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COVID-19: Pandemics ‘R Us

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese government has been criticized for attempting in the early days of the Wuhan outbreak to downplay its significance. Some of the criticism is fair, but the root cause of the pandemic goes much deeper than that. And if we’re to safeguard ourselves from future pandemics we need to be aware of what the cause is. Here’s a quick overview.

The COVID-19 virus is part of a family of viruses known as coronaviruses. They typically reside in mammals and birds, and are zoonotic, which means they can transfer from animals to humans.

Coronaviruses aren’t the only viruses/bacteria that have that capability. Rabies and the plague are two historical examples of diseases that transfer from animals to humans. More recently, there’s been Lassa fever (1969), Ebola (1976 and 2014-16), HIV (c. 1980) and assorted avian and swine flus — most recently, H1N1 in 2009. Then within the coronavirus family, we had SARS in 2003 and MERS in 2012.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Pandemics ‘R Us”

COVID-19: Global Infection Total Approaching One Million

Some time today, it’s likely that the number of COVID-19 cases in the world will exceed one million. We have a global population of 7.8 billion, so the total, in and of itself, isn’t especially remarkable. But what is remarkable is how the number has grown by leaps and bounds in recent days. And that trend, unfortunately, will only gather steam in the days and weeks to come.

As of April 2, the top ten countries for infections are the United States, Italy, Spain, Germany, China, France, Iran, United Kingdom, Switzerland and Turkey.

Canada currently sits at #15 on the list of infections, but several spots lower when it comes to fatalities. The global top ten there are Italy, Spain, the United States, France, China, Iran, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

Brazil and Portugal have been “climbing the charts”, so to speak, so they will likely start appearing in the top ten soon. You can find updated totals for infections, fatalities, new cases and per capita figures here.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Global Infection Total Approaching One Million”

VOD REVIEW: There’s No Saving ‘Cave Rescue’

It’s probably still in the back of your mind. In June 2018, a children soccer team and their coach were trapped inside a cave in Thailand after monsoon rains flooded the exit. The event mobilized dozens of volunteers, including local and foreign divers, American forces and even Elon Musk (if only to provide an impractical solution and then harass a volunteer). The situation seems ready-made for a feature.

Lo and behold, here it is, less than two years since the rescue effort.

Cave Rescue is the kind of movie produced in a rush to take advantage of recent events while still fresh in people’s minds: Undercooked, underwhelming and with an inflated sense of self.

The film dedicates precious little time to how the kids ended up in the cave and rather focus on the rescue efforts (a mildly competent filmmaker would have spent time establishing the children as characters to raise the stakes. Not the case here). People pop up in and out of screen: American military personnel issuing obvious orders, farmers happy to sacrifice their crops to save the boys, interchangeable divers looking busy and a religious figure embodying the spiritual aspect of the rescue. Why not. Continue reading “VOD REVIEW: There’s No Saving ‘Cave Rescue’”

COVID-19: Conservative Governments Push Agendas While People Suffer

If I’d done a blog post last April 1 on all the gnarly stuff that is going on right now, it probably wouldn’t have passed the sniff-test for a moment before people dismissed it as an outrageously overblown April Fool’s Day prank.

I wish the same could be said about this April Fool’s Day post about how two reckless and irresponsible governments are using the pandemic as cover to further gnarly agendas that, in both instances, are major contributors to crisis we currently find ourselves in. Unfortunately, it’s all too real. Here’s a breakdown.

In a March 27 post, I noted how the Trump administration had taken the unprecedented step of waiving the need for U.S. corporations to observe Environmental Protection Agency regulations governing pollution. Yesterday, Trump and his Republican supporters doubled-down on their disdain for the environment by rolling-back fuel economy standards brought in by the Obama administration to help the country meet its Paris climate targets and reduce air pollution.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Conservative Governments Push Agendas While People Suffer”

COVID-19: Federal Relief Program Update For Workers And Businesses

When our blog coverage of this pandemic got going on March 20 it was noted that government responses were coming fast and furious. That’s remained true to this day.

On the federal front, the government is close to rolling out its promised programs to help workers and businesses cope with the economic fallout from the virus control measures that have been put in place.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

This broad-brush program applies to anyone who has been laid off, is sick and is in quarantine, is at home caring for children and self-employed people who find themselves unable to earn income during the crisis.

To apply, you have to be over 15 and have earned $5000 plus in 2019 or the last calendar year (ie. March 2019 to March 2020). People who are currently on Employment Insurance are not eligible to apply, and if you’ve recently applied for EI your application will be folded into CERB.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Federal Relief Program Update For Workers And Businesses”

Vivarium: Quarantine Horror

Embrace your Coronavirus confinement in Vivarium’s surreal suburban nightmare

IT CAME FROM MIDWICH Eisenberg, Poots and their invasive offspring.

Vivarium
VOD/Apple TV

Vivarium is a rare surrealistic horror. More structured than a David Lynch film and darker than something by Terry Gilliam, it takes petite bourgeois goals (own a house, have a kid, become your own boss) and reveals them as nightmares.

Tom and Gemma (Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots) are a young couple looking for a starter home who are roped into checking out a house just outside the city by a creepy-looking real estate agent. The place is one of dozens of identical green households in a very quiet neighborhood — so quiet, there are no neighbours in sight.

Red flags accumulate and Tom and Gemma make a run for it but fail: the hood is endless and the pair lands in front of the same house time and time again. Out of gas and ideas, they go to bed. The next day there’s a baby on the porch and they’re instructed to raise the child and be liberated.

Suffice it to say, the kid is weird. Friction ensues.

Continue reading “Vivarium: Quarantine Horror”

COVID-19: This Pandemic Is Exposing The Folly Of Magical Thinking

When I was growing up, one saying I remember hearing is “Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.” The takeaway for me was that opinions were… whatever. What really mattered in deciding a question was real evidence, expert insight and logical conclusions.

What a difference two decades of alt-right and social media makes. Now, in the minds of some people anyway, a person’s “opinion” should carry equal and even greater weight than actual evidence collected, analyzed and vetted by well-educated scientists using state of the art instruments.

“I’m entitled to my opinion,” is how that sentiment is typically expressed. For a group that usually rages against “entitlement”, it’s especially ironic.

If we still lived as we did… oh, in Biblical times, or even the early 1950s, it maybe wouldn’t be a problem —at least, as big a problem as it is now. But we don’t live in Biblical times. Or the early 1950s. We live in 2020. And in our fast-paced technological world, we simply can’t afford to ignore what the scientific evidence  is telling us about our current reality on Earth.

Continue reading “COVID-19: This Pandemic Is Exposing The Folly Of Magical Thinking”

COVID-19: Self-Isolation and Physical Distancing

With all sorts of restrictions in place to promote self-isolation and physical distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19, people are having to brainstorm new ways of passing time and engaging with family, friends and the broader community.

Cut off from touring, for example, Canadian musicians have been live-streaming performances to entertain fans. Likewise, galleries and museums have been inviting people to take virtual tours of their collections.

Various artists have been reaching out too, both to express solidarity with people going through tough times and to share their talent with the world. Patrick Stewart (a.k.a. Captain Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation), for instance, has been doing online readings of Shakespeare’s sonnets. The choice is particularly appropriate given that in the year the sonnets were first published, 1609, London was in the grip of bubonic plague and theatres were closed.

One home-based activity I’d like highlight with this post is tied to citizen science. I did an article on it back in November 2015 and the important role ordinary citizens can play in helping professionally trained scientists to collect and analyze data to advance research projects.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Self-Isolation and Physical Distancing”

COVID-19: Canada In A Global Context [Updated]

As of this morning, the global number of COVID-19 infections has exceeded 620,000. With the virus just beginning to make inroads into heavily populated countries in Africa, Central and South America, and south-east Asia that number is expected to soar in the days to come.

The total number of cases in Canada currently sits at 4757, which puts us at #16 on the global list for infections. A major wild card for Canada is the border we share with the United States, which has surpassed China and Italy in recent days to become the world leader in infections. With tens of thousands of Canadians having recently rushed home from winter getaways in Arizona, Florida and other “snowbird” locations, and the virus having a 14 day incubation period, our numbers will surely jump.

At present, Quebec has the most infections at 2021 2498 — which is over twice as many as Ontario which currently has 993.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Canada In A Global Context [Updated]”

Gwynne Dyer: Germ Changer

They teach you in journalism school never to use the phrase “…X has changed the world forever”. Or at least they should. Covid-19 is certainly not going to change the world forever, but it is going to change quite a few things, in some cases for a long time. Here’s eight of them, in no particular order.

1. The clean air over China’s cities in the past month, thanks to an almost total shutdown of the big sources of pollution, has saved 20 times as many Chinese lives as Covid-19 has taken. (Air pollution kills about 1.1 million people in China every year.) People will remember this when the filthy air comes back, and want something done about it. India too. Continue reading “Gwynne Dyer: Germ Changer”

COVID-19: U.S.A. Now Leads The World With Most Infections

It’s probably not the “America First” that Donald Trump had in mind when he was on the campaign trail in 2016 — or maybe it was, at this point, who really knows?

As had been forecast for weeks, the United States has now surpassed China and Italy as the global hotspot for COVID-19 infections. When comparing the performance of different countries in combating the pandemic, as was noted in an earlier blog post, different geographic and cultural factors do come into play.

Regardless of where a country falls on the spectrum between personal freedom and collective responsibility, though, there has to be a balance. And that’s where the U.S. fails grievously in comparison with the rest of the developed world. Instead of providing a decent social safety net with proper health, education and material supports for its citizens, it’s this weird hybrid of a First World/Third World country.

And with COVID-19 in full-swing there, the nation’s inadequacies are on full (and shameful) display.

Continue reading “COVID-19: U.S.A. Now Leads The World With Most Infections”

Have You Seen This Dog?

FILE PHOTO OF A DOG Mitzi, Prairie Dog Typo Wiener circa Sept. 9, 2010.

There was supposed to be a new issue of Prairie Dog today. There is not.

As previously announced, Covid-19 has infected the ’Dog and it is not coming out to play today.

On the bright side, this means my  car-having friends get a break from my annoying requests they drive me around dropping off papers. (Yes, that’s right, I have a paper route. I started helping with Prairie Dog deliveries a few years ago (spring 2017?) as a “temporary” cost-cutting measure. As tends to happen with harebrained austerity schemes, there’s been nothing “temporary” about my three-hour biweekly gig, though I have to say I like it and it’s actually kind of fun. I get to meet nice people and learn things. Anyway.)

On the down side, this means no new Prairie Dog for Regina readers. Yes, you’ll find things to read on our website (look for a new Gwynne Dyer column later today!), but this edition of the print paper is kaputsville.

It’s only the third time we’ve skipped an issue since going biweekly in 1999. The other two were scheduled holiday breaks though, so this is uncharted territory. Kind of a bummer.

But don’t despair! Prairie Dog will be back with a full print and web issue on April 9.

The calendar events pages might be a wee bit thin, though. Stupid plague.


A MESSAGE TO OUR READERS The Coronavirus pandemic is a moment of reckoning for our community. We’re all hurting. It’s no different at Prairie Dog, where COVID-19 has wiped out advertisements for events, businesses and restaurants as Regina and Saskatchewan hunker down in quarantine. As an ad-supported newspaper already struggling in a destabilized media landscape, this is devastating. We’re hoping you, our loyal readers, can help fill in the gap so we can not only continue to exist but even expand our coverage, both in print and online. Please consider donating, either one-time or—even better!—on a monthly basis.

We believe Prairie Dog’s unique voice is needed, now more than ever. For 27 years Prairie Dog has been a critical part of Regina’s social, cultural and democratic infrastructure. Don’t let us fade away. Once Prairie Dog is gone, it’s never coming back.

COVID-19: Changes To Government Response Plans [Updated}

A few days ago we did a post about different actions governments have taken to grapple with the challenge of coping with the chaos caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Some of those measures, such as the GST and Canada Child Benefit top-ups,  the Indigenous Community Support Fund, income and property tax deferrals at the federal and municipal level, and a 10 per cent wage subsidy for businesses to keep people on the payroll*, are still in place. But some other measures have been updated.

Federal Government

On March 25, the federal government, with all party support, passed a revised $107 billion emergency package to provide relief to Canadian workers and business owners whose lives have been disrupted by the outbreak.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Changes To Government Response Plans [Updated}”

COVID-19: Cold Calculation

In addition to the toll the virus has taken on peoples’ physical and mental health, it’s exacted a huge economic toll. Around the world, stock markets have cratered and business has ground to a halt: putting many millions of people (small business owners and workers alike) at risk.

To provide short-term relief for Canadians, the federal Liberal government has stepped up with a $82 billion package to support business owners, families and workers who have had their employment impacted by the slowdown.

South of the border, U.S. Congress agreed Tuesday night to a $2 trillion stimulus bill after several days of political wrangling. The Democrats were concerned the bill focused too much on corporate interests and didn’t do enough to help ordinary Americans and provide support for much needed healthcare services.

The bill gives a one-time payment of $1200 to every American earning less than $75,000, and $500 per child. There is also $367 billion in support for small businesses to help make payroll, and $130 billion for hospitals.

The primary area of contention between the Democrats and Republicans was a $500 billion subsidized loan package for big business. As originally proposed by the Republicans, the hotels and golf resorts owned by U.S. president Trump would have been eligible for assistance. But the Democrats won a concession that businesses controlled by members of Congress and top administration officials — including Trump and his family — would not be eligible.

Naked self-interest aside, politics are also in play with this stimulus package. With November’s election looming, Trump is desperate to kick-start the economy to boost his re-election bid.

How desperate?

Continue reading “COVID-19: Cold Calculation”

COVID-19: Global Snapshot

COVID-19 first appeared in China in December. Since then, it’s spread relentlessly around the world. On March 11, the World Health Organization officially declared the virus a global pandemic.

When looking at the success each country is having (or not having) in dealing with the outbreak different factors obviously come into play.

Remote island nations may be facing significant hardship in years to come from rising sea levels due to climate change, but with COVID-19 they’re better off than countries that share borders with multiple other countries — especially where population densities are high.

Countries with underdeveloped medical systems might not have the capacity to accurately gauge how many COVID-19 cases they have. And getting honest stats from countries with authoritarian regimes –cough, Russia, cough — is problematic too.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Global Snapshot”

COVID-19: Duelling Governments [Updated]

On Friday, both the Saskatchewan government and City of Regina declared states of emergency to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak. Some of the municipal regulations mirrored those enacted by the province. But whereas the province’s regulations prohibited gatherings of over 25 people, Regina city council restricted gatherings to five people or less. The city regulations, which were to take effect today and last for a week, also included closure of non-essential retail outlets such as clothing, toy, furniture and shoe stores.

Saskatoon activated its Emergency Operations Centre, but did not pass any additional restrictions on businesses and public gatherings as Regina had done. But on Sunday, the Saskatchewan government announced that it would be rescinding Regina’s restrictions. The Saskatchewan Party government justified the move by saying it wanted to ensure regulations were consistent across the province.

Under Canada’s antiquated constitution, provinces have exclusive jurisdiction over cities via s.92 of the BNA Act. So the province certainly has the power to rescind Regina’s regulations. But whether it should or not is another matter.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Duelling Governments [Updated]”

COVID-19: Safety Tips

Four rabbits demonstrating the proper technique for social distancing

A person can be infected with COVID-19 for up to 14 days before showing any symptoms. While pre-symptom transmission of the virus is possible, medical experts currently think it is less common than post-symptom transmission. Symptoms of infection include runny nose, fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

COVID-19 is commonly spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Transmission can occur through close personal contact, or by touching something that has the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

Scientists studying the virus have determined that it can remain detectable for up to three hours in the air, four hours on copper, a  day on cardboard and 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel.

If you have cold or flu-like symptoms you are asked to self-isolate to limit your contact with other people unless you have been directed to seek medical attention. To reduce the possibility of transmission, practice proper cough/sneeze etiquette by coughing/sneezing into your elbow. Practice social distancing, too, by keeping two metres between yourself and other people. And you should also wash your hands frequently (and thoroughly) with soap and water.

For more information visit Health Canada.


A MESSAGE TO OUR READERS The Coronavirus pandemic is a moment of reckoning for our community. We’re all hurting. It’s no different at Prairie Dog, where COVID-19 has wiped out advertisements for events, businesses and restaurants as Regina and Saskatchewan hunker down in quarantine. As an ad-supported newspaper already struggling in a destabilized media landscape, this is devastating. We’re hoping you, our loyal readers, can help fill in the gap so we can not only continue to exist but even expand our coverage, both in print and online. Please consider donating, either one-time or—even better!—on a monthly basis.

We believe Prairie Dog’s unique voice is needed, now more than ever. For 27 years Prairie Dog has been a critical part of Regina’s social, cultural and democratic infrastructure. Don’t let us fade away. Once Prairie Dog is gone, it’s never coming back.

COVID-19: Federal, Provincial & Municipal Response [Updated]

Government responses to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic have been coming fast and furious in the last few days. To help people get up to speed on what measures have been taken and how they might impact on them in the days, weeks and months to come here’s a breakdown.

Canada

With many Canadians facing financial hardship the federal government has announced an $82 billion package to provide short-term relief to workers, families and business owners. These measures include special GST and Canada Child Benefit top-ups, an Emergency Care Benefit for workers who must stay home and do not have access to paid sick leave and an Emergency Support Benefit for self-employed workers who are not eligible for Employment Insurance.

Continue reading “COVID-19: Federal, Provincial & Municipal Response [Updated]”

Sad Irony: COVID-19 And The Environment

Photo credit: Taken by Apollo 8 crew member Bill Anders on December 24, 1968

With our March 26 print publication, like pretty much everything else around the world, suspended, we’re making an effort to revive our blog.

We can’t match the capacity of the CBC to cover the local, national and international impacts of the COVID-19 situation, but one side consequence that I would like to highlight is the sharp reduction that’s occurred in greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of pollution in countries that have experienced significant outbreaks. Continue reading “Sad Irony: COVID-19 And The Environment”

An Important Message From Prairie Dog

For most of us, the Coronavirus pandemic is like nothing we’ve ever seen. COVID-19 has totally disrupted Reginan’s lives and livelihoods.

It’s hitting us, too.

Earlier this week, Prairie Dog made the difficult decision to cancel our March 26 print edition. Between the near-total collapse of advertising and the loss of, what, maybe half our distribution points in restaurants, coffee shops and pubs, putting out a paper next Thursday just doesn’t make sense. We  plan to roar back with, hmm, let’s call it a special collector’s edition on April 9. In the meantime, we’re bringing Dog Blog–remember that?–out of cold storage so you’ll have lots to read. Stay tuned!

Collectively, we’re at the start of something that, for better and/or for worse, will fundamentally change our understanding of the society and world we live in, but there are a lot of challenges ahead. If you’re able, please consider donating to help us continue publishing. Prairie Dog has a lot to offer Regina and Saskatchewan, but we flat-out can’t do it without your help.

As a lot of people are suddenly discovering, it turns out we all really ARE in this together. Let’s make it work.