March 17th… St. Patrick’s Day, of course. Many, many years ago, this would’ve meant a green Shamrock Shake at McDonald’s. Years after that, it would’ve meant green beer pub hops, though I must admit those memories are pretty hazy. In recent years, a pint or two of Guinness.
Last year, none of the above. Last year, right at this time, a state of emergency was declared, and, instead of imbibing pints, I was reading through a bunch of stuff, like the rest of us… trying to make some sense as to what the hell is actually going on here. It led me to find an interesting little table of numbers… showing how Italy had gone from 100 cases one day to 1,000 in less than a week to 10,000 about 10 days later… and how the U.S. growth in cases was mirroring that, step by step, only 11 days behind. I wondered how Canada would compare, so I found the data and lined it up… and to make things easier to visualize, graphed it. And realized we were on the exact same track, a week behind the U.S. And thought, simultaneously, “Wow, cool”… and, also… “Holy shit”.
I thought it worthy enough to post… and since enough people were interested to see how it would evolve, I resolved to update it and post it at 5pm every day. And I resolved to myself to update this thing for as long as I could… ie, the end of the pandemic.
Facebook was kind enough to remind me earlier today, so I didn’t have to scroll back 365 articles to find it. It’s reposted below this. That lame little graph and tiny columns of numbers pale in comparison to what I’m cranking out these days, but I must say… I felt dread looking at those graphs for the first few weeks.
So, yes… that was exactly a year ago… and during that time, I have posted the ever-evolving numbers and charts and details exactly 365 times. Yeah, I find it remarkable too – I haven’t missed a day. I’m a computer guy, so the numbers and graphs are now at the point of complete automation… click-click-click and today’s picture and numbers are ready to upload. That’s the easy part. But what’s more remarkable is what you’re reading right now… because behind this, there are 365 versions of my rambling, extemporaneous (adj. spoken or done without preparation) thoughts… some serious, some funny, some confrontational, some informative… and all of it, coming from a place in my brain I truly didn’t know existed. I keep saying I need to slow down, and one year would mark a good cut-off… except, you know what… I enjoy it too much. It’s fun to sit down here and just unload whatever my brain decides is worthy of providing for public consumption.
For me, the unfortunate aspect of the end of the pandemic (let’s find a little cloud in a huge silver lining) is that I’m having less and less time to write. And there’s lots of other stuff I’d like to be writing too. A book (that has nothing to do with any of this) will emerge from this keyboard one day, and I’d like to devote some time to that.
But… yeah, I’m not going anywhere. Until this pandemic is over, I’ll be around posting this… which today is relatively long, but often will just be a placeholder for the numbers and pictures. And looking back, those numbers and pictures sure tell a story. And these stories that go along with them; they also tell a story, haha. Reading through a bunch of them just now, there’s a common thread… and it’s like I’ve been saying all along… we’ll get through this, together. It’ll all be ok… eventually.
You often regret getting on the roller-coaster in the midst of that first, huge drop… or during those tight loops that impose enough G-forces on you to think you’ll pass out… but once the ride over, and once you can once-again walk straight and you’re not feeling nauseous… part of you is happy you went for the ride, if for no other reason than you can tell everyone you did it… and made it out alive.
And… so it’ll be with all of this… especially now, with a finish line well in sight; let’s not paint it rosy… it’s been a year of hell, and a year that has been catastrophic to many people’s lives; their health and their livelihoods altered in ways they’d never imagined. Nothing will make up for it, and the healing will take decades.
But, you’re still here… and, while this pandemic still rages… or, at least, till it’s snuffed out… so am I.
I raise my pint of Guinness to you: Cheers! … to a better year ahead. And see you tomorrow.
You know… if you take a pizza with radius “z” and thickness “a”, its volume can be calculated as pi•z•z•a – and that is my π contribution for the day – so Happy Pi Day!
Pi, like many people, is irrational… and Pi, also like many people, goes on forever… but it goes on forever after the decimal point, so it doesn’t get much bigger after a while. But let’s talk about numbers that *do* get big, and what happens when they collide with the fallacies of causality.
For example, unfortunately, sometimes people die unexpectedly. It happens a lot. People unexpectedly choke to death or have heart attacks or strokes or burst aneurysms or whatever else, and when they do, especially when it’s unexpected, people tend to try to blame it on something… because, somehow, our brains don’t like to accept the fact that sometimes, bad shit happens… and there’s nothing that caused it and there’s nothing anyone could have done to prevent it.
If someone ran the stats, I’m sure one would find that more than 99% of heart attacks happened in people who’d had a glass of water in their last 2 hours. Did the water cause those heart attacks?
At the moment, the AstraZeneca vaccine has been paused in Ireland… the usual “abundance of caution” reasoning, which pleases some liability lawyers tremendously, but does little to instill public confidence in vaccines, a topic where there’s still a lot of uncertainty and hesitancy. “Just in case, until we figure this out.”
I’m not sure what they’re hoping to figure out. This started in Norway, where “a number” of cases of blood clots were discovered in people who’d recently received the AstraZeneca vaccine. That number was 4… out of hundreds of thousands of shots. Italy banned a particular batch of AZ vaccine following the death of a serviceman in Sicily… who died of cardiac arrest one day after his shot. Cardiac arrest, blood clots… same thing. It must be the vaccine.
When you look the actual large numbers, 17 million people in the EU and UK have received the AZ vaccine… and the number of people who’ve developed blood clots, some number in the hundreds, is actually lower than the expected number out of a random sampling of the population. The number of people who’ve unexpectedly dropped dead shortly after getting the vaccine is probably similar to the number of people who unexpectedly dropped dead after drinking some coffee. Or yawning. Or breathing. But… that’s unacceptable; there must be something to blame.
I get it; in this day and age of lawyers ready to pounce, it’s easy to see where the abundance of caution comes from. I wonder how long it’ll be before they all realize there’s much ado about nothing here… except preventing the rollout of the vaccine to areas that now, more than ever, need it; Italy is suspending the vaccine at the exact time they’re seeing a frightening, exponential growth in cases. Because one person died, of causes almost certainly that have nothing to do with the vaccine.
They might tell you “better safe than sorry”, and with that, I agree… except I think their implementation of the concept is backwards. Far more people will die of C19, having not received their shot in a timely manner, than might be “saved” by an issue that’ll turn out to have been non-existent to begin with. It’s really that simple… as simple as apple… strudel.
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Leap years… leap seconds… even, with some calendars, leap months… these tiny (or not-so-tiny) course corrections are necessary because, unfortunately, the earth doesn’t rotate exactly every 24-hours, nor does it orbit the sun exactly every 365 days. At the moment, one rotation is 23 hours, 56 minutes, 4.09053 seconds. One year is 365.2422 of those rotations. These are not nice, round numbers to work with… and even if they were, the earth is slowing down, so it’d all have to change eventually. In fact, they change continually.
The people who manage all this keep careful track of it, and often fiddle with it without us even knowing. If you weren’t aware of it, you certainly would’ve missed the extra second that was tagged on to New Year’s Eve in 2016. Approaching midnight, the time went from 11:59:58… to 11:59:59… to 11:59:60 (!) before continuing on to 12:00:00am, January 1st, 2017.
If those little adjustments didn’t take place, the errors would accumulate. The sun would start rising and setting at weird times. It would snow in Spring and get super-hot in late Autumn. And, once in a while, having not kept up with the corrections, some abrupt fixes would need to be implemented.
The calendar we’re all familiar with is the Gregorian calendar, which was preceded by the less-accurate Julian calendar… and not everyone switched over at the same time. While the Gregorian calendar was adopted in places line France, Italy and Spain back in 1582, it wasn’t until 1752 that the U.S. and Canada switched over… and since the Julian calendar is less accurate with respect to leap-anythings, it was falling further and further behind. In 1582, it required a 10-day adjustment. When Canada and the U.S. did it, it required 11 days… and when Turkey and Greece finally made the change, less than 100 years ago, they had to drop 13 days from existence. History is full of stories of landlords who tried to charge a full month’s rent during those half-month switches; you can imagine how popular that was…
Indeed, that’s what happens when you keep letting errors pile up; they become more difficult to correct down the road.
All of this is relevant because of the data and charts you see attached to this little blurb… and it has to do with the inconsistency of the data with respect to testing and cases and deaths and vaccinations. Like I wrote about recently, if you have one watch, you know what time it is. If you have more than one, you’re not so sure.
I have managed, I think, to consolidate and normalize all the data so that going forward, it’s not quite so apples-to-oranges. But to get things to align, there’s a bit of a Julian/Gregorian leap-year adjusting to do. In some calendar switchovers, a February 30th was added just to make it work; think of it like that.
Actually, it’s not so bad… but here’s what’s changed, if you’ve been following closely:
The U.S vaccination number has gone down. I’d previously been getting a number that was confusing with respect to its allocation of first and second doses. The number now is up-to-date, and certainly only first doses. It’s also dropped the vaccinated population percentage from 20% down to less than 14%.
While it’s important to know how many doses have been dished out, it’s more important to know how many individuals have had at least one. Now, for all the data, … U.S., Canada and all the provinces, those numbers should be accurate and far-more up-to-date than before for “at least one dose” – as well as the vaccinated population percentages that go along with it. Note how Quebec seems to be way ahead of other provinces; in a way, they are… that’s an accurate representation of first doses they’ve injected. Along with that goes the not-so-irrelevant-fact that they still have yet to dish out a single second dose.
The other number that changed radically is Ontario. They had 1,138 new cases today, and that’s what I wrote down… even though the case counts grew by 5,000. Why? Because the new data source is a bit more ahead of the game; they tap into the individual health departments instead of reporting the single province-wide number that’s relayed daily. Ahead or behind the curve isn’t as important as it being the correct curve, and that representation hasn’t changed. Now that everything is newly-aligned, it should work just fine going forward… but looking at today’s data feels a bit like those lost 10 or 11 days… like things don’t add up. But they do.
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If, off the top of your head, you had to guess which three countries in the world had the most cases per 1M of population, you would think about it, come up with three countries, and be completely wrong. It wouldn’t make sense not to include places like U.S, India, Russia, Brazil, U.K, Spain, Italy… etc… on that list of guesses… but again, with exception of the U.S. (which lands in 8th place), none of the others even make the top 10. In fact, with only Spain at number 18, none of the others make the top 20.
The list of the top three countries with the highest case counts on a per-capita basis are: Andorra, Gibraltar and Montenegro.
Wait, you say, those places are barely populated and that skews the numbers. That is correct. Andorra, top of the list, scores 128,000 per million of population who’ve tested positive. Close to 13% of the population. That’d be like Canada having close to 5 million cases (we’re at less than a million). But, of course, Andorra only has a population of 77,000. Only 100 people there have died of C19. Gibraltar has a population of 34,000. Same idea… and, for what it’s worth, both of them share a border with Spain, where, no doubt, all of their cases came from.
So what, you may be asking….
If you look at Europe as a sort of big country, and each individual country as a province, then some issues relevant to Canada come to light.
Like, with respect to vaccinations, guess where in this country we have the highest per-capita vaccination rates. Now you know it’s a bit of a trick question, so perhaps it’s harder to fool you… so if your guesses included places like the three northern territories, you’re correct. By far.
Vaccination rates for a few key provinces…
Vaccination rates for the territories:
Some say that’s fair. Some say they should be distributing it more evenly. Some say more should be directed to the hotspots. And everyone is a little perturbed with last week’s news… at the start of the week, we heard how we were not getting what we were expecting from Pfizer… and at the end of the week, we heard how we were not getting what we were expecting from Moderna. Too bad. C’est dommage.
At what point could we conceivably start counting on ourselves for some vaccine? Some homegrown, domestically produced vaccine where we would be first in line?
The only viable possibility would indeed be home-“grown”, and that is Quebec-based Medicago’s tobacco-plant-based vaccine which recently wrapped up phase-2 clinical trials and is about to enter phase 3, involving 30,000 people in 11 countries. For what it’s worth, it’s off to a great start… 100% of people who received the vaccine developed significant antibody responses with no severe side effects. Like Moderna and Pfizer, this one also targets the spike protein, so there’s no real actual virus involved and therefore zero chance on getting sick with C19 from the vaccine. Side-effects – nothing bad so far, and we shall see what phase 3 reveals.
Unfortunately, the earliest we could hope to see this vaccine available to the public would be the second half of the year… but, certainly the government’s order of 76 million doses (and all the money that came with it) is helping push things along. But also, unfortunately, although they’ve been trying to get funding for years, we still don’t have the manufacturing capabilities in place. Medicago reps met with government officials no less than 24 times from 2017 to 2020 trying to find a way to fund the construction of just such a facility. The funding finally came through… in March of last year, when the “Oh shit” moment arrived. At least we’ll be all set for the next pandemic.
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Today’s brief update will simply be about some simple numbers and some simple math.
Let’s say 100 people catch Covid-19… and struggle through it, till they’re either cured or dead… if 93 survived and 7 died, let’s write it down as 93/7. Looking around the world, here’s a brief sample of how that looks in different places:
United States: 95/5
It’s annoying that some places have stopped publishing their recovery numbers. I’d be interested in throwing Sweden, U.K. and Spain into that mix to see how they compare.
The best ratios out there seem to come out, at best, 97/3.
If we just add up the entire planet — there have been almost exactly 30,000,000 cases – and the global ratio is 96/4.
The implication of that is that the true potential extent of this virus, should everyone on the planet get it, would mean a little over 300,000,000 deaths; simply 4% of the world’s 7.8 billion people.
Fortunately, there’s every reason to believe… through social practices and herd immunity (one way or the other), that nothing close to that will end up transpiring. But it’s always worthwhile to look at all the scenarios, and as far as the worst-case goes – there you have it.
There was a time in late March/early April where, with a sense of dread, it seemed like a perpetual waiting game — with a rolling two-week incubation period thrown in, just to make things a little less predictable — where the numbers could do this, or the numbers might do that. Are we following the footsteps of Spain or Italy? Is this about to spiral out of control? Notwithstanding we’ve learned a lot in the last 6 months, we might be back to that original mindset. And, for what it’s worth, Spain is unfortunately suffering through a very significant second surge.
There’s no doubt numbers are going up nationwide, so now what…? Let’s talk about B.C… where triple-digit new-case numbers will likely become the norm for the forseeable future… and note, as important as new-case numbers may be, hospitalizations and ICU admissions are an important trailing indicator… and, for now, they’re relatively flat. As per above, though… that’s a question that gets answered in 5 to 14 days.
For now… in an effort to get ahead of things a bit, given people’s general inability to follow the rules (See? This is why we can’t have nice things)… all nightclubs and banquet halls are closed. Restaurants, pubs & bars are to close by 10pm, and to have everyone out by 11. What’s next? Two weeks is about the right window of time to evaluate where schools are at… because that’s all starting up now, and it brings a long list of question marks to the forefront.
Let’s remember… by definition, the period just before things get wildly out of control is the period of time when they *are* in control… which is where we are right now. Dr. Henry can only make strong suggestions; the rest is up to us.
No AB or BC numbers today (or tomorrow)… so, like waiting for that final “river” card in poker, we wait to see how the hand plays out on Monday.
Indeed, poker is on my mind because I’ve spent the better part of today (and will continue into the night) trying to advance a bit further in the World Series of Poker Main Event. It’s all online this year, which has its advantages and disadvantages.
The biggest advantage of course is being able to sit at home, comfortably, and scream at the computer and throw your mouse at the wall in frustration when appropriate to do so. I haven’t done the latter, but plenty of the former… certainly something you can’t (and wouldn’t want to) do in a real cardroom.
If you’re only familiar with the game of poker from what you’ve seen on TV, you might have a bit of a misguided notion… but here’s the deal: Poker is not a game of cards which you play with money. Rather… it’s a game of money which you play with cards. It’s a subtle distinction, but it makes a huge difference.
Watching on TV, you’d think most hands are people throwing their money into the pot and hoping for the best as the cards get dealt. Certainly, that does happen… perhaps one out of ten times. The other nine times, all the poker playing takes place before any cards are seen… or just a few. It’s 80% luck, 15% mind games and 5% math.
Everyone knows the math, and the 80% luck aspect can be rolled out of the equation… other than it serves to level the playing field to the extent “good” amateurs like me can go toe-to-toe with the pros for a while, but eventually they’ll get caught by that intangible 15% of mind games. There’s a reason that, after 5,000 people have entered a tournament, you always wind-up with a lot of familiar names in the top 500… the guys who can stare at you from across the table; stare into your soul and make you think exactly what they want.
To some extent, not having that be a part of it… helps a bit. Nobody can tell what’s going through my mind while it’s counting down, waiting for me to do something. For example, at this moment, for the last two minutes, I’ve been typing here while some guy in Italy put me All-In and is waiting for me to Call or Fold. I already know I’m going to Fold, but he can wait.
If we have to wait till Monday to know what's going on, he can wait 120 seconds extra.
And with that, the break is over — I will gratefully accept your wishes of good luck and let you know tomorrow where I'm at.