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, 2023. All non-commercial use is granted.)
This is a good date to stop doing that. The blog will remain up, and now and then I will have a new story thrust upon me, in which case, I'll put up a notice on the brander.ca front page of the new entry.
I've been summing up my final thoughts on the three years for a week or so now, and there's not much more to say. Again and again, it was not just good governance that saved lives, but "good culture", as my last post stresses: socially-concerned people have to be a large majority.
The best resources, if you ask me, are the documentaries, and, still, the 2013 movie, Contagion. But the documentaries "The First Wave" and "Totally Under Control", are the most-powerful, and most-informative couple of hours you could spend reviewing the American performance in the pandemic, which was the most-dramatic.
Nowhere else did you get quite such clear lines drawn between those who accepted the medical facts and advice, and those who considered all that a hoax to control them, for reasons that have never become really clear.
I mean, whom, exactly, did the pandemic benefit? A lot of companies that provided services that became important, but the demonstrators never finger Big Pharma, or Big Delivery, as the villains: it's always "government" being driven by puppet masters that remain in the shadows.
I can only hope the absurdity of all that starts to sink in, as the tensions and passions die down and become part of history. There were anti-vax conspiracy theorists all the way back centuries, but history does not remember them well. I trust the same will happen to those of our generation.
I really think it is a very revealing difference between the two cultures. There was a lot of vague talk about Canadians just being more rule-abiding, more socially conscious and cooperative, more considerate. We do all that apologizing, after all. Do the people who say "sorry", a lot, survive community pandemics that much better?
I don't even know of a journo that made the distinction between the "retired" pandemic and the "active community" pandemic, as two different cultural and epidemiological phenomena. (Active people caught it in the community, at work; older people caught it from family.) I, at first, called the main pandemic the "care-home pandemic", because of the massive die-offs in the first wave. But the dying continued for the old, when it was reduced in care-homes.
Once again, that ratio of deaths, between Canada and the USA, was about 3:1, though the ratio is dropping now, as both have about the same death-rates these days. The 3:1 was during those waves.
Even the unstoppable Omicron waves were ending when the graph at left was published January 18, 2022. It's little different from the figures I'd spotted a year earlier, below. The raw American death-counts, the Canadians multiplied by 8.75. The story of those under 50 were hidden by the 95% of the pandemic that happened to those over that age. Because these higher ratios between Canada and the USA were only found in 5% of the pandemic.
But, we are not talking trivial numbers, here: a couple of days after the post with the above chart, Jan 21, 2022, I noted that America had lost more people too young to remember Vietnam (under 50) than they had lost in Vietnam itself. They've lost over 60,000 of their under-50s. Over 20,000 of them under the age of 40. Canada hasn't lost 300.
Phrased as a percentage of the deaths, this seems small. You'd think, of course, that "young people" wouldn't become an ignored minority. There was coverage of how much worse the pandemic was for people of colour, though they are a smaller minority.
But, take away the smokescreen. Suppose there had been no "old pandemic"; suppose that COVID-19 stopped having any effect at age 50, and the only people killed were sixty-thousand Americans felled by a disease, all of them in their years of working and raising families. That would be a huge story.
And journalism missed it, except for a hobby blog with almost no readers.
What the heck, I'll throw in the older graphic; I put in work on these, might as well recycle. As you can see from the dates, this is from the first "Dying Young" post, with weekly data back at the end of 2020. Once again, the Canadian figures are NOT our actual deaths, but ours multiplied by 8.76, so that they compare directly to the American figures beside them.
Please notice, that back in 2020, the death rate ratio wasn't just seven-to-one, as it eventually averaged out to: it was 9:1 and 10:1 and worse, particularly at the youngest ages, in their thirties. I had to stress that with my "Thirty-Something...and Dead" post in February 2022.
These ratios are just too high to explain with mask mandate acceptance, vaccine usage, alone. The 2020 numbers are from before most vaccines were available, so vaccines have nothing to do with those 10:1 numbers at right!
I'll close by re-iterating one more time that the pandemic was a Deep Test of Deep Culture. How people react day-to-day with everybody around them, not just how they react to government pronouncements. How they act in the privacy of homes, around their own families, as well as out at the store.
Older Americans, generally not involved with work or much hour-to-hour childcare, no kids in school, were able (and willing) to protect themselves about a third as well as Canadians. How much of that one-third was "unable" and how much was "unwilling" is hard to guess, but I'm heavily on the side of "unwilling", as it didn't come to much more than behaviour and masks. (Again, no vaccines available when the ratios first appeared.)
If anything the dropping ratios, from 10:1 down to 7:1, and now the two nations are at almost 1:1 that their behaviours are both "post pandemic", suggest that vaccines moderated the bad effects of American behaviour, rather than vaccination-rate differences being a part of the poorer performance.
It's even more suggestive that the deadly "bad behaviour" of Americans (presumably, just didn't take distance and contact in general seriously) is worse for those with other things on their minds: work, school, kids.
I can only suppose that the whole business of not taking public health warnings with the same seriousness, social spirit, means that it's 3 times worse if you have no competing interests, 7-10 times worse if it conflicts with anything else, particularly your pay.
I wish the best of luck to sociologists and historians that look at the whole pandemic through that lens, of national characters, of culture, of social spirit: I've compared two mostly-very-similar nations quite closely, and found huge differnces in that. These can be found all around the world, and we'll know more about humans, and about human society.
And maybe how to save more lives in the next one.
Is it that they're all very old, were already sick, mourning was expected soon, anyway?
I knew one of them. At 69, she was responding very well to cancer treatment, had quite reasonable expectations of pulling through it, having another decade or more - just like that "average of 13 years" of life-lost in the first wave.
She was very likely one of the 2000/year that die because they caught the disease in hospital itself, even though outpatient, it was almost the only outside-trips she was making. While there was the cancer itself, and while her compromised immune system began falling to other pneumonia-causing infections after the COVID hit, there was little question that COVID made the difference between pulling through, and suddenly dying.
The family mourned fully, but it wasn't a news story. And that, I suspect, is the 2023-and-onward pandemic: people die would probably would have made it and had another decade or more; and people who would have had a few, or several, more years, just dying earlier.
Rather than the costs of pandemic-fighting -- not even restriction-costs, we aren't even talking about upgrading ventilation standards -- we've decided we can just live with that. And die with it.
That's your real "new normal".
A whole new mystery occurred to me looking at the Vancouver Sun article linked from the graphic. It's about a survey of Canadians in 2022 that showed we had 98% "seroprevalence" of COVID-19 antibodies in our blood - 52% of them from infection itself. (Presumably, 8% of them were entirely from infection, as we're only 90% vaccinated. The rest, from both vaccination and infection.)
What caught me as mysterious comes from the CCCC coverage of how Alberta's gross death rate was as much as double that of BC, if you age-adjust. The graph shows that BC had about 50% infected, Alberta more like 57%. More-infected, alone, explains 14% higher mortality, but not the 30% Alberta did have. And not the near-double that CCCC estimated it should have been, because BC has so many more old people in our demographic pyramid, as shown at the above link.
Theories? Oh, theories are cheap. Alberta is not only way more conservative, but her oldest are the most-conservative, and that was very associated with non-cooperation: less vaccination, masks, the works. Did Alberta's seniors do their dying before vaccines were available? Seniors vaccinated the most in the population, not just 90%, but 96% and higher. If BC seniors got to 97%, and Alberta's only to 94%, that's double the number of unvaccinated, who did over half the dying after they were available, despite their small numbers.
But, until somebody digs into exactly when all the dying in BC vs Alberta happened, how many were unvaccinated, how many were old, it'll remain a mystery. And for all the dashboards and stats reported in the pandemic, getting to the bottom of some of these details will just take years of work.
I picked that mystery, because it's from this week, and my location. But, as we look around the world, you find poor places that did well, rich places that didn't, places that defied restrictions and didn't suffer that much, places that obeyed them and suffered. There are many forces at work, we didn't understand, or even know, all of them.
Here's some journalism I haven't seen:
Today, the coverage is a percent or three of what it used to be, and most of the dashboards with rich data have been shut down. It's been possible to find stories just looking at gross death rates, at dramatic things still happening around the world (China, until recently), and there's always the infrequent story about a new vaccine development, or lack thereof.
But, on April 2, I'll move the blog down out of the "Daily Blogs" section and not make it a daily effort any more to find material. Now and then, a story will thrust itself upon me, and I'll highlight that there's a new post on the brander.ca front page.
For the next three days, I'll have some "summing up" posts that look back.
So, this is just a housekeeping post? No, the COVID story here is me - every (non-commercial) blog is about the blogger. (THE book about the "blogging era" is aptly titled "Zero Comments".) We all needed some tools to maintain our equilibrium when the world reeled. I wrote to vent, and to at least try to make sense of a situation where I had no control.
Having readers was irrelevant. (As McCartney said about silly love songs, there's nothing wrong with that, in an old man shouting at clouds.)
"Having a sense of control" was the big personal story of the pandemic: people hated losing control - of where they could go, what they could do, whether work would be steady. Not even to mention the legal mandates.
When we say "the pandemic is over", it really has nothing to do with seroprevalance and death-rates. We've always got death rates. America has ten times our gun death rate, a hundred times our school-shooting-death rate; they get on with life, and stubbornly resist cultural changes that would reduce it. We have an opioid death rate in this province that is twice the COVID death rate, and we just put up with it.
(Both are about the sense that "it won't happen to me". That'll be one of my summing-up topics.)
Nope, the "pandemic is over" in that people have regained a sense of control, of normality, even if a (slightly) "new normal". In me, the symptom is that the feeling of need to write about it, has been fading.
If only there were vaccines for mental health.
A link about it, for you: Two-thirds of long-COVID sufferers report being unfairly treated at work. Which figures. A disease without much information yet, many won't have an official diagnosis of it - and the symptoms neatly mimic a person malingering: endless fatigue.
A bit of coincidence across the pond: this article in The Atlantic is about families struggling with a seemingly-endless series of colds, flus, and other minor diseases that have the household paralysed - those not sick are giving care...and society at large is unhelpful and unsympathetic.
It's the least-appreciated, least-covered part of the pandemic. As time passes, I suspect it will get a lot more attention, as so many cases are not going away.
Yes, in the UK, they were still on about "PartyGate", and it remains the go-to comparison, to note one's own inability to attend dying relatives or their funerals:
People who remembered being unable to see their dying relatives because of Covid rules were furious. A man who called in to the Nick Ferrari show on LBC broke down in tears, while Mick Hucknall, lead singer of Simply Red, joined a chorus of denunciation on Twitter declaring at 3.13pm that: "While Boris Johnson was having his leaving drinks party, like millions of others, I was disallowed to say goodbye to my dying father-in-law In hospital. You despicable lying BASTARD!"I'm coming away from three years of pandemic punditry confused by the media on only two subjects:
In the US, the equivalent, Trumpism, says that great power gives you freedom from authority, you get to rise above it. That may be a principal psychological difference between your old Dwight Eisenhower conservatism, and the "Movement Conservatism" that ate it up, over 1968-2012. We're now using the word "fascism" more openly about it, as we see the belief that "the law protects me but does not bind me; the law binds you but does not protect you" is their ethic.
At least the British, with all their problems, still appear to get that, on Oxford Street, if not on Downing Street.
The Guardian article about revisionism not only reassure you on these grounds - again, the figure that the average first-wave death cost the patient an average of 10 years of life, not just af few, is repeated. Lockdowns (of various degrees) reduced deaths to a fraction of what they would have been.
If you see a revisionist article with the basic thrust that some measure didn't work, just spare yourself. If the article is about a study on how well it worked, that's fair enough, and you may learn some things didn't work especially well. But nearly every "intervention" saved lives.
Except Doug Ford taping off the playground equipment. That really was dumb.
So tells a story by Nora Loreto, whom I've heard as a Canadaland contributor, in "Passage", a Canadian newsmagazine that I'm an instant fan of.
There isn't much to add to the story, which you should read. It was just a matter of digging up a number that had to be there. A number they don't want, and don't want to report - and hasn't shown up in any other journal. Bravo for Loreto and Passage.
I can only echo her question: why has this been so ignored by hospitals, journalists, politicians? This isn't about a blame game; "iatrogenic" infections are a long-term issue, so long that I actually remember the word "iatrogenic" these days. This was a great opportunity to highlight the issue, work on new ways to reduce in-hospital infections to staff and patients alike.
Both my blogs today are about media missing a story, though the other one is also how they bought the false story instead. For this one, they just - missed it.
The third anniversary means that the third anniversary of CCCC is coming up in a week, the first year of this new blog file. A pretty good time to shutter it, or at least move the link out of the "daily blogs" paragraph. I've kind of been digging up material for it on purpose, because it seems like the dominant narrative lately is that the pandemic is still going on - we're just pretending to ignore it. When we can. Friends the other day were chatting about a nearby resident who can barely make it up the stairs to visit: long COVID, can't breathe.
But, perhaps it's time to go to occasional reporting instead of daily. Cheer up with this US News and World Report article that sums up their take for the 3rd anniversary: much improved.
The US death rate just fell below what it was on that first pandemic day, lowest in three years. Every infection metric is going in a positive direction. There are no new strains appearing, and the decline of infections mean that new variants are less probable.
All cranky about Iraq all week, I need some good news. Pandemic "good news" is very relative (1119 still dead in the USA this week), but I'll take anything I can get.
The "today" in question was last Sunday, and I just found the article, so the comment was quite correct.
Much of it is about how we don't have ways to memorialize these losses. We have war dead (if not yet an Iraq War Memorial, 20 years in) but there is no memorial at all for the 1918 flu, for Polio, for Smallpox.
It really seems we just want to forget. It hits me that there will be almost no fiction that you can date to the pandemic, because everybody in the story is using masks, keeping distance. Just about every production did everything it could to pretend that their story was just before the pandemic, just after it, happened during a summer lull in cases...or something. Nobody wants actor's lovely faces covered!
CCCC did a very early post about how people were saying "unprecedented", or "not in living memory" when it wasn't.
I'm getting the feeling that people born after 2018 are simply not going to remember the pandemic, won't be reminded of it in any way, perhaps not taught much about it in school. I don't recall my lessons about the polio epidemic, and it was just seven years in the past when I started grade one.
We want to forget. Let's not.
That was cause for celebration, when our ICUs never quite broke this winter, but the steady toll we've become accustomed to, is multiples of the flu deaths that we'd been accepting before. Now, we've somehow adjusted to 150,000 dead per year, in America, and Canada is down to 14,000/year, about 80% of the American death rate per million. (When it was a third of theirs, the whole pandemic.)
There's just no reason, at present, to imagine this will end, or even change. There are no better vaccines being announced, and the ones we have, they seem to be pulling back. This death rate is ongoing, despite the availability of Paxlovid. Metformin may halve our 10% rate of long-COVID, but that's still really bad.
And, just to bring in Iraq, again, today on the anniversary, we seem to just be forgetting the previous world, where all this dying seemed like it couldn't and wouldn't be tolerated and lived-with.
Here's a fun fact for you: many of those who most-opposed mask mandates, vaccination, distancing - I'm just certain they have an overlap with those who hate "Medical Assistance in Dying", though nobody could have done more to assure that the very old and bedridden, are assisted into the void.
I googled, and got zip, but the Wikipedia Article, which is actually pretty good.
I'm on about Iraq today, because we are now just hours from the 20th anniversary of the first bombs falling and the killing started - tonight, our time.
It was about as you'd expect. Bad pandemic-fighting, for lack of resources; few hospitals, not much oxygen. Just a lot more people simply died quietly at home.
The did some travel restrictions, school and office closures. They produced some great proof of super-spreading, when people held funerals, only to infect half the crowd.
Oh, and lots of looting when archaeological sites were left unguarded.
I just thought I'd mention it. How much worse Iraq did at the pandemic, than it would have done if not destroyed, is part of the cost of the war, which Iraq has to keep paying, and paying, and paying, even as the United States, and particularly her journalists that helped get Iraq into this pit, would prefer to "move on".
I'm sure they would.
CCCC now extends this studied indifference to Racoon Dogs. Because I don't want to learn what racoon dogs are, that they are held in pathetic and awful conditions (almost certainly) and killed from some really stupid reason, like their imaginary Viagra-like powers.
CCCC got it this far in life without taking on that sorrow, and there's already enough sorrow. It still just doesn't matter what screwup is the underlying cause. It all boils down to China running itself like a real modern nation, not a pretend one with lots of high-tech toys they got from studying us, instead of progressing past wet markets. Nothing is going to make me not-pissed at the vicious, genocidal, incompetent government of the "People's" "Republic".
So, with a disease that really picks on old people, you'd expect BC to have the higher casualty rate. But BC actually has logged 5278 dead, to Alberta's 5619, or 7% higher than BC. The ratio was much worse 13 months back: 40% more. That was when CCCC roughed in an "age-adjusted" death rate for Alberta TWICE as bad as BC.
The death rate, the last five weeks since CCCC compared hospitalizations, is actually even now. Are things getting better in Alberta, or worse in BC?
But here's what still twice as bad in Alberta as BC: the hospitalizations. Both provinces are now counting all people in hospital with COVID, and only roughly estimating that half are there "with" COVID, half "because of" COVID. The Alberta "with COVID" is actually now well over 50%, perhaps hinting the virus just has greater community prevalence through Alberta.
And Alberta just keeps having about 500 in hospital, BC with barely over 200. So why the lower death rate? Well, they are younger! Perhaps only now, the prevalence in Alberta has fallen to "merely" twice as much, the death rate has fallen to the same, since it takes twice as much COVID to kill as-many Albertans.
It would be great if there were more academic work on this with proper statistics, at which CCCC is amateur, and afflicted with very poor "dashboard" updates these days. The "competitive", "COVID Cup" aspects of this pandemic should provide fascinating natural experiments, by comparing polities. The American states and Canadian provinces are particularly good laboratories of pandemics, because they have so many similarities under the same federal systems.
What I'm kind of proud of, is that the 2018 comment looked ahead to "supply chain" problems, in the last sentence, that people were not thinking ahead about, even in the pandemic. Here it is:
Watch "Contagion" (Score 1)
by rbrander on Sunday September 30, 2018 @11:21AM (#57399560)
Attached to: 100 Years Ago, Influenza Killed 50 Million People. Could It Happen Again?
Flu pandemic is one of the three "not ridiculously unlikely" emergencies our building picked for its "Emergency Preparedness" considerations. Basically, if something has a 1% chance per year of happening or better, then we'd include it. That came down to major earthquake, 100-year storm, and this, all of which can disrupt basic services and even food supply.
The movie "Contagion" shows a fairly realistic depiction of how such a pandemic could go, and food supplies do run short at one point, the army is handing out MREs, and not enough everywhere.
When I took training for it at work (running a water treatment plant) years back, they point out that it isn't about that many dying, or even that many being sick: it's how many people are home with sick kids and other relatives, how many SAY they are because they're terrified to leave the house. So we trained up all the office staff to be able to (basically, with supervision) run the plant so that even if we were at 25% (plant-experienced) staffing, we could keep the water on. Electrical and gas utilities have similar strategies. Grocery chains and private trucking companies do not, to my knowledge.
I've scrunched it down to the edge of legibility, but the upshot is that the USA has been working hard to make sure the next pandemic is worse.
It's the Republicans, of course, nearly every time. Some 30 states have weakened the authority of public health to do things like close businesses, require masks, require quarantine.
It will all be kind of "funny", in a very dark, ugly way, when the next pandemic has a higher death rate, when it kills people in middle life or youth. As the movie "Contagion" shows, people panic pretty fast when they realize that this might kill them. It's like how vaccination rates were much, much better for people over 70 than people under 50, this time. If everybody is the equivalent of "over 80" to the next virus, there won't be any resistance to public health measures: public health will just have to suggest that bars are where you go to catch the Killer Disease, and the bars will be empty.
But, before that attitude takes over, these rules will get a whole bunch of Americans killed - mostly in "red states", as there was more dying in red states this time.
This was like the "Joke of a Pandemic", compared to 1918. It was so lame as a killer, picking mostly on people that nobody but immediate family cares about any more, that people disrespected it, ignored it, pretended it wasn't there. And now, they want that pretense to be law.
When something like 1918 hits, there will be no more joking around. No More Mr. Nice Bug.
Then all the laws will be changed back. Nobody will have to admit to anything, of course. If it takes more than 20 years to happen, they'll all be gone, like those Iraq War Architects that are not celebrating any 20th anniversaries of their genius this year.
If only there were consequences for Republicans for their last huge mistakes, they might not have had this power to ensure the next one.
In about six weeks, it'll be six months since my last booster, and a year since I caught the bug. We recently heard that catching it confers pretty good immunity for "at least 10 months".
And we previously knew that boosters begin to lose effectiveness as soon as five months.
A case could be made, then, for showing up as soon as they arrive, apparently late April. But all these numbers - ten months, five months - are loaded with the typical conservatism of doctors giving advice that's best on the side of caution.
As it happens, ten weeks later, I turn 65, putting me into the "recommend" zone, though of course I'll just be ten weeks older. It's more the stretching out of immunity that attracts me to wait a few months. My immunity is probably "good enough" to keep me from serious harm, on into the summer months, when risk will decline.
Indeed, if prevalence, which has been level for so long now, does drop this summer, I might stretch it towards fall, when immunity has fallen further, and risk, higher.
And the way their enthusiasm for this is weakening, it might be the last. I'm not sure why it is, when the prevalence is hanging in there, the consequences can still be as serious. "Endemic" is not the same thing as "all over".
But for some bored-on-Sunday reason I clicked on a YouTube video of Tony Fauci being asked about it. He gave the answers you'd expect: that a lot of smart doctors strongly feel that it just naturally jumped from animal to human.
It was the "naturally" that reminded me. The "lab-leak theory" isn't just that China was researching coronaviruses and one got loose; the full "theory" is that China was engineering a bioweapon - altering the virus to attack humans, and not just to study it.
That's where it makes sense to obsess over it, rather than shrugging that the source doesn't really matter, as CCCC feels. If China was trying to do this, we're under attack!
But that's just straight-up freaking nuts!
What an apallingly stupid attack. A coronavirus? That everybody can catch? That is hard to immunize for? That you can catch over and over again? That would be the absolute worst "bioweapon" of all time.
The dullest, slowest reader of Tom Clancy novels could write the description of a good one in his sleep. It would be a lot more lethal; it would be possible to completely immunize a population against it (yours), and it wouldn't mutate around the immunization. You'd never go searching the coronaviruses for a bioweapon.
It's not just that maybe the virus was in early development, and they had no vaccine yet, so that China suffered badly from it all, too - this would have been a really stupid avenue for research, like searching for Bigfoot - in Saudi Arabia.
It's a shame that none of the journalism about it stops to contemplate how ridiculous the basic idea is. Fact is, they love a conspiracy theory, too; it grabs eyeballs. Now I've blown a third post on it, I've got to stop.
Mostly a review of things that went poorly with the pandemic fight. Alas, it does not review ongoing controversies (at least CCCC and The Tyee think they are) about lack of improved ventilation, particularly in schools, just the "look back over 3 years" story.
The key thing is that, at least she admits we are not in a good place to have another pandemic. Mostly, she means the medical staff and systems are stretched thin.
That should improve with the blast of money going in to BC medicine, and time for the profession to rebuild with new blood, and, one hopes, some coming back because of the improved pay.
We are just not in a better place when it comes to basic infrastructre. Should another respiratory pandemic come, we should be ready to only close what has to be closed. And know what those are. That's a big topic, more later.
Walther wrote about nobody worrying about masks, distance, or vaccinations, that he was aware of, in his rural Michigan home. Well, the Atlantic readership exploded at him, the linked journals above wrote articles contradicting him, or at least crapping upon him for his attitude towards immune-compromised people, old people in general.
I figured I could just sit back and wait for vindication (or not); we'd find out about now who was over-cautious, who was criminally negligent.
I'm realizing I could do quite a number of these "how it all worked out in the end" pieces, now that we are at something of an end, at least of the panic phase.
This one is not equivocal. The map at left is very plain, about Michigan. It did ninth-worst in the American COVID Cup, it was the ninth-highest state in deaths, at 4226 per million.
But the thing about Michigan, is that it is just across a bridge from Ontario - that same bridge the Convoy blocked at $400M/day. It has the highest rate of easy drives to Canada, and vice-versa. And Ontario, just a river away, had barely one-fourth the death rate.
What the entries on that map show, are the death rate for the state or province, in deaths/million, and then in parentheses, how many of Michigan's population would still be alive if they'd had that other death rate. (So, Michigan itself has zero.)
I hope those numbers sink in. Michigan has a quarter of Canada's population, and but lost 80% as many people. Thinking that 30,000 people died because their neighbours were so dismissive of the needs of the time, is just hard.
I hope Matthew Walther goes to Mass a lot in 2023, thinking hard about 2021. It would be a very Christian act of humble self-doubt and self-examination.
One, the pandemic is finally showing the statistics of being endemic, no longer growing wildly. "A break from COVID Waves", as he says, at the very least - aceepting the possibility of another variant starting a new wave.
It could happen, but for a while now, the "XBB.1.5" and "XBB.1.9.1" variants have taken over the world, no other variants seem to be beating them anywhere, and we have amassed enough immunity to hold them down to a "mere" twice as bad as a bad flu-year, but ongoing.
Apparently, "endemic" means, "get used to losing 150,000 Americans and 14,000 Cnadians per year as a new normal".
The thing is, we are accepting it as a new normal. Already have. Sad for old people, getting those last few years clipped off, but we've accepted it.
His second piece of good news is that there is finally a treatment that knocks the prevalence of "Long COVID" down by 40%, a drug called "metformin". The general anti-viral, Paxlovid, has also been reported to help with Long COVID, but they've yet to study it randmomized, or in concert with metformin.
Long COVID is a terrible problem, affecting millions; we are just starting to come to grips with it. As Topol notes, we now have one drug shown to prevent it, and no drugs that treat it.
So there. If you're going to treat the pandemic as over, we get to spike the football (or our arms, one more time) and declare a massive victory in the CanAm Games.
The perennial topic here at CCCC, the COVID Cup itself: who did best at saving lives? CCCC loves to contrast our own fine country to nearly everybody else that's not a well-run island. (Alberta would have beaten all Americans if it weren't for the island-ness and not-as-American culture of Hawaii.)
CCCC in the past has put up similar graphs to this, with all 51 US States and The District, to emphasize how nearly all the blue is way to the left. For today, we won't bother with 94% of the country, just the 7 best-performing states. Only they are in Canada's league.
And we throw in Arizona, which is (ounterintuitively)their worst state, a remarkable contrast to very central, busy, dense Washington DC, being one of their best. So much for rural locations being protective - which reinforces the priors of CCCC - that there are no safe places, only safe behaviours. I guess we should congratulate the majority-Black, very urban population of DC for their good, smart behaviours.
A pity their government doesn't think they deserve to govern themselves, since they can clearly manage life better than 95% of America.
They're so smart and sensible, they could almost be Canadians.
Christos Argyropoulos MD, PhD @ChristosArgyrop@mastodon.social
Stating the obvious about #covid19 , but some times the obvious must be spelled out:
Reinfection = Boosting of Antibodies+ Immune damage
Re-vaccination = Boosting of Antibodies without Immune damage
If the *additive* immune damage from each reinfection does not decline to zero with successive reinfections, the *cumulative* immune damage will increase over time. Therefore, the apparent steady state of the last year will unravel as we stop revaccinating.
Is this a gamble one wants to take?
(Well, anybody not involved in tightening up procedures for wet markets or biolabs, both of which are worthy projects, wherever the pandemic came from...)
It's what you'd expect from the USA: China "Hawks" expound lab-leak; China "Doves" just avoid the topic.
Chris Wray, of last week's "FBI likes lab leak" story, is a Hawk who wants China pushed back more forcefully, more done to harm their efforts in all quarters - military, economic, diplomatic.
Beating up China, for them, isn't about fighting the pandemic, avoiding another, or getting any accountability for China's mistakes; just heating up public dislike of them so that there's support for other things.
That just clicked, made perfect sense. The next "lab leak" discussion, you can check out of, as soon as it starts.
I've added to that graphic, the badly-sketched Orange line that shows, roughly, Canada's pandemic performance, measured by deaths per million. I'm kind of on about that same topic as yesterday, that Canada did very, very well in the pandemic.
Other pandemic superstars, like New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, are basically islands, in the sense of being easier to isolate and control arrivals. Canada has a long land border and constant traffic with the near-worst pandemic performer. COVID was rushing into Canada from the States, when a flight from Wuhan every day was not transmitting. So, we did really well to be so much better than Europe, if not half as well as the Islands.
The graphic was used by Lucky Tran, on social media yesterday, to promote his disparagement of "Western" attitudes to masks:
The misplaced arrogance of Western countries continues, despite having handled #COVID-19 far more poorly than Asian countries. Asia learned a lot from SARS and did much better during COVID. The West, it seems, is determined to continue repeating its mistakes.With that graphic beside that text, you'd have to admit, the Asians were way smarter, it must be the masks that have saved them. Until I drew in the Canada line.
Now, it's true that Canadians were way more accepting of masks than Americans. As that post said, the Americans ripped their off right in the airports when the announcement dropped, and the Canadians, en masse, did not. However, with a little more time, Canadians all dropped their masks, too, and continued to do it through all warnings of the "fall surge" that wasn't that big. And we still are. And that graph is what it is. Yes, worse than many, but poor Hong Kong lost 9,000 people in two months with Omicron, then 4,000 more since November, are now at 30% worse than Canada, despite all their mask-wearing, and 92% vaccination.
CCCC keeps coming back to the same conclusion: when you compare two different countries, you often find the same superficial response to COVID, but quite different outcomes that suggest that the real results are down in the details that are harder for journalists and public health people to see: how well are the masks worn? How diligently? How intelligently? Are people leaving masks off, mostly, but putting them on when it really counts, the tight spaces? Are Canadians just better at avoiding each other, sitting back in meetings?
We are doing something right. But "wearing masks constantly like Asians" is not it.
Germany, for example, went into the pandemic with a detailed national pandemic plan. Its politicians understood, from the beginning, the importance of ramping up testing capacity and of containing cases of the disease. You only need look Angela Merkel - a scientifically literate leader who was able not just to understand but to explain the intricacies of relevant scientific principles to her people - to see how different it could have been.Ah, Angela the respected scientist, kept her country's losses down to 2500 per million, in contrast to the much higher 3000 in the UK, nearly 3500 in mismanaged America. Just 2500. Bravo!
Canada had 1300, half that. Half. The big diff between scientist Merkel, the incompetent Johnson, and the actively superspreading, mask-hating Trump, was just a range from 2500 to 3500, some 40% worse. Whereas Germany was 100% worse than Canada, America nearly 200% worse.
So, where's the praise for Trudeau? These things, you notice, are all heaped upon the Leader, the top guy gets all the blame, though much of it is for the overall behaviour of their society: if the pandemic taught us anything, it's that you can only push people around so much. But, that's the deal: the top person gets all the blame and credit, from journalists in search of a clear "narrative", a simple explanatory story.
Except when we come to Canada, where there is no way in hell that even generally liberal, left-leaning journalists are about to call Justin Trudeau, of all the well-known, not-a-rocket-scientist figures, some kind of maths genius and brilliant leader, who should get all kinds of credit.
For that matter, Mr. Legault in Quebec has utterly escaped journalists badgering him as to why his province had twice the death rate of the rest? (2117/million in Quebec, to Ontario's 1140, BC's 1043.)
Maybe he's bad at math.
Yes, Christopher Wray was irresponsible to go offering theories about COVID-19 that he can't really substantiate, or even win an argument with against the doctors that are much more sure about the food market. Law enforcement officers don't do that about single murders, they shut up until they have good enough evidence for court. Certainly, the "revelation" does no public good - excites a lot of angry words, without giving anybody any certainty or closure, any progress towards justice.
Most likely, a servant of a famously secretive agency was not hurting the public good while just looking for attention, but executing a strategy to put pressure on China in some way, for diplomatic efforts. Keep them unpopular, take away oxygen from China's efforts for our public opinion. They aren't the only ones that can manipulate it. In Canada, it was TikTok, same day. Pressure.
But, honestly, who cares? My climate guy, David Roberts, has the clearer view, yesterday:
1. There's no real practical *consequence* to whether the virus came from a lab or a market.Absolutely goddam right, David Roberts. My view exactly.
2. Nonetheless, a set of pundits has *obsessively* pursued the leak theory, repeatedly declaring victory despite a lack of evidence.
Oh, and the final cherry on this shit sundae: the pundits in question, the ones obsessively discussing the lab leak, are also whining that discussion of the lab leak has been "suppressed." As they obsessively discuss it.
I always thought one of the hardest things about covid, psychologically, is that there was no one to blame. It was just a bad thing that happened to us all. The only rational response was compassion & care ... but lots of people aren't satisfied w/ that. They want anger & blame.
Anyway I hope never to discuss this again, as I don't much care where covid came from. I care a lot more that we're not doing shit to protect the vulnerable, we're not improving air circulation in buildings (etc.), & we're not beefing up vaccine programs.
Many thanks to The Guardian for an article debunking the latest anti-mask nonsense.
It was one of those "meta-studies" that just summed up other studies - 78 of them, of which only two were about the hyper-infectious-and-mostly-by-air COVID-19. Most of the rest were on flu, and mixed up studies of partial masking with full masking. Just an academia shitshow. Worthless.
But, seized upon by right-wing journalists immediately, trumpeted as the Final Answer, the Truth At Last.
Read the article; I can hardly be bothered to sneer at them any more.
CCCC wrote about how we would now clear the air. That one was true, but not because the pandemic showed us clear air in Delhi. So, very, very not true was the Major change in the economic structure, where we proles would clean out the rich. As if.
CCCC wrestled with the question, through April 2020, whether the pandemic was "Year Zero" (my version of "great reset", I guess), illustrated with a reminder that the last "Year Zero" involved pyramids of skulls - societies don't change easily! By a few weeks later, I was already saying the same thing as the two Guardian headlines at left: "Everything is NOT Different Now".
The modern construction of newspaper web presentations by algorithm caused the inadvertenty-funny journalistic cringe humour at left: just a few weeks for The Guardian to concede their first headline was dreaming in technicolour. The second story agrees that Xi was damaged by his COVID blunders, but stresses that Xi put together such a hold on power, that even this cannot break it.
And, I'm afraid, our own power centres of oligopolies, finance, and their control over governments are just as entrenched as Xi. Even two years of global upheaval couldn't do more than a dent - in Xi's authority, or theirs.
They phrase it as "five shots, we're done". Those with both original shots, two boosters, then the recent bivalent booster, are not getting any more. I've just had the four shots, basically skipping the second booster because I caught the disease last April. Maybe I can get one more, because I had just four - or not, because the last one was the bivalent?
As usual with these government announcements, that's all unclear. Can I get a shot if I pay for it? Is this just about the money? Unclear.
All I know, is that the shots are a microscopic risk, and are likely worth it, more so as I age. So I'll be following this story, very closely indeed.
Here's some sharp snark from a random citizen, "Augie Ray". Thanks, Augie.
If there's a storm, you cancel plans without whining about needing to live life.
You wear a seatbelt, even though it may not save your life in an accident, without complaining it is uncomfortable or difficult.
You don't drive drunk, in part because you know it endangers others, without sniveling about your freedoms.
We can adjust behaviors for #COVID19, wear a mask, and protect others in the same way. This isn't hard. We already do it all the time.
Nicely done, Augie. Only with masks and vaccination did anybody demand they be perfectly effective, or that it was wrong to require them. I'd thought before that "seat belts" and also "motorcycle helmets" were great examples, because they were also so bitterly resisted and hated, but the complaints died away, leaving a new "standard attitude" behind. Before that, there was some grumping about check stops, too, that they were presumption of guilt, taking away freedoms.
And I can thank Augie for his contribution by giving you the link to his Mastodon conversations with people who replied. You don't have to join Mastodon to have a look.
The data itself, from Calgary schoolrooms, whether collected officially, or by parents sending CO2 monitors (left) in with their kids, is clear enough:
Air quality in Calgary's newer schools, built after 1970, is pretty good. In the 1950-1970 schools, it can be more like the CO2 monitor on the kid's backpack at left. That is, way out of compliance for school boards that have addressed this issue.
Which the Calgary Board of Education basically refuses to do. They've done a few things to improve ventilation, where it doesn't call for too many changes. But they absolutely stonewall parents looking for information; they actively prevent them from protecting their own children with DIY solutions like buying expensive HEPA filters, or making inexpensive Corsi boxes, for their kid's classrooms. A teacher was threatened with severe career consequences for trying to add ventilation.
A parent went to the trouble of getting doctor's prescription for the HEPA filter for her vulnerable child, spent four months working her way up to the Superintendent of Schools, then had to wait another five months - a whole school-year, total. In the pandemic.
I was always sickened by the bureaucracy of what Pierre Poilivre calls "The Gatekeepers". They not only don't work to help, but they act as gatekeepers that won't allow others to help. Why? Well, solutions must come down from the top, or the bureaucrat is no longer a "crat", no longer the governor of the situation - that's always the person with the solution.
I was there, in a bureaucracy. It's the job of the IT department to provide the IT. The fact that the customer department - in my case engineering - might have highly technical programming-capable staff, better able to solve their own problems, is irrelevant, compared to the turf battle: I wasn't going to take their turf. They not only wouldn't provide it IT I needed, they would forbid me (as best they could) to solve it myself, which would break the monopoly.
There are reasons to centralize: we can't have rich parents keeping kids safe, while poor parents cannot. But you can do that temporarily, when you are in any event not sure (even the parents aren't really sure) that the DIY is actually safer. That provided a splendid opportunity to declare it "an experiment", do it in some schools, not others, keep records. What a great way to teach the kids science, the scientific approach to saving their own health!
On the contrary, they discourage the kids bringing in air-quality monitors to even study it, disparage all the data as amateur. And refuse to talk abou it.
On the data, I have problems even with the journalist: calling the parents "nerdy" in the headline, and begging the reader "don't turn away" when the topic is ventilation. Dude, it's a really serious issue for those parents: would you call Black Lives Matter "nerdy" because they go on about the statistics of Black-vs-White arrest patterns?
There's more respect for science in this similar story about BC, from a few weeks ago (CCCC apologizes for missing it). Same story there: bullshit arguments that a Corsi box isn't "CSA certified", when the expert queried points out the obvious: they can only help. It's not like filtering air can possibly cause harm. Jeeeezus...
If my prose sounds angrier than the subject requires, well, I spent decades under that kind of bureaucracy. And what makes me boil is their language, their bland, information-free responses designed to make further discussion impossible because of the equivocation and temporizing. The article mentions that many of these parents have jobs that involve this kind of information-processing, data-driven decisions that you see at left; it's clear from the CBE responses to them that they are out of their depth, faking it, hoping it goes away.
They're the ones that should go away. And I don't even know whom I'm say that of: the story just says "CBE response" over and over - no name to take responsibility and conduct discussion.
Finally, finally, the very-abundance-of-caution story that you should get vaccinated, even if you've had the disease, has been replaced by proof of how protective prior infection is, and it's pretty good: 88% reduction of hospitalization/severe-disease, and for a good 10 months. (Lancet, pretty gold-standard work.)
I'd still get vaccinated, even if I'd had it, and I certainly went on to get my second(!) booster, barely six months after I caught it. There's absolutely no rgood reason to forgo any added protection. I'm one of the people that has reactions, too - that last booster cost me a day of feeling crappy.
But, this goes a long way to explaining why the pandemic is, however slowly trending down in cases and hospitalizations - if you didn't get vaccinated, you got infected, and if you got infected, it was pretty protective.
The doctors would have me hasten to tell you that this is mere statistics, not your personal risk. People have gotten three and four vaccinations, and still gotten the disease, repeatedly, and gotten it worse on the second or third occasion than they had it the first time! Anything can happen with COVID. Your own actions should have that abundance-of-caution, if you also have an "abundance of caution" about dodgy-smelling food in the fridge, or crossing an icy street with a truck coming at you - even if the statistics are in your favour both times.
The overall population, however, is now about 100% vaccinated, in effect. China is all vaccinated, this way, the hard way, at the cost of millions dead, as is India. Good news for the world.
But, for now, it's been four months since my last vaccination, and that means it's two months until I next ask.
But, that's their story, and of course they're sticking to it, and the millions of Chinese families with a dead relative can just shut up.
Which is why historian Tim Snyder is right when he says we don't need to let Putin save face by keeping the Donbas or Crimea, or anything. It doesn't matter what happens to Putin, the truth will be what he says it is, and he can enforce that, just as Xi can enforce the most ludicrous, self-evident lie.
So, if there's a tiny pixel of silver-lining in the Chinese catastrophe, at least it means you can tell Putin Appeasers to shut up.
It is recommended by Justin Ling, who doesn't agree with all of it (zero evidence that tear gas was ever used), but thinks it's pretty fair to both sides.
Of course, Justin has done a lot of journalism on the Convoy, nearly all of it negative towards the organizers and half the participants.
I just don't need more of this. Like everybody else, my opinions on the Convoy were fixed a year ago, very resistant to change.
The only issues worth discussing, to me, is how we handle such disruptions in the future - whatever political faction they arise from.
CCCC is having some fun today, the first time I've copied that "embed code" from a YouTube and included a direct YouTube frame on one of my blogs. Normally, I have only my own video content, and of course the rectangle at left may just go blank one day, it's somebody else's content. But if somebody can watch this for me and tell me where to find any good parts it may have, it'll be worth it.
All my favourite journalists are on that Convoy Report this week, so I'm repeating comments enshrined on this blog, on the subject of "fringey-ness" of the Convoy numbers.
I've just looked at some of this YouTube, and the first 36 minutes are not the documentary, but four people on a Zoom, talking about it. Skip to about 36:30 to go straight past the chit-chat and title cards.
A successful ICU doctor has to be the calmest, and most calming, of persons; they must have the best defenses against stress. This interview with one at The Atlantic is actually reassuring and soothing to read.
There have actually been fewer cases than expected (same at her distinguished workplace, Cedars-Sinai in LA as here), they have much better knowledge of how to handle them now, known treatments they trust, "less chaotic".
The staff are not as stressed as that terrible first wave, because they're all vaccinated, their families vaccinated, they have relaxed about the risk to their own lives.
Most of their current patients are in there because of those darn co-morbidities, their other health problems. (N.B.: The number of people coming into ICU for other organ-health problems has increased since before the pandemic. That damage to our overall health is very perceptibly real.) But, as she says, "Today, the people in the ICU are the sort of the people that you would expect to see there, as opposed to two years ago, when you had plenty of people who really had no known risk factor for being there."
There are still a lot of unvaccinated in the ICU, and she can only shrug sadly about it. "It can feel disheartening to know that certain things are preventable. If someone had just been vaccinated, or if the people around them had been vaccinated, or if somebody had worn a mask, maybe the transplant patient would still be alive..." But, she's not angry, not horrified. Of course, she sees a lot of what most of us would call horror.
After comparing the first wave to "flying the plane while learning how to fly", she notes that now, they know how to fly the plane, how to handle cases:
"Yeah. It feels like you know how to fly the plane, and you're pretty sure how to keep people from falling down the chute. And you can't understand why some people are voluntarily jumping off the plane. But at least you know how to get people safely on the ground if they choose that. And, I guess the analogy would be, there's the frustration of seeing some people being pushed out of the plane by people who don't care about getting them sick."
Recommended, to lighten your day.
The spikes, even I know, are, as the headline says, "crazy interesting", because they don't change the way the tops of the spikes change, with every new variant.
By clinging on to COVID, the protein shuts it down. Life or death in the ICU may have depended on just how much LRRC15 the patients could conjure up to strangle it.
I'm mostly going to focus on good COVID news, in CCCC. Come here for your cheer-up. We're winning.
CTV reports on a 2022 trial of Paxlovid that gave it to some 8000 out of 180,000 cases of COVID, about 5% of them. 2.1% of the ones who got it went to hospital. For the rest, 3.7% went on to hospital. The cases were mostly people in their 70s, who'd been vaxed.
(A CCCC reminder, the "freedom fighters" who didn't get vaxed were mostly endowed with "youth privilege". Freedom-fighting was far less popular with those over 70, who knew they were at real risk of their lives. They were about 95%-98% vaxed.)
So, if you took it, your odds of going to hospital were about 56% (2.1/3.7) as high as if you didn't take it. That's one pill worth taking.
The 8000-odd drug courses avoided 130 hospitalizations, roughly, since lots who did take it wouldn't have gone to hospital either way; you can't know that when you start the drug, ASAP after diagnosis (preferably). If everybody had gotten it in 2022, they would have avoided 20 times more - about 2600 hospitalizations.
Surprisingly, this article at The Star isn't paywalled, and features comments that Paxlovid only works this well if given to the most-vulnerable patients, limited to those over 60, or with health problems.
Not sure I approve; maybe it doesn't avoid hospitalization for many 50-somethings, who wouldn't be going anyway - but if a few dozen dollars' worth of pills could turn 3 weeks of hell into a week of bed-rest, I think the 50-something should have the option.
No doubt, that means "more study needed", which will probably arrive in 2024.
The article is about how the lack of approvals, that it likely won't get "emergency use" authorization, means it probably won't make any practical difference.
It's like when only Donald Trump could get monoclonal antibodies, back when they were first found, but rare. You're getting a post, here, partly because the article also notes that monoclonal antibodies became useless a few variants ago; they were specific to the first variant, and they can't keep up. The story for the day is that the whole business of "game-changing" treatments, not just the fake ones, but the real, hyped, ones, never paid off.
The article mentions that Paxlovid is the only treatment we've got. It doesn't even mention the much-hyped Molnupiravir, which so much money was spent on.
And that's the oddest story, today: what happened to Molnupiravir? The most recent story that came up was last September. In five months, 6,000 Canadians have died, most in hospital. The story from September is unclear whether any had even been delivered, and there are certainly none about molnupiravir (or Paxlovid, for that matter) making any eye-opening difference in the death rate.
I guess none of those game-changers really changed the game - at least, not compared to vaccination. A little hard to cheer about drugs that mostly make a difference for people who refused the better option. But: we can be glad for the people with immune problems that forbade vaccination, I guess. Maybe they're so rare that they can ask for the Interferon.
|Province||In Hospital||Per mill.|
So, are things going well, or is that ugly graph the ugly truth?
I don't recall a lot of stories, certainly no Conservative complaints, about Alberta having far more COVID deaths than BC, proportionally. (5510 dead in AB, vs 5139 in the province with 25% more population - about 33% more, oddly enough, and about the same number of added dead - funny coincidence!)
CCCC must admit that the hospital loads reported a week ago, were actually out-of-date. This is becoming a plague upon CCCC reporting,that dashboards go dead, but fail to mention it, or post a "last updated" date, even. Today, CCCC checked that its source is still updating. The stimulus here is that BC again reports drop in hospitalization, below 200 for the first time since 2021.
First point to note, the grand sum total of Canadian hospitalization is down - 3795 now, well below 4000, well below the last number on the scary graph. Very encouraging (he said cautiously).
When CCCC had more energy for this stuff, there'd be a bar chart, or map, or something to highlight that hospitalizations across the country are wildly different. Again, I have to say, "oddly enough", the difference between neighbouring Alberta and BC is over four times as many in hospital in Alberta, population-adjusted. All that from us being at 90% vaxxed, Alberta only 80%?
Keep in mind, BC has a major strike against it in the COVID fight: we have almost twice as many old people, per million, too. We should be the higher one.
As CCCC has proposed before, it more likely comes from the same different attitudes that also lead to lower vaccination.
But BC-vs-Alberta is just the sharpest contrast: why is Quebec twice as bad as Ontario? What's with the huge number in Manitoba?
COVID stories are about vanished from the news; CCCC is feeling more like a lone sentinel every day. But there has to be some value in this data - if we were looking harder at why some provinces are doing so well, maybe we all could be.
So, that means that there is time for the long-term, basic scientific research that takes years to bear practical fruit. And they're on the case, at the University of Sydney, where they've found way to block COVID-19 infection.
This is a protein that binds to COVID-19, but won't let it pass on into cells.
The article is very quick to note that "this offers a promising pathway to develop new drugs", which clearly means "nothing will come of this in 2023, and probably not 2024". Even 2024 would be breakneck, wildly-unusual speed for new drug development.
And it's for more than COVID-19, as well, they're optimistic for developments with other coronaviruses, and for fibrosis in the lungs.
We may not be rid of COVID-19 for years, but I bet we totally beat it in, not even the long term, but the medium term. '19 ain't makin' it to '29.
But here are some things not in the full text of the Throne Speech, which I checked after finding nothing about schools or COVID in the news stories.
There's no mention of COVID at all, save as a past event that "set us back". There's no mention of medical-infrastructure, vaccination, or even programs to help with COVID suppression. Will we even build up a supply of ventilators and PPE, remember when it was a scandal that we didn't have enough? No mention. More beds per person, how about that as a goal? No mention.
Schools come up a few times, but after subtracting mentions of medical schools and residential schools, the kids' schools are barely mentioned, as something we will build in fast-growing areas, surely the most "Duh" of promises.
Nothing about money for school ventilation or air-filtering. Even after the need had become obvious, they'd rather stick their heads in the sand.
The school boards are independently elected, they're immune to Eby's displeasure. They should make known their own.
But there have always been disquieting stories about how restrictive they are with information, how they let RAT tests go to waste, how they just could. not. stand talk about school ventilation.
And critics from within are not appreciated. Dr. Sanjiv Gandi just couldn't take it any more and quit. From a life-saving, top-pay job as a heart surgeon.
His calls for mandatory masking and ventilation got him big on Twitter. His adult kids were all relieved when he quit what he called a toxic workplace. (There were two surgeons in BC that could do heart surgery on kids. Now, one.)
Dr. Gandi appears here today, CCCC urges you to read his story, because of one remarkable comment he made for The Tyee:
"We don’t need more money necessarily, we need thoughtful creativity," he said, pointing to an initiative he helped lead to support children with congenital heart disease at home that, conservatively, saved the province $4.8 million over two and a half years.Absolutely goddamn right, Dr. G. The Costa Rica philosophy. How good to know that the guy at the top of the high-tech medicine totem pole, a heart surgeon surrounded by the highest tech, appreciates that even more lives could be saved by some low-tech, low-cost public health measures. Nurse visits. Home care. Masks. Corsi boxes.
"If it’s about dollars and cents, the cheapest health care is keeping people healthy in the first place," he said.
I'm just sad he picked the Green Party, who are not getting near power any time soon. I hope he does good work as a public critic.
Being a bunch of geeks, one brought a $250 CO2 monitor to show off. We all played with it, which was pretty limited to breathing right on it to make the number shoot up to 1200.
As covered earlier here on CCCC, CO2 monitors have been recognized as a good proxy for COVID risk. The "400"-sized numbers at Citizen Brewing were normal outdoor air numbers - the patio's tent-covering and heating units were making no difference to us just sitting outside. (And, indeed, it wasn't warm enough to take your coat off, just unzip a bit.)
Places that monitor air quality try to keep that number under 800. And 1000 is considered bad air, take caution, it's lowering your IQ.
And then we come to the tale of The Atlantic journalist who bought one, and it "broke" her. She could not get her air quality better than 1200. Hours of running her one range-hood fan and opening windows until it was cold, barely got her to 800. It was mostly above 1000.
This wasn't even COVID risk: she was worried about the CO2 itself, not to mention whatever was coming from her gas range. And her problem was:
...my apartment's air quality has a lot working against it: two humans and two cats, all of us with an annoying penchant for breathing, crammed into 1,000 square feet; a gas stove with no outside-venting hood; a kitchen window that opens directly above a parking lot. Even so, I was flabbergasted by just how difficult it was to bring down the CO2 levels around me.
...the thing is, I live with another human and one cat, and our place is also 1,000 square feet. The author found it hard to get the numbers below 1,000 even by letting in so much air that he place was very cold.
It has me wondering how much bad air we're putting up with, and whether we even know where the COVID risks are, just by looking around a room.
|Province||In Hospital||Per mill.|
The graphic is from a story today in CTV news, that hospitals in BC are lower than ever in "patients with COVID", about 40-50% of whom are in there because of the COVID. The lowered hospital numbers track with dropping wastewater indicators, and others.
So, how do we square this with the graph of soaring numbers of COVID hospitalizations across Canada?. That graph is from respected sources, as well, covered here just two weeks ago.
Can it really be that BC is this island of dropping cases, fading infections, improving conditions...while the rest of Canada is making up the difference by having large, and rising, problems?
The story is about BC dropping to 204. The table beside it is for all of Canada, last week. It shows BC still at 273, but the others so much higher. The table to the right comes from this CBC report:
The total comes to 4168, somewhat lower than the scary numbers on the January 20 graph. But not much. The other provinces really are doing much worse.
The "Per Million" column is a little rough, but you can see that we, Nova Scotia, and Ontario, are doing more than twice as well as the Canadian average (112), and the lowest-vaccination provinces, the three prairies, have five times as many citizens in hospital today. Vaccination doesn't explain a lot, though: Quebec and New Brunswick were about as vaccinated as BC and Ontario, but have triple our hospitalizations.
What bothers me even more is the difference in shape between the two graphs. The BC one is the reassuring "pandemic over" story we are hoping for: slow decline in hospitalizations, as the population gains immunity by jab or by infection.
The other graph is a story of a pandemic still growing and threatening.
OK, but it's not threatening BC. What are we doing so right, that the next three provinces to the east are getting so wrong?
Some vitamin fans baffle doctors with doses so high that even humble, normally-microdosed vitamins cause toxicity symptoms. I came across the news that vitamin D has been seriously looked-at for reducing both infection and disease risks since 2020, on YouTube - not where I normally, or ever, go for COVID wisdom. The guy with the piece on it (I won't link) said he was taking 4000 IU per day, at which point I clicked it off, though he has a good, sober reputation.
When the cancer news came out, they started talking about the 400 IU per day recommendation being merely to ward off scurvy, that 1000 IU per day was a better level. A GP in a clinic told me flatly to go to 2000 in the winter, but I haven't; just the 1000 IU pill, plus a diet that I'm sure is giving me hundreds more. Most of my reading suggests that by 2000, you're just eliminating it hours later in urine.
And I try to get some sun, all summer.
Multiple studies, like this one, are now concluding that at least "good", definitely non-deficient, levels of Vitamin D do protect against infection, and against severe disease, if infected. The reductions are perhaps a quarter, maybe as high as a half. Higher supplementation levels are associated with more benefit. Black patients get higher benefits. Multiple studies now. It's for real.
I might even start taking a second 1000 IU pill per day, for another month until there's some more sun available. Probably too much, but heck, just another nickel. The current "immune escape" levels of the XBB variant mean that a 25% reduction is nearly as good as vaccination!
Take your Vitamin D.
"Misinformation about COVID-19 is estimated to have cost the Canadian health-care system at least $300 million in hospital and ICU visits between March 1 and Nov. 30, 2021. This doesn't include the cost of outpatient medication, physician compensation, or long COVID. Model outcomes also do not include broader societal costs, such as delayed elective surgeries, social unrest, moral injury to health-care workers, and the uneven distribution of harms borne by communities."I think the things they didn't include are larger than what they did. We could round it up to a billion.
We have this information because of our respect for free speech. Man, it's expensive. Not just dollars, obviously: it cost a lot of lives.
The report, by the way, comes from a group I hadn't heard of, but will keep an eye on. The "Council of Canadian Academies" is a non-profit that gets experts from the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, the Canadian Academy of Engineering, and the Royal Society of Canada - our most-distinguished scientists are invited to volunteer and advise. The Council exists only to provide professional analysis and substantiated facts into public debate.
No wonder they hate misinformation and reported on it. Thank you.
I think that "mess" would be a word he could buy into. It's a COVID soup of different competing variants and sub-variants out there, no neat waves any more, just a steady rise, with waves on top of that.
It's this diametric contrast to all the socializing going on now, even fairly elderly people gathering indoors without masks, just bearing the risk. And Nikiforuk stresses that the risk could easily rise again, not just gradually go away as more and more immunity is gained from infection. Animal reservoirs; immunocompromised patients breeding another Omicron; China's billion-plus infections, a billion new chances for variants.
CCCC can only go back to its basics: protect yourself; and call for ventilation and far-UV. Calling for masks seems hopeless.
It's not like these folks are charities: today, Slashdot summarizes the NYT story about big pharma Abbvie making $114B by gaming the patent system.
The news piece above says the government should "stop them", with force majeure, of course, how else? Why not just outcompete them on the free market?
CCCC has already covered alternatives. Day after tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the post on the amazing vaccine invented by the US Army Medical Corps. "Spike Ferritin Nanonparticles" might be the vaccine that crosses all variants! Let's get trying it, it's been a year.
Then there's just another company: it's almost a year since Novavax was approved in Canada, haven't heard another word about it.
Indeed, just look back a year to the CCCC coverage of multiple new vaccine victories. That includes a reverse-engineering of Moderna's vaccine, given away for free in South Korea.
And our coverage of Amy Goodman interviewing Dr. Peter Hotez, and his free, public vaccine is over a year old now. Dr. Hotez developed a patent-free vaccine that vegans will take, haven't heard from him since.
We have a lot of options. Moderna and Pfizer have made their pile and should be moved along.
While I'm at it, a link to the movement to just nationalize Big Pharma. Enough.
"It shows me: protecting lives was never the motor behind zero-Covid. Power was. Now the Chinese people also see it."
Or, more simply:
"I felt it was all for nothing"
The first, a survivor of one of the lost, last week. The second, a student who spent weeks in a dorm with no showers and little food.
That's the sense of the article in The Guardian this morning, about China's loss of over a million people (we believe) in the last few weeks.
The details are about how quickly the lockdown was lifted, the speculations about why - the main one being that Omicron was already ripping through the population, lockdown or no, as happened elsewhere. By opening completely and suddenly, the Chinese medical system was doomed to overcrowding and inability to save hundreds of thousands.
If the death-toll is under four million, it's actually better than the USA - China will have to exceed 1.5 million dead to do worse, proportionally, than Canada has already, much less the States.
But deaths that did not have to happen, the pointless deaths, are the problem for Mr. Xi. Nearly every Chinese family may lose a grandparent, and lose them at home because hospitals are full.
One gives up hope for another Tiananmen Square uprising. But, perhaps, this travesty of public health will be long-remembered, some justice sought. The costs of dictatorship have been made very plain in both Russia and China now, in one year flat. It's a bad winter for China, but, as George RR Martin would say, perhaps there's a hope of spring.
But, save that, there are no stories about COVID on the main pages of most news, today. Nothing about China, which presumably is doing a lot of dying, but we have no newsies there to record it. Nothing about other countries, no waves anywhere? Really? I suspect that everywhere is like here, like rural China: just ignoring it. The dying is now confined to the old, happens at a level that doesn't quite break hospitals, nothing to see here, folks.
Well, today is 365 days since the Convoy rolled into Ottawa, and it is a story that they died out. Something not happening is rarely a story to the major news sources, but CCCC notes it with great satisfaction. As I reminded various forums, and posted here at CCCC, they were always indeed a "small fringe", with three to four times as many Canadians getting vaccinated every day of their protest, as participated in it: some 2.5 million jabs into Canadian arms while 10,000 protested for three weeks.
Just 500 are expected in Ottawa today, and I wonder if it will reach that high.
The only "convoy story" remaining, is whether any politicians in the Prairies, or one in Ottawa, can mobilize some extra votes out of the protest movement. That the election of 2021 showed no great bump in numbers suggests not. You'd have to assume there were really a lot of people that would vote for Poilievre that just couldn't stand the weak-tea conservatism of O'Toole. That number is not zero, but I don't think it can turn an election, either. Trudeau will just have to lose it himself.
Manning, for the young, has always been a bit of a nut, though a very capable politician, organizer, and debater. His main legacy has been destruction.
It was him that got Danielle to break up the Conservatives. (He loves destroying Conservative parties.) He battled with Harper about whether the Conservatives should be religious, should condemn homosexuals.
And for years, he's been saying that populism can be a good thing, if you harness it correctly, like an oil well.
No, really, he used an oil-well metaphor. Points for consistency.
The Indians did not have a revolution, throw out the awful Mr. Modi, have major inquiries; they moved on.
So, apparently, is rural China, even as the dying is probably peaking about now.
They don't have many hospitals out there, just village clinics. A local doctor is quoted as saying that he didn't hand out too many ibuprofen, because they'd be wasted. Remember us frantically scrambling for ventilators, so we could ventilate for weeks, pull them through? In China, they just die that first week, get buried in the fields - under a little red flag, as the image shows - and I guess, move on.
This CBC story from a week ago notes that the average age of death is 80, that 90% of deaths are over-65. In rural China, maybe all China, they're still thinking, "well, that's normal and natural enough; that's how life goes", hold the funeral, move on.
It's what the most right-wing leaders of our own countries wanted us to do, back three years ago now. Just suck up the casualties like an army taking a hill, and get back to work.
No wonder they like to send our jobs to China.
New Type of Ultraviolet Light Makes Indoor Air as Safe as Outdoors(note the 10-month-old dateline, and the lack of the world changing in 10 months)
March 25, 2022
A new type of ultraviolet light that may be safe for people took less than five minutes to reduce the level of indoor airborne microbes by more than 98%...
But the thing is, the rest of the sentence is:
...a joint study by scientists at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and in the U.K. has found. Even as microbes continued to be sprayed into the room, the level remained very low as long as the lights were on.
When I started googling on "Far-UV", there were many links. The studies date back to 2020 itself. One was on Global News in 2020. The web page for that story had an advert link on it to "LightProgress.com" which has a bunch of Far-UV (or UV-C, or 222nm) products. It's an industry.
So, what's going on, here, why isn't this a part of the conversation about schools? Well, there is money. The Global story mentions a thousand dollars for an installation, but many note there are few manufacturers. Another google took me to estimates of $1500 for just 300 square feet. Five bucks per square foot, maybe $55/sq.m.
If CCCC never heard about this in 3 years of pandemic-watching, there's clearly a disconnect between how well it works and how popular it is to even discuss it, if you aren't the Davos-rich. Probably no need to cover an entire school, how about just the classrooms, at about 2 square metres (22 sq.ft.) per student.
Actually, hang on, a hundred, hundred-and-twenty, bucks per kid doesn't sound impossible. What's going on, here? We should at least be talking about it.
Just click there, look at the Wikipedia picture, read the top two paras, save me the trouble. It's so freaking simple that will be enough.
Not that the Box lacks a distinguished pedigree: note that Corsi is an engineering Dean, Rosenthal a filter manufacturer. They did proper tests, can show you figures for how well it cleans the air.
The problem is that it isn't perfect. This really reminds me of the problems I had with IT departments: they could not stand half-way, DIY, cheap solutions. Everything with IT had to be a Big Project, and solve all problems. This wound up costing years, and millions - often to create a project so big, it couldn't succeed, and you actually got nothing.
Small, often DIY solutions that do 80% of the job with 20% of the effort, are often the best solution. In transportation, the little scooters you have to balance yourself don't do the last 20%, the self-balancing with 5 gyroscopes, that the Segway did, but they cost, not 20% as much, but about 8%.
In IT, something I could write in an afternoon and have tested the next day, often did enough of the job to mitigate over 80% of the effort of doing it manually, sparing staff-months, and a calendar year (no kidding) that would have been required to do 90% instead of 80%.
In epdemiology, it's all about the statistics, the probabilities, your odds of infection after an hour in a classroom with a COVID-positive classmate. If you can knock that down by 80%, it isn't good enough for doctors in a ward, but it sure is one-fifth as bad as "nothing" for our schools.
I've got my own, actually even-cheaper partial solution. The CCCC command centre is dependent, all winter, on a couple of $20 heater-fans I got at Canadian Tire when we moved in. For classrooms that have windows you can open, simply sticking one in at either end of the classroom (the two need to be on separate circuits, at 1500W) and you can blow in a lot of air without freezing the place, as it's all being heated on the way. On warmer days, you could add in more fans, with no cooling. Just pump air in. Simple, no? And $20 each.
Classrooms could handle a couple of heater fans, and a couple more Corsi boxes, with minor costs for power and background noise. They could easily be the difference between major and minor infection levels. We could at least try.
Julia started The Gauntlet a few months ago, with a tight focus on the pandemic not being (really, medically) over, and many powers-that-be attempting to promote the fiction that it is. (Early tagline: "President Biden promised to end the pandemic, then presided over 700,000 deaths.") It's pretty American-federal-political, with coverage of masks on the House floor, etc.
Anyway, her latest column is getting some notice. It seems those zillionaires of Davos, linked above, don't think the pandemic is over.
I'm going to make a few CCCC meals out of the protections that schools could be looking at, the next few days.
At left, one of those pictures worth a thousand words, about what is happening, epidemiologically. Keep in mind, that most hospitals are now just tagging cases as "COVID" if they test positive, whatever the reason they came in. (The graphic does not link - I got it through Mastodon, and credit for both the source and the Twitter presenter of it are on the graphic.)
So, there are about 90,000 hospital beds in Canada (The graph for how that has declined is appalling. We're down steadily, from 7 beds/1000 people when Reagan, Thatcher, and Mulroney took office, to 2.5, after 40 years of their neoliberal shrinkage of the public sector.)
And about 5%-6% of them how have COVID-positives in them, whatever their illness level. Is that just because the whole population is now about 5% COVID-positive? Or, at least, 5% of those who are in poorer health for other reasons, and vulnerable?
"Vulnerable" meant "Scared and shut-in for sure", but maybe even people with kidney or liver, or cardio issues are just strolling around in stores, these days. Certainly, not even 5% are going around masked.
Maybe we simply don't get out of this, until wide-scale standards improve for ventilation, as with an earlier post. More about ventilation tomorrow. Of course, maybe we'll finally invent a pan-COVID vaccine, as was promised by the Spike Ferretin Nanoparticles. We did beat smallpox, after thousands of years of not getting natural immunity. That required vaccines.
Today, it's basically an opinion piece, though the good kind, where there's a lot of supporting journalism in the facts: they say, "End Private Care" - stop making our system a mix of public and private, because the private side is the worst.
We think of private care as being the deluxe version, the only complaint is that the poor can't get it, must make do with second-rate public care. But that's not really our system. The private care is the one with the lowest staffing, the most four-bed rooms - and the most deaths from COVID.
People wind up there because Ontario has 38,000 on the waiting list. All homes, public and private, get the same funding, so there's no savings! Just lower service, presumably because more of the identical funding is siphoned off to profit. The waiting list means there's no risk.
It's very hard to get around their logic.
It wasn't uniform across age-groups. Far fewer died as you go younger, but that jaw-dropping ratio between Canada and the USA was highest for the 30-somethings: nearly 14 during the Omicron wave.
I threw out a theory that this was about the age where you're most-likely to have a job in the Real World, with your hands, not in an office, but what do I know; no other journalistic source, than CCCC, really got into that Can-Am ratio of dead working people, or explained why, either.
Well, the Fed Chair, Jerome Powell, at least noticed the loss. If not many journalists care that so many young people died, at least the economists miss their monetary contribution. They are economically missed, if not otherwise.
Of the 1.09 million dead, apparently 500,000 would have still been working.
But the loss to the workforce, from the pandemic, seems to be as high as 3.5 million: many left the workforce early, and never came back: too close to retirement, anyway, accept the loss of income. Obviously, many more were injured with Long COVID than died from it; some can't work. Some need nursing by family that then can't work. And there was a fall in immigration - which so many saw as a good thing, but employers, not so much.
When the difference between the American and Canadian responses to the pandemic is added up, the mere-filthy-lucre, economic consequences need to be thrown in the face of those who wanted to "kill grandpa to save the economy".
Apparently, it's so hopeless, suing the government, that it is rare for a judge to even let such a class-action lawsuit go forward. But the case against Ontario's Ministry of Long-Term Care looks so good, that a judge is going to let four families of dead COVID-19 patients Sue The Bastards.
This is wonderful news.
The bad news was that long-term care was already going into Stephen King's Memory Hole, where in "IT", the protagonists all forgot about IT, quickly, after the encounters were over. King's metaphor for how we all process trauma, how Holocaust survivors wanted nothing more than to forget, how major efforts to not-forget the Holocaust had to be made.
We want to forget the pandemic, particularly the most-horrible parts of it, and there was no part more horrible than the helplessness of standing outside a long-term care home, unable to do more than wave at a window, as people were basically imprisoned inside with the virus.
The lawsuit is going forward, partly because the judge accepted the estimate that 3,836 deaths were "preventable". Let's just say it: dead by negligent performance of licensed professional duties. There are thousands of families who can't just forget. I'm glad they're holding us to action.
Because of forgetting, we might never have gotten significantly better regulations, or new laws, new funding. We know that awful problems in Long-Term Care had been identified in reports twenty years back, so that remarkable statement has backing.
Where the legislature and executive both fail, the courts are the last chance for change. The courts hold us to our own morals, when we'd often rather express good morals, then slack off on the implementation. (Suppose there was somebody who could actually force you to really go on the diet you New-Year-resolved for yourself. Civil rights decisions are like that.)
I can't comment on the lawsuit, of course, it's not just medically technical, but how responsible government was is a real legal technicality. The value of the lawsuit, to the public, is that it keeps the event in memory. I look forward (sort of) to being reminded that they kept moving care-home workers from home to home, weeks into the quarantine, weeks after Bonnie Henry in BC forbade that. BC had far better long-term care results (relatively), and the difference should be thrown in Ontario's face.
Quebec next. They were worse, and Legault paid no electoral penalty whatsoever.
Now, I'm constantly commending my reader(s?) to Andrew Nikiforuk there, but this time, the man really has my heart thumping, because he's recommending my own area, engineering, not medicine, as the needed cure for the world's ills.
Much of the article is about how infection risks had to be engineered out of society, long before any vaccines or mask ideas where known. The elimination of thatched roofs; the introduction of water and sewer (Roy preens with professional pride) were the "cures" for plagues of the past.
And the "cure" for this one, is better indoor ventilation. Give us that, and the cycle of infection can be brought low, if not eliminated. Reduced below plague status.
With the Six Million Dollar Man, "we had the technology" (1973 TV show, current value: $42 million). We have the technology for way better ventilation, too. And $42 million would put quite a dent in the worst problem: schools.
That problem is enormously greater in America, where they have a lot of crappy shools, not-coincidentally in, ah, um, "Neighbourhoods of Colour".
This article points out that parents want nothing more highly than better ventilation, and that it will cost about $1M per building. So, for every Steve Austin, you could fix up about 42 schools, help maybe 10,000 kids, that's $4200 a pop. Ouch, yes, but that's about the cost of one year of their education, and it would be a one-time expense.
This isn't just about COVID. It's about every other disease, including the commonest of colds, which suck energy and work out of our populace as a constant drag on education and productivity. It's about particulates and asthma, which our cities impose upon their residents, a burden not felt in small towns.
It's got a bunch of benefits, which lead to quick payback. The costs are concentrated, the benefits diffuse, so of course, this has to be Government, as usual. Government money for public buildings, government regulations to strong-arm offices and theatres. (Theatres, we must admit, are a nightmare: such concentrated humanity, and airflow makes unwelcome noise. They'll be last.)
But, hey! Workers can lend a hand, and directly benefit themselves. Workers are resisting return-to-office, last I heard; and managers, hating work-from-home.
Well, fight your managers by demanding better ventilation as the price of return-to-office. Maybe a demand that CO2 levels average below 600 PPM. (This is where France just upgraded their school rules to 800 PPM. 600 is a tough demand.)
At least, establish that this is a condition of work (or school) that gets tested, measured, managed, required - at all. Only building engineers have even thought about this, so far. Building buyers only ask for the CFM ("cubic feet per minute", in American be "within building regulations". Well, let's improve those.
For a start.
I don't want COVID. Yes, another layer of immunity would be nice, but a few people with repeat COVID have it go very badly. Do not like even a small risk of long COVID.
Naturally, I'll have to use up the last test for it in the box, because I want to be sure.
Here's a funny thing: the keen new "XBB.1.5" (hope I got that right, not going to check) is supposedly the most-infectious yet, which means it must be measles-infectious, catch it from across a room. Yet, I somehow managed to avoid it, and catch a perfectly ordinary cold, instead. I joked to my wife, that if she doesn't catch it, too, it's positively not COVID, because we aren't keeping distant from each other especially.
That may be a data point, hinting that COVID is currently not all that prevalent, not if ordinary colds are more-so. I'm glad they've opened all those extra centres, of course, not only out of caution, but because the system is already at 110%, corridors and storerooms filling up.
Anyway, its cold, flu, and COVID season, folks. Wash your hands and stuff. You know the drill.
Being Nikiforuk, he highlights all the concerns, crying warning. I won't repeat it all, but it's the most-transmissable yet, the Omicron's Omicron.
And it sneers at your previous infections, your vaccinations, your boosters. Best "immune escape" ever, too. Well, crap.
My wife and I have become very hard-to-impress with risk levels, with all our immunity. (4 vaxes, and one infection, each). We have our N95 masks in quick-draw holsters, but just went through air travel, not wearing them in the airport, the waiting area, not even in the lineup. If an area has high ceilings, good ventilation, and you can mostly wave your arms without hitting anybody else (especially in front of you, breathing out where you breathe in), we can't be bothered. (If we'd been more than 5 minutes in the lineup, we'd have donned masks.) We did don them, in the jetway, and throughout the flight - but off again when hitting YVR. We left them off on the train, even, as it seemed the frequent stops, where a quarter of the walls become open doors for 30 seconds, constituted "pretty good ventilation".
The gang we had beers with, in Calgary, are all sixty-ish, and they wanted an outdoor patio. One guy brought a CO2 meter, and we all played with it, breathing on it to drive "450" up to "950" for a minute. Lots of people at our age are clearly still cautious.
I think we have the right approach. Kraken may be easy to catch, but it seems no worse killer or even hospitalizer. While it escapes immunity, it doesn't defeat your vaccination's power to keep you out of hospital.
There's little sign of increasing hospitalizations in the most-Kraken-hit areas of the USA, the northeast. They're up about 15%, so far. That tracks with increasing cases, but not enough to suggest more severity.
So, it's more of same, I think: keep a mask handy for "close air" situations, avoid tight indoor spaces if you can, get your booster if you haven't, and try not to stress. It only depresses your immune system. And your life.
This map blew me away, because the most-safe green-coloured countries are also a list of "pandemic superstar performers", as documented by over two years of CCCC postings, praising the "COVID Cup" top-league, and decrying, especially, the coutries with the resources to do much better, that failed because of their culture and governance. Notice some of the pairings of green-and-yellow neighbours with very similar problems, but quite different outcomes:
Canada vs USA
Portugal vs Spain
Norway vs Sweden
France vs Germany
Ireland vs UK
It's harder to compare South Korea, New Zealand, Japan, and Taiwan to neighbours, but that is the list of the four best "pandemic superstars", and they're all green on the map.
Alas, Cuba and Vietnam had to do amazingly well despite their status as somewhat-troubled nations on the larger risk map. But it's a very short list of "green", safe nations on this map, that managed to do badly in the pandemic. Basically, the Balkans did badly, but are rated 'green' here. Though you couldn't get me to travel to Orban's Hungary right now, with a pitchfork.
I offer no commentary on the cause-and-effect direction of this not-a-coicidence. Let's all just study it, and think a bit. We are really in danger of losing what wisdom the pandemic might give us, because we already want so badly to forget the damn thing. There was a similar phenomenon with the Holocaust, I believe.
Inhaled vaccines might have taken much longer to come to us, but China is in a desperate jam right now, as everybody knows, expecting a big wave in a week or so.
(I'm still skeptical on that: are they really going to start crowding tightly together so quickly - I think most will be more cautious, especially the retired, who can.)
It's still a Sinovax vaccine, all of which have been inferior, so far; but there are high hopes that the delivery mechanism, for a respiratory disease, may immediately provide higher protection to the upper airways, where the disease starts.
It's only been approve as a booster, so far, but because China is so big, we'll soon have some good stats on how well it works.
It's science versus nature, as usual: they took stock of resources, stretched them, asked parents to keep a kid one more day sometimes, and, above all redeployed nurses.
And, of course, as you know, they had to cancel surgeries and other treatments.
No big message here: just admiration for professionals performing at their best, under straitened circumstances that are our fault for under-resourcing.
Get your vaccine. Stay safe. And vote for more medical resources.
And COVID simply did NOT take off in a wave when we all retreated indoors from the cold and rain, over two weeks ago, now. Yes, we're still in hospital-hell, because of the other two 'demics, but it's not COVID.
Pardon me for optimism if I see a relatively bright spring ahead. The other two diseases can also be beaten by populations that reach widespread immunity. Inflation is dropping at last, the end of interest rises beckons.
If Vladimir Putin could just drop dead, preferably by catching all three diseases at once, it could be a great spring.
And, of course, they've under-reported COVID deaths, all along.
Now, Financial Times is being quoted, by those with subscriptions with the news that they're at it again, as cases, hospitalizations, and deaths rise. I'm reminded of Tim Snyder's point about why we don't need to give Vladimir Putin an "off-ramp" from Ukraine, to save his face: Putin controls all the news, can just declare victory at any time, no matter the facts, and retain power; there's no need for us to hand him a real victory.
China may get away with it. India attempted to tell the world they had only a few hundred thousand casualties from the Delta variant that country spawned; but it was world-wide news that oxygen ran out, literally millions died. Some models say China would be looking at a million, which would be better than Canada(!) by relative population. (Our death-rate would lead to 1.5M in China; America's, to nearly nearly 5M.)
China is re-opening cautiously, at the personal level, because so many were propgandized into great fear of the virus. The streets are still pretty empty. They may indeed, have "only" a million deaths, and claim that as a victory. Statisticians will agree.
Lessons Learned consoles us that our response to the pandemic was no worse than those of other provinces and sometimes better.I'm quoting the last two sentences of Crawford Killian's Tyee article on the BC "Lessons Learned" report on our pandemic response, because I'm following his advice at the start.
That was a low bar and this report offers little encouragement that our future responses will be better.
He praises the authors (3 now-retired civil servants) for following the journalism advice he handed out for decades: be aware that people read the start and end more-closely than the middle. Sum up well.
If you want a summary of his summary, I'll put it here in the middle, that nobody reads. We did well in general, but it got worse and worse as the pandemic wore on and nothing changed, no advice. People lost confidence in them.
CCCC was always a Bonnie supporter, because CCCC was always very aware of how much worse others were doing. Bonnie was never lying to say "we're in a good place" - at least relatively.
But my absolute favourite part of Killian's article was something he just tossed off: the government should never have called them restrictions, but, rather, "protections". They really handed the Other Side (I guess before they knew there would be this vociferous, mendacious "other side"?) a win.
What little COVID news is left, is mostly about China, as our hospital news has clearly turned to flu (without the hospital ever getting a break). It's all about worries that China will now have a wave of illness and death, and can they vaccinate fast enough, with their inferior vaccine that's 70% effective rather than the mRNA still at 90% for avoiding hospital?
Sigh. It's their fault for not asking for our vaccines of course - but on a human-race-scale evaluation of the COVID fight, one part of the race (Canada) is onthe brink of throwing out $1B in vaccines, that could have probably ended the troubles of 3 or 4 Chinese cities, if distributed to the third of their seniors that are unprotected.
Our pandemic is going to be a case-study for future generations, when we're all a Star Trek "One World" government.
Which is fine, but too slow, and it won't work, we know how bad uptake has been, and some pleading won't bump it much.
The Tyee at least mentions "ventilation". Once in the headline, again mentions it in the article. But nobody DISCUSSES ventilation, talks about it seriously - not DIY, improvised improvements to school ventilation, even, something accomplished easily with $20 electric heat fans from Canadian Tire, like the ones heating my patio right now. Blow in outdoor air, but throw away 1500W to heat it up, as you do. Replace the air in the classroom more times per hour. It could be as useful as masks would be!
Let alone, they've now had about 30 months to work on actual, formal, engineered ventilation for schools, and there are no projects, design work, no discussion.
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.