By Horatio Kemeny|2021-09-10T20:00:35-07:00September 10th, 2021|Categories: COVID-19 Daily Report, Follower Favourites, Politics, Business & Economics, Science of COVID-19, History|Tags: Vaccine, Canada, Ontario, Science, Research, News, Pandemic, Vancouver, Masks, Trump, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Numbers, Coronavirus, USA, Graphs, Statistics, COVID19, C19, BritishColumbia|9 Comments
First things first… the contest! It is indeed a good time to shut it down because now there are far more people guessing than reasonable guesses out there. Special shoutouts to Carey Brown and Kiyomi Hunter whose guesses of 88 missed by one. Also special shoutouts to Claudio Arato and Stephen Silver whose guesses of 86 also missed by one. Extra special shoutout to Lauren Faccin whose guess of 87 was bang-on, but unfortunately… she wasn’t the first to guess that.
That excellent guess was first posted by Sam Ari – so… congrats, Ari! And let me know to where you’d like the $100 donation directed!
It’s a good thing when we’re running out of room for guesses. The last twenty-four hour period saw a grand total of 20 new cases… a number so low it takes a lot of hindsight to find the last time… which was in July of… 2020. See? Good hindsight. Things are very much heading in the right direction. Around here.
But… on that note… a final word about our neighbours to the south…
The pandemic journey of what used to be the most powerful and respected nation in the world has been a bumpy ride, and it’s not over yet. It could be. It would be. For numerous reasons I’ve been hammering for 16 months, it most definitely should be… but it isn’t. It actually might have been… had the virus not adapted faster than the attitudes of so many people. There’s a chance it might have faded away, had the Rø remained what it was figured to be originally. Variants changed that, especially Delta… and there could be others, and hopefully they don’t run out of letters in the Greek alphabet to name them all.
Last week, the U.S. had 12,219 people hospitalized. Today, that number is 12,740. Last week, the U.S. had 3,522 in ICUs… and today, it’s 3,634. This doesn’t imply frightening, scary growth (yet…), but it certainly indicates things trending in the wrong direction. Just look at the U.S. graph of hospitalizations compared to Canada or any of the provinces… there’s a flattening, and then a slight bend up… and all of it driven by places with low vaccination rates. The lecture halls of the future studying this pandemic will see a lot of hands up; there will be a lot of questions. And the vast majority of them will begin with, “Why didn’t they…”
Some questions have no good answers. As much as I actually detest these words, sometimes they’re appropriate: “It is what it is.”
We’ve wrapped up the contest, we’ve wrapped up the provincial and Canadian responses, we’ve wrapped up cases/hospitalizations/ICUs/deaths, we’ve wrapped up vaccinations and we’ve wrapped up the U.S.
Only one thing left to wrap up. See you tomorrow.
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.
The eclectic collection of friends and people and organizations I associate with has never been made more apparent than sifting through today’s emails. It’s officially Canada Day, of course, and I’m wishing you all a very happy holiday… in whatever way you wish to celebrate and/or recognize it – and of course, for many people, it’s no celebration at all… right up there with Columbus Day and all of its implications, as we all well-know from the emerging dreadful news that’s nowhere near subsiding.
I have emails yelling “Don’t let them take Canada Day away from us!!” and I have emails calmly explaining things, in great detail, from the point of view of many Indigenous Peoples from across the country, eloquently stating why there’s nothing at all to cheer.
The rest are somewhere in between – as am I.
But before I talk about Canada, let’s talk about Chile a bit – a country many of you possibly barely knew even existed nor cared about… but if you’ve been reading these posts for a while, you’ve seen that name pop up several times. And while I still have my little soap-box to stand upon for a few more days, here’s one last crack at it.
Here is a brief summary of Chile, the country where I was born and where I still have plenty of friends, family and business associates… a place that was one of the very few in the world accepting Jewish refugees during and after WWII. The boat that sailed west with the few members of my family who had enough foresight to get the hell out of Czechoslovakia in 1938 (among them my maternal grandparents) crossed the Atlantic Ocean and attempted to dock in numerous places, among them Halifax. This was during the reign of Canada’s 10th PM, William Lyon Mackenzie King… who, when asked how many Jewish refugees he thought Canada should admit, replied “None is too many”. The ship sailed south, but the U.S. wasn’t open to it either. The ship then crossed the Panama Canal and kept sailing south, now on the Pacific side… until finally Ecuador allowed everyone off the boat… provided they didn’t stay.
But Chile said, yeah… come on down… and welcomed numerous Jewish refugees with open arms. And these are not the sort of war-torn starving desert-dwelling-type refugees you imagine from TV and movies… these were well-educated doctors, lawyers, businessmen, accountants, engineers, etc… whose subsequent involvement in the country helped grow it to be the leading economy of Latin America.
But, times change. Politics evolve. Moods swing. Demographics shift. A recent article voted Santiago, Chile as the number-one antisemitic city in the world… a city with close to 500,000 Palestinians… close to 10% of the population… compared with less than 20,000 Jews (0.4%). And… a very leftist antisemitic presidential candidate – who, if polls are correct – could easily win the election later this year.
This candidate has brought out all of the usual antisemitic rhetoric and has promised to rid the country of Jews. Needless to say, the Jews are becoming increasingly worried. Public displays of antisemitism, violence and vandalism are being seen in record numbers. And if he wins – as the old adage goes – when you lose the support of the government… Run.
If the shit really hits the fan, where will they go?
Well, one very logical place is Canada… among one of the very best places in the world to be Jewish these days. In fact, it’s one of the best places in the world to be *anything* these days.
Indeed, especially for those who are young and haven’t experienced the world outside the bubble that is Canada, it’s hard to relate to how it feels and looks when a country completely derails. We almost got a first-hand look at it on January 6th… and from the sounds of it, things might look very different right now down south if those armed protesters had simply zigged instead of zagged… and wound up face to face with Nancy Pelosi or Mike Pence. Fortunately, it didn’t happen. And it hasn’t happened (yet) in Chile. But it could. It could happen anywhere.
But, these days, it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon in Canada. We read with horror at the emerging evidence of our past, but here’s the thing; this is a great country. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any country, great or not, that doesn’t have a significant stain in its history. Chile was good for Jews for a while; that may change. Chile has never been good to its Indigenous population. The Spanish showed up a few hundred years ago, conquered them… and they have remained conquered ever since. Yes, they are screaming for their rights, land, restitution and acknowledgment… but they, like many other Indigenous populations around the world, face a steep uphill. Unlike in Canada, where there are still lots of big problems… in the past and in the future… but they are being acknowledged and they will hopefully be dealt with adequately… sooner than later.
Canada, for the moment, is also a great place for Jews. Antisemitism is on the rise, but still… there is full government support. I don’t judge Canada on the words or actions of William Lyon Mackenzie King. I judge it on what it is today… Canada, which, for the moment, faces a historical trauma that’s been known for decades but rarely spoken about till now… a history that needs to be heard, acknowledged and made right. Great countries deal with it. And that’s what we’re doing.
So yeah, the celebration may be understandably muted this year, but let’s not forget that there’s also a future, not just a past. And if we can learn from the past (and there’s plenty to learn) and use it for a better future for all of us – Indigenous, White, Black, Jewish and whoever else… remember… you’re very fortunate to be Canadian… which in itself is certainly something to celebrate.
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.
I’ll be honest… before last year, I’d never heard of Juneteenth. Then again, why would’ve I? It’s a uniquely American holiday, established in Texas. Even though it’s been around longer than Canada – the holiday was first observed in 1866; Canada was born in 1867 – it’s not part of our history. I was in some version of school from 1972 to 1994, and that word never came up. It has nothing to do with us. Except, of course, it has everything to do with us, as any holiday should that has to do with human rights and the welfare of people… a topic as relevant as ever here in Canada.
I had some further thoughts on this… how it relates to our own history… but have now written and deleted several paragraphs numerous times. I think I’m going to leave it at that, because… while I have the privilege of sharing my thoughts on a topic that isn’t necessarily mine to chime in on, I’m not entirely sure it’s appropriate to do so. I’ll summarize it like this; perhaps we need a federal holiday here in Canada… one that recognizes our own past. One good reason would be that there’s no federal holiday at all in June. But I can also think of at least 215 better reasons.
Whether you’re choosing to celebrate Juneteenth… or just observe it, or you’re just enjoying this chill Saturday… cheers.
I realize this is not the most thought-provoking thing to ever occupy this space, so if you want something to think about, start giving some thought to what the local weekend numbers might look like; tomorrow is contest time!
If you grew up in these parts and have been around long enough, you certainly remember Expo 86. The world came to visit, and the city hasn’t been the same since.
One thing that most people who visited the World’s Fair had was an Expo passport. You’d carry it around and get stamps from everywhere you visited at the fair. Somewhere in my basement storage is my well-tattered Expo passport, and it’s full of pretty-much every stamp that existed. Every pavilion, every restaurant, every ride, every kiosk… all had their own unique stamp, and it became my mission to get them all. Even the Expo 86 mascot, Expo Ernie, had one… and if you could find him wandering around, he’d stamp your passport too.
There were a few very rare ones… like, for example, Jimmy Pattison. He had his own stamp, and the story of how I got him to stamp my passport is pretty good. Jimmy P, the well-known legendary-yet-ruthless businessman / epic philanthropist / CEO of Expo 86, at least back then, drove a monster of a car… like one of those 8-gallons-to-the-mile Lincoln Continentals from the early 80s. And maneuvering a big car like that around the tight spaces surrounding the fair wasn’t so easy, I guess… and, on one bright sunny summer day in 1986, he almost ran me over. It wasn’t actually that close, and I wasn’t actually that shaken up… but he stopped and made sure I was ok and asked if I needed anything. Yes, Jimmy, in fact I do… and that is how I got the coveted JP Expo 86 passport stamp.
It’s starting to feel like any sort of vaccine passport will have the look and feel of an Expo passport, where instead of visiting countries and getting their stamp, you’ll visit their vaccines and get those.
What’s starting to become apparent is that there is no such thing as *the* vaccine. That was a concept we all collectively came up with last year; “once *the* vaccine shows up, we’ll all be saved.”
Not so simple now, is it.
All vaccines are not created equal. And even if they were, it seems some vaccines are more equal than others. We’re starting to see some hints of vaccine “protectionism”… like, in the U.S., if you want to go to the Springsteen concert (yeah, how appropriate… Born… In The U.S.A….), you will need an American-made vaccine. Pfizer? Yeah man. Moderna? Sure dude. AstraZeneca? Not so fast, old chap.
This morning, Singapore began offering the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine, and clinics were overrun with demand. This, notwithstanding the fact that Pfizer and Moderna have been available there for a long time, and half the population of 5.7 million have already had one or the other. And notwithstanding that Pfizer/Moderna have efficacy rates of around 95% while Sinovac is only 51%.
None of that matters. What matters is… that if you’re a Chinese national who lives in Singapore and wants to travel to mainland China, the only way to avoid quarantine upon arrival is to have the Sinovac vaccine. Oh, you’ve already had two shots of Pfizer and are completely immune? That’s nice, but if you want to visit our country hassle-free, you’ll have to have this one as well.
And so, perhaps, once it’s established that there’s no way to O.D. on vaccine, people will have some decisions to make. If AstraZeneca is going to be treated like a second-class citizen south of the border, what do you do? What does it mean for those who’ve had two doses of AZ and want to cross the border? What if you’ve had one AZ and one Pfizer/Moderna? What if you’ve had AZ, Sinovac, J&J *and* Sputnik? What if you’re so loaded with vaccine that you’re immune till 2027 and serve as your own 5G beacon?
These are not irrelevant questions. The U.S. may consider AZ a 2nd-tier vaccine just like China considers Pfizer/Moderna… but Canada will end up making its own policies as well. And it’s going to get messy, because people will scream discrimination. And, of course, that’s exactly what it is. Little of this has anything to do with actual science or vaccine efficacy or actual practicality. It’s mostly just bullshit politics.
One of the tag lines of Expo 86 was about “Inviting The World”, which we certainly did. And we still do… though, in future… well, bring your well-stamped passport with you.
There are lots of discussions going on with respect to what exactly happened to the flu this year. It was certainly expected that the social distancing and masking would have an effect, and that numbers would be lower… but nobody really expected it to be virtually zero. The number of pediatric flu deaths in the U.S. this season was exactly one (where it’s normally in the hundreds), and you can be sure that unfortunate kid caught it from a foreign traveller.
How do I know that? Because the flu, like C19, is a virus… and viruses need a breeding population of hosts that they can infect.
Unfortunate side-note for those of you who want to believe in Bigfoot or the Yeti or the Loch Ness Monster or the Ogopogo; perhaps the biggest show-stopper in there being a possibility of them existing is that you can’t have just one. You’d need a breeding population, and it’d have to be significant enough to perpetuate the species. They’d take up a lot of space, and there would be ample evidence (droppings, dwellings) to find, even if not the creatures themselves, whether on land or in the water. It’s not like “I saw *the* Ogopogo”; Lake Okanogan would have to have been teeming with them for centuries.
The masking, and sanitizing surfaces every 10 minutes, had a drastic effect. Flu probably arrived in North America on various airplanes, but died out with nowhere to go. No breeding population of hosts. In fact, so drastic was its demise that there are two common flu strains that may well be extinct. Around the world, there were zero cases reported of two particularly common strains; two that are always part of the annual flu-vaccine concoction. That, on its own, doesn’t yet mean they’re gone forever… but if they don’t show up next year or the year after that… well, it’s a virus. Unlike 200 BigFoots (Bigfeet?) that might be hiding in a cave somewhere in Sasquatch Park, there’s no hiding place for a virus. When the last one has no place to go, it’s gone forever.
It’s ironic that a couple of flu strains might be eradicated simply as “collateral damage”… while C19, with its variety of variants, is going to be around for a lot longer.
The bigger irony would be that Bigfoot actually exists… but gets wiped out by C19, because the humans were unable to eradicate it.
Do you remember learning about convex vs. concave? Which is which? If you have trouble remembering, and are frustrated, go punch a piece of sheet metal… see that indentation? How the sheet is now “CAVEd” in? There you go… conCAVE when it goes in, conVEX when it comes out… like the VEXed expression on the face of the guy on the other side of that sheet, wondering why you did that.
Now that we’re clear on that, let’s look at this new colourful graph I’ve thrown in today… the one on the bottomright. You’ll notice it has three convex lines, a thicker blue one that’s a bit of both, and only one concave one – the thick red Canada line.
Much like the Canada line that runs from downtown to the airport, this one also took a while… and was expensive in its own way… but well worth it in the long run.
This particular Canada line tells a few interesting stories. The first thing that pops out is how ridiculously steep it is in recent months, compared to the others. That’s what happens with a lot of pent-up demand; in fact, you have to wonder if the fact it took so long to hit 5th-gear with our rollout is now contributing to its continuing momentum. Would we have wanted it so badly if it were so easy to get…? Brilliant psychological trick, if that’s what they pulled on us. Either way, it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
The best thing it indicates – exactly what the others don’t – is that we’ve not yet reached the end of the “low-hanging fruit”. We’re still injecting as much of the stuff as is made available, but let’s not fool ourselves; we’re going to plateau at some point, and we will start to look like that thick blue American line… concave to start as demand outweighed supply… followed by that flattening… which is also evident in the three other countries I threw in there; Israel, the UK and Chile. Those three were the world leaders in vaccinations… but once the fanfare wore off and the low-hanging fruit was picked… now it gets more difficult. In the last two months, we’ve gone from 14% to 59%. Israel has gone from 61% to 63%. It’s not difficult to see where the momentum is. Those three countries have entered the post-low-hanging-fruit phase and are entering the vaccine-hesitant phase.
To be clear, nobody is getting to 100%… even here. There’s a solid 10% to 15% of ardent anti-vaxxers in Canada who’d rather get Covid-19 than admit they’re wrong, and nothing will change their mind… so forget about them. That number is higher in other places, and inter-mingles with the vaccine hesitant crowd. Looking at that graph, you’d have to assume a global number of around 65% “yes for sure” vs a sliding scale of 35% that ranges from “yeah, soon, eventually, I will probably…” to “never”.
While it’s impossible to know exactly who any of these lines will eventually shape out, there’s no doubt that Canada will go crashing into first place if current trends continue. Assuming the vast majority of people who get that first does eventually get the second one as well, while it took us a while to get there, we may end up in better shape than anyone else. Doesn’t matter through which sort of lens you use to look at that – convex/concave… whatever… it’s looking good.