It’s Rapid and It’s Positive

The Car Guy likes things to be cut and dried. Once the Frog in his Throat became a cough, the logical thing to do, in his mind, was to take a rapid antigen test to see whether he has Covid or not. He ordered a test kit on Amazon – it arrived in two days.

Other than the discomfort of putting a swab up his nose, the test was straight forward and fairly fast. Within 15 minutes, he had his answer. He was positive for Covid.

I didn’t bother taking the test. If I gave the virus to him, I was probably going to test negative because I am over two weeks away from first symptoms. If I didn’t have the virus then I am going to get it from him in short order. Either way, we’ll both test in about a week. If we test negative, we will be ‘good to go’ visit some of our friends who are at higher risk if they were to contract Covid.

Meanwhile in Canada

The big news in Canada is the Truckers Freedom Convoy. (I did two posts about it at my other blog, Counter Current.) Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau, the man who proudly marched with BLM in 2020, did not meet with the truckers when they arrived at their destination in the Nation’s capital. Why? He has reportedly said that the convoy members and their supporters are a “fringe minority” who hold “unacceptable views.” (He also says he has tested positive for Covid but is feeling fine. He has ‘holed up’ at an undisclosed location.)

The foundational cornerstone of liberty is the free exchange of ideas. Without that, we don’t really have liberty. And that means putting up with a lot of things you disagree with.
And here’s the great thing about freedom of expression – someone else gets to try and convince you of how wrong you are. And all the ideas get to compete. And at some point, enough people will provide enough verifiable information, that hard, irrefutable facts will emerge. But as long as nothing is ever challenged, we will never know if those “facts” are irrefutable or not.
Regie Hamm

This is the same Prime Minister that called a Vanity Federal Election (that was midway through his term and cost taxpayers $610 million) during the Fourth Wave of the Pandemic

Getting back to the truckers, they are equally peeved with American President Biden. Trudeau and Biden have, at this very late date in the pandemic, declared cross border truckers now have to be fully immunized. The truckers, who for the past two years have made it possible for the elitist ‘shelter at home’ people to ‘stay safe’, have decided they have had it with mandates that smack of political virtue signalling.

 

The Fluronacold Racing Season

The 2021-2022 Fluronacold Racing Season has been an exciting one! Team SARSCoV is leading in points with the Omicorn1 superbuggy ahead in overall points, though Omicron2 has been moving up in the standings. Team Flu has pinned their hopes on the normally strong ACatH3N2 . Their BCat  has been sidelined for most of the season. Team Cold has two strong entries, Rhino and Corona. Both Team Flu and Team Cold were more or less sidelined last year due to new restrictions that affected their ability to even race. Fluronacold officials have been under extreme pressure to reinstate all the restrictions, but there is strong evidence that the restrictions have caused some serious collateral damage…

On a personal note, I am on day 17 of ‘Fluronacold’ symptoms. (I do not know which virus I had so I made up the word ‘Fluronacold’…)  I’m inclined to think my current muscle and joint aches and pains are virus related, but as I am constantly reminded by the ‘Correlation is not Causation‘ approach to life, this may not be so.

The Car Guy, he of the Pea Pod and Black Coffee school of health, now has a Frog in his Throat, but is otherwise feeling fine.

I’ve looked at the chart of ‘Fluronacold’ symptoms (below) and I have to say that my symptoms fit all the viruses to some degree and none of the viruses completely.

Source: https://fortune.com/2022/01/12/omicron-delta-cold-and-flu-symptoms-chart/

Meanwhile in Canada:  here is my take on the The Canadian Truckers Freedom Convoy.

Pea Pods and Black Coffee

Green Pea Pods

My Virus Update – a cold, the flu or Covid? Don’t know and stubbornly don’t care. The medical treatment (so far) is the same as it has always been for a cold/flu and the isolation/masking is socially required these days…

The Car Guy and I have not been tested for Covid yet and we hope to make it through the whole pandemic without having got one. Call it Baby Boomer defiance to the last two years of government mandates and mass media fear mongering…

So, I’ve made it through the sniffles and the cough and now I’m at the tired stage. I wouldn’t say fatigue, just ‘walk around the block and then lay down for a while’ tired.

The Car Guy has not succumbed to the virus at all. I didn’t think he would. He never gets colds or flu. There are too many variables to figure out why this is, but in the true spirit of finding spurious correlations and claiming them as causes, I present raw green pea pods and black coffee. He consumes both in significant quantities. I don’t. So there you have it.

Frog in my Throat

“A Frog in my Throat”

I have been invaded by a virus. I have a runny nose, a scratchy ‘frog’ in my throat, and a dry cough. I don’t know if I encountered the virus while still in Alberta, or if it caught up with me during the three day drive from Alberta to Arizona. I don’t know if it is a common cold or if it is one of the Covid variants like Omicron.

I do know that medical advice in both places says stay isolated at home for 5 days after the start of symptoms and don’t clog up the medical system unless the symptoms are well beyond what I’m experiencing. In Alberta, PCR tests are not available unless you are deemed to be severely sick. I’m assuming the situation is similar here in Arizona too.

What isn’t the same in the states we traveled through to get here, is mandates. In Canada, we have been ‘mandated’ up to our eyeballs. Today, if The Car Guy or I wanted to get back into Canada, our vaccine status alone would not be good enough; nor would a promise that we would drive immediately to our home and quarantine for 2 weeks. No, we would also have to have proof of a negative molecular test OR we will be fined $5000 per person. (When we crossed into the USA from Canada we didn’t have to provide any proof of even having been vaccinated. The restaurants and motels we used did not have mask mandates, though some had mask recommendations that few people were following.)

To put this difference between Canada and the United States into perspective (recognizing there are state/provincial/municipal differences), I’d like to start with  a section of a post from Mike Rowe (Mike Rowe Works Foundation):

How much more mandating are we willing to endure to avoid a virus we’re all going to get?

…I’m worried that we’ve become irrationally averse to risk. I’m worried that mask mandates will lead to vaccine mandates, and vaccine mandates will lead to vaccine passports, and vaccine passports will lead to QR codes on our phones, which we’ll all need to present at every restaurant, every gym, every library, every theater… everywhere we go.

Yes, I’m also worried about overcrowded hospitals and stressed-out healthcare workers. And of course, I’m worried about those who won’t survive this thing. But I’m more worried about the path we’re headed down… and that path is paved with mandates.

In my province (as in most Canadian provinces) Mike Rowe’s fears have mostly all come to pass. We have to wear a mask to enter all public settings and workplaces. We need to show our vaccine passport (with a QR code) to enter restaurants, theatres, concerts, fitness facilities etc that want to operate at normal capacity. We can’t board a plane or train without our vaccine passport… and we can’t enter our own country without a vaccine passport…

“I’m worried that we’ve become irrationally averse to risk. – Mike Rowe. Graphic Source: https://xkcd.com/

On a safety spectrum, I’d say much of Canada is highly Safety first. Some parts of the USA – maybe not so much. Which makes it kind of funny that the
Canada Travel Advisory is to Avoid Non-Essential Travel to the United States; the U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory: Canada – Level 4: Do Not Travel Due to very high level of COVID-19…

My post on A Safety Third Philosophy in a Safety First World

‘Rona Virus – The Alberta Picture

After nearly two years of varying degrees of shut down and a never ending daily dose of fear delivered by Mass and Social Media – how has Covid impacted Albertans? Was the collateral damage suffered by children, teens, isolated seniors and the work force a justifiable sacrifice? Did ‘we save Grandma?”

Here are some stats. Does the reality match your impression of the pandemic?

COVID STATS in ALBERTA

1. Hospitalizations and ICU Combined:  16,028 Covid patients were Hospitalized in the almost two years of Covid (March 2020 to January 2022). That is .36% of the total population. Reality Check:  The total number of Covid patients were about double the daily number  of patients treated in Alberta’s hospitals in 2019 (the year prior to Covid.) 400,000 patients are discharged from Alberta Hospitals each year.

2. ICU:  3049 patients or .07% of the population needed care in ICU. (Reality Check: In 2019, 24,010 patients were in ICU.)

3. Deaths: 3338 people died or .075% of the population.  A distinction has not been made as to how many deaths were caused by Covid and how many deaths had Covid as a contributing, but not primary factor. That distinction is now being tracked in some jurisdictions since a growing number of patients are coming to the hospital for other treatment but are asymptomatic for Covid. Reality Check: In 2019, 26,268 Albertans died, which is .6% of the population.

4. Covid has predominantly been a disease of the elderly with existing health problems. The Average age of death was 7875% of Covid deaths were people over the age of 70. Though the elderly have the highest vaccination rates, they can have less robust immune systems in general.

Weekly Deaths from Covid in Alberta: (October 1 2020 to Jan 5, 2021)  Red line: Under Age of 50; Blue Line 50-79 Years of age; Green Line: 80 + years

5. Comorbidities (Exisiting Health Problems): of those who died:
82% had Hypertension (high blood pressure)
52% had Cardio-vascular disease
50% had Renal Disease
44% had Diabetes

Of those with Non-Severe Covid: 32% had one or more comorbidities.
Of those Hospitalized but not in ICU: 76% had one or more comorbidities.
Of those in ICU: 77% had one or more comorbidities.
Of those who Died: 93% had one or more comorbidiities.

6. Vaccines: Since January 1, 2020: 
70% of cases were unvaccinated or less than 2 weeks from getting the first dose.
80% of hospitalizations  were unvaccinated or less than 2 weeks from getting the first dose.
75% of deaths were unvaccinated or less than 2 weeks from getting the first dose.

COVID GRAPHS

Note: Alberta is now in what is being called the 5th wave or Omicron wave. Though hospitalizations are rising, the numbers in ICU are not yet climbing as they did in previous waves.
This graph shows how deaths do not always track the same as cases or hospitalizations.

7. Cases: Cases have been the key metric used to scare people. Cases do not necessarily track closely with other metrics (particularly deaths). Alberta has cut back on public testing in order to conserve PCR tests for medical professionals and high risk populations.

FURTHER READING

Omicron and the Endemic Phase Phase of Covid – Dr. Zubin Damania

Fighting COVID-19: The Heterogeneous Transmission Thesis

What COVID-19 Vaccines Can and Can’t do

The History of the mRNA Vaccines

Spike and the Variants – Will Omicron be the New Lead Singer?

Spike and the Variants – a Zentangle by Margy

‘Spike and the Variants’ continue their highly successful world tour, though their lead singers continue to be ousted and replaced by members of the new generations. In Alberta, Alpha finally stepped back (for the good of the band) and let Delta lead the climb to the top of the charts for the second half of 2021. Today there are rumours that Omicron might push it aside, but time will tell whether the new upstart has what it takes to lead a new wave of ‘dispopularity’.

What Doesn’t Kill you… mutates and tries again…

… doesn’t this sound like elections too?

Good Night, Sleep Tight…

This time last year I was counting the number of itchy bites I got each day, mostly on my legs. I was convinced I was the victim of grass mites, mosquitoes and/or ants. Then one morning  I found three bites under one arm and a cluster of ten bites on my chest. Uh oh…

Bedbugs? Did we bring bedbugs home with us when we drove from Arizona to Alberta at the end of April? Yikes!

A number of years ago a friend’s home got bedbugs and at that time the treatment was to heat the whole house to an even temperature of over 120 F for at least an hour. It was an expensive procedure.

(By now I had worked myself into a lather, as they say). I called the local bug assassin company. They sent one of their  exterminators out that afternoon. He looked carefully at everything in our bedroom. He could not find any sign of bedbugs. He explained that didn’t mean there were no bedbugs – just not enough to constitute an infestation.

If I wanted, he could spray selected surfaces in our bedroom with a product that his company was having a lot of success with. He explained how he would use it and how safe it was for humans once it had dried. We could use the room again in four hours. Oh, and the cost was a bit less than $200.

I said “Make it So!” He instructed me to strip the bed and wash the bedding in hot water. That would kill any bugs residing in our quilts, pillows etc. He told me not to bother washing anything else. Any bugs that weren’t killed in the first few hours would track us down at night and they would be killed too because the spray would keep working for many months.

The spray was a complete success – that was the end of the bites.

Good night, sleep tight
Don’t let the bedbugs bite.
But if they do, then take your shoe and
Hit them till they’re black and blue.
– Childhood Rhyme –

More About Bedbugs

Bedbugs were all but eradicated in the developed world by the 1950’s because of pest control products like DDT and chlordane – and the widespread use of vacuums and washing machines. Today, however, bedbugs are on the rise again because of increased travel and fewer chemical control products.

Adult Bed bugs are the size and color of a flat apple seed. They hide during the day in mattress crevices, box springs, baseboards, behind electrical switch plates, in picture frames, and even behind wallpaper. At night, the carbon dioxide we exhale lures them out of their hiding spots. Once a bed bug finds a host, it will usually feed for 5 to 10 minutes. Sometimes the feeding shows up as a pattern of three bites in a cluster or row. The host usually isn’t wakened by the feasting because bed bug saliva is an anaesthetic.

If you think you have bedbugs, call a professional. In my humble opinion, this isn’t a do it yourself job.

‘Rona Virus – Efficacy and Straws

Straw efficacy: Tim Horton’s has retired their red plastic straws. In my ranking system, these straws had a 95% efficacy at removing the contents of a Tim Horton’s Iced Capp. The new white cardboard straw has only a 90% efficacy because it is wider than the ‘valley’ that holds the “good to the last drop” stuff at the bottom of the cup. The red straw has a 100% efficacy rate for durability. The white paper straw has a 75% efficacy rate because it starts to get squishy about 3/4 of the way through the drink.

The word ‘efficacy’ is very old. It dates back to the 1200’s! It didn’t enter my consciousness until this year, when the term was used in relation to COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccine Efficacy
A vaccine with an efficacy rate of, say 85%, means it demonstrated in trials that it could reduce moderate to severe disease by 85%. To do that, the vaccines initiated an immune response that  reduced the number of viruses in the lower respiratory tract. To date, the vaccines are not believed to be sterilizing vaccines that completely stop the virus in the upper respiratory tract too.

In time, the vaccine may prove to be a sterilizing vaccine in some or most of the population. Until then, some governments, such as the one in my province, explain the vaccine in terms of effectiveness in preventing severe disease, hospitalizations and death from COVID-19′.

Here is an excellent explanation of the Covid Vaccine: University of Colorado.

What about Mask Efficacy?

I somehow doubt there will be a mask efficacy rating for the products used by the general public during Covid. There are simply too many variables – material, fit, care in use; indoors vs outdoors; social distancing and other factors limiting people’s activities;  age, immunity, viral load and length of exposure of participants… Analyzing masking is going to be either a statisticians dream or nightmare.

In preparation for the (hopefully) soon removal of mask mandates, last week I performed a small test on public perception of an unmasked person (me). I had to drop a sample off at a medical lab. I walked two car lengths across a parking lot, stood in an outside lineup of one (me) for about two minutes then handed the sample (while still outside) to the masked attendant who, by protocol, stepped outside to receive it.

While I was being a line of one, there was, for a few seconds, a lineup of two – another ‘client’ arrived. Unlike me, she was masked. When the attendant moved to the door to summons me, the masked lady behind me swiftly moved forward to try to hand her item to the attendant. As she came up beside me, she suddenly drew back. I don’t know whether it was because she saw I was unmasked or whether she realized that I was handing a sample to the attendant too.

Either way, I didn’t learn anything about public perception because the attendant and the client were masked – I couldn’t read anything in their faces.

Efficacy of the Virus

Efficacy isn’t actually the term used to describe Covid mortality – it is called  Case fatality. In both Canada and the USA it is 1.8%. There are, however, an unknown number of people who have had Covid, but were not diagnosed with it, which drops the case fatality rate by some unknown amount. The fatality rate in terms of the entire population are .07% for Canada and .18% for the United States.

I’m hoping we aren’t invaded by a new and more deadly variant so that our province  can move towards full removal of restrictions by the end of June… inshallah…

Long Covid – What is It?

Excerpt From: We need to start thinking more critically — and speaking more cautiously — about long Covid

“Long Covid has no universal definition. It is instead often used as a catchall to describe individuals whose symptoms last more than a few weeks or months after the onset of Covid-19. That many individuals experience protracted symptoms after infection with SARS-CoV-2, however, should hardly be surprising. After all, critical illness of any cause can be devastating…

The symptoms of this condition are often, if not predominantly, non-respiratory in nature, and the people most affected seem to be relatively young, whereas those most susceptible to severe acute Covid-19 are, on average, older and sicker…

Reporting on long Covid needs to be more cautious for several reasons… First, at least some people who identify themselves as having long Covid appear never to have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus… a survey organized by a group of self-identified long Covid patients that recruited participants from online support groups reported in late December 2020 that around two-thirds of those surveyed who had undergone blood testing reported negative results…

The symptoms reported as consistent with long Covid are associated with many conditions. Gastrointestinal symptoms, confusion and forgetfulness (“brain fog”), severe fatigue, hair loss, and headaches are surprisingly common, even in the general population… Add to that the fact that the past year has produced skyrocketing levels of social anguish and mental emotional distress… there’s no question that mental suffering can produce physical suffering…

But make no mistake: the suffering described by long Covid patients is debilitating and real. There will be, as is often the case, lack of clarity about the distinct cause of suffering in each individual; there may often be multiple causes, stretching from the virologic to the psychosocial.”

– Adam Gaffney – pulmonary and critical care physician at the Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Mass., and an assistant professor in medicine at Harvard Medical School –

Excerpt from What is Long Covid?

I don’t think it’s any different from post-viral syndrome, a condition that affects some people after a viral infection but that usually clears up within a few months. I’ve been generally sceptical of claims of long covid as some distinct entity for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s generally impossible to separate out cause and effect from anecdote and observational data. If you have a respiratory infection and then you continue to feel tired afterwards, was it the respiratory infection that caused it or something else?

For those who have been seriously sick with covid and required intensive care, PTSD is also something that could easily be misinterpreted as long covid (PTSD is actually quite common after intensive care, affecting one in ten patients). Apart from that, some studies have found that almost 60% of people treated in intensive care (for any condition, not covid specifically) still have cognitive impairments twelve months after being discharged.

Second, covid is not some magical entity, it’s a coronavirus, and it behaves like other coronaviruses, and other respiratory viruses more generally.

Maybe it will turn out that long covid is a real entity after all (distinct from post-viral syndrome, PTSD, anxiety disorder, and so on) when better research is done down the line, but we can’t just assume it based on anecdote, fear-mongering, groupthink, and low quality science. That doesn’t benefit anyone, least of all people with other underlying health issues that are not properly investigated because it’s so easy to just blame everything on covid.
– Sebastian Rushworth M.D., junior physician in Stockholm, Sweden –

‘Rona Virus – We Got Shot

Vaccines are in short supply here in Canada – so The Car Guy and I decided we would delay getting ours (we are retired seniors who can easily continue to shelter in place). We hoped  that ‘our shot’ would go to younger, but more vulnerable people. (That part worked well – our younger siblings got their shots a few weeks ago.)

We would have kept delaying ‘shot’ time for several more months if the various governments and venues hadn’t  fouled things up a bit. Our Province decided to delay the timing for the second shot by up to four months. Other governments and service providers started to talk about two dose immunization as a requirement to travel or take part in normal life again. We started counting the months until we’d like to visit our home and friends in Arizona and decided we should book our shots.

We ‘got shot’ last Friday. Just in time to be locked down again.

The Province of Ontario is in lockdown too. The Police can’t actually come to your house, of course, but I’m sure there are a few people who wish that officers could do removals…

Hard to forget early 2020 – toilet paper was a major issue. This year, in some places, it is lumber. Prices have gone up by as much as 50%.

Also in 2020 – remember Flatten the Curve?

The goal, you might remember, was to keep the health care system from being overwhelmed. Fourteen months later, we’re doing it all over again. It’s like trying to staple jello to a wall.

There have been a number of Anti-Lockdown Rallies in Alberta. Some people have been pushed to the limit of their endurance. There are concerns that these Rallies will be super-spreader events. The one that caused the most uproar was a Rodeo  that was attended by about 4000 people over the course of 2 days. It has been 10 days since it took place and no cases have been linked to the event so far.

Last June, 15000 people in Edmonton Alberta attended a BLM Rally. That rally, and all the BLM rallies across Canada did not result in an increase of Covid cases either, officials say.

I think many people understand that lockdowns are more damaging to some people than to others. The question being raised in some quarters recently – are lockdowns actually Systemic Racism?

I think we are going to see interesting ‘discussions about best pandemic practices’ once the virus and the world have come to a mutual understanding!