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For later entries, see more recent blog file.

March 31, 2020


Warning: these posts are for 'adults'; people with the ability to think for themselves, take responsibility for their actions, and prepared to work for the greater good. If that isn't you, remember to wash your hands and face with soap regularly and don't touch anything. Stay home. The Internet has plenty of content to entertain you.

Don't spread disinformation. Don't spread germs. So far in Canada, the disinformation is the more dangerous of the two.

Please, tomorrow - no April Fools jokes about COVID-19, supposed cures, stupid tricks, or other disinformation, even if intended to be humorous. Internet pranks tend to be based on disinformation. Many people are not in good shape, and clutching at faint hopes. Even a well-intentioned jest-in-fun could be misinterpreted these days. I know we could all use some evity, and I have been toying with a couple myself, but pranks - however well-intentioned - tend to have a target. We don't need any additional damage now.

My request: no April Fools Day pranks at all this year - personal or virtual.

Instead, as many of our governments are starting out a new fiscal year tomorrow, reach out to officials who you think are doing reasonably well - elected and not - and let them know their efforts are appreciated. If you think things are hard for you, try to imagine the stress they are operating under and the competing pressures bearing on them.

Let's call it "April Thanks Day". (If you like this idea, share it today.)

I'm also pleased to see some media reports acknowledging the existence of the people who actually keep the economy and shadow health 'system' running. Give a thought to who is keeping your world running these days, and for others who are truly dependent on such workers and volunteers. Say thank you to them as well as you encounter them in your brief and reduced errands these days. And as appropriate, let's protect them as they continue to keep our world functioning.

This isn't a joke: the Tableau Public COVID-19 dashboard. Sometimes a graphic can tell you more than a table of data.
This is the world:
Now, in the "Select Country" drop-down box, select Canada.
Which confirmed cases count curve do you think is scarier? Spread awareness, not the virus.
Based on yesterday's data, Canada is still tracking to almost the same curve for cumulative cases confirmed as Italy at 18 days after the first reported in-country case.

A different data issue as more people are working from home. Yes, the Internet is still staggering under the additional load as many people open their online conferencing tools set to high resolution video transmission (a bandwidth eater), and not turning off their video feed when it isn't required or at least turning down the video resolution. However, there are also data transfers happening that you are likely not aware of, which open you to identity theft, sale of your personal information and other undesirable outcomes. Think about what these applications are doing, and how they make their money. As I have been known to say of online tools, "if you aren't paying for the product, you are the product". Just be aware. Personally, while I have old accounts on Facebook and Twitter, I don't use them because neither will adhere to their own policies when profit is on the line.

This particular story is about Zoom feeding data to Facebook even if you don't have Facebook account, but you knew they were doing that, right? No? Perhaps that's because Zoom doesn't tell you that in their privacy policy.
If you care, the data 'leak' continues until you update to the latest version of Zoom. Or you could uninstall it (you can join a Zoom meeting with just your Internet browser), or just stop using it, and stop them sending even the reduced amount of information to Facebook. Bad behaviour needs to be discouraged.

The economy is a web, but over the past couple of decades we have made it less and less resilient in the name of 'efficiency' (which in my experience is big business code for increased profits). But, while we have embraced a lot of automation for many reasons, we still need people to harvest food, preserve it, move it, put it on shelves or into delivery bags, boxes and bins. It's the same for manufacturing our non-food consumables (yes, even the new consumer holy grail of toilet paper), and medicine and durable goods. A couple of take-aways which have crossed my mind for when we come out the other side of this are to ensure we have more sources for production of emergency supplies, more flexible production facilities, and shorter, less vulnerable supply lines.

I understand the concept of comparative advantage - even at the country level.
However, we need to take into account more than just sticker price. Resilience in our economy also has value. So does creating income within the local economy, including jobs where there is less than full employment. There is value in shortening supply lines - from raw materials to production to end markets - and reducing associated vulnerabilities. We need to incorporate those ideas into our purchasing decision systems. To the extent that we continue to subsidize fossil fuels, if we want a survivable planet a few years from now, we need to take that into account as well as we rethink our altered economy. (Does it really make sense for Canadian taxpayers to subsidize oil production so that the worst petrofuels are used to move raw materials to low-wage countries to do assembly and then move finished products back across oceans where the nominal savings are less than the subsidies?) The automakers may not want or need a month's worth of steering wheels at each assembly plant, but perhaps we should be thinking about how much inventory we are prepared to keep at hand for things like soap. This pandemic is a perilous and undesired event, but given it is happening, let's not lose sight of the teachable moments we encounter.

Stay well, stay safe, stay sane, and STAY HOME.

March 30, 2020


Warning: these posts are for 'adults'; people with the ability to think for themselves, take responsibility for their actions, and prepared to work for the greater good. If that isn't you, remember to wash your hands and face with soap regularly and don't touch anything. Stay home. The Internet has plenty of content to entertain you.

Don't spread disinformation. Don't spread germs. So far in Canada, the disinformation is the more dangerous of the two.

Many of us are still adjusting to the new abnormal. The 'rules' keep changing, and we keep learning more about the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and why it is so transmissible. Just managing our day-to-day seems overwhelming, let alone thinking about what comes next.

One thing that doesn't appear to be changing is a small number of people endangering others. The best analogy I can come up with is drunk driving. However, that isn't strong enough to reflect the damage that this virus can do. A drunk driver may harm or kill others in a single event. With COVID-19, the original carrier can spawn a chain reaction of subsequent events going on for months and infecting dozens or hundreds of people. So long as we have the risk behaviours evident, we will also need to keep reinforcing the message for acting responsibly. Perhaps via song.
(Warning: coarse language) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsHRvaYCJ7E&feature=youtu.be

The provincial premiers are moving to other methods to convey the message.

Until we have succeeded in flattening the curve (or suffered the consequences of not having done so), it is hard to plan in any detail how move forward individually or as a society. For now, for most of us, one day at a time, keep yourself and those close to you healthy, and within that constraint do what you can to help others. For many, a friendly voice on the phone and social contact means a lot just now. Self-isolation is a grind, but feeling isolated is devastating. Not all of us have computers and high speed Internet or are comfortable with them.

If you are one who is looking forward to one or more of the new government spending programs to make up for income lost due to COVID-19, this plain-language document from a Carleton University professor might help. (Another example of each of us doing what we can).
This content has been adapted from information compiled and published freely by Dr. Jennifer Robson, Associate Professor of Political Management at Carleton University. Dr. Robson is not affiliated with this website or its publishers.

A bit more on caremongering to help us get through.

There will be many more changes coming. For one, the gig economy is going to look a lot less attractive after this. It was survivable when there was some predictability to work being doled out irregularly by the big economic players. But that paradigm is over and I don't expect major private sector hiring sprees when things stabilize (well, outside the fraudsters anyway). Keep your guard up.

Stay well, stay safe, stay sane (think about something else) and yes, still, STAY HOME.

March 29, 2020


Warning: these posts are for 'adults'; people with the ability to think for themselves, take responsibility for their actions, and prepared to work for the greater good. If that isn't you, remember to wash your hands and face with soap regularly and don't touch anything. Stay home. The Internet has plenty of content to entertain you.

Don't spread disinformation. Don't spread germs. So far in Canada, the disinformation is the more dangerous of the two.

Don't let your guard down when it comes to protecting your computer. Those risks are multiplying, too.

This video is getting some good mentions. Good practices on food handling from an MD who has skin in the game.

Canada pushed past 5,600 confirmed cases in yesterday's data (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_coronavirus_pandemic_in_Canada). The increase in reported cases on March 27 looks like a plateauing in the numbers. I would caution against believing this. Some provinces appear to underreport on weekends, so wait until Tuesday to see a better picture of the trending. We have backlogs of tests to be processed. We still have residents returning home from other countries, especially the U.S. The death rate seems to be staying near 1% of confirmed cases, which may be the result of people seeking testing and treatment earlier in Canada than in other countries, and a health-care system which seems to be keeping up with the number of cases being diagnosed.

If there are seniors in your life, this article may be of interest.

Loneliness and despair can be issues for many during the anxiety caused by the pandemic and isolation. This article offers some background and suggestions.

Our household has been in self-isolation for 2 weeks as of yesterday; a bit longer for my wife and I. Exceptions to the isolation practice are my wife going into work (pharmacies are deemed essential services) and minimized trips for groceries and the ATM. None of us have any symptoms of COVID-19 (some stress, yes).

Last night I went out long enough to pick up a take-out order (ordered in advance to reduce loiter time), and to provide some revenue and employment to a local business I would like to frequent again in the future. I thought I would enjoy the drive and time out of the house. I did not. The level of stupid and anti-social behaviour astonished me. I won't bother here with details. My appreciation to the restaurant counter staff. Fortunately, dinner was delicious and a welcome change from my cooking.

Apparently the boorish behaviour is still being practised in numbers, and not just where I live. Here's the text from an address from the Queen of Denmark.

Data points: One statistic I am not yet seeing elsewhere is the ratio of confirmed cases to tests completed. I crunched some of those numbers. For Canada as a whole, just under 3%. For NL, over 6%. For QC, almost 5%. For NS and ON just above 2.5%. BC about 2.25%, and the rest below 2%.

Data points: It appears the Ontario not-a-lockdown is making its presence visible in electricity demand numbers. According to Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) data (http://www.ieso.ca/Power-Data), peak demand on Monday March 23rd (the first weekday after the March school break) was 16.975 GW. Peak demand on Friday March 27th (4 days later, but still a weekday) was 15.254 GW. That's a drop of about 1.7 GW, or about 10% - in 4 days! More telling is the drop in overall market demand for Ontario, which includes exports during the same 4 days. From 19.424 to 16.745 GW, about a 14% drop.

Neil Diamond has revised-for-the-times his classic song, Sweet Caroline.

Stay well, stay safe, stay sane, and yes, still, STAY HOME.

March 28, 2020


Warning: these posts are for 'adults'; people with the ability to think for themselves, take responsibility for their actions, and prepared to work for the greater good. If that isn't you, remember to wash your hands and face with soap regularly and don't touch anything. Stay home. The Internet has plenty of content to entertain you.

Don't spread disinformation. Don't spread germs. So far in Canada, the disinformation is the more dangerous of the two.

There are no known, tested safe, cures for COVID-19 today.

That's according to medical and health expert practitioners and researchers. If there was a credible treatment, don't you think that front-line medical professionals would be using it to protect themselves?

Look at what they're actually doing. They're trying to practice physical distancing in activities where it clearly can't be employed, and using personal protective equipment (PPE) as a barrier where space doesn't permit physical distancing.

Tea will not provide you with immunity from the SAR-COV-2 / COVID-19 coronavirus. That claim is potentially harmful disinformation.

Bad information is going to harm people, possibly kill them. But it's still circulating.

There is something that works to slow the spread of the virus:
breaking the transmission chain.

Physical distancing, isolation, staying home, disinfecting touched surfaces and washing hands. I know, boring. But simple, cheap and effective. And when people won't do these things because they're the smart things to do, then we have lockdowns, which has worked in China. We really want to learn from their horrific experience on this, not repeat it.
(If you're looking for more good news, don't look closely at the lines on the graph for Washington State, Ontario or Alberta.)

As of last night's data, Canada is now tracking to Italy's experience for the number of reported cases by Day 15 since first reported in-country case. ( https://rheuminfo.com/blog/covid-19-daily-update-will-mutations-make-it-more-difficult-to-develop-vaccines/)

Why surgical masks don't really help (the way most people are using them)

I have done research on microplastics down to the micron level, including using fabric filters. A surgical mask is a fabric filter. Common fabrics will not stop a sub-micron sized virus. Surgical masks don't get well fitted to your face, so air (and viruses) can get around the edges and to your mouth and nose. Surgical masks don't cover your eyes. So, if you are using a surgical mask with the expectation it is protecting you from infection, you are creating a false sense of security for yourself.


I see that there are groups of people talking about making simple 'surgical' masks as a BACK-UP for hospitals in the U.S.

Local hospitals are busy, so they're using their communications channels to tell us what they want us to know and do. This past week, for this blog entry, I emailed (one per day) with some specific questions, and got no responses from multiple local hospitals. On Friday afternoon (March 27, 2020) I visited the website for The Ottawa Hospital (https://www.ottawahospital.on.ca/), then their COVID-19 page, then their volunteers page. None of those pages mention any desire for donations of materials (including masks or face shields) from the public. I did the same for the Queensway-Carleton Hospital (https://www.qch.on.ca/home), the Winchester District Memorial Hospital (http://www.wdmh.on.ca/), and the Almonte General Hospital (http://www.almontegeneral.com/). No mention of seeking donations of PPE from the public.

There are staff at Toronto hospitals calling out a shortage of PPE in media reports. This news article names two Toronto, Ontario hospitals which are rationing surgical masks (not even the more expensive N95 masks): Markham Stouffville and Mount Sinai.
I visited their websites (https://www.msh.on.ca/ and https://www.mountsinai.on.ca/). No mention of seeking masks from the public, even at hospitals reported to be rationing surgical masks for their staff.

Why would a hospital which is rationing surgical masks for its staff - knowing that there are campaigns on the Internet encouraging people to sew and donate masks to hospitals made according to patterns being provided online - not be seeking those free donations?

Let me posit a few thoughts on that. Suppose a hospital were to receive a small quantity of home-made surgical masks. The masks would have to be laundered by the hospital and put in sterile packaging onsite before use because:
• the fabric source is unknown,
• the people making them or delivering them might be infected (remember from my post a few days ago - you don't know if you're contagious),
• unsuitable fabrics might be used,
• fabric might have allergenic properties,
• possible previous use of the fabric (e.g. exposure to non-water-soluble chemicals),
• no quality control,
• mask might be too small or loose to be effective,
• a receiving function would have to be set up during a no-visitors regime,
• additional storage space requirements for a last-resort-use item.
That list is undoubtedly incomplete. In short, home-made surgical masks may be more trouble for a staff-constrained hospital than they are worth, particularly for something they hope they won't have to use.

Here's my take: if health providers need people to donate masks, they'll let us know. They have lists of contacts. They can reach out to local and provincial governments. They can reach out via local media. They can announce on their own website, providing all the details you need to know in order to help them. They have done none of that.

I also reached out to a couple of local non-hospital health service provider organizations in the Ottawa area. They indicated they had the materials they need for now.

I did finally find one hospital in Canada that indicates they want donations of PPE.
This is what is says on that site:
"To meet the critical demand we are calling on anyone with unopened PPE that has not expired to donate."
That doesn't include home-made surgical masks.

Another piece on home-made surgical masks for today.

I know you want to do something to help. The front-line workers have told us repeatedly what you can do to help them.
Stay home. Don't become a patient.

Think about how medical professionals use these masks when sufficient are available. In the ER or ICU, one per encounter, then it is put into a special containment hamper for intense laundering or disposal. That's not how most non-medical-professionals are using them. Instead, they are putting a possibly infected mask back on and wearing it for many hours at a time.

According to medical professionals, there is one 'civilian' population who could benefit from wearing a surgical mask: people who are symptomatic and likely contagious. If this is your case, if you have a mask, by all means wear it to reduce your potential for spreading the virus, and then stay home! Change and launder your masks (plural) frequently.

My current advice: if you want to make surgical masks for a health provider, FIRST, check their website to ensure they are prepared to receive the item(s), and see if they have instructions on how they prefer the item to be made, the material to be used, how it is to be packaged and delivered. Don't phone them. Don't email them. Just get the information from their existing communications channels and follow the instructions.

If you still want to make these masks for yourself, family or friends, there are patterns and instructions on the Internet. I won't point you to any because I have no idea how valid any specific pattern or instruction set is.

Stay well, stay safe, stay sane (think about something else) and yes, still, STAY HOME.

Have I mentioned "stay home"?

March 27, 2020


Warning: these posts are for 'adults'; people with the ability to think for themselves, take responsibility for their actions, and prepared to work for the greater good. If that isn't you, remember to wash your hands and face with soap regularly and don't touch anything. Stay home. The Internet has plenty of content to entertain you.

Don't spread disinformation. Don't spread germs. So far in Canada, the disinformation is the more dangerous of the two.

An intentional disinformation story for today. The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has a list of COVID-19-related fraud operations. This is on top of all the old fraud ploys already in play, some f which are being tweaked to invoke COVID-19 anxiety. As a lot of people are in acute financial distress already due to loss of employment income, we really don't need these parasites in operation. You can view the list here.

Just a couple of examples of reported scams on their list (many more shown on the webpage):
Fraudsters are posing as:
  Cleaning or heating companies
  offering duct cleaning services or air filters to protect from COVID-19
  Public Health Agency of Canada
  giving false results saying you have been tested positive for COVID-19 tricking you into confirming your health card and credit card numbers for a prescription
  Private companies
  offering fast COVID-19 tests for sale

Please note only health care providers can perform the tests in Canada.
No other tests are genuine or guaranteed to provide accurate results selling fraudulent products that claim to treat or prevent the disease. Unapproved drugs threaten public health and violate federal laws.

Disinformation about how to make hand sanitizer at home is circulating. What's the objective here? To make people more susceptible to catching the virus by getting them to use something ineffective or harmful?

When something that is untrue, ineffective or potentially harmful is being shared as 'helpful', it's not helpful. Please be careful what information you pass along. Hospitals are busy. We don't need to send them more patients.

How bad is the disinformation deluge? "Overwhelming" says Snopes. Unfortunate. Snopes is one of my goto sources on hoaxes, scams and other Internet chicanery.

I can empathize with the 'overwhelming' part.

See how physical distancing and staying home interventions measures can flatten the curve by extending the duration of those measures.

I'm going to quote some of that article here:
Dr. Larry Brilliant, an epidemiologist who is a veteran of the eradication of smallpox and is now the chairman of an organization called Ending Pandemics, warned that if Trump sends everyone back to work by Easter, “I think history would judge it an error of epic proportions.”

Brilliant said that the entire country probably does not need to be shut down, but that we need widespread testing to determine which areas are at risk and which are not. We also desperately need blood testing to determine who has had the disease and is now immune.

If Covid-19 is as fearsome as some believe, our model suggests a grim possibility: It may be that the only way to control it sustainably is with an economic pause too long to be politically sustainable. In that case, we may be headed for a year of alternating periods of easing and tightening economic activity, with the pandemic rising whenever we ease and subsiding whenever we tighten.

Dr. David N. Fisman, a University of Toronto epidemiologist who helped us build this model, suggests that for the next year we may have to tighten social distancing whenever I.C.U. capacity is stretched, and then loosen it when the situation improves. “This gives the economy and the population ‘breaks’ so that people can breathe and businesses can operate,” Fisman said.

Good data is important for good decision-making, such as suggested above. This next U.S. story suggests that's not what is what is being produced in the U.S. I'm not even in the U.S., and this item frightens me, especially in light of a federal administration which appears determined to lift isolation and quarantine orders before April 12th. Lower reported counts than reality could be used to support a really bad decision.

If you are watching the curves of reported cases per million population from the first reported case per country, Canada is tracking between Spain and Italy at 14 days. (https://rheuminfo.com/blog/covid-19-daily-update-when-will-we-get-back-to-normal/) As a country, we can't get complacent about this. With Ontario catching up on their testing backlog and so many people having returned from outside the country - notably the U.S. - in the past week, the numbers are going to get worse.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada, and related deaths, do continue to rise in Canada. It's tough to take day after day. However, it's what we need to expect for at least another 10 days or more, assuming the vast majority of us have now received and understood the messaging, and are going to act accordingly for the best for all of us. I'm not going to list those numbers here; they'll be out of date within an hour. If you need to know, that data can be found here:

Speaking of data, flatten.ca has been created by UofT Engineering students to create a heat map using crowd-sourced data. It takes about 20 seconds to fill in the data survey and proceed to the map. Not for decision-making use.

The public really needs our political leaders to provide a consistent and accurate story. I recognize things are changing quickly, but that's precisely why people are seeking reassurance. There are lots of layers of government and agencies, and plenty of politicians stepping in front of cameras and microphones. We need to hear a relatively consistent message (to the extent it is true) from the various levels. We need the words and actions of elected leaders to align with that consistent messaging. A lot of them on the Canadian stage (where I'm watching the most) are doing quite well. Where people (and journalists as our proxies) see daylight between concurrent messages, that's what can raise anxiety levels and potentially panic. If your message is that we can manage virus spread with physical distancing and isolation, and that the situation is not dire, don't show up for a photo-op with an N95 mask - especially when your front-line health workers are reporting they can't get them. (I wouldn't normally post an item from Reddit, but this is a perception issue rather than a fact issue. View the comments. I accept no responsibility for the content there.)

Closing out today with some additional content on cleaning surfaces outside the car or home (those two covered yesterday).

Stay well, stay safe, stay sane, stay home.

March 26, 2020


Warning: these posts are for 'adults'; people with the ability to think for themselves, take responsibility for their actions, and prepared to work for the greater good. If that isn't you, remember to wash your hands and face with soap regularly and don't touch anything. Stay home. The Internet has plenty of content to entertain you.

Don't spread disinformation. Don't spread germs. So far in Canada, the disinformation is the more dangerous of the two.

It is alarming to me that two of the major cluster spreads of confirmed COVID-19 in Canada were primarily about health care professionals.
(the video in the article above triggered my anti-virus software, but the text conveys the desired message)

I think it speaks to why we're having so much trouble convincing people - especially those not yet personally affected - to feel it's OK to ignore warnings about how bad this could be. Perhaps the fines and arrests will work where good advice has not.

I hope we also come to understand the consequences of these mis-steps, and universally step up now to reduce harm to come. It's tough, because the dumb done today won't be known for weeks.

The numbers in Canada are going to continue to get worse. We did not jump on physical distancing and self-isolation as quickly as we could have. Real lockdowns started just over 24 hours ago. It's going to take 2-3 weeks to see the results of getting serious about breaking the transmission chain. It's going to get worse before it gets better. That's what we should expect for now. If we smarten up, it will get better, in weeks, not days.

Let's get back to what you can do to protect yourself and break the transmission chain.

Cleaning hard surfaces

Use a cleanser or disinfectant which is effective against viruses, not just bacteria.

The U.S. EPA has released a list of products (287 of them) for use against SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19.

Health Canada's list has 133 products.

Vinegar (acetic acid) is not on the lists. (Peroxyacetic acid does appear on the U.S. EPA list.)

I like organic cleaning products as a rule, but for this situation, I'm going with the commercial products that experts declare will kill coronaviruses. No matter what you are reading on 'social media', don't rely on vinegar to disinfect for COVID-19.

Focus your efforts on the surfaces that people will touch. Door handles, knobs, light switches, appliances, taps, faucets, work and cooking surfaces, garbage can lids, rims and handles, toilet seats, lids, flush controls. Frequently handled containers like milk jug handles. Scissors, can openers - you get the idea.

CDC on cleaning and disinfection
Good Housekeeping article on cleaning for coronavirus
National Public Radio on coronvirus and dealing with it

In the car, door handles (outside and inside) steering wheel, seat belt buckles, rear-view mirror and seat adjustment controls if you have multiple drivers, switches and controls including display screens - in short, whatever you're going to touch.

Doing laundry

A conventional washing machine using a conventional soap detergent will kill coronaviruses.
A conventional clothes dryer will likely make the contents hot enough to kill coronaviruses.
If you are using a washing machine and heating clothes dryer, you're getting 2 shots at killing any viruses present.

If you are washing by hand, it is the soap which will be effective against the coronavirus. Water drawn from a household hot water tap is not hot enough to kill the coronavirus. If you choose to heat water (such as on a stove) to get the water hot enough to kill the coronavirus, you are risking burn and scald injuries. Please, don't do that. Let the soap do the work to eliminate the viruses.

While there is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on health care system capacity and is harming the health of tens of thousands, the lockdowns in various areas are having beneficial effects on atmospheric CO2 levels.
Note the change in the red line in the graph on the left. The trend shape from 2019 to 2020 is changing, downward. While this is an unplanned experiment, like we experienced in world air quality in the 3 days beginning on September 11, 2001, this provides an indication of what is possible if we were to seriously address our use of fossil fuels for transportation.

We are also seeing improvements in air and environmental quality.
Compare the U.S. government air quality maps for
December 2019
and March 2020

These changes are likely to reduce respiratory illness if we could maintain them after we start ramping up economic activity again in a matter of months. Which of the changes we're making now could be preserved for later? More days working from home or attending classes remotely requiring few trips in vehicles and possibly even reducing the need for fossil-fuel powered public transit? Could we be convinced to make investments to improve the energy efficiency and indoor air quality of our homes if we're going to spend more time there? As individuals, can we learn to improve our trip-chaining habits to reduce the distance we drive, possibly earning lower insurance premiums?

Things are a mess right now, and we're still on the upswing on the numbers of COVID-19 cases being confirmed and related deaths reported. However, while many of us are idled by quarantine, self-isolation and work-from-home / stay-home directives, it gives us the opportunity to pause and consider what we could do differently in the future for our overall benefit.

Stay well, stay safe, STAY HOME.

March 25, 2020


Warning: these posts are for 'adults'; people with the ability to think for themselves, take responsibility for their actions, and prepared to work for the greater good. If that isn't you, remember to wash your hands and face with soap regularly and don't touch anything. Stay home. The Internet has plenty of content to entertain you.

Don't spread disinformation. Don't spread germs. So far in Canada, the disinformation is the more dangerous of the two.

New term for me: infodemic. It's bad news that this is even a word. I would be inclined to call it 'disinfodemic'. Getting a lot of good information isn't nearly the problem that getting a lot of bad information creates. Here's an example:

If you are using 'social media' as a news source on COVID-19, you will be misled. It's intentional.

Canada, if you understand data, take 7 minutes and look at this video by Dr. Andy Thompson.
We are doubling our number of confirmed cases about every 3 days, but it appears we're accelerating (2 days in last update). Our rate of deaths is doubling in 3 days.

Break the transmission chain! STAY HOME! Do physical distancing. Canada went into lockdown too late, so this is going to be hard. We may end up in somewhat better shape than the U.S., but that's not the case we want to compare to, and the proximity isn't good news for us. In some charts, Canada looks better than it is because we have a relatively small population, and we were later than other countries getting our initial cases within the country. Understand the data, don't be fooled by one graph.

Protecting yourself from the COVID-19 pandemic

It's about preventing transmission of, and contact with, the virus. It survives on surfaces from hours to days. We need to clean (disinfect) the transmission path: respiratory droplets, surfaces holding the live virus, our hands, touching our face because the eyes, nose and mouth are the entry points. I have already covered physical distancing and hand washing. Today let's talk about two topics: using gloves; and, washing dishes.

Why disposable gloves don't help much (the way most people are using them)

Gloves present a 'hard' surface over your hands. That means the virus will likely survive on the gloves for a significant period of time. So, if you are wearing gloves which touch a contaminated surface and then touch your face, the gloves did not protect you at all. The face (eyes, nose, mouth) is the key entry point for the virus, not the skin on your hands or fingertips.

For gloves to help you break the transmission chain, you have to take them off and throw them away (as potentially contaminated material) on a frequent basis. For a health care worker, that means before approaching another patient or colleague. That's a lot of gloves. And health care workers who are on the front line should have all the gloves (and other PPE) they need.

You probably don't need gloves for this at home or in non-health facilities. If your concern is transmission from a potentially contaminated surface (like a bank ATM), don't rely on gloves - clean the surface (before you touch it). That way, everyone coming in contact is getting some protection.

There's another issue with non-medical people using gloves extensively: a false sense of security. Remember, touching a contaminated surface with a glove and then touching your face (which we all do) with that glove still potentially transmits the virus. In that situation, the glove isn't helping you.

In summary, if you're largely staying at home and only going out for necessities and controlled access locations (e.g. work in a non-customer-facing scenario), gloves are likely not helping you and they will become a waste issue which should be treated as potentially contaminated waste.
2-minute video "Why gloves won't do much to protect you from COVID-19"

Washing dishes

A dishwasher with a working heating element in it will typically reach an internal temperature of 140 degrees F or 60 C, which is enough to kill coronaviruses with a few minutes of exposure during the wash cycle. Hotter on heat-dry or sanitizer cycles. Soap also kills coronaviruses (see hand washing in a previous post).

If you are washing dishes by hand, the water temperature from the hot water tap is not enough (typically limited to 120 F or 49 C) to kill coronaviruses alone. Most people can't manage working with water that hot. So you'll be relying on the dish soap to do the job, and it CAN do that job. If feasible, stand dishes to drain and air dry.

I don't need to tell you to wash your hands thoroughly before putting the clean dishes away, taking them from the drain tray or dishwasher, right?

Self-assessment tools (online)

Yesterday, Ontario introduced its online COVID-19 self-assessment tool. If you have symptoms and are at all concerned you might have the virus, you can give it a try. (Ontario is still warning about heavy call volumes and long delays getting through to a human at Telehealth Ontario.)

Alberta has a similar tool in place.

In the rest of Canada, you can use the Canadian government tool.
https://ca.thrive.health/covid19/en (also available in French)

If you think you may have the virus, you need to talk to a local health care professional. Telephone wait times are long. Have a list of your recent contacts ready. If you have been doing risky behaviours, be honest about it - they aren't there to judge you, just to help you and all of us.

I suspect the biggest risk we're facing today on the COVID-19 front are the people who make up the 30% in this story:

If you are looking for information on progress on treatments, MIT looks like a good source:
Spoiler: there is no silver bullet, but people are working on the problem.

A Canadian story: Study into potential coronavirus treatment starts testing in Canada

(I won't be relaying all such items, as I'm not qualified to sort valid from hokum in this area. This time is mostly about showing things are happening, even in Canada.)

It you are looking to understand the COVID-19 outbreak in depth, you might take this online course from Imperial College (London) via Coursera which became available yesterday:

Personal opinion on local health/economic measures (skip the rest if your economic well-being is not of interest to you). I am hearing that the hotel/motel industry is taking a beating as tourism and business travel are going to zero. I am also hearing that shelters for the homeless are not set up to provide physical distancing, and homeless not using shelters are clustering and therefore not providing physical distancing for themselves.

Is it feasible for near-empty motels and hotels - on a strictly voluntary basis - to take in some of these people and be paid (on long-term rates) to house them as a health measure funded by some of the emergency measures money being released by governments now to help flatten the curve?

It will be less expensive to house these people before they are infected for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreaks than to let them get infected and end up in hospitals. It's about prevention. This would allow those businesses to start ramping up activity again, bring back workers who will start getting paid again (and feel they are contributing instead of being cooped up at home).

I see this as a temporary measure, which would be ramped down as the COVID-19 active cases have subsided, emergency restrictions are being lifted, and there is some return to what we thought of as normal economic activity a month ago.

Stay well, stay safe, STAY HOME.

March 24, 2020


Warning: these posts are for 'adults'; people with the ability to think for themselves, take responsibility for their actions, and prepared to work for the greater good. If that isn't you, remember to wash your hands and face with soap regularly and don't touch anything. Otherwise, the Internet has plenty of content to entertain you.

Don't spread disinformation. Don't spread germs. So far in Canada, the disinformation is the more dangerous of the two, along with inconsistent messaging. Here's an item on disinformation.

More of us are going to be spending more time at home. Here's some advice on that.

An Astronaut's Guide to Self Isolation
https://youtu.be/4uL5sqe5Uk8 (2 minute video)
By Chris Hadfield

This is the person who I remember keenly for this quote:
"What's the next thing that's going to kill me?"
Seems way too spot-on right now for comfort.

From another astronaut.
I Spent a Year in Space, and I Have Tips on Isolation to Share
Take it from someone who couldn’t: Go outside.
By Scott Kelly

Data point: about 3% of the Canadian population re-entered the country in the past 2 weeks - the incubation period for COVID-19 virus - and more are coming.

Data point: Ontario goes into lockdown tonight at midnight. Let's hope this is early enough, and strict enough. There will be more announcements like this in days to come.

You don't know if you're contagious. People can carry the virus and not show symptoms. (We're learning, the original thought discounted this.)


Think about what that means for virus transmission.

It means, ACT as though you ARE contagious when you do have to go out (e.g. for groceries, to get some fresh air and sun, to to work, etc. AND act as though EVERYONE you meet is also contagious.

Repeat: YOU DON'T KNOW if you're contagious.

Even you you have been tested and the result is negative, that's only true for that point in time. You could have been exposed and caught the virus since the test. It survives on surfaces. Have you touched a surface since you were tested? If so, you could have contracted the virus since your swab was taken.

To sum up: YOU DON'T KNOW if you're contagious. Act accordingly.

We need to flatten the curve because we don't have enough hospital beds, enough medical staff, enough test kits, enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line health workers to deal with a full-on wave of COVID-19 cases. You don't want to be one who needs urgent care after the health system has been overwhelmed. Keeping infection levels low and over an extended period is the solution at hand for now. Do your part.

Right now, stupid can kill you and others. If we don't smarten up - today - we will end up using police and military to enforce isolation and physical distancing, a really poor use of resources we may need for other local emergencies.

Yesterday, there were 2 times I could not make an outgoing telephone call - "all circuits are busy". This is how we reach emergency services, so this overloading of our data networks is a problem. People are going to be more dependent on their digital connections as we're staying home from school and work, keeping up with the news, working from home and checking in with friends and loved ones as a way of combating depression and ensuring others are safe and managing OK. So, try to move heavy bandwidth use outside of 'business hours'; turn off the video on your Internet calls once the connection is made; use plain-text emails and low-res graphics. In short, bandwidth has become a scarce resource for now - play nice.

The rest of today's posting is about economic vs. direct health actions. My opinion, as I'm not taking the time to provide citations and references for this today. Feel free to skip the rest of this post if you're not interested in your own near-term financial well-being.

Regarding government economic interventions related to COVID-19 response: our tax dollars should not be used to support businesses. Any businesses. I run a small business. I don't think it is appropriate that my business should be supported by tax dollar hand-outs at this time; society has higher priorities right now. Businesses don't catch the COVID-19 virus, get sickened by it, or possibly die from it. Those are the consequences for humans.

If we're going to provide financial support from tax dollars EFFECTIVELY related to COVID-19 health impacts, it has to be directly to people, and to the systems that support them directly. Safe air to breathe, safe water to drink, safe food to eat, protection from disease (including education and self-management measures), acute health care as needed, follow-up care. This action needs to be universal, and reach everyone possible, as fast as possible. To paraphrase a current leadership health action meme, it's better to overreact now than suffer the consequences later. (If you are one of the rich who really can't make good use of this money, I suggest you find your local food bank or charitable foundation funding your local hospital or another charitable home nd community care organization, and donate this amount - or more - to them.)

If you want to support businesses, do it with purchases of goods and services. That's how businesses work. People with funds will buy groceries, meals and basic consumables (yes, even toilet paper), pay rent, mortgages, car payments and utility bills. However, they don't need a new oil pipeline right now. They may need ventilators, vaccines, medication, home-based support, hospital beds and medical workers, and government can (and appear to) be investing in those now by encouraging businesses to adapt to changing needs. Isn't that what the private sector talking heads keep telling us? That the private sector is nimble and can react quickly to change? I say, let them do that so we can react quickly to the current situation. That can include small, local businesses, not just big multi-nationals.

While we're at using tax dollars to encourage businesses to provide the goods and services we need at this critical time, let's also encourage them (a little) to start the shift to more resilient and sustainable sources and practices so we're in better shape for the next time. There will be a next time.

Stay well, stay safe, STAY HOME.

March 23, 2020


Warning: these posts are for 'adults'; people with the ability to think for themselves, take responsibility for their actions, and prepared to work for the greater good. If that isn't you, remember to wash your hands and face with soap regularly and don't touch anything. Otherwise, the Internet has plenty of content to entertain you.

Please stop spreading disinformation. When you encounter it, please ask others to stop spreading disinformation. OK, that's out of the way for today. Now we can shift to stop spreading germs, and if you encounter others spreading germs, ask them to stop. Remember physical distancing.

Some good information (not the same as good news) from a Canadian perspective. Near daily updates from Dr. Andy Thompson, a practising rheumatologist and Associate Professor of Medicine at Western University in London, Ontario.

If you had not guessed, I like data, analysis and evidence. I like the videos being produced here.

The March 20th edition is here:
Take 5 minutes and learn a bit more about what we're up against.

The March 21st edition is here:
6 minutes to see recent data and understand why 'flatten the curve' is important.

The March 22nd edition is here:
6 minutes to see recent data and learn how to stop COVID-19 (before it stops you)

It looks like we're making progress in Canada as of yesterday. But don't get cocky. Whatever success we're having is because of our dramatic approach to physical distancing, reducing unnecessary contact and reducing the rate of transmission. Canada is not in lockdown. But we need to act as though we are.

If you are one of those thinking you're invincible and don't need to observe the recommended restrictions, get over yourself. The next 2 to 3 weeks will be telling as many who travelled outside the country recently are returning.

Suppose surviving COVID-19 was a video game. This game is "Don't Die of COVID-19". Basic instructions: understand your opponent; block their attacks; kill them in multitudes at every opportunity; protect yourself and your team members. You get points for protecting and saving others. This is different from a video game in one vital regard: you don't get an extra life. If you die, it's for real, you lose, game over.

Do you know how to block the virus attacks? How does the virus breach your defences? Through your eyes, nose, mouth (the mucous membranes). Your hands transfer virus from others and surfaces to your face, and your face is where your mouth, nose and eyes are.

Do you know why hand-washing is effective? Because SOAP kills viruses. It doesn't matter what the temperature of the water is: cold, warm, hot. Any temperature you can bear will not kill the virus. Soap will.

Do you know when and how to wash your hands? Most people don't. Here's a video (7 minutes).
It seems simple, but it's important. Like the expert says for emphasis:
Wash your hands, wash your face, don't touch anything.
And use soap.

It's a thing you can do, and it will help you and others.

March 22, 2020


Warning: these posts are for 'adults'; people with the ability to think for themselves, take responsibility for their actions, and prepared to work for the greater good. If that isn't you, the Internet has plenty of content to entertain you.

The government of Canada is learning as it moves forward on the COVID-19 situation. Friday night it 'closed' the border - including irregular crossings - to those who are not citizens or permanent residents. Experts have said that this won't make much difference in the long run, but it could buy a few days or even weeks in terms of delaying the peak in people suffering the worst from this virus, and peak impacts on our health care 'system'.

Frankly, given the news I'm seeing from the U.S., it's hard not to agree with the measure, though I hope it is short-lived and we will get back into observing international law again quickly. The government is still taking measures to ensure things can still cross the border, like food, medical supplies and equipment and other basic needs.

Earlier in this series, I worried about the impact of keeping out temporary foreign workers on our domestic food supply in months to come. The government has adjusted for that now, and for foreign students studying in Canada.

Now they have addressed those issues, my next concern for the temporary foreign workers - especially in the agriculture sector - is they have typically been housed in a way which does not accommodate physical distancing between individuals. I hope there will be a plan in place to address that before the workers actually start to arrive.

It's somewhat comforting to see that officials are prepared to shift to more dramatic measures as evidence mounts to support action. That wasn't the case just over a week ago across Canada.

It is also heartening that people and organizations are trying to help. While I recognize there are likely issues with the data presented at https://healthweather.us/, it is useful that they are trying to flush out the difference between 'normal' and what is being reported currently. I would draw your attention to the Florida area on the map.

This concerns me as a lot of Ontarians on March school break head to Florida for that particular week. This year, that extended week runs from March 13th (the Friday preceding) to today (March 22nd).

Unfortunately, the Ontario Premier said on March 12 - the last day before the vacation exodus began - 'to go away and have a good time'.

That message did not align with the advice of the province's chief medical officer the day before, and announcements by at least 2 Ontario universities announcing they were closing down on-campus classes.

Some other people in positions of authority are also spreading disinformation, and it has potential for doing real harm. This is just one example.

I have a feeling I'm going to be asking people to stop spreading disinformation every day until this is over. Sigh. People with podiums need to stop spreading messages which do real harm. And so do the rest of us.

Update on Folding@Home. Amazing! People will pull together if there is even a modicum of leadership, and something positive to do.

There are a few countries that seem to have reacted quickly and are doing better than others.
Singapore (and a bit more on Taiwan)
South Korea

There are likely lessons to be learned from the above, both for our leadership and for us as individuals.

Stay safe, stay well, do what you can.

March 21, 2020


Warning: these posts are for 'adults'; people with the ability to think for themselves, take responsibility for their actions, and prepared to work for the greater good. If that isn't you, the Internet has plenty of content to entertain you.

Per Canada's Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland today on 'The House' re: COVID-19:
"It's going to get worse before it gets better."

She won't put a timeline on dealing with this problem (days, weeks, months). This is not a cause for panic; it's evidence the Canadian government is being reasonably open and honest about the situation, and admitting there are things we (globally) still don't know. The Canadian government recognizes this is a challenge, and is responding where it can (emergency funding, coordinating response across the country, acquiring supplies from international sources, communication, funding for individuals and businesses ...)

As for guaranteeing there will be enough medical staff, equipment and resources, let's be honest - the government can't do that - that's on US as individuals. Stop doing the high risk activities, work to 'plank' the curve as Dr. Theresa Tam said this week.

Let's make this simple. To paraphrase JFK, ask not what your government can do for you, ask what you can do for yourself, your family and your friends. From news reports I am seeing (and I'm not looking hard), it is clear that some people in Canada and the U.S. are not yet getting the message. It that keeps up, we're going to start diverting resources like police and military to enforcing general lockdowns instead of being available to support acute localized issues (like floods, power outages, etc. which will continue to happen).

Change in terminology request: Stop using 'social distancing'. Please start using 'physical distancing' and 'social closening'. It's a wired, wired world. We have had telephones for a hundred years, general access to the Internet for more than twenty and broadband Internet access for a decade. (However, you can improve Internet performance for the next while by turning off your video when doing Internet-based conferencing and shifting activities outside of core business times in the day when that is practical. Plain text email uses less bandwidth than HTML.)

A message from Costco to the hoarders and profiteers: you are not going to be able to return toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes. So, stop hoarding and just buy what you need for a couple of weeks at a time, when you need it. If you go to the Costco Canada website and search for 'toilet paper', note this text in the product listings:
"This item is not returnable."
It's likely that Costco might actually know their own return policy, so can we stop with the 'social media' posts that say this specific message is media alarmism? How hard was it to look that up and verify the fact? Took less than a minute.

Ever more nonsense is polluting the webiverse, and the noise is drowning out the useful signal.

Please, please sanitize your messaging to stop the propagation of disinformation the same way you are using hand sanitizer and washing your hands to stop the spread of the coronavirus. I am avoiding addressing the specific bad advice because there is simply too much to keep up with, and because somebody will find a way to misinterpret what I'm saying (DON'T) into an endorsement for a specific harmful product or practice. If you can't stop sending out unsubstantiated rumour-ware, it's time to step away from the keyboard.

For a general list of myths - including supposed cures - about the coronavirus, please consult the World Health Organization (WHO) site.

In particular note the entries for hand dryers and UV lamps which seem to be hitting critical disinformation mass in the last 24 hours.

There IS information on what measures can (and are) being taken to slow the spread of COVID-19. E.g. from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC):

And because apparently there are people who think WHO and PHAC are part of some giant international conspiracy theory, but everything on YouTube is 100% guaranteed to be true, here's a version for them. (Warning: does feature actual health / medical experts.)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGtRgPr-jH4 (10 minutes - from mid-February 2020)

To those of you sending me material to share and investigate, thank you. I see it as part of working together to try to defeat the beasts. I am looking forward to the day when these posts are no longer providing value.

Take care of yourself, and be supportive of others.

March 20, 2020


Warning: these posts are for 'adults'; people with the ability to think for themselves, take responsibility for their actions, and prepared to work for the greater good. If that isn't you, the Internet has plenty of content to entertain you.

One of the real values of self-isolation and social distancing is that it slows transmission of the virus. Early evidence indicated that there was little or no transmission of the virus by people not showing symptoms (asymptomatic). We're still learning. It appears that in some circumstances the virus can survive on hard surfaces for days, not just hours. And now it appears there can be transmission by people not showing symptoms, including children.


I won't be surprised if at some point we do look to mass-testing as part of the solution, but it's not a complete fix unless you can maintain this level of isolation (e.g. a town or city) indefinitely, and treat the people who do test positive. Don't underestimate the enormity of this task - testing almost 8 billion people, and some of them likely more than once.

And don't confuse identifying all carriers with having a cure, or administering it worldwide.

Let's be aware of our circumstances so we can learn from this world event in the weeks and months ahead. Look, think, remember and learn.

Disinformation continues to abound. Much of it can be dismissed readily (if only it were) based on the crazy content, lack of logical argument and references, or the source. However, when the 'reputable media' are filling space with agenda-driven nonsense, that faith in such sources erodes quickly and it's hard to get back later.

In a time where we may need to respond quickly and in large numbers, if we're doubting the information source, we will lose valuable reaction time validating the information before acting. Or not act at all. When we talk about the changes in the shift to 'the new normal', these are the kinds of things that concern me.

If you have time on your hands, consider looking at some 'alternative' news sources to get a broader and different perspective. It's really not a great idea to 'sole-source' your information feeds. One example I'm coming to like more and more, The Narwhal.
https://thenarwhal.ca/ I came across them in my researches related to climate change and energy (remember climate change, it seems so 'last-week' now). Anyway, here's a sample:

While I can't escape the amount of material which alleges how this virus was created, and was initially transmitted and hit both China and Italy hard early, I'm generally not going to pass that along, at least for now. Viruses mutated and spread through populations before we had genetic engineering or even real knowledge of selective breeding. Mutations happen in genetic reproduction. It seems likely that's the case here. In the short term, the focus needs to be on countermeasures. In the belief that we can learn from the experiences of others, I'm sharing this item on why Italy - and particularly northern Italy, was hit so hard.

The data we have so far shows that dramatic isolation measures are effective, and those places which delayed such measures are suffering harsher consequences.

Here's another summary of the situation from the Honest Government ad series from The Juice Media hailing from Australia. Apologies in advance if anyone thinks I'm taking this topic lightly. I'm not.
Warning: language (normal for Aussies) and political content

Make no mistake. The incubation period for this virus is about 2 weeks. So the dramatic measures we started taking earlier this week in much (but not all) of Canada are not going to stem the rate of discovered and reported infections in the next couple of days. The numbers are going to get worse for at least another week and a half. Plus we're doing more testing, so we're going to find more positive test results. The numbers are going to go up in the short term. That's not a cause for panic; it's what we should EXPECT.

Take care of yourself, and be supportive of others.

March 19, 2020


Warning: these posts are for 'adults'; people with the ability to think for themselves, take responsibility for their actions, and prepared to work for the greater good. If that isn't you, the Internet has plenty of content to entertain you.

Here's one of the best, most complete and succinct lists of individual actions on COVID-19 countermeasures I have seen. If you don't read the rest of this post, do look at this link (comes with comforting cat and dog images).

In an earlier post in this series (who knew it would run this long?), I urged people not to use 'social media' as a news source regarding COVID-19. Mostly because it's a bot-playground, has been touting some non-cures, and has proved time and again to be operating in its own greedy interests while selling out its users on a continuous basis. Well, now it appears that it's very internal design - which Facebook officials describe as just a bug - is removing links to COVID-19 information on credible, authoritative sites in favour of less reliable sources.

If you have time on your hands, please don't spend it browsing Facebook. You will be misled.

Speaking of being misled, computer criminals are busy trying to exploit the frenzy around COVID-19 to infiltrate computers, largely with identity theft and inserting ransomware on your machines. Be aware, and keep your computer, money and personal information safe.

As more of us are in self-isolation, working from home or just stranded because so much is closed, our computers and Internet connections become increasingly important right now. Protect your computer. If you don't already have anti-virus software installed, get some. There are free and low-cost options.

If you have kids at home, you have my sympathy. There are lots of suggestions on things to do to keep them busy, so I won't take space here with an incomplete list. You could even, gasp, talk to them - even about coronavirus and what they think about the current situation. What would they do to improve the current situation? Right now a lot of people are looking to 'the government' to solve 'the problem'. What do they actually know about government (the levels, separate and shared areas of authority, how elections work, how government departments and agencies work ...)? How do they define 'the problem'?

I have read repeatedly over the past years that we are sleep-deprived as a society. If your are in self-isolation, working from home or at home because your work is shut down, here's an opportunity to catch up on some of that sleep. It will strengthen your immune system. If you have time available, this is an opportunity to resurrect and strengthen your personal support network, with phone calls and emails. Clearly social visiting isn't being encouraged just now, but if you are healthy and able, delivering medications, food and other necessities to those in self-isolation would be reasonable tasks and a reason to get outside for a few minutes.

As you may have guessed, I'm spending a fair bit of time reading about COVID-19, and trying to sort reality and useful information from the torrents of disinformation and useless / harmful advice. It's pretty disheartening; I don't recommend it to others. Stick to the credible sites and information sources. People are going to be hurt by the disinformation which is circulating. If you get something like that, don't pass it along until you have verified it. In my opinion, disinformation is just as dangerous as the COVID-19 virus, and t he disinfo is spreading faster. Please, don't be a disinformation carrier. Break the disinformation chain. (For illustration, this video is getting some traction as of yesterday. https://www.instagram.com/p/B9wTo4SnjuH/ )

It's increasingly clear that some governments are hiding data and information which is unfavourable to them. When we talk about wanting transparency from our leaders, this is the acid test. Adults need to deal with reality, and that starts with knowing what actually is real and true. Sometimes we have to work to find it. And when our elected leaders aren't adults, that just makes it harder. A couple of news items to contemplate during these days of turmoil. I am confident that major multinational companies will be supported with tax dollars. I'm not as confident that those who have been paying in those tax dollars will be looked after nearly as well.
(partially corroborated by

And while some politicians continue to show their lack of respect for the very medical professionals we're going to be relying on now during a pandemic, health care workers are stepping up in our time of need, because their loyalty is to people, not big political donors.

In months to come, as we drag ourselves back up out of this hole, try to remember who stepped up for you vs. those who put their own agenda ahead of your well-being.

Came across this term yesterday: "caremongering". I like it.

Take care of yourself, and be supportive of others.

March 18, 2020


Warning: these posts are for 'adults'; people with the ability to think for themselves, take responsibility for their actions, and prepared to work for the greater good. If that isn't you, the Internet has plenty of content to entertain you.

As you likely know, there is an annual 'flu season', typically January and February in the northern hemisphere and offset by 6 months in the southern hemisphere. In temperate regions, this corresponds to the time when most of us spend more time indoors, and consequently less time outdoors in 'fresh air'. There are at least 2 factors related to being outdoors which are associated with positive health outcomes: sunlight exposure (in moderation as skin cancer can result from overmuch sun) and fresh air.

"Put simply, medics found that severely ill flu patients nursed outdoors recovered better than those treated indoors. A combination of fresh air and sunlight seems to have prevented deaths among patients; and infections among medical staff.[1] There is scientific support for this. Research shows that outdoor air is a natural disinfectant. Fresh air can kill the flu virus and other harmful germs. Equally, sunlight is germicidal and there is now evidence it can kill the flu virus."

The quote above comes from the article at:
If you are interested in protecting your own health and that of those around you, I recommend reading it.

So, to the extent that immediate weather conditions are favourable and social distancing allows, try to get outside for a little sun and fresh air each day, be it on an apartment balcony, in your yard or going for a walk (dog optional). In my opinion (not a medical professional), especially if you feel any cold-like symptoms starting.

If you think the H1N1 influenza pandemic of 1918-19 (the "Spanish Flu") is somehow instructive regarding COVID-19, you might find this paper interesting.

Work is being done on seeking treatments. I'm not in a place to make an exhaustive search, and I'm sure there is work going on in 'stealth mode'. But here's a couple of examples I have seen covered.
As the second article notes, there is (a lot of) disinformation about treatments for COVID-19, so as the advertisements used to say, "don't try this at home".

My point is, we may not have to wait 18 months or more for a vaccine to get a handle on COVID-19. More sunlight and fresh air will probably help. Other treatments are being investigated, some of which have already been through human toxicity trials.

In the meantime, I see a few sparks of hope for the humanity of us in trying times. If you have time on your hands, look for things you can do - despite social distancing and the closures of many businesses - to make a positive difference, no matter how small. Call a friend, check on neighbours, especially the vulnerable. I'm sure you can figure it out. Here's a heartening story.

Take care of yourself, and be supportive of others.

March 17, 2020


Warning: these posts are for 'adults'; people with the ability to think for themselves, take responsibility for their actions, and prepared to work for the greater good. If that isn't you, the Internet has plenty of content to entertain you.

Finally, the enormity of the COVID-19 issue is apparently making itself evident to our elected leaders, including those normally disinclined to listen to actual experts or pay any regard to data and evidence. Some 'leaders' have had to make 180-degree turns on their public statements in a matter of less than a week. Despite the inconveniences - assuming you think keeping you and your loved ones alive is a good idea - this is the best available path forward for us for now. We aren't finished yet, more changes will be coming. Some of this takes time because government responsibilities and authority are split across national, provincial (state), country, city and even at sub-municipal levels. That usually a good idea; put the decision-making at the lowest level where it makes sense. But it does create some inertia when we're trying to roll out something new in a very short time on a very broad scale.

We have some challenges ahead, as a species, as a country, as communities, friends and family and as individuals. We aren't going back to the old 'normal', there's simply too much chaos in play for that to happen. While we'll be dealing with some very personal issues (quarantines, self-isolation, figuring out to earn an income and pay the bills which are due), I ask that you also try to think about the bigger perspective. For example, the toilet paper hoarding issue, as emblematic of a larger issue. Trust me on this one - Canada has plenty of trees and capacity for turning them into toilet paper. We might be able to clear the store shelves in a panic buying spree, but as a nation, we're not going to have an ongoing shortage of toilet paper because of COVID-19. We are already seeing blow-back against profiteering. Historically, we have a lot of food waste in this country. Just reining that in a bit would ease potential supply issues.

For the next few months, based on my knowledge of the retail supply chain in Canada, we're unlikely to face any substantive issues on most staples including food and household consumables. (I'm not going to talk about industrial consumption today.)

Yesterday, Canadian government officials were very clear that while we're going to bar a lot of people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents from entering Canada for a while, we are not going to hinder goods from crossing the border beyond the rules that were in place l ast week. That's because governments around the world understand that their economies are going to take body blows because of COVID-19 without creating blockades against the movement of goods including food and medical supplies.

In the longer term, if we don't make some adjustments, we may see some isolated product shortages. In particular, I'm thinking about Canadian-grown fresh fruit and vegetables about six months from now. (And I'm not factoring in any new jolts which may result from climate change.)
(I'm not suggesting that anyone start panic buying flour, rice and corn - we have time before this can become an issue and it probably won't.)

We have time to make some adjustments, and we're about to create a whole lot of slack in our labour market. That can provide us with options; people are amazingly adaptable creatures. A little intelligence will go a long way.

On that note, in the short term, try to support local businesses that you would like to see survive the upheavals over the next few months, like a local restaurant (pick up and take home if they have to close their dining area), a local butcher, etc. It's already been tough to be a retailer in Canada, and COVID-19 is going to hurt small businesses which typically don't have big cash reserves or much support from major banks in Canada. Amazon will manage without your purchases for a few weeks, and their energy and packaging intensive supply system is already under stress.

Take care of yourself, and be supportive of others.

March 16, 2020


Warning: these posts are for 'adults'; people with the ability to think for themselves, take responsibility for their actions, and prepared to work for the greater good. If that isn't you, the Internet has plenty of content to entertain you.

Today's headline is presumably that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be addressing the country today at 1:00 p.m. EDT. PM Trudeau is currently in self-isolation as his wife tested positive for COVID-19.

My personal headline for today is that I am permitted to leave self-isolation as of last night per instructions of Public Health Ontario. Our contact got their COVID-19 test results back late yesterday, and they were negative.

There is clearly a move to close down a lot of venues where large numbers of people congregate in order to reduce the opportunities for transmission of the COVID-19 virus. This is intended to lower the short-term intensity of demands on our health care system by spreading it out over a longer period.

Eventually, most of us will be exposed to this virus. However, if we can push this out until the late spring and summer, it is likely the overall impacts will be reduced. Fresh air (airing out our homes when the weather is warmer and spending more time outdoors) and more daylight hours will have positive effects in suppressing the virus and boosting our response when exposed. That should help our immune systems power up internal defences in response. Possibly there will be a vaccine before next winter. Other treatments should be available before that.

Also on the big scale, I continue to worry about the level of disinformation continuing to circulate and ramp up on various media channels. Unfortunately, it's not just social media. In some cases it is people in positions of authority failing to act, acting irresponsibly, or giving out incorrect information as fact. We, as individuals and in the responsible media, need to counter-act this. I'll point you to this one article for today.

This kind of disinformation will harm people. I don't know where to draw the line between people being allowed to share their opinions and knowledge unchecked via wide-distribution platforms and submitting fully to only senior authorities controlling the flow of information. I believe neither is ideal, and we need to get better at finding a balance that works for us individually and in aggregate. I do know I feel a personal responsibility for the information I share with others.

We have a few computers here processing units for Folding@Home. We've done quite a few units now. Folding@Home is experiencing a few issues with the world-wide uptake to help. Their volume sending out new units for processing has caused Google and Yahoo to mark their outgoing work units as spam. Anyway, I guess that's the kind of problem you want to have. I hear that some major corporate data centres are being reconfigured to throw cycles at this computational problem. (e.g. GitHub is donating 60,000 core-hours per day). It's good to have friends willing to help out.

If you have friends, neighbours, relatives or acquaintances who may be negatively affected by this, and you have some time, reach out by telephone, text or email to see how they're doing, and if they need anything.

I understand food banks are encountering supply issues due to people clearing out grocery store shelves. As a lot of people with precarious employment situations are going to get hit hard by this, you can imagine that food banks are going to see increased demand in days to come. This has been posted by the Ottawa Food Bank ( https://www.ottawafoodbank.ca/covid-19-response-from-the-ottawa-food-bank/) I expect this is representative, not unique.

Why does the Ottawa Food Bank need your support at this time?

Vulnerable families can’t afford to stock up food for days. With your help, we will ensure they have enough. Some community food banks in Ottawa may need to close for various related reasons. Your gift will ensure there is no interruption of service for families who rely on the food bank for food.
With schools closed for three weeks, your gift will help families provide meals usually received at school or in after school clubs. Many fundraising events have been cancelled. Your help will keep our shelves stocked for anyone who many need food during this stressful time. Grocery stores are having a hard time keeping their own shelves stocked, so donations of non-perishables and fresh food are not coming through our doors. We need to rely heavily on purchasing at this time.

Take care of yourself, and be supportive of others.

March 15, 2020


Warning: these posts are for 'adults'; people with the ability to think for themselves, take responsibility for their actions, and prepared to work for the greater good. If that isn't you, the Internet has plenty of content to entertain you.

Being in self-isolation sucks. As of now, I'm still in limbo with no symptoms and as a 3rd order contact from someone who recently travelled to Canada from Spain and has since developed a cough. We're waiting for their test results. The test was administered at 10 p.m. on Thursday night in Ottawa.

So, it helps me to see an article like the one below to remember why strong measures implemented early are the KEY to minimizing the damage that can be done.

And take note of the effect of taking the countermeasures off too soon. (the Denver 1918 example) We're going to be at this for a while, and if the examples in China and Italy are indicative (and they almost certainly are), it's going to get worse before it gets better. The latency periods in transmission, incubation, developing systems, becoming data points in official reporting, and subsequent treatment and recovery (or not) all take time and add complexity to understanding the immediate situation. Pro-active means taking action before the full consequences are felt.

Here's another take on the benefits of taking strong action early, this one from epidemiologists based in Toronto.

We make decisions as a society as to how much reserve health care resources we want to pay for, and how we deploy it. In recent years we have pretty much gone with zero reserve and highly centralized resources, which is why 'hallway medicine' is now part of our lexicon. We have chosen to go to overcapacity every year in recent years during flu season. Perhaps we will want to revisit that decision-making paradigm a few months from now. Put that on your personal todo list, now.

Another Canadian information resource you can go to. I'm seeing more organizations I am connected with referring to this site in the past 24 hours: Public Health Agency of Canada.

It largely mirrors the other Canadian government link I provided yesterday, but seems more citizen-centric in how it lays out the information.

If you are getting your information about COVID-19 from 'social media' (and particularly FaceBook and Twitter), please stop. These sources are disinformation engines, and the off-shore disinformation suppliers are ramping up now.

I'm not suggesting our tax-payer funded institutions are perfect. They're not, and I'm a regular critic as to how I think they could do better in a number of subject areas. However, if you get sick and need health care, this is the system which holds your life in its hands. The Russian and Chinese disinfobots aren't going to make any such effort on your behalf. A little enlightened self-interest and system-based thinking (e.g. do you want the local hospital to have an available bed if you need it, and how do you help make that happen) will go a long way for all of us in the weeks ahead.

If you have additional material to contribute, feel free to to send it to me.

Stay well, and try not to make the current situation any worse; it doesn't need any help at this stage.

March 14, 2020


Warning: these posts are for 'adults'; people with the ability to think for themselves, take responsibility for their actions, and prepared to work for the greater good. If that isn't you, the Internet has plenty of content to entertain you.

There's a lot of disinformation and nonsense being circulated right now about COVID-19. To try to mitigate that, here are some sources you could read instead which are more likely to be based on evidence and data, and possibly provide some thoughts on consequences we should be thinking about now. Feel free to share this blog at your discretion. (If you have been quarantined or are in voluntary self-isolation, you may have some time for reading.)

If you want to know the current status of the virus spread and impacts, and how to protect yourself and others, please visit the Government of Canada website which is being updated regularly. (Available in English and French)

If you are looking for equivalent information on the world scale, visit the World Health Organization website.

The situation dashboard and world map of documented case counts.

If you look at the Cases by date of report graph at the left of the display at URL above, you will see there are definite spikes and valleys. The valleys are the proof that preventive measures work, what is now being called 'flattening the curve'.

In the U.S., please use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the least biased data available.

The CDC's situation summary is here.

Social distancing as a prevention / delay tool. Why it works.
I would add, it is simple, low-cost, easy to deploy and non-invasive.

Why soap works to kill coronaviruses.

Please take some time to educate yourself and others on what doesn't work, no matter how many unsubstantiated claims you read on 'social media'. Here's one article.

If you have a reasonably powerful computer and would like to contribute to the effort in finding ways to combat the future impacts of COVID-19, consider downloading the Folding@Home application and running on your computer which is likely spending most of its time idle anyway.

We take some comfort in being in Canada where testing is free of charge, and health care is paid for by our personal taxes. However, COVID-19 is showing the cracks in our supposed 'social safety net'. If you would like to dig into that a bit more, please read this article.

Should we have to sacrifice our personal health privacy rights as part of the COVID-19 response? If such data is released, what is the impact of future wide-scale health efforts?

We're going to spend a lot of time building reactionary one-time economic measures to try to deal with the very real personal impacts of this disease, and then dismantling them again. How much harm and costs to the system could have been avoided if we had implemented an integrated, single-source guaranteed basic income for Canadians before this crisis? It has been suggested that a 'mincome' could save money compared to the current patchwork of programs if all the benefits are taken into account across the financial system, while creating better outcomes for those living precariously. This article is written by a fiscal Conservative.

There is a suspicion that such a system would be massively abused. However, data and evidence indicate that is not true. Here's one take on that. (You can also look for information on the 1970s Dauphin MB project. [hint, try your web search with the terms dauphin and mincome])

If you have additions to this list, please feel free to share and I will add them to future editions.

Stay well, consider the consequences of our actions, and be kind to others in this stressful time

March 13, 2020


I have a background in systems thinking, research, and some exposure to health care. Some of what I'm reading related to COVID-19 is flat out disinformation and 'conspiracy theories' run amok. I dedided to write an e-mail to a select audience to try to reduce harm for them. That turned into another and another, and then someone suggested I should put this content into a blog.

This content is for adult audiences, people who can think, and are prepared to act in their own interest, that of their families and friends, and their communities. I invite you to be skeptical of what you read here (and everywhere else for that matter), and reach your own conclusions. (Incidentally, today is my birthday. Thanks for giving us COVID-19, you really shouldn't have. I mean it.)

For earlier entries, see the previous blog file.
For the current blog, see the Econogics Blog.

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