By Horatio Kemeny|2022-01-06T20:08:06-08:00January 6th, 2022|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Science of COVID-19|Tags: Dr Bonnie Henry, Vaccine, Quebec, Canada, Ontario, Science, Pandemic, Vancouver, Numbers, Coronavirus, USA, Graphs, Statistics, COVID19, C19, BritishColumbia|5 Comments
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.
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.
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:
Janssen (J&J): 100%
Sputnik V: 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.
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.
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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