Saturday, November 27, 2021


STOP me if you've heard this before.

Every few months, there's a news report about some "scary new variant" of SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This variant, discovered in a "far off, distant land" (and they're always in "far off distant lands") is seen by someone the press describes as an "expert".

This expert "gets really, really scared" when he (and they're almost always a "he" if you haven't noticed) sees that this variant has "a large number of mutations" including "some we've never seen before" with "many appearing on the spike protein targeted by the vaccines".

Because of all this, this expert "sounds the alarm" because he's worried this "super scary variant" will "evade the vaccines" and render all the work we've done trying to contain SARS-CoV2 useless, meaning we'll have to "start from scratch" all over again.

Predictably, the media runs with this fear mongering for about a week, and the wider public gets scared because of how traumatic the COVID-19 experience has been.

So we lose our minds and again run around like Chicken Little and declare that "the sky is falling"...only for a week later to realize that this "scary new variant" really isn't as harmful as we thought it would be and/or has fizzled out into irrelevance.

Rinse, repeat.

So when the news came out about the variant we're now calling "omicron" (we're apparently skipping a letter in the Greek alphabet, as "nu" should be next) I was a little cynical about the sensationalism that arose because of it.

Don't get me wrong- I'm not dismissing the seriousness of the emergence of the omicron variant. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, and the fact that people smarter than me in their fields are concerned about it means I need to take their words seriously.

I'm not downplaying any of that.

However, excuse me if I'm starting to feel like our health officials are starting to sound like they're crying "Wolf" a little too much, and I'm concerned they're not fully appreciating the impact of what they're doing.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

"Reactionism" is no way to solve the pandemic crisis

FOR months, after a brief jump in reported cases of COVID-19 in August, the Canadian province of Ontario has seen a slow, but steady, decline, with hospitalizations and severe cases remaining extremely low. Much of that was attributable to our vaccination coverage, which is north of 80% and now nearing 85%, which allowed the province to loosen almost all restrictions by the end of October, albeit with a "vaccine passport" requirement needed in places the province deemed "high risk".

However, as October turned to November, the reported case count began to creep up a little. As what usually happens in these cases, there were howls for the province to "do something" even though there was no evidence that anything needed to be done- the booster program is underway, vaccine coverage will be expanded to children and, more importantly, hospitalizations were still very low.

On November 9th, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said that "Ontario was staying the course" in its reopening plan, reassuring nervous Ontarians that when Ontario mapped out its reopening, it took into account this rise in cases.

Should be "case closed", right?

Well, on November 10th, Ontario announced that the next step in its reopening plan- removing capacity restrictions at nightclubs, strip clubs, bathhouses and sex clubs- will not happen as planned on November 15, with the earliest it can happen being December 8. The province said this was "data driven" but then provided no data to support this conclusion.

Worse, the flip-flopping from "we're staying the course" to actually changing course is no way to reassure the public that the province's administrators have a clue that they know what they're doing.

What it really is, though, is yet another example of the old staple of politics- "reactionism"- and that's no way to solve a crisis. A year and a half into the pandemic, we ought to be better than this.