Sunday, January 23, 2022

Bad News is Increasing, but More Slowly?

Teaching in Ontario right now is an absurdist's wet dream. Schools can only close if there's more than 30% absent, and many classes are half full, but nobody's actually away because any online contact gets them marked present, so even sick kids are logging in. Masks provided for kids smell of kerosene and are adult sized, huge on tiny faces. One teacher suggested using them as car covers. The vast majority of classrooms do NOT have a HEPA filter, and many classrooms don't have windows at all or the windows are frozen shut, but we all have excellent ventilation. There are no CO2 monitors to know for real, though, but trust us. Two doses are "almost worthless" as protection past six months, but 12-17 year olds who got dose 2 back in May aren't eligible for a booster because they're perfectly fine. Classes aren't sent home from a contact in the room anymore since nobody is allowed to tell if there's a positive case in the class, but we all go home if one person gets lice, which makes me think of this scene from Pleasantville:


After two years of intermittent online school, we're all going back in person at the peak of the biggest wave to hit us yet to protect the mental health of students. EQAO tests are on, in person, because they're vital to something. And teachers must be in the school to attend all online staff meetings. 

And the entire building takes off their masks in unison to eat lunch, but the virus simply doesn't spread in schools.  

There are tons of new beds in hospitals, but no nurses or equipment to do anything with them. My region got down to ONE staffed bed available! There's a shorter stay in the ICU, but the death rate is rising, so is that shorter stay because they're dying faster? Is it necessarily something to celebrate?

We all bow down to the school screener - some of us have to do TWO of them each morning - despite how little effect it really has in reducing cases in the building. It's just a high-tech flowchart of buttons, and some principals are complaining that 90% of students don't do it. It's because some parents can't stay home if their kid is sick since they don't have paid sick days, and other people realize it's a waste of their time to push all the buttons just to find out, "stay home if you're sick." Here's the big problem: Almost half of all covid cases are asymptomatic but contagious, and for the rest, people are generally contagious for up to two days before having any symptoms. The only way we can screen out any contagious cases is to do rapid tests every morning, but we don't have enough tests for that. Germany has tons and tons everywhere, and they have to be used within 24 hours of entry anywhere, but Ontario couldn't find enough to give every student a full box of five last week. Instead, teachers and support staff had to break open boxes to divvy out two per student with many reporting getting swabs without tests, or vials without fluid. My school didn't even get any yet. 

We're literally doing 100% on the unsuccessful side of this list:

There are lots of quibbles about people being hospitalized with covid instead of from covid, but there's absolutely no getting around the fact that a ton of people are in the hospital that wouldn't be otherwise. Hospitals don't operate at this capacity because of the flu. Covid really is a health care problem no matter how people try to rationalize it away, perhaps in denial of their own potential mortality or their children's. I feel for parents who have to choose to put their kids in school, at risk, in order to work because the alternative is choose to struggle without a paycheque but keep their kids safely at home. It's not really a choice, and children are dying because of it.  

And some politicians still argue that it's all for the mental health of students, citing increased anxiety rates since the first lockdown and conveniently ignoring the very real possibility that anxiety rates are increasing not because of learning from home, but maybe it's because of the potential of our loved ones and ourselves getting very sick and being permanently disabled or actually dying!! That might be the real cause of any increased mental health issues, ya think?!?

I like looking at graphs to understand things, and these graphs point to exactly what many have been saying about Omicron: Based on what we've seen in South Africa, we're going to have many more cases, but fewer deaths per caseload, BUT the rise in cases will mean for many more deaths. In very simple terms, with Delta we might have 100 cases, and 3% of people die, so 3 deaths. But with Omicron, we might have 1,000 cases, and 1% die, so 10 deaths. That's the gist of how we have a lower percentage of deaths per case but a higher number of them. And it's exactly what we're seeing.

Below are case rates and death rates, side by side from March 2020, for Ontario, Québec, and South Africa. Each graph is on a different scale, but it's enough to get the big picture. Both Ontario and Québec had tiny bumps for the other wave of cases, but then larger death tolls. This last wave of cases is enormous by comparison, and seems to be diminishing, but the fatality count is on the rise. In South Africa, fewer vaccination paint a different picture in the first waves. But the bigger concern is the peak of the last wave. Ontario can watch what happened in South Africa (peaked Dec. 18) and Québec (peaked Dec. 31). We're about a week behind Québec, which is just starting to reduce levels of care for patients because of overwhelmed hospitals. If SA is any indicator (more here), then the death rate won't peak for another week before just beginning to level off. And that's going to be a bumpy ride coming down the other side.

All this boils down to huge concerns for the already over-stretched medical resources. Ford opening things up in a week will inevitably be good news for his donors and business partners but very bad news for the rest of us. Opening up also has the desired effect of muddying up the data around cases caused by the schools opening. He'll be able to convincingly continue to suggest that kids are magically safe from the virus in the schools and daycares. And then you get to read things like this:
"I sorry, Mommy. Mommy hugs, I scared. I don't like it. Mommy!" 
Those were the last words 3-year-old Justin Lee Francis spoke to his mother, Yvonne, before he was sedated and put on a ventilator."
And that doesn't begin to touch what's going on in LTC homes and hospitals or the anti-mask protests in Toronto yesterday and in Waterloo, a block from my house, today where 500 showed up to demand to be mask-free everywhere, with the beautifully ironic rallying cry stolen from the 10% of truckers who refuse to get vaccinated: "mandate freedom." 

The good news, some public health units are standing up to the inane governmental policy and the sinister plot of Dr. Giggles. At least that's something. And here's a fun "I'm done with Covid" takedown too!

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