Today marks the end of the first half of 2022 (believe it or not) and the end of the work week for most Canadians. It’s also a day to celebrate asteroids and meteors, Corvettes and bomb pops, social media and parliamentarism.
Apologies for the radio silence this week – I’ve actually been simultaneously upgrading my recording studio hardware and software, and laying the foundations for an exciting new experiment. (Stay tuned!)
Since tomorrow is Canada Day, and I’m going to disappear for vacation next week, I thought I should at a minimum let you know that I’m not dead nor down with COVID19. (Nor even merely slacking!)
There are certainly some big topics I want to tackle soon – but for today, just a quick…
It’s been 10 days since my last pandemic précis (June 20’s “What We Leave Behind”). Perhaps you’ve been swamped with triple-cohort convocation celebrations, or coasting exhausted in their wake. Certainly the time flew by, and things have been quiet – like the dog days of summer quiet – on the pandemic front…
I haven’t mentioned CdnPSE mask mandates since Jun 13, at which point a half-dozen more announced they would end by about now (Jun 30). Since then, those institutions have been joined by quite a few more, including Mount St Vincent U (as of Jun 25), uWaterloo (Jun 30), and Wilfrid Laurier U (Jul 1). Niagara College and uSaskatchewan have announced an end to mask mandates (or at least “a pause”) starting next Monday (Jul 4). Pretty much every Canadian campus remains a “mask-friendly environment,” though, and is reminding fervent anti-maskers to be considerate of those who think otherwise.
A new study found that nearly 20% of Americans who caught COVID19 are still experiencing Long COVID symptoms – particularly among women and younger adults. (Symptoms range from fatigue and brain fog to cardiac and pulmonary issues.) The good news, though, according to researchers at King’s College London, is that Omicron appears to be 20-50% less likely to cause Long COVID. (Although, since it’s far more contagious, there will nonetheless be a rising number of cases.)
Not Monkeying Around
Worldwide, the confirmed and suspected cases of Monkeypox tracked by Global.Health have reached almost 5,000, in 66 countries. (Including a presumptive case in the Georgetown U community in Washington DC.) Last week, the WHO considered declaring the Monkeypox outbreak a global emergency, but it announced Saturday that it is not, at least “at this stage.” (Very reassuring.) The UK and other countries have begun offering smallpox vaccines to some gay and bisexual men, to try to contain Monkeypox.
“There may be legitimate reasons why WHO only raised the alarm when monkeypox spread to rich countries, but to poor countries, that looks like a double standard.” – David Fidler, senior fellow in global health, Council on Foreign Relations
New Shots for Fall
Over the past 6 months, almost 50% of Canadians got a booster (3rd dose) of COVID19 vaccine, but 4th doses are still available only to select high-risk groups. (4th shots are already being offered to all Danes over 50.) But experts don’t believe there is a pressing need for additional boosters in Canada this summer, and question the value of one designed for “an ancestral spike protein that may not exist anymore.” They assure us that healthy individuals can “probably wait it out” until the Fall, when reformulated vaccines may be available. Last time I mentioned the reformulated Moderna shot, and now a new clinical trial has found that a new Pfizer-BioNTech booster dose, fine-tuned for the Omicron variant, also generated a higher immune response (as you would hope).
“It would probably be more strategic to have a fourth booster administered, preferably with a variant-adjusted vaccine, perhaps at the end of the summer, beginning of the next fall.” – Ciriaco Piccirillo, immunologist, Research Institute of McGill U Health Centre
Sadly, a new Chinese study in Nature suggests that people who caught the earliest Omicron variant of COVID19 (BA.1) are still vulnerable to reinfection with the latest subvariants (BA.4, BA.5, and BA.2.12.1) – even with 3 doses of vaccine! As a result, the researchers warn that the reformulated vaccines mentioned above, targeting the BA.1 strain, “may not achieve broad-spectrum protection against new Omicron variants.” Public Health Ontario’s latest epidemiology stats show that the BA.5 subvariant is growing faster than previous strains, and will become dominant in Ontario by month-end.
…and Other Mammals
Sorry, folks, but a new uGuelph study has also found that you can infect your pets with COVID19 just by cuddling them. Cats, dogs, ferrets and hamsters have all been proven to be susceptible to the virus (particularly cats), and can pass it along to other animals or humans. Likewise, if wild squirrels become hosts to Monkeypox, it could become “a forever problem” in North America. (Several rodent species act as reservoirs to keep Monkeypox endemic in Central and West Africa.)
More to Worry About?
If for some reason you’re just not satisfied worrying about COVID19 and Monkeypox, and want more, well – Mother Nature is boundless in her generosity. Just in the past 10 days, poliovirus has been detected in London wastewater, 19 years after the WHO declared the UK polio-free. (Unvaccinated children in particular could be at risk.) The CDC reports “one of the worst outbreaks of meningococcal disease among gay and bisexual men in US history” in Florida – with 26 cases and 7 deaths so far. And if you have a pet rabbit, you should know that an outbreak of rabbit hemorrhagic disease has hit southern Ontario for the first time. (At least, so far there’s no sign of that one jumping into humans.)
It’s tragic that LGBTQ communities worldwide are being further stigmatized by outbreaks of Monkeypox and Meningitis, just as Pride month activities and gatherings pose a heightened risk of transmission. (Not to mention the way the US Supreme Court has been polarizing opinions about gender and sexual matters…)
College and university communities will have a lot of societal “heavy lifting” to do, long after Pride month ends!
Speaking of convocation season, I’ve seen hundreds (if not thousands) of graduation livestreams in my YouTube feeds from around the world, and plenty of valedictory addresses and presidential well-wishes, too. But THIS…
Proud to be SLC!
St Lawrence College prez Glenn Vollebregt has an irrepressible sense of humour that comes through in many of his social media vids, but this month’s 5-min video for new alumni takes “silly” to a new level of slick, professional execution. Development director Liz Gorman calls the SLC alumni family to “assemble!” like Marvel’s Avengers, to prepare Glenn for an in-person convocation celebration, with their expertise in logistics, calisthenics, stage performance, and hairstyling – and the EMTs make sure he gets there on time. (Bonus points for Glenn’s rainbow socks!) YouTube
As always, thanks for reading.
You’re going to notice my publications become a bit more occasional for a while, as I take a bit of vacation next week, and devote much of my energy next month to preparing a special surprise for you Insiders… stay tuned!
Hope you have a lovely, warm and safe Canada Day weekend! (And happy Independence Day in advance to my American friends, of course.)
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