On COVID-19 And Our Immediate Future

On COVID-19 And Our Immediate Future

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Like most Canadians and citizens of the world, I am accepting our government’s current version of the best response to COVID-19.  I am, however, becoming less satisfied as I watch the world melt away in an unprecedented loss of wealth, business, and employment.  The damage to our world as a result of these forced measures will be devastating.  Alcoholism, drug addiction, spousal abuse, child abuse, suicide, depression and other mental health issues are massively on the rise.  Poverty and an inability to pay monthly bills is also soaring.  The stress on everyone is becoming unmanageable.  It is possible that the toll that the government exacts from its citizens to fight this virus will exceed the damage caused by the virus itself.  In effect, we have two pandemics: COVID-19 and an economic depression (along with the deaths and misery that come with the latter).  We will need to deal with both. 

New American models put the United States at a revised estimate of up to 60,000 COVID-19 deaths.  The Canadian model currently estimates 11,000-22,000 deaths.  The estimate for Canada appears to be high based upon the assumption that both countries are in approximate lock step with the maturity of the virus.  The U.S. is tracking 23,000 deaths currently and Canada is at 767 (as of April 14).    I wouldn’t be surprised if in a week the Canadian estimate of 11,000-22,000 gets reduced substantially as new models arise as a result of new data.

Keep in mind, we were all told that the objective of the extreme emergency measures being imposed (i.e. – almost complete commercial shutdown and home quarantining) was to ‘flatten the curve.’  This was clearly communicated as the only way to keep the medical system (specifically our hospitals) from being overloaded and allowing people to get the necessary treatment in order to survive.  The goal was NOT to reduce our infection rate to ZERO before lifting the personal and economic restrictions. 

By all accounts, in both the U.S. and Canada, the use of intensive care facilities and ventilator usage is well below the doomsday scenario of 30 days ago.  In fact, in most regions, we are through the surge and hospitalizations are falling.  My understanding is that hospitals here in Canada and, in the U.S., have more capacity than they need for beds and ventilators.  According to a Globe and Mail article published on April 13, in Alberta, as of April 11, only 13 patients were in hospital intensive care for the treatment of Covid-19.  Even in Ontario, which has struggled with low testing rates and outbreaks at long term care homes, hospitals are not being overrun with Covid-19 cases.  As of April 11, official Ontario statistics show that nearly 80% of the Ontario ventilators are not being used.  In other words, there is plenty of patient capacity.  It looks like we have accomplished what we have been asked to do.  We pushed the infections and admissions down the road, so the hospitals did not get overloaded.  We know and have been told that hiding from COVID-19 isn’t a medium or long-term solution.  It is going to run its course.  We will have to gain herd immunity as a community.  Waiting in isolation for the infection rate to hit zero or for a miracle vaccine or cure was not the plan 30 days ago.  This is a new narrative.  We were told we just need to flatten the curve.  This was to allow the most vulnerable an opportunity to be treated in hospital.  This has been accomplished.  Comparing COVID-19 impacts on mortality with other deadly causes in Canada is displayed below (as deaths per year). 

Accidental Deaths13,300
Accidental Drug Overdoses14,500
Heart Disease50,000
Alcohol-related Deaths88,000

Every cause of death should be treated with equal importance, and if 5,000 people die from COVID-19 this year, it will be tragic. It is also tragic that 14,000 people die from drug overdoses as well. We do not quarantine the country to prevent opioid overdoses. 88,000 people die from alcohol-related incidents. Interestingly, the LCBO is an ‘essential service’ in this time of quarantine and pandemic. We absolutely need to be better at protecting the ‘at risk’ population, but this is not everyone; it is possibly 1-2% of the population.

If we had an option to self-isolate for many months, we could look at that, but we do not.  More people may die in Canada due to the quarantine than due to the virus.  On average, Canadians save $160/month.  One third of Canadians have no savings.  Many millions in Canada literally live paycheque to paycheque.  Deaths from the 7 causes above will definitely increase as a result of the quarantine.  Every week of quarantine will carry a cost.

The Federal budget deficit is going from a bloated $16B in 2019 to an astounding, unbelievable number of $180B in 2020.  This is a just an early estimate and the final tally will likely be much higher. The deficit during the ‘great recession’ of 2009 was approximately $50B to put this in perspective.  Our cumulative debt as a 153-year-old nation is about $750B pre-COVID-19 (in one year we will add another $180B).  Who exactly is being helped by this monster deficit?  Well, I can tell you my companies are not being helped.  I have talked to dozens of other small and medium sized business owners and they aren’t getting any meaningful help either.    Getting any answers from any level of government is impossible.  I am dubious that any of the largesse will really help people.  I am sure that abuses from fraudulent claims will occur in large numbers.  Are unemployed workers really getting the help they need, and if so, for how long?  It seems to me that a better path might have been advisable.  For instance, if the elderly and infirm had self- isolated starting in January and masks had been issued to everyone else with an instruction to maintain a reasonable physical distance, could we have avoided the shut down?

Well, Taiwan and Sweden did just that and they avoided an economic shutdown and personal quarantine.  Obviously, trusting people to stay at a safe distance and using masks work.  Why did the government not trust us to do it this way? Were we lied to about this?  $180B buys a lot of masks and ventilators.  Why wasn’t the quarantining of compromised individuals initiated when we knew about the risk for these people?  Why did all levels of government and experts sit on this until the only response was a world-wide depression initiated by a coordinated shutdown and quarantine?  For those who do not know, in the 1930’s we had what was is known as the “Great Depression.”  It was a horrendous time – just ask your grandparents and they will shudder at the memory of the misery.  Violence, murder, lawlessness, and suicide was epidemic.  Unemployment peaked at 25%, GDP declined by 30%.  On a world-wide basis, very few are now working.  It is very likely that Canada and the U.S. will see unemployment at levels higher than 25% and GDP will likely fall more than 30%.  This happened overnight.  The Great Depression rolled on for years to hit those numbers.  The misery from this will be epic.  The tax base for government spending is going to be greatly reduced, likely to 50% of a typical year.  Where will they get all this helicopter money?

So, what do we do?  We must demand honesty from our leaders.  For instance, why are they comfortable publishing death/mortality models but they won’t publish honest infection models?  Why aren’t the statistics of infection and death not published by age category and whether the person had an underlying illness?  Is it because we would learn that the infection is not deadly for the vast majority of those infected and this would undermine the government’s message that the only solution is totally economic shutdown and self-isolation for EVERYONE? They seem content to scare the shit out of the population with ‘honest’ death rates (which by all accounts are proving to be less than initially thought).  Why will they not release the TRUE infection models?  No one can believe that just 26,000 people have been infected in Canada.  This number is absurd.

In a random test, it has been reported that as much as 70% of the Lombardy province of Italy has been infected with COVID-19.  There are 10 million people in Lombardy.  So, 7 million people by way of this study could reasonably be infected in Lombardy, with perhaps 9,000 fatalities.  Admittedly, 7 million is probably too high, but it does create food for thought.  The fact is we do not know because no one will tell us.

The Italian government’s tests confirm 160,000 people are infected and sadly, 21,000 are dead.  This is for the whole of Italy.  Is it possible that tens of millions of Italians are infected with 21,000 dead?  Do we want to know this?  I think we do.  A significantly lower death rate will likely change our response.  Already the models in the U.S. are being adjusted down.  World-wide mortality rates range from 1% to 10% based on tested individuals.  What if the mortality rate is 1/10th, 1/20th, or 1/100th of the published mortality rates?  What if COVID-19 is similar to the seasonal flu based on mortality rates and overall expected deaths?

I think we need to demand to see the truth about the models of those infected.  We need to see an estimate at how many Canadians have this virus NOW!  We must quickly test millions of people without symptoms to understand the real model.  It could be that several million Canadians are already infected and cured.  Many people that become infected have none or very slight symptoms.  Many millions of people may be immune.  Why are the immune in quarantine?  We should isolate those at high risk and allow all immune and low-risk people back to work and re-open our economy.    Before you ask me to continue to help drive our civilization to ruin, I want answers, I want the truth, and I want it now.

If you like this, please share it.  We need our government to take action now before it is too late.  All our lives are at stake.

Brad J. Lamb