June 14, 2021

It’s too bad Dr. Bonny Henry wasn’t around to do the usual Monday afternoon press conference where they announce the weekend numbers. As it turns out, there was no afternoon press conference at all… because there was one in the morning, talking about the restart plan… attended by herself, Dix, Horgan, etc… and that was enough for the day.

And the reason it’s too bad is because they were truly great numbers, and she would’ve deserved to deliver them in person. Instead, it was left to the little “Breaking News” ticker to announce the lowest numbers in… a very long time. The +68 from the last 24 hours is truly optimistic… and that, Delta variant notwithstanding, things are still trending down as hoped. And it’s not just the case numbers; hospitalizations and ICU admissions are at levels not seen since early November.

It may be a bit of a bumpy approach and there may be a crosswind to content with, but, for the moment, it looks like this big plane is going to land as scheduled. No Delta-inspired go-around in sight.

So… all the being said, the vast majority of you guessed high… way high. The big Congratulations!! goes to Jeff Waltenburgh, whose guess of 278 was only one-off the actual total of 277… a guess out of only a few that started with a 2. Most were in the 300s, 400s… and even a few 500s. I’m glad you were all mostly wrong, because even though the numbers predicted and even I said we’re getting close to double digits, it’s quite another thing to see it actually happening. Jeff – way to go — please let me know your charity of choice.

For the rest of us, the big re-opening for July 1st is certainly on-track if these trends continue, and, if so, we can look forward to what Dr. Bonny stated so eloquently: This will be our Summer of Hope and Healing…”

We could all use a bit of that.

June 6, 2021

Happy Sunday!

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

… because it means… contest time!

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

May 3, 2021

I’m writing this while watching today’s provincial update with Dr. Henry and Minister Dix. I used to watch this every day, but not so much anymore. What’s interesting is that, recent details aside, it’s the same old thing… and why wouldn’t it be? The message hasn’t really changed. Or, at least, shouldn’t. This is a perpetual Public Service Announcement. Act responsibly, be kind, do the right thing, etc. To a great extent, I think they realize they’re preaching to the choir. There’s not a single person watching this today thinking, “Gee – that’s a good idea. Maybe I’ll start doing that.”

One thing to clarify… hearing them claim that 41.5% of eligible B.C. residents have received at least one dose of vaccine. The key word there is “eligible”… because if you remove that word, the correct number – the number I’ve been tracking – is 36.5%… and the reason is that, at some point, the eligibility list, which at present does not include anyone under the age of 18, will change… and that denominator will change, and the percentage will drop. But for now, according to what they’re saying, it’s 41.5%… and that number should grow to 100% well-before July 1st. It won’t, because, as we know, not everyone who’s eligible for a vaccine will want one… but it’s a good target. It would be achievable, but it won’t happen… not because of lack of supply or logistical challenges. It’ll simply be because of vaccine hesitancy and denial.

What happens after that is as good a guess as any. Will that mean we’ve reached herd immunity? Probably not. The answer last year might have been yes, but these new variants are more contagious, meaning a higher Rø… meaning a higher percentage threshold of immunity is needed. The hard-set 15% of naysayers were never going to have their minds changed. But it’s in the next 25% where you’d find that tipping point… the “maybe” crowd. Somewhere in the 60% to 85% range, where herd immunity exists.

But also, reaching herd immunity here in B.C. might not mean much when we’re such an international hub of travel. We’re 30km from the U.S., which will never reach herd immunity. We have flights coming and going from every high-risk area, present or future.

I am all in favour of vaccine passports and anyone screaming about freedom and human rights might be forgetting the convenient fact that nobody has the human right or freedom to impose disease upon anyone else. Keep your mask-less face and anti-vaxx attitude far away from those who want no part of it. If you think you’re free to not wear a mask or get a vaccine, you must to agree that those who disagree with you should be free to not want you around. I fully support a “Covid-free passport” requirement for entering this province… and notwithstanding the optimism with respect to locally getting things under control sooner than later… we are not an island, and we will never be truly isolated from this virus.

But that doesn’t mean things can never get back to normal. They can… and they will. It might just take longer and it might look a little different. One way or the other, though… we are racing towards a finish line.

April 13, 2021

The good old “abundance of caution” is back in the news, thanks to Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, which, like the AstraZeneca, is in the spotlight for potentially causing blood clots. Both of those are adenovirus vector vaccines, as opposed to the mRNA Pfizer/Moderna vaccines (no accusations of blood clots there), so that adds to the correlation.

Here are some numbers:

In the U.S., close to 7 million doses of J&J have been administered. There have been reports of 6 potential cases of blood clots. That’s less than a one-in-a-million chance of developing this particular complication… and one of those cases was lethal, so there’s a close to one in 7 million chance of dying from the J&J vaccine. If it’s responsible for that.

Of the 6 cases, 100% of them were young women between the ages of 18 and 48.

Here’s something else that young women ages 18 to 48 do… they take birth control pills, and they have babies. If you throw that into the mix:

We hear that 1 in 1,000 women on birth control develop blood clots. The number is actually a little lower… more like 0.3 to 0.9… as in 3 to 9 out of 10,000. Also relevant is that in the 3 months after giving birth, that number goes up to 40 to 60 out of 10,000.

I really have no idea how much of that applies to these particular women, except to note that throwing a one-in-a-million factor into it changes nothing. It’s the sort of rounding error that gets lost in the mix. Insurance companies view events beyond one-in-a-million as “impossible”, which makes them easy to insure.

Nevertheless, in this age of litigation and ass-covering and risk mitigation, the CDC and FDA slammed on the brakes until everyone dances around a bit and indemnifies themselves, and then they can get back to it.

In the meantime… as with AstraZeneca, I assume the U.S. is sitting on large shipments of unused J&J vaccine. J&J has, for the moment, halted shipments to Europe. Don’t let it go to waste! We here in Canada would welcome it with, literally, open arms.

Dr. Henry and Premier Horgan and Minister Dix continually remind us all that our infrastructure presently supports much more vaccine-delivery capacity than the supply that’s feeding it. Great! Please secure a few million unused doses of that J&J and get it up here. Perhaps don’t make it the first choice to give young women (optics), but I know a lot of old men (I’m one of them!) who’d happily, unquestionably, without hesitation and with profound gratitude accept it.

Unfortunately, that’s unlikely to happen… one, because we here in B.C. have zero leverage to be asking for anything… and two, the Americans will quickly come to their senses and realize that even if these two vaccines, J&J and AstraZeneca, actually introduce a one-in-a-million chance of a complication, the benefit is far outweighed by the risk… and the intelligent thing would be to resume vaccinations as soon as possible. As soon as the $2,250-per-hour lawyers are done with it, they’ll be back in business.

Day 91 – June 15, 2020

It was nice to see Dr. Henry and Adrian Dix back on the podium. It’s been a while — since Thursday, in fact, that we got a live update. There’s something so incredibly calming about the way those two present themselves, and their messages. I suppose it helps that they’re reporting good news. The numbers locally are slightly higher than a week ago, but still nominal. No new deaths since Friday. Green data all across Canada today. Might I add, across the country, the new-cases numbers from yesterday and today (+379, +344), are the lowest since March 22nd… when they were heading very quickly in the other direction.

I don’t get stressed watching these reports any more; very calming… very sophisticated… very cultured. Here in Canada, we might take this sort of demeanour for granted… but elsewhere… you don’t have to look too far to see the way different cultures approach things.

Yeah, you know, I was going to write about the cultural differences, between here and south of the border, but perhaps that particular topic has already gotten enough attention from me. I get it. You get it… cultural thing or not, let’s talk about something else.

Like maybe a little follow-up to a post from a couple of days ago, where I mentioned San José, Costa Rica. I spent a fair bit of time down there at the turn of the century, and it was quite an experience. You don’t have to travel far in this world to collide with significant cultural differences, and as per my usual rant of not being ok with “that’s just the way it is”, that place certainly offerers plenty of opportunity to scratch your head in disbelief.

The first thing is… this is the place that U2 had in mind when they wrote “Where The Streets Have No Name”. The streets, literally, have no names. Destinations are defined by landmarks… like the government office whose official address included the words “behind the papaya/watermelon/cantaloupe stand”. Another one was “200 metres east of the bridge, north 300 metres, left at the Alcoholics Anonymous 100 metres, yellow house”. McDonalds, mango trees, large boulders, Antonio’s house, and, on one occasion, “where the bank used to be” — all parts of official addresses.

Interestingly, at some point, someone decided to try numbering some streets… they did some of “downtown”, but the plan seems like it was ultimately abandoned… and nobody uses the street numbers. Why is that, you might be wondering…

Like every other Latin American city, town or village… you will find, right in the middle, the Central Plaza. From there… avenues that run east-west, and streets that run north-south, nicely numbered. So far so good, right? Except… in San José, the avenues north of the plaza are the odd numbers, and those south of the plaza are the even numbers. Want to go from 5ᵗʰ Ave. to 6ᵗʰ Ave? That’s a 6-block walk. And to keep things ridiculously consistent, same with the streets. West of the plaza, even numbers… east of the plaza, odd numbers. A walk from 12ᵗʰ St. to 13ᵗʰ St. will be a very nice 13-block walk. Back in school, you may have asked the teacher… like, teacher, when am I ever going to use trig in the real world? Well, if you’re a kid in San José, there’s an answer to that. Typical word problem…. If Carlito is walking east on 1st Ave, and he just crossed 14ᵗʰ St, and Juanita is walking west on 4ᵗʰ Ave. and just crossed 11tᵗʰ St, who will reach the Central Plaza first? Well, if you take the cosine of the angle formed by (1,14) and then take the tangent of (4,11) and then… oh, wait… more important point… if the question is, “When/where will they meet?”, and you throw into the mix the fact that one of them got lost and asked for directions, then the answer is… “never”. Because for some reason, the friendly people in San José don’t really like to say “I don’t know”. So when you ask for directions, you will always be given directions… very confidently, with specific instructions and finger pointing. And often, they will be completely wrong, the result of someone just making it up because they don’t want to admit they don’t know. I guess there’s another relevant U2 song that applies to that place… “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”. I guess it’s a cultural thing.

It reminds me the time there that we went to the beach; me and a couple of friends. It was a “Beautiful Day” (yeah, U2 song), and the beach was quite packed. Curiously, nobody was in the water. And, there was no lifeguard… the lifeguard stand was empty, but had a red flag. Weird… the water looked pretty calm, with “Every Breaking Wave” (U2, of course) but not a single person in there. To hell with it, we thought… we’ll take the risk of these one-foot waves. We went into the water… it was warm and amazing, and we spent a long time in there. A few people looked our way, but nobody else came in, and nobody said a thing. We eventually left, packed our stuff, and found a nice beach-side restaurant for nachos and beer. I was the only one who spoke fluent Spanish, so I was the one who did most of the talking with the waiter… who asked where we were from, etc. I asked him about the beach — so beautiful, calm water… how come nobody was swimming? Oh… he said… yeah, this morning a whole bunch of sharks were spotted in the water. Oh. Yeah… great, thank you. You'd think one of the thousand people on the beach might have said something. I guess it’s a cultural thing.

Actually, same trip — we went snorkelling… this was a few days later, and the shark thing was still on our minds… but the tour guide/captain assured me, where we were going — no sharks. I wasn’t comfortable with the whole thing… I really had no “Desire” to go… but a group of people wanted to go… so, ok, let’s go. We went out in this guy’s boat… put on the equipment and went in. Some jumped in, others lowered themselves in… and somehow, I managed to scrape my leg on the way into the water. It was bleeding, a tiny bit. OK, I thought, there’s no way I should in the water if there’s any chance of a shark nearby. But the captain was adamant… no no, no problem, don’t worry, it’s fine. I vehemently disagreed, but he really said I should go in. Then I said something like, hey buddy… you’re going to get paid either way. The full price, even if we don’t all go in the water. Ooohhh, ok, yes sir… yes, maybe you shouldn’t go in the water. Yeah, thanks man. I guess it’s a cultural thing.

There’s plenty to learn from other cultures… and if you want to go somewhere cool, “I Will Follow”, but certainly one thing I’ve learned over the years, having travelled to many interesting places… I’m always happy to come home. With Or Without You.

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Day 73 – May 28, 2020

The whole “too many chefs in the kitchen” or “too many cooks spoil the broth” — the thought behind it applies to pretty-much everything in life. Certainly, from experience… having been both the guy being told what do do — and the guy telling others what to do — I strongly believe in it.

One key to success — again, in many facets of life… and I’ve said it often… surround yourself with capable people and let them do their thing. This means understanding that they will do things… differently. Compared to what you would’ve done, it might be better or it might be worse… but it’ll certainly be different. The thing is, as long as you were right — that they were the right person for the job, capable of doing it — it should turn out alright. And this doesn’t mean that person is the one who does everything; it’s just clearly understood that the entire thing, no matter what it is… they answer to it. They can delegate jobs, hire extra people, whatever… but it’s up to them.

The chef/kitchen thing is a great example, actually. One can only imagine the chaos a large-scale kitchen would endure if multiple bosses were screaming out orders. There is a hierarchy, and at the top of it is the head chef. There may be a sous-chef, a pastry chef, a number of others… and multiples thereof. But there is a well-defined tip of the pyramid.

On one particular day… around 20 years ago, three former premiers of this province were all in Provincial Court on the same day. A complete coincidence… Bill Vander Zalm with his Fantasy Gardens scandal, Mike Harcourt with his BingoGate scandal, Glen Clark with his casino-license-for-deck-repairs scandal…. all there for different reasons, but all there to face the music with respect to abusing the public trust in some way, scandals that drove all of them out of office. That’s a SoCred and two NDPers, but corruption crosses all party lines. Subsequent to that came Gordon Campbell, Liberal, ultimately driven from office by the BC Rail Scandal. What is it with B.C. and our elected premiers? Scandalous.

I guess I’m relieved that the guy in charge these days isn’t some wild-west shoot-from-the-hip sort, doing whatever he pleases for personal gain. That would be a disaster in this present climate. John Horgan picked the excellent people with whom to surround himself, Adrian Dix and Dr. Henry, and he’s letting them run with it… and they were the right people for the job, and they continue to deliver outstanding results. This is textbook good management and proper delegation, and we in this province are very fortunate to have it.

Can you imagine a scenario where first Dr. Henry gives her daily update, then Adrian Dix gives his, and then The Premier stands up and discounts all of it? Questions their numbers, questions their strategies, makes up some stuff to suit his narrative? Suggests we ignore what we just heard? What a nightmare for the people listening and trying to figure it all out. That’s perhaps the biggest blessing around here, and perhaps the biggest differentiator than many other places; at the end of the day, our response is being led by a scientist, not a politician. On paper, Dr. Bonnie Henry isn’t the top of that pyramid, but in every other practical sense, she is…. and the consistent messages we get on an almost-daily basis, and their transparency, may well be the biggest reason we’re doing so well around here, compared to even other parts of Canada, where the response has been driven by politicians.

The corruption aspect — at the expense of the greater good — is nowhere clearer than in some of the head-scratching decisions we have seen being made elsewhere. The push to open gyms — enclosed spaces of people breathing heavily and touching many common surfaces? Sure, they have to open eventually… and around here, some are — under strict regulation. But in places where numbers are still rising? You have to look no deeper than the political connections and influence being imposed. That was the easy and obvious part to understand. Political business as usual. Like everywhere. Except the stakes aren’t money; they are people’s lives.

And now, there’s a more serious problem… some of those governors, intelligently ignoring the confusing and conflicting directives coming from higher up, are imposing their own orders… and many people are simply ignoring them, choosing to listen to whomever is in charge, somewhere up there — that agrees with what they want to hear. Many businesses, gyms among them, in numerous states… will be (if they’re not already), defying their respective governor’s orders to stay closed for now. Business as usual.

What a mess, from so many different points of view… legal, health, practical. And when it all goes to hell, the fingerpointing will be fierce. Sure, the mayor said we should’t open, but the governor said it was fine. Yeah, the governor said we shouldn’t open, but the president said it was ok. Unfortunately, those mixed messages may come back to haunt them.

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Day 32 – April 17, 2020

Today marks one month since I posted my first little chart, with an accompanying short little paragraph explaining it. What’s the date today? March 58th? Seems that way.

Since then, everything has grown… the numbers have grown, the lines on the graphs have grown, and the volume of my little paragraph has as well. It seems to be dealing with a lot more than just numbers, doesn’t it… so… on that note…

Today’s update at 11am from Dr. Henry and Mr. Dix was a thorough presentation explaining where we’re at and where we’re going. The slides of that presentation are available on the BCCDC website, but I’ll give you the summary — we’re doing really well around here, well enough that we can stop comparing the Italy track… we’re not following it… and, looking at the numbers and charts below, haven’t been for a while. And recognizing that we may be seeing a plateau, on its way to a decline — cautious optimism — of many key numbers. New infections, hospitalizations, ICU cases… everything trending in the right direction. We are seeing lower numbers for new infections, even with enhanced testing. For now. We will see next week if the long weekend changed anything.

And it’s key to note that this success has largely been a result of the measures put in place, the timing of those measures, and our compliance with them. And now is not the time to stop. “It’s working” is a lot different than “It worked”. We are still a work in process, and those social/physical-distancing ways-of-life will be around for a while.

Capacity to handle patients is below 50%, and it’d be ideal to keep it there. The absolute certain end to this is a vaccine, and things will be different until then, but it doesn’t mean we’re stuck in our homes forever. The plan for opening things up with a methodical, well-thought-out strategy is in the works, but the last thing we want to do is open things up too quickly. That can drastically change things, and it can happen quickly. One interesting slide, #34, showed the results of dynamic modelling, testing different outcomes given the degree of compliance of social/physical distancing. Short answer — if we keep doing what we’re doing, very good. If we don’t, there are varying degrees of what would happen. Worst case scenario: we all take to the streets today…. In about 10 days, the near vertical growth in cases would quickly overrun our medical infrastructure. That model also implies that a little loosening wouldn’t have a drastically bad effect… but to what extent and how… again, as you can see on that slide, if you hit a tipping point, it’s hard to come back from it. And speaking of that scenario…

There was a story on CNN yesterday with a headline that read “The social-distancing deniers have arrived”. Before clicking on the story, I imagined the picture that’d accompany it… it would be a group of people protesting. I imagined bushy beards, hunting caps, guns, American flags, Trump signs and no masks. I was a little wrong about the masks… a couple of guys had them; the rest, bang on. Oh, and not just guns… assault rifles.

I have a great idea. Get Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi to hold a press conference. Throw Bernie in there too. And there, they announce in angry, loud, unified voices… that social distancing is a terrible idea. That this lockdown is ridiculous. “President Trump!”, they should demand, while dramatically ripping their masks off their faces, “End this nonsense! Open every business! Get everyone out on the streets! Now! We demand you open this country, fully… RIGHT NOW!”

It might actually work.

Democrats say Zig, Republicans say Zag. Republicans say Ding, Democrats say Dong. It doesn’t even matter what Zig/Zag or Ding/Dong mean… nobody knows. Nobody cares. We are right, they are wrong. You are with us or you are against us.

Around here, we’ve pretty-much forgotten who’s in power. Premier John Horgan (NDP, if you need reminding) is not around much. I may not agree with everything he has to say, but he and I have something in common; an understanding of what leads to success… a concept that has served me tremendously well all of my life: Surround yourself with excellent people, keep them around, and let them do their thing. Two of those people these days are, of course, Adrian Dix (NDP) and Dr. Bonnie Henry (who knows and who cares). Political affiliations are pretty irrelevant at the moment.

Actually, John Horgan hasn’t been completely M.I.A… he holds a press conference once a week or so and answers questions. There are other issues facing the province, and while I’m unclear what he does all day, some of it has to do with dealing with other provincial issues, and of course, there are many. They haven’t gone away. And some of it is planning how to open up this province (beyond private liquor store hours), hopefully sooner than later, in a way that works and isn’t at odds with the big picture being laid out by Adrian Dix and Dr. Henry. Indeed, he’s letting them run the most important issue of the day, and he’s staying out of the way. It’s working really well, something even the most ardent NDP bashers would grudgingly have to admit. There will be a time and place for partisan politics, and I look forward to it because it’ll mean that things are back to normal.

In fact, the closest thing to partisan politics we’ve had recently was about all of this… Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson serving up a little softball… “Hey, John Horgan, where are you?” The premier probably could’ve swung at that and hit it over the fence, but he let it go by and watched it dribble to the backstop. Andrew Wilkinson’s question was actually a little more pointed… like, shouldn’t the premier of the province be out in front of the cameras, telling us what’s going on, giving us updates and hope and encouragement, like a real leader… etc. And the answer is simply… no… he shouldn’t. The British Columbian leadership and response to this pandemic has a face (two of them), and it doesn’t need a third.

But behind closed doors, I have no doubt that if one of those two gentlemen needed something from the other — personally, publicly, privately, politically… they’d be listening to each other and talking and working together. If there was ever a time for political partisanship to take a back seat, it’s now. Everyone… from the top on down, needs to be pulling in the same direction. We, around here, are very fortunate.

But just a little south of here… well, that pulling looks like this: it’s a tug-of-war… one side of the rope is 500 trillion little virus balls, all pulling together. The other side is a mixed bag of people… men, women… some are wearing red shirts, some are wearing blue shirts. Some are pulling in the right direction. Some are pretending to pull but are barely holding the rope. Some are pulling sideways. Others are pushing the rope into the ground. One guy is twisting the rope… clockwise… while someone else is twisting it the other way. A couple of people have little hacksaws and are quietly trying to cut the rope without anyone noticing.

It is so incredibly sad and frustrating to watch this slow but inevitable trainwreck. You can’t look away, and wish you could do something… because solutions to the dysfunction exist… but they seem to be well-beyond the reach of the very people tasked to manage it. It shouldn’t be this convoluted. The reasonable voices do exist, of course, but they are drowned out in a sea of irrational, national insanity.

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Day 4 – March 20, 2020

We’re still at relatively low numbers, tracking pretty closely to where the US was 10 days ago. It’s a continual rolling 10-day window to see how effective our efforts have been. It’d be really nice to see that red line detach from the blue one and continue straight across with no upswing and it’d also be very nice for our neighbours to the South to see their line flattening out.

The colour coding on the rightmost two columns of numbers signifies change from the previous day. The growth factor is a comparison between today’s new cases vs. yesterday’s. The column to its right is the percentage increase of cases nationwide. Green is good, because it implies a smaller increase than the previous day. A streak of green days in a row would be very nice to see.

Needless to say, especially this early in the game, these numbers are very susceptible to how many tests are being administered and who’s being tested. As time goes on and numbers get bigger and the data is more generalized, it’ll all mean more and be clearer. The localized clusters we’ve witnessed (especially in B.C.) are not indicative of the entire country. If we based our assumptions entirely on what’s unfortunately happened at the Lynn Valley Care Center, we’d be appropriately far more worried.

Shoutout out to Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix, whose 3pm updates are not just informative but also reassuring. And to the sign-language guy… if we are all as passionate in treating this as seriously as that guy is with the way he conveys the message, there’s no doubt we’ll be ok.

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