Friday, April 24, 2020

Lockdown measures are like having a "no peeing" section in a swimming pool.

I have a lot of empathy for those who are upset with current lockdown measures, there is a lot of damage being done.  And I'm not just talking small scale personal pain and discomfort either.  The UN is now warning of a global famine of Biblical proportions due to global lockdown measures.

Economics and human health are not mutually exclusive constructs, each one impacts the other. 

Harvard's School of Public Health did a study which determined that the financial crisis of 2008-2010 was directly responsible for the deaths of at least 260,000 people worldwide due to cancer.  Ultimately our response to the Coronavirus pandemic could spawn even deadlier pandemics, in starvation, cancer, suicides, domestic violence related homicides and likely many many more.

Further and more importantly:  How effective are the lockdown measures we're taking? 

Given the essential nature of the supply chain, not very in my opinion.  And proof is the continued climb of cases and deaths.  I know people are upset when they hear or read about a protest, or of people not obeying the rules about congregating and distancing.  But thinking cleary its obvious these are small potatoes when we have warehouses and fulfillment centres operating seven days a week, twenty four hours a day.

The supply chain is essential, of that there can be no doubt.  If it were to be shut down one can barely begin to imagine the chaos that would ensue in large cities after grocery shelves had been picked clean. 

The supply chain involves enormous warehouses and fulfillment centres, large scale processing plants with workers standing shoulder to shoulder.  PPE is no panacea, one has to be trained on how to use it properly, with no skin contacting the outer material.  Even with proper training mistakes can and do happen. 

Current measures for warehouse and meat processing type facilities (as well as many others) is to screen workers by checking their temperatures.  Obviously this will catch a lot of the symptomatic cases, but is completely  useless for identifying asymptomatic carriers.  And even when outbreaks occur within a facility there isn't a shut down, with all workers being forced to self-isolate. 

What this means is that, in a city the size of Toronto, thousands and possibly tens of thousands of workers are asymptomatic carriers.  Most readers are likely already aware of the recent study conducted by USC in tandem with LA County's health department.  What they found through randomized testing is that reported case numbers could be off by as much as 55x.  Toronto was recently reported to have ~4,000 active cases, some serious and critical.  What USC's research indicates is the number could be over 200,000 in reality. 

The reason these cases aren't being identified now?  The data is indicating that 99% of people carrying the virus aren't getting sick.

They're going to and from work, taking transit and Uber, shopping at grocery stores and pharmacies, buying gas.  We all know the advice about frequent hand washing and to avoid touching eyes, nose, mouth of course.  But consider smokers, hand to mouth hand to mouth...for a pack a day habit that's 25 times a day of repeated hand to mouth contact. 

Despite the enormous strain smoking puts on the health care system, to say nothing of all the lives lost, no government has ever seriously considered or debated banning smoking the way gatherings of more than 5 people have been outlawed now.  But that's a topic for another blog post. 

Ultimately this is the reason I view our lockdown measures to be little more than a no peeing section in a large swimming pool, and why death and case numbers continue to climb.  Its not that we're doing nothing, Sweden by contrast is allowing peeing in pretty much every part of the pool to extend the admittedly gross metaphor.  Will difusion see Canada catch up with Sweden on a per capita basis?  Only time will tell.

There's good and bad news in all the new data coming out.  The good news is that for younger and otherwise healthy individuals the overall mortality rate for the coronavirus is likely less than 0.5% and possibly as low as 0.1%, or about the same as the common flu. 

The bad news is that for the elderly and/or health compromised, this thing is out there and hyper vigilance is needed.  Even ordering groceries and other products on line does not enusre safety...Amazon's fulfillment centres have had outbreaks, including in Canada, but they're still open.  Authorities are reccomending wiping down all packaging and contents, but even with those measures they only say that it "should" be sufficient. 

Its a scary time, obey the rules and let's pray for a return to normal soon.  In the meantime, if you see someone breaking a rule or not following guidelines to the letter, try to be never know what people are coping with, and besides, its nothing compared with all the asympotmatic carriers out and about who work in the borader supply chain.

Peace all.


Anonymous said...

the idea of physical distancing is not to reduce infections. it is to reduce the speed at which the infections occur in order to prevent overwhelming the health care system.


Gordie Canuk said...

Precisely my point anon....we're not stopping the spread, we're just slowing it down some....the pee in the pool is moving slowly from the peeing section to the non peeing section.

Which puts us in a precarious situation, the longer lockdown measures are in place, the more death, pain and suffering continue in marginlized say nothing of the 300,000 deaths per day the UN is forecasting by the end of this year from starvation due to the fallout of a broken global economy.