By Horatio Kemeny|2021-12-31T20:54:45-08:00December 31st, 2021|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Science of COVID-19|Tags: Quebec, Pandemic, USA, Canada, Vancouver, Graphs, Ontario, Masks, Statistics, Science, Trump, COVID19, News, Alberta, C19, China, Manitoba, BritishColumbia, Dr Bonnie Henry, Numbers, Vaccine, Coronavirus|16 Comments
I hope you got your good dose of sunshine in yesterday, because around here, we’re back to “the usual” for a week. The big Vancouver Weather Wheel (VWW) has only three sections… “It’s about to rain”, “It’s raining” and “It just rained.” A recent spin landed in section 2, and that’s where it’ll sit for a while… and actually, that’s ok. The freshest air on the planet exists when things transition from section 2 to section 3.
The other thing going on these days is the transition from the NHL regular season to the NHL playoffs –lots of rain equals Spring equals NHL playoffs… and there’s an interesting correlation… you can sort of map playoff performance with Covid-19 numbers.
Here in B.C., our numbers have recently tanked, which is very good. The Canucks have also tanked… which is good or bad, depending on whether you like to see a strong finish or a better draft pick. Either way, both our pandemic numbers and our team’s performance have crashed down noticeably. Playoffs? LOL.
One province east of us is Alberta, whose pandemic numbers were riding high. Also riding high were the Edmonton Oilers… who seem to have hit a brick wall when they entered the playoffs. And right around the time the Oilers began their journey to falling down two games to zero to the Jets, so did their C19 numbers. That’s an impressive meltdown, their daily new-case numbers… falling like a rock. Much like the Oilers’ chances of getting much further in the playoffs. They might go down 3 games to 0 to the Winnipeg Jets, who are flying high these days.
Unfortunately, so are the C19 numbers in Winnipeg. Manitoba is the one province that isn’t yet headed in the right direction, though perhaps they’re turning the corner too.
As has happened numerous times in the past, the Leafs and Habs are battling it out; that series is tied, similar to the C19 numbers in those two provinces, as far as things getting better… though I’d have to give the “trending advantage” to Quebec… which, in this warped correlation of mine, is good news for Leafs fans.
Two of those four teams will meet in the next round of the playoffs, and only one will make it to the semi-final round… where they’ll run into an American powerhouse team.
I hope at that point, the team is Las Vegas… and I hope that’s there this correlation breaks down. Las Vegas numbers are looking so good these days, the place is almost back to normal. They’ve already thrown the doors open in most places, and will do so entirely in the next couple of weeks; any Las Vegas hockey game will play to a packed house, and that’d be a great way to watch a game… whether live or on TV. I’ve been to games in Las Vegas; usually it’s the Canucks getting beaten up, but it’s always a memorable experience… one I hope to partake in once again, sooner than later. I don’t see myself in that crowd anytime soon… but watching something that real will be a very good indication we’re in the final stretch.
And, for what it’s worth, it rarely rains in Vegas.
Encouraging local numbers today… and if you don’t like analyzing numbers, just look at the pretty pictures… specifically the B.C. one… which, in a nutshell, shows the rise and fall of the 3rd wave. Our numbers these days are exactly where they were at in early March, when things started to go sideways.
And, actually, not sideways… just up… sharply. But as you can see, as quickly as they went up, they’ve come down. That little plateau was in the second week of April, and it’s been downhill (in the good sense) ever since then. What’s going up sharply these days is the temperature… and vaccinations.
Looking across the country, as it turns out, nobody has managed this third wave as well as B.C. Quebec would be a close second though; their worst is over and they’ve slid down to the bottom of their own hill.
Alberta has turned the corner, but has a ways to go. Saskatchewan as well, though slower… but Manitoba is still arguably headed in the wrong direction; really not sure what happened there, but this week will tell a lot.
And Ontario… certainly headed in the right direction… their daily numbers and their average is lower… but it’s still wildly volatile and it always feels like they’re near a tipping point. Aided by warmer weather and lots of upcoming vaccinations, their worst is also likely over.
I don’t want the maritimes and the northern territories to feel left out… all looking good.
Locally, nothing will change before the May long weekend… but, by then, we may be poised to see some significant relaxations. Don’t hold me to it; I don’t make the rules… but given all of the above, given what we’ve learned in a year, given where we are with vaccinations, given what we now know about the colossal difference in risk between indoor and outdoor gatherings, given that we know it’s a tiny number of people who infect lots of others.. not everyone infecting one or two others… given all that, it wouldn’t be difficult to put some rules in place that really open things up in an effective way.
To be honest, they would’ve done it already if they could count on people sticking to the important parts. Like, golf? Out golfing with friends? Risk of transmission on the golf course… near zero. Risk of transmission on the 19th hole, downing a pitcher of beer? Much higher. Can we count on people to play a round of golf, but then not spend three hours in a crowded, poorly-ventilated pub? This is where the give an inch/take a mile issues come into it, and managing that, going forward, will be the bigger challenge.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
That’s perhaps the most famous opening line of any novel – “A Tale of Two Cities”.
Charles Dickens was talking about London and Paris… but today I’m going to write about a tale of two provinces… B.C. and Alberta… which these days are about as different as those two cities during the French Revolution. It’s interesting though… you read that paragraph, and you might find yourself relating it to present day. It fits.
Here at the 7-day daily new-case averages for the two provinces:
four weeks ago: AB 1,221 / BC 1,122
three weeks ago: AB 1,413 / BC 1,041
two weeks ago: AB 1,573 / BC 942
last week: AB 1,870 / BC 818
You don’t need to graph it to see the pattern, but I’ll describe what it looks like… it’s a big less-than sign (“ < ”) … where AB is going up and BC is going down. As usual, we don’t have weekend numbers here, so tomorrow we’ll get some idea where things are going… but it should be noted we’re entering the period of time where the effects of the latest set of restrictions should start becoming evident. I would expect things to follow this pattern of improvement… or, at least, be no worse. But that’s just here in B.C. There’s no large English-Channel-like body of water between these provinces… there’s barely a border… that you might miss if you’re going too fast and blink at the wrong time. And we’re certainly not at war. We want both sides to win. I hope they figure out and take the steps necessary to control things; it’s a tough spot to be in… and it’s a bumpy ride to the finish. But it’s not as bumpy as the end of that fine book, where the protagonist, Carton, is having some final thoughts as he heads towards the guillotine… “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” That’s a little extreme. Then again, he was about to go get his head cut off. If you wanted to map that closing line to the present day, let’s keep it simple… do, as usual, the right thing… and then get a good night’s sleep.
“It is often easier to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.”
It was Admiral Grace Hopper, a legend and pioneer in the world of computer science, who said that… though it’s possible she didn’t quite realize the extent to which people would eventually lead their lives by it. It makes sense sometimes to bend the rules, but you have to know where and when to pick your spots. It’s not a free-for-all for reckless decisions.
You think you already know what I’m about to say, so instead of repeating what I’ve been saying for a year, here’s are some different examples.
Perhaps the shortest existence of a professional sports league in the history of the world took place last week. If you don’t follow football (ie soccer) on a global level, there’s a good chance you missed it entirely. Basically, a small group of the biggest teams in the world, spanning multiple leagues, announced they were forming their own super-league. Forget rankings and playoffs… this league of elites is by invitation only, and here’s $5 billion TV deal to go along with it, just for them.
Imagine the uproar you’d hear in Canada if the top 6 NHL teams decided to break away and form their own little league… and now imagine it on a global scale. The backlash from literally millions… of fans, players, coaches, reporters… pretty much everyone… was a tidal wave that, when you think about it, was completely to be expected.
“OK ok we’re sorry… forget the whole thing!! Jeez!!” – said the ringleaders… who no doubt are re-thinking their ridiculous, stupid assumptions that led to it in the first place. And who are now facing significant consequences for their failed mutiny.
Closer to home, the existence of Playland being open lasted just as long. The backlash was swift and expected. What else is going to happen when a few hours after announcing no inter-provincial travel, you announce the opening of one of Canada’s biggest amusement parks? “Sorry sorry yeah you’re right”. Playland will be open one day, just not when anybody from out of town isn’t supposed to be there in the first place.
Speaking of Playland, I really like that midway horse racing game… the one where you’re trying to fire the balls into the right hole which makes your little horse-in-lights move along. If I can’t have real horse racing, I’ll take that for now.
And speaking of horse racing, this weekend’s running of the Kentucky Derby notwithstanding, there’s an interesting sort of horse race that’s easier to explain if you visualize it… so, see below.
Replacing all of the tiny vaccination graphs today is one big one; this is what the provincial horse race of vaccinations looks like. This graph is based on vaccination percentages, using 10% as the same starting point for everyone.
What exactly does it tell us? You’d never have known that Manitoba seems to be vaccinating people, per capita, faster than anyone. Conversely, Alberta is the slowest.
At the end of the day, it’s not a big difference. It took Manitoba 23 days to go from 10% to 25%. It took Alberta 31 days. Everyone else is somewhere in between (B.C. is 26 days). By any definition, it’s a tight race. Also, who cares… the idea is we all get to the finish line, and then we all win.
But just to circle back to the premise of this entire piece, we get there not by doing stupid things and begging for forgiveness. Better to ask first… and act responsibly.
In old Star Trek episodes (the original series), the starship Enterprise and the crew would often find themselves in battle against some aliens whose technology was compatible with respect to being able to launch weapons at each other. Accordingly, Captain Kirk would sit on his throne on The Bridge and bark orders to Spock and Chekov… and when they were under heavy attack and the ship was in trouble, it would be something like, “Divert all power to the shields!!”
By that time, though, the poor Enterprise had been suffering volleys of alien torpedoes and lasers and whatever version of energy beam was the flavour of the week… it was springing leaks, and major systems were malfunctioning… so, quite often, Kirk was met with a response of… “Unable.”
Captain Kirk always improvised, and things always turned out well. They always managed to survive. In fact, he, Canadian icon William Shatner turned ninety a few weeks ago. That’s the actor. The actual captain won’t be born till March 22nd, 2233… a birthday celebrated every year in Vulcan, Alberta.
But there’s not much to celebrate in Alberta these days, nor here… nor anywhere in Canada… because, like Kirk vs. The Universe, we’re in an epic battle… against an alien we thought we knew, but now some variant aliens are showing up, and it’s a problem… and the ship is perhaps damaged more than we can tolerate.
To continue with the metaphor, if the Enterprise is the world, we here in Canada are presently the shields. We need more power diverted to us. But… the entire ship is under attack and everyone needs energy, and perhaps there’s nowhere to pull it from. The heroic crew member that’s in the engine room where the Warp Core is about to breach… that guy is asking for help. Send power… we need to vaccinate the anti-matter containment field. Scotty needs to vaccinate the shields. Deck 8 needs to vaccinate the hole in the hull that’s already ejected a few unfortunate red-shirts into deep space. Dr. McCoy needs more power to Sick-Bay so that he can… well, perhaps, actually vaccinate people.
When the shields were low and the Enterprise would take a direct hit, everyone would be bumped hard… left or right, for some reason… never up or down. I guess the gravity system didn’t need a lot of power to keep operating.
The next couple of months are going to feel like that… we’re going to get bumped around. And the present inability to have badly-needed energy/vaccines directed to us will be a good topic of discussion once the ship is docked at Starfleet for repairs. Once the pandemic is over.
But, for now, we just need to get there. Beam me up, Scotty… quickly, before a travel ban is imposed.
History speaks of many examples of products that were designed for a specific purpose, but were ultimately repurposed for something entirely different. For example, bubble wrap… it was originally designed to be cool, textured wallpaper. That market didn’t catch on – especially in households with little kids, I’m guessing – but the inventors, sitting on tons of unused inventory, trying to figure out what to do with it, came upon the bright idea that it’d he useful for transporting fragile goods. They contacted IBM, who they figured would be interested in having a way of safely shipping their delicate electronics, and they were right; that caught on, and we’ve all had the pleasure of popping those little things ever since… the extra bonus when anything fragile gets shipped to us.
Speaking of wallpaper, Play-Doh was originally designed as wallpaper cleaner. I’m not sure how good it is at that, having never actually needed to clean any wallpaper… but as a toy, very successful; there are very few kids who at some point haven’t gotten their grubby little paws on some.
Speaking of toys… there’s the Slinky, originally designed as a spring used on ships to stabilize devices on choppy seas. Until one day, when a slinky was accidentally knocked off a table… and it walked itself over to a guy who had a light-bulb moment; Richard James, the “inventor” of the Slinky. Even he admits he didn’t invent anything; just clued-in to an excellent alternative use for an already existing product.
Speaking of alternative uses for already existing products… toothpaste. Like, for example, white Colgate. Terrific for keeping your teeth bright and healthy, of course… but you know what else? If you have a scratched CD or DVD that’s unplayable, coating it with toothpaste to “fill in” the scratches and then rinsing off the excess… works wonders. I’ve resurrected many dead Discs in my day.
Speaking of health products that have alternative uses… Coca Cola was originally designed to be an alternative to morphine addiction, and to treat headaches and anxiety. The guy who invented it, John Pemberton, was a veteran of the civil war, and a morphine addict. He wanted a sweet, alcoholic drink with some coca leaves thrown in for good measure, so that’s what he invented: Pemberton’s French Wine Coca. Over time, the recipe was tweaked and carbonated… and the rest is history.
Speaking of ubiquitous products that began their existence as something medicinal with a specific purpose, history may end up grouping Covid-19 vaccines into the mix, because the careful research that led to their initial approvals was based on science that described their intended two-dose use, with the spacing of those doses a few weeks apart. I’m not sure those tiny vials have instructions written on them… and if they do, they’re in an unreadably-small font… but anyway, if you take your magnifying glass and read it, you’d find that we, here in Canada, are not following those simple instructions. In fact, that goes doubly-so for us here in B.C… where we are the lowest percentage of fully-vaccinated people in all of North America (!) – but, that’s by design… and I’m totally ok with it because, as we’re finding, and as I wrote about yesterday, if you shift the goalposts a bit… from “not getting sick” to “not getting seriously sick”, the product can indeed be used differently than designed… and very successfully.
Speaking of not following simple instructions… yesterday marked the 3-year anniversary of the devastating Humboldt Broncos bus crash… caused by a driver ignoring a very simple instruction: Stop. Of course, there was far more to it than that, but it’s a good example of how a seemingly tiny rule violation by a single person can have drastic, far-reaching effects… like how Alberta’s outbreak of the P.1 variant can be traced to a single out-of-province traveller. One guy who broke the rules, and here we all are.
Speaking of there being far more to it than that…
Well, there’s always far more to it than that. Enough for now. Speak to you later.