Tuesday, September 26, 2023

On Teaching Public Health

Organizations have done such a bad job of explaining Covid to the public over the last almost four years, that it will be difficult to ever get mitigations back in place. 

Research director with a PhD in education, Dr. Sean Mullen said incredulously, 

"They said herd immunity would work. Then hybrid immunity. What's next? They should just come out and say it: Hocus-Pocus, Hail Mary Hypothetical Immunity. Seems we've been banking on magical thinking, prayers, and theories rather than results. Hallucination immunity. Might as well be dreaming."

When asked why health care professionals aren't masking he explained why he thinks people in general stopped:

Monday, September 25, 2023

Known Knowns and Known Unknowns

On May 27, 2022 , we heard the simplest possible explanation of what Covid does to our bodies and how to prevent the spread, but we gave a finger to that information in favour of business as usual. Change is hard. 

Between the time the CDC told people to unmask and Biden declared the pandemic over, and just a couple months after mask mandates were removed from the schools in Ontario, transplant surgeon and bioscientist (and LA Times owner and billionaire) Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong explained what was definitely known about Covid ((h/t Jesse International - transcript abridged a bit further down):

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Staying Healthy Takes Work

If social media is any barometer of this, anti-mask abuse appears to be skyrocketing.

Fixed it for ya!

There are tons of comments by the Covid cautious about about being accosted at stores and in the street, followed by others suggesting that's just not happening. 

I wrote about being harassed on the street over a year ago, and a few people (men) commented that it never happens to them, so I added in: 

"If right now you're thinking, 'Nobody ever hassles me about my mask,' it could be because you're male or a more imposing female or neurotypical or you don't travel around alone on foot or by bike all the time, or you don't live a few blocks away from a site home to regular anti-mask rallies!"

I've actually found the level of harassment directed towards me has decreased in my area -- knock wood -- which could be because I travel similar route, and see the same people over and over, and people have grown weary of hassling me and having no effect.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

On Helping Professions

Should mental health professionals be more concerned about the spread of a brain-invasive virus that affects mental health by doing a number on the brain??

Amanda Hu wrote 

"I feel like therapists and counselors as an entire profession (save a few individuals) not understanding how serious Covid is, thinking it's over and being part of the minimization of the pandemic is actually a crisis. We need the people who are supposed to guide us through grief and trauma to not be in denial of reality themselves. I've heard a lot of stories about avoiding Covid, or physical symptoms being pathologized even when the person has physical and medical proof of the damage Covid infection did to their body! I had a therapist I saw when I had a lot of climate grief a few years ago. I don't really see how she would have been able to help me if she didn't think climate change was real." 

And Dr. Mike Hoerger, a licensed psychologist, responded

"We need more psychologists who take the ongoing pandemic seriously. This means masking, using right-sized HEPA, contextualizing life struggles in terms of discrimination, exclusion, suffering, and loss, and empowering people to fight for safety." 

Friday, September 22, 2023

Children Risk More Illnesses after Covid

What every pediatrician in the world needs to read - from tern

Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is a really bad thing, isn't it?

I wonder what the percentage is after the 2nd, 5th, 8th, and 12th infection?

Here's a really really interesting point in the study: Only a tiny proportion of the kids have a constellation of problems.  The new issues are spread out across all the body's systems: 
"Only 2% of children had two disorders at the same time."

Do you understand the significance of that?

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Chasing Pirola

I week I wrote that we don't need to know all the specifics about different variants. It just confuses people. What the public needs to know is that there are a lot of variants out there at once, so getting sick or immunized doesn't prevent getting sick again. It's one virus, but many, many different iterations of it.

And now I'm going to eat my words.

Pirola (BA.2.86) is different. It's now the most immune evasive variant and has the highest reproductive rate, which means it's even harder to avoid, and it's spreading further. A paper in The Lancet explains:

"BA.2.86 bears more than 30 mutations in the spike protein when compared with XBB and the parental BA.2, and many of these mutations are assumed to be associated with immune evasion.  . . . BA.2.86 has been detected in several continents (Europe, North America, and Africa), suggesting that this variant might be spreading silently worldwide."

Vaccines aren't ready for this one. As always, vaccines are behind the curve, forever playing a guessing game with the variants in hopes of predicting which will be the best match by the time the vaccine is available to the public. This round is targeting XBB.1.5, the Kraken.

If you haven't already, for the love of all that is good in the world, please wear a mask. 

And consider nasal spray, mouthwash, mini-HEPAs, and far-UV lights if you can afford them. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Myths We Live By, and Die By

A brief but poignant thread by T. Ryan Gregory

It's painful to think about how much damage these myths have caused. 

Myth #1: Droplet vs airborne transmission.

Myth #2: Pathogens inevitably evolve to become more benign.

Myth #3: Endemic means mild.

Myth #4: Viruses quickly run out of evolutionary space

Myth #5: Children need to be infected with pathogens (vs. commensal microbes) to build up their immune system.

Not to mention all the new myths in the making that have arisien during this pandemic:
  "Immunity debt"
  "Robust hybrid immunity"
  "Respirators work at an individual level but not at a population level"
  "Targeted protections"
  "The virus doesn't transmit in schools"

I'd add that calling the Long Covid symptoms "brain fog" and "fatigue" led to people thinking they'd just be a little more forgetful than usually or a little sleepier than usual--no big deal--when the reality is some people can't get out of bed or sit up for long, and they need help to eat and go to the bathroom. 

Of course, we know now, and we knew back in 2019 as well, that most viruses that cause a pandemic are airborne; pathogens can get worse; endemic means it's continuing rather than rising and falling; viruses can evolve forever; and the more times we get sick - the more times our children get sick - the worse the outcome. 

We need to do everything possible to avoid getting this virus - or avoid getting it again. Well-fitting masks work. Cleaning the air with filtration units helps. Schools and hospitals are seriously exacerbating the situation since removing mask mandates, and policies must change to prevent such open transmission in public places that people need to be.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Covid or Climate: Can't it be both?

In a local school board meeting from last June, in which they discussed their plan to remove HEPAs in rooms that had mechanical ventilation added (as if it's and either/or option), they first discussed how far they've overshot their energy budget. There were clear implications that Covid mitigations had forced this increased cost. 

Taking the price tags off for a moment, if we're faced with reducing CO2 emissions by reducing energy usage, OR reducing CO2 in the air by adding HEPA filters, which do we choose??

It can be both! 

But we can't do it within a neolibertarian capitalist framework. I always include that 'neoliberal' part because this current version of capitalism is very different from what Adam Smith and John Locke proposed! We're essentially back to a feudal system with CEOs our new Kings and Queens and workers given scraps like peasants. 

Monday, September 18, 2023

Round of Accommodations for All!

Last fall, when I started back to school for the first time in a couple decades, WLU had mask mandates, which was such a relief for anyone trying to avoid getting Covid. Then they dropped them last February with this announcement

"While face coverings will no longer be required, members of our community are encouraged to wear masks in higher-capacity, close-proximity settings."

For the winter and spring terms, I sent an email to my classmates to just ask if they wouldn't mind wearing a mask in class. It went something like this:

Hi everyone! Looking forward to starting the course tomorrow, and a bit nervous asking this - but, if possible, I'm wondering if people could wear masks in the room?? I have some health concerns, and while I'll be supermasked, one-way masking isn't nearly as effective as two-way. Every little bit helps! If you can't, or even just can't stand it, then you can't. I get it - no worries. But if you can.... I would really appreciate it.

Last term, one student responded, 

Sunday, September 17, 2023

The Weirdness of Now

This morning I listened to a Naomi Klein interview from this week about her very different type of book, while reading a prescient Geroge Monbiot article that he reposted from last March. There's a striking amount of overlap.

Both are about the new right-wing alliances being formed, and the furthest right political parties we've seen in some time creeping up worldwide. 

George Monbiot:

Monbiot blames the influencers who are feeding the young conspiratorial messages, including Russell Brand (hence the recent repost). 

"He appears to have switched from challenging injustice to conjuring phantoms. If, as I suspect it might, politics takes a very dark turn in the next few years, it will be partly as a result of people like Brand. . . . He wastes his talent on tired and discredited tales. . . . Such claims are not just wrong. They are wearyingly, boringly wrong. But, to judge by the figures (he has more than 6 million subscribers on YouTube), the audience loves them. . . . 

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Stages of Genocide

We like to think we are way beyond barbarity and that the outrageously cruel acts of the past (many not in the too distant past) will never be anything we consider again. But neoliberal capitalism feeds an addiction to profits, and addicts will do anything to get a fix. 

We have unbridled climate change, harmful viruses in our schools, daycares, and in hospitals, which still won't protect people from getting a virus while they're dealing with broken bones or cancer or giving birth. In Canada now the sick are sometimes offered MAiD instead of healthcare. The hospitals are closed or overwhelmed to the point that 11,000 Ontarians died waiting for surgeries or scans in the past year. Healthcare isn't an option for too many people. 

Despite sitting on billions of dollars, Ford plans to "partner with private clinics" to address the problem instead of just re-opening the hospitals and actually paying more healthcare workers. This is the useful crisis they needed to usher in privatization. Many in private equity firms that are capitalizing on this crisis already have expensive homes and cars and all the toys. It will never feel like enough. They'll keep scheming to get more and more.

Friday, September 15, 2023

How to Profit from Pandemics

Three threads from this week outline the political and media pandemic protocol being followed around the world, the similarities and differences between prior pandemics, and how the profit motive fuels it all.

Prognostic Chats outlined a baker's dozen of steps taken by many countries to get us to this damaging place. His post comes with receipts, but I've grown weary of including them. I don't think they need evidence. It's just how most of us are living now. 

"Masks have been removed from healthcare. Now schools are encouraging parents to send their sick children to class. We didn’t get here by accident. We have been brought here through carefully orchestrated system changes. They have been common in many counties. Few have noticed.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

How Vaccines Work

Poilievre wants to make it illegal to have mandated vaccinations as a condition of employment and travel. He introduced the bill last June, and a second reading in the house is currently in progress. (FYI - It has to pass through three readings in the house, then three in the senate before it reaches royal assent, so it's got a long ways to go, and private members bills often don't get through the process.) You can read what different MPs have said about it at the excellent website, Open Parliament.

But just think about it a minute: imagine going to a country with a dengue fever outbreak, as is happening now in several countries, and you don't have to be immunized for it. That's just nuts! 

Bill Comeau, math prof at UW, said of Poilievre's tweet about the bill,

"As a mathematician and a follower of science, this was one of the scariest posts I have ever seen from a modern politician. The potential for exponential spread from a new future pandemic is very real. This scale of anti-science denial could potentially harm millions. . . . This bill would appear to also erase existing vaccine mandates, such as the ones that protect modern school children from a host of serious diseases."

We are moving so far backwards with this party, and too many people are climbing aboard. It's just following the Republican talking points to the letter. 

In Florida, the governor recently backed up the surgeon general in "urging residents against new Covid vaccines." They're trying to make people worried because the vaccine wasn't tested on people, but on non-human primates. But, that doesn't mean they're not safe! Very similar versions of the vaccine have been tested on people and used on people with very few ill effects. If you didn't react poorly to the former versions, then you won't to this one either.

His other main talking point is that "Pharma will make more money if this thing is approved and they start pushing it on everybody." It's a familiar narrative, and does what most effective spin does: it takes a grain of truth, an authentic worry on people's minds, and generalizes it large enough so it's all encompassing and also no longer even close to the truth. Yes, Big Pharma has allowed some drug through, like oxycontin, that ended up harming some people while making others rich. But the pharmaceutical industry is massive. Most of the drugs that have been tested and used by people saved their lives. Vaccines, in particular, have saved lives. Did people make money doing the work of producing them? Absolutely. We can't all be Jonas Salk. People also make money building new hospitals, but that doesn't make it a bad thing. 

Here's a 85 second video to explain how these vaccines work from Drew Comments:

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Information Without Action Leads to Devastation

How it feels to watch it all (Judgment Day).

We know all the things we need to know!

From Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding:

"Want to know why even mildly symptomatic sick folks shouldn't attend school/work? Because they can exhale high viral loads for 8 days! (As high as 1,000 virus copies per minute!) Mask up? If you don't stay home or mask--use at least a HEPA." 

It's nothing really new, this study that verifies how many and how much; it's just more specific. Every exhale from an infected person sends the virus all throughout the air in the room. Some people track specific variants and which ones are dominating, but that also doesn't necessarily add to a useful knowledge base for the layperson. The important bit to understand is that there are enough version of the virus in play that we can get it again and again! That reality has been around a while. 

We cling to each next new vaccine like it walks on water, but we've seen literally millions of "breakthrough" cases. Isn't that enough to show that vaccines reduce severity of acute symptoms but not the ability to catch and spread it significantly enough to be the only prevention. In fact, reduced symptoms and unrealistic expectations of the vaccine's effectiveness likely causes more transmission as overconfident people stop masking. Definitely get vaxed, but don't forget the limitations of what Covid vaccines can do.

It doesn't help that people keep referring to it all in the past tense or any reference to "during the pandemic..." which implies that it happened in the past and then ended. New variants keep forming and will keep forming as long as the virus is able to mutate inside host bodies. We're unable to get rid of it as long as we keep allowing it to spread. It didn't end and won't end.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Still Working On Filtration Units

Ontario School Safety is still working hard to try to get CR boxes allowed in classrooms. 

They donated some directly to the local board office. Unfortunately (and unsurprisingly), they can't be used without these following six questions answered, so they crowdsourced for studies. Here are some of the answers they got - in case others need them - and some links I found myself. (The letter-writer that responded to them appears unfamiliar with question marks.)

1. In relation to CADR, is it possible to obtain manufacturers data ideally showing the fan curve air volume (at low speed) vs static pressure and similarly the MERV-13 filter pressure drop data, again air volume vs static pressure curves.

I couldn't find a study that specifically referenced fan curve air volume vs static pressure, but I did find...

Monday, September 11, 2023

The New CPC

Image from this great Breach article

Remember back when Harper was PM, and he opened Canada's media to foreign ownership despite widespread protests? So now Poilievre all but owns Canadian MSM. Media is backing him and many pollsters are backing him, and Trudeau has little mainstream media on his side. Even CBC seems to be promoting Poilievre. When the polls show that everyone would vote in Poilievre if an election were tomorrow, don't believe it. Unfortunately enough people will believe the polls and then it might be enough to make it actually come true. 

Some people think it doesn't matter because MSM is so last year, but Twitter and FB are also owned by right-wing nutjobs. A friend was randomly barred from Twitter for absolutely nothing she can discern that comes close to breaking any rules, while many many hate-mongering abusive asshats are left to troll freely. 

If Peepee gets in, that online world is coming to a neighbourhood near you!

But we still have Tiktok (so far)!

From Lisa B. (abridged and highlighted below)

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Leaving the Goldilocks Zone

This very brief TikTok from view.from.my.eyes is a perfect metaphor (and reality) of our current situation:

@top_jumbomortgage_lender #greece #flood ♬ original sound - steve

Check out the people on the left, some of whom continue to eat and drink as if this is all dinner theatre. Nothing will wake us up to what's happening around the world. We're in the top end of the boat, just thankful it's not impacting us right this second, and somehow convinced it never will. 

We live in the "Goldilocks Zone" and have for many thousands of years, but that's changing very quickly. When agriculture started as an option, it wasn't just that people figured out to plant seeds, but quite possibly that the climate began to be able to support having crops grown repeatedly in the same place. Now we appear to be moving out of that zone. 

Change is hard. Absolutely. But we can't properly alter our habits until we face up to what's happening. 

Jeff Goodell recently wrote The Heat Will Kill You First. I haven't read it yet, but a NYTimes article, he said, 

"Extreme heat situations are becoming more democratic. . . . All living things share one simple fate. If the temperature they're used to rises too far, too fast, they die. . . . Earth is getting hotter due to the burning of fossil fuels. The more oil, gas and coal we burn, the hotter it will get." 

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Fraud Fest in Waterloo Region

Catherine Fife and Debbie Chapman speaking to protesters.

It feels like we turned a dark corner in Ontario. In my hometown in particular. 

Doug Ford came to K-W to be greeted by tons of protesters including overt representation from ETFO, OSSTF, OECTA, CUPE, OBSCU, Liberals, Greens, and, of course, the NDP, which is very strong in the region. Faculty from UW, Laurier, and Conestoga College were all there, along with tons of educators. The Ontario Health Coalition the Waterloo Region Labour Council and the Environmental Defence all played a part in organizing it or advertising it. Tons of healthcare professionals were there and environmental groups and housing groups and ODSP advocates. 

Premier Ford had this exchange (0:55-1:28) with educator Ramzi Abdi,

Ford: I look at all the supporters in here. I don't worry about people being bussed in all over the place to demonstrate. [as if his opposition doesn't come from the region]

Abdi: All Ontarians too.

Ford: Absolutely, and I'll take care of them. [vaguely threatening?]

Abdi: You should do a better job of taking care of Ontarians.

Ford: We're doing a good job

Abdi: You're not doing a good job, my friend. Our schools are underfunded. Our hospitals are underfunded. You need to do a better job.

Ford: Guess what, we do, my friend. 

Abdi: I understand you think you're trying to do your best, but I know there are people in Ontario who are suffering. There are students in Ontario who are suffering.

Ford: There are people that need homes, and that's what I'm going to do. I'm building homes.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Should Schools have A/C?

Or do we need hot days to be considered "bad weather" days and just close the schools? 

And do we need to re-think how we do school - and civilization - entirely as we start to feel the effects of climate change?

I was always bothered when the main office, where admin lives, had A/C while the classrooms did not. I'm not sure how frequently that happens, but their early justification, that they all have computers in there that need to stay cool, no longer holds much water as all the kids carry laptops or chromebooks to each class. All classrooms have computers in them that need to stay cool. And people.

As a teacher I used to come in at 6 am to open the windows in my classroom and the classroom across the hall for a good two hours before kids started to come in. Understandably, windows have to stay closed at night for security reasons. Just that tiny effort that afforded me two quiet hours to get my marking down, was enough that kids commented on how cool my room was still in the last period of the day. A former custodian used to open up the receiving doors in the morning to air out the school and turn off half the hallway lights. I mentioned that to the new head custodian, and she was quite certain that didn't ever happen and that it would do nothing to help. She was wrong, but she's in charge.

It's amazing what fresh air can do!

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Covid and the Brain

Two slightly different takes from lengthy threads on how the brain operates in such a way that makes it ignore Covid risks as it protects us from the trauma caused by Covid risks: 

First, career coach Lisa Petsinis outlined how we think about Covid and why we aren't acting on it. In a nutshell, our brain automatically protects itself from knowledge of a difficult situation (like we did something wrong) with defence mechanisms until it's ready to deal with it. Getting people to focus on which behaviours feel worse generates a more moral outcome than a focus on which creates the best outcome, but we generally tend to solve any internal dilemma by sticking firmly to one side, and then we hunker down there regardless any new information. 

Petsinis explains,

"The mind can protect from trauma by using mechanisms such as repression, denial, and dissociation. This is helpful short-term to allow you to function until you're ready to process the trauma. Repression can allow you to avoid feelings of overwhelm or guilt associated with them. With unethical behaviour, rationalizing, burying, or ignoring can be coping mechanisms. A leader might convince themselves that downplaying reality is needed to prevent widespread panic or economic collapse, or compartmentalizing it, so they can get on with other business. Acknowledging a crisis' gravity can raise questions about past decisions and avoid blame. How convenient! 

I think this has been a major factor in workplace health and safety, as well. Employers, unions, lawyers, HR leaders, association, insurers--all playing hide and seek.

The mind can also be involved in an unconscious tug of war - the battle between what is right vs what is good for someone or in picking from two horrendous options. Check out the role of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the ethical dilemmas at the end of this study."