Eduvation Blog

Dog Days of COVID

Good morning, and happy Monday, whether you’re celebrating body piercings, ceviche, or tapioca!

As we drift into some remarkably hot summer weather, and governments race to reopen for celebratory events in early July (Canada Day, Stampede, Olympic Games or otherwise), even the COVID19 pandemic seems to be sharing in the lethargy and ennui of the “dog days of summer.” (Then again, I’ve been dogsitting for my daughter again, which always imposes a certain amount of calm surrender from my usual work agenda, and encourages me to appreciate moments of fun in the present. Clearly, Millie is a talented amateur at being a therapy dog…) 

Today I’ll share my usual weekly “Pandemic Précis,” although without my former sense of urgency about it. New case counts have lost steam, news about vaccination rates, hypocritical politicians, and breakthrough variants doesn’t seem all that “new,” and life is in a holding pattern until we get closer to the back-to-school chaos that awaits us in about 10 weeks…  


Pandemic Précis

Our collective sense of urgency and panic over the COVID19 pandemic is fading, as summer weather brings about a decline in case counts, and more of us get or schedule our second shots. (I just accelerated my own second dose appointment, from mid-September to next week.) Across Canada provinces are reopening, summertime activities are heating up, and theatres and festivals are contemplating the return of audiences, even if outdoors. I won’t bother chronicling all the positive news, but simply want to draw some attention to warning signs that could spell some uncertainty for the next academic year…


Gold-Medal Risk-takers

Despite advice from its medical experts, and even though “quasi-emergency measures” are only set to expire Jul 11, Japan is proceeding to hold the Olympic Summer Games starting Jul 23. Although foreign spectators have been banned, domestic fans will fill venues up to 50% capacity, or 10,000 per venue. (Alcohol, shouting and cheering, however, will be prohibited.) About 80% of athletes and officials have been vaccinated. “The announcement ends months of speculation and highlights Japan’s determination to push on with the Games and salvage the multi-billion-dollar extravaganza amid public opposition and deep concern about a resurgence in infections.” In a “very surprising” statement, Emperor Naruhito, the honorary patron of the games, expressed concern that the Olympics could lead to expanded infections. Case counts already seem to be rebounding in Tokyo. On Saturday, a coach from the Ugandan Olympics team tested positive for the Delta variant upon arrival in Japan, and an athlete tested positive on Wednesday.


Partying in Mallorca

Authorities in Mallorca Spain are investigating a COVID19 outbreak involving 600+ visiting students celebrating the end of term at hotel and boat parties, and a music concert in a bullring. At least 1,000 students have had to go into isolation.  National Post


Delta is a “Game-Changer”

Worldwide, the highly-transmissible Delta (B.1.617 or Indian) variant continues to spread like wildfire in a dry summer, and epidemiologists consider it a “game-changer.” Wherever vaccination rates are low, rising infection rates are accompanied by rising hospitalizations and deaths too. The Gupta Lab at Cambridge has measured the Delta variant as 8x more successful at evading the vaccine. Breakthrough infections among healthcare workers in Delhi were largely asymptomatic, but resulted in transmissions to others. Despite its advanced “Grab a Jab” vaccination campaign (now at 63/48 nationally), the UK is now reporting rising daily case counts back at levels not seen since Feb 5, up 50% week over week – virtually all Delta cases, among young unvaccinated people. German Chancellor Angela Merkel warns that Europe is still “on thin ice” as the Delta variant continues to rise. After a 2nd pandemic wave driven by the Beta (B.1.351, or South African) variant early this year, now Delta is driving a 3rd wave in South Africa that may be even worse. And Brazil set a single-day record last week of 115,228 new cases of COVID19, surpassing India for the world’s highest 7-day average, and surpassing a total of 500,000 COVID19 deaths. (So far, just 12% of Brazilians are fully immunized, many with a Bharat Biotech vaccine some are calling overpriced.)


Delta Plus?

(No, it’s not a frequent-flyer program.) India has detected 40+ cases of a new VoC, identified locally as “Delta Plus,” and virologists are concerned it could spark a 3rd wave within months. The new Delta subvariant carries a spike protein mutation also found in the Beta (South African) variant. Delta Plus has reportedly been detected in nearly a dozen countries, including the US and Britain (where it is called Delta-AY.1).


Winter Down Under

While the northern hemisphere enjoys a summertime respite from its cold and flu season, the other half of the world is heading into winter. After 3 straight days of double-digit increases in new, locally-acquired infections, New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters “this is perhaps the scariest period” of the entire pandemic. The Delta variant has forced Sydney Australia into a 2-week lockdown as of Saturday, with 80 cases and counting – and it is likely to last longer, since the government delayed imposing the measure. (As one expert put it, “the horse started bolting last week.”) New Zealand has raised the alert level in Wellington as a precaution, after a tourist tested positive upon his return to Australia. Moreover, parts of Australia are entering a “very vulnerable” winter thanks to a tight supply of vaccines and low vaccination rates so far. “We’re going to have lower vaccine coverage rates than expected, which makes us more vulnerable, and we’re going to have a very vulnerable window here for about 3 months before things really pick up again.”


Concerns about Fall

New federal modelling suggests that this Fall’s 4th wave could be worse than previously thought, thanks to the Delta variant, and could potentially strain healthcare capacity. Last week, the number of confirmed Delta casesin Canada jumped 66%, from 1,187 to more than 2,000. As Delta “reshuffles the deck for us,” it is “moving the goalposts” for Canada’s vaccination targets: originally set at 75/20 (first/second doses), we’re now aiming for at least 80/80. Even with 71/61 vaccination in the Yukon, ongoing outbreaks are a “reality check.” Of course, good old Alberta premier Jason Kenney is dismissing talk of a 4th wave as “fear-mongering.”


“The promoters of fear will have lots of variants to come in the future. There will be new variants. They’ll be more contagious. The scientists will study them. If necessary, the vaccines of the future will be adjusted to be more protective.”Jason Kenney, Premier of Alberta



“It’s very important that all Canadians realize it’s only 10% of the globe that’s going to have access to vaccines as we speak… 90% of the globe is not immunized, and that’s where the virus continues to circulate, where mutations will develop, and any returning traveller could bring the virus back into Canada at any given time.”Kieran Moore, Ontario CMOH



“Canary in the Coal Mine”

Waterloo region is experiencing a significant upsurge in COVID19 cases, driven by the Delta variant. Just 1.6% of cases and hospitalizations since May 1 have been fully immunized people: 76% of cases are in unvaccinated individuals, and 22% in those who are partially-vaccinated. Hospitals are in “full pandemic mode” as day surgeries remain postponed, and they reroute overflow patients to nearby London. Spikes in new infections followed Mother’s Day and Victoria Day, and now are anticipated following Canada Day too. While the rest of Ontario prepares to move to phase 2 of reopening, Waterloo will have to wait until at least mid-July. But local health authorities warn that their region is just “the canary in the coal mine.” Kitchener-Waterloo Record  |  CBC



Health & Hypocrisy

Scandals over the hypocrisy of public health officials flaunting pandemic health restrictions barely surprise us anymore. A few weeks ago it was Alberta premier Jason Kenney and his cabinet enjoying an illegal rooftop patio dinner. On Saturday, Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock was forced to resign after video surfaced of him “snogging” with married aide Gina Coladangelo.  Washington Post



Just the Vax

This week, there’s been good and bad news on the vaccine front…


China’s Vax Milestone

China has administered more than 1 billion doses of COVID19 vaccine (1,010,489,000 as of Saturday) – almost 40% of all 2.5B doses administered worldwide. With a population of about 1.4B, China aims to vaccinate 70% of eligible people by year-end.  CNN


New AZ Vaccine

Oxford and AstraZeneca have launched human trials for a new “next generation booster vaccine” specifically targeting the COVID19 Beta (South Africa) variant. The study will involve 2,250 participants in 4 countries, as a booster shot for those who have been fully vaccinated for at least 3 months, as a 2-dose regimen, and as a second shot.  Global


Promising VIDO Results

Last Wednesday, the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) at uSaskatchewan announced positive interim safety results from Phase I clinical trials of their vaccine candidate, COVAC-2, and a significant increase in antibody levels for participants. “We are encouraged by the vaccine’s ability to generate a significant immune response, even at the lowest dose tested.”  uSask


McMaster’s Oral Vaccine

McMaster U researchers are working with Rapid Dose Therapeutics Corp on an orally deliverable “QuickStrip” COVID19 vaccine that would require no refrigeration, and would dissolve in the mouth like a breath strip. The next phase of research will involve actual COVID19 spike proteins on animal models. “Cold-chain storage and transportation requirements, the need for highly trained personnel for administration, the cost of procurement and delivery of vials and syringes, not to mention the very real human fear of needles, can result in prolonged duration of a pandemic. A shelf-stable, individually-administered, orally-delivered vaccine would alleviate many of these challenges.”  Global


Science vs Conspiracy Theories

Francis Christian, a pro-vax Saskatoon surgeon who made headlines last week when he called for “informed consent” before vaccinating youth aged 13-17, has now been terminated by the Saskatchewan Health Authority, and suspended by uSaskatchewan pending a review. He also appears to have stepped aside from his role as editor of the Journal of the Surgical Humanities. “The principle of informed consent is being consistently violated in this province for the mRNA vaccine for our kids. I have not met a single vaccinated child or parent who has been adequately informed and who then understand the risks of this vaccine or its benefits.” Christian argues that parents and children should be told that mRNA is an “experimental design” with only “interim authorization” and that “COVID19 does not pose a threat to our kids.” In response, the SHA said, “Health system leaders are expected to be committed to fact-based, scientifically driven public messaging. Given the risks of COVID, [health system] leaders who depart from this commitment in favour of conspiracy theories put lives at risk by potentially discouraging uptake on life-saving vaccines.”  Saskatoon Star Phoenix  |  Global


Slight Myocarditis Risk

Last Friday, the US FDA added a warning of very rare heart inflammation side effects to the Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines. The CDC received ~1,200 reports of myocarditis or pericarditis after 300M doses administered, although just 300 cases were confirmed, particularly in adolescents and young men. Most cases were mild and patients recovered quickly.  CNN  |   CNBC  |  FDA


Annual Booster Shots

As with so much of the science around the novel coronavirus, the challenge is its very novelty: until we have a few years of experience with COVID19 and its vaccines, we have no data about its mutability or duration. Is a fully vaccinated person safe from serious illness for 6 months, or a lifetime? How much can they transmit the virus, even asymptomatically? To what degree will the Delta variant, or future strains, evade immune protection? Pfizer and Moderna are (naturally) insistent that the world will soon need booster shots to maintain immunity. Trials in the UK are currently examining whether 3 doses provide longer-lasting protection than 2. The WHO is already forecasting (in a leaked internal document) that vaccine booster shots will be required annually for the most vulnerable, to protect them from new variant strains, and every 2 years for the rest of us. As uToronto immunologist Tania Watts remarks, “Two years is a complete guess, obviously. We’re still in the middle of the pandemic.”  National Post  |  Reuters


“The immunization process is much less akin to erecting an impenetrable fortress than it is to prepping forgetful students for an exam full of unpredictable questions. We can cram with flash cards for weeks, but to some degree we just have to cross our fingers and hope we’re still well studied when the pop quiz arrives.”Katherine Wu, Staff Writer, The Atlantic



Mandatory Vaccines

Since late March, I’ve been anticipating a growing number of CdnPSE announcements making COVID19 vaccinations mandatory on campus, to enable the return of more normal student life this Fall (see the Insider Recap on Vaccination Policies). At least 540 US campuses have already shown the way, and in the past month I’ve chronicled vaccine mandates announced for students in residence at Western, Fanshawe, Trent, uToronto, Ryerson, Seneca, and (last Friday) Durham College, Ontario Tech, and York U. So far, only Seneca has extended the vaccine requirement beyond residences, to all on-campus activites this Fall. Now, we’re up to 10 CdnPSE announcements (all in Ontario)…

Fleming College announced Friday that it will require students living in campus residences this Fall to have at least one dose of COVID19 vaccine. (Fleming and Trent both faced a deadly outbreak in an off-campus student village back in Mar 2021.) “The vaccination requirement for those in residence will provide peace of mind to students and their families,” said college president Maureen Adamson.  Global



COVID on Campus

Since last week, there has been 1 more case of COVID19 reported by CdnPSEs. (See my master spreadsheetfor a running tally of 2,600+ cases in CdnPSE since Sept 2020.)  

McMaster U reported a confirmed case on campus last Wednesday.  McMaster




Many CdnPSEs have published “pandemic reflection” videos, but this one seems particularly worth sharing…


NSCC College Community Reflection


On Friday, Nova Scotia Community College released this moving 4-min video in which a range of students, faculty and staff reflect on the past pandemic year, and the way its challenges have revealed character and social inequity. Faculty and students innovated and adapted, learning to “look into a little camera and pretend that’s someone.” Working parents tried to hide the “chaos behind the scenes.” Nursing students became front-line workers. International students appreciated efforts to reach out. “We’ve grown a lot closer, out of necessity.”  YouTube



As always, thanks for reading! I hope your week gets off to a great start.

Stay safe and be well,


Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Please answer the question below to confirm that you are not a spambot * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

All contents copyright © 2014 Eduvation Inc. All rights reserved.