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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you’ve come to the conclusion that I like to play with numbers and present them in interesting ways, you’re right… because sometimes, a picture is worth not necessarily 1,000 words, but maybe 1,000x the understanding.
I wrote a while back what I would consider a logical strategy for gearing up second doses. At some point, for numerous reasons, after going nuts with first doses, we need to turn a corner and start giving out lots of seconds. When and how many? I provided my optimized formula that gets us hitting numerous finish lines on exactly July 1st… and, in my version, it meant really firing up the second doses starting last week… at the expense of first doses.
I’m not saying the province is listening to me, but it’s at least nice to feel a bit validated that whatever I came up with isn’t complete nonsense, and that someone in some provincial health office came up with something very similar.
Accordingly, check out the cool new graph on the bottom right; there’s a very visual breakdown of first/second doses… with firsts being the lighter colour and seconds being the darker colour… stacked up, on top of each other; the sum of the column is the total doses administered that day.
Even though vaccinations began trickling in back in December, this graph only goes back to March, up to which point is was all first doses, just in smaller numbers. In fact, it wasn’t till late April that we even began with anything more than a handful of second doses. You can see the dark spots barely a pixel big appearing on the top of those columns.
But… recently… a major shift. These days, the majority of jabs are second doses. The vast majority.
Notwithstanding the gaps of weekend data (which I’ve extrapolated to smooth out gaps), the B.C. trend is still upwards. The provincial government has stated the infrastructure is in place to deliver as many shots as we get, and for now, I’m not doubting it. Today saw 62,237 jabs… that’s 12 out of 100 British Columbians getting a dose, and 95.4% of available doses have been administered.
All of this bodes very well for the near future… the sum of even more vaccine shipments coupled with demand that is still going strong.
When you combine it all together, all things considered, it paints a very pretty picture indeed. Far more than a thousand words’ worth.
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.
When airplanes land, there’s a lot of maneuvering that takes place in the last 40 minutes… you start descending from the cruising altitude, and you navigate in such a way that you’re lined up with the runway. Depending on other traffic, there may be a holding-pattern loop or two… or you might need to speed up or slow down. You’ll hear the flaps being deployed, which gives the wings more surface area, and the ability to “lift” at slower speeds. But after all the turns and changes in velocity and changes in control surfaces… eventually, you’re lined up with the runway on final approach… and you’ll know you’re there because you’ll hear the landing gear drop. There are no more turns once the gear is down; barring some unforeseen circumstances, you’ll be landing shortly.
Today’s optimistic provincial update felt that way; it felt like the landing gear coming down. There is a clear, straight path ahead of us, and, barring something unexpected, we all step off the plane in early September… and this bumpy, nightmarish, turbulent 15-month flight is over.
Today’s dropping of the landing gear also brought about dropping the circuit-breaker restrictions… as well as a number of social-distancing measures. It was a great day for restaurants and other small businesses.
Step two, in mid-June, with further restrictions being lifted, will feel like the moment when the plane kisses the runway and then slows down and heads for the gate… and you, also, will be kissing people… in gatherings of 50 or more… indoor and outdoor.
Step three, in early July, will be that moment when the plane stops at the gate, goes “ding”, and everyone takes off their seat-belts and gets up. And it’s not just you lifting your sore butt off that seat; that’ll be the moment the provincial state of emergency is lifted. The moment the public health emergency is lifted.
And then… that waiting period… of “just open the damn door and let me out of here”… a couple of months of that, but, by then, things will be feeling pretty normal. We’re on the ground and plane has stopped. We’re not going to die.
I won’t fill in all the detail of what happens on all of those dates; check out the official government site for all that… but I will mention that an important aspect of all of this is that we stay on the path that got us here. At the moment, our excellent vaccination rates are causing our case counts and hospitalizations and ICU admissions to plummet, and that’s a necessary part of this; these steps rely on the adult population continuing a path towards complete vaccination.
We’ll never get to 100%, but the targets set out by this plan are easy to achieve. In fact, although I doubt they’d shift much, there’s room to bring these dates forward. We’re at more than 60% of the adult population vaccinated today, and it only needs to get to 65% in mid-June and 70% by July. If we achieve that, we’re there.
A lot has been asked from all of us throughout the last 15 months, but perhaps the biggest ask is this last one; get vaccinated. It makes a profound difference for all of us, something we can plainly see from the numbers.
I’ve been on flights where moments from touchdown, suddenly you’ll hear three things in unison; the landing gear going back up, the flaps being retracted, and the engines revving higher. This is the good-old aborted landing, and it causes three things to go up by at least 20: the minutes of flight time, your diastolic blood pressure… and the percentage chance of you missing your connection. It sucks, and that’s what this would feel like if vaccination rates tail off or numbers stall in their descent.
We’re almost there, and this part is now pretty easy… because if you’re already vaccinated, you can do a lot more than what you could do yesterday. And if you’re not… what a great day to pick up the phone or go online… and get registered.
Look out the window of the plane; it’s a beautiful day and we’re close enough to the ground that you can see lots of familiar sights. Did you miss them?
Me too… but you’ll be visiting them soon enough. Let’s just land this thing.