November 30, 2020

B.C. got its updated numbers today… sort of. More data correction with respect to Fraser Health, and 277 previously unaccounted-for cases that should’ve been counted between Nov 18th and 26th. It’s a fun challenge trying to incorporate that without wrecking the integrity of the data.

Of course, what’s really important is what’s going on now, not what happened a week or two ago… but it’d be nice to consider all of this data reliably, and I doubt we’ve seen the end of these corrections.

Corrections or not, what happened two weeks ago is more important than it sounds, because it’s those new cases back then that today unfortunately translate to hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths.

Looking at today’s big picture, here’s what it looks like: The lifestyle changes imposed upon us might be making a difference, as far as new cases is concerned. The last three days were surprisingly not as drastic as a pessimist might have expected… and maybe we can hope it’s the start of a trend.

Unfortunately, the trailing pattern to cases is, as per above, hospitalizations… and deaths, which seem to trail new cases by a period of about 10-14 days. That makes sense; for those whose course through this disease is a difficult one, it generally doesn’t happen all at once.

What we’re seeing now is the end-result of the spike in cases that led to those new orders being imposed and then being tightened a few days later. Those in charge understand well the implications, and that’s with a medical system that isn’t yet busting at the seams. So, what have we seen recently?

Almost 100 people have died of C19 in B.C. in the last eight days. Before that, it took 48 days for the previous 100 deaths to add up. And before that, it was 140 days. To summarize, in British Columbia:

May 19th to Oct 5th: 101 deaths (140 days)

Oct 6th to Nov 22nd: 101 deaths (48 days)

Nov 23rd to Nov 30th: 98 deaths (8 days)

That’s not a great trend… because if it were to keep up at that pace, we’d have over 300 new deaths by the weekend. Fortunately, that’s not going to happen, but this is a little taste of what it looks like when things go from bad to worse to downright scary.

It’s a little bit promising that the new case counts are starting to drop, but we are far from being able to say we’ve turned any sort of corner. Just take a deep breath and stick with doing the right thing… and we’ll see what this week brings.


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November 29, 2020

As the Trump presidency slowly comes to a sputtering halt, one lingering question in the “Now what?” department has to do with the forthcoming legal entanglements in which the soon-to-be-former-president will find himself.

To begin with, there is the idea that he’d pardon himself, but that’s far from trivial.

First of all, there’s the question of whether he can actually do that. There isn’t agreement on that point, but it doesn’t matter. That pesky issue can be easily sidestepped… just resign a few hours before noon on January 20th, swear-in Mike Pence for what would be the shortest presidency in history, and have him do it.

But that doesn’t really address the salient issue of pardoning him… which is, of what? Both Trump and his diehard minions have been telling us for years… it’s all smoke… no fire here… move along. That being the case, there’d be nothing to pardon. To some extent, they’re right. You can’t preemptively pardon someone for crimes they haven’t committed, nor admitted to, nor been charged with. There’s no blanket pardon he can grant for the future… “Just in case…” – it doesn’t work that way. So… for any of this to work, Trump would have to admit to the crimes for which he’s seeking a pardon. It’s a magnificent Catch-22.

A lingering question over the last several years has been about just how feasible it actually is to indict a sitting president, and where might those cases go. It seems nobody wanted to test those waters, so it’s been a holding pattern for four years. There were rumours before the 2016 election of what was coming down the line… that, had Trump lost the election, new charges and allegations would’ve been forthcoming. All of that was put on hold.. except there has been an additional four years of opportunity to investigate.

For decades, Donald Trump was synonymous with New York. His real-estate projects, his towers, his skating rink, his reality show, his presence… everywhere. You may have noticed Trump has significantly soured on New York, and the same can be said vice-versa. Trump has made it clear he’ll be moving to Florida and that he’s done with New York. Donald Trump may be done with New York, but New York certainly isn’t done with him. Waiting in the wings, there may be both civil and criminal charges. Trump has been under investigation by both the Manhattan District Attorney and the New York State Attorney General. There are also the numerous allegations of sexual assault. There are lingering tax questions. From civic to state to federal… and from civil to criminal, Trump may be facing a wall of legal problems.

And, with all of that in mind, it’s important to note… presidents can only pardon federal crimes. Nothing at the state level and nothing at the civic level.
A lot of people want their day in court, and many of them will get their wish… in what order, who knows… but I suspect the afternoon of January 20th, 2021 will be a busy one for the filing clerks.

Traditionally, after the new president is sworn in, the former president gets a helicopter ride from the White House to Andrews Air Force Base, and from there, one final ride in Air Force One… to wherever he wants to go. Right around the time a flurry of lawsuits are being filed, Trump will be boarding that plane. The flight plan will already have been filed, but you can always file more than one, just in case… and perhaps, right at that point, he’ll have a difficult decision to make. I wonder if he’ll have on him a little list of alternates… some welcoming places around the world that don’t have extradition treaties… maybe China? No. Russia? Nah. Qatar and the UAE are not unreasonable choices… you can live very well there if you have money.

Or, Georgia. The country… not the state.

November 28, 2020

No local numbers plus sunshine equals a short update today… but on the topic of numbers, Dr. Henry has been taking a bit of flak recently.

For whatever reason, B.C. continues to be the only province or territory that doesn’t release numbers over the weekend… and, as transparent as they claim to be with their reporting, it’s not so easy to get all of the numbers in an easily readable format. On top of that, the worst thing that can happen is to lose trust in those numbers, and a few days ago we learned that a week’s data from Fraser Health was wrong due to technical problems.

Eight months into this, and all other provinces and territories are reporting 7 days a week. I think we could be doing better here, and I’m not going to blame Dr. Henry – she’s not the computer tech in charge of things. But… she is the top of the pyramid for many decisions, and I’m sure she could talk to the right people to do something about it. We’re not talking about needing a press conference seven days a week; everyone is entitled to a couple of days off, especially Dr. Henry… but, by this point, all of this data consolidation and reporting should be on automatic pilot. It’s not like there are 200 counties reporting; it’s a handful of health regions. Those key numbers could quietly appear on the website and/or a press release could go out, and that’s all that would be needed.

On the topic of numbers, I’ve made a guess at what today’s B.C. number will be, and plugged it in so we can see what it’d look like and how it’d affect things nationally. Left of The Rockies, take it with a grain of salt. Alberta and eastward is all accurate and up-to-date… and not pretty, especially Alberta. Some of these Time To Double graphs are getting steeper, though it’s all very inconsistent from a day-to-day basis. Nevertheless, I’ve taken a crack at trying to “bound” the increasing growth with appropriate TTD lines. If you look at the bottom row of graphs, you’ll see what I mean… the TTDs all vary, but give a more accurate view of where things are at.

A summary of what they imply is this: Things are bad in the east because the numbers grew quickly, and now have reached plateaus where things are not manageable. The drastic measures that have been imposed are an attempt to not just stop the rate of growth of cases entirely, but to dramatically decrease them.

And things are bad in the west because these graphs are consistently steep and not relenting. At this pace, B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan will all have doubled their cases by the third week of December. It changes daily who’s accelerating a bit, and who’s slowing down a bit.

It’s like trying to call a horse race where you’re hoping to finish last, but unfortunately, these three horses, at present, seem to be battling it out toward the finish line.

November 28, 2020


By |2020-11-28T19:46:43-08:00November 28th, 2020|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics|Tags: , , , , , |2 Comments

November 27, 2020

If you haven’t already seen “The Queen’s Gambit”, you probably have a lot of people telling you that you should… and they’re right. It’s really, really good. You probably know that it’s about chess, but, like chess itself, it’s about a lot more.

The basics of chess are easy to learn; anyone can learn how the pieces move in less than 10 minutes. But then you spend a lifetime trying to move them well. I’m happy that series came into this household… I only wish it’d been at the start of this pandemic. There would’ve been a lot more quality screen time in those early days.

It was funny… a few nights ago, to hear my son yell for me… “Dad! Help!” – I ran over there… what, is the room on fire? No… he was on, playing against some guy in Russia, and found himself in a precarious position, not quite sure what to do because he thought he was about to lose his queen. That’s quality father/son time right there, ganging up to beat some Russian in chess. Right on.

I get the impression that Donald Trump wouldn’t be a very good chess player, and here’s why I think that: Chess requires you to think a few moves ahead, and if you can’t do that, you have zero chance of success. Just like in life, if you lead it in such a way that’s entirely reactionary – stimulus/response, stimulus/response… you’re going to have a tough go of it. That lifestyle works well for single-celled organisms, but our real world is a lot more complicated than a paramecium needing to navigate a petri dish. And in chess, if every time you move a piece it gets taken… and then you stare at the board wondering how that could’ve happened… well, you’re doing it wrong.

The stimulus/response pattern of the soon-to-be-former-president is something I guess we’ve gotten used to over the last four years, but now that he’s on his way out, it’s a little more pathetic than it used to be.

Actually, at the start, it was far from pathetic; it was frightening, with real-world consequences.

Early in the presidency, Trump was watching TV and saw something… and then Tweeted about how the new Air Force One is too expensive, and “Cancel Order!” There’s a lot of misinformation in that Tweet to begin with, but the immediate response was a sharp drop in Boeing’s stock price. It recovered quickly when people realized the president didn’t know what he was talking about, but the damage was done, and it was a good indication that this guy shoots from the hip and doesn’t really consider the implications. Much bigger and broader shooting from the hip was his unilateral and unexpected Muslim travel ban. Never mind that it violated the first amendment, the fifth amendment, the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Administrative Procedure Act… who cares. You can see Trump, with his infallible logic… Muslim = Terrorist, Terrorist = Bad, Banning Bad is good… what’s the problem? No need to consider the consequences. We all remember the chaos that resulted, and how much effort it took to resolve it.

But these days, with only 53 days, 15 hours and 57 minutes (but who’s counting) left in his presidency, his shooting from the hip holds little clout. Now, it’s the same old baseless nonsense, and none of it is surprising to hear. I honestly thought he might have some surprises waiting in the wings, but… nothing. Like an awful chess player, he telegraphed ahead everything he had planned. He called the election a fraud before it even took place, threatened he had lawyers in place ready to challenge it, and, as a result, everyone was ready for it. He served up exactly what was expected.

Of course, there was no wide-spread fraud, and the “superstar” team of lawyers who were happy to say “Yes! Yes! Yes!” to him in person, and who were happy to take his money… most of them bailed before making complete fools of themselves. Those that stuck it out longer faced serious admonition from judges who were not happy to see their court’s time wasted with this nonsense, especially when the stakes were so high. Vague handwaving and unfounded, grandiose statements don’t work well in a court of law. Case after case was thrown out, some of them angrily.

At a recent press conference, Donald Trump was repeatedly asked if he was going to concede. His long-winded answers of irrelevant bullshit and false claims were exactly what we’ve grown accustomed to. He never answered the question, which of course, in itself, is the answer.

If this were a chess match, he’d be the king, pretty much left all alone. All that’s left of his colour is the king itself… and a few pawns. The other side has more than it needs… the queen, a rook or two, a knight or two. A bishop. Perhaps a few pawns. Perhaps 80 million pawns. Whatever.

In 53 days, 15 hours and 57 minutes, his Tweets will go from presidential and influential… to those from just another right-wing conspiracy-theory-believing nut-job. Right now, he could be Tweeting about how maybe masks aren’t such a bad idea. How maybe a little social distancing wouldn’t hurt. Will he do that? Of course not.

And during that time, more than 5 million Americans will become infected with C19, and more than 100,000 will die. And, after all of that, Donald Trump, the former president, will have the rest of his life to think about what he did, what he didn’t do, and what a mess he left behind. Maybe he can think about it while he’s sitting in prison, where he belongs… and where there isn’t much else to do.

Well, I guess he could always take up chess.

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November 26, 2020

So at some point in the not-too-distant future, a person says to their robot… “Please go to the grocery store and get two steaks. And if they have eggs, get a dozen.” And the robot goes to the store, and comes back with… a dozen steaks.

This is a popular joke among computer programmers, because they’re the ones who get it right away. Indeed, computers are only as good as what you put into them, and the programming error that would lead to the twelve steaks is a common one. With computers, you need to be specific. You can’t make assumptions. If told to get steaks, it will get steaks. Computers aren’t smart enough to read into the obvious subtext that the human brain picks up instantly… and this is why the errors in the B.C. data that came to light yesterday can only be blamed on human error. Officially labelled “an IT error”, it’s more colloquially known as a “B.C.K. error” – Between Chair and Keyboard. Another common computer saying: Garbage In, Garbage Out. I’m thinking there may be someone looking for a job.

We don’t need to single out the health authority that messed up… but if you’re curious, their name sort of rhymes with “laser stealth”. Or “blazer wealth”. Given that it’s actually the provincial health region with the most cases, screw-ups there could make a difference to where we think things are at. Did it?

The ultimate changes are reflected in today’s numbers; all corrections have been applied, and I’m assuming with today’s data, we’re back on track. If you want to compare, you can flip back to yesterday’s post and see what changed. Side-note, if you’re looking at yesterday’s post, feel free to have a look at the comments, especially near the bottom…

Anyway, after it all shakes out, the end result isn’t too different. The provincial case count is 271 more than had previously been thought, a discrepancy of less than one percent. The interesting thing is how it got there… undercounts *and* overcounts. I could understand if there was data missing every day… or, double-counted, so bigger-than-expected numbers here and there. But both? That’s just… really bad.

The 271 isn’t a big deal, but what might have made a difference would’ve been the “shape” of the numbers. We’d all thought we had this massive day of 941 new cases. That never happened. That day only had 706. The “big” day was Nov 21st, with 835. Except, of course, this is changing by the day… and you can ignore all of that, because, unfortunately, the B.C. record for number of new cases was set… today, at 887. And don’t expect it to last too long.
What as I was saying about the “shape” of cases was simply this: Let’s say there were 5,000 new cases over the last 5 days. There’s a big difference… if those 5 days looked like 300, 489, 797, 1299, 2115… vs. 1000, 1000, 1000, 1000, 1000. Or, of course, 2115, 1299, 797, 489, 300. Those are three very different stories being told.

As it turns out, if anything, the corrected numbers served to “flatten” the look a bit. But again, not materially relevant.

At the end of the day, these graphs, charts, and ultimate analysis are only as good as what goes into it. As per above, Garbage In, Garbage Out.

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November 25, 2020

At some point soon, Health Canada will announce the availability of a vaccine. Provincial Health Services across the country are already working on the logistics of providing it to you.

If you ask someone today whether they’ll be getting it, the usual answer is “Of course… but not right away… just want to make sure it’s ok.”

Well… by the time it gets to most of us, it’ll almost certainly be ok. More than ok. In fact, it will have been ok from day 1, where some of the first people to have gotten it would have been at higher risk… front-line workers, elderly people… and they will all be just fine. More than fine.

It’s not an irrational concern; vaccines, as we’ve repeatedly heard, take many years to develop. And, even then, sometimes there are problems. How can this one, super-rushed at every step, be guaranteed to be safe? How can we sacrifice so much time without sacrificing quality?

Part of the answer lies in understanding why it usually takes so long.

First of all, as usual, money. Developing a vaccine isn’t cheap, and isn’t always successful. The millions of dollars it takes aren’t always so easy to find. After the initial idea for the vaccine is thought up, it takes money to develop that thought. A grant gets applied for, and that’s usually not successful… something like the good old 80/20 rule plays out… where only 20% of these proposals actually get funded to proceed. Just getting to that point is a grueling and time-consuming process. Where animal testing will be involved, ethics boards also need to sign off.

In this case, there were no grant proposals. A ton of money was found, and quickly. Bill & Melinda Gates have thrown a staggering $420 million dollars into C19 research. Also, a million dollars that went towards the funding of the Moderna vaccine came from… Dolly Parton. From far and wide, the money rolled in… and what usually takes years (if it happens at all)… took minutes.

This allowed multiple, parallel paths of development. Top minds from every angle tackled this problem, and it was found that developing an mRNA (instead of DNA) vaccine would be the right way to approach things. This inherently saved some time because some concerns that usually need to be addressed became non-issues. You don’t need the actual virus. You don’t need to attenuate it… a tricky process of reducing the virulence of a pathogen, enough that it becomes relatively harmless, but not so much that it becomes useless. All of that takes a lot of careful experimentation… and consumes a lot of time. But in this case, all that was needed was the genome sequence of the virus. The risk is far less with respect to human safety. The bigger risk is whether it’ll work at all.

At some point in the research, a vaccine candidate makes an appearance. And normally, there begins a cycle of testing, publishing, approval and requests for further funding… and each iteration requires more people, more testing, more money, more oversight and more approvals. These cycles take time. Finding more people. Finding more money. Sitting around waiting for approvals. But in this case, there were plenty of people and there was plenty of money. Typically, the people who hold the giant stamps of approval are busy… things enter a queue… to the bottom of the pile, and they slowly sift to the top, at which time they get dealt with. This time… straight to the top.

Eventually, after tests are shown to be successful and safe in large populations (tens of thousands of people), a drug company willing to take some risk gets involved… because they start from scratch, and need to duplicate the results to their satisfaction. The production, the testing results, everything. And if they do that successfully, then they can approach the FDA (or whatever other relevant governing body) for approval… after which they can figure out how they’re going to produce and distribute all of that in a way that makes economic sense.

In this case, a lot of that took place in parallel. We will never know how many millions of doses of non-viable vaccine got thrown into the garbage, and by whom… but with so much money available and so much at stake, it was the right way to do things. If this vaccine candidate might actually be the one, make lots, and make it now… and if turns out to not be the one, oh well… some money was wasted, but the risk/reward made it worth it.

There are already millions of doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccine in existence. As we speak, millions more are being made… on the assumption that when this all goes in front of the FDA on December 10th, things will go well… so well that it’ll only be days later when wide-spread distribution will begin. Normally, production would have begun only after FDA approval.

Indeed, the right question that was asked months ago was a simple one… “How do we get a vaccine out to the world as quickly as possible?” – and the answer was to cut corners that wouldn’t affect the safety or effectiveness of the end result. And that’s what we’ve gotten.

When you’re so used to something taking that long, it’s natural to view it with suspicion… but here’s a simpler example. Let’s talk about NFL football for a minute… a typical NFL game takes a little over three hours to play. The game clock, though… it’s only an hour… 4 quarters of 15 minutes each. But here’s the thing… inside that one timed hour, the actual time the ball spends moving is… eleven minutes. But… there’s the time between plays, where the clock keeps moving… but the ball is sitting at the line of scrimmage, waiting. There are official replays. There are challenge flags. There are timeouts. There are clock stoppages. There are two-minute warnings. There are commercial breaks. There’s halftime. If you were to compress a typical NFL game by removing all of that, you could watch the entire thing in less than 15 minutes. Do you miss anything of value by doing so, if all you’re really interested in seeing is actual football being played?

Similarly, as it turns out, once you remove the bureaucratic delays from the vaccine-development timeline, all you’re left with is the science, and the procedures that drive it. And an end-product that’s as trustable as one that would otherwise have taken years.

After reading all that, you still might be thinking, “Yeah, but still…” and that’s ok. At some point, it’ll reach your comfort level… but for what it’s worth, if nobody wants to go first – sign me up. Having a clear understanding of how this all came about, I would have zero hesitation. If volunteers are needed for the front of the line, I’m there.

November 24, 2020

Crazy, irrational people have always been around and will always be around. It’s part of living on earth, and as long as their craziness doesn’t negatively affect you, let them do their thing.

That’s more difficult in the midst of a pandemic, because some champion of civil liberties, coupled with a good dose of conspiracy paranoia, can actually affect you very negatively. Like some anti-masking moron who purposefully coughs on you, just to prove the point that it’s all a hoax.

There will come a point when some idiot doing that will be of minimal concern, and, of course, we’re not there yet… but let’s talk about immunity.

The chances of you getting mumps, measles or rubella are negligible if you’ve had the MMR vaccine, properly administered. Properly administered means two doses, and in doing so, the efficacy is 97% against measles, 97% against rubella and 88% against mumps.

Measles is a good one to discuss because the vaccine is so good, yet the illness is so contagious. As per the numbers above, even if you’re in the vicinity of someone who actually has measles, if you’ve been immunized, you only have a 3% chance of getting sick. Conversely, if you haven’t been immunized, there’s a better than 90% chance you’ll catch it. And that’s why even though measles is pretty rare, it flares up here and there… the perfect little storm of someone who’s been exposed, running into a cluster of enlightened Southern-California moms who’d never poison their precious kids with vaccines, when we all know essential oils are all you need to keep them healthy.

Sadly, it’s relevant to note that 2021 is likely to see outbreaks of measles in many places due to missed vaccinations. Around the world, some 94 million children have missed their scheduled vaccines… due to C19. If anyone is wondering how effective vaccines really are, just have a look at the unfortunate measles numbers next year.

When things get back to normal, measles will once again be brought under control. With a coordinated effort, like was done with smallpox, it could actually be extinguished. And the same could be said for C19. Since it’s a virus, in theory… it could be eradicated.

My chances of getting smallpox are zero. My chances of getting measles aren’t zero, but thanks to my immunity and the herd immunity caused by enough people having been administered, over many years, a vaccine that’s more than 95% effective… they’re very, very low.

And so it will be with C19 one day. You will be vaccinated, enough people around you will be vaccinated, and that will be that. At that point, it will take a lot for you to get C19… and the evidence we’re seeing seems to imply that in all cases, if you’ve been vaccinated, it’d be, at worst, a mild case.

There will, of course, still be anti-vaxxers and Covidiots around. There are also the quiet anti-vaxxers… they’re not out in the streets screaming about Bill Gates is trying to inject you with 5G trackers… but years of misinformation has made a difference. A recent report states that in the U.S., it’s pretty much 50/50 as to who’s willing to be vaccinated and who isn’t.

Around here, the numbers are better… our denier-precentage is in the 20 to 30 range… but we have them too – the quiet anti-vaxxers, and the loud ones… who will march on the steps of The Art Gallery for years to come. Alien abductions, 9/11 was an inside job, the moon landings were faked, the earth is flat, covid was a hoax. All looney birds of the same feather. I look forward to the day, hopefully sooner than later, when their craziness can once again no longer directly affect me.

November 23, 2020

One might be a fluke, but two implies some consistency… and three pretty-much says, “lock” – and that is where we’re at with respect to vaccines.

Another announcement this morning from yet another vaccine manufacturer, this one from AstraZeneca, showing an average efficacy of 70%, but going up to 90%, depending on the dosage. Regulators from the FDA and Europe will be having a look at it soon.

From a timeline point of view, the two frontrunners, Pfizer and Moderna… may have their vaccines hitting the streets in the last two weeks of December, assuming the present timeline and FDA approval (set to be discussed Dec. 10th). Pfizer expects to make 50 million doses by the end of the year (and up to 1.3 billion next year). Moderna will have 20 million doses ready this year. Who will get it first? Mostly Americans, I would expect… and, honestly, they need it.

That great American Founding Father Patrick Henry proclaimed, “Give me Liberty or give me Death!” back in 1775. Americans, known for wanting it all, are taking those words to heart… potentially changing the “or” to an “and”.

Over the weekend, over 3 million people passed through security checkpoints in American airports. Something like one in 111 Americans travelled on a plane in the last 48 hours, the majority on their way home for Thanksgiving, where they will mingle in close quarters for several hours if not days… before boarding those same planes and heading back to wherever.

The timing with “vaccines vs. the virus” will be interesting… and will be the grand crescendo of 2020. In fact, let’s call it for a specific day – Dec 20th, 2020, precisely one month before Donald Trump exits, stage left. On that day, many places in the U.S. will be facing a catastrophic and unmanageable surge in cases, with hospitals completely overwhelmed. And right alongside that, there will be the knowledge that the vaccine is out there, and “How the hell do I get my hands on it?!”

The amusing-if-it-weren’t-so-tragic part of it will be the conspiracy spin… from those people who for the better part of a year have been claiming it’s a hoax and it’s all bullshit… who will now be screaming that only the elite have access to it and how come we don’t all get it, like, *now*, and it’s my right to have a vaccine… my *constitutional* right as part of the Declaration of Independence: Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. Clearly a vaccine fits into that. Like, you know, I don’t want a vaccine, I don’t need a vaccine, vaccines are for crowd control, vaccines are to murder us, Bill Gates, 5G, etc, etc… *BUT*, even so, if I want a vaccine, I should be able to get one. OK.

Keep your seatbelts securely fastened… the roller-coaster has just begun that big downhill. This is the part where you can put your hands up in the air and scream… or just hold on for dear life. Like I keep saying, there’s a finish line… but it’s going to be a wild ride getting there.

Graph for November 23, 2020

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November 22, 2020

We’ll have to wait till tomorrow to see some B.C. numbers, so until then, let’s shift our attention eastward by one province and look at Alberta, who unfortunately is giving us a textbook example of what exponential growth looks like.

For today, I’ve added a third row of graphs. The top row of the three is each province’s journey through this pandemic, from day one. The bottom two rows represent only the 2nd wave; first, logarithmically… and, the bottom one, normally.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes, it’s not because the picture is so indescribably beautiful… but because the picture is difficult to describe. If math isn’t your thing, hearing a sentence like “the plot an exponential curve on a logarithmic scale will be a perfectly straight line.”… might sound confusing. But when you look at the pictures, it makes perfect sense.

Have a look at Alberta, and have a look at the bottom two graphs. They are displaying the same dataset, but on the bottom one, the Y-axis is linear, ie normal, ie… perfectly spaced out. The one above it is logarithmic, which “squashes” the Y-axis the bigger it gets.

The way a logarithmic scale works is that it perfectly compensates for that exponential growth… which is why those smooth, increasing curves of the bottom graph (TTDs of 20 and 25) show up as perfectly straight lines on the graph above it.

Accordingly, the seven-day moving average of daily case-counts of Alberta, the thicker black line, follows the curve on the bottom graph and follows the straight line on the upper graph. While the logarithmic graphs tend to minimize the growth as things get worse (the steepness gets squashed), the real-data graphs tell the truth. It’s clear from looking at these graphs exactly where Alberta is heading, if things don’t change. It’s clear as well that Saskatchewan’s recent increases are far worse than TTDs of 20 or 25; closer to 15 over the last few days.

Exactly 8 months ago, we were heading into the last week of March wondering the same thing we are today… I wonder what the week ahead will look like. It feels like a lifetime ago, March 22nd… that was the 6th day of me writing about all of this (here it is if you’re interested: The U.S. had 32,000 cases. Canada had less than 1,500. B.C. had less than 500.

Here we are today (Day 251) – and the sentiment hasn’t changed. Just the numbers, which are all a lot bigger.

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Day 250 – November 21, 2020

No B.C. numbers today, but here’s a brief look elsewhere…

Parts of Ontario (Toronto and Peel) are in a lockdown of the sort we saw around here at the start of this pandemic. Very tight constraints with respect to with whom you can get together, and strict rules around what that needs to look like. Everything else is pretty-much closed, except the essentials.

Saskatchewan saw a huge increase in numbers today, something they saw coming; measures were put in last week, but they’re now dealing with the effects of what came before. As we know, it can take a couple of weeks to realize the effects of these measures.

Alberta also set its record for new cases in the last 24 hours.

Today’s lesson in exponential growth comes from Nunavut… where, for the longest time (like till November), they’d seen zero cases. They got their first one Nov. 6th… their second one Nov. 7th… and then two more Nov. 8th. Then 8, 18, 26, 60… and they’re now over 100. Their graph is not a gentle slope or a hockey stick… it’s a literal cliff wall which they slammed into, after 7 months of flat road. That’s how this thing can take off.

In the spring, it was all about flattening the curve. For those late to the game, like Nunavut and Saskatchewan, where they never got a first wave, that’s where they’re at.

For places like Ontario and Quebec, it’s not just about flattening the potential frightening growth… it’s that the numbers, as flat as they may be (which they’re not) are already really big.

What’s worse… if you have 100 hospital beds available… to see cases go from 2 to 8 to 20 to 50 in a few days? Or to see them go 98, 99, 103, 98?

The answer is… it depends… on what measures are in place. Drastic measures are needed in example A, but example B is just as frantic, because it’s evidence of a problem that’s stressing the limits and that’s not going away unless something is done about it. Roughly speaking, example A is Nunavut and example B is Ontario.

The rate of growth is interesting to look at, on an apples-to-apples basis. I’ve added Time To Double (TTD) lines to the provincial graphs, and I’ve set them all (for now) to 20 and 25, so you can compare the data against those straight lines… and across provinces. Don’t worry too much about where those lines cross, just look at the slope of the data compared to the TTD lines. B.C. and Alberta are examples of consistent growth… you can see the recent growth is virtually parallel to the TTDs of 25. And at their steepest recent points, both Saskatchewan and Manitoba had recent TTDs approaching 10.

You’ll notice that Quebec and Ontario are a lot flatter. Indeed, their TTDs are 50 and 77 respectively. Their issue isn’t so much exponential growth… it’s just that any growth is already putting pressure on a system that at some point won’t be able to handle it.

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