COVID-19 Update 16, July 6

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Canada’s proportion of COVID-19 deaths in long-term care double the average of other countries, study shows: The proportion of long-term care deaths ranged from less than 10 per cent in Slovenia and Hungary to 31 per cent in the United States to 66 per cent in Spain. CBC, June 25

Geronticide Update, July 2, Canada deaths 8674, LTC deaths 7252 (83.6%)

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The Guardian, June 5, Michael Safi.

The pandemic’s future will be decided by human action and several unanswered questions about the nature of the virus. Experts say there are several possibilities.

Peaks and troughs

  • The virus breaks out and is suppressed in peaks and troughs, until enough of the population is vaccinated or potentially develops immunity. Antibody tests in most places indicate that quarantine measures were very effective in slowing down the virus. Fewer than 10% of populations in France, Spain and Sweden have developed the antibodies that would be evidence of having caught the virus and, in theory, becoming immune, for at least a short time.
  • If societies reopen before the virus is sufficiently eradicated, it may be that this first wave does not completely go away, says Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at Columbia University. “In the US, we are lifting lockdowns when there are still increasing numbers of cases in a bunch of states. We may just have peaks and valleys of transmission occurring over and over again as people’s behaviour changes,” she says.

Future waves

  • Most influenza pandemics have historically struck in distinct wave patterns, with a first peak usually followed by a resurgent second wave six months later. But there is no guarantee Sars-CoV-2 will play out in the same way.
  • Social distancing and robust testing – or a lack of it – will be critical in deciding the future of the pandemic. But its shape will also be influenced by factors outside our control. The first is whether we can become immune to the virus, and if so, how long that protection endures for.
  • Resistance to some earlier discovered coronaviruses has been thought to fade within a year. If immunity to Sars-CoV-2 is not permanent, a report from Harvard epidemiologists says it is likely to enter into regular circulation, coming in annual or biennial waves or sporadic outbursts.
  • The frequency of significant outbreaks may also be influenced by the weather. Most influenzas spread more easily in the winter because the virus is thought to prefer dry air over humidity, and because people in cold environments spend more time indoors and close to each other.

Infections are kept under control

  • For countries that are able to implement highly effective interventions such as testing and contact tracing, this first wave of coronavirus cases may be the last they experience, at least for some time. In New Zealand, which has managed to virtually eradicate the virus and installed robust systems to monitor new outbreaks, there may be no significant new outbreaks or future waves at all, says Nick Wilson, a professor of public health at the University of Otago.

The virus peters out

  • There are a minority of epidemiologists who argue the deadliness of the coronavirus has been overstated. One of the most prominent is Sunetra Gupta, a professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford University, who says the virus could already be on the way out. This view is an outlier, and most governments have preferred to plan for the worst-case scenario

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Each day with a high number of new cases brings more hospital admissions and increased pressure on health care systems, particularly in large urban areas.

The jump in Canada’s new cases on June 29 reflects the inclusion of Quebec cases between June 25 and 28. Following its tactic of hiding information, the government of Quebec had moved to weekly rather than daily COVID-19 briefings. When this decision met with anger and derision, they returned to daily updates.

For Canada, Germany and the UK, the first wave of COVID-19 is over. The rate of new infections may be reduced over time but a trickle of new cases will be inevitable and vigilance – track and trace – will be critical. England reopened pubs and hair salons on July 4.

According to all scenarios for future waves of COVID-19, countries successful in controlling the spread of the virus by social distancing and other measures, and, consequently, in bringing down daily infection rates to very low levels, will be at a significant advantage, Germany and Canada among them. Their respective infection rates of 2358 cases/M and 2796/M compare well to New York at 21706/M, the US at 9011/M and many others.

For the US the picture looks grim. Most likely there will be recurring peaks and valleys of transmission, possibly amplified in colder weather. July 4 celebrations, led by Trump, will bring about a tsunami of new cases, hospitalizations and deaths in coming weeks and months. California had a good start by locking down early, but reopened too soon and has been paying a high price, e specially in Los Angeles and the southern part of the state. Hospitals resources are under great pressure in urban centres in Florida and Texas and elsewhere.

Peru implemented early measures but was still ravaged by the pandemic. Millions of citizens, in Lima and all over the world, live in great poverty lacking clean water and all other resources to fight the virus. South Africa reopened too soon.

With the first wave of COVID-19 over in Canada, this is the last update for now.

AP, Toronto, July 8, 2020, 10:30 AM.


Andrew Pakula is a long time peace activist and has been a member of Science for Peace from the very beginning. He is a retired social research and management consultant with a background in social psychology.

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