June 13, 2021

Happy rainy Sunday!

And you know what that means… it’s bragging-rights-and-$100-to-your-favourite-charity contest time!

Yes… whoever guesses closest to the total number of C19 new cases (Saturday, Sunday, & Monday) that’ll be revealed tomorrow wins! Just enter your best guess in the comments below.

To clarify the rules… there will be exactly one $100 prize awarded, and it will go to person who guesses the closest answer first. If there’s a tie (and there are many versions of ties), whoever was first will win. It might be worth it to scroll down the list of guesses before placing your “hopefully-not-a-duplicate” entry.

Here’s the recent data, leading up to today, to help you a bit…

Apr 24,25,26: 2,729
May 1,2,3: 2,174
May 8,9,10: 1,759
May 15,16,17: 1,360
May 22,23,24: 974
May 29,30,31: 708
June 5,6,7: 482

And just to confuse things… the last three days of numbers before the weekend — the appropriately-named collection of WTF: 481

Hmmm… basically a flat line all week, on average. Indeed, hello Delta variant… what do you have in stock for us?

Fortunately, probably not a notable increase in hospitalizations or death… but certainly in cases. Not ideal, but at least it makes for a more-interesting contest.

Good luck!

June 12, 2021

Heading into the weekend without anything too exciting to report… other than I ran into a virulent (haha!!) anti-mask / anti-vax bike mechanic. The way some people reason things out… it’s quite remarkable. I won’t bore you with the details of it… by now we’ve all had those sorts of discussions with someone… but my front brake needed attention halfway through my ride this morning, so I walk into a random bike shop…

“Hi… I’m sorry, I don’t have a mask… I wasn’t planning on…”

(the guy rips his own mask off)

“Yeah, don’t worry about it… these f’n things don’t do anything anyway”

I’ve wondered out loud before how it is that those two things go so well together. Does anybody know anyone who’s anti-mask but pro-vaccine? Or vice-versa? I’d be interested in listening to rational arguments, but have yet to hear one.

And this guy?

“I’d rather die from Covid than from the vaccine. You don’t know what they put in it.”

The human brain… how it functions, and the twisted logic it supplies to some people… it’s a real mystery.

Instead of pursuing the rest of that discussion… speaking of mysteries… here’s a good one for you to rattle around your brain…

A long time ago, there were three friends who went camping. After a few nights, they’d had enough… and decided to head home early, and spend the night in a motel somewhere. They packed up their stuff, hopped in the car, and drove off, planning to stop at the first motel that had room.

Unfortunately, it was a busy time of year and everything was booked. They passed an endless stream of “No Vacancy” signs… but eventually, there was one where the “No” wasn’t lit up. So they pulled in.

The guy at the front desk told them he only had one room left. They asked if it’d be ok for all three of them to share the room. Yeah, sure, no problem… it’ll be $30 for the room. Great, said the three guys… and each dug into his own pocket and pulled out $10. They each handed their $10 to him; he counted out the $30… all good… and then they got their keys and headed to the room.

A few minutes later, the guy at the counter remembered that there was a special deal going on… and that a room for 3 people was actually only $25. Being an honest person, he opened the cash drawer and pulled out five one-dollar bills…and instructed the janitor, who happened to be sweeping up the lobby, to deliver the $5 to the room.

The janitor, however, wasn’t so honest… and as he walked over to the room, thought to himself… how are 3 guys going to split $5 anyway? He decided to just give them three of the bills and keep two for himself.

So… he knocked on the door… one of the three guys answered… and the janitor handed him three of the $1 bills.

Cool, thought the guy… and took the three bills, and handed a dollar to each of his friends.

So… since each guy originally paid $10 and now got $1 back, you could say each guy paid $9 for the room. $9 x 3 = $27. The bellhop kept $2. That makes $29.

What happened to the other dollar?

It’s a mystery! – and if you know the answer, don’t just blurt it out in the comments… let some people scratch their heads a bit.

Hint: the anti-mask / anti-vax bike mechanic doesn’t have it.

June 11, 2021

What does life look like post-pandemic? It’s pretty straightforward; it looks like it used to before, but with the back-of-the-mind consideration that Covid is still around. Having a clear understanding of what’s risky and what’s not — you keep it in mind — and life goes on. If this were a movie being told in flashbacks, we’re at the point where the past and the present start to converge… you know, those great movie scripts that weave all the timelines into something seamless.

What’s not so seamless is the return to normality, and differing opinions as to what’s ok and what isn’t. For example… there is both a huge outcry – and also a lot of “whatever” shrugging – with respect to the fact that the first cruise ship to embark in this soon-to-be post-pandemic era had a couple of people test positive. Was that to be expected? The ship’s captain – perhaps Captain Obvious – probably thinks so.

The most effective vaccines claim efficacy rates of no higher than 95%, and there’s a big difference between 100% and anything below it. That certainly doesn’t mean that 5% of people who are fully vaccinated will get C19. But it certainly does mean that there will be “breakthrough” infections, and until this virus is eradicated from existence, that’ll continue to happen.

If you’re fully vaccinated, your chances of getting infected are small. Your chances of getting infected and having symptoms are tiny. Your chances of getting infected and having serious symptoms, requiring hospitalization… are tiny squared – to the point of “don’t even worry about it.”

Out of the thousands of people on that cruise ship, the majority of whom were fully vaccinated and tested 72 hours prior to boarding, two (who were sharing a cabin) subsequently tested positive. Not surprising. They were completely asymptomatic; also not surprising. They don’t seem to have infected anyone else; still not surprising. They’re in isolation, but life aboard the Celebrity Millennium continues unabated. Nothing cancelled. No masks. The cruise company is sticking to its protocols and nothing is changing.

This is a very different scenario than the Diamond Princess… the cruise ship that set sail from Yokohama on January 20th of last year, with one infected passenger… and subsequently turned into a floating petri dish that at one point accounted for half of all of the world’s known cases. It wasn’t until March that they managed to get everyone off that ship… and there will be books and movies and documentaries made for years about what went on, at every level, during those 6 weeks. At least they didn’t scuttle the ship with everyone on board; you know some psycho in some board room must have come up with that idea at some point.

Back to today, and those two passengers. If they’d never been tested, they’d never have known. They had no cough and they had no sniffles and they had no problems breathing. For a few years at least, if not decades… if not forever… this virus will be in our midst. But at some point, a point we’re quickly approaching, we’ll all have done everything we can. And, at that point, the exact right thing will be to get on with your life as you know it.

Many of us are still in freak-out mode, and that’ll take a while to dissipate… the PTSD of C19 paranoia… which is why many of the reactions to this news story we were of the “I can’t believe anyone would be so stupid as to get on a cruise ship today!!1!1!!!!” sort.

While I recognize that it’s an uncomfortable idea to many, I can also totally understand the mindset of the people on that cruise. Eventually, we’ll all get to a level of comfort where we can lead our lives based on the best quote of the best script of the best movie ever made: “Get busy living or get busy dying.”

June 10, 2021

The most notable fact that emerged from today’s C19 update was one that was implied by the numbers… but it was nice to hear it stated officially: that the Ro (R nought) of C19 in B.C. is now below one. This is the number that indicates, on average, how many people get newly infected from someone who’s already got it. A number less than one simply states this thing is fading away; if everyone is infecting, on average, less than one other person, we’re very much headed in the right direction.

The Delta variant is likely to affect the velocity with which we ultimately get close to zero, but it doesn’t matter too much. If we keep doing what we’re doing – primarily, keep getting vaccinated – it’s hard to imagine that number bouncing back up. Like I said yesterday, it’ll never go away completely… but it’ll be relegated to just one more other annoying seasonal disease that’s very controllable.

One thing that’s clear with respect to how the PHO handles things; they will be cautious and certain before they pull the plug on any restrictions… for one big reason: once a restriction is lifted, it’s not coming back. It would take a serious derailment for something to be re-imposed after it’s been removed. At least, that’s the idea… which is why even though it looks like today is a good day to take a step forward, it’ll always wait till next week. This comes from watching what’s happened around the world and, unfortunately, will happen again… where people’s impatience, rather than the science, drives the policy. But here, they’ve set conservative but achievable goals… and they’re sticking with them. Accordingly, everything is pointing to moving to the next re-opening phase on June 15th, where outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people will be allowed, indoor parties of 50 people will be allowed (with C19 provisions in place), provincial travel restrictions will be lifted, liquor will be served till midnight and a number of sport and gym-related restrictions will be eased.

Dr. Henry has taken a lot of crap from people for what they consider her heavy-handed, draconian and excessive policies… but the fact is, these policies have worked really well. In hindsight, all the people telling you “You see, it wasn’t so bad” should be reminded that it was *because of* — not *in spite of* — these policies that we made it through this relatively unscathed, compared to so many other places.

And again, don’t take my word for it. Those other places who are so keen and impatient on reopening ahead of schedule… are places where things are likely to look a lot different.

June 9, 2021

While the effects of the Delta variant remain to be seen, there’s reason to be quite optimistic around here.

The usual timeline sees infections on day 1, a spike in hospitalizations 10 to 14 days later, and deaths a week after that. Those are rough numbers, but purely from a “leading indicator” point of view, they’ve been pretty consistent.

One thing that’s emerging is that the May long-weekend didn’t cause any big outbreaks. We’re not seeing growing hospitalization numbers; on the contrary.

There are, at present, 195 people in B.C. hospitalized with C19. That’s the lowest number since Nov. 16th. Of those, only 47 are in the ICU, also the lowest since mid-November. And for the first time… More

June 8, 2021

“What could possibly go wrong?” – famous quote, and not words that should be spoken out loud. It’s a rhetorical question, best left to your inner thoughts; when you speak it out loud, you’re daring the universe to answer: “Well… let me show you…”

In the midst of the optimism of re-opening and getting back to normal comes a curveball being thrown at the world… the Delta (formerly “Indian”) variant of C19.

To begin with, it’s undoubtedly more contagious than any predecessor. The original UK variant (now known as Alpha) is 50-100% more contagious than the original strain that dominated 2020. And Delta is 50% more contagious than Alpha. Let’s hope this frat-house-inspired naming convention never gets to Omega.

One positive is that, generally, the more contagious it is, the less harmful it is. That’s not for sure, yet… but quite likely, this strain isn’t going to cause disease any worse than the previous strains. It’s just that it’s much easier to catch. Indeed, all the little spikes we’re seeing in different places – little spikes for now, but we all know what that can grow into – are caused by upticks predominantly of the Delta variant.

So… vaccines… how much protection do they have against it?

To begin with… the vast majority of people who’ve become infected with Delta have had zero vaccinations.

With one dose – you’re not there yet; the one-shot effectiveness of Pfizer/Moderna/AstraZeneneca on Delta is only about 33%, compared to north of 60% for other variants. It’s the second dose that makes a huge difference in this case.

But, beyond that… in the U.K., only three people who’ve been fully vaccinated have been hospitalized as a result of Delta. Three people out of 40% fully-vaccinated people out of a population 66 million people equals one in 9 million.

So, there’s no guarantee you won’t catch it. You may well catch it and never know it. You may be exposed to it and never know it… or catch some mild symptoms. But the big takeaway: If you’re fully vaccinated, you have a one in 9 million chance of being hospitalized due to the Delta variant. Sure, those numbers will get worse… bit it’s a good starting point. The equivalent of throwing 9 dice onto the floor. As long as they don’t all land on the same number, you’re good.

While two doses of any vaccine will do the trick, we’re talking about the U.K. here… and when we talk about the U.K., we’re talking almost exclusively about AstraZeneca. Over there… whether it’s one or two doses, almost all are AZ.

Which leads me (and anyone who’s had the AstraZeneca vaccine) to one again ponder the dilemma of AZ or Pfizer for the second dose, especially factoring in timing. I had my AZ dose April 22nd. I think I’d be able to get AZ relatively soon; Pfizer, I’m not sure. And so… while I’ve been waiting patiently for Pfizer, now I’m wondering about the alternative. Maybe go right back to that little mom-and-pop pharmacy a few blocks away and get the AZ… and then, that’s it.

My decision will be based on what happens around here in the next week or two. I was always a proponent of “get whatever is offered to you”. I changed my mind, watching the data from the European studies (Spain/UK/Germany) implying mixing AZ with Pfizer yields better results. But I’m not against changing it back if the situation calls for it.

And that’s more than ok. There’s another famous quote… from the father of lateral thinking, Edward de Bono: “If you never change your mind, why have one?”

June 7, 2021

LottoMax has like $100,000,000 to give away tomorrow… but who cares! There’s far more excitement right here, trying to guess the weekend numbers!!

So… shout-outs to:

The pessimist award goes to Patti Tubbs with her guess of 766

The optimist award goes to Shalom Feigelstock with his guess of 317

The close-but-not-close-enough awards go to Asia Green (479) who missed it by 3 one way, and Elaan Bauder Gudlaugson (485) who missed it by 3 the other way…

And the winner is…

Well, to back up a moment… I never really clarified what I’d do in case of a tie… and especially in the case of a 3-way tie.

For today, there is indeed a 3-way tie. Three people guessed 480, and all three are 2 away from the correct answer of 482.

So… congratulations Sherry Keane! She was the first to guess 480, so she gets first prize! And I will award a second prize, to be split equally, between Melanie Segal and Andrew Brownsword – who also guessed 480… but after Sherry.

And if there’s a next time (yeah, there will be a next time) – the only person who’ll win is the person who guessed the answer first. I guess there can be ties if the answer is 100, and one person guessed 99 and the other 101… that’ll count as two wins. But duplicate guesses won’t count. In the future, only the first one gets it.

But today – all three of you, please send me your charities of choice!

Also interesting – but not surprising – I’ve attached a histogram of all the guesses. It’s not surprising to see a pretty even distribution… there’s definitely a bell-curve of sorts there. And it’s not surprising to see… the tallest column, the range of (475 – 525) – the one with the most guesses — that’s where the answer was.

There are two things I remember from stats class… one was the time a fly landed on the overheard projector – you know, the old-school ones where the transparency is on roll… and after you fill up the page with scribbles, you scroll it a bit… anyway, this fly had been bugging the prof for a while… and at one point it landed right in the middle of the transparency. He slammed his hand down on it, and the entire lecture hall was treated to the sight of a 5-foot fly’s guts oozing onto the screen. Lots of groans, and maybe a shriek or two. He just looked at it… and said, “huh”… and scrolled it, and kept going. Huh indeed.

The other thing I remember is that averages typically are pretty useful. Lots of numbers on their own not so much, but there’s something to be learned from sample averages, and averages of sample averages.

Anyway, all of you collectively… got it! Nicely done.

OK, Lotto Max time…

June 6, 2021

Happy Sunday!

You might think there’s nothing good about B.C. being the only province that doesn’t update C19 numbers over the weekend… but you’re wrong!

… because it means… contest time!

I’m not sure how long I can keep doing this, because at some point the numbers get too low… but that’s a good thing. I hope the “It’s not worth running a contest” thing happens sooner than later… but, until it does, we’re doing it again: Take a guess at what the cumulative (Sat/Sun/Mon) new daily cases will be – put your guess in the comments below – and whoever is closest will get (besides *coveted* bragging rights) $100 donated to their charity of choice.

To help you with your integral calculus, statistical analysis, regression… or just good old-fashioned, plain, intuitive guessing… here’s what the last several weekend totals have looked like… and please note the very-encouraging and consistent dwindling towards zero:

Apr 24,25,26: 2,729
May 1,2,3: 2,174
May 8,9,10: 1,759
May 15,16,17: 1,360
May 22,23,24: 974
May 29,30,31: 708

Guesses will be accepted till noon tomorrow. Henry, Dix, Horgan & their associates are banned… but anyone else can play!

Numbers will be released tomorrow at 3pm… and I’ll post the winner at 5pm.

Good luck!

June 5, 2021

There are lots of discussions going on with respect to what exactly happened to the flu this year. It was certainly expected that the social distancing and masking would have an effect, and that numbers would be lower… but nobody really expected it to be virtually zero. The number of pediatric flu deaths in the U.S. this season was exactly one (where it’s normally in the hundreds), and you can be sure that unfortunate kid caught it from a foreign traveller.

How do I know that? Because the flu, like C19, is a virus… and viruses need a breeding population of hosts that they can infect.

Unfortunate side-note for those of you who want to believe in Bigfoot or the Yeti or the Loch Ness Monster or the Ogopogo; perhaps the biggest show-stopper in there being a possibility of them existing is that you can’t have just one. You’d need a breeding population, and it’d have to be significant enough to perpetuate the species. They’d take up a lot of space, and there would be ample evidence (droppings, dwellings) to find, even if not the creatures themselves, whether on land or in the water. It’s not like “I saw *the* Ogopogo”; Lake Okanogan would have to have been teeming with them for centuries.

The masking, and sanitizing surfaces every 10 minutes, had a drastic effect. Flu probably arrived in North America on various airplanes, but died out with nowhere to go. No breeding population of hosts. In fact, so drastic was its demise that there are two common flu strains that may well be extinct. Around the world, there were zero cases reported of two particularly common strains; two that are always part of the annual flu-vaccine concoction. That, on its own, doesn’t yet mean they’re gone forever… but if they don’t show up next year or the year after that… well, it’s a virus. Unlike 200 BigFoots (Bigfeet?) that might be hiding in a cave somewhere in Sasquatch Park, there’s no hiding place for a virus. When the last one has no place to go, it’s gone forever.

It’s ironic that a couple of flu strains might be eradicated simply as “collateral damage”… while C19, with its variety of variants, is going to be around for a lot longer.

The bigger irony would be that Bigfoot actually exists… but gets wiped out by C19, because the humans were unable to eradicate it.

June 4, 2021

For old time’s sake, I’ve thrown in the graphs showing the progression of this pandemic from day one. If you look below, you’ll see three rows. The first row is the shape of the entire pandemic, going back to Feb 15th of last year. The next row is the second wave onward, starting Sep 8th of last year. You can easily see where that second wave fits into the graph above it. And the third row is the 3rd wave, as of Mar 10th of this year. You can also see where it fits into the one above.

It’s very interesting to note, looking at the column of the 3 B.C. graphs… that our first wave was relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things; it’s barely a blip in the big picture. That tiny little bump at the bottom left of the top B.C. graph; that’s it. Daily new case counts never broke 100 that entire time… compared to today’s number, +183, which sounds kind of low… and it is. It’s the lowest number since Oct 20th. It’s below what we’re considering the start of the third wave, where, at its worst, we were seeing more than 1,200 new cases a day. The same can be said for hospitalizations and ICU admissions… lowest numbers since November.

Looking at those towering subsequent second and third waves should remind us that, while things are certainly trending in the right direction, it’s not quite over yet. Those flare-ups happened for a number of reasons; reasons which haven’t gone away.

But, of course, one big thing has changed, and it’s not going away… and that is vaccines. And that’s what’s made the biggest difference of all.

On that note, I got my second-dose email today… the one asking what I want to do… get a second AZ shot, or wait a bit longer and get Pfizer or Moderna. Given the results I’ve been observing from what’s been published so far, for me, mixing it up with Pfizer might be the way to go.

There’s obviously a lot of discussion going around asking what’s the right move, and the answers differ. The original adage of “get whatever is offered to you” will never be wrong, especially for first doses. Get the one being offered to you. But what about second doses for those who had AstraZeneca for round one?

It’s up to you.

“ASAP” is never wrong.
“The same as the first dose” is not wrong.
“Recent reports imply Pfizer for round two is a good idea” is also not wrong.

Some people are making noise that this goes against the manufacturer’s recommendations and, indeed, NACI’s original recommendation was also against it; stick to what you got.

But, guess what… originally in this pandemic, we were told we wouldn’t need masks. Suddenly, we were told we do. Why? Because it’s all a scam and a sham and fraudulent and Bill Gates and Fauci and 5G and…. No… it’s not that. It’s because *science*. That’s how it works; you learn something new and you course-correct. Nobody was “wrong” at the time; they made their suggestions as best they could; with incomplete information. And as information rolled in, better decisions could be made.

Here’s a decision I hope most people agree with; no matter what flavour it is… get that second dose. It gets us all one step closer, and looking at the pretty graphs and numbers, there’s no doubt we’re going in the right direction.

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