Eduvation Blog

Science in the Sewage, Politics that Stink

Good morning, and happy Monday!

For the next couple of days I’ll be (virtually) talking with academic leaders at Capilano University. I think it’s inspiring that their Vision 2030 explicitly says they “embrace imagination as a foundational capability,” and I’m looking forward to a couple of fun sessions!

To sum up the weekend: the world surpassed 30M COVID19 cases, and close to 1M dead (almost 200,000 of them in the US). The pace is continuing to accelerate: it took almost 7 months for the world’s first 10M cases, just 6 weeks for the second, and about 4 weeks for the third.

Things are getting ugly in France (see “Vivre” below). Israel has become the first developed country to enter a second national lockdown, just as Jewish communities marked Rosh Hashanah this weekend. For the next 3 weeks or more, Israelis are forbidden to travel >500m from their homes.

In Canada, Montréal and Quebec City moved to “orange alert.” Ontario clamped down on gatherings >10 across the entire province, but that didn’t stop hundreds of people from gathering for a street race in Ancaster. And a Saskatoon party host was fined $2,000 for having 47 people at his home – infecting 21 people, who went on to have 160 close contacts, and led to several cases in SK schools. (Sheesh!)

Today, we’re going to take a look at some institutions that are staying open despite the pandemic, the sweet smell of sewage science success, a whiff of doubt about vaccine timing, and the foul stench of anti-science politicking – oh, and apparently a welding instructor who is anti-mask!

CdnPSE Cases

At CdnPSE institutions, there are 27 new cases of COVID19 to report…

Centennial College reports that an off-campus student tested positive for COVID19. Although that student did not attend classes on campus him/herself, s/he shares a home with 2 other Centennial students who have. All 3 are in self-isolation for 2 weeks, and in-lab teaching for the affected program has been suspended for 2 weeks.  Centennial

uToronto Mississauga’s Student Union reports that 2 people diagnosed with COVID19 had entered the student centre, which will be closed for 2 weeks. The Varsity

Western U now has 46 students who have tested positive for COVID19. I devoted most of Friday’s Insider to detail the COVID19 outbreak among 28 Western students last week. Over the weekend the numbers slowed, with the PHO reporting 13 new cases on Friday, 4 on Saturday, and 7 on Sunday. 10 of the Friday cases, 2 of the Saturday cases, and 5 of the Sunday cases were also Western students.

Wilfrid Laurier U reported last night that 4 off-campus students have tested positive.  WLU

York U’s COVID19 dashboard reports there are currently 3 confirmed cases of people who had been on campus in the 7 days prior to their diagnosis.  York

Soldiering Onward

Still Open in Arizona

Arizona State U has managed to keep its teaching and housing plans intact this fall, despite reopening campus amidst a raging pandemic in the state, and having 1,610 cases on campus. It has conducted 57,629 COVID tests on staff and students since Aug 1, and reported 355 active cases as of last week. “We’re operating under the assumption that COVID is a permanent partner to the human ecosystem that we have to manage for the foreseeable future.”  Washington Post

“We’re operating under the assumption that COVID is a permanent partner to the human ecosystem that we have to manage for the foreseeable future.”  – Michael Crowe, President, Arizona State U


Vivre avec le Virus

The French government urged a return to normalcy and told its people to “learn to live with the virus” – so of course France set a new daily record of 13,215 new cases over the weekend. Enrolments at French universities jumped 10% this fall, since entrance exams were cancelled and 270,000 more qualified based on their high school averages. Students at the Sorbonne and other French institutions face overcrowded lecture halls and campus washrooms without soap. French students are “squealing on their university” using the Twitter hashtag #balancetafac.  CityNews

Smell all that Data!

Sewage Sludge a Leading Indicator

Since March, Chemical and Environmental Engineering researchers at Yale have been collecting daily samples from the New Haven wastewater treatment plant, and report that they can track the spread of COVID19 up to 7 days before COVID testing shows the same pattern. “Not only can we use the sewage sludge virus curve to do some forms of epidemiology, it’s also a significantly leading indicator.” Testing a city’s sewage could provide crucial data to guide reopening.  Yale

(Sure enough, sewage testing at London Ontario’s wastewater treatment plant tested positive for COVID back on Sep 6 – six days prior to the first positive test results last week.)

Sewage Testing Works at NJIT

The New Jersey Institute of Technology placed an entire campus dorm into quarantine last week, after sewage water testing found trace amounts of coronavirus. All 300 students were tested Thursday morning, and results are expected by this morning at the latest. Because NJIT can’t “force” students to stay on campus, all the institution can do is suspend their card access to campus facilities until they present a negative test result.  Newsweek

Political Jockeying

Vaccine – Give or Take a Year

As the US presidential election inches closer, Donald Trump claims there will be 100M doses of an unspecified vaccine before the end of this year, and enough for all Americans by April – however his own appointed pandemic czars disagree. (At least, only 9% of Americans are falling for it.) Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, projects it will be more likely Q3 of 2021, and says masks are a better form of protection. Similar timelines have been projected by Anthony Fauci, chief of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, and Moncef Slaoui, chief scientist at “Operation Warp Speed,” the federal vaccine initiative. The 2 leading pharmaceutical companies, Moderna and Pfizer, released their protocols for the clinical trials, which began in July – but the first data cannot be expected until late November at the earliest. The most advanced trials will likely be administering second booster shots to participants at the end of October. Moderna’s CEO warns there will be vaccine shortages “maybe until Labour Day next year.” Washington Post


“We have clear scientific evidence: [masks] work, and they are our best defense… I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine.” –Robert Redfield, Director, US Center for Disease Control


Distribution Challenges

Even once a COVID19 vaccine is thoroughly tested and manufactured at scale, distribution will be a significant challenge. I mentioned earlier this month that the IATA reports that it will take 8,000 Boeing 747 cargo aircraft to deliver a single dose to 7.8 billion people around the world, in a time- and temperature-sensitive “mission of the century.” But it’s becoming clearer just how temperature-sensitive some of these vaccines will be. Pfizer’s vaccine must be transported at -70°C – “around 30°C colder than the North Pole in winter.” (Most vaccines are transported at 2-8°C, although some need to be stored at -25°C.) The vaccine can be stored in a refrigerator for no more than 5 days. Pfizer is partnering with UPS to build freezer farms in Kentucky and the Netherlands, and planning to ship in specialized containers with dry ice. Quartz

Forget Asymptomatic Testing?

Scientists suspect that 40% or more of people infected with COVID19 show no symptoms, but can still be contagious. (This is particularly true of young people.) The best way to monitor COVID’s spread in a community is to conduct random testing of asymptomatic individuals – something that the US CDC wasrecommending, until late August when it inexplicably reversed its position. The Trump administration has been pushing for less testing to “improve” the optics of rising case counts, and Anthony Fauci reports he was “under general anesthesia” when the change was made. The Association of American Medical Colleges called the change “irresponsible” and “a step backward.” Axios

Or not?

Three weeks later, the CDC reversed its reversal, once again recommending that people without symptoms get tested if they have come into close contact with someone known to be infected – and moreover calls for those people to self-isolate for 14 days, even if they test negative for COVID19.  Vox

Anti-Masker on Campus

Anti-Mask Welding Professor?

Fanshawe College welding professor Deven Taylor insists the pandemic is a hoax, and that “wearing a mask violates his human rights.” (He also argues the mask may catch fire while welding.) After disrupting a town hall meeting Wednesday, he was suspended for a day on Thursday. “I’m not bending a knee to tyranny.” Since he will not comply with the campus mask policy, Taylor has been placed on unpaid infectious disease emergency leave as of today. “Staff who refuse to follow protocols will be asked to leave campus and will not be allowed to teach.” (Taylor’s YouTube channel, “The Real News Channel,” has just been terminated for violating YouTube’s community guidelines.)    CBC

“I’m not wearing a mask and I’m not bending a knee to tyranny!” – Deven Taylor, Welding professor, Fanshawe College



Northeastern U (Ma) tries to keep students’ attention for a 2-min COVID health and safety vid by parodying a flight attendant preflight presentation. It’s fast-paced, well-produced, and has at least a few chuckles in it. “Welcome aboard your Northeastern Journey.”  YouTube


I hope your week is off to a great start!  Stay safe and be well,








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