By Horatio Kemeny|2021-09-10T20:00:35-07:00September 10th, 2021|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Follower Favourites, Politics, Business & Economics, Science of COVID-19, History|Tags: Vaccine, Canada, Ontario, Science, Research, News, Pandemic, Vancouver, Masks, Trump, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Numbers, Coronavirus, USA, Graphs, Statistics, COVID19, C19, BritishColumbia|9 Comments
On the last day of second-year university, I wrote my last exam on a Friday afternoon. That was the last thing after a tumultuous few weeks of final papers, projects and exams. I finished writing it, barely remember driving home, told everyone not to wake me… I’m exhausted, I already ate, leave me alone. I fell asleep around 6pm and woke up the next morning at 11am. That’s 17 hours of glorious, blissful sleep… and I remember it well because it’s, by far, the longest continuous sleep I’ve ever had.
And when I woke up the next day, I suddenly felt like I was in a vacuum. “Now what?!” What paper or project do I work on? What exam do I study for? There were no answers of course, but as the saying goes… when you stare into the abyss, it stares right back at you. Now what?
The government 3pm briefings were something I’d gotten used to. If you were here watching with me, you might have heard me screaming at the screen… not at Dr. Henry or Minister Dix… but rather, at the reporters serving up the softball questions. “Ask him this!” or “Ask her that!” I’d (very ineffectively) yell… and usually, nobody thought to ask what I’d desperately wanted answered. I took to Tweeting certain reporters, and a couple of times, by coincidence or because they listened, my specific questions got asked and answered… but now… this vacuum of silence. This abyss of zero information.
This is, of course, good. No news is good news. Usually. We can all hope we never see Dr. Henry on TV again, except when she’s receiving her well-deserved Order of B.C. and Order of Canada. But perhaps there’s a bit of Stockholm Syndrome as well. This pandemic has held us all hostage for more than a year, and even if it’s letting us go, there’s visible reluctance all around. I’m not saying we’re going to miss it, but certainly parts of it. I’m not saying I need to see the Henry/Dix 3pm gathering every day for the rest of my life, but there’s no doubt it held great importance for many people… and, truthfully, I will miss it. And while we’ve all become very used to masks and distancing, and the mental stranglehold of that – even if Henry/Dix are telling us don’t worry, take them off, gather, whatever – it’s going to take some time. You don’t jump into the abyss… you lower yourself in slowly.
Yes, I do think Dr. Henry will receive (and deserves) those honours. As much as she received criticism and death threats and all the rest of it, in the decades to come, when this whole experience is looked back upon and textbooks are written as to the proper way of dealing with pandemics, British Columbia will be near (if not sitting on) the top of the list. Pandemics incur a lot of collateral damage… lives, businesses, jobs. Mitigating that properly, navigating the subtleties, juggling thirteen flaming chainsaws without getting hurt; it’s no small feat. Look around at the rest of the world for comparison. We, around here, have been very lucky indeed.
I’m going to try to sleep seventeen hours tonight… though I will fail miserably. But one thing that’s changed… I used to go to sleep on Fridays with a bit of dread, not knowing what to expect after the weekend media blackout. That’s now gone, and I certainly won’t miss that.
A very memorable day here in B.C… the announcement that this is all pretty-much coming to an end; the official announcement that as of July 1st, we’re in Phase 3 and that the public health emergency will be lifted five days later.
Some notable changes, effective this Thursday:
– For the most part, masks will be optional… recommended, but not mandated
– No need to provide proof of vaccination anywhere
– Return to normal for personal indoor and outdoor gatherings
– For organized indoor gatherings, 50 people or 50%, whichever is greater
– For outdoor organized gatherings, 5,000 people or 50%, whichever is greater
– No capacity limits or restrictions on religious gatherings and worship services
– Fairs, festivals and trade shows – back to normal (with a plan in place)
– Canada-wide travel is ok
– No group limits for indoor or outdoor dining
– Normal liquor service, though no socializing between tables
– All indoor fitness classes allowed at normal capacities
– Gyms and recreation facilities, normal capacity
Given today’s new-case count of 29 and zero deaths and given the strong momentum still in place for vaccination (around here), it makes perfect sense. It’s exactly on track with what was optimistically expected… and all of this announced on what’s to be the last Dr. Bonny / Mr. Dix live 3pm briefing. I saw the first one, saw many in between, and, evidently, I saw the last one… though I didn’t know it at the time.
I started writing about this pandemic on March 17th, 2020. The Provincial State of Emergency was declared the next day, on the morning of March 18th. Accordingly, when the PSoE is lifted on Tuesday, I think that’ll be an appropriate finish line for me as well. A few more thoughts, one last contest… and, on Tuesday, call it a day. It’s Summer, and I’ve barely been anywhere for 18 months; time to get on with it and not have to be near a computer every day at 5pm.
This is all, in essence, the end of the pandemic… but it’s not the end of Covid, and there are a lot of variables that could cause wrinkles in the end-game… but the biggest game-changer… the one big, important piece… vaccines… will have a lot to say with respect to mitigating any sort of grand resurgence.
Sure… there will be pockets of outbreaks… but they’ll be dealt with swiftly. We may see an uptick in cases in the fall, but I suspect most people won’t know whether their sniffles and C19 or not; nor will they care. If hospitalization is needed, there will be plenty of beds and an awful lot of knowledge with respect to effective treatment. And if it’s a mild case… and if they’re vaccinated and everyone else around them is as well, that’s as much as any of us can do.
Beyond that, it’s pretty simple: Let’s get on with our lives.
When this pandemic started, my daughter Sophia had recently started grade 11. That was at the time when we were all worrying about this getting totally out of control; watching those exponential-growth graphs; looking closely at the TTD (Time To Double) numbers. I can still tell you… that if cases are growing at 10%, they’ll double in a week. At 6%, it’ll take 12 days.
Slowly, those percentages dwindled to the point where they became far less concerning… and, eventually, irrelevant. Today’s percentages are actually close enough to zero that unless something drastic happens, I should just remove them. But in March of 2020, that number was over 40% in Quebec… a TTD of 2. Cases doubling every two days. Today, that number is 0.02%. Go Habs.
And that’s not the only thing that’s changed. Sophia went from grade 11 to grade 12, and today is the last day of that particular adventure. Right around the time I’m posting this, she and her classmates will be walking across the stage, receiving their well-deserved awards and diplomas, and putting the whole high-school experience (with a pandemic thrown in for good measure) behind them.
The crappy part is I can’t be there. I’m watching the livestream from home, as are all the other parents. The good part is that family from all over the world can also watch. And even though I’m not there, I think the screaming and cheering at the TV will be loud enough that even though the school is several kilometres away… they’ll hear it.
For Sophia, the end of a big adventure… and, also, the start of an even bigger one.
For us… well, this uncalled-for adventure isn’t quite over yet… but if we were all in grade 12, we’d be at the point where the final papers are all handed in, and all of the exams have been written. The stage is set… and soon, we all get to walk across it. And then we get to collectively throw our caps (ie masks) in the air and, with the same sense of anticipation being felt by this awesome group of graduates… get on with our lives.
Let’s take a closer look at out neighbours to the south, where the overall single-jab vaccination rate is around 54% and stagnating…
The top-10 most vaccinated states are: Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire & New Mexico.
Vermont tops the list with a vaccination percentage of 73.1%, while New Mexico rounds out the top-10 with 60.8%.
The bottom 10 looks like this…
North Dakota, South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Idaho, Alabama, Wyoming, Louisiana & Mississippi.
The best of those worst-10 is North Dakota at 43.4%. The worst is Mississippi at 36.0%
That’s quite a divide… where the top state more than doubles the worst one.
Here’s another interesting stat about all of those states…
In the last presidential election, of the top-10, all of them voted Democrat.
Of the bottom-10, 9 of them voted Republican. The one that didn’t, Georgia, is so inwardly-horrified at the result that their Republican-controlled government recently disenfranchised more than 100,000 potential voters, striking them from the rolls… and this was after enacting a number of laws that can only be called “Voter Suppression”. Take a guess which voters are most affected.
None of this is much of a surprise, though the blatant starkness of it is a little eye-opening… but what’s the deal? The blue state/red state divisions largely precede the pandemic, so how does it necessarily follow that raving, unrelenting Trump supporters would also be the anti-mask/anti-vax crowd?
The answer is a bit more complicated than “They’re just a bunch of ignorant rednecks”. The answer, in fact, has a lot to do with distrust of the government. When you’re poor and/or uneducated and/or sick and tired of hearing lies about how the government is going to do so much for you (and then doesn’t), you end up jumping ship to the guy you can relate to… he’s one of us, loud, abrasive, calls it like he sees it, etc. He’s not cut from government cloth.
Which makes Trump all the worse. If anybody could’ve convinced that group about masks and vaccines, it would’ve been him. It could’ve and it should’ve been him. Notwithstanding the shitshow it took to get him elected, it’s like the universe said “Hmm… there’s going to be this pandemic, and a lot of Americans will lose their lives. At least, who could we put in power in the U.S. to mitigate that? Someone that people who’d generally ignore government advice actually listen to?”
Without a doubt, his handling of this pandemic will be what history judges him on, and it’ll be appropriately brutal. When all is said and done, countless American deaths that could’ve been prevented… a figure officially set at over 600,000 at the moment, but the real figure is already a two-comma number.
Trump likes to make shit up as he goes along, depending who he’s talking to. We know he quietly got vaccinated while at the same time telling everyone it’s unnecessary. And then, a couple of months ago, this magnificent quote: ““In a certain way, I’m the father of the vaccine because I was the one that pushed it.”
At least we can end this relatively sad commentary with a good laugh.
Heading into the weekend without anything too exciting to report… other than I ran into a virulent (haha!!) anti-mask / anti-vax bike mechanic. The way some people reason things out… it’s quite remarkable. I won’t bore you with the details of it… by now we’ve all had those sorts of discussions with someone… but my front brake needed attention halfway through my ride this morning, so I walk into a random bike shop…
“Hi… I’m sorry, I don’t have a mask… I wasn’t planning on…”
(the guy rips his own mask off)
“Yeah, don’t worry about it… these f’n things don’t do anything anyway”
I’ve wondered out loud before how it is that those two things go so well together. Does anybody know anyone who’s anti-mask but pro-vaccine? Or vice-versa? I’d be interested in listening to rational arguments, but have yet to hear one.
And this guy?
“I’d rather die from Covid than from the vaccine. You don’t know what they put in it.”
The human brain… how it functions, and the twisted logic it supplies to some people… it’s a real mystery.
Instead of pursuing the rest of that discussion… speaking of mysteries… here’s a good one for you to rattle around your brain…
A long time ago, there were three friends who went camping. After a few nights, they’d had enough… and decided to head home early, and spend the night in a motel somewhere. They packed up their stuff, hopped in the car, and drove off, planning to stop at the first motel that had room.
Unfortunately, it was a busy time of year and everything was booked. They passed an endless stream of “No Vacancy” signs… but eventually, there was one where the “No” wasn’t lit up. So they pulled in.
The guy at the front desk told them he only had one room left. They asked if it’d be ok for all three of them to share the room. Yeah, sure, no problem… it’ll be $30 for the room. Great, said the three guys… and each dug into his own pocket and pulled out $10. They each handed their $10 to him; he counted out the $30… all good… and then they got their keys and headed to the room.
A few minutes later, the guy at the counter remembered that there was a special deal going on… and that a room for 3 people was actually only $25. Being an honest person, he opened the cash drawer and pulled out five one-dollar bills…and instructed the janitor, who happened to be sweeping up the lobby, to deliver the $5 to the room.
The janitor, however, wasn’t so honest… and as he walked over to the room, thought to himself… how are 3 guys going to split $5 anyway? He decided to just give them three of the bills and keep two for himself.
So… he knocked on the door… one of the three guys answered… and the janitor handed him three of the $1 bills.
Cool, thought the guy… and took the three bills, and handed a dollar to each of his friends.
So… since each guy originally paid $10 and now got $1 back, you could say each guy paid $9 for the room. $9 x 3 = $27. The bellhop kept $2. That makes $29.
What happened to the other dollar?
It’s a mystery! – and if you know the answer, don’t just blurt it out in the comments… let some people scratch their heads a bit.
Hint: the anti-mask / anti-vax bike mechanic doesn’t have it.
What does life look like post-pandemic? It’s pretty straightforward; it looks like it used to before, but with the back-of-the-mind consideration that Covid is still around. Having a clear understanding of what’s risky and what’s not — you keep it in mind — and life goes on. If this were a movie being told in flashbacks, we’re at the point where the past and the present start to converge… you know, those great movie scripts that weave all the timelines into something seamless.
What’s not so seamless is the return to normality, and differing opinions as to what’s ok and what isn’t. For example… there is both a huge outcry – and also a lot of “whatever” shrugging – with respect to the fact that the first cruise ship to embark in this soon-to-be post-pandemic era had a couple of people test positive. Was that to be expected? The ship’s captain – perhaps Captain Obvious – probably thinks so.
The most effective vaccines claim efficacy rates of no higher than 95%, and there’s a big difference between 100% and anything below it. That certainly doesn’t mean that 5% of people who are fully vaccinated will get C19. But it certainly does mean that there will be “breakthrough” infections, and until this virus is eradicated from existence, that’ll continue to happen.
If you’re fully vaccinated, your chances of getting infected are small. Your chances of getting infected and having symptoms are tiny. Your chances of getting infected and having serious symptoms, requiring hospitalization… are tiny squared – to the point of “don’t even worry about it.”
Out of the thousands of people on that cruise ship, the majority of whom were fully vaccinated and tested 72 hours prior to boarding, two (who were sharing a cabin) subsequently tested positive. Not surprising. They were completely asymptomatic; also not surprising. They don’t seem to have infected anyone else; still not surprising. They’re in isolation, but life aboard the Celebrity Millennium continues unabated. Nothing cancelled. No masks. The cruise company is sticking to its protocols and nothing is changing.
This is a very different scenario than the Diamond Princess… the cruise ship that set sail from Yokohama on January 20th of last year, with one infected passenger… and subsequently turned into a floating petri dish that at one point accounted for half of all of the world’s known cases. It wasn’t until March that they managed to get everyone off that ship… and there will be books and movies and documentaries made for years about what went on, at every level, during those 6 weeks. At least they didn’t scuttle the ship with everyone on board; you know some psycho in some board room must have come up with that idea at some point.
Back to today, and those two passengers. If they’d never been tested, they’d never have known. They had no cough and they had no sniffles and they had no problems breathing. For a few years at least, if not decades… if not forever… this virus will be in our midst. But at some point, a point we’re quickly approaching, we’ll all have done everything we can. And, at that point, the exact right thing will be to get on with your life as you know it.
Many of us are still in freak-out mode, and that’ll take a while to dissipate… the PTSD of C19 paranoia… which is why many of the reactions to this news story we were of the “I can’t believe anyone would be so stupid as to get on a cruise ship today!!1!1!!!!” sort.
While I recognize that it’s an uncomfortable idea to many, I can also totally understand the mindset of the people on that cruise. Eventually, we’ll all get to a level of comfort where we can lead our lives based on the best quote of the best script of the best movie ever made: “Get busy living or get busy dying.”
For old time’s sake, I’ve thrown in the graphs showing the progression of this pandemic from day one. If you look below, you’ll see three rows. The first row is the shape of the entire pandemic, going back to Feb 15th of last year. The next row is the second wave onward, starting Sep 8th of last year. You can easily see where that second wave fits into the graph above it. And the third row is the 3rd wave, as of Mar 10th of this year. You can also see where it fits into the one above.
It’s very interesting to note, looking at the column of the 3 B.C. graphs… that our first wave was relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things; it’s barely a blip in the big picture. That tiny little bump at the bottom left of the top B.C. graph; that’s it. Daily new case counts never broke 100 that entire time… compared to today’s number, +183, which sounds kind of low… and it is. It’s the lowest number since Oct 20th. It’s below what we’re considering the start of the third wave, where, at its worst, we were seeing more than 1,200 new cases a day. The same can be said for hospitalizations and ICU admissions… lowest numbers since November.
Looking at those towering subsequent second and third waves should remind us that, while things are certainly trending in the right direction, it’s not quite over yet. Those flare-ups happened for a number of reasons; reasons which haven’t gone away.
But, of course, one big thing has changed, and it’s not going away… and that is vaccines. And that’s what’s made the biggest difference of all.
On that note, I got my second-dose email today… the one asking what I want to do… get a second AZ shot, or wait a bit longer and get Pfizer or Moderna. Given the results I’ve been observing from what’s been published so far, for me, mixing it up with Pfizer might be the way to go.
There’s obviously a lot of discussion going around asking what’s the right move, and the answers differ. The original adage of “get whatever is offered to you” will never be wrong, especially for first doses. Get the one being offered to you. But what about second doses for those who had AstraZeneca for round one?
It’s up to you.
“ASAP” is never wrong.
“The same as the first dose” is not wrong.
“Recent reports imply Pfizer for round two is a good idea” is also not wrong.
Some people are making noise that this goes against the manufacturer’s recommendations and, indeed, NACI’s original recommendation was also against it; stick to what you got.
But, guess what… originally in this pandemic, we were told we wouldn’t need masks. Suddenly, we were told we do. Why? Because it’s all a scam and a sham and fraudulent and Bill Gates and Fauci and 5G and…. No… it’s not that. It’s because *science*. That’s how it works; you learn something new and you course-correct. Nobody was “wrong” at the time; they made their suggestions as best they could; with incomplete information. And as information rolled in, better decisions could be made.
Here’s a decision I hope most people agree with; no matter what flavour it is… get that second dose. It gets us all one step closer, and looking at the pretty graphs and numbers, there’s no doubt we’re going in the right direction.
Masks / no masks, vaccines / no vaccines, social distancing or not, 5G, Bill Gates, Fauci, Tam, Henry, Chinese conspiracy, whatever… there are many things to disagree upon… but one thing upon which everybody seems to agree is that healthy doses of sunshine and vitamin D (don’t overdo it) are a good combatant against Covid. Early on in the pandemic, it was noticed that the vast majority (if not 100% in some cases) of seriously ill patients were found to be Vitamin D deficient… and this is one vitamin where, if you’re lucky, you can get plenty of it for super-cheap.
So that’s what I’ve been doing most of this day, and I hope you’re out there as well, infusing yourself with this free healing power… especially since next week, we’re back to little pills if you want your Vitamin D fix. Vancouver, you know.