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The COVID-19 Pandemic

Resources for Remaining Safe

It's NOT Over | Remaining Healthy | The Vulnerable
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COVID-19 Resources

In the Beginning…

The COVID-19 pandemic was a black swan event unlike anything before in modern times, both in its scope and in its impact upon our everyday lives.

A pandemic…is an epidemic of an infectious disease that has spread across a large region, for instance multiple continents or worldwide, affecting a substantial number of individuals.
Wikipedia

When COVID-19 began, mostly older folks in long term care were dying. Young and fit people were sure they could beat COVID but were soon proved wrong:

With COVID, you have healthy people who a month ago were totally fine and now they are on their deathbed.
Dr. Omar Ahmad, Island Health, Nov. 8, 2021

When the milder Omicron variety showed up, the risks of dying decreased significantly, especially for those without existing health conditions that were vaccinated. Unfortunately, evidence is growing for post-infection issues like long COVID and early onset of diseases like heart disease and heart attacks.

Massive Failures of Governments

There have been massive failures at all levels of government to protect the vulnerable and stop the spread of COVID-19. Instead, misinformation and unsafe protests were allowed to go unchallenged.

Too many governments have failed to adhere to basic norms of institutional rationality and transparency, too many people — often influenced by misinformation — have disrespected and protested against basic public-health precautions, and the world's major powers have failed to collaborate to control the pandemic.
The Lancet Commission, September 14, 2022
Despite notable scientific and medical advances, broader political, socioeconomic and behavioural factors continue to undercut the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Although many governments and individuals no longer have the same level of concern as earlier in the pandemic, many public health leaders, including members of this panel, continue to regard COVID-19 as a persistent and dangerous health threat.
Nature November 3, 2022

Neither COVID nor the opioid crisis is the cause, but are symptoms of much larger issues.

Infections Could Have Been Prevented

From the very beginning, the misconception that infection involved droplets had us busy washing our hands and wiping surfaces.

For nearly two years governments and many experts refused to recognize evidence that pointed to aerosol transmission, based on a series of problematic assumptions about how respiratory viruses spread.

COVID Transmitted by Aerosols

Every time you breathe, laugh, sing, shout, cough or sneeze, you spread micro particles (aerosols) into the air. Think of how your breathe vapors travel when outside in cold weather.

View this video to learn why aerosols are different from droplets:

The elephant in the room: breathing and talking generate aerosols. Click to view video on Twitter.

WHO was very slow in recognizing that COVID-19 can be transmitted airborne, not just as droplets (the basis for the two-metre distancing recommendation).

It took until 20 October 2020 for the agency to acknowledge that aerosols — tiny specks of fluid — can transmit the virus, but the WHO said this was a concern only in specific settings, such as indoor, crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces.

 

Over the next six months, the agency gradually altered its advice to say that aerosols could carry the virus for more than a metre and remain in the air.
Nature

N95 Masks Required for Aerosols

This increase the need for quality masks and improved airflow within buildings. Rather than medical-grade masks (or cloth masks) N95 masks are required and good ventilation is important.

It also means that the end to mandates for indoor masking came too soon — a significant factor in the spread of the Omicron variants.

Weaknesses in Healthcare

COVID-19 has highlighted serious weaknesses in our medical system.

Patients were lining the corridors of hospitals even before the pandemic due to the lack of beds.

In terms of ICU capacity, we count approximately half as many beds per 1,000 inhabitants as the United States and nearly a third less than Germany. Even prior to COVID, hallway health care was a regular state of being in many provinces.
National Post

Several generations of provincial governments cut health care costs by reducing the number of doctors, nurses and hospital beds. As well, the federal government failed to meet its funding obligations.

We're now in a situation where high numbers of students are sick and hospital pediatric ICUs have no remaining capacity.

The Victoria General Hospital pediatric ICU was on diversion to the BC Children's Hospital due to lack of capacity, from 4pm Monday Nov. 14 to 9am Tuesday Nov. 15, @VanIslandHealth has confirmed.
Brishti Basu, CapitalDailyVictoria on Twitter

These shortages were not caused by the pandemic, but are the result of political decisions to limit healthcare spending at any cost. The seeds of the current crisis go back more than 35 years:

In 1985 the provincial government had restricted new billing numbers in an effort to limit physicians moving to the province.

 

In the early 1990s the government imposed a hard cap on MSP funding.

 

If spending appeared to be in danger of over-reaching the strictly enforced hard-capped budget, the fees paid to physicians would be proportionately reduced under the term pro-rationing.

 

Eventually the physicians' response to this was to close their offices and operating rooms for enough days to balance the budget.
Chris Pengilly

We see the legacy of this today, where physicians find the cost of maintaining an office and serving patient is no longer financially viable. Hopefully, the changes announced at the end of October 2022 will turn that around.

Weaknesses in the Economy

The “just-in-time” delivery of goods manufactured overseas proved to be vulnerable. Store shelves were empty and there were critical industry-wide shortages.

Many lost jobs or income (some permanently) while governments racked up astronomical debts that could take generations to pay down due to rising inflation rates.

Last year, the government spent $24.5 billion servicing the debt; Desjardins forecasts debt charges of $49.8 billion next year.
National Post

An estimated one-in-seven small businesses will never recover. Most were shut down while Costco and Walmart were able to remain open. Unaffordable interest rates may be the final straw.

The failure to protect workers has led to staff shortages, ferry and airline cancellations as well as the too frequent closing of ERs and long waits for ambulances.

Uncertainty, supply chain issues and workplace absences are continuing to have a damaging effect on the economy.

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COVID is NOT Over

People were eager to quit wearing masks and to return to enjoying events, travel, theatre, sports and much more.

We've got governments promoting the idea that people can take off their masks and have a good time. We have now a documented reduction in people getting booster shots for COVID, and we still have hospital capacity that is way beyond safe, and staff morale is low. So it's going to be a coming s---storm in the next couple of months unless we address it.
Dr. Alan Drummond, Emergency Physician

COVID will be the #3 cause of death in the U.S. in 2022, even if many have “moved on.”

Mild Symptoms Didn't End Deaths

When the highly transmissible Omicron variant emerged, governments everywhere told people that the symptoms are milder so they would relax restrictions and end mandates.

While much of US society has breathed a collective sigh of relief at no longer having to wear a mask in public, that freedom has placed people who are immunocompromised at risk….

 

Nor are they the only ones. Older adults, the very young and those with long Covid are at greater risk too. So while for many Americans the pandemic increasingly feels over, for others — often the most vulnerable — it rages on.
The Guardian

U.S. President Biden stated that COVID-19 is over on 60 Minutes on September 18, 2022 while an American dies of COVID-19 every two minutes.

By catering to those that refused to either be vaccinated or to wear a mask, governments have greatly delayed an end to the pandemic.

I think the single biggest challenge we faced is a misunderstanding and often a softpedalling of this at the level of the population.

 

People are clever. People are concerned about their health. People will do the right things if they have the right information.
Dr. Bruce Aylward
  • Long COVID is affecting many of those infected and are no longer able to work.
  • Reducing the isolation period means people are returning to work and gatherings while still infectious.
  • The lack of masks in schools has increased the spread and endangered education.

The future costs to the economy in lost productivity and increased healthcare costs could be crippling.

China's Approach

China has continued to enforce a strict lockdown wherever COVID appears. They believe that this will better serve their economy years down the road while the West continues to suffer from the effects of opening too soon.

Nursing Shortages

There is a world-wide shortage of nurses. We cannot compete by asking poorly-paid nurses to continue to work in unsustainable environments where 60% staffing levels have become the norm.

If your workplace was critically short of staff, imagine managers continually asking you to work extra shifts and overtime in stressful conditions.

Nurses are breaking down, crying and quitting because of the intense pressure they face on the job due to a severe staffing shortage.
Toronto ICU nurse, Birgit Umaigba

Early in 2022 two Toronto hospitals called a Code Orange, a disaster caused by a critical nursing shortage. ICUs and other units are severely understaffed. The implications are frightening and not confined to Ontario.

“You Do You” Deeply Flawed

The concept of each individual determining their level of risk (“you do you”) is deeply flawed because health authorities routinely withhold information vital for individuals to make an informed decision.

There is only one way to stop more variants from emerging with properties even more extreme than Omicron, and that is to actively and persistently reduce the amount of virus in your community.
Yaneer Bar-Yam, pandemic expert

Failure to continue public testing for COVID was a political decision based on looking good rather than science. It doesn't mean COVID no longer exists, just that it is no longer being measured.

In real terms “living with the virus” means living with a normalization of death, reinfections, long COVID, disruption and exhausted health-care workers. People would never vote for a deteriorating quality of life and risk, but that's where public policy is now taking us.
Andrew Nikiforuk

We have abandoned the old, weak and vulnerable to hasten our own freedom to return to normal. Is that the sort of society you wish to live in?

COVID is STILL Dangerous

We may be tired of the pandemic, but COVID is still killing increasingly huge numbers, even in the summer months:

Ontario July-August COVID-19 deaths in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

The excuse that “everyone is going to get it” ignores the fact that COVID is not a mild disease for the immunocompromised and other vulnerable populations.

Those folks continued to restrict their activities. Their absence made it much easier to ignore their need for these protections.

It's just easiest to discard folks who don't have the immunity that allows you to have the risk model where you're like, “Hey I can afford an infection or two.”

 

We disappear from our social circles, you don't really think of us. So it's easier to accept policy decisions that are like, “Let these people handle it themselves.”
Ti Young

Omicron and Continuing Waves

The emergence of wave after wave was fueled by the highly transmissible Omicron variants and its continued damage is brought on by continued

  • resistance to wearing masks;
  • vaccine hesitancy; and
  • re-opening non-essential services and travel too soon.

The easing of restrictions was based upon “pandemic fatigue” rather than “the science” that is so often quoted.

Too many people have interpreted the government's move to “self-managed risk” as meaning the pandemic is over. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Another wave during the summer of 2022 was largely fed by the removal of any restrictions including the wearing of masks while indoors in public places.

While Omicron was relatively mild in December 2021, the later variants are just as transmissible yet far more dangerous.

There is increasing evidence that repeated COVID-19 infections damage the T-cells that protect us from infections like COVID-19. Could this be the basis behind long-COVID and the increase in the number of unusual diseases like Monkeypox?

The highly contagious Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are infecting people that have recently had other forms of COVID-19 and feature more upper respiratory, cold and flu-like symptoms. The loss of taste and smell have been reported with these variants.

What About Herd Immunity?

“Herd immunity” cannot be taken seriously when so many are being reinfected a second or third time. It appears that COVID acts more like the common cold in how it repeatedly infects us season-after-season than diseases where a once-and-done vaccine provides life-long protection.

Data is emerging that, due to variant mutations, COVID-19 reinfections are happening, even in highly-vaccinated countries. For that reason, herd immunity is highly unlikely.

 

Also, data is starting to show that recurrent infections could be increasing the chances of serious long-term effects, including in children.

 

The need to avoid catching the virus has now been strengthened, for both people's health and workforce sustainability.
Protect Our Province BC

Protections are Gone or Ineffective

Omicron cases can be infectious for up to 12 days. Reducing, then removing, the need to self-isolate will make it impossible to truly end this pandemic.

The rate of infections in schools is very high. Children are likely spreading COVID to their families and thereby to the workplace. Calling it a “respiratory illness” doesn't reduce the risk to society.

How did the BCCDC react? By stating that people no longer had to isolate if they were infected. That is going to make it even more dangerous for the immunocompromised to shop for groceries or visit other essential services.

Masks Recommended

Masks are recommended in public indoor settings, even if it's not mandated in your community or setting.

It's especially important to wear a mask if you're:
  • at risk of more severe disease or outcomes
  • around others who are at risk of more severe disease or outcomes
  • visiting a group living setting
  • in a crowded or poorly ventilated setting
  • Public Health Canada

The current “recommended but not required” mask policies are ineffective and a failure of leadership.

We require people to be licensed to drive, we require people to wear seatbelts, we require people to stop at stop signs, and we do these things because these requirements keep us all safe. I'm having trouble understanding why mask requirements or other protections should be any different.
Jaigris Hodson

Not All are Equal

Vulnerable populations are more at risk, even when fully vaccinated.

We should clearly be making choices that help protect the most vulnerable in our society, but those are not the only reasons. [Fewer people getting COVID] would be better for our world, our economy, our society, for everyone — not just the immunocompromised.
Roger Haskett
Compared with someone in their 20s, a person over 65 years old is not slightly more likely to die of COVID but at least 65 times more likely to die of COVID. Over age 75, they become 140 times more likely to die. Over age 85, they are 340 times more likely to die.
The Atlantic

Those that are immune-compromised (About 7 million people in the United States) face even greater risks:

[A]bout half of organ-transplant recipients produce no antibodies at all after two vaccine doses.

 

Compared with the general vaccinated public, they are 82 times more likely to get breakthrough infections and 485 times more likely to be severely ill.

 

Should they get infected, their risk of hospitalization is a coin flip. Their risk of death is one in 10.
The Atlantic
In the last few months, Dr Jeannina Smith has seen organ transplant recipients who have been very careful throughout the pandemic venture out for one activity, contract Covid-19 and lose their transplant.
The Guardian, August 30, 2022
COVID is not a mild disease. The evidence is far from in about the effects Omicron can have on people. What might appear to be mild symptoms for one citizen could well become a hospital visit, intubation or death for someone else.
The Tyee

Even though symptoms are usually mild, that doesn't take into account Long COVID, a series of long-term side effects and disabilities that can last for years.

Because the majority are vaccinated, the symptoms for most patients were less than earlier. Omicron BA-4 and BA-5 variants are more dangerous because of the sheer number of cases combined with the ease which this variant spreads.

What happens when an even deadlier variant emerges with Omicron's infection rate?

COVID a Long Term Problem

There is increasing evidence that not only does immunity from prior COVID infections provide no herd immunity, but Omicron variants B4 and B5 aren't being recognized as a threat by our vaccines.

Long COVID has emerged as a long-term threat to not only our healthcare system, but also to our economy as a once-healthy workforce becomes incapacitated by debilitating chronic conditions lasting for a year or more.

Canada's political classes, which are largely rich and shielded from the pandemic, are likely to become more callous as the pandemic evolves.

 

The cruel truth we are now facing has been voiced by the editors of the British Medical Journal. The most important lessons from this pandemic, they wrote, “are less about the coronavirus itself but what it has revealed about the political systems that have responded to it.”
The Tyee

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Remaining Healthy

Wear a Suitable Mask | Physical Distancing | Get Vaccinated

Keeping Safe

You have the right to protect your own health. Feel free to take any measures you need to protect yourself such as avoiding crowds, indoor shopping or anywhere you feel unsafe.

Avoid Closed Spaces with Poor Ventilation

Because COVID is transmitted by aerosols, small or crowded rooms with poor ventilation greatly increase your risk of getting infected. Sit further apart from people when conversing.

Some settings will continue to be higher risk, including crowded and poorly ventilated public spaces. The risk is higher if activities like singing or shouting, or ones that make people breathe heavily, are occurring.
Government of Canada

Opening windows and adding high quality air treatment systems can help reduce your risk.

Avoid Closed, Crowded or Close

You want to avoid

  • closed spaces with poor ventilation;
  • crowded places with many people nearby; and
  • close-range conversations.

Learn more about remaining safe:

Provincial Restrictions

Provincial restrictions were designed to keep most people safe through physical distancing and wearing masks when in public areas.

These measures were the minimum if you wished to remain healthy and not spread COVID.

Politics, Not Science

Physical distancing and cloth masks were both based upon the assumption that transmission was caused by droplets.

It is unfortunate that politics seems to have played a larger part in ending restrictions than science.

Governments refused to treat COVID-19 as an airborne illness, largely because COVID-19 didn't work like prior respiratory viruses.

Left on Our Own

As pandemic mandates were ended, we found out that we were on our own and had to assess our own tolerance for risk.

The failure to provide current, accurate information segregated by neighbourhood made it impossible for us to effectively assess our personal risk.

Testing for those in care homes over 70 and wastewater tracking have become our only tools in recognizing pending waves of increased infection rates.

Canadian COVID-19 Hazard Index

One resource that may help you assess risk is the Canadian COVID-19 Hazard Index.

The Cost is High

The cost of ignoring protections is high.

  • The cost to treat COVID is much higher than most diseases.
  • Our health care system is over-stretched and our health care workers are burning out.
  • Treatment was delayed or cancelled for other patients, diminishing their chances for recovery.
  • The most vulnerable, even when fully vaccinated, have little protection.

If the health system collapses, a lot more people are likely to die.

Physical Distancing

Physical (or social) distancing helps to reduce the transmission of diseases like COVID-19, although not as much as once thought.

Think of how your breathe vapors travel when outside in cold weather.

The further apart you are (a minimum of six feet or two metres is recommended outside), the less likely it is that these aerosols are to reach you. Transmission is 18 times as likely indoors as outside.

Unfortunately, people now attend parties and other events where they are jammed together with strangers not taking precautions.

Wear a Face Mask

The wearing of masks should always be mandatory while indoors in public spaces.

Some folks used any excuse to avoid wearing a mask during the mask mandates:

  • Those in crowded stadiums leave their masks off while sipping their beers then jump up to cheer loudly for their team.
  • Passengers on airplanes have their masks tucked below their chin while snacking the entire flight on a single bag of peanuts.

Now that mandates have ended, the “recommended but not required” is hardly going to be effective.

Masks Protect Others

Wearing a face mask, even a less advanced one, can help reduce both the risk and the severity of illness. Wearing one indoors in public settings minimizes the possibility of spreading COVID.

  • I wear a mask to protect you.
  • You wear a mask to protect me.

Choosing a Mask

The better the mask, the better your protection and the less likely you are to become infected or infect someone else.

Consider fit, filtration and function.

Single-layer masks may work for droplets, but are insufficient to protect against infect from a disease spread by aerosols. Even surgical masks are inadequate according to this January 2022 Swiss study.

Unfortunately “well-fitting disposable surgical masks” do not exist out of the box, since there are large gaps on each side of the mask. Surgical masks require modifications to achieve a good fit. That's because they are made to stop liquid splashes during surgery, rather than made to stop airborne transmission.
Jeremy Howard
Testing of the effectiveness of protective strategies in view of the lower critical dose suggests that surgical masks are no longer sufficient in most public settings, while correctly fitted FFP2 respirators still provide sufficient protection, except in high aerosol producing situations such as singing or shouting.
Swiss Medical Weekly

Difficulty Breathing?

If you're finding it difficult to breathe, find a better-fitting mask. I've found N95s better than most cloth masks.

Cloth Masks Compared to N95s

A simple cloth mask or bandana doesn't have enough filtration efficiency to prevent the spread of COVID.

You need to up your game. Wearing a cloth mask is not good enough any more. You want to have a higher grade filtration mask.
Dr. Lyne Filiatrault

An article in the Wall Street Journal contains a table showing the time to infection between a person that is infected and one that isn't depending upon which each is wearing:

Time it takes to transmit an infection dose of COVID-19 by quality of the mask.
The results were published in Spring 2021 and the CDC expects the Omicron variant to spread more quickly.

It will take 25 hours for an infectious dose of Covid-19 to transmit between people wearing non-fit-tested N95 respirators. If they're using tightly sealed N95s — where only 1% of particles enter the facepiece — they will have 2,500 hours of protection.
WSJ

COVID-19 Vaccines

Much like wearing masks, getting vaccinated helps protect others as well as yourself.

Being fully vaccinated allows for more freedoms because you're less vulnerable and less likely to infect someone.

However, vaccination on its own is not sufficient to end COVID-19.

Vaccination needs to be supported by mask mandates and social distancing until COVID is no longer a threat.

Vaccines Free for Everyone

When booking your vaccination in BC, only your name and BC personal health number (PHN) are required.

  • COVID-19 vaccines are free for everyone living in BC who is eligible.
  • Vaccines, including those for children 5 to 11, are safe and effective against COVID-19.

Vaccination Slows Spread; Improves Outcomes

Vaccination helps to slow the spread of COVID and reduces the severity of symptoms. You're less likely to be admitted to hospital or require ICU treatment. Your chances of dying from COVID are greatly reduced.

In B.C., the eight per cent of eligible yet unvaccinated individuals make up 54 per cent of COVID cases, 68 per cent of hospitalizations and 72 per cent of patients in intensive care.
The Tyee

Reduced Period You Spread COVID

Not only does vaccination help protect you from being infected, but it also reduces the period during which you can spread the disease as well as greatly reducing the chance that you'll need to have expensive life-saving treatment on a ventilator in the ICU.

While there's a small chance COVID-19 vaccinated people can still get sick and spread the virus (called breakthrough cases), research suggests they are less likely to transmit the virus than unvaccinated people.
USA Today
It is true that 67 percent of hospitalizations in Ontario are people who have been vaccinated — but those people constitute 90 percent of the population.

 

When you look at the latest ICU cases, 52 percent are unvaccinated patients, despite making up just 10 percent of the population.
John Ivison, National Post

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Clinically Vulnerable Disproportionately Affected

Those that are immunosuppressed or with other existing health conditions have a greatly reduced quality of life.

People over 70 years of age, and people with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems, are particularly vulnerable to severe illness and death from COVID-19, even if they are fully vaccinated.

[A] list of conditions that have been designated as risk conditions for COVID-19 by public health agencies: diabetes, heart disease, asthma or chronic obstructive airway disease, chronic kidney disease, disabling neurological disease, liver disease and immunodeficiency or immunosuppression.
Paul M. McKeigue et el

The clinically vulnerable are at much higher risk of poorer outcomes.

Reduced Quality of Life

Even triple-vaccinated vulnerable patients have been unable to enjoy many of the benefits available to most double-vaccinated people, including eating indoors in restaurants and other social activities.

Visits to essential services like the grocery store, pharmacies and medical appointments are more dangerous because of those that refuse to wear masks or be vaccinated.

A transplant patient in Alberta talks about the reductions to their quality of life:

Vulnerable people are depending upon everyone else that is eligible to get vaccinated in order to make it safe enough for them to rejoin many of the activities that became available (if you're fully vaccinated).

Vaccination in Vulnerable Populations

Those with health conditions can and should definitely be vaccinated.

Vaccination is even more important for those whose immune system is compromised: people with kidney failure, cancer patients on chemotherapy and organ transplant recipients.

Organ transplant patients take immunosuppressants (anti-rejection medications). As the name implies, these medications not only suppress rejection, but also impair the ability to resist infection.

Underlying Conditions Affect Outcomes

In addition, those with underlying conditions such as diabetes, heart conditions and COPD are going to experience more complicated recovery.

These patients, even when fully vaccinated, are likely to have worse outcomes should they become infected with COVID.

The coronavirus vaccines are highly effective in protecting against serious disease, but they are not a guarantee. This is especially the case for a subset of elderly and immunosuppressed people whose immune system did not mount a strong response to the shots.
New York Times

Unlike the measles vaccine, the mRNA vaccines are not “live” vaccines and are therefore safe for immune-compromised individuals. It is more dangerous to remain unprotected.

Inability to Create Antibodies

Immunosuppressed patients were not a part of the pre-release human trials for any of the COVID-19 vaccines. The research indicates that many such patients are unable to create the antibodies required to make the vaccine effective.

Among 436 people who'd had liver, heart, kidney, and other organ transplants, just 17% had detectable antibodies.
Science Magazine
In the study of more than 650 organ recipients -- who take drugs to suppress their immune system so they won't reject their new organs -- 46% had no antibody response after two doses of Pfizer or Moderna.
CNN

A Third Dose Shows Improvement

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that a third vaccine dose for solid organ transplant patients greatly increases the antibodies needed to fight off COVID infections.

The prevalence of anti–SARS-CoV-2 antibodies was 0%…before the first dose, 4%…before the second dose, 40%…before the third dose, and 68%… 4 weeks after the third dose.
The New England Journal of Medicine

Third dose greatly increases antibody production in solid organ transplant patients.

Even after this third dose, the protection (represented by the dots in chart B) is significantly less than the protection provided to the bulk of the population with just two doses.

Despite three doses of vaccine, some transplant recipients will continue to have a poor response, about 40% to 50% of the time compared to the general population and could remain unprotected. Because of this, it is critical that household contacts and healthcare workers be fully vaccinated and that extra cautions should still be taken.
Kidney Foundation

Resources for Renal Patients

The Kidney Foundation of Canada has provided resources for renal patients: COVID-19: How to protect yourself. These may be useful for others that are more vulnerable.

 

Heart Canadian Flag
Thanks to all our healthcare workers!

Use Reliable Sources

It is important that you remain informed about COVID-19.

BC COVID-19 Call Centre

Call 1-888-268-4319 for non-medical COVID info 7:30–8:00, 7 days a week.

Choose Your Sources Carefully

Don't rely on or spread misinformation. Use only reliable sources for COVID-19 information — those that can back their findings.

While official sources should provide the most accurate information, our leaders and health authorities have not always been honest with us.

By gaslighting the public by withholding vital information and ending testing, “personal risk assessments” are difficult or impossible to accomplish.

Unfortunately, western political leaders and some public health officials have decided to indulge the worst kind of individualist impulse: the desire to choose your own reality, including the fantasy that the pandemic is over.

 

[P]ublic health policy has effectively been rewritten in light of the desires, demands and delusions of anti-maskers, anti-vaxxers and COVID-19 denialists.
The Conversation

Governments refuse to acknowledge that COVID is airborne, a significant factor given the refusal to restore mask mandates and the high incidence of respiratory illness in children in the fall of 2022.

There is plenty of evidence that masks in public places provide protection against the spread of COVID-19 the flu and other respiratory illnesses.

Official Sources

Other Reliable Sources

There are lots of non-official yet accurate coverage in the press. Just be careful that the article is referencing reliable sources.

Assessments

COVID Antigen Rapid Tests

Rapid antigen test kits are available for pickup at pharmacies in BC (listed by regional health authority. You don't have to show ID and can have a friend or family member pick up a test kit for you if you can't.

Learning More

Verify Information

Verify information before spreading it. See CheckThenShare.ca for details.

Help stop the spread of misinformation! Check first. Share after.

“SIFT” Your Information Sources

Stop,
Investigate the source,
Find better coverage, and
Trace claims, quotes and media to the original context.
The SIFT methodology

Official Information

Look to authority sites, official information obtained directly from health and government sources.

Fake News & Social Media

There are a lot of fake news and misinformation designed to scare you, especially on social media.

Misinformation about COVID-19 is having devastating effects on vaccination rates.

There is strong evidence that this was intentional and, at least in several instances, promoted by a marketing company registered in both the UK and Russia.

One example from COVID Georgia, Fact check: Covid as a leading cause of death in children shows how the underlying data can be verified (or, in this case, disputed).

Social Media Unreliable

Social media has been used to propagate false information and anti-vax propaganda.

One big problem was that Facebook users were brigading any content addressing vaccination with anti-vax comments.

 

[C]omments on vaccine-related content were flooded with anti-vax propaganda, pseudo-scientific claims, and other false information and lies about the virus and the vaccines.
Gizmodo
The most viewed link for Americans on Facebook in the first three months of 2021 was to a news story about a doctor who died after getting a COVID vaccine.

 

The story turned out to be questionable….
Infopackets

Dr. Christiane Northrup went viral with some false claims about the mRNA COVID vaccines.

We live in a conspiratorial age of meme medicine — an era when lots of people would rather take untested snake oil hawked by politicians, pundits and B-list celebrities than vaccines whose effectiveness and safety have been proved in clinical studies and that have been approved by the F.D.A.
New York Times

Frauds and Scams

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Security & Privacy

The pandemic has created new opportunities for hackers when we increased our online presence.

Security threats in the second quarter of 2020 continue to target remote workers, but attackers aren't relying on COVID-19-themed phishing: They're going straight for vulnerable home networks where workers are conducting business.
TechRepublic

Hackers use our fears to line their pockets at our expense.

Phishing Attacks

Be wary of phishing emails, fake links and email attachments in unexpected messages, including delivery notices, voice mail notices, etc.

Most phishing attempts cite some “authority” to tempt you to ignore common sense and follow unsafe instructions. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

There are a few basic psychological tricks that phishing attacks and phone scams attempt to use against us — and the pandemic has provided the perfect environment for them.
BBC Future

Be Cyber-aware

Be sure to get your information directly from official sources.

Learning More

Learn more about phishing and email scams….

Privacy in a Pandemic

Privacy is something that should be automatic. It is not about “hiding something” but about dignity. Privacy is considered a basic human right by the U.N.

Protecting your privacy doesn't mean you have something to hide.

In Canada, privacy has been used as a shield against accountability. Governments have thwarted FOIA requests. Privacy is about government not being able to see what citizens are doing. When it's vice versa, that's secrecy, not privacy.
Journalism Professor Sean Holman

COVID-19 has affected our privacy.

COVID Tracking

One significant privacy concern is the issue of COVID tracking.

How do you provide realtime tracking of infections combined with the ability to monitor who they've come into contact with and still maintain privacy?

Using Cellphone Data

The most common solutions so far have been apps installed onto cellphones that continuously monitor who is nearby.

The Public Health Agency of Canada accessed location data from 33 million mobile devices to monitor people's movement during lockdown, the agency revealed this week.
National Post

Cellphones reveal a great deal of personal information, even if there is no COVID tracking app installed. Social media apps are among the worst for data collection.

Location information can reveal some of the most intimate details of a person's life — whether you've visited a psychiatrist, whether you went to an A.A. meeting, who you might date.
Senator Ron Wyden

9-11 Fears Re-ignited

The massive growth of privacy-invading technologies in the last decade are being re-ignited.

Proponents of 24-7 universal surveillance are hard at work.

The pandemic has unfortunately provided cover for companies to push out to what are effectively mass-surveillance infrastructures, under the guise of public health.
Ella Jakubowska, European Digital Rights

When Will it End?

There are many variations of COVID-tracking applications.

Few of these have limits on the lifespan of the collected information or how that data will be used.

At the very least, there needs to be a sunset clause that ends tracking when the pandemic ends.

Trust Needs to Be Earned

There is a great deal of trust required here — something that neither modern governments nor corporations deserve given their rampant surveillance and privacy abuses.

If we accept as normal and unavoidable that everything in our lives can be aggregated, sold, or even leaked in the event of a hack, then we lose so much more than data. We lose the freedom to be human. We deserve better. You deserve better.
Apple CEO, Tim Cook

Marketing and Surveillance

The prospect of even more detailed information on the bulk of the population would be extremely valuable from both a marketing and a police surveillance perspective.

Although poorly understood at the time, one of the biggest long-term impacts of the September 11 attacks was expanded surveillance in the United States and other democracies, by both public and private sectors.

 

Similarly, one of COVID-19s most important long-term impacts will be the reshaping of digital surveillance across the globe, prompted by the public health need to more closely monitor citizens.

 

The stakes are high. If democracies fail to turn the future of global surveillance in their favor, digital authoritarian competitors stand ready to offer their own model to the world.
Nicholas Wright

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Updated: December 5, 2022