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.

June 28, 2021

It really is too hot to sit here any type too much; I hope you’re reading this in whatever version of “Ahhhh… nice and cool…” you’ve managed to find for yourself.

So… as I said… we’re down to incredibly low and optimistic numbers… to the extent the correct number was exactly guessed, and four other people were off by 1. Way to go Denise, Esther, Carey & Sharon… almost!

But congratulations Mark Johnson, who nailed the three-day total of 145 right on the nose… after changing his guess, having realized someone ahead of him had guessed the same. See? Good research pays off! Mark, please let me know where you’d like me to direct the $100 donation.

The last 24 hours saw 38 new cases… the lowest number since last August. And, looking over last August, that was probably also the last time the temperature exceeded the case count. That’d be a nice trend to start today… and especially heading into the fall; any day from now on where the temperature exceeds the case count will be a good one.

And given what the rest of the week looks like, that shouldn’t be too tough to achieve.

OK, back to the shade…

June 27, 2021

The only thing hotter than the infernal weather is… the anticipation for this week’s contest!

Yes, indeed… it’s that time again… and, perhaps, for the last time… because given how the numbers are looking, pretty soon we’ll be at the point where there are 3x as many people guessing as there are reasonable guesses. This is, of course, a great thing. Here are the daily new case averages for recent weeks:

Today: +74
Last week: +104
Two weeks ago: +161
Three weeks ago: +210
A month ago: +315

Beautiful trend… so what’s our three-day total going to look like? Guess way… the contest is open from now till noon tomorrow – and, as usual, apart from the coveted bragging rights, $100 to the charity of choice to whoever is first in guessing closest to the actual total.

If you were to base it on recent averages, 3 x 74 = 222… a number that would’ve counted, on its own, as a good day a month ago. Exponential growth? Now we’re dealing with exponential decay. Beautiful.

Guess away, good luck… and with respect to these numbers dropping drastically, let’s hope the outside temperatures also follow suit…

June 26, 2021

On a completely different topic… man, it’s hot as Hell out there… and speaking of Hell – here’s a good segue… you know who belongs in hell? Paul Bernardo… who was briefly in the news a few days ago, and will be again in the future.

Paul Bernardo is brutally psychotic rapist and murderer who was put away decades ago, but as long as he’s alive, we’ll keep hearing his name every few years.

Here is the Paul Bernardo news cycle from now on:

parole hearing/denied
parole hearing/denied
parole hearing/denied
dead.

Not sure how many cycles there will be, but you get the idea. It ends when he finally arrives in Hell.

When Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976, they instituted the “faint hope” clause… which, after fifteen years of a life sentence, allowed the convict a chance to ask for a parole hearing… a long-shot chance to get out… one that would never apply to monsters like Bernardo, but the hoops need to be jumped through… and it’s problematic, because it requires testimony, often from the families of the victims… tearing open wounds from the past – every 2 or 3 years.

The idea behind all of this was that if the convict thought he’d have a small chance… effectively, a small chance in hell… perhaps he’d behave better and make better efforts to better himself, etc. Most of those dangerous offenders are beyond rehabilitation, so the whole thing is a pretty big and expensive and stressful waste of time.

Accordingly, the whole faint hope thing was abandoned in 2011, but everyone whose crimes occurred before that were “grandfathered”, so they still get to play the game… a game that will die off along with these remaining prisoners. Then, they can all hang out in Hell together.

You’d think I that’s all I have to say on this particular topic, but I’ll tell you a interesting story related to all of this… some other time. Right now, I’m going to go cool off… because, do you know how hot it is? Exactly.

June 25, 2021

When this pandemic started, my daughter Sophia had recently started grade 11. That was at the time when we were all worrying about this getting totally out of control; watching those exponential-growth graphs; looking closely at the TTD (Time To Double) numbers. I can still tell you… that if cases are growing at 10%, they’ll double in a week. At 6%, it’ll take 12 days.

Slowly, those percentages dwindled to the point where they became far less concerning… and, eventually, irrelevant. Today’s percentages are actually close enough to zero that unless something drastic happens, I should just remove them. But in March of 2020, that number was over 40% in Quebec… a TTD of 2. Cases doubling every two days. Today, that number is 0.02%. Go Habs.

And that’s not the only thing that’s changed. Sophia went from grade 11 to grade 12, and today is the last day of that particular adventure. Right around the time I’m posting this, she and her classmates will be walking across the stage, receiving their well-deserved awards and diplomas, and putting the whole high-school experience (with a pandemic thrown in for good measure) behind them.

The crappy part is I can’t be there. I’m watching the livestream from home, as are all the other parents. The good part is that family from all over the world can also watch. And even though I’m not there, I think the screaming and cheering at the TV will be loud enough that even though the school is several kilometres away… they’ll hear it.

For Sophia, the end of a big adventure… and, also, the start of an even bigger one.

For us… well, this uncalled-for adventure isn’t quite over yet… but if we were all in grade 12, we’d be at the point where the final papers are all handed in, and all of the exams have been written. The stage is set… and soon, we all get to walk across it. And then we get to collectively throw our caps (ie masks) in the air and, with the same sense of anticipation being felt by this awesome group of graduates… get on with our lives.

June 24, 2021

Bruce Hornsby has had more than one hit in his illustrious career… he’s no “one hit wonder”… but if you’ve ever heard of him, there’s no doubt you know his most famous song. And maybe that’s the only one you know. If he’d never written another song, his legacy may not be that different. It was pretty much the first thing he ever put out… it won Grammys, it went multi-platinum, etc. Deservedly so. And for many, that’s the last they remember of him.

The song, of course, is “The Way It Is”.

Bruce Hornsby’s song answers a lot of questions (that are typically rhetorical, but shouldn’t be) with that answer. Why Black segregation? Why such a divide between rich and poor? That song would go on for years if you kept adding relevant questions to it. Any well-entrenched part of society that’s unfair, unbalanced and/or just plain insane – gets defended by that answer.

The answer, “that’s just the way it is” is the ultimate cop-out. The ultimate passing the buck. The ultimate “not my problem”.

That song came out right around my 18th birthday, just a few months after graduation. And that is exactly the age where teens get thrown into the real world. Accordingly, they look around at where they landed… and ask lots of questions. And that particular answer is never accepted graciously.

Side-note, it was an argument with a university prof that was the final nail in the coffin of my academic career… me telling her that her sorting algorithms may have been great in the past, but recent advances in computer theory — and the languages that have emerged as a result — offer other possibilities. Nope, it’s her way or the highway. And her final response to my well-thought-out and logical and correct arguments? Too bad… that’s just the way it is.

After all is said and done, once this pandemic is over, we’re all looking forward to getting back to normal. Or are we? What, exactly, *is* normal?

Getting into your car, driving 25 minutes in rush-hour gridlock, finding parking that’s $19.00 for the first hour and then ten cents an hour for the rest of the day – when all you need is 30 minutes… wandering into an office and waiting, being guided into a room with lots of people and lots of papers laid out, signing them till your hand feels like it’s going to fall off, heading back to the car but stopping at the Starbucks on the way for a 300-calorie fancy drink that you didn’t really need and would never have gone out of your way for… but jeez, you know, it’s right there… so what can you do. Get back to your car — annoyed at the bullshit parking price you paid — drive home in lighter-but-still-stress-inducing traffic… get home, see that two hours have somehow elapsed… and for what? What part of any of that seems “normal” ? It didn’t feel normal back then, but if you’d ask anybody why all that’s necessary, you’d hear back:

“That’s just the way it is.”

And you’d ask, “Well, why? This sucks. There must be a better way.”

“Nope… that’s just the way it is.”

Funny how a pandemic can change things. You need all of this signed? No problem. But I can’t come to you and you can’t come to me. OK… figure it out… and figure it out they did, and I love it; Zoom at precisely 10am, say hi, flash the ID, step through the verification of the digital signature, step through the paper work and click-click-done. Twenty minutes, tops. No driving/polluting. No $20 parking fee down the drain. No 300-calorie Starbucks that you certainly could’ve lived without. And more than 90 minutes to do something actually productive.

Everyone is grumbling about how we’ll never be back to normal. There’s no going back. The “New Normal”.

Call it what you want… but I embrace it with open arms.

If you actually enjoy the song-and-dance I described above, don’t worry… I’m sure offices and board rooms and copy rooms will all be open fully soon enough, and then you can participate in all the signing ceremonies you like. But if the new normal means optionally throwing that away and adding the Zoom version, talk about a win-win. For me, for everyone who thinks like me, for the environment.

I understand that some people don’t like change, but as we’ve learned in so many ways over the past two years, there’s a lot that needs changing… and perhaps we need to be grateful to this pandemic for creating answers for questions that desperately needed asking. Bring it on.

And for those who don’t like it… well, for once… the answer is actually appropriate. Too bad. That’s just the way it is.

June 23, 2021

Let’s take a closer look at out neighbours to the south, where the overall single-jab vaccination rate is around 54% and stagnating…

The top-10 most vaccinated states are: Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire & New Mexico.

Vermont tops the list with a vaccination percentage of 73.1%, while New Mexico rounds out the top-10 with 60.8%.

The bottom 10 looks like this…

North Dakota, South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Idaho, Alabama, Wyoming, Louisiana & Mississippi.

The best of those worst-10 is North Dakota at 43.4%. The worst is Mississippi at 36.0%

That’s quite a divide… where the top state more than doubles the worst one.

Here’s another interesting stat about all of those states…

In the last presidential election, of the top-10, all of them voted Democrat.

Of the bottom-10, 9 of them voted Republican. The one that didn’t, Georgia, is so inwardly-horrified at the result that their Republican-controlled government recently disenfranchised more than 100,000 potential voters, striking them from the rolls… and this was after enacting a number of laws that can only be called “Voter Suppression”. Take a guess which voters are most affected.

None of this is much of a surprise, though the blatant starkness of it is a little eye-opening… but what’s the deal? The blue state/red state divisions largely precede the pandemic, so how does it necessarily follow that raving, unrelenting Trump supporters would also be the anti-mask/anti-vax crowd?

The answer is a bit more complicated than “They’re just a bunch of ignorant rednecks”. The answer, in fact, has a lot to do with distrust of the government. When you’re poor and/or uneducated and/or sick and tired of hearing lies about how the government is going to do so much for you (and then doesn’t), you end up jumping ship to the guy you can relate to… he’s one of us, loud, abrasive, calls it like he sees it, etc. He’s not cut from government cloth.

Which makes Trump all the worse. If anybody could’ve convinced that group about masks and vaccines, it would’ve been him. It could’ve and it should’ve been him. Notwithstanding the shitshow it took to get him elected, it’s like the universe said “Hmm… there’s going to be this pandemic, and a lot of Americans will lose their lives. At least, who could we put in power in the U.S. to mitigate that? Someone that people who’d generally ignore government advice actually listen to?”

Without a doubt, his handling of this pandemic will be what history judges him on, and it’ll be appropriately brutal. When all is said and done, countless American deaths that could’ve been prevented… a figure officially set at over 600,000 at the moment, but the real figure is already a two-comma number.

Trump likes to make shit up as he goes along, depending who he’s talking to. We know he quietly got vaccinated while at the same time telling everyone it’s unnecessary. And then, a couple of months ago, this magnificent quote: ““In a certain way, I’m the father of the vaccine because I was the one that pushed it.”

At least we can end this relatively sad commentary with a good laugh.

June 22, 2021

Summer is only one day old, but it’s certainly making a statement. Glorious warm sunshine… hopefully a continuing sign of things to come, and I don’t just mean the weather. Blue skies, calm seas, smooth sailing… pick your metaphor; they all apply.

I’ve replaced the usual graphs today with others that are pretty cool to look at… and that tell an interesting story. These are vaccination rates since March 1st… for Canada, the U.S., and the usual provinces we’ve been tracking. These graphs show the daily totals (how “tall” each line is) as well as the breakdown between first and second doses… first doses near the bottom, in the lighter colours… and second doses above them, in the darker colours.

I posted one of these graphs for B.C. recently, but here’s all of them… and what do they tell us…?

First of all, with respect to the Canadian ones – the national one and the individual provinces – you’ll notice that the tips of the lines mostly trend upwards or are, at worst, flat. The flatness of some of those lines, for the moment, has more to do with supply limits than demand shortages. You’ll also note the disparity between first and second doses… a pattern that’s mimicked across the country; sometime around June 1st, there began a big push towards second doses… and today, in all provinces, second doses make up the vast majority of vaccinations. Here in B.C., today… close to 80,000 jabs… of which less than 10,000 were first vaccinations.

It’s also interesting to note what the U.S. graph has to say; that they’ve been doing second doses for a long time, and continue to do so… but with diminishing demand. And first doses…? Today’s levels are less than half of what they were seeing in April.

I’ll keep some version of these graphs around from now on, because… unless things really slide backwards, the story is shifting away from new daily cases and hospitalizations and ICU admissions… and now it’s becoming all about how vaccinated we all are, how immune we all are, and how ready to get back to normal we all are.

On this beautiful day… when B.C. crossed the 1,000,000 fully-vaccinated threshold… when the pharmacy where I got my AZ shot two months ago finally got around to calling me for the follow-up.. “Yeah, no, I’m good… thanks anyway…” and when there wasn’t a single C19 death west of Manitoba… yep… it’s Summer… in more ways than one.

June 21, 2021

First things first… the contest! Congratulations to Shahar Ben Halevi! – whose guess of 231 was only two off the actual total of 229. Shoutout to Theresa Christina who guessed a few minutes later and was also only 2 off, but in the other direction, with her guess of 227. Shahar, let me know where you’d like it donated!

** EDIT ** Oops… ignore most of that last paragraph. Garry Saitz, congrats… 228 is closer to 229 than anything else. Shahar, I’m not going to pull a Steve Harvey here… we have two winners. Shahar, let me know. Garry… you too!

Secondly, to put to rest my decision-making with respect to dose two: My research, as I’ve written, has led me to think that, given the option, an mRNA vaccine for the second dose would be the way to go… if it was literally a choice, right at that moment. As it turns out, I wasn’t given the choice… I would’ve expected the pharmacy who gave me the AZ on Apr 22nd to have reached out by now, but they haven’t. The provincial system, however… the one I registered with ages ago – they did. And last week, booked me for an appointment for today. So… today I went, received my 2nd shot (Moderna) and, as far as I’m concerned, at least for now… that’s that. Almost exactly 15 months ago, I was writing pieces about how I expected vaccines would be available in 12 to 18 months. In hindsight, given my penchant for little contests, we could’ve held a pool where people guess, to the day, how long it would’ve been till vaccines show up. That would’ve been fun, and we could’ve raised a lot of money for charity. Oh well, a missed opportunity. Maybe next pandemic.

Finally… today, June 21st… often the longest day (ie most sunlight) of the year… the Summer Solstice, the first day of summer… has held, for the last 5 years, a more profound meaning. June 21st, 2016, was the day my dad passed away… and so now, every year, this particular day has a lot more meaning. It sometimes, appropriately, lands right on Father’s Day as well.

I wrote a lot about him five years ago… and, if you missed it the first time around, here you go:
https://www.facebook.com/kemeny.ca/posts/10154263810837481

Happy Summer everyone – it’s going to be a good one.

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