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May 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.
It could be a bit of weekend effect, but reported new cases were down to 772, and deaths at 94. Active cases at 35,014.
More Indirect COVID-19 Deaths
B.C. sees spike in fatal overdoses during pandemic
Scams and Disinformation
U.S. story, but more reason to ensure we can buy PPE within our own borders.
Zoom Security: Here’s One Big Reason To Update Your App Right Now.
(Did you know that you can use Zoom without installing the application on your own computer? Zoom sessions can be set up to allow everyone other than presenters to participate using regular web browsers.)
Caremongering and PPE
Local company stepping up with PPE again; this time for area dentists.
Face Shield Cleaning and Maintenance
While thinking about dentists, patients and COVID-19, this item came my way. If you are
thinking about the value of a face shield for personal protection and reduction virus spread,
it's probably useful reading for you. If your are a mask user, also note the advice on
providing eye protection as part of infection prevention.
Cloth Masks Again (and again ... because data and evidence)Let's start with I'm not against masks. I think people who are 'in the line of fire' should have PPE at least as effective as genuine, certified, N95 masks and eye-shields. I think people working with low potential exposure to the virus should be provided with medical masks and a device which helps reduce air flow to the nose and mouth from around the edges of the mask, and eye protection. I think people who are known to be infected should stay home. I think people who suspect they may be infected should stay home, and use a cloth mask only to go to a testing centre and return home. I don't think the use of masks should be a political statement; it should be about data, evidence and science. I have provided that sort of information here before, and am presenting more below.
What does concern me is the cavalier attitude by some that equate DIY cloth masks with providing effective protection. In particular the messaging that implies wearing a mask is as good as isolation and physical distancing. I think Canada's senior health officials and other experts are delivering the right message on cloth masks, despite the drumbeat pressure from the loophole brigade and re-open-now faction.
Use of non-medical cloth masks or face coverings in community settings
Coronavirus: Which Mask Should You Wear?
Here's a video on how to wash your cloth face mask.
A reader brought this article to my attention. (Thank you.)
From the study's abstract:
In the body of the study:
I also recommend reading the Expert Reaction to the pre-print.
Another study on effectiveness of surgical and cotton masks (April 2020)
Just because you can make a mask, doesn't mean it's good.
A Fun Story About N95 Mask Origin
;-) In case you needed a reminder of what nature looks like ...
Spread knowledge, not the virus.
May 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.
The grind goes on. On Friday, Canada reported 906 new cases and 102 deaths. A stat I have not reported before (as provincial data was unreliable, but now seems to be stabilizing) is active cases, reported yesterday at 34,921 - more than a third of the total cases count, and we're now two-and-a-half months from when the lockdowns started. That's fully 1/10th of 1 percent of the entire Canadian population.
It looks like we're going to have to start fact checking the Ontario Premier now.
The day before yesterday was the misfire on having no evidence of issues about long-term
care (LTC) facilities within his sphere of responsibility. Yesterday it was the report that
it was not UNIONIZED employees that refused to personally inspect the LTCs, it was management
direction. The latter accords with my peripheral knowledge of the sector, where LTC owners
have long pushed for less oversight, and got their wish for no unannounced visits since this
Premier took office. And the inspections that do occur are rare.
If this is Doug Ford's sense of keeping a close check on 'greedy' (his word) investors
running LTC homes, well, the most generous comment I can offer is 'needs work'. But don't
expect any substantive change from this government. Any investigation led by this government
will be ideologically unable to find fault with private sector operators. And in a few months,
most of us will forget about it. Again.
Was it just 48 hours ago that the Ontario Premier said he would not permit regional lifting of restrictions?
Never mind, yesterday, he reversed course on that, adding to his flip-flop record.
Did the Alberta premier just forget to tell his chief medical officer he's about to end the
province's public health emergency?
A Different Kind of Information Spinning
Well, we do know who is bleating the loudest in the mainstream media. Businesses see this as a paradox.
They claim they're having trouble finding enough people to come back to work in low-wage jobs, and the
fault is entirely that of the federal government's wanton generosity for those who were let go by those
same businesses a few weeks ago within minutes of being locked down.
A few things to note in this article. The target is specifically the CERB. The CERB is not available to most people who were employed before COVID-19 layoffs; they would have only qualified for EI. (Yes there were a few corner cases where a worker would not qualify for EI, but they should have been small in number.) The article finds one case to hang it's story on - one in the country. How is it that former employees who were not laid off but seem to have been expected to volunteer to show up for work during the pandemic ended up on CERB and not EI? Something is off, here. Are these business owners looking to find a lower-wage pool of workers than the ones they let go in March and April?
Letting my mind wander for a moment as to what else might possibly be at play here. First off, why aren't these businesses looking to bring back the workers they had before the COVID-19 lockdown and presumably qualified for EI? Have they managed to re-staff all those former workers and are now looking to create a bigger workforce than pre-COVID-19 times? Somehow, I think that would have been more newsworthy than this curious screed on behalf of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). It also seems odd to me that with the federal government job board for students open and apparently many tens of thousands of students looking for paid work right now, that these businesses can't manage to tap into that vast labour pool.
It could be there are other issues at play for potential workers during the COVID-19 era. Perhaps they got sick. Perhaps they are in isolation due to contact tracing. Perhaps they are having to tend to someone else who is sick. Perhaps they have kids who are not in school because they're all closed. Perhaps they have kids who can't go to a daycare because those are closed. Perhaps they recall how loyal their employer was to them in mid-March and have doubts about the likely working conditions if they should go back. Perhaps they are concerned they won't be supplied with effective PPE by their employer which has the responsibility to provide a safe work place.
But somehow, per the CFIB, it's about the workforce that did not qualify for EI but are allegedly living big on the CERB. But if it's about the money, then the employer may want to some math. I'm assuming we're talking about full-time, permanent workers who are actually on a documented payroll, not casual workers who get called in for a few hours on busy days and are paid off the books. Just for context, I'm a small business owner. In my experience, workers can do math when it comes to their pay.
The CERB pays out $2,000 a month - before taxes - and is not expected to continue indefinitely. My guess is that the top end for most Canadians under the CERB will be about $12,000, and after mid-September it will get curtailed. But suppose it actually continues indefinitely, the maximum anyone is likely to get from it is $24,000 in a year, and most will have to give some of that back in taxes, government health insurance premiums, government pension plan contributions, HST, and other government fees. Let's compare that to a worker putting in 40 hours a week and working 50 weeks a year (2000 hours) at a minimum wage of $11.32 (come on down Saskatchewan): $22,640. Toss on another 4% for vacation pay and the grand total is: $23,545.60. $450 dollars a year difference, in the lowest minimum-wage jurisdiction in the country, assuming the worker never qualifies for any paid overtime, or benefits, or bonuses, or any other work-related perks.
So, sure enough, if the CERB were to last forever, those workers in SK would be better off staying home. Still, with 3% of the national population, I don't think that's the CFIB's target audience. I'll go further and say it's also not likely MB, NS, NB, NL, PE or any of the northern territories with similar or smaller populations. Nope, the real players for the CFIB membership are in ON, QC, BC and AB which account for 87% of the Canadian population. The respective minimum wages in the big four are $14.00, $13.10, $13.85 and $15.00. I'm going to use $14.00, because it's roughly in the middle of the range, corresponds to the biggest provincial population, and it's a round number.
So, let's take our Ontario minimum wage full-time worker and figure out their take. 2000 hours at $14 plus 4% vacation pay gives us $29,120. Any benefits, paid overtime or bonuses on top of that. So, that's at least a $5,000 a year edge over the most generous interpretation of the CERB benefit. Frankly, most of us are really tired of staying home. My guess is that if you are offering people more money to go to work than they get for going stir-crazy stuck at home, other things being equal, most would be ready to go back to work. So, my conclusion is that for a lot of these people, if they actually exist, things aren't equal. Dear business owners, have a look at what you're really offering, and figure out why the workers you shed in the past couple of months really don't want to come back to work.
Practice What You Preach
This time the joke is on me. A few days ago, I suggested people go out and start and move their cars to make sure they're ready for service when needed. I didn't that day, though I had planned to - things got busy. Yesterday, I needed to take my car to run a couple of errands. But it wouldn't start - flat battery. (I have been driving to run errands the past few weeks, but using one of the electric cars in our household - because they're a lot less expensive to fuel than my 5.5 litres per 100 km Smart car.) Anyway, I had to dig out a battery charger and put the GAS car on charge. Some irony there.
If you have a gas or diesel car sitting around due to COVID-19 and are a candidate for the same
issue, I can help you with that. (Shameless plug - pun intended - ahead.) I am a distributor for
a line of compact, intelligent, designed in Canada battery chargers, including some which are great
for maintaining 12-volt automotive batteries. If that's of interest, here's the link:
;-) Recent studies show that electric vehicles made by BMW have
Spread knowledge, not the virus.
May 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.
75th edition - milestones don't have the impact they used to in the time-blur that is COVID-19. The juxtaposition is occasionally jarring, as some parts of life still have deadlines and connections to clocks and calendars, while others seem disassociated from the passage of time.
New cases reported in Canada ticked up to 993 yesterday, new deaths were at 112 - still grinding along. The bad news came out of New Brunswick where after weeks of having new cases under control, they have a new breakout because a doctor travelled into Quebec and returned to work in Campbellton without observing an isolation period. Contract tracing work is under way. The lesson is that COVID-19 is waiting for opportunities to do more damage; it's easy to create a new outbreak.
Toronto and Montreal remain the outbreak focus areas for the country.
Premier Ford of Ontario is adamant that he will not permit regional reopening within
That strikes me as a short-sighted approach if the objective is a return to normalcy in the short term. People need to see that progress is possible, if we work together to safely and cautiously lift restrictions.
Fortunately for Ontario residents, it appears Ontario's public health units are stepping up to fill the leadership void at the top of the Ontario government, which is now focused on getting the federal government to continue picking up the bills to fix its very broken long-term care fiasco, a fully provincial responsibility. It appears that 2 years of complaints on a public government website were unknown to the Premier during questions yesterday as he sputtered his government did not know about the problems before the report from the Canadian military on Wednesday. Fortunately for Ontario, the military are still in place in several long-term care homes in Ontario.
Risks of Pushing "Re-Opening" Hard in Outbreak Areas
Montreal Gazette: Saying they're 'dead tired,' Quebec nurses will take to the streets of Montreal.
COVID-19's Indirect Health Impacts
The Pandemic’s Hidden Victims: Sick or Dying, but Not From the Virus
There are reports from many hospitals that visits to emergency departments are down dramatically. We have seen the disruption in clinics and doctor's offices, dentistry, optometrists, etc. People with chronic conditions are suffering, even if not infected by the coronavirus.
I have long been a fan of the innovative folks in the Renfrew County Paramedic service.
They have a largely rural population, with a higher than average aged population.
The Service has long been taking health care visits and treatment to the patients
rather than making the patients make long trips to doctors' offices as appropriate.
They have used drones to deliver medications and get eyes on the scene in remote areas
before ground units can get there. They have now embraced a virtual triage capability
and are doing COVID-19 virus testing in the home. Brilliant!
Cyber defence agency found over 1,500 'malicious' fake Canadian government
People are feeling the effects of isolation. This weekend, please take a few minutes to call or email someone you think might be feeling left behind.
;-) If you cannot find your dog, open the fridge door.
Spread knowledge, not the virus.
May 28, 2020
872 new cases in Canada reported yesterday, which is encouraging, although the death count jumped up again to 126. Ontario (Toronto area) and Quebec (Montreal area) remain the Canadian hot spots.
'Leaders' and loopholes
Lockdown violators using Cummings as excuse, say police.
We're finally starting to come to grips with how long the COVID-19 health emergency might
last, and a sense of how much PPE we might need. Think well into 2021 at a minimum, and 100s
of millions of pieces. This is an industry we need to create in Canada, starting 3 months ago.
As much as we are trying to ration and re-use PPE, it's not a viable long-term solution
unless those items were originally designed for re-use, like launderable isolation gowns or
faceshields that can be sterilized via UV light, hydrogen-peroxide saturation, autoclaving ...
By now, we need to have grasped that we can't rely on China or the U.S. as suppliers ever again, and for the short term, all nations are going to be competing for supply. 'Free trade' was based on trust in greed, not nations weaponizing their manufacturing capability in time of global emergency.
Is the continued supply of defective PPE by China really 'contractual issues', or is it a conscious policy of making Canadian workers distrust and fear the PPE they are provided by employers? Or to try to make more of Canada's health workers ill by supplying PPE which does not provide the advertised protection?
What will be the impact of the Meng Wanzhou court decision yesterday on China's bullying of Canada?
MarketWatch: U.S. FDA cuts the number of China mask makers approved for N95 masks: report.
Is this another opportunity for a Canadian innovator to develop a new market at home and for export?
They Evoke Darth Vader, but These Masks May Save Your Doctor's Life
We can do it in Canada, if we choose to do so, with a long-term vision of re-establishing
our manufacturing capacity (using modern approaches and automation). More examples.
It's not just PPE we need to think about here. It's medication and food and other items
which are critical to Canada continuing to function as a sovereign nation.
May 27, 2020
Canada's new case count dropped below 1000 (936) for the first time since March 29. The new deaths dropped just below 100 (96). It's good news, but it's one day, not a trend.
As of this morning, the U.S. has reported over 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. (Per worldometer.com) There is no justification for complacency in Canada in thinking we're doing better. With 10% of the population, we're fully at 6.6% the number of deaths. The U.S. death rate to reported cases is 5.8%, while in Canada we are at 7.7%. The place we're doing better is (was?) in reducing the number of people infected due to stronger guidance on measures to reduce virus transmission.
We know what works to reduce community spread: the tedious, boring stuff. We know what
happens when the 'yahoos' choose not to observe that guidance. Why is there such a push for
're-opening' on a massive scale when we know we're not ready for a new surge (treatments,
PPE, staff)? Are we not learning from the tragedies in our long-term care homes as highlighted
yesterday in the report from our military? The incidents are so egregious they have made
Or is the lesson here that our elderly are disposable? (The following is a U.S. story, but
the message seems to resonate for Canada.)
If you're looking for a 'silver-bullet' solution to COVID-19 in the short term, you're
going to be disappointed.
Still, the news isn't all bleak. The Tyee has a recent round-up of medical news related to COVID-19.
Regional Decision-Making for Re-Opening
Apparently I'm not the only one who sees putting a cordon around the continuing big
outbreak centres as a means to get most of the country back to lifting restrictions and
increasing economic production.
The World isn't Winning on PPE Production
FDA signals PPE shortage, issues EUA for more.
Before the loophole brigade jumps on this headline (and barrages me with email),
please read the actual article, where you will find this text:
'Homemade cloth masks aren’t perfect, they found, but may help provide a “modest
reduction in transmission” ' if widely used, according to the opinion paper published
in the Annals of Internal Medicine on May 22.
Here's a thought on making surgical (not DIY cloth) masks more effective against virus spread.
More Computer Threats and Information on Disinformation
If computers (including smart phones, tablets and laptops) are your lifeline or work
connection during the COVID-19 health emergency, you want to ensure they remain functional,
and don't become a threat for your future via identity theft or other scams or simply
leading you to bad decisions based on disinformation. These are now more virulent than
;-) "What are imitation rhinestones?" (credit Steven Wright)
May 26, 2020
Canada continues to grind along; 1012 new cases yesterday and 121 deaths.
Sigh. Many days lately it's no pleasure to be right. The Ontario government said yesterday
that it now associates the recent rise in the daily new numbers counts with some Ontarians breaking
with guidance in order to visit family members from outside the household for Mother's Day.
If these cases do result from Mother's Day (May 10th) as postulated by the Ontario Minister of Health, then we can expect even bigger increases in case counts from the Victoria Day long weekend, re-opening of non-essential businesses and situations like the Trinity-Bellwood gathering this past weekend in Toronto.
We're going to need all that PPE that's supposedly on order, now. Perhaps the federal government can rescue Ontario again on this, as it did by putting military personnel into long-term care homes with major outbreaks and now by ramping up contact tracing capacity, and providing all the funding for everything to try to keep many Canadians whole while much of the world is in chaos.
And yesterday, Premier Ford told everyone who was at Bellwood-Trinity to go get tested,
which contradicted the advice from his own medical experts.
Leadership is about living up to a higher standard than those who wield no authority, not about abusing the power accorded by holding a position of authority. The Ontario government's credibility on telling Ontarians what they should do for their safety and well-being is crumbling fast, if not already dissipated. It would be refreshing to see the Ontario government actually accomplishing something on COVID-19 (e.g., usefully hitting testing targets, securing PPE from within the province on a long-term basis, developing technology and practice to treat and suppress the virus) rather than spending its time and energy on reducing environmental regulation and reporting, and ordering up a few billion dollars worth of natural gas generating stations we don't need in the province, while leaving the heavy lifting on COVID-19 to others. If we want an economy when this is over, it's important to keep the consumers alive.
I get it. At edition 72, the novelty of going through voluminous material, and so much
of it wrong or misleading, wore out about 60 editions ago. You're tired of staying at home.
News flash! It's not about you as one individual. It's about protecting all the people on
the front lines, risking their health, perhaps their lives, their families, so you can get
groceries and medications, your garbage is picked up, and the hundreds of other things you
so take for granted you didn't even know somebody had the job of doing them. Remember them?
The ones we were calling 'heroes' (and deservedly so). Or is that too 3-weeks-ago for you
to remember? Stop whining, and get over yourself. Act like adults, even if your 'leadership'
isn't up to the job.
Here's something else I'm tired of seeing.
The purveyors of disinformation are well funded. They have spent years developing and
implementing a strategy which is clearly effective. Their pawns are legion and thoroughly
indoctrinated. The 'infodemic' is a real problem. Sadly, if you don't believe that, it's
likely just proof that it's true. In a better world, I would look to journalists and legacy media to be
part of the remedy. Unfortunately, much of the western world's corporate media is also a
disinformation machine, although with different objectives.
When you repeat and relay this sort of specious material to others, remember who you are benefiting. In case I have been too subtle in the past, it is those who want to undermine democratic governments, particularly those in the 'West'. That would be China, Russia, Iran and their proxies.
Regional Decision-Making for Re-Opening
If we want to 're-open the economy' (note the language of our leaders is predominantly about the business side, not about people being allowed to increase the degree of normalcy in their lives), then we need to devolve the decision-making to the level where people live. We have seen some of this, where cottagers were told to stay at their primary residences and not travel to their seasonal properties. This is the proper level for this decision-making for COVID-19, because when we overwhelm the 'health care system', it will be at a hospital or at the city level which may have multiple hospitals. Today, as I'm looking at news stories and cases data, it appears that most of Canada has COVID-19 transmission under pretty good control. The exceptions are the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), the larger community of urban Montreal, possibly Calgary and Brooks AB, and some construction camps. Nova Scotia's issues were in the Halifax-Dartmouth area, and the numbers were associated largely with one long-term care facility.
Perhaps we should be looking to let the regions make decisions on 're-opening' measures - in consultation with provincial authorities as appropriate. The key issues with this approach will be regional/municipal competence (as it has been at the provincial level in some cases) and perimeter controls. The latter is manageable; Quebec put up effective border checkpoints at the Ottawa-Gatineau border, and New Brunswick is managing access from Quebec. As regions lift restrictions, slowly with monitoring, testing and the ability to put restrictions back into force, they can also consider opening their 'bubbles' to neighbouring areas which are also doing well.
If cordoned cities want to make their decision-making more granular so they can focus resources on 'hot-spots' (education, testing, contact tracing, using empty hotels to create more physical isolation capacity, deploying health care professionals to those areas, setting up real quarantine quarters ...), that would make sense to me.
This will also require better tools for educating and informing the public, quickly and consistently (no mixed messaging due to lack of internal communication) with simple rule sets. Again, like a weather forecast with air quality and allergy information. The information has to be delivered to where people are listening (first languages, communications channels including social media, via informal community leaders with a following ...) Clearly, the Canada COVID-19 smartphone app isn't enough.
As waste water treatment is also generally done at a regional level, this idea might also be
used to gather data to inform decision-making and serve as an early warning sign for lifting or
lowering restriction levels.
;-) Why did Ozzy Osbourne retire from touring?
May 25, 2020
For the past 4 reporting days, Canada continues to generate between 1100 and 1200 new cases. The number of deaths bounces around, but seems to be holding around 100 per day on average. We aren't beating COVID-19, and we don't have enough data to know how much of the population has been exposed. We don't have enough PPE or contact tracing resources in place (although it appears we are now going to create a national capacity for this to pick up for Ontario which is abjectly failing on this and testing).
In a 180-degree turn (flip-flop), the Premier of Ontario said that anyone who wants to be tested for COVID-19 now can be - just go to a testing centre - you won't be turned away. Let's see how that actually goes before we get excited. I wonder if anyone is still listening to the Ontario government's pronouncements. I hope it works, because I do expect more people are going to be showing symptoms in the next week or two after seeing news coverage of people not following guidance on physical distancing and maintaining isolation the past two weekends.
Does this sound like a province ready to deal with major new outbreaks or a 'second wave'?
I'm surprised by the number of stores advertising 're-opening' sales with reduced prices to increase sales floor traffic, but apparently with haphazard approaches to how infection risk is being reduced.
If you're living in Ontario, I recommend you keep up your own precautions against becoming infected. Before COVID-19, 'hallway medicine' and stacked up ambulances were the hallmark of the Ontario health care 'system'; understaffed, under-resourced and chronically underfunded. The general response appears to be miserly increases in funding (but mostly shifting budgets), and looking to bring in volunteers to deal with what is expected to be a 'long emergency'.
Learning from New Zealand
Some countries seem to have a handle on managing COVID-19, and are now moving ahead -
carefully and cautiously - to a post-COVID economy. Consider New Zealand. In the past 2
weeks NZ has reported a total of seven new and suspected COVID-19 cases. Seven. No deaths
in those 2 weeks. 21 deaths total through the entire pandemic. Testing has been available
at supermarkets to anybody who wanted it, since before any 're-opening' initiatives.
Even with this track record for shutting COVID-19 down with a high level of success, New Zealand is taking a more cautious approach to 're-opening' than most Canadian provinces, and especially the two with the largest populations, the most reported cases and the most deaths.
Of course, if we had no cases of SARS-CoV-2 to treat, we wouldn't be as desperate for PPE as the world is. The key solution is breaking the transmission chain and getting to no new cases while getting our act together on required resources, doing more research, developing treatments, possibly a cure or vaccine.
I'm a broken record on this one, but Canada needs to create capacity to make critical items here.
Why not secure our supply lines for critical items - for the indefinite future, not just the next few weeks - and create the value-add jobs here when we're going to need jobs for the long-term as we emerge from the worst of the COVID-19 impacts on the Canadian economy? We can be sure the future economy isn't going to look exactly like the one we left behind in 2019.
But, this isn't it.
Niagara Falls MPP says province falls short in providing PPE for health care workers
The Ontario government has put up a Workplace PPE Supplier Directory
It would make more sense for the local Chamber of Commerce to establish a preliminary list of needs for local businesses, and then try to create local production capacity (local jobs).
;-) “This life’s hard, but it’s harder if you’re stupid.”
May 23, 2020
Ontario continues to record over 400 new cases a day (before re-opening impacts are evident), and continues to test well below the target range. Quebec reported roughly another 700 new cases today, and over 650 yesterday. The rest of the country seems to be doing better. Canada's death rate has ticked up to 7.6%.
Hydroxychloroquine Treatment for COVID-19
(the subject won't die, but those taking it might)
I have had some pushback about my coverage on 'immunity passports'. Essentially, the argument
has been, what's the harm in trying this out, it might help. I disagree.
We really need better education, real comprehensive contact tracing and PPE, right now. Let's use whatever resources we have now to work on those issues instead of the delusion of immunity passports.
Coronavirus 'immunity passports' are a terrible idea that could backfire, experts warn.
Another Computer Based Threat
Microsoft: Beware this massive phishing campaign using malicious Excel macros to hack PCs
On a brighter note, it's been a beautiful day here which has kept me outdoors for much of the day. Thus, this edition is late getting out. I suspect there will be no post tomorrow, as the weather promises to be conducive to more outdoor activities. It feels a bit like whiplash, having snowfall earlier this month and suddenly summertime temperatures. Still, one thing that has not changed due to COVID-19 is that Ottawa summers are short and good weather is not to be taken for granted.
;-) I am now applying a test and quarantine approach to this
May 22, 2020
Canada had 1,030 new cases, and about 120 new deaths. These are still pre-re-opening outcomes. Not much change in recent days, the epicentres are still the Toronto and Montreal regions, small outbreaks appear elsewhere in the country.
This is What You Need to Know About Re-opening and Ontario Government Health Emergency Response
Even if you ignore the rest of today's post, please read this article:
Caremongering and PPE
Mask shortage for most health-care workers extended into May, Post-Ipsos poll shows
We need to ensure that those stepping up now, and especially those taking entrepreneurial risks,
are not penalized later. It's only this month that the Canadian government has shifted it's policy
from seeking PPE overseas and the U.S. in preference to Canadian sources, finally recognizing that
Canadians were way ahead on recognizing the problem and developing solutions.
ImmunitySweden Coronavirus Herd Immunity Attempt Failing: Only 7.3% Of Population Have Antibodies
And the nominal rush to 'herd immunity' did not save their economy
Sweden in deep economic crisis despite soft lockdown, as per capita deaths rise
Lockdowns have been working. Re-openings are a calculated risk. I hope our decision-makers are getting the calculations right.
Smartphone Tracking Apps
B.C. health officer cool on COVID tracing apps as Google and Apple release their API
Combating COVID-19 Disinformation
5 ways to help stop the ‘infodemic,’ the increasing misinformation about coronavirus
Computer Security Issues
Fleeceware - a Threat to the Under-engaged
;-) 'The World Health Organisation have just stated
May 21, 2020
Yesterday, Canada moved past 80,000 confirmed cases (over 1000 new cases), and we are undoubtedly still under-counting as who can be tested is still restricted due to lack of capacity. The number of deaths moved past 6,000 (increase of 70). Still grinding along at similar levels for some time now. Saskatchewan reported 21 new cases, up from 7 the day before. (One day bounces do not make a trend, but do warrant further attention.)
Canada and Ontario Flip on DIY Cloth Masks
It's also worth noting that the Canada website on coronavirus does not provide guidance on using non-medical masks, e.g. how to wear them, how long they can be worn safely, how often they need to be washed, the health issues associated with their use. The Ontario COVID-19 site is also silent on the proper use and maintenance of reusable non-medical masks. This strikes me as curious when both have shifted to advising their use by citizens as a health measure.
Since May 17th, the number of new cases reported in Ontario has been rising each day, despite lower numbers of tests being completed. (From May 18-20, those numbers were 9155, 5813 and 7382; the target is 16,000 per day.) This is also too soon be be reflecting new infections from the Phase 1 re-opening which began on May 19th. Ontario does not report how much PPE it has in inventory for use by medical professionals. Reports of re-use of PPE designed for a single-use (e.g. N95 respirator masks) are still a daily event.
So why the flip on non-medical masks? The Ontario Premier and Health Minister were asked that question, and their answers were not convincing or reassuring. But a hint did slip out. Due to re-opening, there will be more exposures, so potentially more cases. I read that as, the bad news is coming. The political strategy is blame-shifting; the positioning will be it isn't the government's fault that the number of cases and deaths resulting from re-opening are going up, it's because some people aren't wearing masks. (Again, the data and studies say non-medical masks are not very effective at protecing the wearer - no eye protection - and they are not used or cleaned properly in the vast majority of cases. They provide some reduction in spread by those who are contagious, but effectiveness depends on the quality of the mask and proper use. Every report I have seen agrees that sheltering at home and physical distancing are more effective measures than non-medical masks at breaking the transmission chain, but re-opening essentially overrides that knowledge. Shortages of medical masks is certainly not within the control of individuals.)
This also isn't science, but I am talking to some people about why they're wearing non-medical masks. Definitely subject to my personal bias, but here's my sense of why people are wearing non-medical masks. They don't understand the minimal benefits of mask use, and have no idea of the associated risks. For some, it's a bit of a fashion statement (some of the masks really are personalized works of art and quite strikingly attractive). There's a little bit of superiority complex. But, for the most part, wearing the masks makes people feel like they have some small degree of control, and that they are making a contribution to reducing the spread of the virus, which helps rationalize going out in public rather than sheltering at home.
It will also be interesting to see how the public reacts to the change in stance. Will the
reactance effect lead to resistance to using non-medical masks?
Misusing CERB and EI Data
In this article, the National Post juxtaposes 2 numbers and leaps to a bizarre conclusion.
So instead of assuming this variance in the numbers between EI and CERB numbers represents massive fraud, how about considering the possibility this represents the labour force which is available for work, but not counted by EI? The article states: "Others believe it's at least partly explained by Canadians taking advantage of a wide-open benefits scheme, legally or not." I don't doubt that some people will abuse the program; some are desperate, some aren't clear on the rules; and some, sadly, are just looking to beat the system despite the likelihood they will be caught later. Personally, I have great faith in CRA's ability to extract money from lower-income Canadians.
Indeed, personal assets are not part of the CERB eligibility criteria. Like EI, it's intended as an income bridge, not a means test.
Please stop assuming massive fraud until you have done some analysis to support that conjecture. A couple of anecdotes including one of proper use of the fund don't meet that bar. Is there something about the rich in Canada that makes them instantly suspect massive fraud where the data doesn't support that assumption? Perhaps their own personal behaviour?
Could a couple of things been done better? Undoubtedly, with the benefit of 2 months experience now. But, personally I'm in awe of how quickly this entire plan was developed, the mechanics put into place, and the funds moved into the hands of those who indicated they need it. Rather than the few who have gouged the system (and will likely be caught later), I'm still more concerned by those without the means or ability to apply for or receive the benefit. If you don't have a bank account or a home address, how would you receive the funds? There's a story worth covering, and social workers can provide you with data and anecdotes for multiple articles.
;-) 'An idiot with a computer is a faster, better idiot'
May 20, 2020
Canada's death rate (related deaths to confirmed cases) has risen to about 7.5%. Our rates of new cases seem to grinding along on a plateau (1000-1200 per day), prior to major re-opening initiatives in most of the country, including the main infection epicentres of Ontario and Quebec. There are reports of many small businesses choosing not to re-open to the level permitted due to concerns about lack of guidance and PPE. That's an interesting counterpoint to Ontario reporting a jump in new cases (to 427), which is happening too early to be an outcome of its re-opening initiatives.
Hydro Ottawa confirms my electricity consumption shift analysis from March
CTV News Ottawa: Lack of energy: Ottawa's electricity consumption drops 10 per cent
COVID-19 Disinformation to support the re-opening agenda
It's a little hard to believe that all the 'errors' have worked in favour of downplaying
counts just before 're-opening' plans and schedules are announced (as happened in Ontario
I am seeing some opinions in the mainstream press to the effect that there may be over-counting of new cases or attributing deaths to COVID-19 that should not be. When I have tried to find the basis for these comments, there is no substance, only agenda-driven magical thinking. I'm now filing those statements as disinformation (at least until somebody provides a piece of supporting data or evidence).
Core item: Safe soil to nurture food and other plants
Without a means to produce food going forward, you can survive for a year or two, based on what you have previously grown, stored and preserved.
Grow the soil to feed the plants to feed us is not a new concept. We actually used to be much better at this, when ley farming was practised. A remnant of ley farming lives on in crop rotation. Having livestock as part of that rotation was important - it made the soil richer.
Today it is trendy to talk about the circular economy, in an industrial context. But the circular economy is implicit in sustainable farming, which we had done for millennia before we applied chemical warfare to soil to make room for industrial agriculture and mass mono-cropping.
Harvest the crop, cut down the stalks and leave them in the field over winter. Come spring, dig them in to decay in the soil and provide cover to retain moisture. No energy used to move the 'waste' long distances. Make compost from chaff and trimmings and manure. Let mature, then apply to fields a couple of seasons later. Rotate crops to nurture the soil, rather than mine the soil for nutrients.
Feed the soil, not the plant is a gardening/farming mantra. Here's an explanation.
Feeding the soil helps promote biodiversity, particularly at the microbial level. Biodiversity is a sign of a healthy ecostructure. A healthy ecostructure is more resilient, adaptable and robust. It's better able to absorb shocks and keep you alive.
In addition to feeding the soil, we need to protect it from pollutants and toxins, so that the food we grow does not take up the pollutants in our food, and the intricate of web of life that is soil can survive and thrive. That means keeping out spills of chemicals like glyphosate, oil products, microplastics and so on.
Don't forget to feed the pollinators; a pretty flower or two can feed the soul as food feeds our bodies.
To learn more on small-scale sustainable farming and gardening, Journey to Forever
is a great resource. A wealth of nearly-lost knowledge primarily from before the
Internet, when these techniques were practised.
For more on square foot gardening, visit this site:
https://squarefootgardening.org/, and get Mel's book(s). Start small, so you aren't
overwhelmed by the weeding when it's time for that. But do enjoy the fruits (and vegetables)
of your labours come harvest time.
Project Drawdown has a series of items related to food, agriculture and land use.
The timing of this item was fortuitous. Yesterday I spent some time preparing a raised bed planter with leaf litter and compost to hold some plants I will put in today or tomorrow, and move some raspberry canes. Something of a silver lining I suppose. It's years since I have planted a real garden, but as COVID-19 has my clients too busy to work with me (health care) or hunkered down and not undertaking new projects until COVID-19 becomes a bit more stable, I have time at home for a change. (Hence, time to research and write 67 daily editions of this series, so far.)
;-) What do you get if you divide the
May 19, 2020
There may be some long weekend lag reporting effects. On May 18th, Canada reported 1,070 new cases and only 80 additional deaths. Still grinding along at much the same levels for some time now.
U.S. Article on Immunity Passports
'Immunity passports' won't reopen America
Preparing for 'Re-opening' - as an individualThe following assumes you are not a front-line health professional working with COVID-19 issues on a routine basis. If you are, you should have received specific training, and should follow that.
Understand the threat risk - consequences and probability
COVID-19 is the manifestation of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in the world-wide human population. The original name 'novel coronavirus' meant it is new in our medical and science knowledge. We're still learning about it, just 5 months after its initial identification.
In the long term, there is essentially a 100% chance you will be exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. It is already present in pretty much every country on the planet. It's rippling out across populations at varying rates depending mostly on the preventive measures being implemented and followed.
Today, there is no preventative treatment or cure. We don't know if infection and recovery confer any immunity, and if it does, for how long. We know it is contagious, primarily from coughing, sneezing and speaking loudly - anything that propels mucous or saliva containing the live virus from an infected individual. As a result, it tends to fall to the ground within a couple of metres from the infected individual. That's why the 2-metre (6-feet) physical distancing rule. It is unlikely that the virus is airborne over long distances, or we would see more cases.
There are articles which suggest the virus is more contagious than we have thought until recently.
The virus can survive outside the body for hours to days. It has been shown to survive on surgical masks for 7 days. Generally it dies within 3 days on plastic surfaces, 1 day on paper or cardboard, and within 4 hours on a copper surface. This is why we are advised to disinfect commonly used surfaces frequently. Soap kills the coronavirus. That's why washing your hands is generally at the top of the list of measures to break the transmission chain.
Why Gloves May NOT Be a Significant Part of Your Solution SetWashing your hands is better than disposable gloves for preventing COVID-19 spread, Public Health says.
PPE Made Outside of Canada
Unless I know a medical mask or other PPE has been tested and certified by a known, trusted testing body, I will avoid it. There's simply too much counterfeit and sub-standard material being produced and sold, feeding on panic and desperation. What are the consequences if you are using gear you think is protecting you, and it is not?
Face Shields vs DIY Masks
I have been saying for some time cloth masks don't provide much protection against infection
and raise other issues. (Read previous posts for that.) I think face shields are likely a better
option, as they cover all of nose, mouth and eyes, and make it harder to touch your face. Face
shields are simple enough that they can be made in the community, as something of a cottage industry.
I would like to see more of this collaborative spirit being rewarded when we get to 'after'.
If you are going to use a DIY cloth mask for public encounters, follow the washing and use
guidelines for the masks, and then act as though you are not wearing one. Find some safety goggles and add that
to your mask so that your eyes are covered as well. If you can't find safety goggles, but have an
empty, clear 2-litre soft drink bottle available, you can make this hyper-simple shield (not proper
PPE) to use with your mask.
If you are planning to embrace re-opening in a big way, consider that doctors are advising otherwise.
Play for Time
We are learning more about the SARS-CoV-2 virus everyday, including how to treat the infected with serious symptoms. We are increasing testing capacity. We are working on developing treatments and preventive solutions like vaccines and virus blockers and antibodies. Each day you put off getting infected, the better your chances we'll have medical preventive measures or better treatments. Perhaps even clean zones protected by perimeter controls and sterilizing of goods crossing checkpoints. A range of solutions are possible that we don't have yet. We should be increasing our local tracking response capacity and our production of PPE and other critical items within our borders. I think we're going to need those things for a long time. We have seen we cannot rely on China or the U.S. to respect legal agreements on PPE supply, nor should we expect other countries facing the same global shortages to come to our aid in the short-term. The risk the health care 'system' is focused on is avoiding being overwhelmed. The risk individuals are facing are illness, serious chronic health impacts and death. Those are not the same.
Situations to avoid
Canada is slowly reopening — and new research reveals where you're most at risk of COVID-19
;-) If you haven't been exposed to COVID-19 parody songs, you have
May 18, 2020
Canada moved past the 77,000 mark for confirmed cases (increase about 1100), and close to 5800 deaths (increase more than 100) as of May 17th.
Contact Tracing Apps - Polls
Two polls on public acceptance of Contact Tracing apps by Canadians. One says slightly
Regarding surveys about the acceptability of a contact tracing app, here are some
questions I would like to see on any future surveys on this topic.
Hygiene - How Long Does the Virus Survive Outside the Body?
"Viruses can linger on surfaces, from cafe counters to water fountains to bathroom
sinks, and coronavirus is no exception. For instance, preliminary research published in
the New England Journal of Medicine in April, suggests viable coronavirus can stay on
plastic and stainless steel for 72 hours, cardboard for 24 hours, and copper for four
hours. Research in The Lancet published around the same time found that infectious
virus survived on the outer layer of a surgical mask for a week."
CityNews Vancouver: When not cleaned properly, cloth masks can be a risk: epidemiologist.
The 'Re-opening' Disinformation Meme
I'm seeing rather a lot of this agenda-driven meme lately: COVID-19 isn't as bad as you think, it's harmless for the vast majority, seems safe for non-essential businesses to re-open and for people to start disregarding the physical distancing measures, homemade cloth masks or scarves are plenty of protection, there are no new outbreaks a couple of days after some places have re-opened. Things are going OK in Sweden, where they didn't 'lock down', and put less emphasis on testing. Let's dig into this drumbeat messaging from specific individuals (some choosing to remain anonymous) and the mainstream media.
What the researchers are telling us is we still lack a lot of desired knowledge that we need for informed decision-making. I'm also seeing we have reports of burnout in our front-line medical staff and dire shortages of PPE with no resolution in sight, but growing quantities of substandard and counterfeit PPE being offered for sale. I assume the profits of those sellers will soar with mass 're-opening' from sales to people who can't verify if the PPE meets standards.
Cloth masks and sub-standard PPE don't confer great protection. If they did,
health care workers would be happy to use them. That's not the case. Even with
proper PPE, the chances of becoming infected are non-zero, and with multiple exposures,
the odds increase each day. The 'gold standard' is the N95 mask. The '95' means it
should stop 95% of the viruses; in other words, 5% will get through. Best case.
There is a fair bit of data now which seems to keep coming to roughly the same number. Based on tens to hundreds of millions of tests, of those confirmed to have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, 7% will die.
Stats from the WHO (May 16, 2020): 4,425,485 confirmed cases. 302,059 deaths. Death rate: 6.8% (so far, death is a lagging indicator). (The Canadian national data comes to about the same rate.)
But let's look at the re-open now brigade's poster country - Sweden. Sweden's death rate is something of a global outlier, but not in a good way. Per https://public.tableau.com/profile/covid.19.data.resource.hub#!/vizhome/COVID-19Cases_15840488375320/COVID-19Cases yesterday (May 17, 2020), selecting for Sweden, the confirmed and presumptive total reported cases count is 26,322. The related deaths count is 3,225. Again, it's just math. Sweden's COVID-19 death rate is 12.25% (up slightly from a few days ago, probably because death is a lagging indicator). From my perspective, a 12% death rate is not better than a 7% death rate. Perhaps it is better if you're an advocate for early re-opening without good PPE available.
Yes, the majority (93%) world-wide don't die from SARS-CoV-2 infections.
Based on anecdotal reports (I can't find anyone gathering real data on this),
a higher percentage are 'recovering' with new long-term chronic health issues.
We also have reports of some individuals who have multiple relapses and many positive
tests over a period of more than six weeks.
Then there is the supposition that those who 'recover' will have long-term immunity.
That is simple wishful thinking and speculation, because most people who survive most infectious
diseases develop immunity. That's a survival bias. Those that don't develop immunity die or
get chronically ill. But for SARS-CoV-2, there is NO such evidence of long-term immunity.
That's because nobody has had the chance to live long enough after recovery to know if they
have immunity for any duration. More troubling is that there is growing evidence of relapses
and weeks of positive tests after supposed recovery.
That's not immunity. It's magical thinking.
I fully expect that 2-3 days after re-opening in an area, we won't see new related outbreaks. That's because the incubation period is longer than 3 days, and up to 2-3 weeks before serious symptoms may appear. If you want to know the impact of re-opening on virus transmission and new cases, start looking 7-21 days after the re-opening happens, not a couple of days.
In short, you're being lied to by people with an agenda, and it's being condoned and amplified by some media outlets.
Here's the challenge I would like to offer up to all those publicly advocating for re-opening now while staying safely at home or in other safe bubbles themselves.
There are human-challenge trials starting up in various parts of the world. That entails being
intentionally infected with the virus (or if in the control group, injected with a placebo). If these
commentators believe the risk from COVID-19 today is trivial, they should sign up for these trials,
and publicly announce they have done so. I mean, from the perspective of the re-open now brigade,
the risk is about zero, right? Based on presumably less than 1 in 10 odds of dying or suffering a
long-term chronic health condition ((7% death + 10% chronic issues[guess]) / 2 [half of participants
will get the placebo]), which they are promoting as a trivial risk in return for the opportunity to
prove they are right and a great story to publish. Really, what are they waiting for? In Canada,
there is 1DaySooner, currently seeking volunteers.
;-) “The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people
May 17, 2020
Saturday's data shows almost another 1200 new cases and over 100 deaths in Canada.
'Re-opening' of businesses is clearly underway, with varying rules by province and
municipality, which is clearly leading to confusion and frustration, combined with lack of
information on what measures are required by the re-opeining businesses and where to get
safe PPE. And people are looking for loopholes.
There's a song snippet playing in my head. The refrain lyric is:
Our knowledge, capability, tactics, research projects, statistics and messaging - the world of COVID-19 is constantly changing. How can I be sure, today, what the rules and guidance are?
While the COVID-19 pandemic is global, the responses and conditions which inform an effective response are local. The messaging channels are national and provincial, and much weaker at the community level. But it is the community level that matters most for defining acceptable daily behaviour in the face of the pandemic. 'Overwhelming the system' will happen at the community level. We can't move hospitals to where the outbreaks happen.
The messaging to the public needs to be boiled down to the level of the local weather
forecast, in the same way we provide local air quality reports for pollutants and allergens.
Something like this on the local radio station:
That's going to require effort by local governments, but perhaps provinces could provide
a template. Better still would be a tiered message system which can be accessed from one,
consistent, frequently updated point which includes the world situation, the national status,
provincial messaging and usable local information about what's open today and coming soon,
what remains closed, local sources for real (certified to meet standards) PPE, and current
local COVID-19 etiquette (how many can congregate indoors, outdoors, isolation and distancing
protocols, all the hygiene advice - including authoritative information on use of DIY cloth
masks, and what we know about the virus on several levels. Disinformation moves fast and the
reliable information void is giving it a huge head-start.
All the official messaging has to be open about what we don't know, and to say that information will change. There should also be a 'track changes' record so people who are so inclined can see how the messaging has evolved, when and why. That's open and transparent. And very important, the officials have to walk the talk, and be reading from the same page. Where the message is different from different levels, highlight it and explain it. Mixed messaging is a killer here, figuratively and possibly literally.
I have looked at a couple of municipal sites, and while they provide links to most of what I am seeking (national, provincial info sources and local updates), the set-up is bureaucrat hierarchical. It needs to be structured so it is more approachable by people seeking specific information. For example, a page with information for local businesses should include who is allowed to re-open and when, rules for physical distancing on premises and where to acquire PPE for workers, new obligations and potential liabilities, local sources for more information and guidance.
Dear local officials, here are your key words for your COVID-19 communications: do it, daily or more frequently, put the message where the people are - physically, channels, current beliefs, language level, spoken/read languages understood, reinforcing, agility, history, honesty, transparency, local case counts, local trends, etiquette, rules and guidance.
It appears we now have fake websites in Canada purporting to be COVID-19 relief information,
but are really phishing campaigns to enable identity theft.
In the interests of good information sharing, this is where to start for Canadian financial
relief related to COVID-19 (and yes, the information there seems to change daily). Hint: for
your safety, look for the domain to end in 'canada.ca'.
And until we get the health version of one-stop information source(s), here are your
not-one-stop-shopping information sources.
There may also be local and regional status web pages.
Wikipedia also has a number of pages for COVID-19 information by jurisdiction, e.g.
;-) The Department of Unfinished Statistics concluded...
May 16, 2020
On Friday we learned that on Thursday, Ontario under-counted its new cases count, reporting just 258, just in time to be the 'good-news' backdrop for Premier Ford's 're-opening plan' announcement. Convenient, and once again damages the credibility of the testing and reporting system. On Friday, the new cases count was back on the trend-line at 428, too late to impact the multiple re-openings scheduled for the long weekend. Canada, again, reported about 1200 new cases on Friday. As for our readiness to lift restrictions, just read my post from yesterday again.
The demise of the bitumen-based oil industry in Canada
I know the mainstream media wants to blame the current woes of Canada's oil industry on COVID-19. However, there is a more to this story than reprinting the talking points provided by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) and the Canadian Energy Pipelines Association (CEPA). I know, because I was digging into the fundamentals of bitumen extraction more than a decade ago, and long ago concluded that the industry could not be profitable on a level playing field; it only worked financially if it got massive financial and non-financial subsidies and incentives. As an analogy, blaming the dire straits of the oil industry in Canada today on COVID-19 is like blaming the player who removed the last piece from the Jenga tower, when the real cause of the Jenga tower collapse was that the table beneath it broke. This posting can't do the topic justice, but it can cover some key points.
Here's some reality on the 'Canadian' oil scene. As a starting point, the oil industry operates world-wide, and generally shows little regard for national boundaries or sovereign governments. From the days of John D. Rockefeller, it is an industry which has worked by bullying, intimidation, corrupting officials and evading its obligations. (I recommend Kevin Taft's book Oil's Deep State to get a solid grounding on this.) On the other hand, the oil industry's technical accomplishments are astonishing, and much of our state of economic and societal progress (for better and worse) has been built on the low cost energy which coal, oil and natural gas have put at our disposal.
The real crisis the oil industry faces today isn't about saving the environment; it's about financial viability. There are two pincers closing in on it.
1) Most of the easily accessible, high quality, inexpensive crude has been found, extracted and burned now. That was 'peak oil' as we understood the term in the 1970s (and we have passed it). What remains (off-shore, heavy oils, bitumen, the Arctic) is harder to access, more expensive to extract or lower quality, and referred to by experts as 'extreme oil'. To be clear, the Deepwater Horizon disaster was an 'extreme oil' event.
2) Less expensive options are now available, notably thermal and electric power generated by renewables like solar and wind energy, especially when coupled with increasingly less expensive storage like advanced batteries. And those advanced batteries are making electric cars more capable year over year, and less expensive to operate than gas and diesel vehicles because the electric vehicles are 4 times as efficient and use a less expensive fuel. Note, these 2 items are purely about financial competitiveness; they have nothing to do with reducing pollution or GHG emissions. Investors don't care about your health or quality of life; they care about profits, and money is the crux of the oil industry's current crisis.
Some years back, it was suggested that the Canadian oil industry, and bitumen extraction
and pipelines in particular, should try some grace and innovation on oil spill response and
remediation under the banner of 'social licence', e.g.
But in recent days, the world oil industry has encountered headwinds. Unfortunately for bitumen, it is a higher-cost, lower-quality product than U.S. shale, competing on the same continent. Bitumen prices have been in serious trouble for a few years due to the U.S. shale competition. Falling demand in 2018 and 2019 met growing Canadian bitumen production, and the prices went lower as supply outpaced demand. In early 2020, the Russians and Saudis took aim at U.S. shale oil, and Canadian bitumen became collateral damage. Prices fell below US$40 per barrel routinely from 2016 onward, diving below $20 in November 2018.
Teck withdrew its application for the Frontier mine - which would have been the largest bitumen mine in history - because the company could not see a financial future that included profitability, ever.
But, without regard for reality, when the COVID-19 crisis squeezed the real Canadian economy, CAPP and its chief cheerleaders in the Alberta government Cabinet, simply told the federal government they needed a $30 billion bailout, despite declaring big profits in 2019 (and many years before that). No justification for this bailout demand, just the expectation that - like the $20 billion or so spent and committed for the TMX pipeline when the U.S. private sector wanted out - this amount would simply be deposited to the oil industry account from public coffers without questions or conditions. The amounts were publicly announced by the Alberta Energy Minister, with dates, before the rest of us even knew another federal bailout to foreign investors was in the works.
It turns out the 'Canadian' oil industry isn't even really owned by Canadians.
Major players in the Alberta oil sector are shutting in production, reducing supply dramatically, because the market price doesn't cover production costs.
The world's largest wealth fund, which was built on oil money, has determined that the Alberta
contribution to the oil industry is so financially toxic, it has actually blacklisted 4 of the major
On Monday, April 25th, as COVID-19 gloom piled on, the price of oil - including WCS (Western Canadian Select - the label for bitumen-based crude on commodities markets) - went negative. Even with all the subsidies and freebies Canadian and Alberta governments heap on the oil industry, it can't satisfy shareholders if the price of their core product is negative.
When the federal Liberals decided they were going to use Canadian taxpayer money to rescue Canadians rather than foreign-owned multi-nationals, it was a sea-change in the Canadian political power dynamic. Given the oil sector had shed thousands of jobs while increasing production volumes in the previous decade, and the Alberta government had sacked 30,000 or more provincial workers in the past year, neither were credible candidates for protecting citizens or creating jobs. Instead, the federal government chose to bail out people, and target specific activities in the oil sector to be funded (such as cleaning up abandoned and orphaned well sites). The oil industry, the Alberta government, its taxpayer-funded propaganda 'war room' and mainstream media cheerleaders chose to double down on bluster, and made up numbers on how many people they employed and how big a part of the economy they were, and declared the economy would crumble if the oil industry wasn't given their ginormous corporate welfare handout.
Then, a funny thing happened. One Green MP responded with data and facts. This was not a
playing field where the oil industry performs well.
The illusion of oil industry competence evaporated within a couple of days. Financial viability was already gone, despite existing subsidies.
Even the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), which many have seen as the archetype of the
industry-captured regulator, has suddenly called a halt to the decades-old Shell game where oil
companies hive off depleted wells and related assets into small companies with no other assets, but
including the clean-up liability as part of the sale, and then bankrupt the small company leaving
property owners, municipalities or taxpayers on the hook for the clean-up - anybody but the original
That's why the 'Canadian' bitumen oil industry is doomed - even with massive on-going subsidies, it can't compete financially with other off-the-shelf energy options; and, the industry has burned its bridges to a place in 'after'. With that realization digested, we can start thinking rationally about how to move ahead in a post-bitumen-focused Canada.
Our use of refined oil products in Canada won't end overnight, just as our use of coal is still ramping down. But when you are looking at making big investment decisions which need 4-5 decades to pay off, you better get your foresight honed to 20/20. The financial 'stress test' imposed on the Canadian oil sector by COVID-19 has provided the impetus to shift to a more financially viable energy regime. If we seize the opportunity, we may also achieve cleaner air and water and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as desirable outcomes, even if that's not the fundamental reason for the shift away from bitumen and other extreme oil sources.
;-) How many South Americans does it take to change a light-bulb?
May 15, 2020
Yesterday, Canada reported it had surpassed 73,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections. That's about 0.2% of our population. If you're thinking we can get to herd immunity quickly this way, consider we are at about 3 months since the first cases reported in Canada. If we lift restrictions to maintain the current rate so as to not overwhelm hospitals, it will take us about 120 years to reach enough exposures to approach herd immunity. And about 2 million related deaths (based on the current deaths to confirmed cases ratio). That's not an analysis, just extrapolation based on the data we have today. If we go faster, the death rate will likely rise as outbreaks overwhelm the 'system' regionally.
Travel Restrictions and Controls
This is why restricting travel matters as we are in the early stages of containing COVID-19
and still not doing enough testing, and not having enough contact tracking resources or information
sources on inter-region travel. As we 're-open', we need to start putting resources at airports
to screen passengers for domestic flights, when they are ready to board, and again when they
deplane. The arrivals need to be tested for the virus and questioned for symptoms, and told
they are expected to self-isolate for 14 days. This is because the local officials in the
arrival jurisdiction don't know the situation on the ground recently experienced by the individual
arriving from elsewhere in Canada.
We don't have the contact tracking resources we need in the heaviest hit parts of the country. When we talk about not overwhelming the system, this is at least as important as front-line acute (hospital) care. We clearly failed on long-term care facilities. I suspect we also failed on home-based health care, but that's going to be a lot harder to document in numbers in the short term, because nobody is looking.
It's almost psychotic, this desperation to get back to a 'normal' we're simply not going to
see again. Perhaps not even 'almost'. Since I started writing this piece, I have come across
this article. It's from the U.S., not Canada. However, the differences between us are largely
of degree, not fundamental approach, so I think this is instructive, and from a source far more
credible than me.
In Canada, we are continuing to confirm over 1000 new cases a day in our fake 'lockdown' state.
We don't have enough PPE or any assurance that significantly more is coming in the near future of
certified quality. Counterfeits are being offered in increasing numbers, especially from China,
feeding off desperation elsewhere (like here).
We aren't ramping up our own production in sufficient quantity. If we don't develop a viable vaccine (and there is no guarantee we will), 120 years (+/- 50%) of demand should constitute a market worth preparing for, just within Canada.
We don't have enough contact tracking capacity in place to deal with new major outbreaks. We should be staffing and training more now, and creating the ability to share resources across jurisdictions on the assumption the skills are transferable, but the outbreaks will be uneven geographically. We don't have enough testing capacity, though there is positive news on that front from Ontario and Quebec - where it matters most right now - in the past 48 hours. Finally.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister urged Canadians to buy more from other Canadians as part of our
economic recovery strategy for the short term. I agree, except for the part about the short term.
(Also, getting small packages across the Canadian border is taking longer and longer as the health
emergency continues.) As I have said before, I think we need to re-think our reliance on other
countries for the supply of critical items, as some (notably China and the U.S.) have not been
reliable 'partners' for the past 2 months. As our leaders are standing before the cameras and
providing daily updates (the most accountable most of them have been for years), and as they are
cheer-leading for 're-opening the economy' by putting citizens at increased risk of contracting
the virus, I would like them to add 2 new stats to their daily updates:
Also, from those provinces pushing re-opening of customer-facing businesses, a list of suppliers with PPE stock on hand for sale for businesses that are re-opening would be useful information.
We're not going back to the old normal. It's not just COVID-19's direct impacts. It's what we're learning about how we do work which is going to change. The number of service jobs is going to remain reduced. People are going to travel less for pleasure and business. People are not going to spend 40-60 hours a week at the office in the numbers they did before. Different countries are running different experiments on how to come out of the short term version of the pandemic health emergency; we'll be learning a lot about what has worked and what has not in months and years to come. I expect there will be failed states due to COVID-19. International trust relationships have been damaged; trade isolation will grow to reflect people's travel isolation. We're going to be adjusting for a while. We might not be able to accurately predict the scale of the coming changes, but we can make some decent guesses at the direction of the coming shifts.
If you have a car which hasn't been used for a while, it's time to make sure it will start and drive it a bit to knock rust off the brakes.
;-) I once saw a camel with NO humps.
May 14, 2020
New cases in Canada continue to grind along at about 1100 per day. Deaths around 150-160 per day.
Assuming the desired strategy is to start consciously increasing exposures without adequate testing capacity or quantities of quality PPE, we're at the stage where specific regions can give it a go. Remember, response capacity is regional, not national or provincial. We don't have official local perimeter controls, but reduced travel is conferring some of the same benefits. Follow stats and local daily briefings to assess your own risk.
Immunity (continued from May 12th post)
Assuming that people really will have immunity after they have survived a SARS-CoV-2 infection, given how many people are believed to have very mild symptoms, or even no recognizable symptoms, how will we know who is actually immune?
At this stage, the assumption is that we can test them for the presence of antibodies. However, to date, some of the antibody tests are providing false positive results as they respond to antibodies to coronaviruses other than SARS-CoV-2. Further, the presence of antibodies means that you have been exposed to the virus and your immune system has mounted a response, but not that you have fully recovered from the infection. You could have the antibodies and still be infected and contagious. You need the live-virus test as well to actually know your status - assuming both tests are accurate and administered at an appropriate time in the course of your particular progress with the virus. (Again, the basis of living with the virus 'after', and 'herd immunity', is that we ALL will be exposed to the virus eventually.)
On a positive note, Canada has just approved the use of a test which is supposed to identify
SARS-CoV-2 antibodies accurately in blood samples.
The basis of 'herd immunity' is that enough of us have immune systems primed and ready to kill
off the SARS-CoV-2 virus when we encounter it (due to vaccination, previous exposure, antibody
donation or some other means), that we will not become infectious and spread the virus to others.
If enough of us have that immunity, then when someone contagious is encountered in public, they
will not be able to spread the virus because the vast majority of people they encounter will be
immune, and that breaks the transmission chain. Wikipedia has a longer version:
This was the premise of keeping measles at bay for decades in Canada and the U.S. and Europe.
It worked, until there were enough pockets where enough people did not get the measles vaccination
(MMR), and then the infectious disease could spread. In short, herd immunity via vaccination
works, so long as people keep getting vaccinated.
More useful information on 'herd immunity' as it relates to COVID-19.
Without a lot more testing for both live virus and antibodies, we simply don't have the knowledge to figure out if we're anywhere close to the numbers required for 'herd immunity'. We just don't have a handle at all on how much of the population has been exposed or demonstrated they had minor symptoms or developed immunity. We also still don't know just how infectious this virus actually is, because we don't know how many people have actually contracted it. That would take widespread random testing, not targeted testing.
There is still so much we don't actually know regarding immunity related to COVID-19.
I am seeing some chatter about 'Immunity Passports'. In my opinion, at this stage, the idea is pointless. What will create real immunity is an effective vaccine, or ensuring everyone is exposed to the virus and take our chances. I'm not in favour of the latter - the downside consequences are too high.
Here are some questions I have developed, which make me think we're not ready to seriously
contemplate an 'immunity passport'.
Notes on Testing
We need to do a lot more to get a sense of how (if) immunity to the SARS-CoV-2 virus works,
both for the virus and the antibodies.
For now, there is no vaccine. Testing is inadequate, and in some cases of such low quality as to be of questionable value for individuals or forecasting for the herd. Where there are outbreaks, we overwhelm our contract tracking capacity. The 'game' is to expose more people to the virus - gradually, so as to not overwhelm the 'system'. The definition of risk here is different for the individual than it is for society.
My take today: why take unnecessary risks? When observed, the measures we are advising (isolation, hygiene, distancing) are working and buying us time, at the price of inconvenience. (Yesterday, I had my first doctor's appointment by telephone. It's not all less convenient, though I acknowledge this was not as thorough an event as the in-office appointments.) With that time, we are learning better treatments to increase survival rates and reduce health impacts, developing better testing techniques and ramping up their distribution and reducing time to results, establishing more sources (reliable and quality) of PPE, and advancing work on vaccines or other treatments to reduce incidence and risk.
;-) In Greek mythology, Chiron was known for his knowledge and skill
May 13, 2020
This is the diamond edition of the COVID-19 posts here: number 60. I sincerely hope there won't be 60 more, but I'm not optimistic about that.
Canada continues to grind along at about 1200 new cases per day, and reporting about 170 new deaths yesterday. Ontario and Quebec remain the focal points for total and new case and death counts.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
If you thought that the quasi-lockdowns were going to make a big difference to greenhouse
gas (GHG) emissions, you will be disappointed by this story.
There are likely a few factors at play here.
I don't use Facebook as it is a disinformation engine, by design and through the history
of its operation. So, I'm only aware of this item due to media coverage and having a reader
bring it to my attention. There are agents who are downplaying the severity of COVID-19,
and trying to erode the public's confidence in their leadership in western nations.
This is just one example.
Contact Tracing Poll (see also my May 6th entry)
Majority of Canadians do not approve of a mandatory contact tracing app: Mainstreet poll
Ontario Premier Ford and COVID-19
We need our elected leaders to be credible so that the public feel they can trust the
guidance that they and their elected and unelected officials are providing. This is
recognized as important in other countries.
Why is the Ontario government so determined to throw away the good will the federal government is buying for them, and eroding the trust they need to be building?
Ontario and national Canadian mainstream media have been flogging a few pieces recently on how Doug Ford has morphed from a truly ineffective premier plagued by own goals, unforced errors, flip-flop-flip 'decisions' (e.g. new licence plate design) and general foot-in-mouth disease backed by a weak cabinet, into 'the Premier Ontario needs' to deal with COVID-19. But the actions so far don't live up to that billing. The COVID-19 response needs to be open about what we don't know, and show prompt, appropriate action and compassion, and honesty to admit mistakes with commitment to fix them, based on evidence over ideology.
Health care is a provincial jurisdiction, including long-term care and providing a safe work environment for ALL health care workers. For Ontario, that makes it Doug Ford's responsibility. Yet, each time there's a tough call forced by COVID-19, Premier Ford has punted to the feds or laid blame instead of accepting responsibility. Hazard pay for front-line workers: let the feds pay. Obtaining PPE: let the feds do the heavy lifting. Need workers in the devastated long-term care homes the Ontario government has given a pass to on inspections for years (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/care-home-inspections-1.5558410): let the feds send in the military. Not living up to your rhetoric on testing: blame officials in or which report to your government. A wage top-up for the chronically underpaid shadow health care heroes: send the bill to Ottawa. Need money to bail out your provincial economy, small businesses, renters, landlords, newly unemployed ... : Let Ottawa pay for it. Can't source enough PPE for health care workers, tell private businesses that want to re-open per the Premier's guidance to find their own. Day after day, it just goes on and on.
I know a lot of Canadians can't distinguish municipal from provincial from federal governments, let alone who has primary responsiblities for which areas, or which politicians operate at which level. Heck, some don't know the difference between Canadian senators, U.S. federal and state senators, and the Ottawa Senators (hint: the last one is a hockey team). So, perhaps this won't do much damage to Premier Ford's re-election chances in a couple of years. But right now we need leadership that inspires trust and confidence.
On top of that, these headlines give a sense of how this is the gang that couldn't message straight.
Using the COVID-19 health emergency to provide cover for really bad decisions if Ontario citizens are your real concern.
Ontario suspends environmental oversight rules, citing COVID-19
Ontario Builds Natural Gas-Fired Generation with TC Energy Purchase
Since COVID-19 emerged, how many people have died in Ontario? They won’t tell us.
After telling Ontarians they should not visit their cottages for the foreseeable future as a
measure to reduce virus transmission spread, and committing he would not do so himself, he promptly
did exactly that.
After telling Ontarians that the emergency orders including self-isolation are still in force late
last week, Doug Ford had his daughters - who do not reside with him - come over on Mother's Day.
No information was provided as to whether or not provincial government guidance about maintaining
2-metres physical distancing was observed.
In my view, "We're all in this together" doesn't align well with "Do as I say, not as I do". There's so much distrust of government and disinformation circulating to reinforce it, that it's a real effort to get massive public cooperation when they desperately want to do something other than follow government guidance. It does real damage when you want the masses to not act like 'yahoos' (Ford's term), but then you do. It's offering up a loophole on a platter. Dear Premier, please stop feeding the yahoos. COVID-19 is hard enough without undesired behaviour.
;-) I'm a really good multi-tasker.
May 12, 2020
Canada's numbers continue to grind along, not getting worse, but not really getting better. However, we are now rolling the dice on gradual 're-opening' and hoping people are smart and cautious about it. Our current rate of deaths to confirmed cases is just over 7%. If you're feeling smug about how we're doing better than the U.S., consider that the U.S. rate of deaths to cases is under 6%. The good news in Canada is that we do seem to be doing a better job of keeping the number of exposures and new cases to a lower rate than the U.S. That's due to doing the boring stuff: isolation (reducing number of contacts); physical distancing; washing your hands with soap; cough/sneeze into your elbow; disinfect common-use surfaces ...
The catch is that 're-opening the economy' means we're reducing the benefits of isolation, and it will increase the number of people infected, whether or not we're ready with enough testing capacity (we're not) or contact tracking (which takes people; again, we're not ready) or treatments (still in development).
The basis for this strategy is that we will build up immunity in the population eventually (whether we try to manage it or not) via exposure or treatments (which aren't in place yet), without overwhelming our acute health care system (hospitals). That's at the national level, and it's a numbers game. The ability to respond to case load is regional because it's based on hospitals.
Actual cases are individual people. Remember, if you get infected with COVID-19 in Canada, there is a more than 7% chance it will kill you. Anecdotal evidence suggests that if you survive, there is a greater than 7% chance (no really good data on this yet) you will have some other long-term negative health effect as a result of the infection. The longer you put off being exposed to the virus, the better the chances are we will have developed a vaccine, another preventative treatment, or at least have more knowledge of how to treat you if serious symptoms develop. In my opinion, as an individual, your best strategy is to try to outwait the virus in hopes that medical immunization will be available within some period of time.
One of the rationalizations I'm reading for a faster 're-opening of the economy', is that we can't get back to 'normal' until we have 'herd immunity' in our population. So many things about this meme bother me. For today, I'm going let the idea of a return to the old 'normal' pass, and the nonsense which implies the 'economy' was 'closed'. Let's dig into 'herd immunity'. What does that actually mean? What I think the proponents of this so-called strategy are seeking is full-on delusional for COVID-19 in the short term. We need to unpack this concept a bit, and back up a couple of steps.
We need to start with the idea of immunity at the individual level. That means that once you have survived an encounter with an infectious disease, your immune system is primed with antibodies so it can mount a rapid response to a new encounter with the same virus so that you don't suffer the symptoms again. This generally works for things like the mumps and chicken pox. The other route to producing this sort of primed-and-ready immune system response is through vaccinations.
Vaccinations vs. Intentional Exposure
When I was a child, one of the functions of kindergarten was to expose 5-year-olds to a range of relatively non-severe infectious diseases. For me, that was 1962-3, and I got nailed by several. It was also a practice for mothers (most were stay-at-home in the late 1950s and early 1960s in my experience) to take their pre-schoolers to visit neighbours who had a child contagious with measles, mumps or chicken pox, on the basis that the symptoms were milder in children than if exposed when an adult. This was before most vaccines we know today existed (smallpox, polio and DTP were available). The common measles vaccine was developed in 1963, and others followed in the 1960s. By the time my kids were starting school, those vaccinations were routine, and since then have become mandatory. A lot of people reading this won't be able to remember a time before many of the common vaccines today were not a thing. Just note, it wasn't so long ago. Now, there are multiple vaccines which are common and have improved childhood health immensely (DTP, MMR, polio, varicella, Hep A & B, etc.). Based on centuries of experience, parents knew that intentional exposure of children to mumps and chicken pox was fairly low risk. It would not be the same if the disease going around was bubonic plague. Even so, the MMR vaccine is an even lower risk for children than intentional exposure to measles, mumps and rubella. So now, the vaccination is the preferred option.
Intentional exposure makes sense if 2 things are true: 1) there is no vaccine; and, 2) the consequences of the illness are short-lived and relatively benign for the entire population (or at least causing significant issues for well below 1 in 100,000 doses administered). By comparison, as of May 10, 2020, death rates for those confirmed to have the SARS-CoV-2 virus is roughly 7,000 per 100,000 infected - and still rising as death is a lagging indicator. We don't have data on people who have recovered, but suffered significant issues such as pneumonia, scarring of lung tissue, other organ injuries, blood clots, etc. Limited data does suggest that those who have recovered but with significant health effects and injuries is greater than the number who have died. In my opinion, a 7% death rate and higher rates of serious injury in survivors is not justification for intentional exposure to speed up 're-opening the economy'. I'll go farther and suggest that reducing the population of consumers by 7% (or more) will do real irrecoverable harm to 'the economy'.
Here's the next problem with COVID-19 immunity for survivors. We don't know if it actually happens.
There are very limited reports of people who are ill with COVID-19 responding well to plasma
treatments where antibodies of survivors are present in the plasma.
Using antibodies from a donor to promote recovery is not synonymous with individual immunity for a useful period of time. We don't have the experience with the NOVEL coronavirus to know if immunity is conferred, and if it is, how long it lasts. Our past experience suggests years of immunity for influenza coronaviruses (per strain), but we don't know with SARS-CoV-2, yet.
In some cases, there does not seem to be immunity resulting from surviving a first COVID-19
I'll come back to immunity in the next few days. Already in TLDR territory for today.
;-) Stages of working from home
May 11, 2020
Sunday's report of below 1200 new cases is likely a weekend data reporting effect. Even so, it only puts us back in the range where we were a week ago with a bump up 3-5 days ago. Alberta reported almost 100 new cases on Sunday alone. BC now has fewer cases per capita than Saskatchewan. It's a marathon, and the slow, tedious adherence to isolation, distancing, caution and hygiene measures does pay off, eventually. Deaths continue to grind along around 200 per day nationally.
In the face of so much unsourced speculation (possibly disinformation) that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is aerosolized in typical conditions, here is a sourced, on-the-record, blunt rebuttal. We don't know everything about this virus, but this assessment by experts fits the available, sourced, credible data.
"Our current assessment of the evidence: COVID-19 is almost exclusively spread via
droplets. When there is risk of droplet aerosolization, such as with certain medical
procedures, spread can be airborne.
'Re-opening' and the Individual
The experts acknowledge they are still learning about the virus itself, how it behaves and impacts us, and how to beat it medically. 'Re-openings' are a gamble where officials are trying to move us back to 'normal' (as we used to understand it), while still not overwhelming our acute health care capacity.
There are solid reasons for trying to restore some normalcy related to mental health, physical health, social and cultural values, restoring long-term production of necessities, and economic. We don't want to stay in our 'bubbles' indefinitely, nor can we afford to. The real gamble is, how do we develop 'immunity' to COVID-19 in the short term?
Based on what I can find on that topic, we just don't know enough about developing immunity to this virus to answer that question yet. Which means we - as individuals - are being set up to take our own set of gambles. Will I get infected by increasing my exposure? If so, how seriously ill will I become? Will I die from this disease? If I recover, will I have long-term health consequences? Will I infect others, especially those important to me? If I feel I have to increase my personal exposure, are there measures I can take to improve my chances of not being infected and becoming contagious? What are my risk factors?
The evidence shows physical barriers, isolation, hand-washing, cleaning surfaces, etc. works to break the transmission chain. Masks are less effective because they don't stop all the small particles, and don't protect the eyes. N95 masks do help, but have their own issues, and are hard to obtain now. Medical masks which meet the quality standard and are properly fitted provide less protection against the virus and are also hard to obtain. Both N95 and medical masks are being reused due to shortages. To my knowledge no level of government is giving daily updates on their PPE 'stockpiles'. There are no standards for DIY cloth masks, so the degree of protection is like playing the lottery.
If you have to face the public at close quarters, erect solid barriers which block air flow. If you are wearing a mask, learn how to put it on, wear it, take it off and sterilize it / dispose of it properly. It you don't wear it correctly, it isn't helping. If you aren't cleaning and sterilizing it frequently and correctly, it can cause other health issues. Seriously consider getting a face shield or other eye protection as well, and using it as a matter of routine. In my opinion, a face shield is better because it really interferes with the unconscious face-touching.
In the short term, 're-opening' means more people are going to get sick from COVID-19. So far, about 0.2% of the population in Canada are confirmed cases. You are really much better off not getting infected. There is no proof of immunity from COVID-19 after surviving it, just assumptions and speculation based on what we know about years of experience with other coronaviruses.If you can, stay isolated and maintain physical distancing. If you can't, take precautions and be careful.
;-) “I love deadlines.
May 9, 2020
Alberta has overtaken Ontario for 2nd place in the highest number of confirmed cases per capita, and Nova Scotia is in 4th position. The three combined don't match Quebec. Nationally, over 1500 new cases confirmed on Friday, taking the rate up above the 1400s of the previous few days. It's a bit concerning as the effects of very limited ' re-openings' aren't a factor yet in these numbers.
It's going to be a tricky balancing act, and hospital-based acute care is not geographically flexible. In my opinion, 're-openings' should be based on availability of preventative measures in place, including adequate supplies of PPE for everyone, and the area served by a coherent local acute care capacity - probably on a municipal level with perimeter traffic controls (such as being enforced by Quebec at the Ottawa-Gatineau bridge crossings).
Start and Spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic
There are plenty of conspiracy theories going around, almost certainly abetted by the
disinformation machines of all the superpower nations. This article is one of the best
lay audience versions I have seen of the topic.
DIY Cloth Masks (again)
I remain of the opinion that these masks create as many health issues as they may resolve, and increasingly look like blame shifting from governments which can't source enough real PPE to individuals who are still looking for loopholes. The data says these masks help reduce spread from people who are infected, but not much protecting of the wearer. They don't cover your eyes, an important virus entry point.
But let's talk some statistics (this won't hurt much). The '95' in N95 respirator masks means the device should stop about 95% of things a bit bigger than coronaviruses from getting through. That means about 5% (or a bit more) are EXPECTED to get through. If you're a front-line worker facing more than 20 COVID-95 positive patients over a couple of days, do you like the odds that means at least 1 of those has a high probability of transmitting the SARS-CoV-2 virus to you? Right, me either. Now, if it's a medical (surgical or procedure mask), the odds drop to about 50% protection, if the mask fits well and is worn correctly. That means, with the medical mask, 10 of those 20 patients have a shot at transmitting to you. Not better. With DIY cloth masks, the key inner filter layer is not present, so the effectiveness rate is less than 50%, meaning the chances of being infected by someone carrying the virus despite the mask is even higher. That's why health workers don't want DIY masks. And without a face-shield, still no protection for the eyes. Understand what masks can and cannot do for you. Stay safe.
Note these recent articles:
Isolation (staying at home, physical distancing) is still better than any mask.
If you do have to go back to work, face the public, and especially if you don't have solid barriers as protection, please get yourself a face shield, and get your employer to provide quality medical masks, and learn how to put them on, wear them, take them off and store them correctly. Otherwise, they're essentially pointless and giving you a false sense of security.
I don't expect to do a post tomorrow, as it will be Mother's Day.
;-) My Mom always told me I would never accomplish anything by lying in
May 8, 2020
The new cases count was above 1400 again, still based in insufficient testing. We are in the lull before the storm I'm expecting due to the 're-openings'. Montreal remains close to its capacity, with new outbreaks occurring. The lagging indicator, deaths, rose by 10% in a single day, from about 4,000 to 4,400. We aren't bothering with good stats on the outcomes of the 'recovered'.
As governments seem to be competing on which can 're-open' biggest and fastest, cautionary information is in plain sight. Businesses continue to indicate they cannot source all the PPE they want in order to protect their workers - and possibly customers - sufficiently. That's not surprising as front-line health care workers are still reporting the need to re-use multiple times PPE which was considered one-time-use-only and disposable three months ago. I am sure those responsible for acquiring PPE for Canadians, and the unexpected function of preparing it for re-use or repairing ventilators, are doing the best they can, while understanding that so far it isn't enough. They have my respect and admiration. They will have important things to tell us 'after'.
But they're going to be busy for some time to come.
COVID-19 and children
One of the barriers to some people returning to work is the lack of open day-care facilities
for children. Children younger than school-age are not naturally inclined to observe physical
distancing rules, and may not be fond of ill-fitting masks. (In fact, masks are not recommended
for children aged 2 or younger.)
Are they more immune? Are they superspreaders? Is a new upsurge in symptoms similar to Kawasaki Disease related to COVID-19? As I read the material available, we simply don't know yet all the ways this virus is affecting us physically, let alone how it's impacting children differently from adults, and certainly not even fielding good guesses as to the long-term effects of COVID-19 infections in children. In adults we see significant impacts on organs. The strategy may be to gradually allow the mass population to be exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus so as to keep the acute health care system functional, but exposure does bring a range of risks, not just deaths of the elderly.
COVID-19 and blod clots
Again, SARS-CoV-2 is a NOVEL coronavirus, so we're going to be learning about it for some time to come.
Loss of Sense of Smell as Indicator
Anosmia, hyposmia, and dysgeusia as indicators for positive SARS-CoV-2 infection
Leadership - Gender and COVID-19 response
Something which had not occurred to me has been raised by Ann Jones and published in TomDispatch.
Of eight countries she has selected as having a pretty effective national response to the COVID-19 pandemic,
seven have women as their national leaders. Here's her article, following an introduction by Nick
Turse (associate editor at TomDispatch):
For comparison, here's a list of the eight countries doing the worst on COVID-19 cases.
Learning from Other Jurisdictions - Sweden
Sweden has been touted in the past by the 're-open everything' faction as the shining
example of how COVID-19 is more an attack on personal freedom to be infected than a viral
attack on us. To give facts their due, that wasn't Sweden's approach, but tyhey did not
lockdown to the extent their neighbours did. Sweden's death rate is now (2020.05.08) over
300 per million, and rising. Still better than the worst countries, but not as good as
;-) Coronavirus prevention tip:
May 7, 2020
Yesterday's national new confirmed cases grind rate moved up from the 1200s range to over 1400. Reports of insufficient PPE for businesses are coming from across the entire country. Hospitals in Montreal are at capacity and moving patients out of the region to make room for growing numbers of COVID-19 patients with symptoms which require hospitalization.
As I watch elected leaders speaking, and the tone of media coverage, I feel the complacency setting in, despite moving past the 4,000 deaths count - over 0.01% of our total population. That's in a month, from a single cause, with rates still rising, and probably under-counting.
That's not the count of hospitalizations or those who have survived with long-term health impacts. I don't know how our front-line health workers could be ready for a second wave when we still have the military stationed at over a dozen outbreak sites in Ontario and Quebec, and PPE for them remains a day-to-day issue.
Coming back to the core items for 'after'. Today, we'll look at food.
Core item: Safe food to eat
You can survive with food for a week or a bit more.
Food security, food waste, food safety, food hazards, and nutritional value; today I'll try to cover the first 2 parts lightly - these are complex topics.
Food security is not universal in Canada. We have food banks in our major cities to small towns, including church 'pantries' in small communities. Remote communities are seeing traditional local foods threatened by encroachment of industrial projects on migration paths, over-fishing, etc. Climate change is impacting the normal range of plant and animal species. Diminishing biodiversity is impacting the food web which affects even top predators. We have breakfast programs in schools because hungry children don't learn as well as those who are well nourished. Today, they're not in school.
Our physical supply lines were not cut off by COVID-19, but they were impacted, and we have learned they are finely-tuned to a routine, and also fragile. This has led to the paradox of farmers dumping product (milk and potatoes have made headlines), while there are empty shelves in grocery stores and food banks are facing reduced supplies while demand escalates. Not so much connected by the supply chain as bound by it. It takes time to grow food, many food products are based on an annual cycle, or longer time frames (fruit trees, raising livestock). That requires stability and investment of funds and time to be successful.
Climate change threatens the environmental stability, and the neoliberal boom-and-bust economic model threatens financial stability. Shifting to more local production and dispersed supply lines will take a conscious plan, real effort and time. Spring planting season, coupled with people idled by COVID-19 and an expectation of disruption effects which will last for months, or possibly years, make for an opportunity to support local farmers, community gardens and growing food at home - even if its a couple of tomato plants in containers on a balcony. The hardest part is the decision to start.
There have always been informal networks to connect surplus to those in need. Undoubtedly that's how food banks got started. We can support those networks by praising them and using them. We can learn to be creative and supportive.
If we have the necessary information, we can shift our consumption patterns to adjust to the bumps and grinds in our food supply. As spring grudgingly crawls north (but not today), we'll be barbecuing more potatoes and dusting off old potato salad recipes. To the extent it may help the dairy industry use more of their industrial milk surplus in the short term, I'm growing our inventory of butter (it freezes well), and shifting from aged cheddars to cheeses that take less time to produce (e.g., cream cheese, mozzarella, ricotta, curds, cottage cheese, brie, camembert styles, Monterey Jack). This can apply to other foods, such as cabbage. The following seems like an encouraging story line.
CBC.ca: Coleslaw anyone? P.E.I. farmer left with mountain of cabbage due to slow sales.
CBC.ca: Cabbage Love: Surplus prompts P.E.I. woman to stand up for the humble vegetable.
COVID-19: Trudeau pledges $252M to help Canada's agriculture and food industries.
Cutting food waste should aid us on food security. As humans, we're omnivores, so we are designed to eat a diverse diet, adjusting to the seasons, scarcity and plenty. If there are going to be disruptions in the supply of specific food items, we can adjust. With better information, we can adjust more effectively.
Reducing food waste is in Project Drawdown's top 100 projects.
;-) How do you eat an elephant?
May 6, 2020
On a national basis, Canada is grinding along for about a month now at about 1200 new cases a day, with fluctuations. That is pretty much what the 'flatten the curve' approach is seeking, nominally not overwhelming the acute care health system. Just remember we still have a few complications. Canada is a big place, and the distribution of cases is not evenly spread across the country. As warmer weather arrives, the 'cabin fever' factor is going to become more evident. As we 're-open' businesses without enough PPE, we're increasing the risk factors. We are still learning about the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and how to respond to it effectively. The experience to date has certainly pointed out the fragility of some of our societal systems. We want to address some of those issues before we invite the virus to become more widespread. We're playing for time until we know what we're really up against (research, much more testing) and have resources (e.g. validated treatments) in place. The important word to take away from 'gradual lifting of restrictions' is 'gradual'.
Contact Tracing Apps
I'll let Wikipedia do the heavy lifting on explaining what a 'contact tracing app' is and does.
Experience to date
The U.K.’s Coronavirus Contact Tracing App Is a Complete Mess
Let's not hand out 'free' apps believing they are a solution until we meet some pre-conditions
(I assure you, taxpayers and consumers are paying for this).
G) the status of all cases is integrated into provincial health reporting systems
with daily (or more frequent) updates
The app is also useless if any of the following conditions hold:
Others have voiced concerns. They should be taken seriously. We want people to cooperate
massively in the COVID-19 response. We don't want to give them reasons to mistrust the
initiatives of formal leadership.
Privacy expert says flawed Alberta COVID-19 contact tracking app shouldn’t have been released
If everything goes right with the app, and somebody who was within 10-100 metres (depending on conditions, e.g. line-of-sight in clear air) of you at some point for several minutes, you will be notified on your cell phone (because the government/agent has your cell phone number), after that person tests positive for COVID-19 and enters that information in the app. If they don't put that information into the app, the whole thing is pointless. And we're still dependent on having enough contact tracing response capacity to have a conversation with you about your status in a short time.
The first person may have contracted the virus after they were within 10-100 metres of you, and
therefore were not infectious at the time that matters to you. (false positive)
Let's play out the timeline.
However, after 8-9 days, if you were infected by that contact event, you could be displaying symptoms yourself and be looking to be tested anyway. Even if the phone app is flawless, if we don't have fast access to testing and fast turn-around on results, it likely adds little benefit to addressing disease spread. For the phone app to have value, we need more and faster testing. Without the phone app, we need more and faster testing. Perhaps our focus should be on enabling more and faster testing.
If you want to use your cell phone to support contact tracing, here are a couple of approaches that
If you don't have a cell-phone, use a paper-based method (agenda book, loose paper) to keep that record.
;-) I finally realized that people are prisoners of their phones...
May 5, 2020
The 'curve' is the number of new cases reported per day plotted as a graph. As a whole, Canada is not flattening the curve. We have pockets (3 Atlantic provinces) where the COVID-19 spread seems to be under control, which means it's clearly not elsewhere. We still don't have enough testing resources in place anywhere to inspire confidence in the confirmed new cases numbers. We are almost certainly under-counting due to lack of testing.
CTV News: With some provinces reopening, where does Canada's PPE supply chain stand?
Another voice on 'after' regarding increased Canadian self-sufficiency
Can Canadians be trusted with a gradual lifing of restrictions, or will the 'yahoos' overwhelm us?
“In the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity”
Core Item: Safe water
I'm going to make a distinction between drinking water and water which can sustain life in it (wild water).
You can survive for a couple of days without water. No point in long-term planning if you don't have a safe, reliable water supply.
Safe drinking water is pretty straightforward. It is sufficiently clean or pure that you can drink it, and it will neither kill you nor sicken you, even a little. When we're talking about municipal drinking water, it does not require boiling to be safe, nor does it have a pungent odour, nor easily discerned colouring.
The COVID-19 health guidance which says wash your hands frequently using soap and water presumes you have access to safe, clean water. No point washing with the water if it is going to make you sick.
However, safe drinking water in Canadian municipalities isn't something we can take for granted. It takes planning, infrastructure, maintenance and support. Or building simpler, more resilient systems. Water can be made safe to drink by means other than chlorination.
As of May 4, 2020 there are the following warnings in effect in Canada:
That's actually an improvement over a few years ago. We have work to do here, still. Green jobs kind of work.
Wild water needs to be safe for fish, seabirds, aquatic mammals and aquatic plants to thrive. That means eliminating the toxins from that water, including oil and plastic and traces of our medications and long-lived toxic chemicals and nuclear waste and sewage and other pollution from our planetary flows and stores of water, fresh or salt. It isn't enough just to stop dumping our garbage into our waters starting tomorrow. We have a huge inventory of existing pollution and contamination we need to resolve as well.
Together with a number of committed, bright and talented people, I have spent some years
looking at some of those issues (and continue to do so). If you would like to look at issues
about how we deal with oil spills which reach wild water, I recommend these as starting points.
If you are seeking better solutions which are available to clean up oil spills, look here.
If you are interested in the issues around plastic pollution (and a focus on cleaning up
microplastic pollution), start here.
If you want better, safer water, you just have to decide to stop making it worse and enable real solutions.
;-) Not funny, but beautiful. Just enjoy. (5 minutes 15 seconds)
May 4, 2020
New numbers out of SK (12) and QC (over 2000) are cause for concern as these are two of the provinces with aggressive 're-opening' schedules. The QC data has 2 components, actual new cases (nearly 900) and over 1300 previously unreported cases (undercounting). Slightly lower new case counts in some jurisdictions are likely a Monday effect, but in my opinion the weekly trend lines in NS, QC, ON, MB, Sk, AB and BC do not argue for aggressive 're-opening'. I believe recent news on multiple COVID-19-related fronts also argue for caution in 're-opening' plans.
PPE - no secure adequate safe supply line in sight
Kawasaki Disease and COVD-19 - not proven, but needs watching
New N95 Mask Risk
As Many as 9,000 Early COVID-19 Deaths May Not Have Been Counted (U.S. data, but same effect
could have happened in Canada)
Why a flatter curve does not mean we've won the COVID-19 battle (the S-I-R model)
Threats to your computer
At this point, I could use some good news. Some Canadian provinces do seem to have wrestled COVID-19 to a standstill, and they are mature enough to not be claiming victory (NL, NB, PE).
Silver Lining - Air Quality
;-) A bedtime story from the future - not so much funny as thought-
May 3, 2020
Congratulations to New Brunswick! NB announced on Saturday that they no longer have any active cases of COVID-19. Quebec reported 1,008 new confirmed cases in the preceding 24 hours, while Ontario reported 511. Neither is doing enough testing to have great faith that those numbers reflect reality; they are likely still undercounting. Alberta also continues to miss its testing targets, has growing outbreaks, but still plans an aggressive 're-opening' schedule. Leaders in northern SK fear La Loche is a new hot spot with 75 confirmed cases.
We're still learning about the COVID-19 outbreak
There may be an additional delay in businesses re-opening even after provinces lift restrictions
- no PPE available.
Domestic PPE Production
Again, I want to make the case for developing a long-term strategy for sourcing critical
equipment within Canada's borders. To the extent it is practical, distributed across provinces
to provide a spread of new jobs, distributed inventories, and redundant production capacity.
If we develop too much capacity, there will be export markets for certified quality PPE for years
to come. China will no longer be a trusted source of supply. We cannot be left at the mercy of other governments again. Even with an Antonov-225 of
PPE landed in Montreal yesterday, there are no indications that Quebec has enough PPE to end re-use
policies, fully equip shadow health care system workers or provide PPE to workers in businesses
which may be re-opening this month.
The federal government is still looking for more businesses to become providers for critical equipment.
However we do need some incentives - it's a high risk environment for starting a new business, or even re-organizing or sustaining an existing one. It's always been hard for small businesses in Canada to get financing from traditional Canadian financial institutions. The biggest incentive is that government will continue to buy from these sources when we get to 'after'. Without that revenue stream, the capitalist system cannot justify the initial investment.
Scams - Capitalism At Work
Canadians have lost more than $1.2 million to COVID-19 scams
Big Business is Feasting on COVID-19
On top of taking bailouts to absolve them of long-standing liabilities, resetting rules for profit.
Scarcity-mongeringYes, still toilet paper.
When Will the Toilet Paper Shortage End?
New things you can start to worry about, it you're so inclined. (Yes, TP is on this list, too.)
;-) September 17th, 2050:
Spread knowledge, not the virus.Stay well, stay safe, stay sane, stay home if you can.
We're not done yet. Not nearly.
May 2, 2020
On Friday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose by 1825. If this is not related to increased testing (and there is no such indication in the numbers), this shows a new upward trend over the past 7 days. Provincial trend lines are the same as reported yesterday.
New Zealand Report (from National Geographic)
New Zealand has ‘effectively eliminated’ coronavirus. Here’s what they did right.
Let's start unpacking those core items for 'after' from April 29th.
Core Item: Safe air to breathe
You can survive without oxygen for about 5 minutes. Seems fairly critical to me.
Air pollutants can cause respiratory illness. We have known this since the days of coal mining and 'black lung'. We know that days with bad air quality lead to more hospital visits for respiratory conditions, like asthma.
Diminishing air quality was one of driving forces behind the first Earth Day, just over half-a-century ago.
We know that areas with heavy air pollution have lower life expectancy and more negative health impacts than areas with better air quality.
Improving air quality reduces health system costs and improves quality of life.
Yahoo Canada Finance: In Global Electricity Slump, Coal Is the Big Loser
But air quality and our health are big winners. Along with utilities able to shift away
from expensive coal generation.
Take note of this fact (which I have pointed out so many times): for-profit industry doesn't care about your health or quality of life; it cares about profits. In many jurisdictions, corporations are required by law to focus only on profits (returns to shareholders) and explicitly ignore any impacts they have on the environment, quality of life, democratic institutions ...
That's why putting a price on producing and releasing air pollutants GHG emissions (aka the misleading term 'carbon tax') works. It takes those 'externalities' (pollution and other damage done without cost borne by the polluter), and puts a price on them, which the for-profit mechanism has to take into account. If you want cleaner air, put a price on polluting it. If you want cleaner air faster, put a higher price on polluting it. For-profit businesses will get the price-signal message.
Many economists espousing 'free-market' ideologies have stated the capitalist system is a survival-of-the-fittest model; adapt or die. That's where coal has been for a couple of years now; not adapting. I expect oil will be there next month. Unless we continue to support oil production with tax dollars and long-standing subsidies, and forgiving their obligations (job creation in return for past gifts, cleaning up their own messes in our air, land and water).
'Now' is showing us how to get to cleaner air. If you want cleaner air 'after', you
just have to choose to take it by making dirty air more expensive for the polluters.
Then those businesses can choose - for business reasons - to take the less expensive
options going forward. Clean air solutions (photovoltaics, wind turbines, hydro, electric
vehicles, energy storage) are all affordable, off-the-shelf commercial offerings today.
On a lifetime financial analysis, they are financially attractive options. A sampling:
In spite of that, Ontario just signed up for $2.8 billion dollars worth of new natural gas (NG) generating capacity (https://boereport.com/2020/04/29/tc-energy-completes-the-sale-of-ontario-natural-gas-fired-power-plants-for-proceeds-of-2-8-billion/), despite having a massive surplus of NG generating capacity today. (About 30% of Ontario's current generating capacity is natural gas, but in 2019 it actually produced about 6% of the electricity, per the IESO.) With demand dropping rapidly in 2020, we will have even less need for NG generation in Ontario in the future. Before COVID-19, Ontario electricity demand had been dropping by about 1% a year for more than a decade, despite a growing population.
Safer air, less expensive. It seems so simple.
;-) As a lifelong hypochondriac, watching everyone freak out over
Spread knowledge, not the virus.
May 1, 2020
May Day parties may be subdued today due to distancing and physical distancing guidelines in place. But we made it to May. Keep calm and stay home.
Nunavut reported its first confirmed case of SARS-CoV-2. This is why experts said early that borders really don't have much effect in the long-term. Eventually, this virus will be everywhere. That's why isolation measures (like 'border' controls, which are more likely to be regional perimeter controls) are seen as short-term suppression measures, while we need to continue working to find a treatment. The rest of the jurisdictions in Canada seem to as before: AB, BC, SK, ON, QC and NS continue to report new cases at similar rates; MB, NB, PE, NL, YT and NT really seem to have 'flattened the curve'.
Anyone who is offering to loan you money, but requires a payment upfront, is running a scam.
This is not legal in Canada. Apparently this scam is seeing a lot of new life in Canada now
courtesy of COVID-19 disruptions to income.
Coronavirus is significant, but is it a true black swan event?
This is 'now'Florida medical examiners were releasing coronavirus death data. The state made them stop.
Florida blocks COVID-19 information from public as Gov. Ron DeSantis touts transparency
That looks like intentional undercounting of COVID-19 deaths, on top of the unintentional counts we have also noted due to lack of testing and associating deaths with underlying conditions or simply listing CoD as 'failure to thrive'. And somtimes communications just fail.
Lloydminster mayor, Sask. premier not notified of hospital outbreak for 3 days
On Wednesday this week, oil company stock values rose on North American markets despite continuing hews of growing crude oil inventory builds from the American Petroleum Institute, and continuing concerns about a lack of storage capacity anywhere on the continent. Saudi VLCC tankers are sitting off both U.S. coasts, full of crude oil, about 2 million barrels per ship.
Why would this be good news for the oil industry? Perhaps it's other news which is
attracting new investors into oil and gas. Such as:
Note for 'after' - we need governments prepared to work in our interests, not the foreign-owned oil industry.
;-) Breaking news: CBSA just seized 2 tons of toilet paper hidden in cocaine
Spread knowledge, not the virus.
For earlier entries, see earlier blog file.
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