COVID

COVID is like the rain—we’re tired of it, but it’s not tired of us.

And just in time for the holidays, there’s a new COVID variant. Only folks are a little confused. The new variant—called Omicron—sounds like something out of a Transformers movie.

No, Ryan, that really doesn’t help.

The province is bringing back some of the mask and capacity restrictions, but only in the Northern and Fraser Health Regions.

They should probably bring them back here, too. VanIsle now has the second-highest number of active cases in BC.

Dr. David Forest told CTV News that  most people with COVID in VanIsle hospitals a few weeks ago were from the mainland. Now, most of them are local.

We don’t know much about the Omicron variant. We don’t know if it will be worse than Delta, which is currently the dominant strain in BC.

But we can be pretty sure that the BC government will put the economy ahead of protecting people again. Once again, Horgan’s crew will dither and delay before making much-needed health orders, likely resulting in another avoidable spike in cases.

Travellers who come into Canada will have to get tested at the airport when they land. They’ll also have to quarantine until they get a negative result.

But for now, the government isn’t doing much to stop the Omicron that is already here.

So it’s a good thing Islanders are good at taking care of each other. Yes, people on VanIsle are still getting sick. We’re tired because we hoped COVID was over, and it’s not.

But we can hunker down. We can make smaller Christmas plans that are fun but also keep folks safe.

And hey, maybe it’s time to buy every one we love a festive N95 mask.

They make good stocking stuffers!

Every November 11th at 11 a.m., in large cities and small towns across the country, many Canadians gather for two minutes of silence to honour the fallen, to remember the horror of war and the need for peace.

YouTube video
A beautiful rendition of the Last Post on bugle Credit: Youtube

These Canadians celebrate Remembrance Day, originally called Armistice Day. They get together to remember uncles or grandfathers who fought in the First World War. Men who sacrificed for their country.

Whether they gather at the National War Memorial in Ottawa or school gyms, people young and old listen to a bugle play the Last Post. Someone recites In Flanders Fields, and almost everyone wears poppies.

For other Canadians, it’s just another holiday—a day off. A time to rake the leaves.

For a small number of COVID anti-vaxxers, Remembrance Day and the poppies are just something to exploit to score political points.

Theo Fleury’s tweet
Credit: Twitter

Unfortunately, former NHL hockey player Theo Fleury is one of those anti-vaxxers. Ironically, the feisty former right winger for the Calgary Flames has joined the extreme political right-wing. His recent tweet that said Canadian WWI soldiers died to defend some crazy anti-vax, anti-mandate ideas are absurd and dangerous.

Fleury is also ignorant of basic Canadian history.

The fact is the Spanish Flu, not gunshots, killed many of the 50,000 Canadian soldiers who died in WWI. We don’t know precisely how many. But we know that the flu killed half of the American WWI soldiers who died in the war that was supposed to end all wars. So Canadian flu fatalities were probably similar.

That’s on top of the 65,000 Canadians who died from the 1918 flu back here in Canada.

I’m sure that those soldiers and their families back home would have ​​jumped at the chance to get a flu vaccine.

But as Fleury’s tweet shows, pro-virus/anti-vax/anti-mandate blowhards will go to almost any length to spread their nonsense propaganda.

How dare they sully the legacy of brave Canadian soldiers with their nonsense.

Have they no shame!

Nurses be warned; if you use your professional title to oppose COVID-19 public health orders, you could lose your license.

In a CBC News story reported on November 2, the BC College of Nurses and Midwives (BCCNM) said it issued the warning following reports of unvaccinated nurses opening new clinics.

“There have been numerous media reports over the past days and weeks regarding activities of BCCNM registrants who participate, organize, or agitate against public health orders in place to deal with COVID-19,” the college said in a statement.

BCCNM is a health regulator. That means the government has given the BCCNM the power to set and enforce the rules for five professions — licensed practical nurses, midwives, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, and registered psychiatric nurses. The BCCNM is legally obliged to protect the public by establishing eligibility rules for these professions. To practice legally, all of these health care workers must be licensed and registered by the BCCNM.

According to the organization’s website, “regulation helps protect the public by ensuring registrants provide care that is safe, competent, ethical, and meets the standards the college sets.”

Under the Health Professions Act in BC, the BCCNM can investigate registrants who may be in breach of the college’s Professional and Practice Standards.

For example, any registrant spreading COVID-19 misinformation and using their professions to go against public health orders could have their license suspended or be ordered to take remedial education. They could also be fined up to $2,000 or jailed for not more than 6 months.

Credit: ComoxValley.News staff

As of last week, 3,300 health care workers, or 2.6% of the entire provincial health care workforce, were on unpaid leave after not meeting the Oct. 26 deadline for mandatory vaccination. Only 678 of these unvaccinated workers are on VanIsle.

As reported by the CBC, some unvaccinated nurses are going rogue.

A woman named Svetlana Dalla Lana claims on Facebook to be working with an informal group of unvaccinated nurses trying to open clinics around BC under the name EZRA Wellness.

Charlie Smith of the Georgia Straight reported that “Dalla Lana insisted that Ezra “does NOT represent, support or associate with ANY criminal organizations such as the BC Colleges of Nurses and Midwives”.

Unvaccinated nurses are reportedly also trying to open clinics under the EZRA Wellness banner in Kamloops, Vernon and Castlegar. None yet on the Island.  

The Ezra startup clinic in Kamloops was reportedly shut down by the building’s owner soon after opening because it was sub-leased by another tenant without permission.

BC’s Minister of Health Adrain Dix has warned unvaccinated health care workers that private clinics are not an alternative to continue practicing as normal.

Kamloop’s CFJC reported Dix saying “We made it clear when we made the mandatory vaccination announcement for health care that we would also be engaging and, indeed, instructing the colleges — for example, the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the nursing college, the pharmacists’ college, the dental college, and so on — that, as a condition of license, people would have to be vaccinated.”

“There isn’t any loophole, there isn’t any back door here,” Dix said. “If you want to practice these professions in BC, you’re going to have to be vaccinated.”

Them sounds like fighting words. A confrontation seems inevitable.

The fourth wave hit VanIsle in early August. Back in July, maybe 1 or 2 people a day were diagnosed with COVID. But since then, between 30 and 113 people have gotten a positive test every day. VanIsle’s worst COVID day was October 27.

Now we have more active cases than Northern Health. And Northern Health is so bad they’ve had to ship more than 100 sick people to other parts of the province to get care.

There are some bright spots, though. Roughly 3,000 doctors, nurses, lab techs, and other health care workers were suspended last week for not getting their COVID vaccines. But VanIsle isn’t really affected. Most of those suspensions are in Northern Health and the Interior.

The main hospitals on VanIsle that treat sick COVID patients are still performing all their surgeries, or at least they will be by next week.

COVID rates among kids under 11 shot up when the school year started. But infections in young kids are slowing down. And kids 12 and up who have gotten the vaccine are hardly getting sick at all.

In a news conference on October 28th, Dr. Bonnie Henry said the vaccine “is working extremely well.”

Among kids over 12, “we’ve had very few cases, and we’ve had no hospitalizations. That’s important for us to think about as vaccines are now becoming available for the younger age group as well.”

The vast majority of people who are coming down with COVID now haven’t gotten a vaccine. And lots of those folks are ending up in the hospital.

But recent modelling estimated that we’d have 8,000 cases a day in BC if it weren’t for the vaccines.

And that would be awful.

As Islanders, we’re used to some waves. But this one has been pretty tough, even though parts of life are going back to normal. But we’re about to hit flu season and Christmas parties, so things could get rough again out on the respiratory seas.

So get a flu shot. Keep your mask on. And give your folks the gift of good health for the holidays.

We’re all bloody tired of this. But the idea now is to keep taking care of each other. And we’ve shown over the last year and a half that we know how to do that.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, BC Emergency Health Services flew fourteen more people from northern BC to hospitals in Vancouver and on VanIsle.

Health Minister Adrian Dix put it into perspective in his COVID update on Tuesday: “it’s about nine hundred kilometres by air from Dawson Creek to Victoria.”

That’s a sad way to spend a holiday.

That means a total of 55 people have been airlifted away from their homes because the hospitals where they live are too full of other people with COVID.

Of those 55 patients, 43 had COVID. Forty-two of them were not fully vaccinated. The other 12 folks were sick with something else, but they needed to be airlifted far from home to get the care they needed.

Mike Bernier is the MLA for Peace River South. He represents towns Dawson Creek where COVID is spreading like wildfire.

He says doctors in the south are calling him to tell him that their beds are full of people from the north.

The vaccination rates in his riding are pretty low compared to the rest of the province. And the pro-virus protesters are getting up close and personal. They even showed up at his house.

https://www.facebook.com/MikeBernierBC/posts/4977371858943620

“I’ve been in politics 20 years, so I’m used to being the dartboard,” he told Energetic City, “but it’s become so polarizing, and everybody wants you to take their side.”

Meanwhile, Tofino General Hospital declared a COVID outbreak in its inpatient ward. The emergency department and the rest of the hospital are still open. But when the non-COVID parts of our hospital system have COVID outbreaks, it’s an uncomfortable reminder of how vulnerable we are.

The fourth wave has been the longest, worst one yet on VanIsle.

There is some good news coming, though. Dr. Bonnie Henry announced today that kids as young as five could be getting their COVID vaccines in the next couple of months.

BC’s Get Vaccinated system is now open to register for appointments for five to eleven-year-olds. Parents will be notified as soon as the vaccine is approved and available.

BC’s mandatory vaccine order for long-term care and assisted living workers is now in effect. As of October 12, employees of these facilities must have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or be off work without pay.

Axing otherwise dedicated staff for refusing to get the jab may put some employers in a difficult position, especially since seniors’ care was already experiencing staffing shortages before the pandemic.

It’ll also be tough on some workers unwilling to get the jab, but that is their personal choice.

Pro-virus protestors and anti-vaxxers may argue that this mandate is an infringement of their human rights. That’s why the BC Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender provided guidance on the issue.

It’s an important read.

Though not legally binding, the Human Rights Commissioner’s guidance helps place mandatory vaccines into the broader context of public good and individual rights.  It also provides insight into how the BC Human Rights Tribunal might treat a complaint from an anti-vaxxer about mandatory vaccines.

Govender established five criteria, and here they are in a nutshell.

1)They must be supported by scientific evidence relevant to the specific context.

2) They must be time-limited and regularly reviewed.

3)They must be proportional to the risks they seek to address.

4)They must be necessary due to the lack of less-intrusive alternatives.

5)They must be respectful of privacy to the extent required by law.

Clearly, requiring mandatory vaccines for people who work with seniors in care facilities, our most vulnerable citizens, easily meets the standard set by the Human Rights commissioner. Thousands of seniors have died in care homes across Canada since this pandemic started.

Yeah, this is uncomfortable public policy, and some people may think it invades their personal rights. But we’re sorry, it’s time to take one for the team.

Think about it. A family wanting to visit their elderly loved ones in care facilities has had to show proof of vaccination for months now. So wouldn’t it be absurd to continue permitting unvaccinated staff to care for the same people?

The fourth wave of COVID on Vancouver Island just won’t quit. The bars are open, school is in session, and more people have COVID on VanIsle than ever.

It’s a bit hard to wrap your head around.

Now, parts of BC have been so hard-hit that they’re sending sick patients to other parts of the province.

Five people who are sick with COVID are being flown to VanIsle. They’ll be cared for in COVID ICU wards in Nanaimo and Victoria.

It’s essential to be able to take care of folks in the province. We’re all in this together, after all. But it’s scary that it has gotten this bad.

It’s also scary because VanIsle hospitals were full before the pandemic hit. They were already in a crisis. Now they’re absolutely bursting. Doctors, nurses, and other people who work in hospitals are exhausted.

Most of the people who are sick with COVID these days are unvaccinated. In the weekly COVID update, Adrian Dix, BC’s Minister of Health, said it’s not about blaming people for being sick. He just wants people to know how important it is to get the jab.

More than 80% of VanIsle’s population is fully vaccinated now. That means there’s only one place left for the virus to go.

Viruses live by survival of the fittest. And they’re going to infect the people who give them the best chance of surviving. Right now, unvaccinated people give them that chance.

Unvaccinated people like Josh Mellor. He’s a 39-year-old farmer from Duncan with a wife and two kids. He’s also on a ventilator in the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria. His COVID got so bad that he couldn’t breathe on his own.

His wife Miranda is fully vaccinated. As a result, she and the kids are healthy.

She says Josh was on the fence about the vaccine. Now she wishes she had tried harder to get him to talk to his doctor.

There are lots of ways to keep yourself from getting COVID. Wearing a mask is super effective. Hanging out outside also helps. But getting vaccinated gives your body the best fighting chance against COVID.

It’s the best way to stay standing instead of laying on your belly with a tube in your lungs.

If you’re on the fence about the vaccine, talk to a doctor.

Let’s beat the pandemic so we can go back to fixing the regular hospital crisis.

Maxime Bernier is angry.

He’s mad at Justin Trudeau.

He’s mad that Andrew Scheer beat him in the race for the Conservative Party leadership.

He’s still mad that he had to quit being Stephen Harper’s Foreign Minister because his ex-girlfriend told the country that he forgot a briefcase full of Top Secret documents on a train. Remember that?

And he’s mad that powerful people think he’s full of crap.

But that’s no reason to put people’s lives in danger.

Bernier has decided that his People’s Party of Canada (PPC) will be the pro-virus party. He announced that he won’t get the vaccine. He spent an hour on a podcast with an alt-right host talking about how COVID is nonsense.

And now, there are PPC signs stuck in the dirt all over VanIsle. Some of them have big stickers that say, “No vaccine passports.” It looks like the party decided to take this stand after they had all their signs printed—these stickers are an afterthought.

That shows us that Maxime Bernier is just taking advantage of the COVID situation so he can grab power for himself. He saw people out there at these pro-virus rallies and thought, “I can use them to help me win.”

We could say he’s as bad as Trudeau with his power grab, but he’s actually worse.

That’s because Bernier’s anti-mask, anti-lockdown, and anti-vaccine COVID views are dangerous. People could die if they believe these conspiracy theories. People could infect their vulnerable family members, like children and elderly aunts and uncles and mom and dad.

What’s worse is that Bernier is making it easier for far-right fringe groups to get media coverage. He is turning the PPC into a Trojan horse for anti-science extremism and racism.

Bernier and the PPC are using memes that used to be only shared on shady alt-right channels like the Proud Boys and other racist groups. Now those memes are becoming talking points for people at these pro-virus rallies. And now that the PPC is associating with these rallies, regular people might think that the memes are true.

Haven’t we seen this same thing happen recently in a country not too far away?

It’s dangerous. It’s un-Canadian.

Even though we don’t always trust politicians, we tend to think that political parties are a professional thing. When a political party takes a position on something, they make that position seem legitimate and part of the regular political discussions.

Here’s an example. People used to laugh at policies like a wealth tax and universal dental care in Canada, or “Medicare for all” in the US. These days, they’re being discussed on the news and in people’s backyards.

That’s because, after years of being on the fringe, politicians like Jaghmet Singh and Bernie Sanders helped to make these policies legitimate.

You might disagree with these ideas. You might think they are too expensive or just unrealistic. But they are not dangerous.

But right now, Maxime Bernier and his party’s pro-virus positions really are.

People could die, and they are dying. And not just anti-vaxxers, but children and other vulnerable people.

It’s a bit scary.

Because, as Diane Francis said in the Financial Post, the PPC isn’t a political party. It’s a super spreader.

Not all anti-vaxxers are alike. Some oppose vaccine cards, others the vaccines themselves, still others oppose mask requirements and other anti-COVID public health measures.

Anti-vaxxers are entitled to their opinions. But lately, some have started to use threats and violence.

You might have seen news clips of fury-filled American anti-vaxxers screaming and spitting and sometimes getting violent. Well, America’s angry, foolish anti-vaccine movement has snuck across the border like a virus.

Now we’re witnessing irate pro-virus protestors in Canada blocking ambulances and hospitals, cursing and throwing things at politicians, and intimidating business owners. They even forced an entire School District in the North Okanagan and Shuswap region to close down.

It’s serious! These extremists are a terrible influence as we keep fighting this seemingly endless pandemic.

The ugly trend has now reached the Comox Valley.

The owner of the Waverley Hotel in Cumberland, Don McClennan, received death threats after he announced on Facebook that his pub would be following the new mandate and checking everyone’s vaccine passports.

He had to close his business for two days to keep his staff safe.

In a string of hateful online comments, the anonymous, cowardly Victoria-based anti-vaxxer said, “I’m coming after you” and “you know what happens to Nazis.”

Then the language got even more threatening. The individual told McClennan on Facebook that, “You’re going down, and I’m going to be on the right side of history, and I will have an alibi.”

In a CTV News report, McClennan said he has no idea why someone in Victoria targeted his business in Cumberland. However, the comments have left him and his staff shaken.

“We’re very concerned about our business,” he said. “If he just wants to harm us on social media, that’s his own prerogative, but it sounds like he may be wanting to cause damage to my actual business. It’s very concerning.”

An RCMP spokesperson confirmed that they had opened a file and that police take the threats very seriously.

McClennan told CTV News that the vaccine passport mandate has put his staff in a terrible position.

“It’s a lot to put on a small business,” he said. “My staff has been through so much in the last 18 months, they’re literally afraid to have to do this. I’m going to be the one here for the next while asking people to show me their passport because I can’t put my staff through that.”

Beginning Sept 13, many businesses will have to check patrons for vaccine passports. The passports have to prove that folks coming in have at least one dose of vaccine. The businesses include pubs, restaurants, gyms, indoor art, music and sporting events with more than 50 people, casinos, and movie theatres.

By October 24, you won’t be allowed to enter non-essential businesses unless you are fully vaccinated.

The intensity of the anti-vaxxers demonstration will likely get worse as the rules become stricter.

It may be easy to laugh off or dismiss these incidents as one-offs from bad apples. But minimizing or denying the potential violence of these extremists is a big mistake.

While not all pro-virus protestors will become violent, these recent flareups show that some people will use threats and violence as they attempt to overwhelm others with their claims.

Ignoring these increasing violent threats, pretending they don’t exist, is irresponsible and will give unstated permission for further US-style violence and destruction.

Feed stores on Vancouver Island are selling out of Ivermectin.

You read that right.

People have bought so much horse medicine on Vancouver Island that there isn’t any left for the horses. And they’re buying it because they think it will make them better if they get COVID-19.

There is very little medical evidence that Ivermectin will cure COVID. But there’s medical evidence that it could do something else!

It could mess with your little swimmers!

Here’s the thing. Ivermectin is awesome. The people who discovered the drug won a Nobel prize, for crap’s sake.

But do you know what Ivermectin is used for?

It treats awful human diseases like malaria, scabies, and the parasites that cause river blindness. These diseases are caused by worms, not viruses.

How does it treat these diseases?

Well, one of the most important ways is by killing off the worm sperm. Worms can’t make more worms if they don’t have any sperm. And the sperms that survive end up deformed with huge heads, or two heads, or they just can’t swim.

Here’s the fun part: Ivermectin doesn’t care what kind of sperm it’s dealing with. It’s going after all of them.

Scientists have found that Ivermectin messes up sperm in mice, rats, rabbits, sheep, and bucks. There is one study that found similar side effects in humans, but more research is needed to be truly sure.

One thing showed up in all of the animal studies—bigger doses of Ivermectin were worse for the sperm.

Some of the studies tracked the animals for a long time. It looks like the sperm go back to normal, but it can take months, or even years.

Are you really willing to take that chance? Do you really know what’s in that stuff?

To be fair, there is some research that says Ivermectin could be useful against some viruses. When the drug is tested on viruses, it does an okay job.

Like, a medium job. Not a great job. To do a great job it needs to be taken with a mix of other drugs.

Plus you need to take a dose that’s meant for humans. If you take the stuff that’s meant for horses, you could make yourself super sick.

And you could end up with a whole bunch of two-headed sperm.

So you might want to think twice about taking Ivermectin. You could be starting a war in your nuts that you’re not going to win.