Thursday, December 10, 2020 | Category: Eduvation Insider
We’ve made it to Thursday, and many of your students have made it to the end of Fall term classes. Of course, now they face the stress of exams, as we face… another Pandemic Postscript. Plenty has been happening since my Monday overview, but I’ll try to be brief…
The Curve Bends Upward
Since my last roundup on Monday, the pandemic curve has pretty much continued straight upwards in much of the world, including Germany, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Greece, and Hong Kong. South Korea faces a 3rd wave with cases almost at their spring peak, and is pushing for pre-emptive testing. And yes, a migrant worker from the Philippines was fined $100,000 in Taiwan ($3,500 US) for breaking quarantine – for just 8 seconds!
The US surpassed 15M confirmed cases this week, and is now recording more than 3,000 COVID19 deaths per day. Hospitals are overwhelmed in California and Texas, and US hospitalizations are projected to hit 23,000 per day before New Year’s.
More Canadians are hospitalized with COVID19 now than ever before, and healthcare systems are straining in York Region, Quebec, Alberta, and Manitoba. Quebec premier François Legault is pushing police to issue more tickets to violators of health restrictions. (Perhaps they should hire from Taiwan?) As of Monday, Alberta had >20,000 active cases of COVID19, the highest in the country. On Tuesday, Alberta imposed even more restrictions, banning all social gatherings and closing restaurants, gyms, and hair salons – and even making masks mandatory, starting Sunday. PHO Deena Hinshaw says she is “more concerned than ever before.”
“We know that if we allow viral spread at current growth rates, we will eventually run out of hospital capacity. That is not an opinion, it is a fact.” – Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta
Increasingly, politicians and PHOs are following Quebec’s lead, and squashing all hope of family gatherings over the Christmas holidays. Manitoba’s ban on private indoor gatherings beyond immediate household members has been extended until at least Jan 8. Alberta’s ban on social gatherings will last at least 4 weeks. BChas ordered seasonal gatherings be limited to immediate households only.
“Here is the hard truth: clearly the biggest single source of viral transmission is at-home gatherings… If we relax the public health measures to permit large family gatherings in just three weeks’ time, we will without a shadow of a doubt, see a large increase in hospitalizations and fatalities. We simply cannot let this Christmas turn into a tragedy for many families.” – Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta
In many ways, the holiday period could offer a unique opportunity for a sharp lockdown with minimal impact on schooling and the economy. 82 academics from uMontréal, uLaval, uSherbrooke, McGill, uQuébec and HEC Montréal signed an open letter urging the Quebec government to put the province “on pause” entirely for the holidays.
But it’s not bleak everywhere. Things seem to be improving in Atlantic Canada, and Western Australia, at least! And then of course, there has been positive news this week on the vaccine front…
The UK launched mass vaccinations on Tuesday, beginning with a 90-year-old grandmother and 81-year-old William Shakespeare. (Cue puns about “The Taming of the Flu” and “The Two Gentlemen of Corona.”)
Yesterday we got the good news that Health Canada approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and that 249,000 doses will arrive between next Monday and year-end. (The US FDA will reach its decision in the next few days.)
“The WHO is concerned that there is a growing perception that the pandemic is over. The truth is that at present, many places are witnessing very high transmission of the virus, which is putting enormous pressure on hospitals, intensive care units and health workers… Even as vaccines are rolled out, people will need to keep adhering to public health measures so that everyone is protected… The pandemic still has a long a way to run and decisions made by leaders and citizens in the coming days will determine both the course of the virus in the short term and when this pandemic will ultimately end.” – Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization
COVID19 vaccination won’t be mandatory in Ontario, says health minister Christine Elliott, but the government will provide “proof of immunization” that may be required to access cinemas, theatres or travel. It might even be “essential” in order to work.
And British regulators warned yesterday that 2 adverse reactions occurred on the first day of mass vaccination, and that people with a history of serious allergic reactions should not get the Pfizer vaccine. (This won’t stop the roll-out, but does mean some people will not get protection from this vaccine.) The manufacturer also announced yesterday that hackers had accessed “documents relating to the regulatory submission” at the European Medicines Agency, potentially opening up distribution partners to further cyberattacks or theft.
Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine was greeted skeptically by medical experts when it was announced with much fanfare in August, and it continues to raise suspicions even as Vladimir Putin pushes it into distribution. In mid-October, 59% of Russians said they were not personally prepared to risk taking the vaccine.
China’s Sinopharm vaccine is still in clinical trials, and that data has not been released, nor is the company taking media inquiries. Yet they have reportedly vaccinated ~1M people in China already, and the UAE has approved the vaccine based on incomplete data. Western scientists are concerned about the ethics of the approach, while many countries are counting on the cheaper Chinese vaccines.
As you might expect, vaccine scarcity is bringing out selfishness in some people. Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister disappointed Murray Sinclair (and many others) by complaining about federal plans to reserve a portion of the province’s vaccine allotment for First Nations. For his part, Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday attempting to put “America First” for vaccine supplies.
“Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister’s comments regarding vaccine distribution at his news conference on Thursday are inflammatory and divisive. He basically said, ‘If you don’t get vaccine right away, blame the Indians.’” – Senator Murray Sinclair
“No one is safe until everybody is safe. Until the epidemic is stamped out in the darkest corners of Bangladesh, it is not over for anybody.” – Raywat Deonandan, Epidemiologist, uOttawa
And just so you don’t say I didn’t warn you next year, there remain other potential snags to ending this pandemic…
Animals on a Mink farm in BC’s Fraser Valley have indeed tested positive for COVID19. Genetic testing is still ongoing, but the concern is that any mutation of the virus as it jumps between species could potentially unleash a new variant that is immune to the effects of current vaccines. (More than 15M minks have already been destroyed in Denmark, Spain, and the US to prevent such an eventuality.)
Over 585 people in New Delhi have been hospitalized with a “mystery illness” first detected Saturday night. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, unconsciousness and convulsions. A 45-year-old man died on Sunday. So far, no connections can be found between the patients, although several show signs of heavy metals in their blood.
I hate to say it, but: what happens if the NEXT pandemic starts before we’re finished with COVID19? Some of the shifts that currently look temporary could start looking a whole lot more permanent. Anthony Fauci warned months ago that we have entered a “Pandemic Era” and that more global health emergencies are almost a certainty.
CdnPSE reported at least 10 cases of COVID19 since yesterday…
Confederation College reported yesterday that “individuals” associated with the college community have tested positive for COVID19 after accessing campus. Confed
Queen’s “University district” is being warned that 2 individuals who have tested positive for COVID19 attended multiple year-end house parties in Kingston. (Queen’s has reported 15 cases this fall.) Global
Western U’s University Hospital has declared a 9th outbreak, and reported 6 new cases and 1 more death. CBC reports the total is now 111 cases. The London Free Press reports 139. (I think the total across Western and UH is ~239 cases this fall.)
As I promised yesterday, I have built a new resource on the Eduvation website, collecting my capsule summaries of 10 CdnPSE strat plans released this year, and linking to the full documents. Somehow I suspect there are others I should have included – if so, please let me know! (And if you’ve seen a notable higher ed strat plan from elsewhere in the world, I’ll consider them too.) I considered including some of the Academic plans I’ve reviewed too – but thought perhaps I should keep it simple.
Let me know your thoughts! Strat Plans
OK, after that much negative news, perhaps you’ll appreciate this…
Unwind Your Mind – Finding Balance
On Monday, the uAlberta Dean of Students team put out a 4-min video to help students find balance amidst the stress of exam season. In a solidly-produced video, Christine and Heather offer compassionate, concrete advice for self-care, from exercise and nutrition to friends and relationships. In advice we can all use right now, they describe the benefits of setting clear boundaries, priorities, and saying yes and no to things. “You’re more than a student, you’re a human being who deserves to be healthy and well.” YouTube
In the interests of my own wellness, I think it’s time to call it a night! Thanks for reading, be safe and stay well!
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