that it remains stable at room temperature for some time.
It's fun to speculate which if these three new delivery systems will win out the day - possibly all three, in different vaccination situations. What seems certain is that our young getting vaccinated (by the recently-approved for kids vaccines!) by the last "vaccine needles" that will ever be, shortly to be sent to museums.
Even better, the article is actually by Fiona Small, the McMaster vaccinologist who is co-developing this potentially, well, um, awesome new vaccine delivery product.
Fiona gives us a whole capsule history of this long-in-progress new technology, going back 50 years to the first adenovirus research.
Except if you "catch" this adenovirus from having it inhaled straight down into your airways, it will deliver your COVID-19 vaccination in passing.
Fiona notes that they are using proteins from all around the coronavirus, not just those ever-mutating spikes; if the early trials, now under way, test out, it should be effective against multiple variants as they come along.
Here's the kicker: because the vaccination is going to the very best place, far less of it is needed: perhaps as little as one percent as much vaccine(!), which will dramatically lower odds of side effects. CCCC won't even tout the other kicker, which is that this could lead to general, innate immunity against many viruses.
It's an exciting time in vaccinology. We may look back on the pandemic as the turning point in human relations with viruses, as big as the first vaccinations were nearly 200 years ago. And there's another vaccine tech coming tomorrow!
The patch at left would be like putting on a band-aid that had the plastic-hook-side of Velcro on the inside.
"There's a kind of a roughness. Some people may describe it as a kind of tingling. So there is a sensation, but it's a sensation that people don't find objectionable or painful."...says Mark Prausnitz of Georgia Tech. That's not the only lab working on "microneedle" vaccine delivery. Silicon valley has given us was to make microstructures, like the array of almost-microscopic needles at right.
They're now looking at making them of water-soluble materials, so that the whole needle dissolves in your skin, completely releasing everything inside. The key point is, though, that the needles are "So small they don't interact with the nerves that cause pain." Perfect!
This is not new technology; another researcher, in Seattle, says he's been banging the drum for microneedles for 15 years now, and what's needed is a committment from the industry.
They've developed patch products for flu and measles so far, and affirm it would work with COVID vaccines. And here's a kicker: skin has far more immune cells in skin than in muscle. It's a far-better place to inject.
This is a great time to be in vaccines; a lot of interest. This technology still needs commercial development: it needs to be cheap, have factories that produce at scale. One would hope the pressure for it would be overwhelming.
Alas, when I gave up looking for my previous post on this, about a year ago, I'd thought, and just googled to find the original story again - year-old stories were about it. There was just one ray of hope from 2022: if not news that it's being commercially adopted, news of another improved new development in the technology: 3D printing of the applicator, at Stanford.
At least the whole research industry is all over this; surely commercialization will follow.
This is one kind of pandemic news that will go on for years, and perhaps I will keep CCCC going, one post a week or less, as the reports trickle in: the forensic reviews of what worked and did not work.
The autopsies, if you will. (Of policy.)
CBC is reporting today that court-ordered document releases finally prove that masks in schools worked.
As BA.1 hit the peak of it's wave (our fifth), the Kenney Klowns announced that masks would not only be not required, but mask-requirements were forbidden. Some school boards masked anyway. So, lots of kids went mask-free for some weeks as the wave wound down, right near kids that didn't.
The mask-mandate school boards had an average of 7.3 outbreaks, those without, 23.4 - over three times as many.
Case and hospitalization rates were lower in mask-using areas.
Reviewers also note that the government's excuses for mask opposition - that masks were harming children - were based on the weakest, most speculative "evidence".
CCCC is not one to beat on a dead horse. But Kenney is very much alive.
It's true that the dying isn't too bad - just crested 50/day in Australia, about like Canada hitting 60-70 - and that's probably about the peak of the wave, since cases went down weeks ago.
But CCCC did not check for hospital news. They're packed, things being delayed, people waiting a week for a room. It's pretty bad.
CCCC has certainly detected a tendency to belittle pandemic news, lately, make assumptions. That would be my own desire to see the end of all this, wish it away. Now I feel a little better how that guy Matthew Walter in Michigan was able to just feel and act, like the pandemic was over. In his case, he had to ignore what was going on right in his town hospital. In mine, I just have to stop reading news from abroad.
But. It ain't over. CCCC will certainly continue for a bit; if there's no increases of anything in any part of the world for a week, I might put it on hiatus. But there's small chance of that, in 2022.
Today, shorter than ever, because there's no need for links to the stories: they're the top story in most papers. Our border controls continue to require all kinds of COVID restrictions and tests and lineups, when those were the least-effective restrictions even back in 2020.
The way Omicron toured the world, with all border restrictions on, surely ended the fiction that you can really keep viruses out of a country like ours. Locked-down China, maybe; islands like New Zealand, it only worked until Omicron. Border restrictions should have been tossed, globally, in January.
Vaccination, to cross any border, board any transportation, hell yes! I'm in favour of vaccine mandates (with outs for those who can't) for city buses, much less airplanes. But border testing? Just give up, guys.
Why it goes on is just unexplained. Calling all journalists: make them explain in scientific detail how well these restrictions are going to work, at this point. Or admit they're pure bureaucratic inertia.
And Monkeypox now qualifies. We need to both not be alarmed by it (because it is not very transmissable, and not very deadly) and alarmed by one aspect of it: so far, transmission is by far most common among gay men, at present.
That's simply not being loudly touted in most coverage of monkeypox. For obvious reasons, of course - what journalist wants to write the article "credited" with stigmatizing and marginalizing the community that so suffered forty years ago from the same during AIDS?
Well, The Atlantic has contributed the article linked above, which clarifies both the role of that community in the spread around the world so far, and the dangers inherent in not advertising it more clearly to the rest of the community.
Important reading, also for the rest of us. Monkeypox is all about close, skin-to-skin contact; with just a little caution and common sense, this little pandemic can be shut down and put away for much time to come.
Worldometers graphs of cases look like all the others, with 2020 and 2021 simply amputated. In infection terms, nothing happened in either country until Omicron hit.
Particularly with the New Zealand graph, that meant it went from zero to 20,000 cases per day - in a country of 3 million, like Canada getting 250,000 cases/day(!) when Omicron did hit. It's still raging. But the death rate is not. It's about a dozen a day right now, but that's about what it was everywhere, in population terms.
The Australian death rate is 50/day, and rising; it will probably hit numbers like Canada had at our Omicron peak, say 100/day. (Canada hit 150/day, briefly, but has half-again the population.)
In short, they skipped the other waves, got vaccinated, and the vaccination alone - not the extra immunity that came from massive infection waves - made their Omicron waves just like ours.
The net result is that Canada has over 40,000 dead, Australia hasn't hit 9000 yet, and won't hit 10,000. New Zealand, which would be as bad as Canada if it hits 3,000 dead, has just passed 1100, is unlikely to hit 1500 total when Omicron winds down.
For the next pandemic, these are the countries to study and emulate.
That last fraction is just under half. We've recorded 424 deaths in just under six weeks, and about 200 of them would have actually been because of COVID-19. We're back to the pre-vaccination age distribution: average age 87; nearly all over 75. Only a dozen of that 200 would have been under 50.
So, about 30/week are actually dying of COVID, nearly all from a demographic that had just a few years (or weeks) left either way. During the fifth wave, it peaked at over 100/week for a few weeks, with an estimated 10,000 infections per day. For this wave, it was more like 5,000/day. That's 35,000/week turning into less than 35 dead bodies, so the effective mortality rate is down to under 0.1%. The mortality rate for those under 50 is probably more like 0.01%.
The vanished deaths of the under-50s means that those who didn't vaccinate, are just about all now exposed and immunized that way - at least enough to not die.
This just puts a cherry on top of yesterday's conclusion that "it's about over" (given no new variant so different it's like a whole new disease). Given variants to which we have some immunity from exposure or vaccination, the "waves of dying" that pack ICUs, and require lockdowns to save thousands of lives, should be over. This wave hit 5,000 per day, without much effect on ICUs, and no calls for lockdowns - when none of the pre-Omicron waves, the ones we did have half-decent tracking for, were over 1,000 per day. (Even then, we estimated there were 3 undetected for every one logged, but still, that's under 4,000 per day, and that for just a week; the old waves were pointy-er.)
So, that may be it for CCCC posts about the pandemic in BC, or even anywhere in Canada. The remaining stories are how the little-exposed, poorly-vaccinated nations like China will manage 2022, and how we still have to Vaccinate the World.
There's a funny thing about the "This Week's New Deaths" number on the COVID-19 Dashboard. (Worst news hook, ever...)
I'd seen it with numbers like 50, 59, 59 in previous weeks, and now 42 this week; but when you subtracted the "Total to Date" right under those numbers, the actual number was more like 70 to 100 each week - the death notices took that long to come in. Because other numbers were going down (especially the prevalence of the virus in wastewater), I figured the wave had crested; and the deaths, well, they are now "deaths with covid", not necessarily "deaths of covid", so they're almost useless. Very vulnerably, already dying people catching one last misery when in hospital, that's all.
But, this week, it's clear every number is sharply down, especially those recent deaths, so it can finally be said that we've passed the crest.
All over the nation, continent, and Europe, we're seeing similar news. Only those nations that locked down so well - China and Australia - that they have very little resistance save vaccines, are still struggling. If no ugly new variant arises from them, it may actually all be over: a wave in the fall, but not a scary one.
Not that I would skip my 4th shot, if offered; Labour Day would be perfect.
It's just vicious, and for those who watched Kenney for years, very cathartic.
Only a few percent of it is about pandemic performance, but even that byblow is laser-targeted:
In 2021 you declared the pandemic over and promised the “best summer ever,” but then you let COVID rip across the province while you vacationed in Spain. That pretty much sums up all anyone needs to know about your “leadership.”
But here's the problem: you are a symptom of a greater malaise undermining democracies everywhere. Like the Trump-tinged Republican leaders in the U.S. you have fostered phoney debates about the roots of real challenges. You manufactured villains, propagated falsehoods and stoked grievances in order to stir divisions, all the while foolishly believing you could ride the tiger you fed.
Tyler Shandro, of course, turned the Health Ministry into a battleground against doctors. His conduct is under investigation by the Law Society of Alberta.
For CCCC, that's like a dash of cool water on a hot day: "manufactured villains" (Fauci), "stoked grievances" (tyrannical governments), and the bit about "riding the tiger" needs to be a lecture to every cynical politician who panders to people they know are not just wrong, but dangerous.
In 2021 you declared the pandemic over and promised the “best summer ever,” but then you let COVID rip across the province while you vacationed in Spain. That pretty much sums up all anyone needs to know about your “leadership.”
But here's the problem: you are a symptom of a greater malaise undermining democracies everywhere. Like the Trump-tinged Republican leaders in the U.S. you have fostered phoney debates about the roots of real challenges. You manufactured villains, propagated falsehoods and stoked grievances in order to stir divisions, all the while foolishly believing you could ride the tiger you fed.
It's only tangential to the pandemic, but a real favourite read today.
But, I can't get around his argument. Also, I'm pleased to provide a link to the Georgia Straight, which has a fine article by Vancouver lawyer Tim Louis, on mandatory safety measures.
The Straight has been a great Canadian institution since I was a kid, and recently lost it's owner and spirit of 50 years. Many feared it would become a clickbait rag, but it's holding up, with a "COVID-19 in Vancouver" section I'll be mining out for weeks to come.
Tim is a lawyer, and took a lawyer's view to the mask mandates. He isn't even interested in arguing about effectiveness: that is a problem for doctors, and they've weighed in. Masks do less when infection rates are low, but they never fail to reduce risks somewhat.
That done, is it OK to drop that protection because people protest? Well, Tim reminds us of the similar controveries over the "tyranny" of seatbelts, the "oppression" of anti-smoking laws.
It's hard to get around his case; it's just that everybody wants to - even Bonnie Henry.
North Korea is that, times ten, with no courts or traditions of accountability at all. Whatever the deaths from COVID in North Korea, we'll learn almost nothing about them, certainly far less than we learned about the (vaguely estimated) four million deaths in India.
If North Korea is freed before a few decades have passed, we might be able to manage the kind of study that The Lancet made of Iraq: go door-to-door in many typical neighbourhoods, get samples of how many families lost a member, then do statistics from those.
Since they've refused all vaccines, refused Paxovil, have few ventilators, it'llbe like India was: desperation to find oxygen as it runs out. Since it will be Omicron for them, not Delta, the death-rate may still only be a percent or two: after all, life in malnourished North Korea is already so tough, they probably don't have as many old people as we do.
And that's probably about all the coverage you're going to get, whether you read CCCC, or Foreign Affairs.
They are there, clearly, but they're low. COVID deaths in South Africa have trended up, over the last week, from about 10/day to middle twenties per day, even above 30/day just recently.
That's compared to 250/day during the Omicron wave that they were the first to catch, and 300-400/day during their Delta wave.
There's pretty good coverage in "Voice of Nigeria", which confirms this wave is mostly BA.4 and BA.5, the latest Omicron sub-variants. Here's the good and bad news in one sentence:
The new versions appear to be able to infect people who have immunity from earlier COVID infections and vaccinations but they cause generally mild symptoms.That, in a nation that still isn't past 45% adult vaccination.
CCCC has been a little smug about the accuracy of the New Year's Eve predictions for 2022: another Omicron wave, but smaller than the first, lowering fear even more. Well, the country that "gave us Omicron" (no, not really) has now treaded that ground, itself, and indeed, fear decreases.
It can still kill people; but so can a lot of things, and COVID-fear is sinking into the mass of fears we live with every day - mostly by not thinking about them too much.
Omicron Doom is about to befall North Korea. They may be able to lock down enough to slow it, but it's probably too late already, with 1.5M cases presenting. So far, there is no lockdown, just advice to "double mask".
North Korea may just get a surge so large that their hospitals can't provide oxygen, as happened in India. Like India, I suppose nobody else will learn the fatality rate, but North Korea will deny it all happened to a degree India could not.
The Guardian article is "North Korea on the Brink of Catastrophe, Say Experts", at The Guardian.
The population of 26 million could easily see more than 1% casualties, well over a quarter-million. And it may all happen in a month or so, with peak death rates in the tens of thousands per day.
They've already turned down vaccination; have just refused all offers of help.
The Kim family and their supporters already have so much more to answer for, that it's hard to work up a good rant; the coming COVID deaths will have to get in line.
I can't think of a single holiday, anything that might bring people together, without a news story or two about the health authorities urging us to limit the gathering size, consider masks, and so forth - to limit the damage the holiday would inevitably do to the case-rate. It was just expected for two years, that every holiday would be a bump in cases. So Dr. Bonnie and all her counterparts across the world would warn us to holiday as safely as possible.
This long weekend? Crickets. Nuthin'. Not a peep.
They may have simply given up, they may honestly think that no more damage can be done, that there simply will be no "bump", whatever the gathering sizes, whether or not we get drunk and laugh right into each other's airspace.
Or, maybe, they're just tired of it, too.
Whatever: enjoy your long weekend. With 3 vaccinations and a recent encounter with Omicron, we're as smugly past it as anybody.
Nor, for that matter, did the BBC quite say that, in the article linked at left, just asked "Why Is Canada's COVID Death Rate So Much Lower than the US?". It's odd they didn't ask why it was so much lower than Britain.
People imagine Canada is just very dispersed, most of our population north of Edmonton, I suppose, was spared by our hearty life as loggers in forest cabins. Of course, we all live in cities, just like Australians and Britons and Americans, and we were saved from COVID by our policies and behaviours.
The ICU graph, at top, is "per million", so the sheer height of the American curve is how much worse it was down there, how many more gasping for breath. You ahave to multiply that 75/million by 334, to think of 25,000 people on ventilators, all at once, for weeks, across America, their families awaiting the call that they'd died, or come back. (Mostly, died.)
The second graph clarifies how the different the behaviours were. Once Canada got access to vaccines, we caught up with five months of American vaccination in a month flat(!) and went on past them to levels that have twice as many unprotected Americans as Canadians.
However, the article says we did everything, not just vaccination, much better. We were better at locking down and distancing, we were better at masking, we were better with schools and workplaces.
We're just better at socially coordinated action than Americans. One wonders how much better we'd be at an old-fashion, WW2-type of war, where it's needed for everybody to make sacrifices for victory. (Hasn't come up, recently: GW Bush told everybody to support the War on Terror by going shopping.)
That three-times-faster vaccination stays with me, though. A day for patriotism.
Easy mistake to make: since about 80% of the dying is done by seniors, even a big jump in deaths to the middle-aged was a small blip in the overall numbers; you had to carefully check the stats on death-rates-vs-age.
But on May 12, CBC reviewed the million deaths in America, and did that math.
It promptly showed up in the sub-head, "mortality figures in those aged 30-49 also concerning". Inside,
Just over 14 per cent of Canada's population is 30-39, a cohort that has experienced 0.7 of all COVID-19 deaths. The age cohort represents a comparable 13.5 per cent of all Americans, but 1.8 of all coronavirus deaths there.
Keep in mind, there are 3x as many coronavirus deaths per capita, so the "1.8%" vs our "0.7%" means you get to multiply 3 x 1.8/0.7 = 7.7 times as bad to be a thirty-something American.
Or, in absolute numbers, there's not even need to multiply by 9 to compare by population:
Canada, with roughly one-ninth of the U.S. population, has lost 285 people aged 30-39 to COVID-19, while the U.S. has lost more than 15,000 people in that age range.
This led to some coverage I'd missed two months ago, when the BBC did a great article on why Canada did so much better than the USA. But I'll bump that to tomorrow and just revel in the fact that somebody finally noticed those differences for the 39-49 set.
CTV also noted that the virus prevalance in wastewater is still going down, and may be the only really objective data on how many are infected at any given moment, these days.
Certainly, the wave is not dying off quickly, and may not be dying off at all. We could be in for a prolonged period at 10 deaths/day in BC alone.
It's funny, the wastewater tracking was just a curiousity at the start, and CCCC followed it closely because of my prior career adjacent in that business. But now, it's really all we've got; there's no clear testing, and not even clear record of COVID-caused deaths, as opposed to deaths while also positive for COVID.
One hopes that wastewater testing will prove important around the world, in countries where they had no testing to start with.
As for BC, I still really have the "feeling" that we're almost out of the woods. But, then, there's been a lot of wishful thinking about that, all around the world.
So clinical epidemiologist Raghib Ali writes in The Guardian, this morning. England did no worse than Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, most of Europe.
Well, if you skip Portugal, anyway.
Here's some very round numbers: the first Omicron wave, that started well before last Christmas, cost the UK 15,000 dead. The second wave, just ending now, another 10,000 dead.
For the Canadian population, that would be 9,000 dead and 6,000 dead, again in very round numbers.
Our actual losses were 6,000 and 2,000. About two-thirds as bad on the wave where we both had restrictions, about one-third as bad on the wave where we had restrictions and they had dropped them.
Why get into precise calculations and discussions about such a vague subject? The gross numbers are really quite convincing for me: it was good that Canada kept up most restrictions, and the results across provinces (the bad results in our restriction-hating Prairies) convince me of it even more.
I can only hope that the nutters won't make anybody reluctant to do the right thing in the next pandemic - or, perish forbid, the next wave.
Basically, Omicron is so measles-grade catchy that attempts at Zero COVID are pretty much doomed. Certainly authoritarian China has found it so, and now the WHO has agreed.
The World Health Organization has, amazingly, actually come out against the "Zero COVID" strategy in China, proving that they, at least, can see when you have to throw in the towel; thousands of cases per day in Shanghai; outbreaks in Beijing, despite the most intolerable lockdowns.
Every story on it also notes the very respectable model published yesterday, that calculates 1.5M dead from 100M cases in China. The low-vaccination rate among the elderly, you see, the most-insane factoid about China, maybe the most-insane factoid of the pandemic. Those of us most-ignorant about China do know the culture reveres age; how did that reverence extend to indulging them on not getting vaccinated?
Possibly, China (speaking collectively of their top bureaucrats and politicians) thought that they'd keep a lid on COVID until it went away, that it was impossible for it to mutate into a more-infectious form like Omicron. How the hell they could think that, as Alpha, P1, and Delta all proved more and more infectious throughout 2021, I have no idea, though. It's just nuts.
Well, lockdown or no lockdown, they've sentenced themselves to the fate that the Nature Medicine-published report from Shanghai U has calculated. They can't vaccinate fast enough to outrun Omicron.
One can only wish hell and fire upon China's "leadership" of murdering dictators, of course; but I'm sorry about all the people they've as good as killed.
Partly, it's that people don't want any more pandemic news, so, although the pandemic is still a very burning issue in mega-locked-down China, even though Hong Kong is finally breathing out after riding out their massive Omicron wave, there are no stories. It's over for us, we've got our immunity, screw those guys. (We don't like China much anyway, so there.)
I'd like to do an article on how COVID seems to be passing-by the whole Ukraine war. There's still no sign of rising cases in Poland, which still has functioning record-keeping, and most of the recent refugees. How does that work?
But, there are no articles about that, either. It's not like I have investigative reporters of my own.
To heck with it; call no news, good news, and call it a win.
What an odd thing to say. Cuba is a third-world country; Portugal is just about the poorest in western Europe. Some smaller towns there had no cars as recently as 1970. Why would we want to be them?
Well, they are both at about 95% vaccination, down to age 5, and for Cuba, down to age 2. And, as you see, this does in fact confer something close to herd immunity. Since passing 90% by a bit, they both have had only the most modest "waves", and barely-detectable increases in death, even when we can detect a wave of cases.
Absent really surprising new variants, the pandemic is really over in both countries. Tourists, take note. It requires the heaviest degree of vaccination of any disease short of measels, and may now be even with measels itself, the ultimate gold-standard for infectiousness.
But, COVID can be beaten; these two countries are proof.
That Cuba did this with self-invented vaccines, and by using older technology, was able to approve down to age 2 many months ago, is a major achievement of public health, and good societal management.
You don't have to praise them through gritted teeth: go on, hating their leaders, who are awful; it's Cuban doctors and their medical "deep state" that get the backpat here - that deep state will be paid, and honoured long after the dictators are gone. For me, that's an article of faith.
And every paper has at least one story out about how everybody is acting as if it's all over, but, really, infections are high and people are still dying.
But today, had the story I was waiting for. BC appears to have beaten down that sixth wave, the spring wave, the second Omicron wave.
The "beat down" is barely started, and could reverse, but it's clear. BC went down from daily reports to weekly, some months back, when they also dropped most testing, and reported everybody in hospital who tested positive, junking any comparison to previous numbers.
So, those weekly hospital admissions, ICU admissions, and graveyard admissions, all went up every week, for a month. Until yesterday, when they dropped a bit. Just a bit, but it's a drop, and in weekly-summed COVID numbers drop, it's at least a turning point.
This is great news all-around (especially for those not-dying), but a bit of smugness will be squelched by CCCC, which took a guess, on December 31, that Omicron would be a whole wave yet (check) and also have a later wave (check) that was much smaller and less-deadly again (check). The spring wave will cost BC "only" a few hundred dead, in contrast to the winter one, with several hundred.
And that means, psychologically, it really is over, or, at least, you can see the daylight from here.
The CDC web page is still almost 4,000 short of a million, but whatever source NBC News Uses, Has Declared the Million Mark to be Passed.
It's the highest total in the world, the story notes, though they are, of course, ignoring the very probable 4 million dead in India, that Modi won't acknowledge. Still a staggering "negative achievement", for a nation so rich and capable; everybody marvels at them, in a bad way. Again, today, with the prospect of a 50-year rollback in a civil rights, that would be unthinkable in another industrialized nation.
I'm marvelling at them, in a bad way, over events of 50 years ago, as well. I've been reading "Kill Anything That Moves", by Nick Turse. It's a confirmation of everything you ever feared was true about Vietnam: that My Lai was one of hundreds of civilian massacres, that there were thousands of incidents where a smaller number of civilians, women, children, were shot, that "body count", applicable to your odds of some beach vacation, was allowed to include civilians. That eliminated the need for inquiry, and pushed up all-important "body count" numbers in one swoop.
On a day with a million dead from disease, the book is still just - sickening.
When they were being called out as torturers, every apologist kept repeating the phrase "This is not who we are", now made meaningless by repetition, like "Thoughts and prayers". After I'd shaken my head at watching the documentary "Taxi To The Dark Side", read Jane Mayer's "The Dark Side" (both titles riffed off a Dick Cheney remark about having to go to the Dark Side), and watched the movie "The Torture Report", with Adam Driver...and seen all that just subside below the waves, a settled issue, followed by the next President declaring his love of torture, I realized, "That is exactly who they are". Now that I've read "Kill Anything that Moves", I know that they've always been that, back to the Phillipines over a hundred years ago.
Canada's no angel, either: but at least when a few of our soldiers killed a civilian, we didn't cover it up, we tried and jailed them.
We are just different. So different, for all the similar movies and music and food and other cultural things we have so much in common.
Previously, I'd put it down to Americans vs foreigners, that they only devalued foreign lives. Now, we can see how they don't value any, not even their grandparents.
I am torn between wanting to understand them, and not wanting to understand them.
I have to almost love the last guy, who not only gets into vaccine shedding, but puts periods in his words to escape algorithms that might "catch" him (nothing could be easier than filtering out that before looking for words) - and one of the words he's using is "purebloods" for the unvaccinated.
Purebloods. Paging Harry Potter.
And that joke is about the only Semitically-related joke that is still acceptable, or at least I think it is. (If you are a Jewish Mom who hates being associated with warm concern for other's health, please advise.)
Nobody, definitely, has beaten Israel, to my knowledge, at studying the effectiveness and safety of vaccines: they have the data, nearly every shot tracked.
Clear back last November, they had determined how vaccine effectiveness wanes over time.
By last February, they could publish, in Haaretz, their determinations of how much better the survival was for the boosted, not just vaccinated.
Culminating, at the end of March, their proof of the value of a fourth shot, for those over 60.
Well, that would be me. I've kind of had my fourth shot, the other week, in the form of an infection, which no doubt bumped up my antibodies for months to come. There's also some indications that vaccine immunity beats infection-based immunity, so I will definitely be looking at that fourth shot this fall, say, five to six months after my late-April infection.
There's a similarity to Russia, here: a feeling that it is possible to beat this thing, but we may have to keep hitting it for some time to come.
I'd thought it would be a slam-dunk. I thought that, indeed, CCCC might be swept off the Net, by major media companies competing to show, with their dashboards, who was doing a good job, who should never be re-elected - all based on the surely-important metric of how many citizens they lost to COVID-19. Not protecting citizens from crime can certainly get you fired, so why would disease be different?
Theory, meet Quebec, where 15,000 dead just doesn't matter. I'll skip the bar-chart this time. That's 15,000 dead in Quebec, out of barely 8 million people, nearly 2000 per million. Contrast with Ontario, about 12,000 dead out of 15 million, below the Canadian average of 1,000. Doug Ford's Ontario is twice as good a place to be an old person in a care-home - in Ontario, your odds sucked; but in Quebec, they lost "whole wings of the building", one nurse said.
The occasion for this observation is the National Post story, "Legault Has Become Arrogant, Because His Government Seems Almost Immune From Criticism". It specifically mentions how his COVID-19 response was so good. WHAT?!? Nope, it was rated well, because he communicated well on TV, as the bodies piled up.
I do honour that. But he bodies piling up were more important.
I will never understand Quebec.
I guess I could look up a few more cases than this, it seems like there have been several lately, a few in Canada.
In Britain, it must affect some significant fraction of low-paid retail workers, that both Sainbury's and Tesco are cutting sick leave again.
Talk about "The Pandemic is So Over", this is the financial bottom line for that: not so much government ending programs, as employers going back to risky behaviour. So what if they get sick? It's easy to hire more.
That seems to be the call that CBC journalists made about poor 'ol Tony Fauci, the American top public health bureaucrat and all-round conservative punching bag.
What CBC did pay attention to, was his "bungled messaging", as they described it, for saying that line about "The U.S. is no longer in the 'full-blown' pandemic phase". Since everybody pretty much understands the situation - dropping cases, everybody tolerating the amount of dying going on still, nobody about to restrict movement any more - there was certainly the option to say "That's how Fauci described the current situation".
But, nooooo. Everybody possible, not just conservatives scoring points, but supposedly responsible journalists just making a story, had to say this was wrong, a bad way to say it, forced Fauci to "clarify" what they already knew he meant, and then, as on CBC, criticize him for "bungled messaging".
There was a real Tony Fauci story, the same day, which was poorly covered. A The head of the Oklahoma Republicans said plainly in a speech that Fauci should go before a firing squad.
I won't express shock and dismay, it's probably the 100th time that somebody has threatened his life. He's testified that his family have received death threats. Maybe this has happened so much that journalists figure "it's not even news", perhaps? But, there's been lots of "bungled messaging" - really, I think the OK GOP just did some bungled messaging, at the very least - and it all remains news.
In any event, a search of the Washington Post, and CBC found the 'clarifying' story, but not the firing squad. The link above, you guessed it, is for Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! news site.
Again CCCC did guess, on Dec 31, that there would be second wave of Omicron. When it was just a wave of "cases", nobody was too sure whether it was a real wave, or what, because we aren't testing, or reporting the few tests we do. The wastewater was a better hint.
Well, for the last week, the number of deaths per day has been heading unambiguously upward, and now there's enough points along that rise to call it a wave. Of dying. So far, it's just a couple of hundred extra dead, on top of the couple of hundred already dying, per week, at the bottom of the last wave.
Yes, we've hit a point where just 40 or so people dying per day is the bottom of a curve, the least-bad we can expect it to be.
The guess predicted that this wave (the dying wave) would be a "fizzle", not half the height of the first Omicron wave two months back. It has to head down again after going only a little higher, to meet that prediction.
If it doesn't, people may go back to masking and distancing again, and it will feel like Groundhog Day. The prediction continues to be that it peaks low (by our new, 2022 standards), and everybody leans into summer.
Alas, it's universal. While perhaps joining me in my jeering, keep in mind that allies we could name kept pounding away at "solving Iraq", and, even more comically, "solving Afghanistan", using the same strategies over, and over, for decades. Everybody was kicking the can down the road, of course, rather than admitting failure. But that's what frightened bureaucrats in a groupthink do, at least when the sheer power behind their bureaucracy allows them to continue "waiting for success", like "Waiting for Godot".
Russia pounding away, with increasing desperation, at Ukraine, their plans in ruin, seems to similar to China doubling-down on lockdown in Shanghai, in the article "Shanghai's chaotic Covid lockdown puts other Chinese cities on edge". They're into panic-buying in Guangzhou (18 million), after a handful of cases. They now have infections across 29 provinces and municipalities.
I was going to tongue-in-cheek title this "Stupid Commies", until I remembered Iraq and Afghanistan. Or any of Paul Krugman's "Zombie Ideas" about economics, the trickle-down and the austerity. Or how the Pentagon just keeps doubling down on more-expensive, heavier airplanes until you get the hapless F35. All of these were not one mistake, but basically repetition after repetition of the same mistake, with warnings coming from those who can see the mistake, the whole time.
Again, this kind of persistent blundering happens in vertical bureaucracies where everybody hates to pass up bad news, to speak uncomfortable truths to power that can hurt your bureaucratic position; but it requires the bureaucracy be insulated from its own mistakes. The expense and death in Afghanistan cost the generals nothing, as Ukraine has cost Putin's inner circle nothing, as Shanghai has cost Xi's inner circle nothing.
Well, an adjacent article at CNN notes that investors are finally abandoning China, though the Ghost Cities and Evergrande may have more to do with that, than Russia support and COVID Calamities. (Why would they have let older people skip vaccination? Blunders, indeed.)
Russia, of course, is in for years of payback, but mainly because they won't back down. Just as America paid no international prices for war and war crimes, Russia would be forgiven in a quick 20%-off deal for a year of oil, if they gave Europe half a chance. Nobody even discussed making China pay for genocidal crimes and human-rights violations.
The world is mismanaged because we allow it, because we permit ongoing blunders and folliesm, because fools and our money are parted, but we don't jail the fools afterwards. (Our financial crash was worse because they kept doubling-down on those CDO valuations, too - don't miss "The Big Short".)
The only key for it all is responsibility: if your governing system doesn't hold the decision-makers responsible for decision-results, you'll get decisions that keep them in control, and no other kind.
And, yes, yes, they are. In the last three months, Americans dead of COVID, all under age 50, and unable to remember the Vietnam War, have gone up from the number lost in that war (58,000) to well over 67,000 - some 3,000 young people dying per month, about 100 per day for 95 days. Canada has lost another 150 in the same age group, about 50 per month - one-seventh as bad, per million of population.
Every time I check it, I marvel that this isn't a big story for the regular media, with Deep Think piece on what is so different about the services, lifestyle, and health of Americans under 50 vs Canadians.
But this time, another number popped up for me. The American page has an entry for ages 0-17 that I don't even count on the Canadian side; as we've only lost 25 kids under 12, and 11 more between 12-19, so far, it's round-off error.
Except that the American entry for "Age 0-17" just hit 1,001. They've lost a thousand kids who never got to vote. A thousand little graves. In most pandemics, that's so obvious; indeed, it's children who do most of they dying from infectious diseases, around the world. It's just with COVID, we hardly even think about it.
A thousand. Jesus wept.
As she huddles in a steamy shower, beating heat on her headache, we take heart at how minor these symptoms are, not just compared to those who wind up in hospital (up 30% in a week in BC), but compared to a friend with 'mere' double vaccination, who spent two weeks laid low and suffering, despite being decades younger.
Said friend is Albertan, and the bug hit her house just weeks before they would have been looking into a booster shot. All too few Albertans have.
Friends, Albertans, Countrymen, I can only praise Jason Kenney, whom CCCC depicted as a mad butcher just 72 days ago, for his province losing 2000 more Albertans to COVID than BC would have. It's been a long 72 days, during which time Jason has said the right things about vaccination. His foolishness with re-openings was excoriated in that last post, he's committed no new COVID blunders. He has also won over CCCC by calling out the Konvoy Kooks, with the word "Kooks", thereby authorizing CCCC to call them what they are. Anti-vaxxers, in the current context, are nothing more.
The latest installment of the sad tale of Jason's failure to get his population to vaccinate come from CTV News yesterday: Alberta is behind all the other provinces at boosters: just 37% have gotten it. They're leading in wasting vaccines, of which 1.5M have expired on us in Canada, this year.
CCCC can read you the Butcher's Bill for Omicron in Alberta. That main wave of it from the winter is well past, of course, we're currently just seeing the rise of the next one. In the 72 days since that "Jason the Butcher" post, British Columbia has waved farewell to 367 more COVID-19 victims, about five per day. Alberta, exactly 500 more dead, or 7 per day. As that post of 72 days ago calculates, of course, the much-higher number of "over 70s" in BC should me that we have 40% more dead, not Alberta. In sum, HALF of those 500 dead in Alberta would still be enjoying sunsets in BC, rather than gone into the sunset, in Alberta.
Age-adjusted, Alberta now has twice the COVID death rate of British Columbia. And you can't hang that one on Jason; you can hang it on the attitude he struck until recently, but more and more I think he was just pandering to what was demanded. The fact that he's about to lose his job, not for losing an extra 2000 Albertan lives compared to BC (or 2250, now), but for not being lax enough about COVID. Maybe, subconsciously, my oldster friends actually retired to BC, not for the weather, but out of embarrassment.
I've done enough "inside COVID-19" research; can I get better, now?
Americans were all yanking off masks in airports with cheers, glad that the apparently-useless, pointless gesture was no longer required.
Canadians, in American airports, were still wearing them voluntarily. At least, that's the claim of the CBC article about spotting Canadians in US airports - they're the group wearing masks.
The article was notable to me, not only for the nice quote from one traveller, who said, "There's science. Whether you believe it or not.", but something I hadn't read about the American judge who voided the mask rules.
Apparently, she's not just a last-minute Trump appointment, but one of the many for which the American Bar Association complained that she simply didn't have the courtroom and trial experience to serve as a judge.
CCCC chooses to assume that explains a lot.
In particular, the cough - each one a moment for reflection on other's fates - is shallow, clearly only cleaning out fluids from the top of the bronchial tubes, just as Omicron is said to be "shallower" in the airways - mercifully.
I don't feel like much (certainly not like blogging). I'm hugely grateful, though, after my age group, (60-69), in Canada, has seen 25,000 hospitalized, 6500 in the ICU, and 4000 dead. I'm feeling very, very well indeed - by comparison.
Heck, my covid experience, unless it gets worse in coming days, is far better than that of a friend, two decades younger, who was "merely" double-vaxed. So, I'm really grateful for that booster, even.
Vaccination has basically converted a Killer into a Cold. (Yes, colds do still kill, in advanced age-groups, and those already unwell.)
Here's another vaccination win, if you ask me: Omicron is supposed to be hugely transmissable, but Mrs. CCCC is still hale and healthy, despite rarely being out of breathing distance from me the whole weekend through now.
We may just have passed Easter, but at the CCCC household, it's Thanksgiving.
They persisted through the night, and I had that medium-bad headache in the morning, so I headed over to the nearest drug store, with my N95 very firmly on, and picked up my free RAT, followed the directions - and a very clear result.
But, as long as this is the worst of it, I feel lucky twice over. Lucky that it's so mild, and lucky that I basically get another layer of immunological protection, just before the four-month mark after my booster shot. Pretty much perfect timing; my vaccination is still at pretty much full-power, undoubtedly why I'm having just some sneezes and headache - but now I get a few-to-several more months of protection from reinfection. No, not perfect protection, but it'll help.
If they start talking about fourth shots for my age group, I can put it off until fall, when maximum protection will likely be needed.
I hadn't heard of "The Stranger" a Seattle-based news site that covered the Vancouver "Freedom Convoy" yesterday.
Yes, you read that correctly, there's still a Freedom Convoy that shows up at odd intervals. I knew they were still protesting in Calgary, had heard there were a few Saturday gatherings still on the coast.
But last weekend, they paraded through downtown Vancouver, mostly just in half-tons, mercifully, which have far less painful horns - but the horns were painful enough, as the writer has video proof.
It was in honour of Bill Gates' speech at TED, which was devoted to preventing the next pandemic, as he'd tried to prevent this last one, giving warnings in 2014. He can only profess bewilderment at being seen as a puppet master of dire conspiracies.
It would be funnier if we didn't now know how closely adjacent the anti-vax promotions were to anti-Ukraine, pro-corruption, pro-war promotions.
Ignoring them is the best strategy, of course, but, damn, one wants to go there and mock them mercilessly.
But, way back then, many pointed out that lots of vaccinations were a three-shot protocol, but with the three shots, done. Polio is actually a four-shot series, but, done even in childhood, done for life.
This, alas, is a coronavirus. The same kind that gives you colds. And we all know how long immunity from your last cold lasts: not even months.
But now that we have fourth shots rolling, now that third shots are being recommended for all adults, the question comes up again: will this become a permanent, at least yearly, ritual?
It might, but every outcome is still possible. This CNN article lays out the various possibles:
We've hit the "nobody knows nuthin" stage of the pandemic.
We can start looking for progress on this issue, now, though there's been very little. It takes time to improve ventilation, save by the stopgap method of opening windows and doors. And we can start talking about how that expensive, slow, serious change is needed, because it's starting to look like airborne disease is going to be an issue for years, maybe decades, to come.
There's a great introductory article on it at CNN. It talks about both the short-term methods of opening up windows, running fans. But it also goes into the need to just improve our HVAC systems, our standards.
There's been too little discussion of how all "indoor" spaces are not remotely equal in ventilation. Big arenas are almost an outdoor air; big box stores and most supermarkets, with the 6+ metre ceilings, are far less dangerous than a barbershop or a bar. We need to start grading spaces by their size, their number of air-replacements per hour.
The Irish Examiner has a nice short article on how we will keep having waves until the issue is addressed, because masks and so forth are just not going to be used in the long run.
I'm going to start looking for restaurants that "get" this.
I remain optimistic. I'm sticking by my 100-day-old prediction (in pandemic scholarship, that's one ancient prediction) that the wave after the New Year's Omicron wave, will be smaller, tolerated by the hospitals, will banish most fears.
Of course, I was refering only to BC, though I think our Maritimes, which did so well in earlier waves, will be the same. Our prairies, on the other hand, could be like the UK, they have the same vaccination levels.
But, it's certainly become too complicated for anybody to predict any more. Too many variants in simultaneous play, too many differing cultures that mask-and-distance more or less, too many variations in vaccination level from province to province, from city to country. All these factors interact, and I'm afraid one glum prediction is that we will have wave after wave, all of them smaller, but all of them at least somewhat disruptive, and hard on the vulnerable.
That's my guess. I'm brave to have even one.
"Wastewater Monitoring" has gone from an interesting idea, early on, to the default measurement of the pandemic. The collapse of any interest or support for testing means we're blind, save for wastewater monitoring.
It's nice that the part of our society nobody even wants to think about, but is heroic because it saves so many lives from disease, is getting a little notice in the news for being such an easy, painless way to track the health of the population. It's cute, for an ex-employee, to see "wastewater" on every main news papge, for some story, because it's how we know a new wave is rising.
So many pandemic ideas were cranked up, but didn't get anywhere. It's great this one very humble one has become the hero.
So, many more posts may be a few words recommending a link. Today, about all the interest the pandemic has for me is An article at The Guardian about Omicron symptoms being different.
Yes, the disease is "less severe" but that includes nine new symptoms, and a great reduction in the big three: fever, cough, and that darn loss of taste and smell - all less than half as likely with Omicron; loss of smell only 17% instead of 53% with Delta.
On the downside, you can now worry about nausea and diarrhoea, on top of aches, sore throat, runny nose and headache.
I'll just tiredly add CCCC to the long list of advisors telling you that It Ain't Over and Omicron Can Still Kill You. You can unmask, but you don't have to. It'll probably peak and head down soon, I maintain some faith that this is the wave that doesn't scare us or shut us down. But that's no reason to be cavalier.
For the re-start, it's actually a bit early. Not that much has happened in the pandemic I couldn't have predicted a week ago! Hong Kong and China are still locked down, utterly screwed by their failure to vaccinate more than half their elderly. They'll be at it for another month or more, then immunity has to kick in. What a self-own!
Poland, happily, continues to show only declining cases. Maybe existential terror somehow protects a human body from the virus. Cuba really seems to have protected itself, still no sign of a new wave, as is happening across Europe, and, more mildly, here in Canada.
Nope, the link for today is that The Tyee is just going all Jack Reacher upon the re-opening. Two articles in two days by Andrew Nikiforuk, no less: A full-throated condemnation of the "Pandemic Denial" removal of measures, just on Monday, then a scathing review of Sweden's failed "herd immunity" strategy, just this morning. It wasn't just a bad strategy: a report by the top journal, Nature, scorched the Swedes for repeatedly lying and hiding information, to support their messages.
Surprisingly, the new Nikiforuk article was not The Tyee's top-of-page offering; that was this criticism of the BC end of restrictions, by Moira Wyton, their health reporter. I hadn't know the end of vaccine passes was this Friday.
I grant you, we're at 91% done, and the end of mandates won't de-vaccinate anybody. But I kind of join with Nikiforuk and Wyton in decrying the whole attitude being taken here, that it's over if we just will it to be over, will ourselves to be blase' about further infection and death.
The Tyee thinks we could do better, and I'm glad to have some voices sounding a counterpoint to the otherwise-dominant attitude that we should just start sucking it up.