British Columbia has a vax rate over 80% for first jabs with second jabs catching up fast. We also have exponential growth in “case” numbers and hospitalizations and admissions to the ICU are rising as well.
Our Health Minister and Public Health Officer have called a press conference tomorrow where, I expect, they will announce some restrictions – almost certainly travel restrictions, earlier bar closings and, perhaps, a return of the indoor mask mandate.
They will also probably have some unkind words for the unvaccinated although I would be very surprised if any form of vax passport was introduced.
While these measures will be pitched as public health responses to the 4th Delta wave they are, in fact, political responses to a fearful population a vocal portion of which is demanding “action”. The population is fearful because, it turns out that even a successful vaccination program, and BC has many shots in arms, does not actually stop COVID. While this may be blamed on the unvaccinated, the evidence from Israel and Gibraltar and Iceland suggests even high levels of vaccination, while helpful as to outcome, does not stop the Delta 4th wave.
I suspect Dr. Bonnie Henry already knew this. Minister Dix is a smart guy and likely knew this was coming. But the vax was oversold as immunizing when it isn’t. For the fearful, the vax was “the solution”. Now that it turns out to be pretty much a therapeutic rather than a sterilizing vaccine the fearful feel even more vulnerable. Which, in turn means they are advocating for restrictions, the harsher the better. Which is what, I suspect, Dix and Henry will be responding to tomorrow. (Remember, Henry did not impose BC’s first mask mandate, it was imposed by the government at the request of the BC Retail Council – public health had very little to do with it.)
Frightened people demand solutions, the more draconian the better. Politicians have to deal with those demands. The new school year is around the corner, the COVIDians – double vaxxed for safety and masking even without the mandate – are petrified that the Delta variant will kill them. They want the government to back up their fear with the traditional “strict measures”.
It will be interesting to see which way BC jumps. Will it continue along the path to more complete re-opening even at the risk of a rise in “cases” – as Alberta has done – or will it start the mask mandate/travel restriction regime again? Politically, this is a question of whether the government values fear over freedom. From a public health perspective there does not seem to be much that will stop the Delta 4th wave – at least anything which is open for public discussion.
I suspect fear is going to win tomorrow. I hope it doesn’t, but the fearful are a very motivated bunch. I hope that Dr. Henry stops short of re-imposing masks but, even more, I hope she takes a moment to remind people to take a walk in the sun, eat well, lose a bit of weight and rely on their vaccines, their natural immunity and the systems which support it.
The 4th Delta wave is upon us. I suspect the vast majority of us will be just fine.
UPDATE: I was wrong. Fear did not win this round. The only significant announcement was a vax requirement for people working in LTC facilities. While I doubt this will make much difference there is a logic driven rather than fear driven reason for such a mandate.
The government of Quebec is planning on introducing a vax passport. The government of Canada is looking at “mandating” COVID vaccination as a condition of employment for the federal government and corporations regulated by the feds. Dr. Bonnie Henry hinted today that she was fed up with healthcare workers who were not vaxed. If you want to enter a restaurant in New York City you have to prove at least one shot.
As I have said before, I am not at all an “anti-vaxer”, I am just not in any rush to get “the jabs” as I would like a lot more data on their long term effects. One mid term effect which is now emerging is that the efficacy of the jab in preventing serious illness appears to wane at about the 6 month mark. And, of course, the jab does not prevent infection or transmission of COVID, it appears to reduce the severity of COVID should you contract it. And all of this comes at the price of potential adverse consequences for a small number of those jabbed.
Against that people are arguing that there are good reasons to encourage people to get jabbed – principally their own health. Encouragement in the form of celebrity endorsements, free stuff, lotteries and the like seem like fair ball to me. But we go over the foul line when we impose consequences for not being jabbed.
I use the term “consequences” advisedly. Not being permitted to attend an event without vax proof is a consequence and, in my view, incompatible with a rights based view of humanity. It is a mild infringement to be sure, but it really is the top of a slippery slope and should be subject to strict scrutiny. Now, it can be argued that a venue or a rock band or a restaurant has a right to exclude whomever it wants so long as it does so without violating general anti-discrimination laws. However, this sort of exclusion regime will almost certainly be operated using government issued credentials.
The entire concept of a vaccine “passport” or “certificate” issued by the government – provincial, in the case of Canada – is acceptable right up until it is used to visit consequences, however well-intentioned, on those who lack that passport. This is not a loss of “priviledge”, it is the loss of the most basic right to be treated equally because you are person and a citizen.
Confronted with a disease which has a recovery rate of 99.9% for the non-elderly and relatively healthy the inner authoritarian in everyone from Premiers to pundits suddenly is put on parade.
“Just as we began to think the COVID pandemic was coming to an end, a fourth wave has arrived, due almost entirely to the unvaccinated. As a result, restrictions are coming back, masks are returning, and our short precious summer looks like it may become even shorter yet. Scott Gilmore, Macleans
(Interestingly Gilmore is so eager to administer “the stick” that he contradicts his claim about the nasty unvaccinated in the very next paragraph. “Even those of us who fully vaccinated are being forced to mask back up. This is because we have now learned that the new and deadly Delta variant can still be carried and transmitted by the immunized.” Which is it Scott? And, Scott, look up the word “immunized”.)
Once that inner authoritarian is in charge, the sky is the literal limit – no flights for the unvaxed, no restaurant dining and, at the extreme end, no job, no grocery shopping, no public transport. The rationales range from the alleged danger of the unvaxed spreading the disease to interesting theories about how the unvaxed will destroy “herd immunity” and act as human petri dishes for the incubation of ever nastier “variants”. That there is not a shred of evidence for any of these outcomes does not seem to deter the “papers please” crowd.
I suspect parts of Canada are in for a nasty, authoritarian, fall. Scott Gilmore is a reliable indicator of bien pensant thinking in Canada and he wants to beat the unvaxed with all manner of sticks. Can’t wait really. The government of Quebec, fresh off six months of curfews, seems to enjoy curtailing the rights of it citizens.
The BC government seems more modest in its medical authoritarianism – vax mandates for healthcare workers, maybe. But BC’s case numbers are going back up and with that rises a need to “do something”.
Here is the root problem: COVID19 is not going away. It will, eventually, but when is deeply uncertain. The “vaccines” don’t actually work quite as well as had been hoped. They do not immunize, rather they confer a degree of protection from serious illness. With flu season just around the corner, the public health establishment has pretty much run out of bullets. A fact tacitly conceded in Alberta where all restrictions have been cancelled as has non-symptomatic testing.
Vax mandates and passports are not going to change the COVID outcomes. They will let Scott Gilmore put a bit of stick about and Premier François Legault to coerce the long suffering people of Quebec a while longer but there is no reason to believe this is anything but an extension of the sanitary theatre we have had to put up with for the last 18 months.
The Gilmores and Legaults might be better advised to look at improving the general health of the population, actually building the backup facilities to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed and to take a serious look at the treatment options for COVID. Not nearly as much good, clean, totalitarian fun; but ultimately more productive.
“In preparation for this change, CDC recommends clinical laboratories and testing sites that have been using the CDC 2019-nCoV RT-PCR assay select and begin their transition to another FDA-authorized COVID-19 test. CDC encourages laboratories to consider adoption of a multiplexed method that can facilitate detection and differentiation of SARS-CoV-2 and influenza viruses. Such assays can facilitate continued testing for both influenza and SARS-CoV-2 and can save both time and resources as we head into influenza season.” CDC: Lab Alert
The PCR test was used all over the world to detect “cases” of COVID. Implied in the CDC notice is that the test detected influenza as well. Which would explain why there was no “flu” this past flu season. If you tested positive on the PCR you were regarded as a case of COVID but you might well have had plain old flu.
[Update: My 20 year old bio-chemist, lawyer and reader, son, Sam, points out that the CDC is pulling one PCR test of 20 or so which are approved. PCR lives! (Still far more cycles than there should be, but he has a point.)]
From Israel, a heavily vaccinated country, we have the Prime Minister stating, “We do not know exactly to what degree the vaccine helps, but it is significantly less…the Delta mutation leaping forward around the world, including in vaccinated countries such as Britain, Israel and the US.”
In BC, having seen our numbers steadily drop heading into summer, our case count is rising again. Given the lifting of virtually all public health restrictions this is not surprising but it is a bit worrying.
On this beautiful summer day (though some mention the whole drought thing) it is worth thinking a little about what happens next with COVID. The good news on vaccines is that, so far, while they do not stop infection or transmission they do seem to reduce the severity of the symptoms for people who are infected. And, yes, it may well be that even without the jab those people would have had mild infections, but the hospitalization and death numbers seem to be encouraging. The jabs don’t seem to do as well against the variants but that is not yet a huge problem.
At the moment there is a fair bit of media enthusiasm for assorted coercive measures to be taken against the unvaxed. Vaccine passports are all the rage in the dimmer reaches of Ontario and Quebec and Manitoba seems to have implemented such a scheme. It is obvious nonsense from a direct public health perspective because the vaccinated an be infected and spread infection, but it seems to satisfy the more basic urge to “punish” the non-conforming.
The back and forth on testing, case rates, the need for non-pharmacological measures, the efficacy of vaccines and the safety of those vaccines, not to mention treatment and prevention options can make for interesting Twitter threads but there is a real flu season coming up shortly. To prepare for that season is something everyone, every family, can start doing right now.
If COVID and the flu continue to circulate, and there is no reason to believe they will not, jabs not withstanding, there will be non-medical consequences which may be more severe than the illnesses themselves.
Right at the moment, supply chains in BC and in Canada generally, are holding up quite well. However, they have been under considerable stress and the dislocations caused by gov’t reaction to increased case counts could be severe. It would be prudent for families to stock up on non-perishable essential goods. (Looking at the current crop conditions in Canada and much of the US it would be prudent for economic reasons as well.) Simple things like rice, flour, pasta, sugar, salt and beans are a starting point. Canned goods are good to have. A well stocked freezer – on sale ground beef, on sale frozen fruits and vegetables – may come in handy. And, why yes, toilet paper and paper towels are great to have. Cash – and while 100’s a lovely they can be hard to spend if things go sideways. 20’s are more practical.
Believe it or not, now is likely the time to buy PPE – mask, gloves, hand sanitizers. And, yes, indeed, I don’t think any of those items made a speck of difference in the first waves. However, right now they are practically being given away and it is not at all out of the question that the Phi variant or some such will be surface contact transmissable.
Stock up on your vitamins and supplements: Vit D & C, quercetin, zinc. Ivermectin if you can get it. There are plenty around at the moment, that could change.
Now, normally, this is the moment where people say, “And get the vax!” I am still waiting to see how well it performs and what side effects emerge. Your mileage may vary and you may not alreadly lead a largely self-issolated life. You do you.
My own scenarios for the Fall and Winter range from a nothingburger where, like the Great Influenza of 1918, COVID burns itself out and we see no substantial third wave, all the way to “the vaccine has compromised vaxers immunity and, like the ferrets, the vaccinated are all very sick and many of them die.” Being neither a virologist nor an epidemiologist, I have no idea what is going to happen come “seasonal upper respiratory virus” season. And I have no idea what the government/public health reaction is going to be. My only thought is to be prepared for the worst.
Being able to hunker down for a few weeks is never a bad thing. Depending on the severity of the Fall wave, you may want to close your door to the world for a month without the government telling you to.
Meanwhile, good long walks, trimming that last 5, well, 15 really, pounds, avoiding MSM are all useful things to do right now.
With luck, COVID will be a bad memory by Christmas. I hope so.
As my readers know I live on Vancouver Island right by the ocean. Normally, it is too cool to be comfortable having the evening g&t on the deck. Well, yesterday and today and very possibly tomorrow it will be way too hot.
The thing about heat waves is that they bring out the climatistas ready to ascribe weather to climate change. On #bcpoli Twitter it is a dead heat between the unscientific “I will wear a mask until there is no COVID anywhere on Earth” people and the people who insist that the present heat wave “proves” global warming. Well it doesn’t.
What we are in the grips of is a jet stream excursion. A big loop of hot air is sitting on top of us. It is practically the definition of “weather”. Three weeks ago Victoria set an all time record for coldest June day in the middle of a series of anomalously cold days. This too was “weather”.
The warmists are not deterred. “Well, over all the “weather” is getting hotter because of climate change.” “The jet stream is behaving eccentrically because the Arctic is getting warmer and that’s climate change.” And then they add their policy prescription d’jour – Save Old Growth, Raise the carbon tax, Stop LNG exports and so on.
The brutal narcissism of the climate crusaders is touching. The problem and its solution are all about them. Other than the Pacific North West, the rest of the world is normal to cold. The Eastern US has been wet and cool, South America is freezing, Australia and New Zealand are experiencing an early ferociously cold winter, summer snow is falling in Scandinavia. The fact the major factor in the northern and jet stream’s preignitions is the level of solar activity is borne out by the general coolness of 2021. Guess what, the Sun is very quiet at the moment which is historically linked to cooling rather than warming.
But, for fun, let’s propose that the climate change fanatics are right and there is a direct link between CO2 and the present heat wave – not one of their favoured solutions will make the slightest difference. We could all walk to hug the trees and it would not matter.
“During the Congress, air pollution returned to Beijing with a vengeance, hitting the highest levels since January 2019, as the economy hummed out of the pandemic. Steel, cement, and heavy manufacturing, predominantly backed by coal power, boosted China’s carbon dioxide emissions 4 percent in the second half of 2020 compared to the same pre-pandemic period the year before. At the same time, the goals in the country’s 14th Five-Year Plan on energy intensity, carbon intensity, and renewables were hazy as well, little more than vague commitments to tackle carbon dioxide emissions.
A generous estimate of Canada’s total contribution to CO2 emissions is about 1.8% of the global total.
The rush to climate arms in the face of the heat wave comes, I suspect, from the same well of narcissism which prompted a pro-masker to tweet, “I’m going to keep wearing my mask because it shows I care about you.” Why not just get a smiley face button? It would allow you to signal your virtue and have exactly the same effect on the virus or climate change as doing nothing at all.
(Yes, I know, Twitter is a swamp and a time suck – but it is way too hot to go out.)
BC is re-opening in stages based upon the percentage of the population who have had first doses of the “vaccine” (I use quotes as it is not at all obvious that the mRNA injections are vaccines in the traditional sense of that term. This is not a knock, rather it is an indication that some caution is warrented.) Indoor dining started lasst night, the mandatory masks indoors in public order is expected to end July 1, travel restrictions are being eased are are rules about gatherings.
The COVID numbers are dropping with only 289 new “cases” (ie. positive test results) in the province yesterday. Only 6 on Vancouver Island where I live. Hospitalizations, cases in the ICU and deaths are all down.
These improvements are being credited to the vaccine despite the fact that only a tiny percentage of British Columbians (less than 5%) have had the required two doses. Arguably, a single dose strategy, while it does not confer 100% protection, is good enough to bend the infection curve. [The past month of warming, sunny, weather might have had something to do with this as it did last year when there were no vaccinations and COVID virtually disappeared.)
Predictably there are plenty of people on Twitter and in the MSM who are worried that this is too soon. There is an active claque who want COVID-Zero before even thinking of re-opening. Against that view are people looking at states in the US like Texas and Florida which are wide open and back in business.
Politically, and a good deal of the response to COVID is political, public acceptence of restrictions has been eroding quickly. The vaccinated can see no reason not to get on with their lives, the hesitant and outright rejectionists, are looking at falling case numbers and assessing their own risk more aggressively.
For restrictions to work there has to be public buy-in. Back in March 2020, when COVID was new and terrifying, restrictions simply structured the response of a public already staying at home and avoiding other people. As we understood the virus better, realized that it was far from lethal for a large part of the population and began to understand how it was transmitted, people were more willing to lead semi-normal lives. (This was particularily true for people who had been keeping up with the rapidly changing “science”. Knowing that outdoor transmission was extremely unlikely was useful, knowing that the virus was only very, very rarely transmitted by contact with inanimate objects was useful. Taking onboard the fact that the virus was airborne was both worrying and actionable.)
“The jab” simply accelerated the return to a more normal life. People who had even a single shot were less afraid. And the public was more than able to recognize that if the jab worked the need for restrictions and mask mandates faded. Otherwise, what was the point of the jab?
You do not have to presume a conspiracy to note that a great deal of the public COVID reaction was grounded in fear rather than fact. The public at large seemed to believe that the virus was deadlier than it is and more infectious than it has turned out to be. Terrified the public wanted lockdowns, masks, business closures and travel restrictions. Once that fear began to fade because of falling “case” numbers and rising jab rates the public support for restrictions began to slip.
The BC Government recognized that the fear was over. Re-opening was going to happen whether the government permitted it or not. The official “re-opening plan” is largely a recognition of this reality rather than a public health document.
Victoria Day began as a celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday and an even louder celebration of the British Empire and Canada’s place within it. Bands, patriotic addresses, dances and teas were held in gratitude for Canada’s essential Britishness. The long Victorian era of Peace, Order and Good Government, the old flag and the old Queen underpinned the astonishing rigor with which Canada was first settled and then made into an economic powerhouse.
Underlying all that was a sense that the government, at a federal and provincial level had the peace and prosperity of Canadians as its singular priority. While there were better and worse politicians, the apparatus of state, of the Courts, of the military, of the schools and universities was dominated by men who aspired to public service for mainly honourable reasons. If a man sufficiently distinguished himself in the public’s service and kept his personal life free of scandal, he might, in time, expect a knighthood or at least a CBE.
The thing that was striking about this WASP ascendency was just how capable it was. Railways were built, banks founded, canals dug, mines and mills tore wealth from the hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness. Ranches and wheat farms, vast fisheries, and, eventually, steel mills and implement manufacturers and a host of other factories were concieved of and executed by these men.
For the modern sensibility the fact they were all men, all white, almost all – to one degree or another – Protestant is more than a little problematic. They were undoubtably racist, certainly sexist and not at all interested in being “inclusive”. But that took nothing away from their general competence and overall trustworthiness. They would debate particular policies from tarriffs to banking regulation to immigration to relations with “the Mother Country” and the rather doubtful Americans; but they framed their debates in terms of what was best for Canada. They certainly did not always “get it right” but it was not for want of trying or good will.
A great deal has changed in Canada since our Victorian gentlemen first celebrated their Queen’s birthday. Massive, non-British immigration, the political awakening of French Canada, two world wars, the end of the British Empire, votes for women, communications, transportation and medical revolutions: really, the invention of the modern world.
The idea that Canada is for every Canadian and should not be run by an male Anglo elite began its march through the institutions during Pierre Trudeau’s tenure. The visible symbols of the monarchy, the flag, the coat of arms on the mailboxes, God Save the Queen as a second national anthemn, Dominion Day all were replaced or simply forgotten.
A brighter, less traditional, Canada with a logo for a flag, community mailboxes, a national anthemn with constantly changing words and “Canada Day” replaced the dated echos of an Empire which no longer ruled the waves. More fundamentally, Trudeau with his brilliant Chief Clerk of the Privy Council, Michael Pitfield, set about to replace the old ways of governing Canada.
The clubish conception of government by a vetted, trusted, mandrainate of gentlemen who had been similarly educated, had often served in the military and who were, by the standards of their peers, “sound” was replaced with a meritocratic, competitive, civil service designed to explicitly include French Canadians and women from the outset. The old system of regionally based political leadership was replaced with a Prime Minister’s Office which bypassed those regional potentates and dealt directly with the Premiers and, more importantly, with now increasingly professionalized provincial public services.
This transformation of Canadian governance was cemented with the Elections Act which formallized the power of a recognized party leader to authorize (or not) candidates running for that party and, of course, by the adoption of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Elections Act changes eliminated competing centers of political power within political parties at the federal level. The Charter gave a structure to arguments about personal versus governmental rights and powers.
From the Trudeau/Pitfield perspective the great stumbling blocks to modernizing Canada were the old fashioned, decentralized, mechanisms of the 19th century. The whole idea of a federal cabinet minister being power in his own right or a provincial premier defying Ottawa was contrary to the centralizing tendancies of the modern managerial/bureaucratic state. The Elections Act centralized political power in the hands of the party leader, the Charter was more subtle. Here power was, apparently, given to individual Canadian citizens but that power could be used to assert rights against both the federal and provincial levels of government.
This past 18 months we have had the opportunity to see how well the new system works under stress. Frankly, I am deeply unimpressed.
One thing you could count on with the pre-Trudeau establishment was a level of individual competence. Influential Cabinet Ministers and senior civil servants were not the products of political accident or random encounters at college. You did not get close to power without a resume of accomplishment. This is, rather obviously, no longer the case.
More importantly, the old guard regarded character as important as educational accomplishment or experience. People who lied, pretended to know more than they did, or were otherwise less than honest – the word “sharp” was not one you wanted said about you – made very little progress politically or within the public service. It was informal but it was effective. (It was also, by intention, exclusionary.)
The performance of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet Ministers directly responsible for Canada’s COVID reponse at the federal level has been pathetic. At no point has the PM effectively taken charge. At no point has the public health advice been anything but lame and confused. We may have achieved diversity and inclusion in our federal Cabinet but it has come at the cost of competence.
The provinces have been little better. The patchwork quilt of lockdowns, school closings, travel restrictions, mask mandates, strangely prioritized vaccination regimes and the abandonment of the elderly in long term care facilities all suggest that the provincial public health officials and the politicians they advise have no clue what to do.
The use of Emergency Orders to impose restrictions which are constitutionally impugnable is the exercise of power without any real responsibility. (The fact that when these restrictions are constitutionally challenged the cases are, for the most part, quietly dropped by the Crown says a great deal. The fact that at no point has any level of government presented evidence going to the question of “demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society” is even more telling.)
The crusty old Victorians and their successors, swept away by Trudeau pere‘s re-invention of Canada, would, I suspect, have done at least as well as our woke technocrats. Likely better as they would have looked past “the models” and noticed that the elderly were dying in droves. Addressing that problem early and effectively could have kept the COVID death numbers down. So would closing the borders.
I can’t imagine that a Mackenzie King or a C.D. Howe would have pinned all hope on an undiscovered vaccine without also assigning “top men” to investigating treatment protocols. Nor would there have been any shilly shallying about lockdowns: either there would have been a strict lockdown or none at all.
May 24th has become the weekend to open up the cottage, perhaps display a Canadian flag and have several Canadian beers. It is no longer a celebration of Queen Victoria or Canada’s British heritage. It would be lovely to think we are abandoning the old traditions because the modern world is a great deal better. But it isn’t.
The peak was at the beginning of November. Which makes sense as that is roughly where the peak of the flu season falls. At a guess, we are likely to see a further decline which will track seasonal flu. The “flu season” is generally over by May.
I suspect the experience in other jurisdictions will be similar. I also suspect that the public hysteria about COVID will wear off over February and March and be pretty much gone by May. In BC, at least, we have not had “lockdowns” and the schools are open in a manner of speaking. People are sticking pretty close to home and masks are universal inside. Which may or may not be making a difference.
Only 145,000 vaccination doses have been administered and there is virtually no vaccine left. I would be very surprised if we manage to administer more than 200,000 doses by the time the virus peters out. The elderly, frontline care workers and First Nations people have been our priorities and it may have made a difference. Hard to tell until the weekly death statistics are available.
My general point is that the peak of COVID-19 in BC is behind us. The vaccine should reduce the death rate. So should the rehabilitation of HCQ and the deployment of ivermectin as well as a host of other proactive therapies. Our hospitals have climbed the COVID learning curve and out comes for most people who are under 85 and not already ill are steadily improving.
The British Columbia economy has taken a hit and will continue to stagger; but there is plenty of economic activity and businesses have adapted to the various restrictions and requirements.
What needs to happen now at the provincial level, is a top to bottom analysis of our response to COVID. What did we do right, what could we have done better, what will we do when the next pandemic/serious flu arrives? This is not about blame as, frankly, both the government and the public health service got a lot more right than wrong. But we need to think about how to improve our response.
A few suggestions:
Begin a program to increase surge ICU capacity at all BC hospitals – set a goal of an additional “x” number of ICU beds per year and make that investment.
stockpile PPE – we need to have enough to last for a couple of months without re-supply.
Get serious about long term care facilities – the vast majority of the deaths in BC were the elderly and particularly the elderly in LTCs. We need to do very much better and we need to have a plan in place for very early intervention when the next pandemic comes over the horizon. We also need to work at upgrading the facilities we have and build new ones.
Prepare a “stay at home” plan – two weeks to flatten the curve actually worked quite well in BC. It was not a strict lockdown but everyone tried hard to stay at home. Next time we should all know that there will be a stay at home period and that we must all plan accordingly.
Be ready with border closures/quarantine requirements for travelers. Yes, this is a federal responsibility; but there is no reason to think the feds will be any better next time than they were this time. BC should have legislation which requires a period of isolation for all international travelers.
Have a plan for schools: COVID was not particularly dangerous for children but the uncertainty which surrounded plans for schools caused a lot of disruption. Knowing that the schools will likely be closed a set period after a Health Emergency has been declared would help.
Right from the go, starting now, put out the message that a strong immune system is a very good thing: Vitamin D, C and outdoor activity daily are a great start. Trying to build the immune systems of every British Columbian in anticipation of the next pandemic makes a lot of sense.
Harden day to day systems – simple things like staggering working hours to avoid transit crowding may not be all that sexy, but they can make a huge difference
Do serious analysis of how COVID spread in BC. We are going to have a very rich data set. We need to use it. Ex poste analysis should tell us where the super spreader events were and what actually happened. Whether it was dentists at the convention center or my Big Fat East Indian Wedding, we need to know.
Come up with a clear and consistent reporting system. Dr. Henry and Minister Dix have done very well but the more information we have the more willing we’ll be to help end the next pandemic
COVID-19 is a wake-up call, a live fire exercise with relatively few casualties. We may not be quite so lucky with the next super flu. The Spanish flu killed 10X the people COVID has. There is no reason to believe that a virus of that lethality is not going to arrive sometime in the next couple of decades. We need to be prepared.
“Until now, B.C. has resisted calls for a mandatory mask order, instead making it the responsibility of businesses, transit operators and community service agencies to implement their own rules.
“The mask mandate is not something that in and of itself has made a difference in terms of transmission,” the province’s health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said as late as Wednesday.
On Thursday, she said the change in policy was due to increasing public pressure, including from businesses, expressing concerns about putting the onus of enforcing piecemeal policy onto workers.
The mask mandate isn’t being implemented by public health order, but by B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth under the extraordinary powers granted by the province’s record-breaking state of emergency. It’s not clear when it will take effect.” ctvnews
I had been under the impression that Dr. Henry had changed her mind for public health reasons. Apparently not.
Now the government’s public health policy is being dictated by “public pressure”. Whether masking works or not is a matter of scientific debate. My own reading of the literature suggests that “mask mandates” have virtually no effect. (Which is not the same as saying that masks don’t work. They may in certain circumstances.) But that literature has been tossed under the bus by “public pressure”.
To date I have been rather impressed with the BC Government’s tempered response to COVID. Through Dr. Henry it has treated British Columbians as adults. But, most of all, there was a deference to the best science Dr. Henry and her colleagues could access. That has gone out the window.
At a guess, when case numbers continue to rise, “public pressure” will mount for full, enforced, lock down regardless of the fact that the science is, at best, equivocal as to the efficacy of full lock downs. And there may well be “public pressure” to close the schools, again in the face of very little evidence that school closure helps much.
At the moment the public, goaded by an hysterical media, is terrified. Which will mean that “public pressure” can be mustered for virtually any policy which appears to have some effect on COVID. Worse, as the CTV article illustrates, if one province is doing something there is an expectation that other provinces should do the same thing. This is irrational.
If anything, the need is to be more granular. Take a look at regions and sub regions and tailor the public health response to the facts on the ground. Simply working very hard to protect out elderly may have a better public health outcome than masking, lockdowns and school closures. But if “public pressure” is all it takes to make sweeping, province wide, restrictive orders the scientific basis, medical outcome and economic consequences of such orders will be moot.
BC, through the grace of Dr. Bonnie Henry, held onto science as the basis for decisions. We have now succumbed to the Karens.
Dr. Bonnie Henry looked more than a little exhausted as she stood and announced mandatory masking for British Columbia. She also asked for, but did not impose, people not to travel unless it was “essential”. BC’s case count was soaring and the pressure to “do something” was apparently overwhelming.
I am a mask skeptic but I’ll wear one if they are mandatory. I don’t think it will do a speck of good because it is becoming clear that COVID is transmitted by aerosols and masks are only partially effective in managing aerosols. But, short of an outright lock down, masking is pretty much all Dr. Henry has left.
Here’s the problem: at the outset public health people over estimated the lethality of the virus in the general population and underestimated its contagiousness. They then settled on the metric of positive tests as the headline measure of the pandemic’s progress. Cases are certainly a useful metric for spread, but they really tell us very little about the medical consequences and public health resources required to deal with COVID.
Using case counts as the headline number boxed public health officials and the politicians who rely on them into a rather nasty corner when it became apparent that COVID was seriously contagious. The great public paid attention to the headline number and has grown increasingly terrified. Which, in turn, has created a political demand for “measures”. Politically, doing “something” has become more important that doing the right thing. Thus mandatory masks and, no doubt in a couple of weeks, a circuit breaking hard lock down.
We get the hard lock down because the masks are not going to work. Even if the science said that masks, properly used, were 100% effective in preventing transmission, (which it doesn’t), the vast majority of the mask wearers I have seen do not use them properly. My favorite being the people who drop their mask to chat on their cells. With the best will in the world, people will be lax about their mask use. As we have seen with the case rates in mask mandate jurisdictions, masks barely make a dent in transmission.
I suppose the good news in BC is that we have not gone as far as Manitoba and banned the sale of “non-essential goods” nor have we done and enforceable lockdown. However, I suspect they are coming.
The better news is that our frontline doctors and nurses have been figuring out how to treat COVID patients successfully. A lot of that has come down to figuring out how to treat the symptoms of COVID early before they become deeply problematic. But it is still not something anyone wants to catch.
I am sticking with my plan made at the beginning of the COVID: stay at home and boost my own defences with Vitamin C, D and zinc. Lots of handwashing and, because it can’t hurt and might help, mouth wash. The only thing I have added to this are various strategies to limit contact while shopping. Shop when other people aren’t, use a stylus on keypads, keep hand sanitizer in the car and try to get in and out of a store as quickly as possible.
Between now and the widespread availability of a vaccine the chief danger is boredom. But I am lucky: I have a lovely wife, annoying but entertaining kids and a wonderful dog to walk and train. Plus, I have a business which has always been run from home.
Most people are not as lucky with their work as I am. But looking to build your immune system is possible even if you do have to go to work.
One thing which would be relatively easy for government to do is to provide Vitamin D to the general public. While D will not prevent people from catching COVID, there is a fair bit of evidence that having good D levels can reduce the severity of the virus. Worth a shot.
I popped across the Strait a couple of days ago to see my older son and do a bit of business. I had not been in Vancouver since January.
It was a beautiful day, a tiny bit of fog but it burnt off.
It is difficult to grasp, living on largely COVID free Vancouver Island, just how devastating COVID has been in other locations. Where I live we have lost some businesses but there are lots which continue. About half the people mask if they are in a store. The streets are busy.
I spent a lot of my younger life in a stretch of Vancouver known as South Granville. And that is where my son lives now. The key thing about this area is that it has dozens of low rise and some mid-rise apartment buildings. They range from a bit sad through very elegant, pre-WWII, multi bedrooms. The key thing about South Granville apartments is that they never, ever, come vacant. People know people, lists were kept by building owners and managers. Walking towards the bus on West 12th every single building had a “Vacancy” sign out.
I walked down Granville Street for a couple of blocks. This is a high end shopping area. 85% of the people on the street were wearing masks. There was about half the normal foot traffic. And, most significantly, at least a quarter of the storefronts were “For lease”. There were still plenty of stores open and the majority of them had a mask requirement for entry.
The Granville bus was empty enough that “social distancing” was not a problem. I was heading downtown and looking at the empty storefronts and the “liquidation” sales. But the shock was downtown Vancouver itself. The “Granville” entertainment (read many bars and clubs) has simply ceased to exist. There are few bars hanging on, but where there were 30 or so venues it looked to me as if there are now maybe 5. Vancouver has always had a homeless population and, sadly, a population of street addicts. When I was a kid there would always be a few of these people at the south end of Granville street. They largely disappeared after about 2000 as the area gentrified. Now they are back.
Going all the way downtown three things hit me. First, the absence of people. Noon, on a sunny, warm, October day normally would see hundreds of people on the streets, grabbing lunch, doing a bit of shopping: yesterday there were, at best, dozens. Second, the number of storefronts for lease and businesses which are no longer there. At a guess, a third of the businesses which lined Granville and Pender and Howe are gone. The third thing which struck me was the absence of “international students”. There are, or were, dozens of English language schools downtown – actually a little east of where I was – and part of the fun of downtown was seeing gaggles of students. They stood out against the ranks of the office workers. While there were only a few office workers, there were no foreign students at all.
At noon I turned up at a restaurant at the corner of Howe and Hastings. I waited outside for my lunch partner. I could see the restaurant owner hovering at his door. This is a restaurant where, normally, you pretty much have to line up for a lunch table. It was empty and stayed empty through our lunch.
After lunch I headed off to the old station. I always have a cigarette on the plaza just before the entrance to the station. It has a grand view of the mountains but also of the bright reddy orange cranes of the Port of Vancouver. On a sunny day the plaza will usually have a couple of hundred people having lunch or just sitting in the sun. It is a favourite spot for tourists to take pictures. Yesterday there were less than fifty (likely less than thirty, I didn’t count) people all well distanced. There were no tourists.
I walked down to the trains. Again, usually, there is a steady stream of people coming and going even at 1:00. I passed exactly one person coming up from the trains and the great hall of the station was, effectively, empty. As were the train, the bus and the return ferry.
Overall, while it was great to see my son and one of my favourite CEOs, it was the most depressing trip I have ever taken. I could not have imagined Vancouver on a sunny, warm, October day being dingy, but it was. Storefronts are the multi faceted eyes of a city. When they are dark, the city is dark at noon. People, in their thousands, are the life blood of a city. Without people a city, even a beautiful city like Vancouver becomes pale and anemic.
British Columbia has done well through COVID. We’ve done it without lockdowns or mandatory masking but not without huge costs. Most of those empty storefronts were occupied by businesses which are not coming back. The absent foreign students and tourists will only return slowly, if at all. The empty offices may very well stay empty either because the jobs they contained will vanish or because staying at home during a pandemic makes a lot of sense and COVID seems far from over.
In one way, Vancouver is better off than most cities because “downtown” is mixed use. Lots of people live in the condos which surround the business district. That will keep some of the businesses alive. But that is the only encouraging thought I had. No office workers, no foreign students, no cruise ship passengers, no tourists: it is difficult to see how Vancouver will ever recapture the vibrancy, the sheer vigor, it had when I was spending time there last fall.
Wonderful, complex things like cities and downtowns are also fragile. You cannot shut a city down without there being short and long term damage. Nor, I suspect, is there any good way to “restart” a city. You can rebuild a city after an earthquake or hurricane, but restarting is a very different challenge. Especially if the “shut down” was largely voluntary, as it was in Vancouver.
Whether COVID simply dies out or a vaccine is produced or therapeutics are invented which allow the thing to be controlled is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for the healing of the city. What has been lost along with the businesses and the tourists, is a sense of trust and optimism. Those will take much more than an end to the pandemic to restore.