September 10, 2021

Hey… it’s been a while! So… sit back and relax, because this is going to be a long one. We have plenty to cover.

I’ll start by glossing over a bit of the current situation, because we’re all familiar with it, and although the numbers continue to provide a glaringly obvious message, there are those who refuse to look at them.

Depending where you look, you’ll find variations on the same theme… and they all say things like your chances with vaccines are not 20% or 60% better… it’s more like 2,000%… or 6,000%. Every single person in BC today in the ICU that’s under the age of 50 is unvaccinated. The vast majority of people in hospital are unvaccinated. We can talk about BC, Alberta, Ontario, Canada, California, Nebraska, Florida, whatever… it’s all the same everywhere; just a different multiplier, often based on vaccination rates. The numbers all range from quite significant to truly significant. There are no exceptions anywhere; the vaccinated population is way, way better off.

I’ve included the usual three rows of graphs, though the top one – the graphs of daily new cases – once, the most important graphs imaginable… are becoming somewhat irrelevant. Much more relevant is who got infected (Vaccinated? Unvaccinated?) and how it’s affecting them. The real numbers to look at (and the graphs that go with it) are hospitalizations and ICU admissions; the bottom row of graphs. There’s certainly a kick upwards, especially in Alberta and Saskatchewan, who are seeing levels comparable to back in May… but for the rest of us, it looks pretty reasonable and no reason to panic. Especially if you’re vaccinated.

In the last three days, the average daily number of C19 deaths in Canada is 34. Since the American population is about 9x ours, you might expect a death rate 9 x 34, which is around 300. But instead, it’s close to 2,500. And needless to say, largely due to overwhelmed hospitals way beyond capacity in jurisdictions with low vaccination rates. No matter how you slice the data, it all points to the same thing.

On that note, the daily vaccination rates show a significant slowdown. That’s the middle row of graphs. It hasn’t totally died out, but we’re nowhere near the rates of early July… though it’s picking up a bit again, and I have something to say about that.

There are a lot of people who’ve recently gotten vaccinated because of the “vaccine passport” that’s coming alive in 72 hours.

Side-note with respect to the rollout; I am an IT/tech/computer guy and I can be as critical as they come, especially when talking about deploying systems to massive amounts of people who’ll all use it simultaneously. I have a lot of experience in that, and I know it’s complicated, so I know what you have to plan for, etc… and so I have to say, Kudos to those involved with this thing. It certainly wasn’t without some initial little hiccups, but that’s to be expected when unprecedented numbers of people suddenly flood to it. In fact, if it hadn’t bent a little under the load, I’d be complaining they spent too much on it. It’s like building a 16-lane Lions Gate Bridge, 8 lanes each way… when it’s only needed for New Year’s Eve. Sure, you’ll never have traffic problems on the bridge itself, but just imagine Georgia St. or Taylor Way. What a mess it’d be without addressing them too.

And this thing has to not only be its own infrastructure, it has to communicate with varying other older systems and not flood them with too many connections and requests. The queuing system seems to have worked well; I jumped on it the moment I saw the url and found myself in a 17-minute line-up. That queue grew to over an hour at some point, and indeed, some people got 503 errors and gateway timeouts and whatever else. So what. Moments later, it worked. I have yet to hear about anyone who got past the queue and then had a problem, and that implies excellent design. Everything past the choke-point, that single point of failure… so far has been flawless. And, after all of that… at this moment, the wait time is zero and it’s likely to remain that way, even with the flood of people on Monday rushing to get it.

But let’s talk about those people who, today, would get a “No Record Found” if they tried to fetch their card.

For the last two years, there have been those people… well all know a bunch… masks are useless, vaccines are useless, conspiracies and so on. Now, perhaps having done some actual research and listened to some actual reliable sources, maybe they’ve come to the conclusion that getting vaccinated would be the intelligent thing to do. But how can they, without totally losing face? Admitting they’re wrong now would mean admitting they’ve been wrong all along, and that’s a tough pill to swallow. Some people’s egos just can’t take the hit.

Well… now they have the perfect out. They can proudly and loudly announce how they still feel vaccines are useless… but… they just want to live their life in peace and do things they want… so, they just got vaccinated and there’s their little blue vaccine card, and soon, after their second dose, it’ll be green. Yay!

And if you’re one of those people or know someone… yes, do it. Tell them to do it. Go for it. All of your friends and family who’ve been pleading to you to get vaccinated couldn’t care less about your justification, whether it’s the inward-facing or the outward-facing version, however different they may be. Just go get it done. Go right ahead and blame it on anything and everything else. It doesn’t matter. All of those aforementioned people will welcome your decision with open arms.

Looking back at where a lot of this anti-everything came from, and removing Donald Trump’s catastrophic contribution to the public sentiment, in hindsight, there may have been two things that might have “spun” better. Better “optics”. It’s not like pandemics have a PR department, but if they did…

For one thing, naming this a novel coronavirus initially convinced people that this is something new, unseen and a complete mystery. If instead they’d labelled it originally what it really is… a new version of something old, perhaps there’d have been a lot less hesitancy when the vaccines appeared. Everyone understands sequels. Remember SARS from years ago? Well, here’s “SARS 2: The Killer Returns”. And everything we’ve learned from the original SARS we can now put to use. This is not a new story; it’s a continuation of an old one. So instead of a brand new vaccine technology being quickly developed against a pathogen the likes of like we’ve never seen before, people might understand that it’s just a new version of a virus that’s been around for decades, being fought by R&D technology that’s also been around for decades. In Hollywood terms, that story certainly would’ve “tested better.’

That didn’t happen, and that lesson didn’t get learned, and then that skeptical crowd was met with “Vaccine Passports”. Once again, something new, untested and worthy of rebellion.

Calling it was it is – an immunization record – would also have “tested better”. We all already have an immunization record… with words like smallpox and measles and diphtheria and mumps and whatever else in it. We all have it and many of us have needed it. Some employers demand it. Some schools demand it. Some travel destinations demand it. All doggy daycares demand it too. There’s nothing new with immunization records… but you throw the word “passport” in there, and the implications of not having one, and the “Freedom And Rights!!1!1!!!1!!!” crowd shows up.

And on that note… if you think I’m going to voice my disgust at people who picket and protest outside of hospitals, insulting healthcare workers and blocking access for actual patients… I am, but that’s only part of it.

The other part of it is the symbolism associated with it. I happened to see among the pictures of the protesters a person wearing a little yellow star with “Not Vaccinated” written on it, where conventionally you’d expect to see the word “Jude’”.

Cultures these days are up in arms about appropriation. Here’s a cheap dreamcatcher for $5.99, available in the local tourist shop. It’ll look so cute in the window! Here’s a bundle of sage; take it home and light it and wave it around. That’s called smudging. Isn’t that cute? And Woke? We’re *so* Culturally Lit!!

Yeah, one can see how offensive that would be to people who understand the depth and significance of what those things really are. Their history. What they symbolize. What it meant to the people for whom it was intended.

So, let’s talk about that little yellow star. First of all, and this part of it isn’t so well known, that wasn’t the only Nazi-imposed oppressive symbol of The Holocaust. Red triangle? Communist. Brown triangle? Gypsy. Purple triangle? Jehovah’s Witness. Pink inverted triangle? Homosexual.

And for a brief moment, imagine the outrage from the LGBTQ community if that pink triangle were appropriated for this purpose. Idiots screaming about freedom, comparing it to the struggles of a community that’s been marginalized for centuries.

But they’ve chosen that little yellow star to complain about their lack of freedom, so let’s go with that. That little yellow star is indeed a striking symbol of lack of freedom. For those who had to wear it, it meant a loss of freedom, and depending on what year, it meant something different. From 1933 to 1945, at differing times, it meant the loss of freedom to travel. To go to school. To own a business. To operate a business. To own property. To have your own home. To own anything. And finally, to live… slowly and surely, those rights were eroded until there was nothing left. But really, at no point, did it have anything to do with being able to book a table at that sushi place in Yaletown where they make those awesome cube-like nigiri that they roast with a blowtorch. No… the Jews of the Holocaust weren’t worrying too much about stuff like that and, further, if the solution to their problems could’ve been solved by a disease-preventing inoculation, I can think of at least 6 million people who gladly would’ve taken advantage of it.

If you want to complain about freedoms being ripped away from you, talk to the women of Afghanistan. Hell, you don’t even need to go that far. Talk to the women in Texas… both groups of women who until recently had rights which were ruthlessly and unexpectedly ripped away from them.

So… I look at these despicable people marching with their ignorant, illiterate signs and their tasteless and inappropriate symbols… and here’s what comes to mind: Many years ago, I took a few law courses at VCC… a sort of evening-adult-education thing. It was more about getting familiar with some business law issues, but we covered a bit of criminal law as well. Interesting stuff. One thing I remember is the difference between assault and battery. Those two terms are commonly used somewhat interchangeably, but there is a difference… and the word assault is sometimes used incorrectly. Hitting someone isn’t an assault; that’s the actual battery. There doesn’t need to be any physical contact for there to be an assault… just inducing fear or threats or intimidation; that’s an assault. Of course, it’s hard to hit someone without there having been some element of those three things beforehand, so it’s often assault and battery combined.

Why do I mention this? I mention it only because, in my case, it’ll undoubtedly be both that I’ll be charged with if I see anyone wearing one of these little yellow stars… because I will walk up right up to them and rip the fucking thing right off their shirt or jacket while simultaneously punching them in the face. A very quick one-two.

My thinking is that it’d be so quick that there technically might not be time for it to be an assault. Just battery… for sure. Anyway, nitpicking… but I think everyone who knows me well would be surprised… that the guy who goes out of his way to shoo a fly or bee or even spider out of the house, instead of so-easily squashing them… would be the guy arrested for punching a protester in the face. Truthfully, I haven’t been in an actual fistfight since I was 10 years old. But I’m telling you right now – perhaps somewhat blowing my potential “moment of rage, no pre-meditated intent” defence: If I run into one of these people, they will need to visit the hospital to which moments earlier they’d been blocking access.

Well! You’ll either hear about me in the news… or I’ll be back here in due course with more to say; this has already gotten a bit long. Enough for now. Have a great weekend… till next time!

August 5, 2021

Hi there!

Yeah, I said I’d be back for a periodic update once in a while… I guess it’s time… it’s been a month, and a month ago things were looking pretty good…

Sooooo…..… have I… missed… anything…

OK, let’s break it down a bit because it’s not as bad as it looks. It’s not great, but there’s a big huge tremendously-relevant asterisk next to the column of concerningly-quickly-growing case counts, and that is… that whereas in the past, these sharp increases in numbers would be followed by sharp increases in hospitalizations, ICU admissions and, ultimately, deaths… we’re not likely to see that this time. In fact, looking below, it’s pretty clear what it looks like when things aren’t going so well, courtesy of our stubbornly-unvaccinated neighbours to the south.

Actually, it’s astonishing. Look at the US hospital/ICU/death graph compared to Canada or any of the provinces. This is “Do vaccines work?” answered in a few simple pictures.

Dr. Bonny has said we’re on track for the Phase 4 reopening, and I tend to agree. Why wouldn’t we be? Those dates were largely based on assumptions to do with “load” on the medical system.

The graphs below are as of May 1st, so let’s go with that.

Around May 1st, B.C. was seeing around 800 new cases a day – consistently. Around 4 people a day were dying of C19. Provincially, there were over 500 people in hospital and almost 200 of them in ICU. In fact, since that day, just over 200 people have died of C19 in B.C.

But… today…? Alarmingly increasing case-counts notwithstanding, there are 58 people in hospital, 21 of them in ICU. These numbers will unfortunately go up, but not in hugely concerning numbers, most-especially for those who are – all together now: Fully Vaccinated.

In the U.S., on May 1st, they were getting less than 50,000 new cases a day. Today it’s over 100,000. On May 1st, they had 34,000 people in hospital, 9,100 of them in ICU. Today’s hospitalization number is probably around 45,000 and the ICU number over 11,000. I say probably because those numbers are simply the last published, but they’re getting so slammed that they are several days behind. Those flat lines at the right of the American graph aren’t because cases have stopped growing, and it’s not hard to see the trend they imply. They’ve managed to undo everything that was achieved to that point, and now continue to watch things get worse.

We have our own local version of the U.S. in the interior of the province where the young, infallible, healthy-so-who-cares-about-anyone-else crowd is driving these cases. Overwhelmingly, those getting sick enough to be hospitalized are unvaccinated. And the demographic is skewing younger. Now map those proportions from B.C.’s interior to all of the red states. Yikes. Oh, if only there were a way to mitigate the risk.

At the end of the day, C19 is here to stay. There is a 100% chance you will come into contact with it. The Delta variant is far more contagious than anything that came before it, and, as it turns out, vaccinated people are able to transmit it to others. You may be carrying it as we speak.

That sounds alarming until, again, you simply consider the fact that being exposed to C19 in any fashion is far less concerning if your immune system is primed for it. You may have it and you may be contagious, and you’ll never know because it’ll silently come and go. I may have come into contact with Measles, Shingles and even potentially Tetanus (that little bike accident) recently. I don’t know… and I don’t care… because I’m vaccinated against all of that, and, while nothing is 100%, my chances of getting seriously sick from any of those things has been drastically reduced. That’s as much as any of us can do. And it’s exactly how I feel about C19. I’ve done what I can to protect myself, everyone around me, and strangers with whom I come into contact. I suppose if everyone felt this way, we’d eventually have nothing to talk about… but we’re far from that. We may never get there.

Do what you can, including being careful around those whose immune systems may not be as strong… and take some solace in knowing that it’s probably enough. I’ve said that it’s all going to be ok, and it still is. But the road ahead has some unknown turns and bumps. The Delta variant isn’t going to screw everything up, but it’s going to make things drag on longer. I guess we’ll see what the next little while brings…

The Last (Daily) Post – July 6, 2021

The Last Post.

That’s the piece of music you’ll hear on Remembrance Day, November 11th at 11am, commemorating the end of The Great War.

At my school, there was a Remembrance Day service every year, and the lead trumpet player of the school had the honour of getting up in front of everyone and playing it. In my grade 12 year, that was me… but instead of standing in front of everyone, I did it from the gym next door… where the acoustics allowed me to harmonize with my own notes. As it’s typically played on a bugle (on a trumpet, you simply play it without pressing any valves… it’s all lips and air pressure), there are only three notes to work with… C E and G (in three different octaves)… and, as any musician will tell you, any combination of those notes (including all three) go together very well. Accordingly, my rendition of notes blending and harmonizing with each other was really-well received. A very successful gig – notwithstanding the somber occasion — and the largest crowd I’d ever played to. A few months later, at Expo 86, my Dixieland band played in front of 3,000 people at the Kodak Bowl. My largest and — with the exception of my sister’s wedding — last public appearance as a musician because, the truth is, I’m not a big fan of being on stage.

Which brings us to this particular Last Post.

People have asked me how many people actually read these posts. The answer varies… from a minimum of a few hundred for the lame ones… to thousands for the good ones, and, on a couple of occasions, the number well-exceeded 10,000. The first one of those big ones got close to 500 shares in the first 24 hours, a piece comparing B.C.’s response to that of Louisiana. That was back in April of 2020, when the glaring differences in responses between countries, states and provinces were becoming very apparent, and I didn’t have a lot of great things to say about what they were doing down there.

It was really the first time I realized I was reaching an awful lot more people than I imagined… a few scattered people from some very far-away places, sure… but also large pockets of people in places like Texas, Arizona and Kentucky who… to put it delicately… didn’t really see eye-to-eye with my opinions with respect to American politics and, anyway, what the hell is some Canadian yahoo doing commenting on things he knows nothing about; go build an igloo or race your huskies or whatever, EH.

Still, I prefer this version of being on stage; when you blow a wrong note, there’s always the backspace key; not so in front of a live audience.

I used that key a lot… because, when I started this back on March 17th, 2020, like everyone else, I knew very little about pandemics. And today, we all know much more than we’d ever imagined… knowledge I hope for everyone reading this simply fades away in the future because you won’t need it. One hundred years between these sorts of pandemics seems about right; we all just got a lifetime’s worth of experience and I don’t think any of us have any strong desire to ever re-visit it. Here’s how to properly wash your hands. Here’s how to properly wear a mask. Here’s a safe distance from which you… yeah, yeah… we get it.

So… I picked a good day for this Last Post. Today:

– The Provincial State of Emergency officially ends at midnight

– B.C.’s one-jab percentage went over 70% for the entire population, not just those presently eligible. That’s a magic number in many people’s eyes when it comes to herd immunity

– I’m officially two weeks past my 2nd vaccination (AZ / Moderna)

By those… and a few other different measures… around here, it’s over. And for me, four hundred and seventy-seven straight days of writing about this pandemic – is also over. But, of course, what ostensibly (that’s my niece’s favourite word!) was meant to be a simple little blog about the pandemic and current numbers… morphed into much more.

For me, it was a discipline, a brain dump, a sanity check and a way to make sure I was current with whatever might be important… and a self-imposed 5pm deadline to update the numbers and write something to go along with it. I woke up every morning with my brain rumbling around some ideas… what’s current, what’s important, what’s engaging… and how might some previous experience of mine help explain it. I never knew what I was going to write about, but I never worried about it either. I never approached 5pm panicking, and out of 477 posts, I think only three weren’t within 10 minutes of 5pm… one was a vet emergency, one was getting stuck behind an accident that turned a 15-minute drive into more than an hour, and one was believing my computer when it told me that this little OSX update would only take a few minutes.

And for you?

If putting some complex ideas in a form that made it easier for you to understand… good… I was happy to do it. I’ve certainly found that, for myself, talking through complicated topics in simpler terms helps me understand them as well.

If displaying colourful numbers and pictures provided you with a centralized place to view the info that, at a glance, you most needed… great. What you saw is what I considered the best way to convey what was most important in the clearest manner possible… an exercise that changed a lot over 16 months. I started with simple charts and graphs for a few different countries… then added Time To Double (TTD) lines to everything when it looked like they might be spiraling out of control… and ultimately got rid of them when things settled down. Then I got rid of the other countries when we needed to worry more about ourselves… and then added other provinces so we could have a holistic view of all of Canada… and, finally, of course… the vaccinations. I loved adding those columns, formulas and graphs… and then watching them – initially with a lot of frustration at how slowly those percentages were going up… but ultimately with joy as those numbers accelerated upwards. I’ve added a fourth row of graphs today; what the pandemic looked like for the U.S., Canada and the provinces… from day 1. It’s incredible to look at the tiny little bump at the far left – the beginning – of the B.C. graph. That tiny little bump is when we were all really, really worried.

And… indeed … if I had any part in holding your hand through this pandemic, and if my posts gave you some comfort and some optimism… I’m really happy to hear it. I’ll be honest; I was scared too. I also looked everywhere for the reassurances we all sought. I had to be the one to talk to my kids and have answers to their questions. When they asked, the first question was always, “How were the numbers?”

Sometimes, those numbers weren’t so good… and that’s where you need to look ahead, to think big-picture, to skate to where the puck is going to be… whatever metaphor you choose; I always felt we’d come out of this ok… but conveying that message wasn’t always so easy… yet I, myself, was comforted by everything I’d learned, and I sincerely hoped I could pass along those feelings. How many times and in how many ways did I say the same thing: There’s a finish line, and we’re all going to get there.

And here we are. If you’re reading this, it’s because I made it… and so did you.

It’s somewhat ironic that The Great War ended largely as a result of the pandemic that began in 1918. The War ended, the pandemic began… because while different countries were all trying to figure out effective ways of killing each other, along came an invisible enemy with an answer for everyone. It’s also somewhat ironic that this particular Last Post is the other way around… that the pandemic might be over in this neck of the woods, but the war rages on in others. A World War of a different sort.

So yeah… around here, no more Provincial State of Emergency… and no more daily posts. But, exactly like Covid-19, I’m not going away entirely… and I’ll pop-up unexpectedly from time to time. I’ve found that this habit of needing to voice my opinion is a tough one to break… so don’t unfollow me quite yet; if you think I’ll have something to say in the future, you’re absolutely right. Just not every day. And especially not in the next week or two, because life is returning to normal… and I am diving head-first into it.

And so… with that – it is I, your humble, faithful and consistent pandemic blogger signing off… and wishing you all the happiest and healthiest and Covid-freest-imaginable — rest of your lives.

Cheers.

July 5, 2021

First things first… the contest! It is indeed a good time to shut it down because now there are far more people guessing than reasonable guesses out there. Special shoutouts to Carey Brown and Kiyomi Hunter whose guesses of 88 missed by one. Also special shoutouts to Claudio Arato and Stephen Silver whose guesses of 86 also missed by one. Extra special shoutout to Lauren Faccin whose guess of 87 was bang-on, but unfortunately… she wasn’t the first to guess that.

That excellent guess was first posted by Sam Ari – so… congrats, Ari! And let me know to where you’d like the $100 donation directed!

It’s a good thing when we’re running out of room for guesses. The last twenty-four hour period saw a grand total of 20 new cases… a number so low it takes a lot of hindsight to find the last time… which was in July of… 2020. See? Good hindsight. Things are very much heading in the right direction. Around here.

But… on that note… a final word about our neighbours to the south…

The pandemic journey of what used to be the most powerful and respected nation in the world has been a bumpy ride, and it’s not over yet. It could be. It would be. For numerous reasons I’ve been hammering for 16 months, it most definitely should be… but it isn’t. It actually might have been… had the virus not adapted faster than the attitudes of so many people. There’s a chance it might have faded away, had the Rø remained what it was figured to be originally. Variants changed that, especially Delta… and there could be others, and hopefully they don’t run out of letters in the Greek alphabet to name them all.

Last week, the U.S. had 12,219 people hospitalized. Today, that number is 12,740. Last week, the U.S. had 3,522 in ICUs… and today, it’s 3,634. This doesn’t imply frightening, scary growth (yet…), but it certainly indicates things trending in the wrong direction. Just look at the U.S. graph of hospitalizations compared to Canada or any of the provinces… there’s a flattening, and then a slight bend up… and all of it driven by places with low vaccination rates. The lecture halls of the future studying this pandemic will see a lot of hands up; there will be a lot of questions. And the vast majority of them will begin with, “Why didn’t they…”

Some questions have no good answers. As much as I actually detest these words, sometimes they’re appropriate: “It is what it is.”

We’ve wrapped up the contest, we’ve wrapped up the provincial and Canadian responses, we’ve wrapped up cases/hospitalizations/ICUs/deaths, we’ve wrapped up vaccinations and we’ve wrapped up the U.S.

Only one thing left to wrap up. See you tomorrow.

July 4, 2021

Alrighty… one last kick at the can. One final shot at fame, fortune and glory. One last grab at all the marbles. Yes indeed… it’s the last ever (please, let’s hope…) “Guess the Weekend Totals!” contest.

For those new to it, it’s pretty simple: In the comments below, write your guess as to what B.C.’s three-day new-cases total will be; the winner will be the person who guesses closest first, and I am almost certain someone will nail it bang-on because, while it’s a lot more difficult when we’re getting 500 cases a day, it becomes a lot easier when we’re below 50.

Indeed, the new-case numbers for the last three days were 43, 49 and 35… which averages to a number very familiar to Douglas Adams fans: 42.

Wow… in “A Hitchhiker’s Guide..”, it took the Deep Thought supercomputer 7.5. million years to come up with that number… and I just did it in my head!

Well… since this is the last one, I’m going to play too. I will take that number, the literal “Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything”, multiply it by 3, and guess 126.

Now it’s your turn… enter your guess in the comments below, and, as usual, for the final time, it’s not just the bragging rights and glory, but also $100 to the charity of your choice.

Good luck!

July 3, 2021

Death and taxes aren’t actually the only certainties in life, of course… there are a few more… among them:

1. Have you ever had a cold?
2. Have you ever had the flu?
3. Are you presently alive?

The answer is 100% for all three, for everyone reading this… but if you want to argue it’s not, that it’s probably 99.999 something percent, then ok, I’ll mention that not everyone pays taxes either… exhibit A would be the former president of the U.S. and his entire organization… who are about to find out the hard way that you don’t mess with The Tax Man. Al Capone got away with racketeering and bootlegging and murder… for decades. But he couldn’t defend himself against the charges of tax evasion, and that’s what sent him to prison for the rest of his life.

But this article is neither about Trump nor his ill-fated organization. Rather, it’s a discussion about certainties, and what they look like going forward.

Colds are around. The flu is around. Measles and Mumps and Rubella are all around too, but we rarely worry about them… for good reason. They’ve been vaxxed out of our “worry zone”.

There are some important things to note going forward… and that is, that cases of C19 will come and go. Pockets of cases will flare up here and there, like that group of insane anti-vax moms in California responsible for a measles outbreak. Up next, the glorious state of Arkansas with its deplorable vaccination rates; bring on the completely preventable next wave of C19.

Actually, to clarify, we may see flare-ups of cases here too. Should we be concerned? At some point (and we’re at it, of very close to it…), the thing to watch is no longer cases. They become irrelevant. What becomes important are hospitalizations, ICU cases and deaths… numbers which have plummeted, and there’s every expectation they’ll remain low… because, again… you know… vaccinations.

This pandemic turns into an “endemic” in different places at different times. We’re pretty-much there now around here… because once you’ve done everything you can, and the support infrastructure is in place, there’s really not much else. As odd as it sounds, does it actually matter if you catch C19? If you catch it, but you’re asymptomatic and/or non-infectious to others? I’d never really thought of it before all this, but how many times have I had a cold or flu and not even known? Their presentation can also be so mild as to be asymptomatic.

So… with certainty: It’ll be around for a while, but if you’re fully vaxxed and/or fully immune for other reasons, you have little to worry about. The new seasonal cold will likely hit you harder, because for that one, you have no antibodies.

The one group that needs mentioning here are those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons and/or whose immune systems aren’t up to the task of reacting adequately to the vaccine… a group all of us become part of as we get older… which is why research into this will continue forever… or, until it’s eradicated from existence. We did it with smallpox… and we can certainly do it here too.

July 2, 2021

On the last day of second-year university, I wrote my last exam on a Friday afternoon. That was the last thing after a tumultuous few weeks of final papers, projects and exams. I finished writing it, barely remember driving home, told everyone not to wake me… I’m exhausted, I already ate, leave me alone. I fell asleep around 6pm and woke up the next morning at 11am. That’s 17 hours of glorious, blissful sleep… and I remember it well because it’s, by far, the longest continuous sleep I’ve ever had.

And when I woke up the next day, I suddenly felt like I was in a vacuum. “Now what?!” What paper or project do I work on? What exam do I study for? There were no answers of course, but as the saying goes… when you stare into the abyss, it stares right back at you. Now what?

The government 3pm briefings were something I’d gotten used to. If you were here watching with me, you might have heard me screaming at the screen… not at Dr. Henry or Minister Dix… but rather, at the reporters serving up the softball questions. “Ask him this!” or “Ask her that!” I’d (very ineffectively) yell… and usually, nobody thought to ask what I’d desperately wanted answered. I took to Tweeting certain reporters, and a couple of times, by coincidence or because they listened, my specific questions got asked and answered… but now… this vacuum of silence. This abyss of zero information.

This is, of course, good. No news is good news. Usually. We can all hope we never see Dr. Henry on TV again, except when she’s receiving her well-deserved Order of B.C. and Order of Canada. But perhaps there’s a bit of Stockholm Syndrome as well. This pandemic has held us all hostage for more than a year, and even if it’s letting us go, there’s visible reluctance all around. I’m not saying we’re going to miss it, but certainly parts of it. I’m not saying I need to see the Henry/Dix 3pm gathering every day for the rest of my life, but there’s no doubt it held great importance for many people… and, truthfully, I will miss it. And while we’ve all become very used to masks and distancing, and the mental stranglehold of that – even if Henry/Dix are telling us don’t worry, take them off, gather, whatever – it’s going to take some time. You don’t jump into the abyss… you lower yourself in slowly.

Yes, I do think Dr. Henry will receive (and deserves) those honours. As much as she received criticism and death threats and all the rest of it, in the decades to come, when this whole experience is looked back upon and textbooks are written as to the proper way of dealing with pandemics, British Columbia will be near (if not sitting on) the top of the list. Pandemics incur a lot of collateral damage… lives, businesses, jobs. Mitigating that properly, navigating the subtleties, juggling thirteen flaming chainsaws without getting hurt; it’s no small feat. Look around at the rest of the world for comparison. We, around here, have been very lucky indeed.

I’m going to try to sleep seventeen hours tonight… though I will fail miserably. But one thing that’s changed… I used to go to sleep on Fridays with a bit of dread, not knowing what to expect after the weekend media blackout. That’s now gone, and I certainly won’t miss that.

July 1, 2021

The eclectic collection of friends and people and organizations I associate with has never been made more apparent than sifting through today’s emails. It’s officially Canada Day, of course, and I’m wishing you all a very happy holiday… in whatever way you wish to celebrate and/or recognize it – and of course, for many people, it’s no celebration at all… right up there with Columbus Day and all of its implications, as we all well-know from the emerging dreadful news that’s nowhere near subsiding.

I have emails yelling “Don’t let them take Canada Day away from us!!” and I have emails calmly explaining things, in great detail, from the point of view of many Indigenous Peoples from across the country, eloquently stating why there’s nothing at all to cheer.

The rest are somewhere in between – as am I.

But before I talk about Canada, let’s talk about Chile a bit – a country many of you possibly barely knew even existed nor cared about… but if you’ve been reading these posts for a while, you’ve seen that name pop up several times. And while I still have my little soap-box to stand upon for a few more days, here’s one last crack at it.

Here is a brief summary of Chile, the country where I was born and where I still have plenty of friends, family and business associates… a place that was one of the very few in the world accepting Jewish refugees during and after WWII. The boat that sailed west with the few members of my family who had enough foresight to get the hell out of Czechoslovakia in 1938 (among them my maternal grandparents) crossed the Atlantic Ocean and attempted to dock in numerous places, among them Halifax. This was during the reign of Canada’s 10th PM, William Lyon Mackenzie King… who, when asked how many Jewish refugees he thought Canada should admit, replied “None is too many”. The ship sailed south, but the U.S. wasn’t open to it either. The ship then crossed the Panama Canal and kept sailing south, now on the Pacific side… until finally Ecuador allowed everyone off the boat… provided they didn’t stay.

But Chile said, yeah… come on down… and welcomed numerous Jewish refugees with open arms. And these are not the sort of war-torn starving desert-dwelling-type refugees you imagine from TV and movies… these were well-educated doctors, lawyers, businessmen, accountants, engineers, etc… whose subsequent involvement in the country helped grow it to be the leading economy of Latin America.

But, times change. Politics evolve. Moods swing. Demographics shift. A recent article voted Santiago, Chile as the number-one antisemitic city in the world… a city with close to 500,000 Palestinians… close to 10% of the population… compared with less than 20,000 Jews (0.4%). And… a very leftist antisemitic presidential candidate – who, if polls are correct – could easily win the election later this year.

This candidate has brought out all of the usual antisemitic rhetoric and has promised to rid the country of Jews. Needless to say, the Jews are becoming increasingly worried. Public displays of antisemitism, violence and vandalism are being seen in record numbers. And if he wins – as the old adage goes – when you lose the support of the government… Run.

If the shit really hits the fan, where will they go?

Well, one very logical place is Canada… among one of the very best places in the world to be Jewish these days. In fact, it’s one of the best places in the world to be *anything* these days.

Indeed, especially for those who are young and haven’t experienced the world outside the bubble that is Canada, it’s hard to relate to how it feels and looks when a country completely derails. We almost got a first-hand look at it on January 6th… and from the sounds of it, things might look very different right now down south if those armed protesters had simply zigged instead of zagged… and wound up face to face with Nancy Pelosi or Mike Pence. Fortunately, it didn’t happen. And it hasn’t happened (yet) in Chile. But it could. It could happen anywhere.

But, these days, it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon in Canada. We read with horror at the emerging evidence of our past, but here’s the thing; this is a great country. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any country, great or not, that doesn’t have a significant stain in its history. Chile was good for Jews for a while; that may change. Chile has never been good to its Indigenous population. The Spanish showed up a few hundred years ago, conquered them… and they have remained conquered ever since. Yes, they are screaming for their rights, land, restitution and acknowledgment… but they, like many other Indigenous populations around the world, face a steep uphill. Unlike in Canada, where there are still lots of big problems… in the past and in the future… but they are being acknowledged and they will hopefully be dealt with adequately… sooner than later.

Canada, for the moment, is also a great place for Jews. Antisemitism is on the rise, but still… there is full government support. I don’t judge Canada on the words or actions of William Lyon Mackenzie King. I judge it on what it is today… Canada, which, for the moment, faces a historical trauma that’s been known for decades but rarely spoken about till now… a history that needs to be heard, acknowledged and made right. Great countries deal with it. And that’s what we’re doing.

So yeah, the celebration may be understandably muted this year, but let’s not forget that there’s also a future, not just a past. And if we can learn from the past (and there’s plenty to learn) and use it for a better future for all of us – Indigenous, White, Black, Jewish and whoever else… remember… you’re very fortunate to be Canadian… which in itself is certainly something to celebrate.

June 30, 2021

I’m overwhelmed by all of the messages I’ve received… thank you. I realize I said my last post is on Tuesday… and some took it to mean yesterday… but I meant next Tuesday – July 6th – the day the official State of Emergency is lifted. That being said, everyone in the news is saying the SoE ends tonight. What’s certainly true is that Phase 3 starts tomorrow… but that’s not necessarily tied to the SoE, which, according to the official government EmergencyInfoBC site… still says July 6th.

… so, guess what… one more week of my ramblings, because I think I have about another 6 days of “wrap-up” to provide… of the “broad brushstrokes” sort… and we can’t end all of this without one final “guess the numbers” contest over the weekend…

So, with that… a final word about vaccines and their effectiveness:

There’s an interesting sort of Darwinism that’s emerging from this pandemic… of the “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink it” sort. To follow up on that well-known saying, I’ve added a corollary (n. a proposition that follows from (and is often appended to) one already proved) – which is, “you can take that horse’s head and jam it into the water and hold it there… but there are some stubborn old horses that’d rather drown than take a drink.”

I would hope nobody’s tried this experiment, and I should note… I’ve met a lot of horses in my time. Some are very smart. Some are as dumb as a mule… but, to be honest, perhaps all of them would be smart enough to take a drink if that’s what it’d take to not die. But humans, on the other hand… the sort that’d never admit they were wrong… that’s another story.

The data that has emerged is pretty straightforward.

In the U.S., there were 18,000 C19 deaths in May. Of those, around 150 (0.8%) were in fully vaccinated people. I don’t have the age or breakdown of those people, but I’m assuming age and compromised immune systems are part of it for some, if not most.

Also in May, in the U.S., there were 853,000 C19 hospitalizations. Of those, fewer than 1,200 (0.1%) were people who were fully vaccinated.

The U.S. is down to a few hundred deaths a day these days, and virtually all of them are people who are unvaccinated.

In English: Ninety-nine percent of people dying from Covid-19 are unvaccinated. Virtually all of those deaths are preventable.

In mid-January, 4,000 people a day were dying. The significant decrease began exactly at the time the vaccination campaigns began in earnest.

I’m really not entirely sure what more persuasive evidence someone would need. To me, and fortunately, many others… it’s all startlingly obvious.

What can you do…? You can lead a person to a vaccination clinic. But you can’t make them take it.

You know… it’s ok to be wrong. It’s ok to change your mind. As long as your fragile ego can take a hit, and as long as you have the capacity to do some critical thinking, if you haven’t gotten sick… it’s never too late. The overwhelming data coming from every trustable scientific source agrees. The guy in the basement with the red tinfoil hat disagrees.

Horses don’t always have choices, but humans do… and sometimes, they make the right choice. And sometimes, they let Darwin make it for them.

C’est la vie… or, in some unfortunate future cases… lack thereof.

June 29, 2021

A very memorable day here in B.C… the announcement that this is all pretty-much coming to an end; the official announcement that as of July 1st, we’re in Phase 3 and that the public health emergency will be lifted five days later.

Some notable changes, effective this Thursday:

– For the most part, masks will be optional… recommended, but not mandated

– No need to provide proof of vaccination anywhere

– Return to normal for personal indoor and outdoor gatherings

– For organized indoor gatherings, 50 people or 50%, whichever is greater

– For outdoor organized gatherings, 5,000 people or 50%, whichever is greater

– No capacity limits or restrictions on religious gatherings and worship services

– Fairs, festivals and trade shows – back to normal (with a plan in place)

– Canada-wide travel is ok

– No group limits for indoor or outdoor dining

– Normal liquor service, though no socializing between tables

– All indoor fitness classes allowed at normal capacities

– Gyms and recreation facilities, normal capacity

Given today’s new-case count of 29 and zero deaths and given the strong momentum still in place for vaccination (around here), it makes perfect sense. It’s exactly on track with what was optimistically expected… and all of this announced on what’s to be the last Dr. Bonny / Mr. Dix live 3pm briefing. I saw the first one, saw many in between, and, evidently, I saw the last one… though I didn’t know it at the time.

I started writing about this pandemic on March 17th, 2020. The Provincial State of Emergency was declared the next day, on the morning of March 18th. Accordingly, when the PSoE is lifted on Tuesday, I think that’ll be an appropriate finish line for me as well. A few more thoughts, one last contest… and, on Tuesday, call it a day. It’s Summer, and I’ve barely been anywhere for 18 months; time to get on with it and not have to be near a computer every day at 5pm.

This is all, in essence, the end of the pandemic… but it’s not the end of Covid, and there are a lot of variables that could cause wrinkles in the end-game… but the biggest game-changer… the one big, important piece… vaccines… will have a lot to say with respect to mitigating any sort of grand resurgence.

Sure… there will be pockets of outbreaks… but they’ll be dealt with swiftly. We may see an uptick in cases in the fall, but I suspect most people won’t know whether their sniffles and C19 or not; nor will they care. If hospitalization is needed, there will be plenty of beds and an awful lot of knowledge with respect to effective treatment. And if it’s a mild case… and if they’re vaccinated and everyone else around them is as well, that’s as much as any of us can do.

Beyond that, it’s pretty simple: Let’s get on with our lives.

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