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COVID-19 – What the Hell Is It?

In COVID-19, Epidemic, Social Distancing, World Health on March 21, 2020 at 1:43 pm

COVID-19

COVID-19 is a betacoronavirus and the scientific name for it is SARS-CoV-2. There are many coronaviruses, each of them slightly different. All coronaviruses are animal viruses that have made the leap to humans. COVID-19 was just a bat virus. Meaning that until December 2019, only bats could pass this virus around amongst themselves. That’s a proven fact.
The virus had to mutate in order to make the leap from bat to human.

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COVID-19 is highly contagious and spreads quickly and easily. In less than three short months of its existence, COVID-19 has spread to 160 countries. Because it is so new, no one knows for sure all the ways it can spread. As more and more people contract this virus and more and more people recover or die, scientists have been gathering information just as quickly.

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COVID-19 is a virus and the symptoms sound pretty ordinary. Fever and a cough. Maybe a headache or a sore throat. Here’s the kicker, it’s a high fever that can come on suddenly and go away the next and then come back a few times. The cough? Well, it’s a dry cough. OK. Doesn’t sound too bad and for some its not. That’s the extent of it. For others that fever is crazy and the cough is triggered by bi-lateral fibrosis in the lungs of up to 45%. That means the tissue of your lungs gets really stiff and that makes it really hard to breathe.

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When the human immune system detects a virus, it makes a battle plan, arms itself and starts to fight back. Because this was a bat virus, the human immune system has no experience fighting it off and doesn’t quite know what to do. It literally freaks out. Sometimes, it takes a scorched earth approach, throwing every weapon it has at this thing. When that happens, the immune system fills the lungs with fluid to try to expel the virus. That’s called a cytokine storm. Really tough to get oxygen into lungs that are rock hard and filled with fluid. The lungs already have trouble expanding and contracting and on top of that, fluid has taken up space in those lungs. Where will the oxygen even go? This is how people die from COVID-19.

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Some scientists say it has since mutated at least once more to become airborne. Other scientists are already thinking there may have been a third mutation and that there are possibly already 2 strains going around. One of them may even be more deadly. No one really knows yet. Scientists have found 2 strains that simultaneously infected a single patient in Iceland.

After many guesses, experiments and tests from January until March, it was thought that the virus lived on most surfaces for a matter of hours. On steel and other hard surfaces, it could live for several days. After having the opportunity to test the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship, scientists have found that the virus can still be found on surfaces after 17 days.

The Diamond Princess is cruise ship that experienced an outbreak of 712 cases of coronavirus. After moving passengers to hospital, the ship remained docked in Japan. It presented a unique opportunity to gather information about COVID-19 because it was an outbreak in an enclosed area.

No one really knows what the death toll will be or how many people will get it because this virus is so brand new to us. The current problem across the world seems to be a shortage of test kits, surgical masks and gloves.  This is a result of factories having been closed for months and many borders being closed. China used a great deal of masks and gloves during their months-long lockdown.  More than 50% of surgical masks are made in China. Factories, they say are re-opening now, but it takes about 33 days to get a shipment out of a factory in China that is in normal production. From there, it is a 2-4 week sea voyage and then customs clearance. Once the shipment arrives in the country, trains and trucks have to disperse the products to distribution centres and hosptials.

Depending on what reports you read, some say it’s no big deal and others say it is. I choose to believe Dr. Gabriel Leung, the world’s leading expert on coronaviruses. He is the doctor who led the fight against SARS. He estimates that 60% of the world’s population will get this virus and even if the death rate turns out to be 1% (which it isn’t), we will have about 45 million deaths to look forward to.

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COVID-19 Canada: Promises of Money and The Path Takes Before You Get It

In Canadian politics, COVID-19, Epidemic on March 25, 2020 at 1:03 pm

From Justin Trudeau’s Announcement to Actual People’s Bank Accounts in Canada

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Here’s the lowdown, with linked sources and the simplest explanation possible.

Since the coronavirus began to take hold in Canada, the government has been meeting and trying very hard to sort out a plan for slowing the spread of the virus.

Just as Italy’s numbers began to skyrocket, Sophie Trudeau tested positive for the virus. As recommended by health officials, she, her husband Justin and their children went into self-isolation at home.

Sophie’s husband Justin Trudeau, is the Prime Minister of Canada and affectionately known as JT. He went to work from home along with many other Canadians. During this time, he held almost daily pressers from his front porch. We have all seen him out there regularly addressing Canadians through the media. He’s been saying a lot of stuff about the virus and social distancing. As things started to escalate, he spoke of travel restrictions and urged Canadians to return home and self-isolate. He offered them money they could access through email if they found themselves stranded away from home. He eventually, closed the Candian borders including the border between the U.S. and Canada.

These pressers were peppered with money announcements and government jargon and a special thank you to the children of Canada for trusting in science and helping their parents work from home.  All very nice.

JT announced a huge economic aid package for businesses and individuals over several days in the past couple of weeks. It included billions in federal guarantees on loans through the BDC (Business Development Bank of Canada) with a specific 50 billion earmarked for small and medium-sized businesses.

With that announcement, the Government had hoped to encourage as many companies to keep employees on the payroll and allow them to work from home or wait until work can begin after the COVID-19 crisis comes to an end.

People were laid off anyway.  No one has received any of this promised money yet.

Then they announced a plan to get money to Canadians through the Employment Insurance system. Anyone with enough hours to qualify should simply apply and those who have been working but do not qualify would be able to get E.I anyway.

500,000 Canadians applied for E.I. in the first week and the system is now overloaded. Money that Canadians can use is still delayed.

The Government spoke directly with banks regarding mortgages and then announced that they had negotiated with the 6 big banks in Canada and got them to agree to mortgage deferrals up to 6 months for homeowners.  The idea being, that if homeowners didn’t have to make the mortgage payments, they wouldn’t need to get rent from tenants until the crisis was over.

Of course, banks fucked it by tying in very unfavourable conditions. Homeowners quickly discovered that the banks would only defer the principal amounts, everyone would still need to pay the interest portion and then at the end of the deferral period, would be required to make larger payments. Very few takers on that one.

The Government of Canada is trying to get money to Canadians before April 1. They tried to pass a bill yesterday that would have given new temporary powers to the government to make decisions during the COVID-19 Crisis.  On March 24, it did not pass unanimously as needed. Some MPs claimed the Liberals were trying to take advantage of the crisis.

There are 3 main takeaways from that bill.

  1. The Government would have been able to make quick spending decisions.
  2. The Government could make very quick decisions on borrowing
  3. The Government could make quick decisions on taxes.

It would have allowed them to bypass parliamentary procedures for certain decisions. Questions would be put to committee instead of 1st, 2nd and 3rd readings all with debates and a vote to send it up to be put on the Senate agenda. Depending on what it is and how it goes, that process can take weeks, months or years start to finish. The new powers were to remain in place until March 2021.

The government MPs stayed all night to debate the new bill again and did come to an agreement first thing in the morning.

Under the new version of the agreement, the government’s emergency powers will remain in place until September 2020 instead of March 2021.

Here’s what it looks like for Canadians:

  1. $2000/month for Canadians who are off work, due to the COVID-19.
  2. A temporary boost to Canada Child Benefits.
  3. Up to $900 biweekly for workers who don’t qualify for E.I., or are self-employed. Through the CRA.
  4. A six-month, interest-free reprieve on student loan payments.
  5. Double resources for the homeless.
  6. Tax filing extension to June 1 and deferred tax payments.
  7. $305 million for a new Indigenous Community Support Fund to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation communities.

As soon as the bill passed the House this morning, Finance Minister Bill Morneau spoke to a Senate Committee of the Whole.

The way this is went down is a perfect example of why the government needs this bill so badly during this time of unprecedented crisis. Remember, this is as fast as it can possibly happen. I listened to the broadcast so you don’t have to.

Morneau presents the bill and speaks to it and says individuals need money in the next hours to buy groceries etc.

Here are some highlights of this morning’s questions from senators.

Senator: Will the Government of Canada pressure airlines to give refunds for travel because many had trips planned and then had to cancel them. He went on at length about airline websites and the drop-down menu of options such as ‘cancel my trip’, ‘travel at a later date’ and because it was easier, many chose ‘travel at a later date’. Those people received an airline travel voucher instead of money. Wouldn’t it be better for the Canadian Government to speak to those airlines and convince them to turn those travel vouchers into a refund and put the money back onto people’s cards?

Morneau didn’t really answer that one, because truly how would he and it’s a pretty stupid question. It sounded like this guy had a trip planned and had to take a travel voucher. No one feels sorry for you.

Senator: Canadian banks are wealthy and healthy. Blah, blah blah blah Canadian banks are great.

No real answer to that either. Like, OK, buddy. That’s great. Thanks.

Senator: Will the government of Canada provide money to the oil and gas sector? Why did the Government choose to use the Employment Insurance system because it is the worst approach because so many Canadians are not on the registry and now the system is overloaded? Why didn’t we subsidize wages instead?

Morneau had already said this bill is to subsidize small and medium-sized businesses. The government is not worried as much about big companies who have existing relationships and available credit with their banks.

Senator: Why doesn’t the government want to fund thousands of companies to keep people on the payroll as opposed to funding millions of Canadians? It would be so much easier. Then the employer/employee relationships could be maintained.

Morneau disagrees. Says the government wants to send money directly to Canadians – no need to break employer/employee relationship. His government wants to offer benefits directly to people. He goes on to say it is ‘important for people to receive direct benefits’.

Senator: I’ve been speaking to accountants and they have been issuing work cessation statements. That breaks the relationship due to layoffs.

Morneau answers him saying we changed our approach if employees find themselves with no income, they have access and it is not necessary to be laid off.

Senator Pate asks what steps will the government take to ensure a Guaranteed                     Livable Anual Income.

Morneau responds that there are lots of gaps, that’s why this bill is to address that and make sure we get money to people who are impacted by this crisis.  Guaranteed Annual Income is a separate issue that needs debate. Says he is talking about ‘right now.’ There is no time because Canadians need money for food and rent in the short term. April 1 is around the corner. We need to deal with it right now, not be dragged into a debate about Guaranteed Annual Income. It will have to wait until later. Right now, we are seeking extensive powers because of where we’re at.

Senator: Has the gov’t considered using CRA system to direct deposit into people’s bank accounts?

Morneau: We are trying to use CRA system and others to direct deposit. 70% of Canadians have direct deposit already, but some people will still need cheques. We are trying to get things done that are urgent while people are being asked to stay home.

After a mere 2 hours of questions, the bill passed the Senate. That was only possible because the Senate suspended all other business to deal with the COVID-19 bailout bill. It now awaits Royal Assent.

Royal Assent has been given. All systems go.

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 – China’s Story

In COVID-19, Epidemic, Flatten The Curve, Social Distancing, World Health on March 22, 2020 at 4:34 pm

Sometime in December of 2019, someone in China purchased a live bat for their dinner, a vendor killed it, put it in a bag and then one of those people got sick.

No one even knew what kind of illness it was yet. Just a weird case of pneumonia. Soon there were three people with a similar illness.  Dr Li Wenliang, one of the doctors who noticed the very first cases of this weird pneumonia, was arrested after getting a message out on social media to some of his university colleagues.  China at the time did not want anyone to know.

Even so, the Chinese Government did notify the World Health Organization about this strange illness on December 31 2019.

Dr Gabriel Leung, a top expert on coronaviruses, said in an interview that he first heard rumours about a possible new type of pneumonia back in December. Others say it’s possible that there were cases as far back as November 2019, but that seems to be just a rumour for now.

The very next day, New Years Day, The World Health Organization received another report from China about the new illness and there were dozens of new cases.

An investigation found that two-thirds of the first patients were vendors at the Huanan Seafood market. It was permanently closed on January 1, 2020. At the time, they thought the people who were sick contracted it from an animal and it was not contagious between humans.

The first person to die was on January 11, 2020, and we don’t even know that person’s name. Ten days later, there were 17 people dead. By January 2o, there were over 500 cases in China and as it turns out, COVID-19 was super contagious.

 

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Fast forward to March 1, 2020 and China reports just over 80,000 cases of COVID-19.

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Two weeks later, they are holding at around 80,000.

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Just 4 days after that, Thursday March 19, China makes the claim that they have seen no new cases and they have beaten COVID-19. The Chinese Government announces they are heading back to work and re-opening tourist attractions.

But check out this graph. The numbers went up steadily for months from December to February, then they start dropping and suddenly spike at 15,000 new cases in a single day and then just as suddenly, the numbers take a nosedive. Very odd don’t you agree?

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The Chinese laid the hammer down and put Wuhan City into a lockdown back in January. Within a day or so, they announced new lockdowns across the country, closed airports, and halted travel.

China was keeping this under wraps as much as possible and telling the world that it wasn’t too bad and not to worry, they had it all under control. They were building 2 special new hospitals in just a couple of days and everything would be fine.

However, pictures and stories were leaking out on social media that painted a very different picture. China had arrested people, including Dr Li Wenliang who first rang the alarm. Another doctor in Wuhan, Dr Ai Fen, was reprimanded for sending a picture of a test result to her colleague back in December.

2 filmmakers in Wuhan City documented life inside the lockdown for 50 days and sent their documentary to the BBC, who aired it and posted it to youtube. That doc, shows that a single hospital in Wuhan had 200 COVID-19 patients back in late January. At that same hospital, over 200 health care workers had contracted the virus. That’s a single hospital. One. Before anything ever happened, there were and still are 20 hospitals in Wuhan. Let’s pretend they each treated 200 patients with the new SARS-like coronavirus. That’s 4000.

In January. If we look back at the graph, China officially reported around 10,000 cases for the whole country that day. The country was already locked down entirely and 2 new hospitals were being built. One hospital had 1400 medical staff and the second had 1600 beds. In total, 16 temporary hospitals were set up in Wuhan alone that each had the capacity for close to 1000 patients at a time.

In March, Dr Ai Fen gave an interview to Renwu, the Chinese version of People Magazine. In that interview she stated that in preparation for a visit from the Chinese President, many patients were simply discharged, sick or not, to make it look like there were fewer people suffering from COVID-19 than there really were.

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China has kicked out journalists and inside the locked-down areas, things were wild. When government officials visited locked-down areas to brag about the success and make a big show of delivering food and supplies, residents opened their windows and yelled “Fake! Fake! It’s all Fake!”

Is it all fake? Did China lie about their numbers of COVID-19 cases and then lie about having stopped the spread of the virus?

Well, we know that only about 20% of COVID-19 patients require hospital care.

We also know from the BBC documentary filmed inside the lockdown area of Wuhan, that there were people reaching out online to each other and anti-viral drugs were being delivered to patients all over the city who could not get into hospitals.  Let’s say because we saw that video and now we believe that many people were sick and were not admitted to hospitals.

China has a total of 33,000 hospitals not counting any of the temporary hospitals set up just for COVID-19 patients. Let’s just say each hospital in china only admitted 200 people with COVID-19.  My reasoning is that because China suddenly built 16 temporary hospitals in Hubei Province. They didn’t do that for no reason.  That means 6 million 6 hundred thousand people were hospitalized BEFORE we count the patients who went to temporary hospitals.

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That sounds crazy. Let’s pretend each hospital in China admitted only 50 patients with coronavirus over the course of the epidemic.  That’s roughly 16 patients per month from January to March. Why would they would need 16 extra hospitals in that case, is beyond me, but whatever. I’m not psychic. I don’t know what they were thinking.

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Let’s say that each temporary hospital treated just 1000 patients each. Even though we know some had higher capacity and not every patient stayed for a whole month. More likely, they stayed 2 weeks each or less and we should double the number, but we won’t worry about that for now. Screen Shot 2020-03-22 at 3.50.12 PM

That means there were 25,600 patients with COVID-19 to add to the previous number of 1,650,000. So – our ultra-conservative number of COVID-19 patients who were hospitalized is 1,675,600.00. That represents 20% of the total number of cases of COVID-19 in China, which they say is 81,054.  You tell me? Is China lying?

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