By Horatio Kemeny|2020-10-16T21:17:30-07:00October 16th, 2020|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Life in Vancouver, Travel Stories, Sports & Gaming, Philosophy, Art & Literature, History|Tags: COVID-19, Chile, Quebec, Canada, United States, Vancouver, Trump, PM Justin Trudeau, Spain, Newfoundland & Labrador, France, United Kingdom, Numbers, American, Country, Government, Population, School, Respect, Relevant, Falkland Islands, Argentina, St. Pierre & Miquelon, PM Margaret Thatcher, Isabel Perón, Juan Perón, General Leopoldo Galtieri, Falklands War, War, Election2020|0 Comments
We’ll keep the Trump-bashing to a single paragraph today… just to point out that Donald Trump, once again putting himself ahead of anything that might mean something important to anyone else — because callously and recklessly putting at risk and/or infecting everyone around him isn’t enough — called off the stimulus package talks… really, for no other reason than to stick it to the Democrats and make them, and Nancy Pelosi, look like the bad guys. It was a move that caught even his fellow Republicans by surprise. So who’s affected? Millions upon millions of Americans whose lives have been devastated by C19 and who are seeking some economic relief out of the mess… from the president that led them into it.
I’d like to briefly compare that to what’s going on around here.
Last week, the House of Commons voted on bill C-4, to replace CERB with something more robust… to add more flexible and generous aspects to employment insurance. To add a new benefit for those who don’t qualify for EI. To add a sick-leave benefit and caregiver benefit for those who need to take time off work, due to C19.
The Liberals proposed it, and the Conservatives and NDP and Bloc all had issues with it. They all argued and postured and threatened and made lots of noise. And ultimately, having discussed it and re-aligned and addressed their concerns, voted on it… where it passed, with a unanimous vote of 306 to 0. Welcome to Canada.
As much as you may disagree with the Liberals and a lot of what they do, let’s at least recognize that we’re fortunate to have a functional government. There’s a long list of countries around the world that are not so lucky. One of them is next door… hopefully a situation that doesn’t last much longer… 28 days, or 106 days… depending how you look at it.
Local government financial help aside, it’s still up to us to do our part to end this nightmare sooner than later… and Quebec’s health minister is pleading with people to stay home, if they can… because things are approaching a frightening tipping point. Since Oct. 1st, Quebec has averaged more than 1,000 new cases per day… and has recorded 49 deaths. In fact, their deaths per million of population is 691, which is higher than the U.S’s 651. For comparison, Ontario is 203, Alberta is 65 and B.C. is 48.
It might be time for some official harsher measures; a gram of prevention is worth a kilogram of cure.
There we lots of red ballcaps, American flags, Trump signs, anti-lockdown signs… even a little girl, with a multi-colored sign that said, “Forcing me to wear a mask is child abuse.” It was loud, abrasive… and depending how you look at it, truly frightening, for many reasons. No masks, of course. No social distancing.
But this time, no guns to be seen… wait, how is that possible? There are always some yahoos wandering around with semi-automatic weapons, just to show that their freedom entitles them to do so. Why not this time?
Because this didn’t take place anywhere in the U.S… this was right here at home, yesterday afternoon, outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, at around 3pm. Five hours later, the New Westminster pier was in flames, and much of the historic dock has been destroyed. Eight hours after that, some asshole (once again) cut the cable of the Sea to Sky Gondola, sending the cars crashing to the ground. And all of this going on the midst of an apocalyptic haze, enveloping everything.
We’ve seen better days.
And… we could potentially see even worse ones. Because, you know, I haven’t even mentioned the pandemic yet… but I’m about to, with exhibit A: Israel.
Israel is a country at the forefront of innovative technology, with many tools at its disposal to battle C19, and they’ve done a valiant and impressive effort. Through lockdowns and contact tracing and masks and social distancing, they were a poster child of stamping out and controlling this thing. And then there was a collective sigh of relief, and many things went back to normal and they lived happily ever after.
Or did they.
No… at the end of this week begins their new year. It also begins a mandatory and heavily-enforced three-week lockdown…. because, as per the tipping point I’ve talked about, they hit it… and now it’s a quick descent. At the time of this writing, at least one hospital is turning away C19 patients… because they’re beyond full.
Some quick numbers: after a frightening March and a swiftly-responded-to April, they were down to less than 20 cases a day. Today, they had 4,700… and that’s a country with a population of 9,200,000. Extrapolating the population, it’d be like us here in Canada having 20,000 new cases today (we had 817). It’d be like the U.S. having 170,000.
This is what happens when you ease up. This is what happens when you say it’s no big deal.
Even to the most ardent deniers of this thing, I sincerely hope you don’t get it. As has become very evident… if you catch this bug, its effects may well be with you forever. It may not take your life, but it can significantly affect it. With a common cold or flu, once you fight it off, it’s gone. Covid-19, not necessarily. Given all of that, what possible logical argument can you possibly make against masks and social distancing and being responsible? Seriously.
Well… it’s become very clear what I need to write about if I’m trying to get a reaction. Little anecdotes about my life are fun to write and people seem to enjoy them. Bashing on Trump seems to get the usual reaction from the usual people, but to be honest, it’s died down… either because they’ve come to their senses or have decided they don’t like arguing with me.
But when I try to state some simple facts… like hey, here are some numbers, and here’s what they mean and what they imply… wow. Some people whose minds are already made up sure don’t like hearing alternative points of view. Like it’s all some big conspiracy. To be clear, while there are certain things that are opinions or theories, some things are just blunt facts. At the end of the day, when you take away all the vague hand-waving, certain things are not up for discussion. They’re not “opposing opinions”.
Indeed, when it comes to debunking conspiracy theories, there’s usually a “backstop” fact that really should put things to rest, at least for any reasonable person. All the little nit-picky out-of-context details of “proof” to confirm some outlandish claim are easily put to rest by one “umbrella” fact that’s indisputable.
Obama born in Kenya? There are birth announcements in the Hawaiian newspapers at the time. All of the copies, michrofiched versions, scanned, digitized, etc… over the decades, all indisputably in agreement. Set aside the long list of BS claims, forged birth certificates and bribed doctors and nurses… just explain that.
Moon landings faked? The technology to fake a moon landing simply didn’t exist in 1969. The ability to seamlessly film hours of footage and then play it back in slow motion… how? With what?
The holocaust was a hoax? The numerous census numbers at the time, including Germany’s, all agree… and all imply a European Jewish population of around 9.5 million in 1933. That number was found to be around 3.5 million by 1945. The simple math begs a simple question: Where are all those people?
Similarly, the great Covid-19 pandemic will ultimately fall back to a simple number: Excess deaths. Tests per million, positives per test, deaths per positive… etc etc.. I know all these numbers, ratios and percentages well. Many of you evidently disagree with those numbers, as published and verified as they may be. I find myself answering lots of questions after yesterday’s post.
But let’s take a big step back from all of the nitty-gritty numbers… which, to be clear, are presently being used to figure out what happened, what’s happening today, and what’s likely to happen in the future. It has nothing to do with today’s numbers, as if they’re a frozen statistic. Statements like “the flu kills more people” are foolish because this virus hasn’t finished killing people. It was being heard at the start of the pandemic… and sure, a month into it, the flu annually kills more people. Except people kept dying, and still keep dying. We’re at 5x the annual flu deaths, and counting, yet that particular statement keeps popping up. At what point do even the most die-hard Covid deniers finally, grudgingly admit that maybe this is more serious than they thought? 10x the flu deaths? 100x the flu deaths?
At this moment, in the U.S., close to 196,000 Covid deaths have been reported. Also, at this moment, the U.S. excess-death count is somewhere around 220,000. That discrepancy might be attributable to Covid deaths that weren’t recorded as such. Or someone’s heart attack brought on by the stress of the pandemic. Or illness that didn’t get treated as a result of the pandemic. Or suicide. Whether that latter list counts as a Covid death is a separate discussion. What’s not up for debate is that at this moment, and at a continuing rate of 1,000 per day, people are dying in the U.S. that otherwise wouldn’t be.
Also, a separate discussion… if this pandemic were to magically end today, were the steps taken worth it? Here’s the thing…. “Was it worth disrupting the economy to save 200,000 lives” is only a valid question, in hindsight, when you have the right number to plug in there. Unfortunately, 200,000 isn’t the number… and we’re still pretty far from knowing what that number will ultimately be.
And if you’re still calling bullshit on all of this, as per my “umbrella backstop” questions of above, here’s a simple one… if Covid-19 didn't kill these 200,000 people, what did?
The next time some yahoo tries to convince you that this virus only has a death rate of zero point zero something, feel free to refer to this… I will pick the U.S. as an example because even the doctored, minimized and understated White House data presently implies this:
U.S. population: 330,000,000
Closed cases: 4,029,000
We know that more people than what’s documented have actually had the virus, most of them without even knowing it. How relevant is that? It’s important, of course, because the more people have actually had it, the less lethal it ultimately is. Some people, like the zero-point-zero something crowd, would like you to think it’s no worse than a common cold or flu, but let’s see how the math shakes out.
At face value, given these numbers, the deaths-per-case number (195k ÷ 6.5M) = 2.98%
Relevant to that is the actual closed-cases percentage… ie, if you actually are known to have gotten this virus, what’s your outlook?
3,833,400 ÷ 4,029,000 = 95.15% recover
195,200 ÷ 4,029,000 = 4.84% die
But ok… if everyone who’s known to have the C19 virus at this moment had it miraculously disappear, that’d imply a 3% death rate. That’s obviously nonsense, but let’s go with it. And if ten times as many people actually had it than what was known, that number drops to 0.3%.
How does that compare to the flu? In 2019, the CDC estimated 35.5 million cases… resulting in 34,200 deaths. That’s a 0.10% death rate.
What about colds? I’m not even going to factor in deaths from the common cold… because it’s ludicrous. Some 18,000 people in the U.S. have died from complications of a common cold… since 1979. That’s less than 500 a year. Nothing more than a rounding error.
Again, this supposes that the virus magically disappears instantly. The “the flu kills more people per year” argument fails to address a rather relevant issue; Covid-19 is very much still here, and is still killing thousands of people a day. In the U.S., where they’ve only had perhaps 6 or 7 months of it, it has already killed five times as many people as an entire annual flu season. And it’s not done yet.
Finally, 195,000 ÷ 330,000,000 = 0.06% — which, if the virus vanished and the deaths stopped instantly, is theoretically the lowest number you could ever get for U.S. deaths. Today’s death count divided into today’s population, and not a single death more. To get to the 0.02% number that the crazies insist upon, the virus would have to vanish instantly, and the U.S. would need to have a population of more than a billion.
So… all you “it’s just a bad cold” or “it’s just a flu” people – kindly, stop. I don’t think you realize how silly you sound relaying “facts” that you insist on believing; it’s complete and utter nonsense, and you should be ashamed of yourself for propagating it, and further ashamed for buying into it… and then accusing others of being the blind sheep following some hidden agenda. You’re the sheep, and you and your herd will suffer greatly if you don’t smarten up… and you’ll unfortunately take a few of the rest of us with you.
There’s a virtual triangle that applies to many things in life… especially when it comes to actually creating or building something. Any project, really… and it’s a basic triangle where the three sides are labelled: Time, Quality and Cost.
Typically, you can pick any angle… and that’s what you’ll get; what those two sides offer – at the expense of the opposite side.
Want it quickly and cheaply? No problem, but don’t expect quality.
Want quality and want it soon? Sure, but be prepared to pay for it.
Want quality without spending too much? It can be done, but you’ll have to be patient.
It’s interesting trying to map this to the development of a vaccine. Everyone is throwing lots of money at it, so the only thing that’s sliding around is quality versus time.
On the one hand, you have a conglomerate of responsible companies who’ve signed a pledge not to rush anything to market until it’s ready, which means every step of a rigorous scientific process. Many of those are currently in phase 3… which is one step before early or limited approval.
On the other hand, you have President Trump promising a vaccine any day now, completely contradicting the head of Operation Warp Speed… and you also have a few places who’ve rushed a vaccine and knowingly are throwing it out there, having side-stepped phase 3, and/or doing it in unison. It’s also relevant that those places are Russian and China, where political statements and optics often outshine what’s in the best interests of the greater population. It’s pretty much the message that Trump is trying to shove down the throats of anyone who’ll listen, but it’s heartening to see scientists banding together in solidarity rebuking it.
The scientific world is well-aware what it takes to properly develop a safe vaccine. It’s a process. Like making a baby… that’s also a process. That one takes a man, a woman and nine months. You can’t throw nine men at it and hope to have the baby in a month. You can’t throw money at it. If you want to do it, there’s exactly one way to do it right, no matter what the president says.
And, fortunately, in the U.S. and Canada and many other places around the world, that’s what’s happening… there are presently 24 vaccine candidates in phase one, 14 in phase two and 9 in phase three. Many of them will probably hit the finish line around the same time. Getting them out there to everyone is a different issue, but first things first.
When I was a kid, I loved playing with radio-control planes. It took a while to build them, but it was always worth it to see them take off and fly around. Not a single plane survived, but that’s ok… the crashes were inevitable. Then, I’d salvage the electronics (batteries, servos) and just build them into the next model. For me, and the way I flew those things, that was just part of it.
What wasn’t inevitable was how I lost a couple of helicopters… those, I didn’t build. But I did try to figure out how far away I could fly them before the radio control lost contact.
When you think about it, there’s really no good way to figure that out… it works, it works, it works, it doesn’t work. Oh. Then you watch it drift off into the distance. Modern drones will fly back to their home point, but not these old cheap plastic things. They landed on some distant rooftop or tree, never to be seen again.
What was I thinking? I was a kid, so don’t judge too harshly… flirting with that edge of possibility was part of the fun.
Similarly, Dr. Henry and Minister Dix gave one of their comprehensive updates today; lots to digest, but the summary of it is that things are pretty good… and that, as usual, it’s entirely up to us with respect to how things go from here.
On the “it could go this way or it could go that way” projections, we’re right at the edge. It’s actually flirting with that “out of control” tipping point much the same as the anchor brakes I talked about yesterday… and much the same as the helicopters mentioned above. Perhaps the range is 500 feet… and at 490 feet away, it’s flying perfect under control. And then it ever-so-gently drifts out to 510 feet and I give it a little right-turn nudge on the stick but nothing happens… and now I give it full-right, full-left, oh shit, up, down, engine off… etc etc, no response… and I watch it drift away, till it’s nothing but a little dot in the sky, lost forever.
If you look at the epidemiological (thank you auto-correct/spell-check) modelling, there are always these various lines… in this case (slide 20 on today’s presentation, available on the BCCDC website), you can see the effects going forward with respect to infectious contact percentages. At 50%, things go down. At 70%, they rise sharply. At 80%, they blow out of control. Floating around 60%, which is roughly where they’re at, they’re growing, but not crazily. And if we can nudge it down to 50%, we’d be in great shape. And all it takes is for the vast majority of us to follow the guidelines which we’re all very familiar with by now. And if you’re not, especially since a few (work spaces and schools) have been updated, brush up on it… on what’s ok and what isn’t.
Model helicopters, boat anchors, pandemics… what on earth do those three things have in common? They all have a tipping point, and the tipping point is entirely under the control of the single human (model helicopter), small group of humans (controlling dropping the anchor) or general population (pandemic control) – upon whom the outcome relies. It’s up to me, it’s up to us… and it’s up to all of us.
To be honest, not great numbers today, if you’re looking at new cases… as we head into the weekend, today’s new-case counts are the highest ever, here in B.C… and in Alberta as well. The only positive thing about that, one would hope, is that it serves as a wake-up call. We’re presently heading in the wrong, direction… albeit slowly. And now is the time to address it. We can at least appreciate the transparency with which we’re handed this information. That’s not the case everywhere.
The U.S. election is 67 days away, and Donald Trump needs to make sure things look as good as possible during that time. All other issues aside, his continued waffling and ineffectiveness with respect to managing the pandemic (the U.S. response is now ranked 2nd-worse on the planet, only slightly better than the U.K.) has made him look awful, no matter what he says. His insistence that things are going well, and it’ll soon be over and all that… most people are wising-up that this is far from the truth.
He’s taken two significant steps in trying to put lipstick on this particular pig. One is that the testing data no longer goes directly to the CDC. It goes to the White House, where it’s compiled, curated and released to the public. The other is his strategy of testing less… because, you know, the less you test, the less positive results you get… and the better it looks. Duh.
The combination of those two things has led to a significant decline in positive test results.
If you average the number of positive tests in the U.S. (and Canada, in [brackets], whose population is about 1/9th the size), starting a month ago, the 4 subsequent weeks were:
Wow – those are some great American numbers… look at that downward trend, even as Canada, at best, stays flat… or goes up a bit. Let’s hope some aide doesn’t jokingly suggest to The President to cut testing altogether… because what’s better than zero positives!
Of course, when reality checks in, things look a little different. Here are the daily deaths averages for those same time periods:
Remarkably consistent. No matter how you try to hide the numbers with respect to this disease and its spread, it’s hard to hide the deaths. Those numbers are beyond the reach of the White House to “manage”.
The President of the United States may not be aware that there are two things in life that are a certainty… death and taxes. You can’t escape either….and history will not be kind in exposing his attempts to cheat on both.
In school, you could always tell who was left-handed. It was all the students whose left hand had an accumulated smear of blue ink running down the left edge of their hand; you know, the edge closest to the paper. When you’re doing cursive writing and dragging your hand across the page, that’s what happens. One of the many perks of being left-handed.
Needless to say, my handwriting was awful, and the resulting pages of in-class effort often resembled, as one teacher once told me, “a sloppy dog’s breakfast.” I’ve never met any left-handed people with good handwriting. For the most part, I switched to printing in ALL CAPS, something that seems to be pretty common these days, but I was doing that decades ago, when it was barely tolerated. Teachers would question it.
“Why do you write like this?”
“So you can read it.”
My dad would’ve been left-handed, had he been allowed. He was forced to sit on his left hand while learning to write, though he hit left with tennis and kicked left with soccer. He’s the one who taught me all-caps printing thing.
Back in elementary school, while I wasn’t forced to write with my right, there was little accommodation otherwise. For example, every single baseball glove owned by the school was for right-handed people. Catch with your left, throw with your right.
I throw very well with my left. I can’t throw at all with my right… the result being, I was always the goof who’d catch the ball, and attempt to quickly remove the glove, the ball from it, and then throw it. It’s ridiculous. I spent all my time on the field praying the ball wouldn’t get hit my way, because every time I had to make a play, chances were it’d be a botched mess.
But among all of those failed, miserable, laughable screw-ups trying to field a ball, there shines this particular moment (and apologies to those who don’t know how baseball works, but I’m sure you’ll get the gist of it):
There was this player… Michael Finch… truly a great ball player in comparison to the rest of us. He was an actual Little-League star; we were a bunch of hacks. And every time MF came to the plate, he’d swing on the first pitch and launch it into the stratosphere. Every single time. And he’d hit it so far that there was no way to play it. It’d either go soaring over everyone’s head, or you’d be so far out that there was no way to make any play. Either way, he’d already have rounded the bases by the time the ball made its way back to the infleld.
On this particular day, our team was ahead by a couple of runs going into the bottom of the last inning, but they’d loaded the bases, and even though there were two outs, it was MF himself coming to bat. “Oh well…”, I thought to myself, “We almost won.”
I was somewhere out in right field, far away from where he’d typically hit it anyway, but I didn’t want to be part of the game-losing play. I was muttering that mantra to myself… “pleasedonthitittome pleasedonthitittome…” as he stepped up to the plate, wound up and, as usual, uncorked on the very first pitch with a tremendous crack of the bat. But this time, unlike every other soaring, towering arcing cannonball, this one was a missile… a line-drive, in my direction.
I wish I could say I made some amazing, diving play… but the truth is, it was coming directly at me. I took one step forward and then put up my glove, more than anything to shield my face.
It’s good think I took a step forward; had I been standing still, I think the momentum would’ve knocked me backwards. The ball hit my glove so hard I couldn’t have dropped it even if I’d wanted to; the ball’s leather seemed to fuse with that of the glove. My hand exploded in pain, but I barely noticed. I stood there for a moment, staring at my glove — and the ball embedded in it — with the same dull surprise of man who’d just accidentally slammed the hood of the car on his hand.
And then I was surrounded by my team, all cheering wildly as if I’d just returned from the war. I recall seeing MF just dropping the bat and walking away with his astonished frustration. I remember the coach from a distance, giving me a huge smile, nod and fist pump.
For the next several days, all sorts of random people I didn’t know… other students, staff, and even (gasp) girls were coming up to me…
“Hey, nice catch”
“Way to go”
“I heard you made a nice catch”
It was, without a doubt, my 15 minutes of fame. I faded back to obscurity after that, but obviously I’ve never forgotten it. I don’t know where Michael Finch is these days, and I doubt he remembers it, but it meant a lot to me when he came up to me afterwards and said the same thing… “Nice catch.” He meant it. In the grand scheme of things, that little event was nothing to him, but he realized how much it meant to me. Mike – if you’re out there somewhere – cheers.
And…uhh…. this posting was supposed to be about left-handedness, but somehow I got lost along the way. I was going to talk about how even though only 10% of the population is left-handed, 6 out of the last 12 U.S. presidents were as well. And that a similar over-representation finds its way onto other lists as well… writers, painters, Nobel Prize winners.
But you know what – you can Google all that, if you’re interested… this is already long enough… and there’s probably a pandemic-related connection to make… perhaps something like… even though it’s looking like things are setting up for a disaster… it all turns out ok.
Yeah, let’s go with that.
It would make sense, once in a while, to update what’s going on in the rest of the country… not just the “Big 4”.
BC, AB, ON and QC collectively make up 97% of the known C19 cases in Canada… and 99% of the deaths (yes, surprising)… but there are another 6 provinces and 3 territories to account for, so let’s see what’s been going on…
Saskatchewan has had around 1,600 cases and 22 deaths. They were holding things pretty flat, but things have taken a bit of a sharper turn upwards since mid-July. Their recent new-cases-per-day number is in the low teens.
Manitoba has had a total of 830 cases and 12 deaths. After an initial spike in April which was effectively squashed, things were quiet until recently, where the daily new-case counts have suddenly gone from zeroes and single digits to 30+.
Newfoundland had their big spike in April as well, but have squashed it into oblivion. They’ve recorded only 3 deaths, and have seen a total of less than 10 new cases since July, all of which are resolved. Two cases in August and zero presently active.
Turning to the Maritimes, Nova Scotia’s big April spike tailed off in May and it’s been quiet ever since. Very few new cases… less than 10 in August, and only 5 active. They’ve recorded 64 deaths in total.
New Brunswick has had 188 cases, most of them in April. They’ve recorded 2 deaths, and presently have 8 active cases… from around 20 positive tests in August.
PEI has seen very few cases (44) overall… and zero deaths. Although having seen no new cases since early July, they managed to find 8 in August, 4 of which are still active.
The Yukon is looking very good, especially given the flow of Americans to/from Alaska. They’ve only had 15 cases since day one, all of them recovered, and zero deaths. From May to today, less than 5 positive tests, zero active cases.
The Northwest Territories has seen 5 cases… all from back in March and April. No deaths, and zeros across the board since then.
And finally… the appropriately named Nunavut… because as far as C19 is concerned, they’ve had… none of it. Not single case, ever. And by the way, not because they’re not checking… they’ve administered over 2,000 tests… which may not sound like a lot, until you remember that their population is only 40,000.
And if that’s not enough Canadian content for you… the Whitecaps are playing Toronto F.C. at 5pm and the Canucks are playing The Blues at 6:45pm. And, of course, the weather… cloudy, sunny periods, chance of rain… ahh, just like the old days. Beauty, eh.