May 17, 2021

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.

April 19, 2021

The “Presidency” of Augusto Pinochet in Chile lasted until early 1990. But you can’t really call him a President, because the Republic of Chile never actually democratically elected him into power.

So… in other words, when I was living there in 1987/1988, life under a military dictatorship was in full swing. It meant that a lot of the civil liberties we take for granted here in Canada simply didn’t exist. But other things, that we do take for granted *not* to exist… did. Such as… checkpoints.

Whenever you run into a checkpoint here… 99.9% of the time it’s to sniff out DUIs. The checkpoints are strategically placed so that if you find yourself heading into one, there’s no escape. Just over the hill on the Granville St. bridge, southbound – heading out of downtown on a Saturday night – is a good example.

And as you approach it, you will feel one of two things. If you’ve been drinking, dread. Fear. A complete freakout. And now you get to pay the steep price for making the poor decisions that put you in this situation.

Or, you haven’t been drinking, and you feel a mix of relief and indignation. Relief that you get to have a brief and friendly chat with the cop before you’re on your merry way… and a bit of indignation. How *dare* they stomp on my civil rights. Who do they think they are. I should be free to drive wherever I want. This is a free country. I should be able to do whatever I want.

We’ve been hearing a lot of those sentences recently, in a very different context… but these two different contexts will be merging a bit on the near future, much to the horror of civil libertarians.

Living under a military dictatorship kept you on edge. Every single time I went through one of those checkpoints… and, might I add, they not only popped-up unexpectedly, but many were semi-permanent. Imagine a checkpoint in the middle of the Lion’s Gate Bridge. In both directions… License and registration and insurance, please. Why isn’t this car in your name. Why are you going downtown. Who do you know on the north shore. How often do you travel this route.

That would be a permanent checkpoint… a little hut in the middle of the bridge, manned by a solider 24/7. Except it wasn’t 24/7… just to mess with you, sometimes the hut was empty and you could just go through. Just to mess you with and keep you on edge.

But usually, it was manned… so, you’d jump through the hoops; you let them execute their little power trip, you acquiesce to their bullshit. And unless you’re actually up to no good, you’re unlikely to have a problem. I was asked a lot of stupid questions… “Where’d you get that car radio?” “Canada? Is that one of those little states way up north?” but it was never more than a few questions before “Have a nice day”.

I’ve been back to Chile many times post-1990, and all of those checkpoints are gone… but the little huts are still there. And I drive by them now and think… what was the point of that. Seriously, what was the point.

Well, the point was that they wanted to keep you in fear. They wanted to constantly remind you… don’t forget who’s in charge. We control you. Don’t, for a minute, think you’re free.

It took a radical change in government to get rid of that but, rest assured, the right-wing military junta of Augusto Pinochet had zero in common with today’s NDP government of John Horgan… something to remember when people start screaming about today’s announcements… that for several weeks, travel restrictions… where you simply shouldn’t leave your local area. And you may run into a checkpoint. It’s temporary and it makes sense, but, oh boy… here comes the screaming and yelling from the freedom/liberty crowd.

I don’t expect to get pulled over at any checkpoint because I don’t expect to be transiting from home any time soon… but in a warped way, I’d look forward to it… because I wouldn’t be able to not compare it to my experiences from 30 years ago… the difference between slowly pulling up to a young, potentially itchy-trigger-fingered solider armed with a loaded semi-automatic weapon… and some VPD or RCMP cop whose only job in this context is to try to keep people safe. I’d look at today’s checkpoint and realize that the cop is on my side, that this is temporary, that this is necessary… and resign myself to the fact that we put ourselves in this situation.

It’s more serious than many people realize, but that’s counteracted by the measures already in place which *are* having a positive effect… and warmer weather, and vaccines. The outcome of this collision course is approaching… do we go the Israel route or the Ontario route in the near future?

Well, let’s look at the Chile route. Way ahead on vaccinations, and fully locked up… because they took that freedom and abused the hell out of it and things went from being under control to totally messed up. That’s what can happen. That’s what might happen here if strict and sudden measures weren’t put in place. So ironic that checkpoints in Chile might have prevented their full-on lockdown.

Around here… may I say… temporary. Can I repeat… temporary. As in – what we need to do today, so that we don’t all have to be doing this forever. I’m pretty sure we can do this for just a few short weeks.

I sure hope so. Otherwise, it won’t be short and it won’t be weeks.

April 6, 2021

I’ve heard from a few people who’ve gotten the AstraZeneca vaccine recently that maybe they should’ve waited for Pfizer or Moderna. After all, those latter two have efficacy rates around 95%, while AZ is somewhere in the mid-60s. That’s a notable difference. Or is it?

The efficacy number basically tells you the percentage reduction in disease with respect to vaccinated vs. unvaccinated people. A 95% reduction in the test groups of P & M vs. a 65% reduction with AZ.

But what that’s really measuring is whether you get it at all. What if you get it asymptomatically? Of the 30% difference, what if all of those case are insignificantly mild?

As it turns out, there’s a better number to look at… hospitalizations and deaths. As has been quoted widely, there is a 100% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths with Pfizer and Moderna. What about AstraZeneca, and other vaccines? Here’s a list of the “Big 6”, and their percentages of preventing hospitalizations and deaths… not efficacy:

Pfizer: 100%
Moderna: 100%
Janssen (J&J): 100%
Sputnik V: 100%
NovaVax: 100%
AstraZeneca: 100%

So… ask me again, “Should I get vaccinated?” Yes, you should. “Does it matter which one I get?” No, it doesn’t. If you want to avoid serious illness, they will all do the job. And as much as we’ve heard about Pfizer and Moderna and AstraZeneca… the Johnson and Johnson vaccine will be here by the end of the month, and if I had the option to pick one, that’s the one I would go with. One single jab, and a month later… you’re as immune as you’ll ever be, with zero chance of serious illness.

I recently had a discussion with someone that hinged on the “You don’t know what’s in it” argument. Actually, you do… the ingredients are all listed publicly, for all of them. There is a popular meme going around questioning people who’ll eat junk food without knowing what’s in it, but would hesitate with a vaccine… and that’s the thing; it all ends up in your bloodstream. One way or the other, that’s where it has to go to make its way around your body. To what degree it’s been broken down or metabolized or synthesized or whatever… food, water, medicine, drugs… if it’s not getting into your bloodstream, it’s not doing much. If you’re eating McRibs, but fear getting vaccinated, you might need to rethink the logic.

There are places in the world drowning in excess vaccine, but B.C. isn’t one of them. For the moment, there is a consistent demand by everyone who wants to get it… because, so far, it’s only been 16% of us. That number will rise significantly in the near future as more doses arrive, but now we’re in a bit of a race. Ontario is facing crisis numbers and lockdowns and school closures, and we’re on that exact path unless things change, probably a month behind… and with hospitalizations and ICU cases rising sharply over the weekend, we’re into a critical week. Some say it’s not too late, some say it’s inevitable.

What’s the efficacy rate of enough people doing what we need to do to prevent this from getting out of hand? An excellent question. We’ll be finding out in the next couple of weeks.

March 26, 2021

The good news with numbers is brief. Yesterday, B.C.’s vaccination rate went from nine point something to ten point something percent. Today, so did Alberta and Ontario… all of which allowed me to change the percentage to one decimal place instead of two. That’s one small step for a decimal point; one giant leap for significant figures as it pertains to reaching the end of this thing. I look forward to Manitoba joining the club soon.

And that concludes the numbers-related good news.

Today, B.C. had over 900 new cases… for the first time since November. What’s also bad is that the new-case growth rate was over 1%… not a particularly good direction for the trend to be heading.

Here are the weekly new-case averages per week, starting 6 weeks ago:

433, 441, 480, 559, 537, 560, 699. There was a nice dip a few weeks ago… right around the time Dr. Henry was calling it a turning point; it’s up to us, yadda yadda… so, how’d we do? There you go.

We’re likely to see the new-case numbers crawl over 1,000 in the next few days… so, to be clear, we’re very much in a 3rd wave… the question is, how bad will it get? Nowhere near as bad as it’d be if we didn’t have improving weather and vaccines. But nowhere near as good as it’d be if we didn’t have variants… and if we’d all properly followed those rules we used to be so good at. Half of that we can’t control… but the other half…

Now it’s Spring Break; people are traveling and doing their own thing. This is how we roll, and for the people who’ve simply “had it” with the pandemic, none of this matters. Ask me in two weeks how much it really matters, but as good or bad as it gets, when it comes to reaching the finish line, it’s not that we’re not running towards it as fast as we can… it’s that we keep pushing it our further. It’s a tough race to figure out when the finish line keeps moving, but it’s even more frustrating when we’re the ones moving it.

Stay tuned for Monday’s numbers… and don’t hold your breath for any radical change in restrictions. If anything, we’re presently going the wrong way.

February 28, 2021

Welcome to the end of February. Tomorrow begins March… and you’ll recall last year, March 2020 felt like the longest month in history. To some extent, it’s been a year but it feels like we’re still in it. Happy Sunday, March 334th.

At this time last year, Canada had seen 15 cases of Covid-19. Seven of them were here in B.C. Another 7 were in Ontario, and the other was in Quebec. By the end of March 2020, Canada had over 8,000 cases and 100 deaths. A month later, the case-count was over 50,000 and the deaths were around 3,000 and we were all freaking the hell out.

We’re all too exhausted to be freaking out anymore, and we’ve realized the numbers didn’t follow that trajectory. Had they, my quick math implies we’d all have caught it by the end of July, and we’d all have been dead by the end of Summer. None of that happened, and none of that will… but it’s worth thinking back to how things felt at the time, just to remember that things can change quickly and we shouldn’t take anything for granted.

On the flipside, like a lot of people, I’m actually starting to wonder what society is going to look like after this is all over. Many profound changes, and I’m not just talking about remote work and Zoom and virtual offices and things like that; let’s recall that in no small part, the end of the 1918 pandemic launched the roaring 20s… a decade of romanticised, glamorous fun that lasted until the economy collapsed and The Depression took over.

But here’s something else that with great subtlety changed the world drastically…

Up until 1918, there were steam cars and there were electric cars… and internal combustion cars were around, but not so popular. People with steam cars used to fill them up at horse troughs… free water, everywhere… but, with the pandemic, and standing water being a great collection point for mosquitos, those troughs got covered up… and the car manufacturers like Henry Ford seized that opportunity to tell the world how awesome gas-powered cars were. No waiting for it to charge, no waiting for the water to heat up, no chance of a steam explosion. Gas stations sprung up everywhere… and a hundred years of R&D that’s gone into gas-powered cars might have gone into steam-generated engines and/or electrical systems and batteries. Hard to imagine what society might look like… and how it would’ve evolved… without this dependency on oil.

I wonder what’s changing these days that’ll have such a profound effect on the entire world. What will they be talking about 100 years from now as one of the largest radical shifts caused by all of this?

I don’t know… I’m just asking the question… but happy to hear you thoughts.

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February 25, 2021

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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February 16, 2021

Today is the day when most of the numbers catch up from the weekend gaps… and one thing is clear; they’re all mostly continuing their trend in the right direction. Cases, hospitalizations, outbreaks. deaths… the numbers tell a good story and the graphs paint a pretty picture. Especially impressive are Ontario and Quebec numbers these days; solidly trending in the right direction.

In the U.S., while possibly some of that can be attributed to vaccines, the numbers (15%) are still too low for it to make such a tangible difference. Among many other potential reasons, it’s… the masks… a policy now in place that would have had a drastic effect on the pandemic. How many lives might have been saved? That’ll be discussed for a long time, but most will agree… it’s a figure with six digits… and closer to seven, not five. Also… we’ll soon be hearing a lot about the current U.S. number of deaths; by tomorrow this time, it’ll have surpassed 500,000.

In Canada, the harsh imposition of what some consider to be overreaching orders are also having that effect. All of the “I just had to go on vacation but shouldn’t be forced to pay $2,000 for returning home” crowd… well, you’ll get little sympathy from me. Trust me, there are times when I’ve felt like saying “to hell with it” and booking us all a nice trip to somewhere sunny. What difference will it make? How bad can it be? I never get too far down the “Quick, before we come to our senses!” line of thinking, but I can see how it gets to people. That being said, that’s an explanation, not an excuse… and when all those 100+ people who flew to Hawaii over the weekend come home and are met with restrictions and derision… well, they’re adults making adult decisions. They can face the adult consequences. All of the restrictions, all of the non-essential travel that’s not going on… it’s making a difference.

On the flipside, some local games-night party with 50 people attending ended up infecting 15 of them, who unknowingly went home and then to work or wherever else, subsequently infecting a host of others. We won’t know how far that little super-spreader event will reach, but when I say all numbers are going down, there’s a caveat… which is that while the overall numbers can go down, the localized numbers can go up… in this case, Fraser Health, where numbers are indeed up – a fact somewhat obfuscated by the rest of the province. And… to be clear… one little super-spreading event, a little tail of an event… can end up wagging the entire big dog of a province.

I really hope the numbers keep going down. And they can. It’s almost like the numbers *want* to go down. We just have to continue giving them the opportunity to do so.

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By |2021-02-16T17:03:35-08:00February 16th, 2021|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report|Tags: , , , , , , , , |3 Comments

February 2, 2021

Happy Groundhog Day! Happy Groundhog Day! – and if that little repeat doesn’t make sense to you, it’s time for you to emerge from your own gopher hole, and forget about shadows… just go see the movie… and, also, if you haven’t seen the movie, you might not want to read all of this because it’ll spoil it for you. And if you’re thinking “Who cares, I’m never going to see the movie”… that’s a bad way to look at it… because it’s a good movie. A great movie. In fact, so great… that it’s been selected by the U.S. Library of Congress to be included for permanent preservation in the National Film Registry.

The film isn’t really about Groundhog Day; it just so happens that its repeated events take place on this particular day. It could have been any other holiday… or just some regular Tuesday. And, like most worthwhile films, it touches on many different things; some obvious and some subtle.

Many days of this pandemic have felt exactly like what Phil Connors (Bill Murray in the movie) went through… the same repetitive pattern, day after day after day. Certainly, initially, in the movie, Phil embraced the novelty of having day after day to pursue whatever he wanted… with no consequences. He did more than make crafts and bake sourdough and watch Tiger King, but same idea… and, no matter what, back to 6am the next day. The same next day.

Eventually, he got sick and tired and depressed of it all… but even killing himself didn’t work. Back to a perpetual cycle of day after day… but let’s be clear… this wasn’t a few weeks or months into it… it was years; possibly decades.

Eventually, after all of that, he emerged with some clarity… that if he’s stuck in the same day forever, why not make the best of it for other people, if not himself. He fixes a flat tire. He saves a guy choking to death. He catches a kid falling out of a tree. He lights someone’s cigarette without being asked. On a touching note, he continually and persistently tries to save a man’s life, yet no matter what he tries, it’s to no avail. And that’s just touching the surface of it. There’s a lot of discussion regarding exactly how long Phil replayed that day. Some estimates are in the range of 34 years… more than 12,000 times. No matter what. No matter where. No way out of that town, and no way out of that day… no matter what he tried.

It was eventually living through a “perfect” day that gets him out of his loop. From a spiritual point of view, in Judaism, there’s a concept of “repairing the world”, and that by doing a good deed (a “Mitzvah”) you release a spark of holy energy to the universe… and if everyone went around doing good deeds all the time, we’d all benefit. Certainly, on that particular day, Phil lit a forest fire of reparation.

Like the movie, there’s an end to the pandemic… and like the end of the movie, when we eventually get there, it’ll be happy… but we can all sympathize with Phil. If we didn’t quite get it the first time we ever watched the movie, we certainly do now. I recall watching an interview after Schindler’s List came out… and one of the Schindler Jews who survived The Holocaust was in the audience. She was asked after if she thought the movie was too long. “The real thing was longer”, she replied. Yep. Understood.

And back to today… in a very pandemically-themed ceremony (Groundhog Punxsutawney Phil was wearing a mask), the official little guy came out and saw his shadow… so, as far as Pennsylvania is concerned… six more weeks of winter. On the other hand, Ontario’s Wiarton Willie saw no shadow, so it’s an early spring for them. Here in B.C., I’m not sure we have an official groundhog to make the call, so I’ll do it – and it’s very easy, because unless we hit one of our annual 20 days of sunshine (which obviously today we didn’t), it’ll be cloudy and gray, which means no shadow, which means an early Spring. Great! I can’t wait to go… nowhere.

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January 30, 2021

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…

B.C.: 2.5%
Ontario: 2.2%
Quebec: 2.8%

Vaccination rates for the territories:
Northwest: 21.0%
Nunavut: 13.5%
Yukon: 15.4%

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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January 25, 2021

A year ago today, a man who’d recently returned from Wuhan, China, wasn’t feeling well… and wound up at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital, where he became Canada’s first test-positive C19 case.

Hearing that this morning made me think back… what was I doing at the time? Thanks to modern technology, it doesn’t take much to scroll back through recent history.

A year ago last night, I was at the Chan Centre watching my talented nephew, acting in a very engaging and entertaining theatre production. It was excellent, and so, appropriately, the venue was jammed.

A year ago today was a Saturday, and, at 10am, we were back at UBC — at TRIUMF this time — for a couple of lectures. One was about earthquakes – the famous impending “big one” that will hit the south coast, sometime between tonight and 500 years from now. The other was about black holes, cosmic collisions and sensing gravitational waves. Takeaway: If a large earthquake shows up off the south coast, don’t be in Tofino. And, I guess, if a black hole shows up off the south coast, don’t be in Tofino either… but you won’t have much too time to worry about it.

These lectures are super-interesting if you’re into this sort of thing, so, accordingly, it was crowded. Sold out in fact. So sold out we couldn’t get tickets online, and just crashed the venue, hoping we could sneak in. The tickets are free, but seating is limited; fortunately, some people didn’t show up and they let us in.

The kids were there too, and perhaps it took a bit of gentle bartering to get one of them there as well, because we wound up going out for dinner that night, to Kobe. Kobe is excellent, and always crowded as well; you end up sharing a table/cooking surface with complete strangers for a couple of hours.

Talk about taking stuff for granted. Three very different things, but all had one thing in common; hanging out in close proximity with strangers… and thinking nothing of it. That’s how it was.

So, what’s happened in that one year… today also marks another milestone; today, the world went over 100,000,000 known C19 cases. There have been over 2,000,000 deaths. There have also been over 72,000,000 recoveries. In Canada, more than 750,000 cases came after that guy.

My prediction was that here in Canada, we’d be seeing the worst of this pandemic… right about now. Now would be the time when the gradual decline would begin, and while it’d take a long time to snuff it out in due course, it’d never get worse than what we’re experiencing now.

This completely-non-professional opinion was based on the confluence of a few things, but primarily, it’s this: any negative effect that would’ve been caused by the holiday season would now be known and we’d be in the midst of handling. Whether they were supposed to or not, people got together over the holidays. Some of them passed on infections, etc… so how bad was it? Well, it definitely caused a spike, but if you look at the graphs and numbers, things are clearly trending favourably. Couple that with the fact that there are no large family-gathering-type holidays any time soon… and given that vaccines are every day making slow but steady progress into bloodstreams… and that the majority of people and businesses are still towing the party line… put it all together and, optimistically, the worst is behind us. That being said, who could’ve predicted newer mutations that are more virulent, and which could possibly lead to more cases. The answer to that question is epidemiologists… and they did.

We’re far from sounding the all-clear, but the numbers and pictures at the moment tell a cautiously-optimistic story; declines everywhere… ranging from steep (Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec) to moderate (B.C) to mild (Ontario, Saskatchewan)… but the entire country is trending in the right direction. For now.

Today’s versions of cool lectures, theatre productions, and restaurants look nothing like what they did a year ago. There are online and socially-distanced versions of all of that, but they’re nothing like the real thing. A year ago we had the real thing… and every indication is that a year from now, we’ll have it again.

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