October 14, 2020

Blood is in the news… for a couple of reasons. The first reason is a recently-published Canadian study (which followed-up on earlier studies) that analyzed different blood types and how they relate to C19. In a nutshell, it’s slightly better to be type O and slightly worse to be type A… as far as likelihood and severity of C19. In no way should it alter anyone’s behaviour, because it’s not *that* statistically significant.

I happen to be one of these type-O people… O-negative, in fact, which makes me a universal donor. If any of you ever need some blood, hit me up – I’ve got lots, and can always make some more. Being O-neg, as many of my fellow O-neg people will tell you, means a phone call from the Red Cross every 56 days to go donate blood. I don’t go every 56 days, and I’ll admit I haven’t gone in quite a while… but I do go, and I enjoy my well-earned orange juice and chocolate-chip (not oatmeal-raisin!) cookie for doing so.

Here in Canada, apart from the cookies and juice, we don’t get paid to donate blood. I was interested to learn that in many parts of the world, you do. It’s not a lot, like around $30 per donation, but for some people that can make a difference, and there are people who depend on it. It’s a strange sort of welfare system.

Which brings us to the curious second reason; a plea from a university in the U.S. to its students… to not purposefully contract C19, with the intent of creating antibodies and then selling their plasma.

Convalescent plasma therapy (one of the treatments Trump received) involves taking the blood plasma of a person who’s had C19 and has recovered… but still has the antibodies floating around their blood. Injecting a C19-infected patient with that plasma should give said person’s immune system a good kick in the right direction. Indeed, early trials show a 35% better chance of survival when this is used in “optimal patients”.

It goes without saying that contracting C19 on purpose — any purpose — is not a great idea. That a university has to threaten its students with suspension or expulsion seems to speak to numerous larger issues: young people who think they’re invincible, starving university students trying to make ends meet, people seeking treatment options for friends or relatives who can’t afford it…

That last one is thought-provoking. Not everyone has access to medical care, but you might have access to someone you know who’s had C19 and has a compatible blood type. When it’s life or death, I guess you take what you can get.

I was going to end this with something like “It’s bloody time they do something about it” or “It’s a bloody shame what’s going on”, but instead… I have a joke… it has to do with Trump, and the sophisticated medical treatment he received… but I’m afraid nobody would get it.

View Original Post and All Comments on Facebook

October 6, 2020

We’ll keep the Trump-bashing to a single paragraph today… just to point out that Donald Trump, once again putting himself ahead of anything that might mean something important to anyone else — because callously and recklessly putting at risk and/or infecting everyone around him isn’t enough — called off the stimulus package talks… really, for no other reason than to stick it to the Democrats and make them, and Nancy Pelosi, look like the bad guys. It was a move that caught even his fellow Republicans by surprise. So who’s affected? Millions upon millions of Americans whose lives have been devastated by C19 and who are seeking some economic relief out of the mess… from the president that led them into it.

I’d like to briefly compare that to what’s going on around here.

Last week, the House of Commons voted on bill C-4, to replace CERB with something more robust… to add more flexible and generous aspects to employment insurance. To add a new benefit for those who don’t qualify for EI. To add a sick-leave benefit and caregiver benefit for those who need to take time off work, due to C19.

The Liberals proposed it, and the Conservatives and NDP and Bloc all had issues with it. They all argued and postured and threatened and made lots of noise. And ultimately, having discussed it and re-aligned and addressed their concerns, voted on it… where it passed, with a unanimous vote of 306 to 0. Welcome to Canada.

As much as you may disagree with the Liberals and a lot of what they do, let’s at least recognize that we’re fortunate to have a functional government. There’s a long list of countries around the world that are not so lucky. One of them is next door… hopefully a situation that doesn’t last much longer… 28 days, or 106 days… depending how you look at it.

Local government financial help aside, it’s still up to us to do our part to end this nightmare sooner than later… and Quebec’s health minister is pleading with people to stay home, if they can… because things are approaching a frightening tipping point. Since Oct. 1st, Quebec has averaged more than 1,000 new cases per day… and has recorded 49 deaths. In fact, their deaths per million of population is 691, which is higher than the U.S’s 651. For comparison, Ontario is 203, Alberta is 65 and B.C. is 48.

It might be time for some official harsher measures; a gram of prevention is worth a kilogram of cure.

View Original Post and All Comments on Facebook

October 3, 2020

Sometimes, I write these posts in the morning… sometimes, at the last minute… a few times, the day before. I get the impression I’m going to have to back off trying to be too current, because the news changes almost as fast as I can type… and by the time you’re reading this, it could be largely out of date. In any event, I’m writing this earlier in the day and it might be longer than usual to make up for the fact that I won’t have much time tomorrow… so let’s pack two day’s worth of thoughts into one…

First thing… on this side of the 49th… Ontario increased its C19 death numbers significantly… 111 deaths in two days… but no, it’s not so dire. The vast majority of those were re-classifications from deaths earlier in the year.

South of the border… in the news, and changing by the minute, is the remarkable irony of the White House event which was intended to be the grand introduction of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee… but could turn out to be the very reason why Judge Amy Coney Barrett doesn’t ascend to the Supreme Court… that being that there may not be sufficient votes in person to achieve confirmation… because too many Republican senators will be sick and/or quarantining.

I’ve never been to a White House event, but I can only imagine it’s the sort of get-together that involves exotic teas and tiered platters with egg and cucumber sandwiches (no crust, of course), yummy pastries, scones, whipped butter, jam… you get the idea. The poshest of the posh. Side-note, that really made me hungry – any recommendations for local fancy tea places?

Anyway, that particular event will not go down in history for the fine food that was served, nor for the fine China upon which it was presented. Instead, it will be forever known as the Covid-19 Super-Spreader event that changed the course of American history.

It’s only been a few days, but now we’re getting a very accurate account of how fast this virus spreads when it’s in our midst and not taken seriously. Those Republicans, scoffing at the notion of wearing a mask — lest they be ridiculed by their Fearless Leader – may have screwed themselves out of contention. Their reckless, holier-than-thou attitude was evidenced at the “debate” where the entire Trump entourage, having entered the seating area all wearing masks as required, dramatically and contemptuously removed them in unison, with appropriate contemptible smirks to go along with their heroic acts of independence and freedom.

At the White House ceremony, same thing… most guests arrived in masks, but many removed them. There are hundreds of pictures and videos showing what went on. If you zoom up really, really close, like 150,000,000x, you can see the C19 virus balls flying all around, out of this mouth, into that nostril, and so on.

At this very moment, around noon, here’s the known infection roster:

Hope Hicks
Donald Trump
Melania Trump
Senator Mike Lee
Senator Thom Tillis
RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel
Advisor Kellyanne Conway
Advisor Chris Christie
Campaign manager Bill Stepien
Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins
3 White House reporters
Conflicting numbers re White House staffers… one or more

Another senator that wasn’t there, Ron Johnson, has also tested positive.

AG William Barr, who was there too — and was recorded having a long, close conversation with Kellyanne Conway — hasn’t tested positive and is refusing to quarantine. By the time he tests positive, we’ll have a good idea who he’s likely infected as well.

And, for what it’s worth, NBC correspondent Garrett Haake tweeted this: “Tillis and Lee are both on Judiciary. I stuck my head into their hearing midweek and basically none of the senators were masked. The staffers around the edge of the large conference room were.”

Obviously, all of the senators in that meeting should be isolating for two weeks… but we all know that’s not happening. Add to that… Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is demanding all senators show up by Monday, Oct. 19th so things can move along. He needs them in person to have the required quorum.

Good luck, Mitch… and, might I add… I remember very well a different Monday, Oct. 19th… back in 1987. That was Black Monday, when the stock market crashed and burned and sent the financial world into a tailspin.

The only thing that might crash and burn this Oct. 19th is Mitch McConnell’s dream of installing a new Supreme Court Justice. As you may recall, Mitch McConnell was the one responsible for blocking Obama from installing a new Justice seven months before the end of his term, saying, at the time, “One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, 'Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.'" Notwithstanding the remarkable and blatant hypocrisy with respect to what’s going on now, you know what… Karma’s a bitch, Mitch.

Finally, on top of all of that, there are conflicting messages coming out of the White House and Walter Reed hospital… Trump is good, Trump is not so good, Trump is breathing fine, Trump is on oxygen, he’ll be going home soon, the next 48 hours are critical, he’s responding well, we’re not sure how well he’s responding. You can throw this paragraph away, because it’s entirely meaningless, other than to punctuate with some clarity one of two possibilities… nobody really knows what’s going on… or they don’t really want us to know.

View Original Post and All Comments on Facebook

October 2, 2020

Given the way he conducts himself in public, it’s surprising it took this long for Donald Trump to test positive. It should’ve happened months ago, but rumour has it that when no one’s looking, he’s a lot more careful. There are those quotes from Bob Woodward that would lead one to believe Trump clearly understood the severity and risks of C19 long ago. Of course, it’s not his outward-facing message… even recently mocking Joe Biden and his big mask… but behind closed doors, he’s been terrified of getting it… as well he should be, since he’s in that high-risk category, for a few reasons, not the least of which are his age, obesity and heart disease.

His people would like you to think he has a 0.0002% chance of dying from it, but the truth is not so favourable. Given the demographic within which he falls, mitigated by the fact that he’s got the most sophisticated medical care at his disposal… and given what’s been learned with respect to treatment… his resolved-case survival rate is probably around 95%, which means a 1 in 20 chance of dying from this. Also concerning is how many important and influential people he’s been around, with his usual wanton recklessness. More than 20 for sure, so within the next couple of weeks, don’t be too surprised at the news of a concerning hospitalization or two.

For now, we wait and see… there are of course a lot of obvious questions… but it’s not really worth wandering down the paths of speculation. What if Biden also got it? What if Trump dies a week before the election? A week after? What if he’s alive but incapacitated but lucid enough to refuse to transfer power? What if he’s really sick and then Pence gets sick? What if this, what if that. There are actually answers to all of the way-out-there possibilities, but all of them would be challenged… in the courts and on the streets.

In any event, it’s a volatile situation that can change by the minute. As I’m writing this, the president is being rushed to the Walter Reed Medical Centre… a trip he’d usually make via a 30-minute drive… but today, it’s a 4-minute helicopter ride.

Up to this moment, nobody is saying much… he was fatigued, he has a cough… he woke up with a fever… so, out of an abundance of caution, etc, etc. He looked and sounded ok on a brief Twitter video, and also seemed fine walking to the helicopter, but, on the flipside, they’ve got him on a fancy IV cocktail of experimental drugs (not yet approved for the public), being used to try to stimulate an immune response. You wouldn’t typically do that, unless… unless what. Who knows… there’s a lot we don’t know because they’re not saying much.

How long will he be in the hospital? We’re told, a few days. If things get worse, longer. And there’s a 5% chance that it will be for the rest of his life.

View Original Post and All Comments on Facebook

September 27, 2020

Once a year, me and several million like-minded people fast – no food or water – for about 24 hours. For everyone, it’s a different experience… but one thing in common… for all, it’s a period of deep introspection.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, feel free to Google Yom Kippur.

This Jewish Day of Atonement always comes exactly 10 days after the Jewish New Year (Happy 5781!). Since it’s based on the Hebrew calendar, which is made up exclusively of 28-day months (it always lines up with the moon), these holidays move around with respect to our conventional calendar. In fact, it’s especially nice to have a New Year’s a few months before the end of December… it gives you a second shot at those new year’s resolutions that maybe didn’t stick.

Next year, Yom Kippur will fall mid-September. The year after that, early October. You never know what day of the week you’re going to get. Like all Jewish holidays, it starts the evening before the actual day… which means tonight, in a couple of hours (sunset) – and lasts till tomorrow’s sunset. As I mentioned, for that period of time… it’s a complete fast, which includes switching off all non-critical electronics as well… in an effort to truly disconnect. Accordingly, tomorrow’s update with all the new numbers will have to wait till after sunset… which will be sometime after 7pm.

In the meantime, I’ll be lost in thought… and with no interruptions and with no food or water to balance out the brain chemistry, I’m looking forward to seeing what I come up with. You may be reading about it for weeks.

For all my peeps doing the same, Gmar Chatima Tovah – and may you have an easy fast. See you on the other side.

View Original Post and All Comments on Facebook

By |2020-10-08T01:08:40-07:00September 27th, 2020|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Philosophy, Art & Literature|Tags: , , , |15 Comments

September 25, 2020

There’s that old parable where, suddenly, people can’t bend their arms. There’s plenty of food to eat, but people are starving… because they can’t reach their mouths.

The parable goes on to explain how, actually, it’s only the self-serving narcissists that are starving. The good people have figured out that all they need to do is feed each other, and everyone will be ok.

To some extent, we’ve been told that masks are sort of like that; you wear one, more than anything, to help others; to avoid you infecting them with your sneezes and coughs… and, as long as everyone is doing that to help others, we all benefit.

For a lot of my life, I thought catching a cold or flu was like getting pregnant; you’re either pregnant or you’re not. Similarly, either you have a cold… or you don’t. Certainly, you can be 7 weeks pregnant vs. 7 months, and it’s a very different experience… just like you can have a mild cold or a really bad cold.

The subtle difference in my mind was this: Once you have a cold, how bad it is depends on that particular cold virus. Some hit you really hard, while some give you little sniffles. Some years it’s really bad, some years… not so much.

What I didn’t understand was the whole concept of viral load. It’s not necessarily the severity of the strain of the virus… it’s also how much of it you got. The actual level of dosage, the actual number of little virus balls you inhaled… like, how badly you were infected… has a huge influence on how it affects you.

This is becoming very evident with the analysis of C19 patients; those exposed with high viral loads have a much more difficult journey. In fact, viral load at the time of diagnosis seems to be, on its own, an independent predictor of mortality.

All of this goes back to masks, and a recent article that pointed out something that should be pretty obvious, but perhaps hasn’t been made abundantly clear: If you wear a mask, you’re not only protecting others, but you’re protecting yourself. Your chances of receiving a lethal infectious dose are dramatically reduced if you’re wearing a mask.

Further to that – a very promising conclusion that follows from that is that by wearing a mask, you may well be creating immunity in yourself. As we know, a vaccine simply stimulates an immunity response… well, guess what… you may already have done that, in small doses. We also know that 80% of cases are asymptomatic, and that may in large part be due to the low viral loads that caused them in the first place. Perhaps the small amount you got from a distant sneeze. Or, perhaps, the small amount you got from someone nearby… but your mask took the hit, and all you got was 1% of the potential viral blast in your face.

And one final (also promising) conjecture… it seems that even tiny viral loads in your body may stimulate strong immune responses. By the time the vaccines roll out, you may already be immune… and only because you’ve been wearing a mask, self-vaccinating yourself in small doses.

I’m not sure any of this will change the minds of the ardent anti-maskers, for whom this whole issue is entangled with political (and other) agendas… but if you know any somewhat-reasonable anti-maskers who think it’s not worth it for medical reasons, feel free to pass this along. Or maybe to that “me me me” narcissist who doesn’t feel the need to benefit others, at the expense of their personal comfort. Well, guess what… it may benefit you greatly.

And for the rest of you reasonable people, just keep doing what you’re doing… and wear your mask with the knowledge that your little contribution to the greater good may actually be doing a lot more good than you think.

View Original Post and All Comments on Facebook

September 10, 2020

Well… it’s become very clear what I need to write about if I’m trying to get a reaction. Little anecdotes about my life are fun to write and people seem to enjoy them. Bashing on Trump seems to get the usual reaction from the usual people, but to be honest, it’s died down… either because they’ve come to their senses or have decided they don’t like arguing with me.

But when I try to state some simple facts… like hey, here are some numbers, and here’s what they mean and what they imply… wow. Some people whose minds are already made up sure don’t like hearing alternative points of view. Like it’s all some big conspiracy. To be clear, while there are certain things that are opinions or theories, some things are just blunt facts. At the end of the day, when you take away all the vague hand-waving, certain things are not up for discussion. They’re not “opposing opinions”.

Indeed, when it comes to debunking conspiracy theories, there’s usually a “backstop” fact that really should put things to rest, at least for any reasonable person. All the little nit-picky out-of-context details of “proof” to confirm some outlandish claim are easily put to rest by one “umbrella” fact that’s indisputable.

Obama born in Kenya? There are birth announcements in the Hawaiian newspapers at the time. All of the copies, michrofiched versions, scanned, digitized, etc… over the decades, all indisputably in agreement. Set aside the long list of BS claims, forged birth certificates and bribed doctors and nurses… just explain that.

Moon landings faked? The technology to fake a moon landing simply didn’t exist in 1969. The ability to seamlessly film hours of footage and then play it back in slow motion… how? With what?

The holocaust was a hoax? The numerous census numbers at the time, including Germany’s, all agree… and all imply a European Jewish population of around 9.5 million in 1933. That number was found to be around 3.5 million by 1945. The simple math begs a simple question: Where are all those people?

Similarly, the great Covid-19 pandemic will ultimately fall back to a simple number: Excess deaths. Tests per million, positives per test, deaths per positive… etc etc.. I know all these numbers, ratios and percentages well. Many of you evidently disagree with those numbers, as published and verified as they may be. I find myself answering lots of questions after yesterday’s post.

But let’s take a big step back from all of the nitty-gritty numbers… which, to be clear, are presently being used to figure out what happened, what’s happening today, and what’s likely to happen in the future. It has nothing to do with today’s numbers, as if they’re a frozen statistic. Statements like “the flu kills more people” are foolish because this virus hasn’t finished killing people. It was being heard at the start of the pandemic… and sure, a month into it, the flu annually kills more people. Except people kept dying, and still keep dying. We’re at 5x the annual flu deaths, and counting, yet that particular statement keeps popping up. At what point do even the most die-hard Covid deniers finally, grudgingly admit that maybe this is more serious than they thought? 10x the flu deaths? 100x the flu deaths?

At this moment, in the U.S., close to 196,000 Covid deaths have been reported. Also, at this moment, the U.S. excess-death count is somewhere around 220,000. That discrepancy might be attributable to Covid deaths that weren’t recorded as such. Or someone’s heart attack brought on by the stress of the pandemic. Or illness that didn’t get treated as a result of the pandemic. Or suicide. Whether that latter list counts as a Covid death is a separate discussion. What’s not up for debate is that at this moment, and at a continuing rate of 1,000 per day, people are dying in the U.S. that otherwise wouldn’t be.

Also, a separate discussion… if this pandemic were to magically end today, were the steps taken worth it? Here’s the thing…. “Was it worth disrupting the economy to save 200,000 lives” is only a valid question, in hindsight, when you have the right number to plug in there. Unfortunately, 200,000 isn’t the number… and we’re still pretty far from knowing what that number will ultimately be.

And if you’re still calling bullshit on all of this, as per my “umbrella backstop” questions of above, here’s a simple one… if Covid-19 didn't kill these 200,000 people, what did?

View Original Post and All Comments on Facebook

August 31, 2020

Numbers are out, and they’re pretty-much what was to be expected… relatively consistent, but slowly creeping upwards. Dr. Henry today talked about it with an interesting spin… that when this all began, we answered the call, did what needed… and it worked.

Then… we purposefully took our foot off the pedal a bit… took the Summer off, as it were… hung out, visited friends, had a good time.

But now, as before, it’s time to take it seriously again, and we know how to do it because we did it successfully the first time. The case counts we’re seeing are higher than ever, but it’s no reason to panic. Fair enough… the first time around, nobody really knew what was coming… and that, possibly, despite our best efforts, this whole thing could blow up.

There doesn’t seem to be that sense of urgency this time around… which isn’t necessarily a good thing. We think we know what we’re dealing with, but it was a lot easier back in the Spring, when we weren’t heading into “respiratory season”.

The fact is, given all of the social distancing and masks and care, “respiratory season” really shouldn’t be as big a deal this year. The precautions we’re taking against transmitting C19 should prevent common colds and flus from spreading as well. We shall see.

I was curious to hear Dr. Henry’s response to a question that was sure to be posed to her today, related to the TV ad she’s in which you may have seen… where she’s in a completely unrealistic classroom set-up, answering kids’ questions. It was, in fact, the first question asked.

The classroom has like 6 kids in it, all spaced out… there’s a sink, for hand-washing, off to the side… all of it not looking like any B.C. classroom any local teacher has ever seen. Her answer was that indeed, it was just a comfortable setting for kids to have their questions answered. There was no intent to imply that this was the way classrooms would look. Hmm.

View Original Post and All Comments on Facebook

August 9, 2020

So a student in Georgia takes a picture of a school hallway… crowded with students, no social distancing, few masks… a school where shortly thereafter, 9 people (6 students, 3 staff) tested positive (and you know there will be more)… and what happened? The student got suspended for sharing that picture publicly.

The outcry was swift and biting… and the suspension was rescinded entirely… “optics”, you know… but not before we all got a good look at what’s going on… and it’s frightening.

We get the outward-facing message, quotes like “The health and well-being of our staff and students remains our highest priority” – that from the principal of the school. Yet the inward-facing reality is that these schools will lose their federal funding if they’re not open “for real” – for everyone. Well, not everyone… Barron Trump’s private school is online-only, but you get the idea. Forcing teachers and students into an environment most know isn’t safe.

The fact is, in Georgia, within hours of opening, a student tested positive, resulting in the closing of that school, and a two-week quarantine for all staff and students. That was one school, but in another school, just up the road, a student tested positive and was sent home, but the school remains open. The following day, more schools… more cases. I don’t know the most recent numbers, but it’s hundreds of staff. And hundreds of students. A tremendous example of how not to do things. A beautiful example.

Closer to home, let’s worry about us for a bit. While the world just saw its 20,000,000th case and the U.S. its 5,000,000th case recently, Canada is close to 120,000. Quebec recently went over 60,000 cases. Ontario went over 40,000 today. And by the time we get our numbers updated tomorrow, here in B.C., we’ll be over 4,000. Whereas B.C. was formerly a shining example… now, not so much. Our numbers are still great, in comparison… up to now. But the trend is not good, and the last thing we need is to wind up trying to force “reality” back in our lives when we’re not yet prepared for it. There are unfortunately too many examples of that. I hope B.C. doesn’t become another one.

View Original Post and All Comments on Facebook

August 3, 2020

The season-ending cliff-hanger was started by the show Dallas, with their famous “Who shot J.R.?” thing that had everyone talking in the summer of 1980. No TV series had ever done that, but it’s now become the norm… because when they resolved the mystery the following season, more than 350 million people tuned in, from, all around the world. It was the highest-rated television episode in U.S. history. The Turkish parliament suspended a session so the legislators could run home in time to watch. Bookies were publishing odds as to who did it… and it was a long list, headed by some likely suspects, but rounded out by a lot of other irrelevant and/or impossible people. Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry was on the list at 10,000-1, even though he had nothing to do with the show. Ultimately, J.R.’s sister-in-law/mistress Kristin (4-1) was the guilty one, a fact finally revealed on the fourth episode of the subsequent season. Those producers knew what they were doing.

This long-weekend feels like a bit of a cliff-hanger. On our last episode, Friday, 50 new cases in B.C… and heading into a long weekend… and, since then, no updates in B.C and no update today in Ontario… so, this will all remain a cliff-hanger until tomorrow, when all the storylines get resolved. For now, the national number is totally wrong.

It occurs to me… those shows, back then… on network television, complete with commercial breaks… they’d want to keep you tuned in right to the end, so there’d often be a mini-cliffhanger before the last set of commercials. Remember that… where they’d try to sell you some useless thing, but they made it look and sound so good… Call now! Supplies are limited! Operators are Standing By!

For the moment, we’re all Standing By. Just not too close to each other.

View Original Post and All Comments on Facebook

By |2020-10-08T01:10:33-07:00August 3rd, 2020|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Philosophy, Art & Literature|Tags: , |4 Comments
Go to Top