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You’re not going anywhere soon: Get a grippe

October 8, 2020

Still wondering whether to have the grandparents over for Thanksgiving?

Don’t wait for our government officials to give you the answers. You probably already know what to do: it’s just not what any of us want to face.

Our leaders in government have dropped the ball from the start. They claim that they are making the best decisions using the best science. In fact, they are juggling many competing factors, from industry pressure about the economy to thoughts about their popularity and the next election.

The science doesn’t factor into their advice as much as it should.

Although few were acknowledging it, the science was clear that this new coronavirus had already started to spread globally back in January, and that it could be transmitted between people who were asymptomatic (or nearly so):

Dave and I had already done all of our emergency shopping (no, not toilet paper – but many items that are imported and may become unavailable) by the first week of February.

Yet it would take our federal and provincial governments another six weeks before they acted in any meaningful way – or even warned people adequately.

Unfortunately, that was six weeks too late. COVID was already here, and spreading.

Today, our governments are still dropping the ball – some worse than others.

Ontario’s situation is perhaps most concerning. At the beginning of this week, the province was facing a backlog of some 80,000 pending test results. With testing centres closed on Monday as the province transitioned from walk-in testing to testing by appointment only, the backlog of real-time test results will only grow.

The best science requires the best and most current data. But Ontario’s backlog ensures that its scientists and politicians do not even have the data:

  • First, they no longer know how quickly the epidemic is growing, or even how many cases there are at present. Second, contact tracing, one of the key strategies that has been used so successfully to slow the epidemic abroad in countries including South Korea and Germany, becomes useless if contacts cannot be isolated or tested in time to keep them from spreading the virus.
  • Additionally, the backlog reduces the accuracy of the tests, since virus RNA in the samples degrades over time, potentially yielding false negatives.

But Ontario is not the only province with problems. In my town of Port Alberni, we received notice this week of the first ever COVID exposure at a school here on Vancouver Island.

Problem is, though, that that exposure happened back in mid-September. I have no idea why there was such a delay in notifying the public – but the result is that by the time potential contacts received it, their 14 day isolation period was alreadty over: they have either already spread COVID through our town, or not.

We will find out how that one plays out over the coming weeks.

Data mismanagement is an issue outside of Canada, too. It was revealed on Monday that the United Kingdom, currently in early stages of a rapidly growing second wave of an epidemic that has already killed over 42,000, had inadvertently under-reported new cases this week by a shocking 16,000 (due to basic misuse of an Excel spreadsheet!)

So how are we supposed to know what to do, if even our governments don’t know what’s going on?

The honest answer is that we don’t need to be told. We already know. Even if it’s not what we want to do, and not what we thought our life had in store for us.

Four things, very simple:

  • COVID19 is very contagious. It can be spread by people who look fine and feel fine. Masks help.
  • The greatest risk of transmission is indoors. So define your one small social bubble and take it seriously. Don’t have people in, and don’t go out.
  • Travel moves the virus between communities. Stay home.
  • And, perhaps toughest of all, find it in yourself to accept this. No, it is not what any of us want. But denial will not make it go away. This is what we must do.

For most of us, the COVID19 pandemic is the greatest crisis we have faced in our lifetimes. Over millennia, humans as a species have proven to be very resilient – although much of our current population has yet had to put that to the test.

Our ancestors did it, surviving years of quarantine from the bubonic plagues of Shakespeare’s time to the Spanish flu of a century ago, or surviving the hardships and rationing of two great wars this past century. Many others the world over are living in conditions far worse than this right now. We can do this too.

So, back to Thanksgiving. Stay at home. And tell your friends and extended family to stay at home too.

Don’t get your hopes up about Christmas, or even about next summer. We are in this for the long haul.

We can be strong and resilient too. The sooner we accept that, and find new ways to go about our lives, the easier it will be on all of us.

And the sooner this thing will be over.

Thanks for your interest! If you want to find out more about my thoughts, my projects and my books, please sign up on my Contacts page for a very occasional email update (no spam, I promise!). And did you get the pun in the title?

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