Pandemic Diary, November 29th, 2020: How People’s Ignorance, Stupidity and Hatred Are Making the Pandemic Much, Much Worse

I watched this video of today’s anti-mask protest in Calgary today, with hundreds of people in attendance, and have to say it: I no longer recognize my country.

Add to the mix reports that Good Friday sales brought out floods of shoppers to Calgary’s shopping malls (a worker at Chinook Mall posted a video of the crowds to her Twitter feed). CBC News reported:

Despite new provincial restrictions introduced this week, large crowds descended on Chinook Centre during Black Friday sales — and Calgary police say a couple of instances quickly got out of control.

Multiple fights broke out Friday evening, police confirmed, and officers escorted a “whole bunch” of unruly patrons out of the facility. No charges were laid.

At this point, Calgary police Staff Sgt. Mike Calhoun said the emphasis remains on education rather than enforcement — but that could change.

“We’re starting on giving warnings,” Calhoun said. “If we’re starting to see [people] not complying, we’ll move to enforcement.”

I predict that Alberta, which broke new records today in COVID-19 diagnoses, hospitalizations, and ICU admissions, is going to see a further COVID-19 surge that will overwhelm hospitals and healthcare systems, in the next 2 to 3 weeks.

Meanwhile, here in Manitoba, Winnipeg police and the RCMP are having their hands full dealing with churches who are willfully disobeying the province-wide pandemic lockdown, which includes a ban on in-person religious gatherings. The Winnipeg Free reported that Manitoba’s largest church was among them:

Winnipeg’s Springs Church is the latest congregation flouting public health orders aimed at protecting Manitobans to lower the number of daily cases of COVID-19.

The largest church in the province held a drive-in service in its parking lot on Lagimodiere Boulevard just north of Fermor Boulevard on Saturday night with plans to hold three more on Sunday.

All four services will be in violation of the province’s public health restrictions for gatherings. Along with ordering the cancellation of all religious gatherings, saying services have to be conducted only virtually, the province has also restricted both indoor and outdoor gatherings to five people.

South-east of the city in the Manitoba Bible Belt town of Steinbach, the RCMP moved in block people from attending services at the Church of God Restoration, which has already been slapped with several fines. Global News reported:

Manitoba RCMP blocked the parking lot of a church that was trying to host a service Sunday.

Global News reporters on the scene heard RCMP officers telling people if they walk into the parking lot toward the Church of God Restoration, which is south of Steinbach they will be fined.

There were about 150 or so cars lined up down the road outside the church with people sitting in their cars.

There are at least 10 RCMP cars with officers walking in the area.

The province banned all faith-based gatherings as part of the level red pandemic restrictions put in place on Nov. 12 while COVID-19 cases skyrocketed in the province.

The Southern Health Region, where the church is located, had 1,126 active novel coronavirus cases Saturday — 1,885 people have recovered since the virus reached the province, while 56 have died.

As of Saturday, 76 were in hospital.

Steinbach as recently as two weeks ago, had a test positivity rate of 40 per cent.

Scott Billeck, a local reporter for the Winnipeg Sun newspaper, shared on Twitter an example of the hate mail and death threats he says he now receives on a regular basis, simply for reporting the news about the coronavirus pandemic in Manitoba:

And, in the CanadaCoronavirus community on Reddit, somebody from Toronto shared a flyer he had received, that is filled with so much misinformation, disinformation, and crackpot conspiracy theories, that it boggles the mind:

Wikipedia’s entry on the Plandemic “documentary” cited in this handout states:

Plandemic refers to a pair of 2020 conspiracy theory videos produced by conspiracist Mikki Willis which promote falsehoods and misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. They feature Judy Mikovits, a discredited former researcher who has been described as an anti-vaccine activist despite her denial, and many others.

The first video became viral, making it one of the most widespread pieces of COVID-19 misinformation. It was soon removed by multiple platforms.

Snopes.com, the internet’s definitive fact-checking website, has debunked a collection of Plandemic-related claims here. The Conversation website published an article titled Coronavirus, ‘Plandemic’ and the seven traits of conspiratorial thinking, which outlines seven distinctive traits of conspiratorial thinking; the Plandemic “documentary” offers textbook examples of all seven.

The seven traits of conspiratorial thinking. John Cook, CC BY-ND image (source article)

People’s hatred, ignorance, and stupidity are making the coronavirus pandemic worse—and it’s not just happening in the United States! All of the examples I share with you in this blogpost happened in Canada. The Canadian federal, provincial, and municipal governments have not politicized the pandemic as Republicans and Trump supporters did in the U.S., and most governments have worked according to the science-based recommendations made by the doctors and infectious disease experts advising them. However, all levels of government are now fighting an uphill battle to beat back the veritable tsunami of ignorant misinformation (and deliberately-planted disinformation) that has taken hold of our social media.

I am deeply worried that, over the next four to six weeks, we are going to see an unprecedented spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths that will bring our hospitals and healthcare systems, here and all across North Aamerica, to the breaking point.


And late yesterday evening, I received the first news that someone I follow on Twitter has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is now in hospital:

GermanRifter is a VR enthusiast whom I follow on Twitter for his posts; he lives in Stuttgart, Germany. I don’t know him personally, but this lit a fire under me to start work on a document outlining my requests and wishes in the event of my death (COVID-19 or otherwise). I am already working with a lawyer who is drawing up a will, a financial power of attorney, and a healthcare power of attorney. I have already begun writing up a document and making arrangements with six key contact people, who will know what to do with my blog and my virtual possessions in the event I become incapacitated, or (God forbid) die.

I have even gone so far as to issue a updated call for people who would like to inherit one of my Second Life avatars via my will! (Twenty of them are now spoken for, but I still have many that I would like to give good homes to in the event of my death. It would give me great pleasure to know that my avatars will live on after me!)

The COVID-19 pandemic (being made worse by people’s hateful, ignorant, and stupid behaviour) is forcing all of us to confront our mortality, and to plan ahead for worst case scenarios.

Stay healthy and stay sane in these trying times—and fight the misinformation and conspiracy theories wherever you encounter them!

Pandemic Diary: November 26th, 2020: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like (a COVID) Christmas…

Today, Manitoba’s top doctor reminded us that we all need to prepare for a Christmas which we will only be able to share with the members of our immediate household (and, in my case, for the first time in all my Christmases, alone):

The 5-day COVID-19 test positivity rate in Manitoba is almost 15%; in the Mennonite Bible Belt town of Steinbach, it is still hovering around 40%.

Despite this, the Steinbach Church of God still stubbornly plans to go ahead with in-person services, despite receiving several fines to date (since that article was written, the church has been issued a third, larger fine). It should probably come as no surprise that the Steinbach Church of God’s minister, Tobias Tissen, was a speaker at a now-notorious anti-mask rally held in Steinbach on November 14th (which I blogged about here).

Anti-mask rally held in the Mennonite Bible Belt town of Steinbach today (Source: CTV News/Danton Unger): no social distancing and not a face mask in sight

Meanwhile, a woman in a Kelowna, British Columbia, thrift store was arrested for entering the store without a facemask, refusing to leave, then screaming at and assaulting two police officers who were called to the scene:

And 30-year-old Jordan Alex Taylor knocked over and repeatedly punched a Walmart employee in Dawson Creek, B.C., who requested that he wear a facemask in the store (police reviewing the store’s surveillance video were able to identify Jordan, and later arrested him for the assault; you can view a 20-second video of the attack, captured by a nearby shopper’s cellphone, courtesy of the CBC).

All of which is slowly but surely, eroding my faith in humanity. The coronavirus pandemic is truly bringing out the worst, most odious impulses in some people. I look at the three examples I listed above and think: whatever happened to people thinking about the public good, instead of just themselves?

Has it always been like this, and it just took a pandemic to bring it to the surface? Has social media like Facebook played a role in this? Has our education system failed to produce civic-minded people? I must confess I am at a loss.

The misadventures of Tuesday evening have also underlined an unpalatable truth: that no matter how much care I take, and no matter how many precautions I follow, at any moment something unexpected could happen, that throws all my carefully-laid plans up in the air, and puts me at risk of exposure to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

So, no, I’m not feeling particularly optimistic this evening.

UPDATE Nov. 27th, 2020: This morning’s editorial cartoon in the Winnipeg Free Press pretty much says it all.

And so does this chart, also courtesy of the Winnipeg Free Press:

70% of all COVID-19 deaths in Manitoba happened in November 2020

UPDATED! Pandemic Diary, November 24th, 2020: The Dam Bursts

I first noticed the wet patch in the carpet next to my bed earlier this evening. Thinking that I must have tracked water in from the bathroom or kitchen from wet slippers, I applied a towel to sop up the water. Then a second towel, after which I observed, to my horror, that the water was actually seeping up from UNDERNEATH the carpet!

That was when I opened the door to my interior storage closet, to see a pool of water underneath my hot water heater. After hastily moving some boxes to dry land, I called the emergency number of my apartment complex. 

And so it is that, as of 10:08 p.m. this evening, I am firmly ensconced on my sofa, surrounded by piles of my pandemic preps, wearing an N95 mask, and typing this blogpost entry into my iPad, while a plumber (similarly masked) works to remove my busted hot water heater and replace it with a new one, tasks which he tells me will take an hour or two. (He tells me I’m lucky my water valve didn’t break; otherwise he would have had to shut the water off to the entire apartment building.)

But I am not feeling particularly lucky. That rested feeling I had after my staycation evaporated today, only my second day back at work, and even before the dam burst in my apartment, I had been feeling unwell, anxious, and depressed. I took the afternoon off sick, went back to bed, and slept until 9:00 p.m., when I woke to discover I had other problems.

I am feeling exhausted, afraid, and angry that despite essentially making myself a prisoner in my own apartment as the pandemic crisis goes from bad to worse, that this has happened, and that this puts me at risk of contracting a COVID-19 infection from another person, the plumber who is now invading my personal space, my man cave, my safe place. He is the first person I have let inside my apartment since mid-March, when I started working in self-isolation from home for my university library system. 

(Hang on a minute…the plumber’s welding just set off my smoke alarm.)

I am NOT a happy camper. 

UPDATE 11:32 p.m.: After the plumber packed up his things and left, I pulled out my Clorox wipes and disinfected anything and everything he touched (my water taps, my smoke alarm, my circuit breaker box, all my door handles, etc.). Unfortunately, he and I have been within 6 feet/2 metres of one another; my apartment is so small and so cluttered that it was unavoidable at certain points. I have been liberally applying hand sanitizer to my hands throughout, in an overabundance of caution.

After he left, I opened the patio door of my bedroom and a window in my living room, put my parka on, and let the cold air circulate through my apartment, just to be on the safe side. I laid down several towels in succession to sop up the water in my bedroom carpet.

As I was stamping down the final towel, I looked up, and saw a deer—an antlered young buck—staring at me through my open patio door. I stopped, and we stared at each other silently for a full minute, until he turned and wandered away. (He left before I could grab my cellphone to take a picture.)

This is not an unusual occurrence; I live close to wooded areas they frequent, and I have sometimes seen a wayward buck or doe in in the vicinity of my apartment, or during my pre-pandemic evening commute from work, usually in the late evening or early night.

But I took it as an omen. Whether a good omen or a bad one, I cannot yet say. 

Pandemic Diary, November 22nd, 2020: Fuck You, Donald Trump

One of my quality-of-life metrics is the number of really good laugh-until-you-cry moments per year (obviously, they have been in rather short supply this year).

The health benefits of laughter are already well known:

Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.

Laughter boosts the immune system. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.

Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.

Laughter protects the heart. Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

Laughter burns calories. Okay, so it’s no replacement for going to the gym, but one study found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn approximately 40 calories—which could be enough to lose three or four pounds over the course of a year.

Laughter lightens anger’s heavy load. Nothing diffuses anger and conflict faster than a shared laugh. Looking at the funny side can put problems into perspective and enable you to move on from confrontations without holding onto bitterness or resentment.

Laughter may even help you to live longer. A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer.

Yesterday evening, while scrolling through my Twitter feed and clicking on Twitter’s suggestions for trending topics, I chanced upon the following funny tweet by Brian Guest:

I filled out a Trump survey trashing him a week ago, and in the NAME field I put Fuck You as my name. Forgot about it. Then just got this email out of the blue. And I’ve never been more baffled or laughed as hard as I just have. I thought he emailed truly addressing me like this:

Brian followed up with:

For 10 minutess I stared at my phone in awe—thinking this crazy man just tried to connect with supporters by droppin F-bombs in a campaign email! I was shocked. Mad. Sad. It was so unbelievable [yet] believable at the same time. Then the wave of laughs, realizing I just pranked myself so hard.

I then spent the next 20 minutes reading through all the comments which people left on Brian’s post, some of which were also extremely funny:

And the whole time, I was sitting at my computer, reading through all the posts, just absolutely HOWLING, with tears of laughter running down my face! (I’m quite sure the woman who lives upstairs from me in my apartment complex thought I had completely lost it.)

It was the best laugh I have had in months, people, perhaps all year. and let me tell you, in the middle of province-wide, code-red pandemic lockdown, I very much needed that laugh.

Stay healthy and stay sane in these trying times!