In January and February, the Canadian public watched as COVID-19 was announced in China. It spread to Italy, then to Germany, Spain, France, and then to the UK. The media, fascinated by the ratings they were receiving by covering the disease, relentlessly extolled the horrors of the deaths, the doctors pleading for help, the funerals, never with any context to the numbers, or the age distribution of the deaths (96% of COVID-19 deaths worldwide are people over 65 years old with 2.6 co-morbidities). The media was fascinated by the European lockdowns.
By the end of February, the doctors in Canada started to warn of the infection rate in Canada and released totally inaccurate projections of the possible death tolls for our country. The modelling system they used had been wildly inaccurate in all previous pandemics, but the media and the doctors stated the numbers as facts. The models would prove again to be totally inaccurate, 12 times over actual results, as had occurred before.
The doctors and media have never acknowledged this fact. In fact, they are releasing similar modelling now.
By the middle of March, the doctors took charge of all governments in Canada. They did so when our elected officials gladly handed over power and hid behind what the premiers stated as “the advice of medical experts and/or the Ministry of Health”. The media gleefully took up the role of the Ministry of Propaganda for the MOHs. With COVID-19 numbers rising, schools were closed, business locked down, the Prime Minister came out every morning from his cottage, promising billions of dollars for people to stay at home to hide from this deadly disease.
With the lockdowns firmly in place, the citizens sighed a collective relief, and within three weeks the curve was not just flattened, it was planked! By the end of May (week 20-ish) the public was told COVID-19 had been controlled by our collective adherence to the lockdowns; we were saved.
Great rhetoric had been made by the provinces about how we had been able to expand our hospital systems by increasing COVID-19 recovery bed spaces and number of ICU beds. The media took great pride that they had interviewed enough frightened doctors and very sick COVID-19 patients, to help avert disaster. The media did no investigative reporting, simply daily repeated the MOH numbers with no context.
Over the summer, somehow, the doctors believed that what they had done had saved Canada from this terrible disease. True, many elder folk in continuing care systems had died, but the concept of allowing medical staff to only work in one facility had corresponded with a decrease in infections, which had resulted in a decrease in deaths. Right? The extra hospital beds and ICU beds had not been required as the infection rate had dropped because of the lockdowns, right? In fact, the extra capacity had been set aside by cancelling “elective surgeries”. Things like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and dementia all took a second-class seat. In fact, some doctors pushed back, placing costly medical health dollar advertisements on TV begging patients to come to the hospital if they were experiencing heart attack symptoms, but the fear of COVID-19 generated by the MOHs and the media kept these folk away.
The media gave at best a glancing look at the increased deaths from heart disease, dementia, cancer, diabetes, suicides, and overdoses. COVID-19 was the story of the day and Covid-19 deaths the only deaths worth reporting.
Likewise, the loss of a school year was not important, the COVID-19 infection rate had been banished by closing schools, right? The socialization that children learn from going to school of course may be a story in 5 years, but not now. The societal breakdown between provinces caused by inter-provincial lockdowns, that will fix itself, right? People fearing being in a restaurant, tourism, complete destruction of small business caused by lockdown, a sad but necessary result, right?
Weeks 21 (mid-May) to 40 (end of September) went by and all was well, lockdowns were eased, and the numbers of cases did not increase. It is a miracle. Good thing we did not waste any money building extra hospital beds or ICU capability. Schools can be reopened, no need to kill another year of education for this generation. Accepted, we have scared some folks so much they do not want to go back to school. Lockdowns are still seen to be good, so they elect to keep their kids at home. Schools have to build two school systems with the staff for one. Besides, we now have a new plan from our medical experts. If one person gets sick in any group, any setting, we will send all the healthy people home to lockdown for 14 days. Lockdowns don’t just work, they are the only solution to any problem.
And then October comes (week 43 – 47). Terrible unexpected news, the Covid-19 infection rate is rising exponentially. Whoever could have predicted this? Certainly not our MOHs, who did not build new hospital capacity or ICU capacity. There was no need, and no need now, we will just lockdown again and we can flatten the curve, right? No need for a plan for a long-term care home of a meaningful nature, we solved that one with the “only work in one centre” and the lockdowns, right?
The solution to this new explosion of infections, demanded by crying doctors and medical “experts”? We need a circuit breaker lockdown. Maybe two weeks will do it, but probably till week one of 2021. The problem? How dare citizens have COVID-19 fatigue and they are not complying. See? The curve is still going up. Schools will have to go to online learning. The impact on education and socialization of our children, now of a second year, will be sorted out in the future. Our media treat every concern of “overwhelming our medical system”, regardless of source, and doctor’s fear-based statements about COVID, as an obvious fact. There is no need to check, actual ICU or hospital capacity, what may or may not be overwhelming the capacity (i.e. fentanyl, seasonal illness, mental health issues caused by our COVID response), and/or why that capacity has not been increased in over 6 months knowing the second wave was coming.
We must lockdown!
If any message, from anyone, includes the need to fully lock down our society, the media will publish it faster than the speed of light. Conversely, if the message implies, we are destroying our social fabric, then the messenger is a COVID denier. If the message is that our COVID response is causing mental health issues that show as massive increases in suicide and/or drug use, then the media publishes that we need more homeless shelters and safe injection sites. If the impact on our children’s school education is negative, then the message is spun immediately to the point that we must save their grandparents lives. We must lockdown!
If you clearly show that Sweden, who never locked down, has the lowest death rate for the past four months and is now ranked 21st (or weekly better) in the world for deaths per million, then the media states either Sweden is worse than Denmark and Norway or the messenger is a Trumpist. If you mention that COVID-19, worldwide, has killed people with an average age of 83 and with at least 3 pre-existing morbidities in over 93% of all cases, then the messenger is heartless, who just wants to write-off the golden years of our seniors. We must lockdown!
If you state that pneumonia kills more people on average every year and that COVID-19 will kill only 1.5 this full year of its existence, then the messenger clearly is spinning statistics, does not understand that COVID-19 is a terrible way to die, and that the numbers would have been far worse if we had not locked down (forgetting that Sweden never locked down).
The media and the interviewed doctors have decided the message, no dissent is permitted. They belittle or attack any differing opinions, or simply ensure the dissenters are never published. We must lockdown!
But is it really that our citizens are irresponsible and self-centered non-compliers? Ours is that nature does not care. The curve of our infections is totally predictable if you admit that Covid-19 is a virus, like almost all other seasonal viruses. Taken from the Government of Canada’s infectious disease site, the curve for 2018 and 2019 is below. It should look very familiar.
COVID-19 spreads just like influenza and colds. The curve for these types of illnesses has been known since humans tracked them. In the summer, these illnesses decrease. In the fall they increase, exponentially. The winter is especially bad, with a second even larger increase in January and February. By mid-April, the curve drops exponentially.
Our doctors, premiers, and MOHs took credit for the late spring decreases in Covid-19, by claiming that our citizens followed their social distancing rules, school closures, closure of industry and campaign of fear. The same MOHs are now blaming all the citizens for the exponential increases in COVID-19 (and influenza and colds) because we are being heartless, mindless, selfish, and almost criminally irresponsible. Forget that it is fall and these illnesses rise exponentially every fall. Trust history, they will take credit for their lockdowns again, when in four weeks (end December) the infection rate starts to drop, as it does every year.
The MOHs had over six months to prepare for this second and subsequent waves. Did they expand our number of beds in hospital settings? Did they increase our ICU capacity? Did they realize that seniors’ homes and long-term care facilities that house folk with multiple comorbidities needed almost prison-like medical security?
No, they assumed that they would be able to blame the citizens, lock down our society again, spend hundreds of billions of dollars to pay people to hide in their homes and to destroy our children’s education.
We pay our doctors very well to care for the sick in our society. We do not pay them to run our society. They have used fear to tell us it is our fault. They have not done their job to prepare for the second wave; they have been praying for a vaccine that, if it comes, will come at earliest in the middle of next year.
The damage to our society is massive. It has devastated our societal fabric, our individual mental health, our children’s education, our economy, every other doctor’s treatment of any disease other than Covid-19 (i.e. heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, joint replacement, cancer, Alzheimer’s, addictions, mental health).
COVID-19 is deadly to people with multiple comorbidities and compromised immune systems (most of these folks are seniors). In fact, in Alberta for example, over 90 % of the deaths have been seniors with an average age of 83 with three comorbidities. These people need to be protected. COVID-19 is not deadly to almost everyone else, including seniors without comorbidities. So, everyone else should live their lives and simply stay home if they are sick.
Selling fear is what we are doing. If our hospitals are being overwhelmed, it is because our MOH did not do their jobs for the past six months in preparing capacity to match the second wave. Time for doctors to stop making press releases to blame the citizens and to do their jobs like they should have all summer.
David Redman is a retired Head of Emergency Management Alberta.
Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash.