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 21st, 2020: Foreigner, Pebbles Flintstone, and Worn-Out Can Openers

I have learned, over the years, that my subconscious sends me messages through song lyrics. At that precise moment when I become aware that I have a particular song running through my head, the lyrics usually have some sort of meaning—something that I’m not consciously thinking about, but which my subconscious is trying to tell me.

For example, this morning (feeling distinctly unrested after a fitful, disturbed sleep filled with nightmarish dreams), I was thinking about the fact that I have not had a dental checkup or cleaning since the pandemic started. And at that very moment, I became aware of that the Foreigner song, Cold As Ice, was running through my head. And, at the exact moment that I became aware that that song was playing in my memory, the lyrics were:

Some day you’ll pay…

—Foreigner, Cold As Ice

Sometimes, I have to spend a little time puzzling out what my subconscious is trying to tell me, but not today! It’s rare that I get such a clear internal message, but it does happen.

Of course, I have recently been listening non-stop to the Spa music stream on CalmRadio.com. Ironically, I first learned the existence of Calm Radio when it was playing as the background music stream in a Second Life store, while I was busy doing a little virtual retail therapy! It was so soothing (even the commercials were soothing!), that I purchased a subscription when the pandemic started, an additional tool in my anti-anxiety arsenal.

And, of course, I now become aware at times that I have an instrumental song from Calm Radio’s spa channel running through my head—but alas, there are no lyrics to puzzle over to figure out what it means, though! When it does happen, I usually take it as a signal from my subconscious that I am feeling stressed out, and that I need to listen to more Calm Radio, or do something else to seek some inner peace.

Along with dentist appointments, I have also cancelled regular sessions with my hairstylist. My hair is now at an irritating middle ground: long enough that my bangs hand over my eyes at times and even touch my nose, yet still too short for a proper ponytail or man bun!

So, among my online purchases from Walmart, I ordered a set of two plastic headbands, which will at least keep my hair back and out of the way in the interim. I may yet decide to attend my next virtual work meeting in Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, or Zoom rocking a Pebbles Flintstone look!

I have now worn out not one, but two manual can openers since the pandemic started. It is now a frustrating struggle to get a can of soup open for supper, spending several minutes going back and forth between the two worn-out, dull can openers, trying to get a tin open! I ordered two replacement can openers in my last grocery pick-up trip to Walmart, but I still have to dig through the bags of groceries I unceremoniously dumped next to my kitchen table to find them. I did a cursory initial search, but no joy. (I might have accidentally left them in my car, or perhaps Walmart screwed up my order. If I cannot locate them today, after unpacking all my groceries properly, I will place an order for replacement can openers via Amazon, and make do with what I have until they arrive via Canada Post.)

Oh, and I am not going on strike this year. The latest proposal from the university administration was approved in a ratification vote by members of the faculty union. Whew! So I have one less thing to worry about, at least.


Meanwhile, the coronavirus pandemic is going rapidly from bad to worse here in Manitoba, and all across Canada (except the Maritime provinces). The town of Steinbach, which last weekend held a now-infamous anti-mask rally which I blogged about here and here, has been especially hard hit. CBC News reported yesterday:

Manitoba health officials say there are 438 new COVID-19 cases Friday and listed nine more deaths, including a man in his 20s, bringing the provincial death toll to 207…the man in his 20s is the youngest person to die of the illness in Manitoba.

A record 281 COVID-19 patients are in hospital, with 43 of them in intensive care.

The 10-day test positivity rate in the Steinbach health district is at 40 per cent, and there have been 24 Steinbach deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, Roussin said.

Winnipeg’s test positivity is at 13.7 per cent.

“When you’re looking at something like 40 per cent … this is a very concerning number,” Roussin said.

With a population of just over 21,000, the Steinbach health district has among the most COVID-19 cases per capita in Canada.

In recent days, Roussin and the premier have both chastised the 100-plus people at a Steinbach protest against the provincewide code red restrictions on the weekend.

Protesters at the anti-mask rally in Steinbach last weekend (source: Austin Grabish/CBC)

Meanwhile, there was an arrest at an Alberta Costco, where a covidiot refused to wear a face mask. Another shopper captured it on their cellphone, and a second covidiot posted the video to YouTube, with the statement “Costco has gone full Nazi” in the video description.

One commenter tweeted this response to the arrest, expressing a sentiment to which I subscribe wholeheartedly:

It’s weird that the same people who want to be able to shoot trespassers on their farm property think that Costco stores shouldn’t have the right to tell people that they have to wear masks on Costco property. Pick a lane.

Stay healthy and stay sane!