Saturday, December 31, 2022

Year in Review

I don't normally do a year in review, but his was my most tumultuous year in decades. It's right up there with the year I dropped out of high school and moved in with my sister in Ottawa on a whim, and the year I moved six times mainly by bicycle. This year, I went from 31 years at the same job in the same building, doing more or less the same thing, to .... not that. And my oldest moved out to Guelph, with the middle one likely to follow, which is also a big change.  

Thursday, December 29, 2022

It's Time to Clear the Air

A recent New Yorker article warns about a "ragtag coalition of public-health activists" who want us to wear masks forever! And then the New York Times published an article about "The Last Holdouts" who wear masks when others have moved on. The framing and headlines of these pieces put a target for all unprocessed emotions on to anyone still wearing a mask. Then yesterday, without a hint of irony or any attempt to apologize for their part in the fiasco, the New York Times published an article about how misinformation is exasperating doctors as Covid-19 continues to spread!! Ya think?!?

Here's the thing: How long we wear masks should be determined by data, not an arbitrary moment that a popular votes decides is enough. It's like telling people to boil their tap water. If nothing happens to clean things up, then it could go on forever, absolutely. BUT if we take measures to clean the water enough so nothing harmful is in it, then people can stop boiling their water. That's pretty straightforward, right? Similarly, if we start getting serious about cleaning the air, then we won't have to wear masks again. We can reduce not just Covid infections, but reduce the spread of all viruses, even the common cold! 

You'd think we'd be so excited by this idea that governments everywhere would get on board. AND - there's a bonus - many people who are against masks are actually for clean air. We should be capitalizing on the ONE THING that might unify us!! Everyone wins if we have cleaner air everywhere!! 

But instead, we're just stuck here waiting for the moment that governments realize cleaning the air is cheaper than allowing airborne illnesses to destroy the health of workers and their children and thus destroy the economy. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Politics of Hopelessness

I started posting other people's twitter threads in part because twitter was (is) threatening to self-destruct, but also because there are some incredible gems that could disappear into the ether even if twitter remains. It's not set up to easily find that one post you read weeks ago - ever again. But it's curious to me how many people prefer to read things in little bite-sized chunks. I sometimes copy/paste long threads into a doc just to read them without being jarringly broken up into bits mid-sentence. Perhaps I'm old and stodgy like that and have just grown too accustomed to paragraphs. Anyway, check this one out, and I bring in Chomsky and his ilk at the end.

This is a fantastic thread by Dr. Henry Madison, professor of... history? anthropology? political science? The name's too popular to be able to find his credentials or location for certain, but his analysis feels spot on.

"POW camps in the Korean war explain a lot about the total capitulation to Covid today. Nearly 40% of US prisoners died, the highest death rate in US military history. But the camps were only weakly fortified, prisoners had adequate food and water and were usually not tortured. 

In fact prisoners were often rewarded with sweets and cigarettes. Nobody tried to escape, despite the absence of barbed wire or often even armed guards. But prisoners would often sit in their huts with a blanket over their heads, and just die. After liberation, very few prisoners even wanted to do the basic act of calling family at home. And there was little camaraderie amongst survivors. The overwhelming culture of the camps and in survivors was one of hopelessness. 

That hopelessness was deliberately engineered. 

Monday, December 26, 2022

SARS #1 and Collective Amnesia

SARS #1 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) was a deadly coronavirus that hit Canada in February of 2003. It started in China in November 2002 then entered Toronto in a traveller flying in from Hong Kong. 

SARS #1 differs significantly from SARS-CoV-2 because the OG killed people faster, so it was easier to contain! It took 44 lives, but the first cases succumbed fast enough that the city shut down tight, so there were only 438 cases in total in Toronto from March to August 2003. 

Symptoms included a high fever, severe cough, and difficulty breathing. The first patient in the hospital, the son of the traveller who had died just two days earlier, waited in the ER for hours, unknowingly infecting others. He died within a week. Toronto hospitals closed ERs and refused new admissions, then public health jumped into action to contact trace and quarantine suspected cases. Toronto hospitals suspended non-essential services, restricted visitors, and created isolation units for SARS patients. Health care workers were put in "work quarantine" and were not allowed to use public transit or go anywhere besides work and home. 

It was able to die off completely because of drastic public health measures, but also because it was primarily contagious through people who were sick. It didn't spread much from people pre-symptomatic, and didn't have a third of all cases hiding quietly in a carrier, and finding and isolating sick people is easier that isolating anyone who might have had a contact. 

I was untouched by it all, just 90 minutes away, and would likely have no personal memory of it except I had planned a class field trip to Toronto months before that had to be cancelled, and it caused some outrage. Even back then, some parents thought they should be able to override public health concerns. One memorable mom was beside herself because this field trip was going to be part of her daughter's 16th birthday celebration! Sorry, but we have to follow public health rules. 

Compared to SARS #2, only 1 in 1,000 die, not 1 in 10, so it feels like less of a problem in the short term. But that very sentiment makes it more of a problem long term. 

Friday, December 23, 2022

Hiding a Pandemic in Plain Sight

This excellent thread is from Barry Hunt:

Canada only reports a handful of cases even though cases are 10 times to 100 times higher this year than last year. We only publicly report 2% of cases. Sometimes 1%, sometimes 3%, but literally just a drop(let) in the bucket. 

The public is being duped. They have no idea how high cases are.

Canada masked until FREEDOM drove and honked in the streets early this year. THE GREAT UNMASKING™ of 2022 means CoVid is unlikely to ever go down below 100,000 cases PER DAY. EVERY DAY. FOREVER. AND EVER. 

Unless we re-mask.

And what did the GREAT UNMASKING™ accomplish?

Evidence on Both Sides

A school board in Winnipeg passed a motion to strongly recommend masking at school to protect from SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses currently affecting kids. Many of the comments on that post call for a full mandate, and one called out trustees for not shutting down an anti-science delegate at their meeting. Can you imagine!?!

Here's the thing: They can't be shut down. 

Delegates get ten full minutes provided they don't override any human rights codes or name names when they, for instance, insist that any trustee wearing a mask in their bio necessarily indicates they are unable to be open-minded. A nameless trustee was also claimed to have said that parents suck, and, at the end of the meeting, that same trustee was called disgusting

They mean me!! 

Everyone likes to start with a classic ad hominem argument to indicate that since the person advocating for masks is bad, therefore masks must be bad. 

On that profile photo (one of these things is not like the other): It happened so quickly that it actually didn't occur to me to take off my mask. I had just walked into the board room for the first time ever, trying to orient myself, and was immediately ushered into another room for a photo, then ushered back. My necklace is askew and the clasp is showing, which wouldn't have happened if I was thinking about how I looked! That being said, I wouldn't have taken my mask off anyway, had I the wherewithal to have considered it, because I know the risks of having a mask off even for a few minutes in a room indoors, especially in such a small room with others unmasked. After the fact, when that photo was mentioned repeatedly in tweets, DMs, and emails about what a monster I am for creating fear in the hearts of children, I owned it, tweeting out that I stand in solidarity with any students who are worried about feeling weird for keeping their mask on for a photo. 

The ironic part of this is that this same group of people openly insulting me for wearing a mask has assured me that we don't need to encourage kids to wear masks in class because no students are bullied or harassed for wearing masks. Nobody would harass anyone for wearing a mask! I must be imagining things or fabricating the parents who contacted me about their kids being made to feel so comfortable about their mask that they take them off at school despite their family's decision to continue masking. 

Monday, December 19, 2022

Do Masks Harm Children?

There's some shock and outrage that I'd suggest encouraging masks in class to curb the spread of the three-plus viruses inundating pediatric wards in hospitals right now. Some have accused me of wanting masks in order to virtue signal or to feed my ego, but it's actually just about saving the health and lives of children.

I'm hearing that some think masks are completely ineffective at preventing illness and cause learning loss. Let's take a Pascal's wager approach to this:

  • If I'm completely wrong, and masks do significantly affect learning loss and aren't at all effective against a virus, and we do encourage them in class, then it will be inconvenient, and some kids might need to ask for extra help or, at the very worst, take an extra year to graduate. 
  • If this group of parents (or random people, some from the U.S.) are wrong, however, and masks are effective against the virus, but we don't encourage anyone to wear them, then some kids might die or become disabled by Long Covid, and other people might not be able to access a hospital because they're overflowing.

What we're seeing already, though, is many kids are suffering learning loss from being sick two or three times so far this term, sometimes for weeks at a time. A recent CBC article included an interview with a Cambridge dad about his son, 

"He's had the flu at least four times, which has had a 'detrimental impact' on his education. 'I think he's been at school three and a half, maybe four weeks total this year. He's definitely missed more time than there's been school. Every time our son goes back to school he catches something from someone and he's off for another week or two, sometimes longer. . . . There are some parents that are not able to keep their child home because they need to go to work."

Provincially, the rules still state that sick children can return to school if they don't have a fever and if symptoms have been improving for 24 hours, or 48 for intestinal symptoms. The province recognizes that children will likely still be contagious at that point, so they require masks for 10 days from the start of symptoms. Nobody is monitoring that this ten days of masking is happening, so it would really help if everyone just wore a mask as much as possible.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Dr. Moore and the Media Must Take Responsibility for Viral Deaths in January

Let's have a look at that article by Elizabeth Payne that highlights a mishmash of comments from Our Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore: "Ontario's chief medical officer of health links viral surge to 'negative consequences' of extended mask mandates, rules out new ones -- for now."

First of all, as a journalist, there's a duty to report facts and be objective about it, but, seriously, that one statement, "continued masking can decrease our overall immunity to other viruses" furthered by the headline is going to cost people their lives. I'd give Payne a pass because she's just writing what he said, and she likely didn't choose that headline, but she did tweet out the headline to her followers:

She could have, instead highlighted that her article also said, about immunity debt,
"It counters some evidence that exposure to COVID is affecting some peoples' immune cells and weakening their immunity. Moore said it makes sense that people with Long COVID have some kind of immune dysregulation and the province is reviewing the hypothesis." 
Here's tons of evidence that Covid is causing dysregulation, not debt.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

A Polite Request is NOT a Mandate.


A few parents are upset that I'm trying to "bring back masks" in schools. Some have threatened to take their kids out of our board if we force masks on them again. The motion I presented last Monday very carefully tried to assure people that I don't want to force kids to do anything they don't want to do, but I do want to help more kids, who want to wear a mask, feel like they're allowed to wear one. From what I've been hearing from tons of parents, their children won't mask in class because people bug them about it, or remind them they don't have to mask, sometimes even their teachers

The motion itself starts by acknowledging that a mandate won't work, and then my preamble went further to explain that this is a way to find a middle ground so there really will be a free choice to wear a mask or not. We need to do more to make staff and students really aware that we are following public health guidance, which STRONGLY recommends masking indoors. We're already officially encouraging masking, so I'm not asking for anything to change as much as I'm asking for us to do more. The encouragement isn't being heard in the classroom. 

We could start with better messaging. 

Friday, December 16, 2022

Ventilation and Viral Evolution

I watched a great webinar from OHCOW (Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers) on, in the first half, Covid and ventilation, specifically in congregated settings, with Amy Katz, a knowledge translation specialist at St. Michael's Hospital, and Dr. Amy  Li, a civil and environmental engineering professor at University of Waterloo. The second half featured Dr. Ryan Gregory, an evolutionary biology prof from University of Guelph. I think the video will show up here soon, and there are other great resources on that page as well. This is a loose paraphrasing of what I heard in those two hours:

Katz and Li helped to write a checklist for community spaces: "Reducing Transmission of Covid-19 Through Improvements to Indoor Air Quality" in a group including engineers, lawyers, and immunologists. The project started in October 2021, spurred by the question, Does the guidance published by Public Health include indoor air quality measures, and reflect the evidence of the time? The answer is "no."

They started with the shared assumptions (aka facts) that Covid is airborne, that ventilation, filtration, and UV remove (or sterilize) respiratory particles from the air, and that certain shared spaces are high risk, like shelters, LongTerm Care homes, group homes, and prisons.  They're vulnerable groups generated by the state and colonization and ableism. The numbers are upsetting:

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Yup, Masks Really Work. I'm not Sure Why This is So Hard to Grasp!

I've been inundated lately with pictures from the sides of mask boxes that say something like this:

I could return volley with this, from the side of my 3M Aura N95s:

Instead I went for a lesson in logic, specifically, the fallacy of accident:

And here's a great thread from Dr. Jeff Gilchrist explaining the benefits of masks, again, for the benefit of the many many people out there who really don't think they do anything to prevent the spread of viruses:

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

What''s a Government to Do?

RevivalCare's erudite answer on Twitter to Breakfast Television's question: What do you think the federal government should do to help alleviate the current healthcare crisis?

  1. Provide free universal N95s to all Canadians, via a purchasing agreement with domestic manufacturers.
  2. Mandate all Canada Health Transfers are subject to audit, at the cost of the provinces.
  3. Have the provinces sign on to a national accreditation standard for Health Care workers.
  4. Establish national indoor safe air standards that correspond to airborne particulate and pathogen risk.
  5. Mandate minimum demography linked enrolment standards in medical school for the provinces as a condition of Canadian Health Transfer receipt.
  6. Legislate a new criminal code penalty for senior government officials and politicians responsible for health or Long Term Care portfolios who knowingly mislead the public or perpetuate unsafe conditions in public spaces.
  7. Implement national wastewater and serology surveillance for emerging and endemic disease.
  8. Criminalize interference with #7, and require changes to same be subject to a supermajority (70% of parliament). 
  9. Legislate a new criminal code penalty for private citizens who interfere with another individual's use of medical aids, such as PPE. Where these actions occur in workplaces, corporate officers should be directly responsible for criminal negligence. Aggravated conditions should include: perpetrated against a minor or vulnerable person, perpetrated by a learned intermediary, perpetrated by a professional college or someone acting in the capacity of a regulatory body, and perpetrated by a person in a position of trust.
  10. Criminalize violations of the Canada Health Act with respect to private payers. The corporate veil should not provide directors and officers indemnification.
On top of these pro-active measures, Emmett Macfarlane, political science prof whose book on the charter is coming out soon, explains that the government pandemic inaction could violate our Charter rights:

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

An Ask to Mask in Class

Here's a run-down of what it's like presenting a motion to request that students masks if they can, two weeks ago, and the final motion that was passed last night. It's been picked up by City News,  CTV News video, CTV News article, CBC News, and NewsTalk 1010. Some of the articles present it as if it's a done deal, but it still has to be ratified on Monday, and then it's in place officially next Tuesday. 

When writing a motion, trustees can suggest a goal (what to do - encourage masks routinely), but can't make operational suggestions (how to do it - a morning announcement asking to please mask, or maybe even a PSA contest!), not even as an example of how the goal might be reached, so it will be in the hands of the board and maybe individual schools to decide what it will look like in practice. The full motion and preamble is down below. 

Monday, December 12, 2022

On the Social Disease of Anger

The anger that escalated at a recent Ottawa-Carlton school board meeting when a trustee proposed and lost a motion to mandate masks, in a setting of generally polite discussion, makes it seem like this type of anger is new. But this video of the history of masks, and what we saw when we imposed smoking bans and seatbelts years ago, makes it clear that people have always been fired up by any new restriction. Masks may be even more enraging because they symbolize a danger and harm we'd all like to forget. 

But more than that, this type of anger that targeted the specific trustee with emails and phone calls that included vile sexist and racist comments and threats, is more reminiscent of GamerGate, when a few women dared to criticize some games and were brutally harassed online and doxed, provoking at least one to move. This Vox article explains what needs to be done to prevent these occurrences,  

It's crucial to understand how, when, and why an online mob is expressing outrage before you decide how to respond to it. Gamergate should have taught businesses that online mobs can and do look for excuses to be outraged, as a pretext to harass and abuse their targets. There's a difference between organic outrage that arises because an employee actually does something outrageous, and invented outrage that's an excuse to harass someone. . . . 2014 should have been the year the cultural conversation began to acknowledge how serious aggression toward women really is. It wasn't.

This understanding of the situation suggests that an outlet for anger is the point and that gaming was just a catalyst or merely the easiest avenue for the anger to seem remotely reasonable. It's like when a hungry or tired toddler is upset with a random toy until that inner irritation is resolved. The grade school version finds a scapegoat to unload on and then they discover the glee of having power over another. We need to resolve these inner irritations and the joy of domination before people become adults with a greater capacity to cause lasting harm.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

The Big Con - Time to Wise Up

A great quote, but unlikely from Mark Twain.

From @1goodtern:

Have you ever known someone find it impossible to realise and admit they were the victim of a scam? We're seeing it now with hundred of millions of people refusing to admit they've been taken in by a public health scam. They're at the stage of believing and trumpeting absolutely anything else, however implausible, rather than admit to themselves or anyone else that they were fooled into being tricked. And just to be clear: The public health scam was that it's ok to catch Covid and give it to everyone. Covid is bad, and repeat Covid is awful. 

It's similar to victims of abuse - but instead of being directly harmed by officials, we're just being put in harm's way over and over. 

Amendments by Dr. Lisa Iannattone

Jessica Wildfire wrote specifically about Vinay Prasad, who 

"penned a number of articles advocating against vaccinating children against Covid. He made a YouTube video calling it 'bad public health policy.' He also railed against masks, distancing, and even indoor ventilation. A number of public health influencers took up his message and discouraged it all."

Wildfire concludes that, because of these messages, very few kids in the states were vaccinated, but my own experience has been that finding vaccines was a struggle until my youngest turned 18. Now it's so much easier to get new vaccines as soon as they're out. But the nay-sayers definitely had some effect.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Ableism Affects Everyone - Even You

Happy Friday, everyone! Here's a fun TikTok explaining how ableism comes back to bite you in the butt in less than 2 minutes:

@khoyadoc you're not gonna be "fine". #ableism #capitalism #disability #longcovid #covid19 #left ♬ original sound - khoya doc

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Problems with IHRA

After receiving literally hundreds of emails on this topic, starting before I was even elected, I watched this excellent panel discussion tonight about IHRA presented by Independent Jewish Voices Canada, the Palestinian Youth Movement, and Ground UP Waterloo Region, and featuring Fitsum Areguy, Greg Bird, Jasmin Zine, Sheryl Nestel, Mark Ayyash, and Shatha AbuAhmad

IHRA is shorthand for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism. Here's some of what I heard and understood from it all so far:

The working definition says,

"Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities."

The concern with the definition involves contention with some of the illustrative examples of anti-semitism, for instance, "Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor." or "Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis." 

Some of the examples provided (see more here) conflate a typical understanding of prejudice against a Jewish person with disagreement over actions taken by the Israeli government. 

Complete Chaos

A UK journalist wrote about the recent death of a 9-year-old girl in BC. He intersperses his thread with parts from this article, but I just included his commentary and quotes below:

 'Strep A' and 'flu' death in 9-year-old kid in Canada: but even this case is not as rapid a decline as what we are seeing in the UK. Timeline here: kid taken to the hospital feeling ill: told they have flu, kid shows signs of potential bacterial infection. 

"Saturday, Nov. 26, a severe rash all over her body, dehydration, fever, nausea and lethargy pointed to something more than the flu." OK, the clock starts here let's say.

These are clear signs of a bacterial infection: "She was passed out in the waiting room . . . really dehydrated and can't keep anything down." 

But see we have time here? Although the doctors are doing the wrong things: it's not going STRAIGHT INTO multi organ failure. 

Sunburn like rash... that just seems to have been ignored for some reason.

I know there's a pathological obsession with not giving antibiotics for viral infection, but this is really absurd: Some improvement on Saturday after this, then Sunday it gets much worse. 

Sweden's Pandemic Experiment

This book, Sweden's Pandemic Experiment, is online for free. I just read chapter 5 so far, as it was shared directly by Emil J. Bergholtz, a professor of theoretical physics: "The Swedish Covid-19 response: From poorly judged utilitarianism to history revisionism and the tragedy of the commons."

He starts by comparing the Swedish response to something we might see on the 1980s British political satire, Yes, Prime Minister. It's the stuff of comedy, except it's all too real. Like Ontario now, their state medical advisor is largely in denial and "downplayed the risks  in spite of the overwhelming evidence." He points to a "lack of relevant competence, normalcy bias, and an inability to admit errors" as possible causes of this behaviour. 

When we were locking down and wearing masks, Sweden was still pretty confident that the virus wouldn't spread much between people, and anticipated the peak of cases to be just around the corner with far too much optimism given the data. Then they flipped from expecting no infections to a strategy of everyone being infected for the hopes of herd immunity that failed to materialize. They expected it to take ten years to get to a 60% infection rate. But they couldn't keep up with the rate of illness, and "many elderly were routinely directed to palliative care and provided, for example, morphine instead of life-saving care and oxygen." After just the first wave, they had over 5,000 dead and "many more long-term ill with unclear future prospects, many of whom still suffer terribly."

How Bad Does It Have to Get??

I'm not sure what it will take to wake people up to the tragedy we're wading through right now enough to slap on a mask whenever they leave the house, but this 3 minute TikTok is from a front line nurse in Ajax, Ontario: 

"To see a big strong man drop to his knees to see his baby in that condition. . . . This baby died ON THE FLOOR of the emergency room. . . . We have moved well passed crisis mode at this point. . . . And you [Ford and Jones] are shameful. . . . Sleep well you two - in hell."



♬ original sound - Nancy Halupa

When I post about children dying or parents having to drive kids to a hospital in another city because ours is full, I have people on Facebook who respond with laughing emojis. Do they think it's all fake?? Or are they excited for the depleted population?? So unnerving that this is where we are right now. 

For some reason, Hotel Rwanda keeps coming to mind today.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

How Could Covid Cause Kids to Die of Strep A??

A great thread from @1goodtern explains this study providing evidence to help people understand why children are dying of Strep A. All the loud letters are theirs.: 

Here's how.

Covid infects kids. It infects their tonsils. What does it infect there? What does it do there?

Covid infects and kills dendritic cells and lymphoctyes (cells that are used in fighting infection) in the tonsils - where Strep A has attacked these children.

Those numbers are very important, because those are the numbers of infected cells of these types IN CHILDREN WHO HAD BEEN ASYMPTOMATIC AND WELL ENOUGH TO HAVE AN OPERATION DONE TO REMOVE THEIR ADENOIDS AND/OR TONSILS.

What I've Learned So Far: My First 2 Weeks as a Trustee

The boardroom is smaller than it looks on camera, and cozier and everyone's very nice and welcoming. It doesn't feel as formal as it looks, so I started out a little less formal than I should have been. It's hard to remember all the "through the chair" things to say. They gave us two books on procedure (Roberts Rules), and I haven't opened either one yet. Something I knew to expect and that was entirely reinforced by this experience, though, is that the corporate secretaries or managers, the ones you've never heard of, run the show and keep everything organized and are an incredible resource and remarkably accommodating. 

When I first considered campaigning, I asked how much a trustee gets paid, and I was always given a range from about $6,000 to $25,000. It's a honorarium based on student numbers, so it has no benefits or any extras attached to it, and it changes a bit each years. But I wasn't sure if that would be a yearly lump sum dumped in my bank account without notice or what. I started Nov. 14th, and got my first pay on Dec. 2. It's $541.64, so I assume that's paid bi-weekly, and I imagine for 26 pays, for a total of $14,082.64. I was just emailed that my gross pay is $16,185.31 per year, so that sounds about right. Funny that nobody will be upfront about that! It's very much a part-time job. If I work twenty hours/week, which is likely, then I'll be making minimum wage. For comparison, a trustee takes home $240/week and a crossing guard makes $170/week; as a teacher, I took home $1,270 a week, and the associate directors - we have two of them now - make over $4,000/week. But, on top of my pay, I also get a small allowance for phone use (not sure how much yet), and mileage if I drive to to meetings, and free subscriptions to The Record, The Star, and The Globe and Mail. I already pay for a Star subscription, and I'll just keep that one myself.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Will Steffan on What a Four Degrees Temperature Rise Looks Like in the Age of Ecological Disorder

For a trifecta of depressing posts for this Monday morning, I want to save this video here. It's Will Steffan, an American chemist who became the executive director of the Australian National University Climate Change Institute, explaining back in 2018 that we only have two years to make a solid plan we all stick to 100% in order to keep the global temperature to just 2°C above pre-industrial times. Whoops! 

He explains that without a plan incorporated everywhere NOW, as we watch Ford destroys the greenbelt, we'll be on track to see a 4°C rise by the end of this century. The real shocker for me, that he does a great job of explaining, is that the difference between mean global temperatures now and the mean global temperatures during the last ice age, is just FOUR DEGREES!! People survived during the ice age, but didn't thrive and innovate until the weather became optimal. We're in this very tiny optimal place, but it won't last long. And who knows what a 4° rise will look like, but Steffan predicts it won't be survivable without air conditioning, and that might not be possible if we lose too many engineers and skilled labourers, etc. to the inhabitable conditions. That's just our bodies trying to survive. He didn't get into what will happen to the entire agricultural system. I'd hazard to guess we'll go hungry before we burn up. 

It's 50 minutes long, but the most important bit is from 30-37 minutes.

ETA: Can't find the 50 min. long version - but here's the clip


ETA: This article: Climate change isn't the main cause of a loss of biodiversity - which is another urgent issue. That can be blamed on "habitat fragmentation and loss, overhunting, over-exploitation, agricultural expansion, pollution, and industrial development." The problem comes when things like massive solar fields directly harm habitats:  

"There is at present no plan, in any country, anywhere, on a global or national scale, to address extinctions, biodiversity crash, and habitat loss. The dismal reality is that with a green build-out, we will be saving not the complex web of life on Earth but the particular way of life of one privileged domineering species that depends for its success on a nature-ravaging network of technological marvels. Only once this truth is understood can honest decisions be made about what kind of world humanity wishes to inhabit in the age of ecological disorder." 

Time for palliative care?

What Going on With Kids Today? This is What "No Mitigations" Looks Like

 Dr. Jeff Gilchrist's thread on what's going on with kids today. He does biomedical research. (I didn't indent it because it's long, but this is entirely his words:)

"This virus season has been like no other with high hospitalization rates from RSV, Influenza and now more children are dying from Strep A bacterial infections. This looks at what might be going on.

So far in the UK, five children have died in England under age 10 within a week of diagnosis of invasive group A strep (a bacterial infection) and one 7 year old child in Wales. The rates of invasive Strep A in children age 1-4 is 4.6x higher and age 5-9 is 3.7x higher than pre-pandemic 2017-2019 seasons according to the UKHSA. A 9 year old Canadian girl also recently died from a bacterial infection. 

Normally most infections cause mild illnesses but this bacteria can also cause scarlet fever and in rare occasions infect the lungs and bloodstream which needs urgent treatment and can be life-threatening. The bacteria can easily spread between people. This kind of infection is typically treated successfully with antibiotics but currently many places, including in Canada, are facing antibiotics shortages, so the necessary treatment may not be easily available. The UKHSA is advising people to call 911/999 or go to Emergency if your child is having difficulty breathing, there are pauses when your child breathes, your child's skin, tongue, or lips are blue, your child is floppy and will not wake up or stay awake. Why are serious Strep A bacterial infections worse this year than before the pandemic? Dr. David Fisman points out that surges in viral respiratory infections can lead to downstream surges in invasive bacterial disease. His group has demonstrated this with influenza and pneumococcal disease and also a 4.3x increased risk after RSV and 2x increased risk after influenza activity for meningococcal disease

Those Darn Hibernating Viruses!

Many viruses stay in the body, all sneaky-like, for years after a first infection. Let's compare chicken pox, polio, HIV, and Covid.

Chicken pox, which spreads from contact with blisters or mucus, shows up with flu-like symptoms and characteristic spots. Then 30-70 years later, it can develop into shingles in about 10% of people, which is a painful skin condition. Luckily we have a vaccination for chicken pox AND a vaccination for shingles for anyone over 50 who had chicken pox in their life. It's two shots, and they're a couple hundred dollars each. They figured out the connection between chicken pox and shingles back in 1953, but didn't try to prevent chicken pox with a vaccine (or even warn parents to avoid it) until 2000, and the shingles vaccine wasn't developed until 2006.

Polio, which spreads from contact with bodily fluids (mucus or feces), first shows up with flu-like symptoms that most people make a full recovery from within a week or two, but less than 1% end up with paralysis of some type. Then 15-40 years later, people who just had mild symptoms can develop post-polio syndrome, characterized by progressive muscle weakness and atrophy, joint degeneration and pain, and skeletal deformities. Polio was around for centuries before Jonas Salk's vaccine in 1955. Luckily, vaccinations have almost completely eradicated polio here. So far.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Five Questions for the Minister of Health

 Dr. Christopher Leighton, MD, FRCPC, wrote the following letter to the Minister of Health, and encourages other to do likewise in order to "document the gross negligence of our government. If they will not act, we should be doing more: Protesting, petitioning our local MPPs. Eventually there will be an Ontario Inquiry or Investigation." It's just five questions:

RE: The Failure of the Ontario Government to Respond to this Unprecedented Health Care Crisis

  1. Why does this government fail to acknowledge the most serious healthcare crisis facing Ontario hospitals in 70 years?
  2. Why hasn't this government formed an Emergency Response Team to formulate and implement immediate solutions to improve access to emergency service, pediatric critical care, cancer treatment and urgent surgical care (adult and paediatric)? 
  3. Why has this government failed to adopt ANY public health measures that will reduce the spread of COVID19 and influenza especially? 
  4. Why has this government removed the reporting of COVID19 infections by schools (contrary to the HPPA & the Education Act) when absentee rates are >= 30% in a number of schools & districts across the province? [PHO as of Nov. 21, 2022]: "Only 40% of children ages 5-11 have had a primary series (2 doses). Only 5% of children ages 6 months to 4 years have had a single dose of a mRNA vaccine." These numbers have barely changed over several months meanwhile, children are presenting to hospitals across Ontario "requiring critical care and [mechanical] ventilation." 
  5. Has the Premier, yourself, or the Chief Medical Officer of Health, directed in writing or verbally, or otherwise discouraged Medical Officers of Health from using their independent authority with the Health Protection and Promotion Act (HPPA) to make Section 22 Orders..." " require masking in schools for example?" "I personally cannot understand why preserving the health & welfare of all Ontarians is no longer a priority for this government. Shouldn't this be the ethical duty of every elected provincial and territorial government in Canada?" "Is it that this government values the lives of those who are predominantly dying from COVID19 differently from the rest of the population i.e. the elderly and persons with disabilities? This inaction leaves one with so many uncomfortable questions." 
 "These comments are my own"

Friday, December 2, 2022

History of Mask Controversy

 The New Journal of Medicine just posted a video of the history of mask wearing. It's just 12 minutes:

Unfortunately, they conclude that masks have always been controversial, so will likely always be controversial, and it's even worse in more atomistic, partisan, polarized countries that focus on the individual over the community. 

You can see more about the history of the Spanish Flu, which killed one in five people, here. One in five, and they still fought against wearing a mask!! 

Monday, November 28, 2022

All Natural Misinformation

This thread is from Dr. Kay M. Dingwell on her experience shifting from natural is necessarily best to incorporating some scientific research into her decision-making:

I used to be vaccine hesitant. Had my kids on a modified schedule and felt I was VERY educated. Here are posts I made in 2010 about visiting public health with Charlie, two months at the time:

When pregnant with Charlie, I was pretty resentful of 'unnatural ' obstetric care and was convinced I could do things better. I had 'done my research' and wanted an unassisted home birth. 

Thursday, November 24, 2022

On OCDSB's Mask Motion

The OCDSB motion to require masks in all schools but allow exemptions for anyone who finds masks to be a hardship was not passed tonight after a 6-6 tie. Both student trustees also opposed it, but their votes weren't counted in the official tally. Here are three arguments I heard from opposing voices, and my rebuttals: 

Telling people it's required but that they can avoid it by saying it's a hardship for them means it won't change anything. 

Although it was hard to watch concessions be made in the spirit of compromise and the original motion be whittled away bit by bit over two long evenings, it was worse to hear final arguments about it being too watered down to bother passing by the very people who chiseled away at it! Of course that was the plan. The idea of the exemptions was to take any enforcement off the plates of teachers and administrators, but people argued that it makes it no different than a strong recommendation. 

I believe it's not the case that everything will be the same if you require masks but allow people to remove them without penalty. We know that every little bit will help, and we can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Sure people who are anti-masks will still not wear them, but I'm hearing from many parents with kids who want to mask, but don't want to be feel weird. If it's stated that they're required unless there's a hardship, then it makes masking the default, and those kids who want to mask will put them back on. In my own classes, almost all my students kept their masks on after the mandates were lifted last April because I told them the risks and the current data, and I asked them to keep them on if possible. That's all it took to get compliance from 95% of them. When the message is, "Masking isn't mandatory, but please respect people's choice to continue masking if they want to," that messaging leaves NOT masking as the default, and then kids feel uncomfortable wearing a mask. The message makes a huge difference even if there's no penalty for non-compliance.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

A 12 Step Solution to Fix Healthcare

This thread is from Dr. Raghu Venugopal, an emergency physician in Toronto explaining how to fix healthcare in Ontario:

1. Declare a crisis

2. Scrap bill 124.

3. Give nursing and allied staff a raise.

4. School masking to reduce spread (plus cleaning hands and ventilation).

5. Get provincial health ministers to agree to federal data request to get available federal funding.

6. Spend surplus on health staff and structures, not highways, car sticker rebates, and waste.

7. Robustly invest in family health teams.

8. Supercharge hospital bed capacity (including ICU), which we hugely lack.

9. Bipartisan flu vaccine promotion now.

10. Fair paid sick days.

I could go on. But the Ford administration is going to do none of this, I am sorry to say, except I do note they promise to build hospital beds.

Lastly, it's about publicly funded health care:

11. Yes to non-profit surgical facilities.

12. Scrap for-profit nursing homes with increased mortality. Most hospitals are general, so children fight with elderly for beds. Healthier seniors means more pediatric beds.

So simple, and so not going to happen!! 

A trustee in OCDSB (Ottawa/Carleton) last night, where they discussed a mask mandate at an intense meeting that required police intervention to keep the crowd at bay, asked, "Why, if the situation is so dire, have neither Moore nor Ottawa's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vera Etches, imposed mask mandates?" And many people are saying - Wow, great point!! 

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Science of Mask Efficiency

A thread from Dr. Leo Lam, who has a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, worked for over twenty years as a science advocate, and was co-founder of medical imaging software.

I'm tired of hearing the contrarians talking about how masks don't work as protective devices against respiratory diseases as our nation's pediatric hospitals are full of children sick with RSV/Flu and COVID continues to be the 3rd leading cause of death. The contrarians are WRONG. Some of them are already making attempts to take apart the excellent study done at the Boston School District with minor technicalities while ignoring a fundamental fact: the study is only a proxy. 

These contrarian physicians mistakenly believe that RCTs [randomized control trials] or observation of the secondary effects somehow make the gold standard for scientific evidence. It is NOT. Why? Because masks are mechanical devices that are physically measurable. And we have physical data. RCTs, by definition, are examining efficacy by proxy because the effect of drugs (and some medical devices) is not directly observable. You can't directly see how the chemicals interact with our cells/molecules or organs until we have nanobots with viewing capabilities. With masks, we can directly test and measure their efficacy via controlled particulate generators and sensors. This is the same for other physical objects, like seat belts, parachutes, and helmets. It would be absurd to run RCTs on them. Unethical, too. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Where Does the Buck Stop on Mandates??

So Dr. Kieran Moore, CMOH, claimed he doesn't have the authority to institute mandatory masking in schools, and that boards can "consult with their local medical officer of health." It was later clarified that the CMOH can order masking in schools, or local health units, and it's not up to individual school boards. The Ottawa Citizen reported, 

Several medical officers of health have said they would prefer the province bring in mandates. Although they have the power to do so themselves under provincial public health legislation, they say it is difficult to enforce and makes for uneven rules across the province. Ottawa's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vera Etches, has said she would support local businesses and organizations that bring in mask mandates--something the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board did earlier this year after provincial mandates were dropped. It is again set to debate the issue. . . . On Wednesday, OPH (Ottawa Public Health) posted a message on Twitter saying it would "fully support any business/organization that chooses to implement a mask wearing policy." That leaves schools and post-secondary institutions to make their own decisions.

But BOY is it tricky to find out where responsibility lies on this!

Monday, November 14, 2022

Moore on Masks: It's All on Families to Get Back to ALL of the Basics

I watched it so you don't have to! I've transcribed most of it, but left out repetitive information in places. I also added timestamps to some of the more pertinent bits. And I've added in my own responses here and there. Many reporters did an amazing job with persistent questioning, except that one guy in the front, who didn't write anything down and just lobbed softballs. 

TLDR - The reason kids are getting sick is because of their parent, siblings, and grandparents, who really need to do better. We're doing something really new and different today by urging people to wear masks specifically when they're around children four and under. And if we need mandates in daycare to save the children, we'll absolutely think about it.


The Polycrisis and Planetary Palliative Care

Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon and Johan Rockström wrote about the "Cascade of Crises" we're experiencing right now. They discuss global hunger, people forced to moved, political authoritarianism, violations of human rights, violent demonstrations, ongoing conflict. They point to three things: the magnitude of consumption, vastly greater connectivity among our economic and social systems, and risk synchronization. Since everyone is specialized, we don't have experts that can analyze all the connections. They advocate for creating a consortium for this. But can we do it fast enough?  

The two biggest issues right now, climate change and covid, are revealing an ongoing inability for our society to make wise decisions in the face of calamity, which may be leading us to a collapse of this civilization. But acknowledging that possibility doesn't mean giving up or hiding out. Perhaps if we accept (or just believe) that we're nearing the end, we can shift our priorities enough to usher in a more peaceful and equitable denouement.

Some recent climate change articles are painting a frighteningly bleak picture. At the Paris Agreement in 2015, countries around the world signed on to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) in order to cap warming at 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by 2030. It's become clear that we won't be able to make it. 

Current pledges for action by 2030, if delivered in full, would mean a rise in global heating of about 2.5°C and catastrophic extreme weather around the world. . . . Global emissions must fall by almost 50% by that date to keep the 1.5°C target alive. . . . We had our chance to make incremental changes, but that time is over. 

The climate crisis has been a test of our ability to put long term collective needs over individual desires, and we failed miserably. It's no wonder we're not sufficiently mitigating SARS-CoV-2. Despite all our knowledge and technology and ability, we just don't want to be inconvenienced. 

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Viral about that Virus

I posted a mini thread yesterday that exploded about the Delphi Consensus:

It hit a million impressions in just 24 hours, and it's still going strong. I'm so glad I turned off comments early on after I got slaughtered by trolls on a different post yesterday - almost 500 random comments mainly from people with fewer than 10 followers and almost entirely American based, lots of gun-lovers. It's the wild west on Twitter since Musk fired most of the staff. 

Friday, November 11, 2022

Our Duty to Others IS Love

In my class recently, we were asked to get into groups to get a reading down to one key word. The passage was on Confucius, and it was about human-heartedness, taming unruly impulses, filial piety, benevolence, and justice. 

In my little group, I suggested it's all about love. My group disagreed. I pointed out that the word is mentioned several times in the reading because they were quite sure it wasn't mentioned at all. They countered that it's all about duty, order and control. It's trying to control us by making us do things for other people. They said that like it's a bad thing. One kept bring up the idea of that we can only control people by shaming them and making them feel horrible, so it's in essence a horrible theory. I kept rereading the passage to see where they were getting this idea. I thought I must have missed something crucial in the text. Then, when we went around the room to share ideas, I was heartened that many other groups came up with terms like love and virtue and service, so I wasn't losing my mind. The reading was full of love.

It reminded me of two things: First, it's a similar reaction to class discussions on Kant's deontological (duty-based) ethics. Any thought of a duty or obligation to others gets the shackles up on many teenagers who are in survival mode competing with one another for university slots. But, if I come at it from the other end, focusing on what would make for the most benevolent society, or even what would be the best way to solve a conundrum with a group of people you really care about, they tend to come up with the notion of doing for others even if it's not in our best interest. They will start to argue that we can't expect to get our own way all the time, and that we have to look at the bigger picture and do what's right even when it's not what's easy or what most benefits ourselves. If we want to have a good home life or a good society, we have to consider the effects of our actions. And then we can get into the nitty gritty of how to decide that. It sometimes takes a full class of thinking to get them on board with "duty" being useful to keep the peace because first you have to get them outside of their selves, outside of their personal striving against each other. 

We Need Mask Mandates Now!

Here's Dr. Joe Vipond on mask mandates:

Hey Canada, it's time we talked about mask mandates: What they do, why they're important, and what we've learned from the past.

A mask mandate simply means a law that requires universal mask use in a certain situation (schools, work, public spaces, etc.). It's usually coupled with some kind of penalty, the simplest being lack of entry, but could be fines or other penalty. The intent of a mandate is to increase the number of people wearing a mask. It essentially sets the social benchmark for what is deemed acceptable behaviour. We go from mask wearers being the exceptional citizens to non-mask wearers being the exceptional citizens. We saw this in Calgary. On August 1, 2020, the percentage of mask wearers went from around 15% to 85% overnight.

We now see a similar trajectory towards a mask mandate in Canada, with Ottawa leading the way. Baseline mask use has probably (by my eye) been about 5%. We hope this will increase with increasing exhortations to wear a mask. So we'll go from "now you need to wear a mask," "no, really it's quite important," "goddamn it we're drowning here, will you for god sakes wear a mask," and maybe we'll boost the mask use to 20, 30, or even 45%. It simply won't be enough to bend the curve. If we know (and we know) that we'll eventually end up with a mask mandate (because exhortations don't work well enough), the earlier we do it in the curve, the better. So why not skip the "pretty please" steps and go right to what's worked in the past??

Thursday, November 10, 2022

If We Know What's Right, Will We Do What's Right?

The Toronto Star just quoted Kieran Moore,

I’m very loath, after 1,000 days of a pandemic, to put in a mandate. We know what works, and we can trust Ontarians to do the right things. 

Nope. If we could trust people to KNOW what's right with all the misinformation out there, and then to DO the right thing (i.e. wear an N95 completely covering mouth and nose at all times in all public places), then we wouldn't have kids being shipped to hospitals across the province because of overflow. It's even worse now that we have 112 Paediatric ICU beds in Ontario, and 122 patients in need of a bed. 

In Ontario, 19 children have died of Covid so far. How much worse does it have to be for people to understand the need to wear an N95 around others? Like many communicable diseases, Covid spreads through carriers - a third of cases have no symptoms, so we need to mask even when we feel perfectly healthy. We can't know we have it, and can't know if someone nearby will die or be permanently disabled from catching it from us. Vaccines help prevent severity, but don't significantly stop transmission. N95s are a painless and effective way to stop the spread. If public health had pushed masks over hand washing in the last few years, then I might trust Ontarians to "do the right thing," but PH comms has been a disaster. 

From a Socratic perspective -- he argued that if we know right, we'll do right -- the problem is that most people don't know in their hearts that walking around publicly without a mask is wrong. We often avoid doing wrong because we'll get in trouble, but when we really know wrong -- like if you were asked to kill an innocent child -- it doesn't matter whether or not you'd get in trouble because you wouldn't be able to betray your conscience to that extent. The problem with masks is that many people don't know it intellectually either. They don't get how Covid is transmitted and don't know what to believe about the effectiveness of masks, and they don't get the difference between an N95 that seals to the face and a flimsy bit of cloth or surgical mask. And then, once they get the right information, they have to make the connection between walking around the grocery store without a mask on and killing an innocent child, the one in the cart next to yours in the check-out line, or the one that the cashier has waiting at home for mum, in order to really know know that it's wrong. Only then can we trust them to do the right thing.

Please wear an N95 or better in public places, especially schools, healthcare facilities, transportation, grocery stores, and anywhere people NEED to be. If you think we need a mandate in order to save the lives of our children, let Ford know at 416-325-1941. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Medical Officers of Health - Can't They Save the Day??

 The Peterborough Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Thomas Piggott, wrote, 

I would agree and add my voice to the numerous health system leaders who are concerned with capacity of the health system in the face of COVID and other respiratory viruses and have been calling for a return of masking in recent days. If we have not reached the threshold from a health system capacity impact to reinstate required masking in key indoor locations, we need to understand when exactly that would be. I have said before and I'll say again, a multi-layer approach is needed (especially we need to see improved COVID/influenza vaccination rates, and improvements in in indoor air quality/ventilation) but masking in indoor locations is a key effective strategy with no associated health harms. It should be the first preventive measure to be returned and the last to leave as we continue to learn to live with COVID, keep kids in school, keep businesses open, and prevent health system collapse. 

What we are seeing affecting paediatric hospitals and children is the sentinel event for more broad community transmission. We usually see transmission in younger first. In coming weeks, I anticipate other populations, including older adults, to be more severely affected as well. There is a broad, not localized crisis facing our health system. It should have a coordinated provincial, not local, response. This is needed for clarity of message and coordination/feasibility of implementing. I believe it will soon come, but I sincerely hope the decision on return of required masking comes before the worst period to prevent it, not when we've already reached that point.

Covid Club - Specially Made for Public Health and Media

The first rule of Covid Club is you do not talk about Covid.

The second rule of Covid Club is you DO NOT talk about Covid!

Third rule of Covid Club: someone starts coughing, sneezing, sore throat? It's just a cold.

Fourth rule: only hand sanitizer in classrooms.

Fifth rule: keep the windows closed, fellas.

Sixth rule: no masks, no RATS.

Seventh rule: Covid will go on as long as it has to.

And the eighth and final rule: if this is your first time at Covid Club, you have to spread Covid.

(Inspired by Michael Olesen's tweet - and Fight Club)

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Sick Kids in Schools

Here's a curious story that happened long ego enough that I think it's finally okay to tell it. 

About 18 years ago I was cautiously pregnant. From the very beginning doctors and midwives kept telling me, "This one might not be viable." Add to that, at 39 I was really old to be having another kid. So, about five months along, I was shipped off to Toronto where they had a fancy machine to do some tests that would see whether or not the pregnancy should continue. They were worried about Edward's Syndrome, which has a 50% fatality rate within a week of birth. For those who make it past that first week, they might make it a few years with constant medical interventions. They'll have a short life full of suffering.   

At five months, you've already felt the baby move, so this was a very difficult day. Even worse, when they tried the test, the fetus was in a bad position. They needed it to roll over, so they gave me a chocolate bar and told me to run up and down the hallway to "wake it up." I had to rouse this tiny being for a test that was going to help me decide whether or not to "terminate" it. Yikes.

Long story short, the best they could do was to give me 50/50 odds, and I gambled and won. My little one is still going strong, except she's very very sick right now. She likely has Covid even though she keeps testing negative. She went to stay with her dad for a couple months, and they don't mask anymore, and there you go. I'm making my peace with that. 

But that's not the funny part. There's more