I am in the midst of being the Campaign Chair (a silly title if there ever there was one) for the Peoples Party of Canada candidate in Victoria, John Randal Phipps. Which is my excuse for not blogging much.
The single issue in this campaign is the Vax Passport set to be introduced in BC tomorrow. This is a particularly obnoxious idea. Basically, it is a rule that people have to show proof of vaccination (and I use that term loosely) in order to access pubs, restaurants, sporting events, gyms and so on.
It has nothing whatsoever to do with health. Rather, it is a means to coerce and punish the unvaccinated. Which is nuts simply because the vaxxed are able to be infected and transmit the virus but are less likely to know they actually have the damn thing.
Here is the Israeli Ministry of Health on its version of the Vax Pass:
My own bet is that the BC Vax Passport, despite our superabundance of Karens, will fail in a matter of weeks. First off, of the 5 million or so British Columbians less than 1.5 million have applied for their vax passport. That leaves 3.5 million without papers. Second, while there may very well be enforcement at large venues, I can’t imagine a lot of very close to the edge pubs and restaurants showing a Gestapo like diligence in checking their potential patrons at the door. While the restaurants were packed tonight with people enjoying their “last suppers”, after about a week of 25% houses, the hospitality industry is going to get very slack. (And, amusingly, the BC Government has given fast food places and cafes an exemption for dining in without alcohol for 30 minutes or less. The MickyD’s exemption. They really are just making shit up.)
I have two bright kids, one a coder, one a designer, working away at my own, private Vax Pass App. It will look quite a bit like the BC Gov’t app – when that is available – and it will feature a QR code (see above, took three clicks) leading to a web page with something like.
Good Service gets great Tips
At a guess, in a couple of weeks, that will be more than enough to gain entry to most of the smaller venues – if those venues ask at all.
Never underestimate the power of human laziness when people are asked to do a silly thing which will cost them money.
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.
There has been a good deal of optimism generated by the growing number of people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Despite the fact that the vaccinated can still get COVID and spread COVID, vaccination has been seen as a way out of the COVID mess. Let’s hope so.
However, there seems to be a bit of a problem emerging in such high vax nations as England and the Netherlands are seeing cases, hospitalizations and deaths rise again. Israel, with an over 80% double jab rate, is seeing case numbers rise and attributing that to the “delta variant”.
There is now some talk of the need for a “booster” shot in the Fall.
Not being an epidemiologist I have nothing useful to say about these infection rates in the face of the vaccine. However, from a public policy perspective, it underlines something which has been a weakness from the earliest days of the COVID issue: non-pharmaceutical interventions (masks, social distance, lockdowns) and the arrival and distribution of the vaccine have been the go to public responses. Other responses have largely been ignored.
Were you to rely on the mainstream media and our public health people – not to mention the politicians, you could easily form the impression that there were no other alternatives.
I have banged on about how losing a few pounds, getting outside, taking Vitamin D were all things which, while they will not “prevent” COVID infection, will certainly make you more able to put up a good fight if you happen to catch COVID. (And we are seeing much more evidence that the people who are most at risk of dying with COVID are over 80, often suffering a number of co-morbidities, diabetic or very obese – people at much greater risk of death even before they caught COVID.) Simply encouraging people who can to improve their overall health could significantly reduce the overall risk COVID poses.
Frankly, Public Health officials should have been pushing exercise, weight loss, sun exposure and Vit D pretty much from the go. But there is no reason not to start now. (Especially if the vaccines are not super effective against the delta variant.)
The ivermectin and HCQ questions remain outstanding. It was not helpful that one of what looked like a positive study of ivermectin appears to be an out and out fraud. However, looking at countries and states in which one or both have been used suggests some efficacy. The argument is going to go on for a while but, again from a public policy perspective, it would seem sensible to set up and run proper trials for both substances.
I suspect there are other promising treatments out there which I am unaware of. The point being that we need to be developing alternatives to complete reliance on vaccines which seem to have varying efficacy and worrying side effects which are only now emerging. This is not at all an “anti-vax” position, rather it is a prudent position. If, for some reason, the vaccines’ effectiveness against emerging variants is reduced, having treatment options and a generally healthy population would be, as Martha Stewart used to say, “a good thing”.
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.)
I got into a Twitter fight last night with a person – I think female but can’t tell for sure – who tweeted that she did not want to be in crowded indoor spaces with the unvaccinated and that they should stay outside like smokers.
I suspect we will hear a lot of this sort of thing over the next few months as COVID wanes and the vaccinated become a majority because it is not enough to be “protected”, the vaccinated seem to need to be isolated from the unvaccinated. Thus the call for vaccine passports and vaccinated only events.
The logic of this seems to rest on the idea that the “vaccine” is not 100% effective in preventing infection or transmission of COVID. What it does confer, apparently, is a reduction in the severity of the symptoms of COVID in the event that the vaccinated person is unlucky enough to catch the virus. You can see the problem, essentially a vaccinated person may be at the same risk for infection as an unvaccinated person and at the same risk of transmitting the bug as an unvaccinated person.
Now, frankly, I don’t think we have enough data one way or another on the vaccine’s efficacy in preventing infection or transmission – the early data seem pretty encouraging on the vaccine’s reducing the severity of the COVID symptoms and the mortality numbers are falling encouragingly. But separating the vaccinated from the unvaccinated is not at all obvious based on what we know so far.
My Twitter gal did not like that position at all and was eventually reduced to calling me “selfish” for not a) getting jabbed, b) for suggesting that there was no logic in separating people who could be infected and who could transmit the virus but who had the prospect of a better outcome if they did from people who could be infected and who could transmit the virus and only had a 99.9% chance of full recovery.
The COVID conversation usually comes down to people’s perception of the risk COVID presents. The vast majority of people who contract COVID feel badly for a few days and are done. Death from COVID is largely confined to people over 80 with one or more co-morbidities. At a clinical level doctors are becoming much, much better at treating the symptoms of COVID. This is not contested information. The daily statistics show much better outcomes for hospitalized patients. Even the “variants of concern” do not seem to have increased the lethality of COVID.
So a risk calculus with respect to the vaccine needs to begin with assessing an individual’s likelihood of a fatal outcome if he or she were to contract COVID. A 99.9 percent survival rate if you are under 80 and are not significantly compromised is a reassuring place to start. Does it make sense to take a new and untested vaccine to improve those odds? (And before we get into the weeds on testing, the vaccines all are being used based on an Emergency Use Approval which is not at all the same as the full testing which drugs typically undergo. That testing is ongoing and will be completed in late 2022 or early 2023.)
As I have consistently written about COVID, you have to manage your own situation which means being aware of and assessing what your life holds by way of risk. First off, do you live in an area with high rates of infection? Do you interact with strangers on a regular and continuous basis? What is your general health status? Do you get outdoor exercise? Individuals can assess these factors for themselves.
Against your personal risk profile when you are looking at “the jab” you would normally take the advice of the medical community which, in turn, would rely on the peer reviewed results of the drug testing the jab is undergoing. But those results are not yet available. Even the mid-term effects of mRNA based vaccines are more a matter of conjecture than evidence.
So the calculation is not so straightforward. As I happily say when asked, “Not yet, I’m in the control group.”
Which brings us back to “selfish”. I assess my personal risk of contracting – much less dying from – COVID as very close to zero which has meant I have been in no hurry to get jabbed. But my Twitter pal seems to think that is selfish. Somehow, my not being jabbed is going to…what? Make her jab less effective? Nope. Destroy herd immunity? No, at worse it may reduce herd immunity infinitesimally but there is very little evidence either way. Prevent her from feeling confident in enclosed crowded spaces? Maybe, but not at all my problem. Prevent the great re-opening? Possibly. The re-opening is a political decision and various politicians have come up with various metrics – case numbers, outbreaks, hospitalizations, first jab percentages, full jab percentages – to give the appearance of science to a purely political decision. Again, not my problem and not part of any rational, personal, risk calculation.
I suspect that the woman on Twitter was, in fact, driven by the very basic human tendency to want others to do what you are doing. When people are terrified, and COVID and the mass media have scared the Hell out of people, they want the security of the group. When the politicians, media and public health officers all say, “Everybody needs to get the jab,” it is much easier to go along with the crowd. Part of going along with the crowd is trying to herd dissenters into the ranks of the righteous. If they won’t be herded then, well, they’ll have to be ostracized.
The good news is that, as COVID fades, so will the zealous. As the threat recedes the urgency of the group think will diminish. As normal returns, attempts to separate the vaccinated sheep from the unvaccinated goats will lose their moral force.
My Twitter friend will have to find something else to be indignant about.
“Although several vaccines have recently become available, making significant strides towards preventing COVID-19, what about the treatment of those who already have the infection? Vaccines aren’t 100% effective, highlighting the need—now more than ever—for effective antiviral therapeutics. Moreover, some people can’t receive vaccines due to health issues, and new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, that can penetrate vaccine-conferred immunity, are being reported, indicating that we need to think beyond prevention.” Medical Express
It is pretty clear from this article that the team has been at work for a while though it is not clear when they started.
I would have thought that as soon as COVID-19 was a thing – say March 2020 – there would have been dozens of teams all over the world looking for treatments. (There were, by the way: lots of clinicians were developing treatment protocols involving HCQ, ivermectin, various anti-biotics and other drugs. But these treatment protocols were under reported if not outright censored in the mainstream and social media.)
I have always had a mental image of researchers, medical scientists, public health officials, health ministries, hospital administrators, world health people, the Center for Disease Control and a myriad of other agencies quietly working in the background to prepare for the next, great, health/disease challenge. Ready to isolate the bug, test treatment protocols based on clinical experience, develop isolation and containment strategies based on the epidemiological characteristics of the illness.
I also had a naïve view of the ability of politicians to step up. While the clinical and research side of COVID was the province of doctors and researchers, the overall response to the virus was a matter for political leadership. People in positions of political power certainly need to lean on experts but they also have to allocate resources, examine alternatives, make decisions based on limited information.
Very little of this actually happened.
The first response of most of our political class was to doggedly claim to be following the science, turn day to day decision making over to “public health experts”, follow the guidance of the WHO and the CDC – guidance which was, to be charitable, inconsistent – and to largely avoid questioning the experts. (Trump seemed to make some attempt to raise questions but made little headway in the face of his own public health bureaucracy.)
“Wipe everything” (which the CDC now concedes is pointless because the virus is rarely, if ever, transmitted by contact, “wash your hands” (good advice at any time), “social distance” (hilarious when in effect outdoors where there is next to no transmission), “walk this way” in the essential grocery and liquor stores, “wear a mask”, “wear two masks”, “stay home” (logical for two weeks, insane for six months), “curfew” (no known benefit, Quebec ended up being under curfew for five months), “no indoor dining” (despite next to no evidence that restaurants were significant sources of infection), “don’t travel” (with a vast list of exceptions), “don’t gather outdoors” (unless BLM protest)” (ignoring entirely that the virus rarely spreads outdoors): it was all COVID theatre and, to paraphrase Dr. Bonnie Henry, “There’s no science to it.”
What the politicians did was simply to panic. They abdicated their responsibility to lead to “experts” who seemed to all be reading from the same “mass lockdown, masks everywhere, hang on for the vaccine, there is no treatment” script.
The key political failure was the acceptance of the “there is no treatment” story. Back in February/March 2020 there were suggestions that there might well be treatments of some sort. HCQ was trotted out and, partially because Trump mentioned it and partially because of very badly designed studies, dismissed. The very idea of a COVID treatment regime was, essentially, made illegal in Canada and much of the United States.
The idea of boosting immunity with things like Vitamin D and C and a good long walk every day did not come up at most of the Public Health Officer’s briefings across Canada. And, again, not very well done studies were cited showing that “Vitamin D does not cure COVID”. A claim which was not being made. A healthy immune system, to which Vitamin D can contribute, most certainly does cure COVID in the vast majority of cases.
Citing privacy concerns, public health officials were unwilling to give many details as to who was dying of or with COVID. Age, co-morbidities, race, and the socio-economic status of the dying were disclosed reluctantly and long after the fact.
I don’t think most of this can be blamed on the public health officials. They had their jobs to do and, to a greater or lesser degree, managed to do them. They are hired to apply current best practices – often mandated on a world wide basis by the WHO – to the situation before them. Public Health officials are not expected to be imaginative nor innovative.
Imagination, leadership, thinking outside the proverbial box is what we elect politicians for.
A smart Premier or even a clever Prime Minister, after the first shock of the arrival of COVID, would have immediately found creative people to think clearly about, “What else can we do?” In a matter of a week or two, along with driving vaccine research, a full scale treatment research effort would have been organized. Everything from clinical protocols – which clinicians were constantly innovating – to drug treatments to immune system boosting and health optimization would be on the table. And those efforts would have been supported and discussed by the politicians pushing them.
About the only politically innovative thing we saw in Canada was the Maritime bubble where the Maritime provinces essentially closed themselves off from the world New Zealand style. (I don’t think it will make much difference in the long run but it certainly was different from the rest of Canada.)
Leadership is about considering options. It is also, critically, about creating options to consider. Not a single political leader in Canada and very few in the United States created a single option to the relentless “lockdown, wait for the vax there is no treatment” story.
Which cost tens of thousands of deaths, the destruction of 100,000s of businesses, a general decline in mental health and trillions of dollars in debt.
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.