April 14, 2022

There was a time, in the increasingly-distant past, where I actually imagined this pandemic ending in the blink of an eye… literally instantly. A simple declaration – Hey, it’s all good! – and that would be the end of it. Imagine Tinkerbell flying around in relative darkness, among the shadows… where everything is some gloomy shade of gray. Then, with a simple tap of her tiny magic wand — and a little puff of pixie dust — it all transforms into beautiful colours… and the sun comes out and the sky is blue and the birds are singing and we all live happily ever after.

Unfortunately, life isn’t a fairy tale… and there’s no little fairy to rescue us like that. Indeed, it’s more like a bigger ferry… like the Queen of Esquimalt, when it’s going to dock in Schwartz Bay and suddenly it starts groaning and slowly turning 180 degrees because the cars are all pointing the wrong way. And everyone on board also starts groaning. Oh no, this is going to take forever! We’re going be late for our Tea At The Empress™!

Somewhere between the fairy and the ferry lies our reality; it’s not instant, and it’s a slow turn… but, eventually, we get there. We’re in the midst of that turn right now, but unfortunately, it’s very foggy and we can’t really see how far we’ve gone… nor how far we have to go.

This sort of reminds me about the whole pot ordeal of recent decades. For a long time, it was totally illegal. Today, it’s totally legal. Do you remember the many years of ambiguity? Hey, that guy is standing in the street smoking a joint. Is that legal? Can he do that? Well, maybe he can if he’s not selling it. Really? Who knows? Who cares?

It’s the “who cares” that’s a bit of an issue these days, because while a lot of people do indeed not care anymore, many still do. Also, there are some loud and credible voices stating in no uncertain terms: Hey, this isn’t over. Far from it…. while, at the same time, there are equally loud voices carrying a message that raises some eyebrows: Yeah, it’s over… if for no other reason than we’ve had enough and we’re not doing this anymore. Anyway, look at the numbers. What’s the big deal? Life goes on.

Who do you believe? Who do you want to believe? Every single day, you can choose what you want to believe and there will be a credible source to back you. Today, a Russian warship sank. The Russians say a fire accidentally broke out and detonated some ammunition. The Ukrainians say they hit it with a missile.

Like “Where are we at?” and like getting reliable news out of Ukraine/Russia, the pandemic analysis has also gotten murkier. Attached are numbers and graphs as best as I can do these days, which isn’t much because reliable data is few and far between. Most of it (what’s in italics) is extrapolated. I’ve done away entirely with the vaccination data because, as important as it as and as transfixed as I was every day watching the vaccination percentages creep upwards… now, the numbers are meaningless. From that aspect, we’ve done all we can. Anyone who wants a shot or two or three can get one almost immediately.

In summary, numbers are up, but just a little up. In BC, hospitalizations are close to where they were a month ago, but they’d dipped two weeks ago. ICU numbers continue to drop. In Ontario and Quebec, they’re in the midst of a sixth wave… and of course, what Toronto and Montreal dictate must apply to the rest of the country… so I guess we are too. But while hospitalizations are up, ICU numbers aren’t growing appreciably; in fact, down slightly. Everything is a lot better than it was at the start of the year, but arguably, headed in the wrong direction.

It’s all ambigious and uneasy and, to some extent, ends up being what you want it to be… which, for the present day, is probably as good as it’s going to get. It takes a while to turn the ferry around because if you don’t do it right… like, too quickly, you end up with a big mess on board and lots of complaints. Do it too slowly and there will also be complaints. Hey man, we have reservations, you know?

Well… I’m pretty sure… that if you’re going to be paying $89 per person for Tea At The Empress™, they’ll hold the reservation for you, even if you’re going to be a bit late. And, don’t worry… the ferry will get turned around, docked, and you’ll get there… eventually. Yes, you wish a little magic wand could get you there instantly. I also wish it could get us all there instantly, too… wherever that ultimate “there” is.

But, again, life isn’t a fairy tale. More like a ferry tale, I guess.

January 6, 2022

Usually I know what I’m talking about (or, at least, think I do)… but I’ve been trying to figure something out, and I am going in circles. Some things require questioning.

There are 2.8 million people in BC who are 50 or older, of which some 700,000 are ages 50 to 60… and this particular demographic (which I’m part of) is the one who got their first shot in late April/early May, their second shot in late June/early July… and, therefore, have become eligible for the booster in recent weeks. The invites may have been sprinkling down like tiny snowflakes at first… but now… we’ve seen in recent days what a real snowfall can look like. Terrific. As soon as you get your invite, book your appointment. Hopefully you can get to it.

But wait… here’s the question: If you recently had Covid, should you wait for the booster? How long should you wait? Why?

So… I’ve asked a lot of people and I’ve read lots of articles and data, and the best response I can formulate when presently asked, is… “Good question!” or “I sincerely don’t know” or “Ask me in 6 months”.

Here in BC, we don’t get to find out what variant we had. They’re obviously collecting the data, but for some reason, don’t want to disclose it. I wish they did, as do many people, because it might make some difference in the chosen course of action, given that the present vaccines are designed for Delta and previous versions; the booster is too. There is no doubt that one, two and three vaccines confer protection against serious illness no matter what version you’re unfortunate enough to contract, so everyone should eventually get all of them. But the issue is… if you’ve recently had Covid as the result of a breakthrough infection (ie 90% of us who got sick in December), when should you get the booster? Pouring a cupful of boiling water into an already-boiling pot doesn’t do much… but if that large pot of water has cooled off a bit, then it does.

I got in a bit of trouble trying to ask this question in one of the BC Covid Facebook groups; the moderators refused to allow it, and gave me pithy and useless one-line responses to my questioning their attitude. Yes, I know you can get the booster 14 days after your symptoms subside. Yes, I know Dr. Henry said just get the booster as soon as you can, no matter what… and I understand where she’s coming from; she doesn’t want to see a flood hospital admissions, and the best way to achieve that given what we don’t yet know – and to umbrella to the whole issue – is to just get everyone as vaccinated as possible… as soon as possible. But that’s not necessarily a medical decision; it’s based on mitigating the local worst-case scenarios with respect to overwhelming the medical infrastructure. My counter-argument would be, “Sure, ok… but maybe someone else needs that booster more at this very moment.” Indeed, there is a lot of talk of “super-immunity” that you have (for a while… how long? A month? Two months? Three?) after a vaccine/vaccine/infection course. If I’m presently “super-immune”, why waste a booster on me right now? Depending who you ask, here are the recommendations:

BC says get it two weeks later.
Ontario says one month.
Quebec says two to three months.
One American article I read said up to six months.

I’m a big fan of Dr. Henry and usually agree with her, so it was interesting to be treated like some sort of anti-vaxxer just because I dared asked a question that threatened to go against the (present-day) gospel of our PHO.

As we all know, science evolves and, as we learn more, so do recommendations. Dr. Henry herself has course-corrected many times, as she should. I suspect this issue will evolve over time as well as more data is collected, analyzed and understood.

But in the meantime, there are all sorts of complicated reasons and mitigating factors going into these various opinions, and there are too many variables… and, of course, different places have different priorities and/or concerns. Vaccine shortages? Bed shortages? Percentage of population vaccinated? Which strain was the infection? Etc etc.

For what it’s worth, I’m leaning towards waiting a month to six weeks. I’m pretty certain I got Omicron given the symptoms, lack of symptoms, and course of the illness… and, that being the case, that covers me (for a while) from all presently-known strains. Certainly, I should be good till the end of the month, and then I’ll reconsider. Or, of course, I might read something in an hour that’ll change my mind. I’m counting on the fact that actual data and facts on the topic will emerge every day, and my (and everyone else’s) opinions and decision making won’t be based on just rudimentary data, speculation and gut feel. And if you’re in the same boat, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments; I’d love to hear where you’re thinking is at.

On a separate note, one that requires no speculation or changing opinions… we’ve been hearing for a long time that if you’re sick and/or unvaccinated, stay away from people who may have compromised immune systems. As healthy and immune as you may be from contracting the illness, not everyone is so lucky. So, stay away.

Even if you choose not to stay away, the potential victim usually has a say. If you’re not vaxxed but your relative is, and they tell you to stay the hell away, they themselves can flee the scene if you’re so entitled as to impose yourself upon their presence.

But… that’s not always the case, and the specific case I want to talk about are babies.

Human babies are pathetically frail when compared to other mammals. Some animals are good to go on their own mere hours after being born. It’s only humans that rely on parental protection for so long. Years, not hours. Babies depend on us to keep them safe, and the reason I mention this is that a recent article pointed out a very simple stat that speaks for itself: All of the babies presently hospitalized in Ontario due to complications from Covid-19… are from unvaccinated mothers. All of them. One hundred percent.

Yes… some other things don’t require any questioning at all.

December 31, 2021

Talk about a perfect storm… a surging variant, a ridiculous cold snap, and this period of time between Christmas and New Year’s when everyone is barely working… and those who bother showing up are basically phoning it in. The reporting arm of the health department in Alberta has actually given up. “Yeah, we think today’s number is around 4,000… use that for now. Ask us next year. See you January 4th”.

Who can blame them; the temperatures are dipping to the levels where it doesn’t matter whether you measure it in Fahrenheit or Celsius because it’s the same number. You know, sort of like the snowfall forecast we got around here two days ago… you can expect 10 (mumble) of snow. Ten what? Centimetres? Inches? Whatever.

Well… not all things are “whatever”.

The staggering number of new cases around the country (and the entire continent… and, while we’re at it, the entire planet) beg some questions that require some answers but, due to all of the above, the simple responses are not so forthcoming.

Trying to consolidate the numbers with respect to new cases and hospitalizations and ICU admissions has been a real exercise, but what’s most important aren’t actually the case counts; at least, not around here. Dr. Henry made a statement which alluded to the fact that there are far more cases out there than we know about. That’s been the case since the start, but it’s far more pronounced in recent weeks. Her guess is 3x to 5x, but that’s what I’d have guessed months ago. These days, we don’t have the proper testing infrastructure to get accurate numbers and, even if we did, that majority of people aren’t going to get tested. Depending who you ask, in fact… people are being told not to go get tested. You’ve got symptoms? Pretend you have it. Isolate, take care of yourself… and don’t bother us unless you need medical attention. And those who actually tried to go get tested found multi-hour waits, or got sent home with a rapid test, or found that the testing site that’d been shut down because of the cold.

A quick note about those rapid antigen tests: they’re nearly useless. I say nearly, but not entirely… only because they probably work just fine if they’re used correctly, and if the test patient has a high-enough viral load to register. Unfortunately, neither of those things seem to overlap enough to get accurate results. A positive result certainly means you have it, but a negative result doesn’t mean anything.

If you’re taking a rapid-antigen test – and I am speaking now from direct experience, having subjected myself to be a guinea pig for a friend who was trying to figure out the validity of these things – you need to scour deeply — approaching your brain — for ten seconds a nostril, complete with long, uncomfortable swirls — to get a valid result. I took a few of these tests; a gingerly tickle of the inside of your nostril does nothing. Even a medium-sized dip into your nose doesn’t do it. Unless that gargantuan Q-tip makes your eyes tear up and cause you to cough, you didn’t do it right. And it was only when I did that *and* was symptomatic that I got a positive result.

Anyway, that aside, getting a positive test these days is somewhat secondary to what it implies. Around here, with our enviable “fully-vaxxed” rate, it’s pretty good. The daily new case numbers (5,000 on paper, closer to 100,000 in my opinion) are not translating to hospitalizations. At least not yet, but for now, that’s really good news. As a general statement, if you have a normal healthy immune system and you’ve been double-vaxxed or better, the overwhelming evidence implies that you’ll suffer some cold-like symptoms at worst, and that’ll be it. It still needs to be taken very seriously because, of course, you might end up passing it along to someone who wouldn’t handle it so well… and none of that has changed. Older, immune-compromised, at risk people… they’ve been taking the necessary steps to stay safe, and we need to do the same for their benefit.

The relative success story (for now) that we’re seeing here seems to be consistent with other places with high vaccination rates. Those with lower rates are being hit hard, but only because the sheer volume of cases at some point is going to translate to an overwhelming amount of more serious cases.

Looking at the graphs below, you’ll see that hospitalization rates have not gone up dramatically in Western Canada. Ontario and Quebec are indeed seeing more hospitalizations, but barely an increase in ICU cases. Manitoba, too… to a lesser extent. But West of that, numbers are actually down.

I’ve added a third row of graphs today. While the top two rows are the cases, hospitalizations, ICUs and deaths since September 1st, the bottom row are the daily new case counts starting at the very beginning of the pandemic. They’re interesting to look at for numerous reasons… like, you can see clearly the different waves… but have a look at Quebec, from day 1. Near the very beginning, in that first little wave, there’s a notable spike. That spike was from early May, 2020… when over a 3-day period, they saw more than 4,000 new cases and over 300 deaths. It’s interesting to note just how insignificant that little spike looks compared to what came after, especially what’s going on now. But, back then… that was honestly the moment were all thinking that we’re totally screwed. That we, here in BC, were two weeks away from a tidal wave of cases and deaths.

We’ve learned a lot since then, and one of the most important is the realization of just how effective these vaccines are. We see today’s skyrocketing case numbers and we’re nowhere near as freaked out.

On that note… I haven’t written about Trump in a while, but it’s worth mentioning this: For as long as this pandemic has been going on, he’s been talking out of both sides of his mouth. He initially played it down, no big deal, it’ll be gone in a few weeks… and it became the rallying cry of his most-extreme base. His fervent supporters were as anti-mask, anti-vaxx and anti-science as he pretended to be… notwithstanding he took great pride in being responsible for funding Operation Warp Drive which indeed had a lot to do with developing these miraculous vaccines. You know, the ones he claimed we didn’t need and don’t do anything anyway because the virus is no big deal BUT I’ve created the greatest vaccine ever to combat the China virus BUT you don’t really need the vaccine BUT yeah, I got the vaccine, as did my entire family… we all got it quietly while nobody was watching, as did every Republican politician in Washington BUT really, you’re fine, forget vaccines and masks BUT yeah, we all got the booster too BUT….

Recently, and this is the eyebrow-raising part, Trump has been announcing to his followers that yeah, he got the booster and, you know what, they should get it too. But rather than listen to their fearless leader, they boo him and disagree with him. He, of course, doesn’t care… but why is that? It’s a 180, and it needs to be understood.

From the people’s point of view, they’re so deeply sunk into that mindset that they can’t, at this point, admit it’s wrong. They’ve already drowned in the Kool Aid. A lot of them can be heard saying they’d rather die of Covid than get the vaccine, and many of them will get that wish granted. Trump doesn’t care; he never did. But he does care about making himself reasonable and relevant for 2022 and beyond, so now he’s pandering to the bigger Republic base… those that aren’t so anti-everything. And that leaves those fringe people completely abandoned, discouraged and betrayed. And, in a bit of trouble if they don’t change their mind because that’s the demographic that makes up the vast majority of pandemic-related deaths. The anti-vaxx crowd.

Our BC fully-vaxxed rate is 90%. The majority of people in hospital for Covid come from that remaining 10%. The math isn’t complicated. And the American fully-vaxxed number isn’t even close to 90%… more like 62%. Unfortunately, for some select demographics, it could get quite ugly.

Last year, at exactly this time, I wrote a relatively optimistic piece about how the worst is over. Vaccines are just around the corner, and once we all get them, this will all have been a bad dream. Well, that was a little naïve, but I’m going to say the same thing again. Given the direction of Omicron and where we are with all of this, by this time next year, Covid won’t be a distant nightmare from the past that’s still haunting us. Rather, it’ll be an endemic annoyance for which we’ll have an armada of weapons: Vaccines, treatments, prevention therapies, whatever. Every day is one step closer to C19 becoming the common cold of the future, but we’re not there yet. Next year…

So… wishing you all a Very Happy, Prosperous and – most of all – *Healthy* 2022. All the best… and Cheers!

December 23, 2021

There are some words you never hear. We’re all familiar with “overwhelmed” and “underwhelmed”, but what about just whelmed? What does it even mean?

The words originate from the marine world and have been around for centuries, and these days, whelmed means where the water is coming right up to the sides of the boat, and some of it is splashing onto the deck… but it’s no big deal. Overwhelmed is where the water is pouring in from all sides, and things are heading in a catastrophic direction, ie. sinking or capsizing. And underwhelmed, of course, means nothing too exciting is going on.

We hear a lot about our medical system being at risk of being overwhelmed, but it’s not just hospital beds at risk. Long before a Covid case gets to hospital, there’s a lot that needs to happen… and every step of the way is potentially at risk of becoming a choke point. And once you have a choke point, the effects spill over to other areas.

What happens when the choke point is right at the beginning of the sequence? What if the boat is overwhelmed before it even leaves the harbour?

Two weeks ago, I drove by the Covid testing centre that’s been set up in the parking lot of St. Vincent’s Hospital. You head down 33rd, westbound, and turn right, into the lot. There were three cars waiting in line… probably a 5-minute wait. When I went to get my test a week ago, the lineup went all the way up to Cambie and then occupied the right-most southbound lane for about a block-and-a-half down. I joined the line at around Cambie and 31st, and from there it took close to 90 minutes to get tested.

I happened to drive by there today, and the lineup not only spilled onto Cambie; it now took up the two right lanes. And it went all the way down, past 26th Ave, almost to the intersection of King Ed. Two solid lanes for eight blocks, and that’s before the right turn onto 33rd for the final little bit.

My understanding is that people were being told it’s a close-to 6 hour wait.

So, here is exhibit A of an overwhelmed system. Funny how, two weeks ago, driving by there, I thought… huh, so much infrastructure for so little. A couple of piddly little cars waiting…and, for that… all these cops and nurses and tents and generators and infrastructure. It’s way too much. Ha Ha. And now, there’s only one word that applies. Overwhelmed. And here’s a spillover effect that has nothing to do with Covid: Cambie street is a designated emergency corridor. Indeed, if you’re downtown and need to get to… City Hall? VGH? The airport? It’s that straight line which, ostensibly, always has an open lane… just in case. But not today; two-thirds of the southbound lanes are a 6-hour line-up, and the other single lane is occupied by traffic which, of course, needing 300% of the allocated space, was backed up all the way to the Cambie Bridge. This would be a really bad time for an earthquake.

So… all these people being tested. Let’s start by being very clear that the startling increase in cases in no way reflects the actual reality. There are far, far more new cases today than the already eyebrow-raising 2,000+ would imply. How many people got to the line-up and said to hell with it? And at how many different testing sites? More than stuck around would be my guess. Their thinking makes some sense. Why wait it out? Go home, isolate, etc… we all know what we’re supposed to do. If it gets serious (and, overwhelmingly, if you’re double-vaxxed, it won’t), just go home and ride it out like any illness you’ve ever had. Why stress the overwhelmed infrastructure – and yes, that’s exactly what it is. A six-hour wait to get tested is nobody’s idea of whelmed.

And all of that leads into the topic-du-jour, which is an awful lot of pissed-off people. We heard a lot of “Hopefully by Christmas” ideas until recently. Until it all went to hell. The new restrictions have just added to the confusion and the anger. People have had enough, and it’s psychologically very difficult to keep adjusting to goalposts which seem to move haphazardly, and have been doing so for two years. Gyms are ok, gyms are not ok, family gatherings are not ok, restaurants yes, sort of…, clubs no, etc etc. Who makes these rules? Why are they messing with us?

The science behind these restrictions, as random as it might seem, is entirely based on likelihood of transmission. Closed indoor spaces with bad ventilation, ie gyms, are, with a bug as contagious as Omicron, a bad place to be. Big parties in enclosed restaurant party rooms? If there is one person in that room who has Omicron, after 3 hours of jovial partying, everyone will have come into contact with it. And this time, vaxxed or not, you’re at a much higher risk.

The number of people saying “So what. Enough. Who cares.” is higher than it’s ever been, and why wouldn’t it be. People who’ve been planning for months (if not years). People who’ve heard this version isn’t so serious. People whose airline tickets and hotels have crossed beyond the refundable window, and their measurement of risk/reward makes sense to them.

There are no simple answers. Indeed, there are many scenarios imaginable that technically violate the orders… yet people are comfortably wrapping their heads around ways to justify their decisions.

There are still too many variables to figure out what’s ok and what isn’t. It’ll all shake out in hindsight, but for now, everything in place is there to prevent one thing: overwhelming the medical system. But hey, guess what… the overwhelming is already happening.

The question to which we’d all love an answer is just how, where and what is being overwhelmed. What’s the effect of a virus that’s not as serious but a lot easier to catch? The math of “A third as serious but 10x easier to catch” nets out to more hospitalizations. Enough to break the system?

Around here – in fact, in all of Canada, the staggering growth in cases in not translating to hospitalizations except in Quebec, where they’re seeing a bit of a spike… but still, not even close to proportional to their new cases.

There’s no good summary to any of this; this variant hit at the worst possible time. Here’s another word where perhaps it’s fair to use the less-common form. Whereas in the past, everything we experienced was unprecedented, this is all feeling somewhat precedented at the moment. Hopefully not for long. I’d like to feel gruntled again.

In the meantime… for those who celebrate it, Merry Christmas… and may this be the last of the “memorable” ones, at least in this context.

December 17, 2021

OK – it is indeed time for an update. I meant to do this a couple of days ago, but…

There are a lot of questions floating around these days, and it’s frustrating when, for some of them, there are no real answers. Let’s start with the obvious one… you can guess what that is. It rhymes with notthisshitagainicron.

I am still sticking with the cautious optimism that as contagious as it is, the symptoms are, and will remain, mild. And, on that note…

A few days ago, I started feeling a little under the weather. Headache, fatigue, cough… but also, fever. The sort of thing where in the old days you just bundle up for a day or two and are ok, but these days, our minds go elsewhere. Yesterday afternoon, I went and got tested… and waited in an 80-minute lineup to do so. A week ago, that lineup was three cars when I drove past it.

Test results take 24 hours, but I mentioned this to a friend… who came over with a rapid antigen test – which came back negative. Excellent. I thought so, but better safe than sorry. I was already feeling a little better, and then I had a good night’s sleep. I woke up without a fever and feeling pretty ok.

So… it was a rather blunt kick in the face to receive the official PCR result a few minutes ago: Positive.

Well… shit.

So, now… instead of speculating, here’s what I can tell you. Knock on wood that I’m past the worst of it, because if this is as bad as most double-vaxxed otherwise-healthy people get this thing, we are well on our way to seeing an end to it. I’m looking at the silver lining, which is… now, getting sick, coupled with two shots, I’m good to go – perhaps to the end of this entire nightmare. Like so many others whose second vaccine dose was in late June, I’ll be getting my invitation for the booster next week. I’d been hoping to avoid Omicron for a few more weeks, because the AZ/Moderna/Moderna series seem to be very effective against it, but things don’t always go as planned. Looks like I’ll be developing immunity the old-fashioned way.

But this brings up another of those yet-to-be-answered questions with respect to the mildness of these symptoms… how many people are walking around with Omicron-Covid19 right now? I’m going to guess – a lot. Far more than will ever get tested. I say that because while we all have little slip-ups once in a while, I’m exceptionally careful with respect to masks and open spaces and proximity to people and all the rest of it. Where and when the hell did I get infected? I sincerely don’t know. And if I can get this thing, anyone can get it… and, like I’ve said, it’ll eventually hit us all… though, ideally, when you’ve already received your three-shot course.

Which leads to another question, one I’ve heard 20 versions of… what do we do? And the preamble to that has a lot to do with airline tickets and hotel reservations, many of which at this point are non-refundable. Do we go? Do we bail? Help.

The answer very much depends on a number of variables which are very different and vary wildly from person to person. If you’re not worried about getting sick (and a plane-full of double-vaxxed and masked people heading to a place of warmth and sunshine and outdoor restaurants is actually a pretty safe place), what’s the problem? Well, WestJet threw a valid question back at the government a couple of days ago; where’s the science? Why are you telling people not to travel? They do have a point; on this fourth go-around, the one thing we’ve learned is that travel restrictions do nothing to prevent the spread. If they were perfectly implemented and 100% enforced, they would. But that’s not the case… and as we’ve seen with exponential growth, that 99.9% “good enough” decays to 80%, 30%, zero very quickly. A travel restriction might, at best, delay some numbers for a few days… but as we already have seen, by the time the whistle was blown on Omicron, it was already everywhere. The hastily-imposed travel restrictions on ten African countries have been lifted because they did absolutely nothing.

So why advise people not to travel? There may be many reasons such as the pressure on the testing infrastructure and the risk of being stranded overseas and the risk of wherever you’re going imposing some unforeseen restrictions on you; all of those are valid concerns, but they have nothing to do with preventing the spread of the disease. Questions related to needing to be back on a certain day or you’ll lose your job – are perhaps more relevant. At the end of the day, the government has to do *something* — so, we get travel advisories if for no other reason than if this all goes to hell, they can say they didn’t do *nothing*.

Can it all go to hell? Unfortunately, yes. I am basing this on my now-personal experience that Omicron symptoms are generally mild. If that turns out not to be the case, given how contagious it is, we could overrun our health-care system… and that’s what they’re trying to avoid. Dr. Henry’s rather specific list of restrictions imposed today target the sorts of gatherings that are highest risk; she just wants to be sure we don’t run out of hospital beds. Fair enough.

For the moment, this eternal optimism of mine always tries to look at the bright side, and while we see a frightening rise in cases, we’re far from seeing a frightening rise in hospitalizations and ICU admissions. On the contrary; the numbers are significantly down over the last 10 days. Around here, with our excellent vaccination rate, we’re in good shape. Red states down south? It remains to be seen. Around here, new-case numbers will go up, as they are all across Canada. The implications of that remain to be seen. But if you look at the pretty picture, while the unprecedent growth in new cases is alarming, look below it to hospitalizations and ICU cases. It’s a good counterpoint.

As far as I’m concerned, my positive test has certainly derailed our holiday plans, but whatever… we’ll make the best of it. On that note, let’s try to turn my positive test into a positive for you.

I have two pairs of tickets (great ones: center-ice row-3 club seats) for this Sunday’s Canucks game (7pm against the Coyotes) that I suddenly won’t be using… so let’s have a good old-fashioned contest like the old days. I’d base it on BC numbers, but they don’t publish over the weekend… so our neighbours to the east will help us out. Over the last three days, here are the new-case numbers:

Ontario: 1,808 2,421 3,124
Quebec: 2,386 2,736 3,768

The complete list since Nov 29th is on the pretty picture.

So, guess away! Submit two guesses per entry – your guess for Saturday’s numbers for Ontario and also for Quebec. Something like “ON: 4,000 / QC: 5,000” and whoever is closest for each province wins a pair of tickets. Ties go to whoever guessed first.

See? Here’s how we make lemonade out my particularly lemony test result… good luck!

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go off and curl up in bed for 10 days.

June 25, 2021

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.

June 15, 2021

I managed to get out to the racetrack last night, for the first time in ages. It was wonderful to see many familiar faces, many of whom are reading this (Hi again!)

My horses didn’t win (a second and two thirds), but, regardless, just being there was a win. A huge win.

On a similar note, I look at the graph on the bottom left… the inter-provincial vaccination rates, which is some ways has turned into a two-horse race; Quebec out in front and B.C. trying to catch up… and never quite getting there. But again, there are no losers in this race… only different rates of winning.

And… on that note… in the global vaccine horse race, check out the next two graphs. As of this moment, when it comes to “at least one vaccination”, Canada is number one in the world. And if this were a music chart, we’d be number one with a bullet.

Just a month ago, we were behind the U.S, Israel, the U.K. and Chile. And… we are now ahead of all of them. The steepness of the angle with which that thick red line cuts through all of them is impressive. Let’s hope we don’t chart like a one-hit wonder that starts tailing off, never to be heard from again.

That being said, the graph on the right tells an important story; the darker colour means fully vaccinated. Above that is the single-dose crowd. By that measure, we’re still far behind… but…

… as per below, you can see the rate at which we caught up and continue to run. It’s impressive, and there is, from everything I can tell, no letting up. Recent numbers in Canada have implied that the anti-vax crowd has shrunk… and that the sum of “hesitant to no way” is now below 10%. All of this while we’re vaccinating 450,000 arms a day, whether it’s first or second dose. More than one out of 100 people is getting one shot or another… every single day.

The staggeringly impressive drop-offs in case numbers is indicative of a strategy that seems to be paying off… what’s better, give a single dose to 100 people, or fully vaccinate 50 and leave the other 50 un-jabbed. Clearly, from what we’re seeing – and as much as some might disagree with messing with the science – it would appear the former strategy, the one Canada adopted a while back… was the way to go. “Lots of people who may get a little sick” is a lot better than “some people who won’t get sick, coupled with others who definitely will.”

I think the analysis, in hindsight, will show that single-vaccine people infect far less people than those with no vaccination… so illness (serious or not aside), the more people are jabbed, partially or not, the quicker this all goes away. We’re in the home stretch.

June 2, 2021

Shocking news to report… we didn’t win the Lotto Max. And… nobody else did, either. I’ll spend a bit of time analyzing whether what I predicted was in any way statistically significant. Of the top 10 tickets generated, 5 of the 7 numbers picked were on them. Never more than 2 together though. I’m not sure if a monkey throwing darts would’ve done better, worse, or simply the same.

In the meantime, other numbers… my vaccination numbers and graphs differ from the official ones because I’ve never used “eligible people” as a denominator; I’ve always simply used everyone. That two-month-old baby? One day he’ll get a C19 vaccine – not sure when… but as far as vaccinated/not-vaccinated, I’m counting him.

As such, here’s something interesting; in Canada, at this moment, B.C. has taken the lead with respect to vaccinated population. We’ve vaccinated 61.3% of everybody (at least one jab). Now in second place is Quebec (61.0%). The country overall is at over 58.4% with at least one dose (which is really good), and 6% fully vaccinated (that certainly has a ways to go).

The next big issue will be vaccine passports or immunity certificates or green passes or whatever you want to call them. Many countries and even some provinces are starting to talk about how it’ll look, how it’ll be implemented and how it will affect things. The “Freedumb!!” crowd will start screaming, etc… perhaps without realizing that vaccine passports in some fashion have been around for centuries, and many places have always required them… for your protection as well as theirs. Of course, the vast majority of people complaining are not those who typically travel to malaria-infested river basins or parts of the world known for Dengue Fever outbreaks.

Just remember, the couple dining next to you in the restaurant has rights too. They have to the right to know they’re in a safe environment. And the restaurant itself has rights too… to do whatever they want to provide that.

May 23, 2021

I hope you got your good dose of sunshine in yesterday, because around here, we’re back to “the usual” for a week. The big Vancouver Weather Wheel (VWW) has only three sections… “It’s about to rain”, “It’s raining” and “It just rained.” A recent spin landed in section 2, and that’s where it’ll sit for a while… and actually, that’s ok. The freshest air on the planet exists when things transition from section 2 to section 3.

The other thing going on these days is the transition from the NHL regular season to the NHL playoffs –lots of rain equals Spring equals NHL playoffs… and there’s an interesting correlation… you can sort of map playoff performance with Covid-19 numbers.

Here in B.C., our numbers have recently tanked, which is very good. The Canucks have also tanked… which is good or bad, depending on whether you like to see a strong finish or a better draft pick. Either way, both our pandemic numbers and our team’s performance have crashed down noticeably. Playoffs? LOL.

One province east of us is Alberta, whose pandemic numbers were riding high. Also riding high were the Edmonton Oilers… who seem to have hit a brick wall when they entered the playoffs. And right around the time the Oilers began their journey to falling down two games to zero to the Jets, so did their C19 numbers. That’s an impressive meltdown, their daily new-case numbers… falling like a rock. Much like the Oilers’ chances of getting much further in the playoffs. They might go down 3 games to 0 to the Winnipeg Jets, who are flying high these days.

Unfortunately, so are the C19 numbers in Winnipeg. Manitoba is the one province that isn’t yet headed in the right direction, though perhaps they’re turning the corner too.

As has happened numerous times in the past, the Leafs and Habs are battling it out; that series is tied, similar to the C19 numbers in those two provinces, as far as things getting better… though I’d have to give the “trending advantage” to Quebec… which, in this warped correlation of mine, is good news for Leafs fans.

Two of those four teams will meet in the next round of the playoffs, and only one will make it to the semi-final round… where they’ll run into an American powerhouse team.

I hope at that point, the team is Las Vegas… and I hope that’s there this correlation breaks down. Las Vegas numbers are looking so good these days, the place is almost back to normal. They’ve already thrown the doors open in most places, and will do so entirely in the next couple of weeks; any Las Vegas hockey game will play to a packed house, and that’d be a great way to watch a game… whether live or on TV. I’ve been to games in Las Vegas; usually it’s the Canucks getting beaten up, but it’s always a memorable experience… one I hope to partake in once again, sooner than later. I don’t see myself in that crowd anytime soon… but watching something that real will be a very good indication we’re in the final stretch.

And, for what it’s worth, it rarely rains in Vegas.

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.

Go to Top