This is my 15th weekly COVID-19 update. Subscribe to Dr. Dina
Well, hello friends!
Welcome back for our 15th update on COVID-19.
I promise you that one day I will share a fun and exciting newsletter with you, filled with happy topics and uplifting stories. For now, we chat about the pandemic.
I hear from so many of you each week that these updates help you understand what is going on and make sense of the data. I am thrilled to be able to help. You are welcome to forward this to your loved ones or share them on social media. I am all about empowering and educating you with real science and evidence. There is undoubtedly a ton of nonsense and garbage out there.
As we do weekly, I will share the bad news, followed by the good news (there is GOOD NEWS now!). I will end with my silver lining of the week.
How is the world doing this week?
There have been over 105 million cases of COVID-19 reported worldwide. Over 2.2 million people have died from COVID-19.
I still hear of people saying COVID is a hoax, and people are not dying from it. Check out this excellent site. It is very telling and terrifying. You can put in your country of choice and see how COVID deaths compare to deaths from pretty much every other illness. It is fascinating to play around and see how some countries are faring better than others: Compare Australia and the U.S. Canada and Brazil. So much to learn here.
In the U.S., troops will be deployed to vaccinate Americans in 100 mass vaccination centers. They seem to have plenty of vaccines to go around.
Last week we reviewed Israel’s mass vaccination strategy. They are hopeful that they can begin slowly easing their lockdown stemming from new variant outbreaks.
Following in Canada’s footsteps, as of February 15, travelers arriving in the U.K. from a COVID hotspot will need to quarantine in a hotel to avoid new variants from causing outbreaks. Travelers will have to cover the cost of their ‘hotel stay,’ patrolled by security guards.
You might have heard a large stimulus package in the United States being pushed amid signs of a weakening American economy. Many industries are suffering, including restaurants, manufacturers, retailers, and even health care. According to President Biden,
“At that rate, it’s going to take ten years until we hit full employment. That’s not hyperbole. That’s a fact.” There are almost 10 million fewer jobs in the U.S. than before the pandemic.
There have been over 450,000 deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S, and over 3,000 people are dying daily still, despite a considerable push to vaccinate. Over 500 people have died each day in California in the last month.
We may see a spike in cases after Super Bowl Sunday. There are significant concerns that people will get together in groups, as they did at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Can’t we just stay home, people? Eyes are on Florida in particular, as the game will be played in Tampa. Attendance at the stadium will be capped at 1/3 capacity to ensure physical distancing. We will see if this leads to a rise in cases. Fingers crossed.
In Canada, we have seen over 800,000 cases of COVID-19. Over 20,000 Canadians have died from the illness.
The Prime Minister still promises 6 million shots by the end of March. I sure hope this is true and will remain cautiously optimistic. The vast majority of people at high risk that I know (such as the elderly and health care providers who are at higher risk of exposure) have not received the vaccine or have received only one, with a known delay in getting the second shot. We are not yet sure how long we can delay the second vaccine and still maintain immunity. It will be a real shame if people who received one already do not receive the second quickly and repeat the series.
Dr. Dina, what is the good news?
Probably the most exciting news of all for many parents in Ontario is the news that much of Ontario is heading back to school this week, save for kids in Toronto, Peel, and York, who will return after Family Day.
After a long few months at home, kids and parents alike are eager to be with their peers, out of the house, and experiencing school in the traditional sense. I know a lot of parents are breathing a sigh of relief. Especially when the weather is cold, being at home can be very challenging, mentally and physically.
Like we spoke about last week, our lockdowns and restrictions have been effective at preventing community spread. The number of COVID patients in B.C. hospitals is the lowest since November. In Ontario, we have the lowest test positivity rate in months, at around 2.5%. Quebec and Nova Scotia are starting to relax restrictions.
We are starting to see more COVID-19 variant strains from the United Kingdom and South Africa, but cases have not risen as quickly as we were concerned about. If we remain vigilant and cautious, we may prevent a third wave due to these strains.
Who is getting COVID-19 now?
You’ll note it is under the ‘good news’ category. Why is this?
You’ll see the vast majority of people with COVID are young. 16% are children. Another 50% are less than 50 years of age. Why is this good? The risk of dying from COVID is much higher in the elderly. Though some younger adults get very sick from this illness, the vast majority do not. Now, I think many of these infections can be prevented through the public health measures we know so well (repeat after me: wash your hands, keep your distance, stay home if you’re sick, wear a mask). But at least the numbers are down, AND kids are heading back to school soon, and we can all be excited about that!
COVID has spread across the country. We in Ontario have fared relatively well, considering an early and bad start.
Last week, I received many questions about the vaccine role out in Israel, and ‘why can’t Canada do the same?’
Mass vaccine rollout will have a significant impact on the safety and health of Canadians.
In Ontario, around 300,000 doses of the vaccine have been given. Most of these vaccines have been given to residents and staff in long-term homes, hospital healthcare workers, Indigenous persons, and essential caregivers.
As vaccine delivery is ramped up, we need to plan strategically and intelligently to make the best use of our vaccines and be efficient.
Israel has been leading with the most significant number of vaccine doses administered per person, with more than 40 doses per 100 people. As a small country, it is even more impressive that they are the fourth in the world for the total number of vaccines given. We can learn a lot from their program.
According to the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, there are six critical elements of the successful mass vaccination campaign in Israel. These can be applied to our rollout. We have a model that works. Why reinvent the wheel?
Alright, we have lots to be thankful for this week. The numbers are down. Kids are heading back to school.
That leads us to my silver lining for the week.
It’s about school and kids.
The pandemic has undoubtedly taught me a lot of lessons.
One of them is how gosh darn hard teachers work. And how they are the glue that keeps our kids and our families chugging along.
Could you imagine having to home school forever? Not virtual school with a teacher teaching on the other end of the screen, but home school.
Like, you are the teacher?!
I suspect 99% of you have goosebumps.
I could never.
I don’t have the patience. I don’t have the willpower. I don’t have the fortitude.
My silver lining for the week is the awareness of just how incredible it is that my kids (and most of yours) live in a place where they have access to high-quality education. For most of us that education is free and accessible, and excellent. That is a blessing that a considerable percentage of the world still does not have.
We have the privilege of having access to high-quality virtual schools. If you are reading this, you likely have a computer or other device and access to the internet. Your kids probably do too. A lot of kids do not.
As we speak about often, impoverished and racialized minorities have seen the brunt of this pandemic. Not only do these groups get infected with COVID-19 more often and die more often from the illness, but these same groups may have less access to virtual education. Many of us take for granted that our kids have access to computers, tablets, and internet connection. This is not so for so many of the world’s children, including some kids in our communities. In a time of virtual learning, this puts so many at a significant disadvantage.
My family and many of you are lucky and blessed. We should savor that one of our biggest challenges these last months is having to be present for our kids to soak in this education. And you know what? Most kids continue to love school and love learning whether they are at home or in the classroom. Good teachers allow that to happen. Thank you, educators!
Alright, that’s a wrap for this week.
As always, I welcome your feedback, your love, and your inspiration.
Dr. Dina Kulik