Calm 'n Critical

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Calm 'n Critical

This ramble (rant?) is directed at everyone and no one so please do not take anything personally if that's a gut reaction.

Some parameters before going any further:
  • I'm 100% convinced at this point that the majority of the fear/hysteria/hype is way overblown and unwarranted to the point of being manufactured
  • COVID-19, whatever it may biologically be, is a 'real thing' and deserves our respect like any other virus/pathogen; not doing so, with any of 'em, can very easily result in illness and death [update 2021: I no longer believe this.]
  • I'm not attempting to 'do as I say and not as I do', bank/corp/gov does enough of this already, by being scolding and judgmental like I complain about others doing below. Rather, I fully encourage everyone to do what they feel is right to protect themselves and their families (against any threat, not just this one) but at the same time and with equal conviction, fully encourage this to be done against a backdrop of knowledge and fact, not Facebook (social media) memes, posts, comments and water cooler chats, done while at the same time trying not to pass judgment on those who feel differently
  • Amidst all of the social sharing regarding "we have to take extreme precautions because COVID-19 does this or behaves like that" I would like to remind everyone that humanity has been co-existing with viruses pretty much from the get go, many of which we've carried and not noticed and many behaving like or very similar to COVID-19

If I never hear the terms 'social distancing' and 'self isolating' again I will daisy push a happy camper. This desire has nothing to do with wanting life back to normal, that ship has forever sailed, welcome to a whole new show, but rather the ease with which folks are normalizing these ideas and negatively judging, or worse, anyone who does not jump on this bandwagon. The phrases have been made trendy and fashionable, gross. It's also important to note that this type of embrace is only happening because the lights are still on and potable water is still running. Change either of those two dynamics . . .

I watch with a mixture of delight and dismay as folks are sharing what they are doing personally and as families/groups while staying home only because they have been told to. My delight stems from all the cool things being done, projects finished, quality time spent. There will be some benefits to all this as folks really begin to realize what is important in life, what can be chucked and what really doesn't need to exist any longer, usefulness outlived.

My dismay arises from the ever decreasing trickle of question asking or critical thinking combined with the ever increasing 'government will save us/knows best/heroic leadership' et al…spare me. Politics are still being played: my team, no my team, he did it, she did it, mine's better, no mine…psst! viruses and pathogens don't give a shit about politics, just sayin'. Post after post of folks idly watching movies, television or scrolling through pages of social media. I read one post where the individual was encouraging inspection by police of every house and any who were deemed to be hoarding by who knows what measure were to be heavily fined and everything over that mythical goods retention level confiscated….gestapo much, I mean seriously, count me the f*k out on all of it.

Here's a suggestion: with so many spare clock cycles on so many folks hands, now is the perfect time to start critically educating ourselves about our current civilization and where it's at right now. I find it ironic that folks go on about quarantining and isolation as means and method to save us all but educating oneself and not just blindly accepting the narrative of the day is pffft'd while those suggesting it are often attacked.

It is also saddeningly clear that the majority of folks on the planet have little to no understanding or appreciation for the spectacularly negative impact all this shutdown is going to have on local, national and global economies, economies which were already on life support. While the knee jerk reaction is the usual "bad capitalism" "profit motive kills" and so on, I highly doubt this reaction will remain when millions are permanently out of work, hyperinflation sets in and billions upon billions in retirement savings evaporate.

Hyperbole? Doom porn? Paradoxically is the only way to answer: I surely wish it was, I surely hope it is, I surely know it's not and quit calling me Shirley.

So, in an attempt to bring some perspective to the table…

By skeptics and crackpots alike, comparison of COVID-19 to the flu has been widely used. It's quite interesting to see the many folks poo-pooing this comparison, scolding or belittling the commenter while at the same providing not a single shred of proof or evidence to back up their poo-pooery…but I digress.

After researching somewhat, my personal conclusion is that a comparison to the so called seasonal flu is reasonable in terms of contagion and spread but as to the effects of COVID-19 on the human body, pneumonia is a far better comparison, itself sharing many of the same overall characteristics. There is one caveat that needs to be kept in mind but doesn't really change these points much: pneumonia can be treated with antibiotics whereas a viral infection is by vaccine if available or by treating the symptoms and letting the body's immune system do its thing.

The American Lung Association said

"Pneumonia is an infection that inflames your lungs' air sacs (alveoli). The air sacs may fill up with fluid or pus, causing symptoms such as a cough, fever, chills and trouble breathing.

What Are the Symptoms of Pneumonia?

Pneumonia symptoms can vary from so mild you barely notice them, to so severe that hospitalization is required. How your body responds to pneumonia depends on the type germ causing the infection, your age and your overall health.

The signs and symptoms of pneumonia may include:

  • Cough, which may produce greenish, yellow or even bloody mucus
  • Fever, sweating and shaking chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Sharp or stabbing chest pain that gets worse when you breathe deeply or cough
  • Loss of appetite, low energy, and fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting, especially in small children
  • Confusion, especially in older people

Bacterial pneumonia, which is the most common form, tends to be more serious than other types of pneumonia, with symptoms that require medical care. The symptoms of bacterial pneumonia can develop gradually or suddenly. Fever may rise as high as a dangerous 105 degrees F, with profuse sweating and rapidly increased breathing and pulse rate. Lips and nailbeds may have a bluish color due to lack of oxygen in the blood. A patient's mental state may be confused or delirious.

The symptoms of viral pneumonia usually develop over a period of several days. Early symptoms are similar to influenza symptoms: fever, a dry cough, headache, muscle pain, and weakness. Within a day or two, the symptoms typically get worse, with increasing cough, shortness of breath and muscle pain. There may be a high fever and there may be blueness of the lips.

Symptoms may vary in certain populations. Newborns and infants may not show any signs of the infection. Or, they may vomit, have a fever and cough, or appear restless, sick, or tired and without energy. Older adults and people who have serious illnesses or weak immune systems may have fewer and milder symptoms. They may even have a lower than normal temperature. Older adults who have pneumonia sometimes have sudden changes in mental awareness. For individuals that already have a chronic lung disease, those symptoms may worsen."

Our next question then: how is pneumonia spread around? Unlike COVID-19 which is viral so only one transmission vector, pneumonia has a far wider penetration as, according to the WHO: "Pneumonia is caused by a number of infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria and fungi." Remember, viruses can only live outside a host for very limited time frame, high end seems to be around 96h.

What about death rate comparisons? First and foremost, while I'm inclined to put my trust somewhat in the records kept on pneumonia since it's been around for a long time, COVID-19 is categorically an estimate only. Basic death rate is calculated as a ratio of number of cases identified vs number of deaths confirmed to be a result of whatever agent is the subject, COVID-19 here. Keeping it within the confines of a country to make the point, the entire population of that country would need to be tested before an accurate death rate can be assessed. For example:

1 tested positive, one confirmed death, death rate 100%.
100 tested positive, one confirmed death, death rate 1%.

Big difference!

According to Johns Hopkins, as of this morning, there are 360,697 confirmed COVID-19 cases globally resulting in 15,488 deaths. According to estimates by the WHO, there are 450 million cases of pneumonia every year resulting in about 4 million deaths. To be sure, emerging and middle countries bear a brunt of this so let's bring it closer to home.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information states that in 2017-18 there were "almost 135,000 pneumonia-related ED visits reported across the country" and "More than 1 in 4 reported ED visits for pneumonia resulted in the patient being admitted to the hospital for at least 1 night." I present this data for perspective purposes only as the source does not indicate if these are unique visits or if repeat pneumonia visits by the same individual(s) are included.

In terms of total death rate, I'm including influenza with pneumonia as they often go hand in hand in many respects and it's also how StatsCan records it. Many of the other mainstream statistic sites are pay-walled so StatsCan it is.

In Canada, 2018, 8,511 deaths recorded as a result of pneumonia/influenza. Since COVID-16 is basically a calendar 1/3 at this point, late Nov/19 - late Mar/20, let's divide the number by 3: 2,837. So in the same time period that Canada experienced 2,837 deaths from pneumonia, there have been 20 COVID-19 deaths…that 2,837 vs 20 for the same period of time.

Now before the cries of "look, social distancing and self isolation is working!" start hitting airwaves…

I point this out not to fire off a flippant defence to any point(s) I may be labouring to make, but rather as a reminder that it is critical to keep this front and centre in order to critically think. It's a very common trap that most of us fall into at least once:

Wikipedia said

"In statistics, the phrase "correlation does not imply causation" refers to the inability to legitimately deduce a cause-and-effect relationship between two variables solely on the basis of an observed association or correlation between them.[1][2] The idea that "correlation implies causation" is an example of a questionable-cause logical fallacy, in which two events occurring together are taken to have established a cause-and-effect relationship."

Good recent illustration: a report released in March, 2020 stated that universal basic income should be fully embraced as the poverty solution since those involved in the Hamilton trial run generally experienced a better quality of life and happiness level. This is a totally fallacious conclusion. All the UBI test did was show that folks who had stability in their lives, particularly monetarily, had a better quality of life. State the obvious much? There are many ways to provide folks with life stability and many of those are far less economically damaging while at the same time far more effective that UBI ever will be.

In our context here, essentially this means that 'just because this was done does not mean that was the result'. The reality is we can never prove the effectiveness of hiding in our houses since we have no reality rewind button. Two completely identical tests (itself impossible with what we're talking about here) would need to be completed: if and when the dust settles, that's the first test completed, we'd have to rewind to the exact time we started hanging around inside; everything from that point forward would have to be identical as the first run with the exception of not hangin' home. While we can logically speculate that avoiding contact with others will reduce the transmission probabilities and therefore resultant case numbers and death, this is only speculation, nothing more.

To further the point, immune response to viral infection is connected to three vital components beyond itself: good overall nutrition,  vitamin C and D levels in the body. It is very easy to consider reduced nutritional intake during winter months, particularly in northern climates. Further, the same planetary mechanisms that produce winter also contribute to a reduction in vitamin D uptake.

Alexander Michels, PhD - Linus Pauling Institute - Oregon State University said

It’s a sunny day in the middle of winter.  You bask in the sunlight outside during lunch.

You’re getting your daily dose of vitamin D, right?

Maybe not.

Winter is not the best time of year to make vitamin D regardless of where you live. The sun is just not at the right angle to get UV light to the earth – and UV light is needed to synthesize it in the skin.

In the summer, vitamin D production can be high because UV light levels are high. Just a short time spent in sunshine in the middle of the day will do it. In the winter, however, UV levels from the sun are much lower (UV index is less than 3). So your levels of vitamin D synthesis may drop, even if you spend time in sunlight.

A simple test is to look at your shadow. If its the same height or shorter than you, you’re getting enough sun to make vitamin D. If its longer than you, you’re probably not. In most places in the US in the winter, you can probably guess what you’re going to see.

UV Index in January in the northern US is generally too low for vitamin D synthesisOther things influence vitamin D made by your body, including:
  • time in the sun (getting outside for longer is better)
  • amount of sunlight (those cloudy days lower the UV levels)
  • time of day (best in the middle of the day, not good at the beginning or end)
  • skin color (darker skin needs more UV light)
  • amount of skin that is exposed (your warm winter clothes will block light to your skin)
When put together, is it any wonder vitamin D status is low in the coldest months of the year?

Can You Rely on Sunlight to Get Enough Vitamin D This Winter?
Quarantining folks exacerbates this by keeping them inside and out of available sunlight.

Wanna do yourself and your family a solid in the winter months: go outside on the sunny days around midday for an hour or so. If that's not possible, vitamin supplements are a stop gap.

Beginning to summarize then, starting with some info from said

How is it spread?

Most pneumonia is caused by either bacterial or viral organisms. These can spread in a number of ways, including:

  • coughs or sneezes that aren’t covered
  • sharing cups or eating utensils
  • touching a tissue or other item after someone with bacterial or viral pneumonia has used it
  • not washing your hands regularly, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing

Not everyone who is exposed to these bacteria or viruses will develop pneumonia. People who are at high risk of developing pneumonia include:

  • children under 2
  • adults over 65
  • pregnant women
  • anyone with a weakened immune system (such as people with HIV/AIDS, people with an autoimmune disease, or anyone undergoing chemotherapy)
  • people with a chronic disease, like diabetes
  • people who have been hospitalized
  • people who smoke
  • people with lung disease (such chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma) or heart disease."
So here with pneumonia we have what has proven to be a globally deadly viral/bacterial infection with a massively higher death rate than COVID-19 has ATM, same transmission vectors, but more of them, and we treat this threat as ho hum, cost of doing the business of life on planet earth. In turn, with COVID-19, we have essentially shut down an entire civilization, threatening to fine or cage anyone who does not comply, for a viral infection that has a statistically insignificant case and death rate when compared with the planetary population.

While I'm often skeptical on information that comes from China, at this point it's all we've got as they were the first. The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that most confirmed cases were mild, 80.9% of them, with only 1 in 5 experiencing severe (13.8%) or critical (4.7%) illness. Further, China's National Health Commission is reporting that of all known cases, 87% recovered, 9% are ongoing (of which 31.9% are severe), and 4% died.

In Italy, a new report was released a couple of days ago indicating that "More than 99% of Italy’s coronavirus fatalities were people who suffered from previous medical conditions, according to a study by the country’s national health authority." according to Bloomberg, with high blood pressure being the most common. Further, the average age of mortality victims is 79.5, the same basic mortality age range as pretty much everything else out there. The sample size was small "The Rome-based institute has examined medical records of about 18% of the country’s coronavirus fatalities…" so this part remains an open chapter for me until more medical records can be analyzed. The Chinese data mirrored this same observation. China also stated that "Separately, researchers have also found that children in China showed less severe symptoms than adults.

"So what's the prudent response then smarty pants?"

I don't claim to be any sort of expert on this, or much else really, pizza perhaps, but I can repeat a view that IMHO represents common sense while at the same time is accepting of the fact that despite many appearances to the contrary, we live in a hostile environment, both on and off the planet; it is an axiom of our reality as we know it. Given this fact, we can choose to cower and hide (which is not living at all just merely existing) or face reality and tackle it as best we can. Tackling it head on also means we have to accept that we can't prevent everything and we can't save everyone, it is impossible.
  • great time to refresh our children on hand-washing, the why, when and how…same for ourselves
  • sneezing and coughing in the close proximity of others (meaning any expectorant can easily land on the body of another) without containment (into the arm or elbow for example) is not a good thing at all…in the technical of technical views, it is actually a form of assault. Obviously this isn't always possible and in close relationships often not cared about
  • as always, good nutrition, vitamin C, vitamin D and zinc
  • encourage all elder relatives to hang tight at/in their homes and work with them to provide alternate means to obtain necessities. These same relatives can be checked upon, in person, with a few basic protective measures in place
  • if the elderly friends/relatives are in a long term care home or residence, postpone your visit(s) if the administration has not restricted access or inquire with staff if they have any protective visitation methods in place that can be utilized. Assuming the facility has an elevated risk or critical risk protocol (policy and procedure), inquire what actions are being taken, make your voice heard
  • shield children as required based on age and overall health
  • if you're not comfortable attending large gatherings, don't! but don't hammer down on those who do either. Stay home or organize smaller events with your neighbours again using preventative measures if desired by any of the participants
  • discuss work from home possibilities with your employer. If they are not interested, ask yourself if this is the type of person/company you want to work for
  • keep some hand sanitizer, commercial or home made close by (this should be an always along with antiseptic ointment/plant of choosing)
  • accept the fact that you stand a better chance of landing pneumonia than COVID-19 and if you do get hit up with the latter, there is a very strong possibility that you many just confuse it with a (bad) cold due to relatively mild symptoms
There is no need for wholesale shutdown of entire regions, not for this type of thing anyway. If it was something much worse, then the shutdown would be inevitable as the population perished. There is a 99.9% chance that the 'cure' is going to be far far worse than the disease itself in the case of COVID-19.

In conclusion then, I am imploring any who read this ramble to remain calm, do not just blindly accept that which is spouted by the mainstream media and/or government, absolutely and totally disregard ANY social media posts/memes whose claims are not sourced, end the self righteous judgment being levelled at so many. Ask the bigger picture questions like what is going to be the economic impact of closing down a province or country, why is this route being taken when it was not for H1N1 for example and of course the ever present 'cui bono', who benefits.

I've seen many posts stating something like "we'll get through this together." Without critical thinking and pointed questions, no friends, I'm sorry but we won't, at least not in any manner that is pleasant/palatable. So, if anyone reading wants to try and get through this together in a manner that does stand a chance of success, drop me a note and we can come up with a game plan. The volume of horse shit is getting to be too much for one person to sift through, especially this particular not-as-young-as-I-used-to-be person ;)

Be well . . . :)

"Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or strengthens one's prior personal beliefs or hypotheses. It is a type of cognitive bias. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for desired outcomes, for emotionally charged issues, and for deeply-entrenched beliefs."