By Horatio Kemeny|2021-12-31T20:54:45-08:00December 31st, 2021|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Politics, Science of COVID-19|Tags: Dr Bonnie Henry, Vaccine, Quebec, Canada, Ontario, Science, News, China, Pandemic, Vancouver, Masks, Trump, Alberta, Manitoba, Numbers, Coronavirus, USA, Graphs, Statistics, COVID19, C19, BritishColumbia|16 Comments
Death and taxes aren’t actually the only certainties in life, of course… there are a few more… among them:
1. Have you ever had a cold?
2. Have you ever had the flu?
3. Are you presently alive?
The answer is 100% for all three, for everyone reading this… but if you want to argue it’s not, that it’s probably 99.999 something percent, then ok, I’ll mention that not everyone pays taxes either… exhibit A would be the former president of the U.S. and his entire organization… who are about to find out the hard way that you don’t mess with The Tax Man. Al Capone got away with racketeering and bootlegging and murder… for decades. But he couldn’t defend himself against the charges of tax evasion, and that’s what sent him to prison for the rest of his life.
But this article is neither about Trump nor his ill-fated organization. Rather, it’s a discussion about certainties, and what they look like going forward.
Colds are around. The flu is around. Measles and Mumps and Rubella are all around too, but we rarely worry about them… for good reason. They’ve been vaxxed out of our “worry zone”.
There are some important things to note going forward… and that is, that cases of C19 will come and go. Pockets of cases will flare up here and there, like that group of insane anti-vax moms in California responsible for a measles outbreak. Up next, the glorious state of Arkansas with its deplorable vaccination rates; bring on the completely preventable next wave of C19.
Actually, to clarify, we may see flare-ups of cases here too. Should we be concerned? At some point (and we’re at it, of very close to it…), the thing to watch is no longer cases. They become irrelevant. What becomes important are hospitalizations, ICU cases and deaths… numbers which have plummeted, and there’s every expectation they’ll remain low… because, again… you know… vaccinations.
This pandemic turns into an “endemic” in different places at different times. We’re pretty-much there now around here… because once you’ve done everything you can, and the support infrastructure is in place, there’s really not much else. As odd as it sounds, does it actually matter if you catch C19? If you catch it, but you’re asymptomatic and/or non-infectious to others? I’d never really thought of it before all this, but how many times have I had a cold or flu and not even known? Their presentation can also be so mild as to be asymptomatic.
So… with certainty: It’ll be around for a while, but if you’re fully vaxxed and/or fully immune for other reasons, you have little to worry about. The new seasonal cold will likely hit you harder, because for that one, you have no antibodies.
The one group that needs mentioning here are those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons and/or whose immune systems aren’t up to the task of reacting adequately to the vaccine… a group all of us become part of as we get older… which is why research into this will continue forever… or, until it’s eradicated from existence. We did it with smallpox… and we can certainly do it here too.
Let’s take a closer look at out neighbours to the south, where the overall single-jab vaccination rate is around 54% and stagnating…
The top-10 most vaccinated states are: Vermont, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire & New Mexico.
Vermont tops the list with a vaccination percentage of 73.1%, while New Mexico rounds out the top-10 with 60.8%.
The bottom 10 looks like this…
North Dakota, South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Idaho, Alabama, Wyoming, Louisiana & Mississippi.
The best of those worst-10 is North Dakota at 43.4%. The worst is Mississippi at 36.0%
That’s quite a divide… where the top state more than doubles the worst one.
Here’s another interesting stat about all of those states…
In the last presidential election, of the top-10, all of them voted Democrat.
Of the bottom-10, 9 of them voted Republican. The one that didn’t, Georgia, is so inwardly-horrified at the result that their Republican-controlled government recently disenfranchised more than 100,000 potential voters, striking them from the rolls… and this was after enacting a number of laws that can only be called “Voter Suppression”. Take a guess which voters are most affected.
None of this is much of a surprise, though the blatant starkness of it is a little eye-opening… but what’s the deal? The blue state/red state divisions largely precede the pandemic, so how does it necessarily follow that raving, unrelenting Trump supporters would also be the anti-mask/anti-vax crowd?
The answer is a bit more complicated than “They’re just a bunch of ignorant rednecks”. The answer, in fact, has a lot to do with distrust of the government. When you’re poor and/or uneducated and/or sick and tired of hearing lies about how the government is going to do so much for you (and then doesn’t), you end up jumping ship to the guy you can relate to… he’s one of us, loud, abrasive, calls it like he sees it, etc. He’s not cut from government cloth.
Which makes Trump all the worse. If anybody could’ve convinced that group about masks and vaccines, it would’ve been him. It could’ve and it should’ve been him. Notwithstanding the shitshow it took to get him elected, it’s like the universe said “Hmm… there’s going to be this pandemic, and a lot of Americans will lose their lives. At least, who could we put in power in the U.S. to mitigate that? Someone that people who’d generally ignore government advice actually listen to?”
Without a doubt, his handling of this pandemic will be what history judges him on, and it’ll be appropriately brutal. When all is said and done, countless American deaths that could’ve been prevented… a figure officially set at over 600,000 at the moment, but the real figure is already a two-comma number.
Trump likes to make shit up as he goes along, depending who he’s talking to. We know he quietly got vaccinated while at the same time telling everyone it’s unnecessary. And then, a couple of months ago, this magnificent quote: ““In a certain way, I’m the father of the vaccine because I was the one that pushed it.”
At least we can end this relatively sad commentary with a good laugh.
In answering a lot of “Ask me next year” questions, I can’t help but touch upon a topic I wrote a lot about last year… but haven’t touched recently.
Just my opinion, but the U.S. has gotten itself into quite a pickle. If you’re a typical, normal, right-leaning American who usually votes Republican because, above all, you favour their economic policies, you’re not facing a great situation. You want the Republican party, but you don’t want the racist misogynist narcissist that presently leads it. Your former president is as unhinged as ever, and that will never change… just get worse. From his point of view, you’re with him or you’re against him. His VP, Mike Pence, stuck with him through high and low, but that didn’t stop Trump from sending him to the lions on January 6th.
Mitch McConnell made his own deal with the devil… one he’s very much regretting. True to form, now that he and Trump are on the outs, he’s facing his own version of getting kicked to the curb. A few nights ago, Trump called McConnell a “stone cold loser” and a “dumb son of a bitch”. That honeymoon is certainly over.
The problem is that the populist Trump has a huge crowd of support and, as we’ve all learned, a significant percentage of that crowd is unshakable. And if Trump dumps the GOP and goes Independent, he will take most of those people with him, and those people, at present, make up half of the Republican voting base. In that scenario, if the GOP votes were to be split in half, there’s a reasonable chance the next election might be a 50-state sweep for the Democrats, a scenario no Republican wants to contemplate. Third-party candidates appear all the time, but rarely have a significant impact. One has never swung an American election one way or the other… but Trump certainly would. Sweep or not, the election wouldn’t be close, and it wouldn’t be a reflection of what the majority necessarily want… a scenario that’s actually not so uncommon.
Municipally, left-leaning Kennedy Stewart is the mayor of Vancouver… elected in 2018, having beaten the NPA’s Ken Sim by only 1,000 votes… something like 50,000 votes to 49,000 votes. Wai Young, who’s further to the right than Ken Sim, got close to 12,000 votes… the vast majority of which would’ve gone to Ken Sim.
Provincially, we saw it here in 1996 when the right-wing split-vote brought in a Glen Clark NDP government with only 39% percent of the popular vote.
Chile similarly saw it in 1970 when Salvador Allende won that election with only 37% percent of the popular vote, the right-wing having split the other 63%.
The U.S. could be next… so, for the moment, the GOP is stuck with Trump… and their bigger problem is that with cult populists, it doesn’t necessarily go away when the head guy goes away. We’re living it here, where the ghost of Pierre Trudeau lives on in Justin. In the U.S., there can potentially be 8 years of Don Jr. followed by 8 years of Ivanka followed by 8 years of Eric. By then, Barron will be over 40 and it can be his turn. Don’t think this isn’t exactly what they’re try to do.
Indeed, now that the cult of Trump is well-entrenched in the Republican party, those who don’t like it find themselves in quite a conundrum… because, perhaps, there’s no way out. But that’s what happens when you dance with the devil. Sometimes you wind up in a mortal embrace. And then you get burned.
Here’s what seems to be a logical progression… some witty/smart/creative troublemaker comes up with an idea and “puts it out there”. The idea enters an echo chamber of like-minded people who welcome it with open arms. The idea gets tossed around, talked about, enhanced upon… grown in different directions, exaggerated and then commandeered to suit the narrative of whoever is propagating it.
Eventually, the original source of the idea backs away… but that’s now irrelevant. Those who need the idea to exist hold onto it and continue to manipulate it to their heart’s content. When logical people argue against it, they get shot down. When those believers are told it was all made up and whatever was said originally simply isn’t true, they refuse to accept it. When the original guy comes out and says, ”Hey, I was kidding”… believers will assume he’s bought out/paid off/threatened… whatever. Then that person backs away from the mess they’ve created, and all that’s left is a big mess of people believing nonsense they want to believe.
Every single conspiracy theory imaginable can trace its origins to something like this. Some religions as well.
But also… good old common fake news.
The former president of the US made “fake news” a thing. I don’t think any of us had heard those words until Donald Trump began uttering them on an hourly basis, a response to anything that didn’t fit his narrative. And now it’s become the de-facto argument for when people disagree with something to which they have no counterargument.
This follows-up on yesterday’s post, because in reading what people have to say about the AstraZeneca vaccine, one thing is now clear. It was smeared briefly with misinformation, and that smear, for those who want to believe it, will never get polished off. There is no science, no data, no version of facts that can now be presented to someone that’d decided that the AZ vaccine causes blood clots. AZ vaccine causes blood clots in the same way water and fresh air and blinking causes blood clots, but nobody wants to hear that. If vaccines are evil, here’s one more gargantuan piece of evidence. Forget that it’s wrong; that doesn’t matter. Of course, scientists will tell you it’s safe, etc etc.
What can you do? Actually, nothing. I saw a piece of a reported wandering into a restaurant in a very red state; a 90% Trump-voting district. He went in there and asked for a show of hands… “Who’ll be getting the vaccine?”
Not a single hand from the dozens of unmasked people. Not one. He then interviewed a few of them and asked why not… and got the usual answers you’d expect… they’re trying to poison us, they’re trying to control us, they’re trying to kill us… or, it was rushed, it’s not safe, there’s no covid, fake news, etc.
One person was asked the exact question I wanted to hear answered: “If Donald Trump today came out and said to do it… like he did… he got the vaccine, albeit quietly without telling anyone… would you then get the vaccine?”
That particular answer: “No way… why would I listen to Trump? He’s a Liberal New Yorker. Can’t trust him!”.
“But you voted for him.”
This is not a “steep uphill”… it’s a vertical, slick and slippery and unclimbable wall. Not even worth trying.
Setting aside the vaccine optimism for a moment, let’s remember we’re not quite there yet… although, slowly, things will trend in that direction. It depends where you are and it depends how things are going. For example, today, New Brunswick shifted from level “orange” to level “yellow”… which means, for them, bubbles can grow to 15 people, sports teams are allowed league play across zones and in larger tournaments, formal indoor gatherings are allowed (with some restrictions) and informal outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people are also allowed.
But we are far from New Brunswick, in more ways than one.
B.C. is the only province in Canada where our 7-day rolling average of new cases has been consistently going up. Every other place has seen it bounce around, a little up and a little down. Ours is very consistently a little… up. A month ago, our 7-day average of new cases was 436. A week later, 452. A week after that, 482. Today, it’s 557.
So what, that’s just testing… but what matters are hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths, right? I’d argue that’s not quite true, but even if that’s what you believe, then all I can tell you is that all of those numbers, over the last month, are virtually unchanged. Around 250 people in hospital, 65 of them in ICU… but 136 people have died since then, so there’s a consistent pipeline. It’s neither a downward spiral nor an upward spiral. Just a churn.
It’s easy to fiddle with the numbers, but let’s remember these are real people, not just statistics. Every one of those 136 people have family and friends deeply affected. As do the 136 presently in the system. And as will next month’s 136 if nothing changes.
Things, fortunately, are changing… just more slowly around here, for the usual reasons. Like staunch Republicans who are still supporting Trump, we are now well past the point of changing people’s minds. If you were never into masks and social distancing, you’re certainly not about to change your tune now. If you’re adamantly against vaccines, that won’t change either. The flipside of that is that today was the first day to call in and book for vaccine appointments for the general public, starting with those aged 90+. The phone lines were flooded with calls… like 1.7 million calls for only 40,000 or so eligible people. That’s actually pretty encouraging. We’ll get there, but the impatience is evident… everywhere.
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The numbers will all be accurately updated tomorrow. In the meantime…
There once was a doctor named Henry
Whose gentle words, kind and most friendly,
Said, “Please, just stay home,
This is no time to roam”,
But for many, those words were just merely…
A voice full of spite… so annoying!!
“We’d rather be out, and enjoying
The pubs and the fun,
And the parties and sun,
We’ve just had it with life that’s so boring!!”
The numbers crept up, somewhat slowly
But suddenly jumped… holy moly…
The hospitals slammed,
And the ICUs jammed,
“Oh no”, said the people… “if only…
We’d listened when last we were told
Those words that will never get old:
Be calm, safe and kind,
We can leave this behind,
But it’s not just like some common cold.”
OK… the good news is that the numbers haven’t yet exploded off the chart… but they’re at that point where it could go either way…. and here’s the deal… as long as they stay low, I’ll keep writing about interesting things… like vaccines and science and bitcoins and my life and my dog and whatever else has kept you around, reading this. Maybe I’ll bash Trump a bit more, too… just for old-time’s sake.
And if numbers go up, you will all instead be subjected to more terrible poetry. As per above, it’s up to you. You’ve been warned. Don’t make me do it. Please.
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Around five years go, Donald Trump famously said that he was so popular, he could stand on Fifth Avenue in New York and shoot someone, and not lose any voters. Indeed, I have to agree… anyone today who’d consider again voting for Trump is certainly someone whose mind is made up to the point where him murdering someone in cold blood would do little to change it.
What’s presently left of the Republican Party is full of people like that, who realize that no matter what, they’re now dealing with an unshakable core… and, therefore, anything goes. While it was Trump who took that limelight for the better part of four years, he’s presently faded from the forefront, some it’s up to some other despicable full-of-crap demagogue to step up.
Enter Ted Cruz, who didn’t hesitate to show America (and the world) where his loyalties lie. He fully supported Trump’s insurrection from start to finish, if for no other reason than to hold on to that core for his potential 2024 run.
But don’t let it fool you. Cruz, like Trump, cares about nothing but what matters to him… and realizing that he can do no evil, will simply do whatever the hell he wants. So… while his great state of Texas is greatly suffering from bitter storms and power outages, off he went to sunny Cancun.
Hypocrisy is nothing new for these guys, but sometimes… the “Are you kidding me?” factor is just too much. In a radio interview on Monday, Cruz told people to “stay home” and “not risk it”. And to “Keep your family safe and just stay home and hug your kids.” That was a few hours before he and his kids jetted off to the sunshine of Mexico. Cruz, who in the past has criticized other public officials for vacationing or golfing during times of crisis. Cruz, who violated a travel ban. Cruz, who works for a government that at present is telling everyone that Mexico is out of bounds.
Pandemic, ice storms, freezing cold, no power, people dying in the streets. Their vaccine distribution infrastructure paralyzed. More than 2,000 new C19 cases today. Whatever.
Texas is in a heap of trouble because they’re fiercely independent and their power grid doesn’t connect to the rest of the U.S… and as much as others might like to help, the infrastructure doesn’t support it. That’s a whole other story, but there are plenty of people who’d argue Texas isn’t a state but its own independent whatever that never actually whatever’d their way into the U.S. It reminds me a bit of Quebec and how every so often, likes once every generation, the “Vive le Québec Libre” bullshit fires up. When you dig into it, Québec would be an instant 3rd-world country if that were to happen… because if you’re truly independent, a lot of national things you take for granted go away.
So Texas wants their own power infrastructure; here’s an issue that might come up. But don’t worry about it… as long as their fearless leaders can jet off and leave the problems behind, no problem. Nobody will care, and Cruz will get re-elected because… well, because “Republicans” I guess, though that word has now achieved a completely new meaning. This group of “leaders” needs a different word than the same one attributed to the likes of Lincoln, Roosevelt, Eisenhower and Reagan. And their present group of followers… don’t get me started.
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