Sometimes, I write these posts in the morning… sometimes, at the last minute… a few times, the day before. I get the impression I’m going to have to back off trying to be too current, because the news changes almost as fast as I can type… and by the time you’re reading this, it could be largely out of date. In any event, I’m writing this earlier in the day and it might be longer than usual to make up for the fact that I won’t have much time tomorrow… so let’s pack two day’s worth of thoughts into one…
First thing… on this side of the 49th… Ontario increased its C19 death numbers significantly… 111 deaths in two days… but no, it’s not so dire. The vast majority of those were re-classifications from deaths earlier in the year.
South of the border… in the news, and changing by the minute, is the remarkable irony of the White House event which was intended to be the grand introduction of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee… but could turn out to be the very reason why Judge Amy Coney Barrett doesn’t ascend to the Supreme Court… that being that there may not be sufficient votes in person to achieve confirmation… because too many Republican senators will be sick and/or quarantining.
I’ve never been to a White House event, but I can only imagine it’s the sort of get-together that involves exotic teas and tiered platters with egg and cucumber sandwiches (no crust, of course), yummy pastries, scones, whipped butter, jam… you get the idea. The poshest of the posh. Side-note, that really made me hungry – any recommendations for local fancy tea places?
Anyway, that particular event will not go down in history for the fine food that was served, nor for the fine China upon which it was presented. Instead, it will be forever known as the Covid-19 Super-Spreader event that changed the course of American history.
It’s only been a few days, but now we’re getting a very accurate account of how fast this virus spreads when it’s in our midst and not taken seriously. Those Republicans, scoffing at the notion of wearing a mask — lest they be ridiculed by their Fearless Leader – may have screwed themselves out of contention. Their reckless, holier-than-thou attitude was evidenced at the “debate” where the entire Trump entourage, having entered the seating area all wearing masks as required, dramatically and contemptuously removed them in unison, with appropriate contemptible smirks to go along with their heroic acts of independence and freedom.
At the White House ceremony, same thing… most guests arrived in masks, but many removed them. There are hundreds of pictures and videos showing what went on. If you zoom up really, really close, like 150,000,000x, you can see the C19 virus balls flying all around, out of this mouth, into that nostril, and so on.
At this very moment, around noon, here’s the known infection roster:
Senator Mike Lee
Senator Thom Tillis
RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel
Advisor Kellyanne Conway
Advisor Chris Christie
Campaign manager Bill Stepien
Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins
3 White House reporters
Conflicting numbers re White House staffers… one or more
Another senator that wasn’t there, Ron Johnson, has also tested positive.
AG William Barr, who was there too — and was recorded having a long, close conversation with Kellyanne Conway — hasn’t tested positive and is refusing to quarantine. By the time he tests positive, we’ll have a good idea who he’s likely infected as well.
And, for what it’s worth, NBC correspondent Garrett Haake tweeted this: “Tillis and Lee are both on Judiciary. I stuck my head into their hearing midweek and basically none of the senators were masked. The staffers around the edge of the large conference room were.”
Obviously, all of the senators in that meeting should be isolating for two weeks… but we all know that’s not happening. Add to that… Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is demanding all senators show up by Monday, Oct. 19th so things can move along. He needs them in person to have the required quorum.
Good luck, Mitch… and, might I add… I remember very well a different Monday, Oct. 19th… back in 1987. That was Black Monday, when the stock market crashed and burned and sent the financial world into a tailspin.
The only thing that might crash and burn this Oct. 19th is Mitch McConnell’s dream of installing a new Supreme Court Justice. As you may recall, Mitch McConnell was the one responsible for blocking Obama from installing a new Justice seven months before the end of his term, saying, at the time, “One of my proudest moments was when I looked Barack Obama in the eye and I said, 'Mr. President, you will not fill the Supreme Court vacancy.'" Notwithstanding the remarkable and blatant hypocrisy with respect to what’s going on now, you know what… Karma’s a bitch, Mitch.
Finally, on top of all of that, there are conflicting messages coming out of the White House and Walter Reed hospital… Trump is good, Trump is not so good, Trump is breathing fine, Trump is on oxygen, he’ll be going home soon, the next 48 hours are critical, he’s responding well, we’re not sure how well he’s responding. You can throw this paragraph away, because it’s entirely meaningless, other than to punctuate with some clarity one of two possibilities… nobody really knows what’s going on… or they don’t really want us to know.
There’s that old parable where, suddenly, people can’t bend their arms. There’s plenty of food to eat, but people are starving… because they can’t reach their mouths.
The parable goes on to explain how, actually, it’s only the self-serving narcissists that are starving. The good people have figured out that all they need to do is feed each other, and everyone will be ok.
To some extent, we’ve been told that masks are sort of like that; you wear one, more than anything, to help others; to avoid you infecting them with your sneezes and coughs… and, as long as everyone is doing that to help others, we all benefit.
For a lot of my life, I thought catching a cold or flu was like getting pregnant; you’re either pregnant or you’re not. Similarly, either you have a cold… or you don’t. Certainly, you can be 7 weeks pregnant vs. 7 months, and it’s a very different experience… just like you can have a mild cold or a really bad cold.
The subtle difference in my mind was this: Once you have a cold, how bad it is depends on that particular cold virus. Some hit you really hard, while some give you little sniffles. Some years it’s really bad, some years… not so much.
What I didn’t understand was the whole concept of viral load. It’s not necessarily the severity of the strain of the virus… it’s also how much of it you got. The actual level of dosage, the actual number of little virus balls you inhaled… like, how badly you were infected… has a huge influence on how it affects you.
This is becoming very evident with the analysis of C19 patients; those exposed with high viral loads have a much more difficult journey. In fact, viral load at the time of diagnosis seems to be, on its own, an independent predictor of mortality.
All of this goes back to masks, and a recent article that pointed out something that should be pretty obvious, but perhaps hasn’t been made abundantly clear: If you wear a mask, you’re not only protecting others, but you’re protecting yourself. Your chances of receiving a lethal infectious dose are dramatically reduced if you’re wearing a mask.
Further to that – a very promising conclusion that follows from that is that by wearing a mask, you may well be creating immunity in yourself. As we know, a vaccine simply stimulates an immunity response… well, guess what… you may already have done that, in small doses. We also know that 80% of cases are asymptomatic, and that may in large part be due to the low viral loads that caused them in the first place. Perhaps the small amount you got from a distant sneeze. Or, perhaps, the small amount you got from someone nearby… but your mask took the hit, and all you got was 1% of the potential viral blast in your face.
And one final (also promising) conjecture… it seems that even tiny viral loads in your body may stimulate strong immune responses. By the time the vaccines roll out, you may already be immune… and only because you’ve been wearing a mask, self-vaccinating yourself in small doses.
I’m not sure any of this will change the minds of the ardent anti-maskers, for whom this whole issue is entangled with political (and other) agendas… but if you know any somewhat-reasonable anti-maskers who think it’s not worth it for medical reasons, feel free to pass this along. Or maybe to that “me me me” narcissist who doesn’t feel the need to benefit others, at the expense of their personal comfort. Well, guess what… it may benefit you greatly.
And for the rest of you reasonable people, just keep doing what you’re doing… and wear your mask with the knowledge that your little contribution to the greater good may actually be doing a lot more good than you think.
Today’s brief update will simply be about some simple numbers and some simple math.
Let’s say 100 people catch Covid-19… and struggle through it, till they’re either cured or dead… if 93 survived and 7 died, let’s write it down as 93/7. Looking around the world, here’s a brief sample of how that looks in different places:
United States: 95/5
It’s annoying that some places have stopped publishing their recovery numbers. I’d be interested in throwing Sweden, U.K. and Spain into that mix to see how they compare.
The best ratios out there seem to come out, at best, 97/3.
If we just add up the entire planet — there have been almost exactly 30,000,000 cases – and the global ratio is 96/4.
The implication of that is that the true potential extent of this virus, should everyone on the planet get it, would mean a little over 300,000,000 deaths; simply 4% of the world’s 7.8 billion people.
Fortunately, there’s every reason to believe… through social practices and herd immunity (one way or the other), that nothing close to that will end up transpiring. But it’s always worthwhile to look at all the scenarios, and as far as the worst-case goes – there you have it.
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 was an interesting battle going on during WWII, in the skies above England… and no, I’m not talking about the RAF vs. the Luftwaffe…
Back then, the British launched a very ambitious operation. They dropped thousands of homing pigeons behind enemy lines. The pigeons were in little crates, which, besides the bird, contained paper, and pen and a canister. Whoever found it was asked to fill out the questionnaire, roll it into the canister, attach it to the pigeon… and let it fly home, back to England, with the information. Sixteen thousand pigeons were dropped over France, Holland and Belgium. Something like 10% of them came back, many with useful information, detailing what life was like under German occupation, and indicating what they could about German troop movements. Some of these pigeons were so successful, over numerous trips, that they were decorated with medals. One directed a rescue crew to where a British bomber had ditched in the ocean. Another one saved more than 1,000 lives when it successfully delivered a message that a certain town had been re-captured by the British… a town that was about to be bombed.
The Germans quickly discovered this was happening, and started planting pigeons of their own, with a bit of a different questionnaire (and a pack of British cigarettes, to make it look legit), trying to sniff out local patriots to the allies.
Above and beyond that, the Germans had a little army of their own, trained Hawks and Falcons, whose job it was to take down the British pigeons. How has this not been made into a movie?
Our hero, the British pigeon, already battered and mangled, trying to fend off numerous attacks, struggling to get home… bleeding, missing the tip of one wing… suddenly spotted by a German Hawk… who, with his little goggles and leather helmet (emblazoned with a swastika) swoops down for the attack.. and just as he’s about to make contact, our hero pigeon crosses into British airspace where the hawk is instantly taken down by a sniper from MI14. Yes indeed, the British Secret Service set up a detachment, whose job it was to drive up and down the coast, monitoring bird activity and shooting down those killer German birds.
It’s an interesting little story, detailing one particular battle — amongst a sea of other battles — that constituted the Second World War. A small but important battle.
And that’s how it is with all battles, big or small. It’s not just one big fight. It’s lots of little ones, many of which we’ll never hear about… whether we’re fighting a World War, a virus, or an election… etc etc.
It’s something to consider for the near future, because lots of battles are heating up, and some of them, big and small, are going to get ugly. It’s important to consider their part in the bigger picture, not just the individual pieces… because in this era of self-serving propaganda and misinformation, many of these battles are, as they say… for the birds.
I’ve changed some of the data and graphs, to more accurately reflect where we’re at, and to track information that’s now more meaningful. Doesn’t it look good? Tremendous. World leaders are calling me, telling me they’ve never seen anything like it. The colours, the numbers. It’s a beautiful thing.
I’ve removed the growth factor column, because it’s become less relevant as the meteoric exponential growth has tailed off. I’ve left the cases-increase column, because it encapsulates that growth, as well as being directly relatable to what came before it.
I’ve added a “Deaths” column, which is particularly notable in comparison to our neighbours to the south. There is a “Total Deaths” at the very top, and there is a daily number of new deaths reported in the column below it. A blank means zero deaths, and looking at today’s numbers, those at least look really good. Zero in B.C., Ontario and Quebec combined. There were 3 deaths in Alberta and 1 in Saskatchewan today, and that was it, across Canada.
I’ve also changed Deaths / Case to Deaths per 1 million of population… 497 in the U.S., 237 in Canada, 38 in B.C., etc. This more accurately reflects the proliferation of the virus, more apples-to-apples instead of being more about number of tests given. It’s 15,363 in the U.S., 3,137 in Canada, 776 in B.C. and so on. More on that below.
From a Canadian point of view, these are all pretty good. The continuing upward trend here in B.C. is worrying, but we’re being told it was to be expected. I’m not so convinced, and hope the actions we take today will be reflected in those numbers in due course.
Also worth noting… ever since the White House took the number-gathering away from the CDC and decided to do it on their own, the divergence between cases and deaths has grown. I’m not going to accuse the American Government of lying, but I find it suspicious that the numbers of daily new cases (which they control) have shrunk, while the numbers of deaths (which they don’t control) have remained largely unchanged. Like, average deaths over the last week were 1,041 daily… and 1,100 the week before; pretty similar. The number of new daily cases this last week were 55,604, while the week before that, they were 65,373 Ten thousand less daily cases, yet the same number of deaths.
Recall Donald Trump’s musings that maybe too much testing isn’t a good thing, because when you do that, you find too many cases. Whether he’s hiding numbers or testing less, I don’t know. I’m pretty sure though… a few extra coats of paint on the deck of the Titanic probably looked pretty good. Hey, guys, what about this big hole on the side of the ship? Yeah, yeah, but look at the deck! Look at the shiny gloss! Doesn’t it look tremendous? It’s a beautiful thing.