Monday, October 4, 2021 | Category: Eduvation Insider
Also, welcome to October, perhaps one of the most “woke” months of the year, dedicated to awareness of Domestic Violence, Breast Cancer, Fire Prevention, Cybersecurity, Down Syndrome, Mental Health, Emotional Intelligence, ADHD, Fair Trade, Canadian Libraries, Computer Learning, Black Cats,Dysautonomia and Dyslexia! (Oh, and also pizza, apparently.)
More seriously, today is the UN’s 36th annual “World Habitat Day” (this year focused on sustainable, carbon-neutral, inclusive cities), and it’s also the beginning of the 21st annual “World Space Week” (for those convinced we’re going to have to move to a better neighbourhood).
As for me, though, I’m looking forward to spending several days this week with my friends (old and new) at the College of New Caledonia. CNC serves 117,500 sq km of northern BC, or 12% of the province, from 6 campuses. (That may be a CdnPSE record.) Jim Black and I will be presenting virtually this time, of course, but I still have fond memories of my week in Prince George for CNC at the end of February 2020 – the last time I physically set foot on a CdnPSE campus! (As you might imagine, I’m still not accepting bookings for the NEXT time…)
Since my last COVID19 update a week ago (“The Inevitable, Obvious, & Incorrigible”) I’d say we’ve had more of the same. The US, AB, SK and NB are struggling with the inevitable consequences of premature reopenings. Vaccines may soon be extended to young children, and booster shots for the rest of us…
The Great Unvaxxed South
Last Friday, the US passed the grim milestone of 700,000 COVID19 deaths, with stubbornly antivax Florida and Texas responsible for twice their share of deaths over the past 3 months. New cases have started to drop in the past few weeks, but uWashington modelers forecast another 93,000 US deaths before the new year, as we enter traditional cold and flu season.
France is extending its COVID19 state of emergency until summer 2022. Romania, with the EU’s second-lowest vaccination rate (just 34% of adults), is reporting record new COVID19 infections, as are Singapore,South Korea and even Australia (apparently thanks to the AFL Grand Final last month). Russia is reporting record COVID19 deaths, with just over a quarter of the population vaxxed. Meanwhile, just 15 of Africa’s 54 countries have vaccinated even 10% of their populations.
Canada’s Cautionary Tale
Alberta remains Canada’s COVID19 “cautionary tale,” where bull-headed, “reckless” provincial policy decisions on vax mandates and passports, masking and gatherings this summer pushed the pandemic from bad to worse. (It also doesn’t help that AB has too many misinformed and abusive patients, and even some doctors spreading misinformation and granting fraudulent vaccine exemptions.) A skyrocketing 4th wave of the pandemic has pushed more Albertans into hospital and ICUs than ever before (at 179% of their normal capacity, and over the newly established “surge capacity” in some regions too), and pushed the healthcare system past the “verge of collapse” to complete collapse. uVic modelling suggests ICU patients won’t peak until mid-October. SOS Alberta claims that 10% of K-12 schools have active COVID19 outbreaks, though the province has ceased contact tracing. On Thursday, premier Jason Kenney finally set aside his pride to accept crisis medical aidfrom the Red Cross, Canadian Armed Forces and Newfoundland & Labrador – but he continues to resist further health measures, despite the CMA’s pleading for mandatory vaccinations and a complete lockdown. (He says he won’t do anything that will punish the fully vaxxed.) Physicians call Kenney’s strategy “cold-blooded,” and are demanding the AB government share the modelling it claims is guiding its public health decisions.
SK Just Weeks Behind?
Saskatchewan has been seeing sharply climbing COVID19 case counts this Fall, adding almost 20% to its 19-month total in just a single month, and breaking records for hospitalizations. (There are zero ICU beds in 6 regions of the province.) Experts warn that the province is “almost assuredly… on the same really, really bad, steep upward trajectory” as Alberta, but is still weeks away from seeing them peak. Although its proof-of-vaccine policy came into effect last Friday, CMOH Saqib Shahab says SK is heading toward a “fall and winter of misery.” School-aged children account for a third of cases, although transmission seems to be occurring at home, not in K-12 classrooms. The CMA is calling for a “firebreak” lockdown, which would close schools and non-essential businesses, in order to protect SK’s “crumbling” healthcare system.
“We will not only not have Thanksgiving at this rate, we will likely not have Christmas and New Years at this rate.” – Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan CMOH
“We are now witnessing an unprecedented health-care crisis in Alberta and Saskatchewan… Early relaxation of public health measures has left two crumbling health-care systems in their wake, and the dire realities are now in full view.” – Katharine Smart, president, Canadian Medical Association
The Rest of Canada
British Columbia has been seeing increasing rates of infection among children, prompting PHO Bonnie Henry to reimpose provincewide mask mandates in K-12 classrooms last week, and reinstate a school-wide exposure notification system. (Some experts believe BC has quadruple Ontario’s infection rate largely because masks have remained mandatory in ON.) Manitoba is implementing new public health restrictions tomorrow, reducing capacity limits in low-vax regions and limiting gatherings that include even a single unvaxxed person. Ontario has managed to bend the pandemic curve more than its best-case projections, but the province’s progress is “fragile” as colder Fall weather arrives (and capacity at indoor sports events is doubled). Quebec is so pleased with their progress that venues with assigned seating in the province will have no capacity restrictions starting Oct 8. Outside of AB and SK, though, Atlantic Canada is seeing a surging 4th wave, led by record case counts in New Brunswick (despite having 80% of eligible people fully vaxxed). NB followed the lead of AB and SK, lifting all pandemic restrictions back on Jul 30. The majority of new cases are occurring among those under age 40.
“The bigger the iceberg, the bigger the tip of the iceberg, so as you allow the epidemic to grow… rare bad outcomes start to be seen just because the denominator is so big.” – David Fisman, Epidemiology prof, uToronto
Pfizer / BioNTech have submitted preliminary data from COVID19 vaccine clinical trials with children aged 5-11 to Health Canada and the US FDA sooner than expected, and the formal submission for authorization is expected in mid-October. Authorization might take ~2 months, but it would be the first vaccine authorized for Canadians under age 12. (The FDA could provide emergency use authorization for children by Hallowe’en.) California has already announced that COVID19 vaccinations will be mandatory for K-12 students as soon as the FDA has given them full approval. Ontario’s government is reportedly considering the same.
We’ve known since the beginning that “breakthrough infections” can occur in fully-vaxxed people (after all, that’s what 90% efficacy means). New data out of Oxford U has identified key risk factors for serious breakthrough infections, including Down’s syndrome, HIV, dementia, chemotherapy or organ transplants. BC data shows a growing percentage of new COVID19 cases are among the fully-vaxxed (about 29% in late Sept), although researchers want to see more transparency. More and more countries are authorizing 3rd booster doses for at-risk groups, including El Salvador. 400,000 Americans have already received their COVID19 booster, including president Joe Biden. Israel started the trend back in the summer, and now has upped the requirement for its “green pass” to include a COVID19 booster shot, if it has been more than 6 months since the 2nd dose.
Even if you’ve been “fully” vaxxed against COVID19, and implemented a vax mandate on your campus, there are other public health considerations we need to keep in mind…
Delta and Worse?
While some epidemiologists hope that rising vaccination levels will mean a winter without a 5th COVID19 wave, the delta variant is much more infectious and vaccine-resistant, leading others to warn of a tough winter ahead. In theory, COVID19 infections and hospitalizations should be “decoupled” among the vaccinated – but in many regions (as we’re seeing in AB and SK) there are too many unvaxxed people to slow viral spread. Waning immunity could become an issue for Canadians in late October, according to one Toronto infectious disease specialist. But US models suggest that the Delta variant may peak by December, and unless a new variant arises, we might see no further waves in the new year.
Either way, public health experts are warning Canadians that the flu season may be back “with a vengeance” this winter, and urging us to get our influenza vaccine ASAP. (Last year, PHAC reported just 69 detections, compared to the usual 52,000.)
Last week, I sat in on a national PSE stakeholders call convened by CICan, and learned about another potential health risk to students on CdnPSE campuses: bacterial meningitis. Meningococcal disease is less transmissible than COVID19 (it spreads primarily through coughing, sneezing, kissing, or sharing respiratory/throat secretions), but in the worst cases can quickly lead to inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, intellectual disability, seizures or even death. There are actually 6 serogroups of meningitis, and most Canadian children receive a vaccine against only 4 of them (A, C, W and Y). Meningitis B is responsible for about 60% of cases among those aged 18-24, and is 5x more prevalent among PSE students than others their age. Tragically, it has taken young lives recently (in CdnPSE, at Marianopolis College and Acadia U, for example), and 42 US schoolsalready recommend or require MenB vaccination of students. There is a vaccine for MenB, but it is not routinely offered in Canada – and many people wrongly assume their meningitis shot protects them.
Perhaps one lasting effect of the COVID19 pandemic will be heightened awareness of disease risk and vaccination requirements?
Although I’m no longer tracking every COVID19 case reported on CdnPSE campuses, here are some news stories worth noting…
Brock U announced a potential outbreak in its Nursing program, with 2 cases confirmed as of Sep 26, leaving unvaxxed students in 3 courses self-isolating for 10 days. By Sep 30, the outbreak was “resolved” and no additional cases were linked.
Redeemer U reported an outbreak of 9 confirmed cases across 4 student residences, spread “entirely through dorm-to-dorm social contact.” (Redeemer is a Christian university that has “encouraged” but not required COVID19 vaccination, although it now requires vaccine disclosure and weekly testing for those who are not fully vaxxed.) Hamilton Spectator | Redeemer
UNBC’s University Hospital of Northern BC in Prince George reported an outbreak of 10 cases. (OK, it’s probably not technically part of UNBC, I get it.) CBC
And then there are campus cases sparked by off-campus street parties…
Dalhousie U warned of potential “low-risk” exposures on Sept 20, 21, 22, and Sep 27-28, and directed all students who attended the unsanctioned street parties in Halifax last weekend to not attend classes or campus activities for a week, limit their public space interactions, and get tested for COVID19 immediately. Dal
McMaster U may see more cases soon, following a “massive, destructive” fake homecoming gathering that attracted 5,000 people to a West Hamilton neighbourhood on Saturday (many in Mac spirit wear). President David Farrar says the students owe the community an apology, and may face sanctions under the university code of conduct – in addition to the 7 charges already laid by police. Toronto Star | CTV | McMaster Daily News | CBC
I also feel for the media relations folks at Laurier…
Wilfrid Laurier U was imposing some unique (and odd) restrictions on unvaxxed students, according to a CTV News story on Friday: those who normally learn in-person would not be allowed to take part in onlinecourses either. At least, that was what CTV concluded based on their reading of the WLU vax policy. WLU clarified on Twitter Saturday that the story was “misinformation in the media,” and that “only those attending a Laurier location in-person in the fall term are required to be fully vaccinated.” (Somehow I suspect the media drama is not over yet…)
The SEMM Forum Online
Next month, join me and your enrolment and marketing colleagues at the SEMM Forum 2021, held online Nov 9-10. I’ll be presenting a keynote on “Reverberations of the Great Pandemic: Lasting Impacts on Student Preferences and Expectations,” and I’m also looking forward to moderating a panel of CdnPSE presidents, including Benoit-Antoine Bacon (Carleton), Janet Morrison (Sheridan), and Deborah Saucier (VIU). It’s always a valuable conference, and once again Eduvation is proud to sponsor the event – so readers of the Insider can save $100 with the discount code Eduvation100. SEMM Forum
On Friday, Red Deer College unveiled its new brand identity…
Red Deer Polytechnic
At a 40-min celebration of its new polytechnic status last Friday, campus leaders unveiled the new brand identity of Red Deer Polytechnic. (See the last 5 min of the livestream.) The sans serif wordmark is accompanied by an “RD” icon, in which interlocking outlines also seem to suggest a keyhole. (Maybe it’s just my imagination.) The light on dark green identity is intended to convey RDP’s open, empowering, responsive, and entrepreneurial spirit. YouTube | RDC | RDP Brand
As always, thanks for reading!
Summing up the week’s pandemic news took me a bit longer than I anticipated, so I’ll defer until next time some updates and corrections from Friday’s round-up on the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation. (Apologies for the extra delay!)
I hope your week gets off to a smooth start. Stay safe and be well!
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