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!

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: October 31st, 2020

No trick or treating this year! (source: Government of Ontario)

Normally, on the evening of Hallowe’en, my best friend John and I have a regular routine to avoid the pesky little trick-or-treaters going door-to-door in our suburban neighbourhood. Instead, we leave our homes (carefully turning off our entrance lights to indicate that no one is home and zero candy is forthcoming), and we both decamp to a local restaurant for a leisurely meal and some conversation over a beer or two. We’ve been doing this for years,

Unfortunately, this year, there will be neither the trick-or-treaters nor the restaurant meal. Yesterday, the provincial health department reported a surge of 480 new cases of COVID-19, almost all of them occurring in and near the city of Winnipeg:

The latest COID-19 statistics from Manitoba (source)

Three more seniors have died from COVID-19 at Parkview Place, one of several seniors homes, hospitals, and schools where outbreaks are currently taking place. While the five-day testing positivity rate in the province as a whole is 8.6% (that is, of all COVID-19 tests conducted within the past five days, 8.6 out of every 100 people have tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 virus), the 5-day positivity rate in Winnipeg itself is higher, at 9.7%.

Effective Monday, the province has established an emergency, code-red lockdown in and around the city of Winnipeg (affecting approximately 780,000 people). What this means is:

  • Hospitals and healthcare services will continue to offer urgent and emergency surgeries, procedures and diagnostic services, but elective and non-urgent surgery and diagnostic services will be postponed. All hospital visitation has been suspended, with exceptions made on a case-by-case basis for patients receiving end-of-life care, in labour and delivery, and in pediatrics.
  • Public and private gatherings (both inside and outside) are restricted to a maximum of five people. “Limiting contacts outside the household is strongly encouraged.”
  • All restaurants and bars are closed, except for take-out, drive-through, and delivery.
  • All indoor and outdoor sports and recreational facilities, group sports, bowling alleys, etc, are closed. Gyms and fitness centres are restricted to 25% of regular full capacity, and all exercisers must wear masks.
  • Non-essential retail stores will be allowed to remain open at 25% of regular full capacity (or 5 people, whatever is higher). Grocery stores and pharmacies will operate at 50 per cent capacity. “eService, pick-up or delivery [are] recommended whenever possible. Encourage limiting the number of people from each household who go shopping.”
  • Casinos, arcades, gaming establishments, VLTs, movie theatres, concert halls, museums, galleries, and libraries must close (this includes the three libraries that have reopened at the University of Manitoba).
  • Community, cultural and religious gatherings will be limited to 15% capacity or 100 people, whichever is lower.

Notable in its absence from this list is shutdowns of K-12 schools, where the provincial advice is to continue blended (in-person and online) learning, and to ensure as much physical distancing as possible between students when in class. However, given the way things are going, I will not be surprised if the lockdown is extended to both public and private elementary, junior high and senior high schools as well. (One Winninpeg chool, Centre Scolaire Léo-Rémillard, now has 14 coronavirus cases, has 4 classes in self-isolation as a precaution, and has already decided to move its Grade 12 classes completely to remote learning.)

All the leaves have fallen from the trees, there is a cold westerly wind, and the sky is overcast and grey. There is already snow on the ground, and below-freezing temperatures. November, December, and January are going to be difficult months for us here in Manitoba.

Photo by Thom Holmes on Unsplash

Pandemic Diary, October 11th, 2020: Things Are Starting to Go Sideways

I know, I said that I would stop blogging until November 1st, but I really need to vent.

I called my mother, who is now in her eighties, on Friday to tell her that I would not be able to come this see her and her husband this long weekend (Monday is Canadian Thanksgiving; we have ours a month earlier than the Americans because by late November, Canada is pretty much already covered in snow). “Things are starting to go sideways” she said. I agreed.

I have driven across the city of Winnipeg to their life lease seniors complex every few weeks, to chat with them face-to-face while practicing rigorous social distancing. They have an enclosed balcony on the main floor, by which they let me in (so I do not have to traverse the common areas in the building) and I sit in their balcony while they sit in the living room, and we talk.

I have not joined them for one of Mom’s homecooked dinners since this coronavirus pandemic started. And a normal Thanksgiving dinner is out of the question.

As you can see, things are starting to go sideways here in Manitoba:

While my province was spared the worst of the first wave of COVID-19, we will not be spared in this second wave of cases. Yesterday, we hit an all-time record of 97 new cases of COVID-19 in the province, and 1,049 active cases, with a 3% test positivity rate:

The vast majority of new cases over the past few weeks has been in my city of Winnipeg.* So, instead of spending a convivial Thanksgiving dinner with my mother and stepfather, I am stuck working away in isolation in my apartment, suffering from a bad case of acedia which I am trying to push through, and desperate to meet some firm deadlines for a some work projects for my university library system.

My grandparents’ personal care home, Parkview Place in downtown Winnipeg, has reported at least 34 cases of COVID-19 among the residents and staff, with at least 5 seniors dying from the coronavirus. I told my mother that I am grateful that my grandparents both died fifteen years ago, and did not live to see this day. She agreed.

Things are starting to go sideways, and I am angry, anxious, depressed, and afraid.

And yes, I had said that I wouldn’t be blogging until November 1st. You know what? Fuck that. I am going to use this blog to vent my frustration to the world at what is happening to me, and what is happening to all of us. And if that means I have to scrawl a Pandemic Diary blogpost every single fucking day, to get some of that anger, anxiety, depression, and fear out of my system, so that I can focus on my work for the day, then so be it.

*I know, you might think this is absolutely nothing compared to hotspots like Florida, which reported 5,570 new cases today, but we only have 1.3 million people in the entire province, three-quarters of whom live in and near Winnipeg, where COVID-19 cases are surging. Trust me, this is a big deal here, especially after we largely escaped the first wave of COVID-19. And the numbers of SARS-CoV-2 infections are spiking in other provinces, such as Ontario next door, where they have imposed new restrictions in three areas. The U.S. states immediately south of Manitoba, North Dakota and South Dakota, have also seen a huge spike in cases. Thank God there’s a closed international border between that particular clusterfuck and us here.