The Forever War on COVID
When will the war end, the reporter asked. The answer "soon" came with a knowing smile.
From the middle of March 2020 until today, there have been 18 deaths in Newfoundland and Labrador directly caused by COVID-19.
Since Thanksgiving, that is since the middle of October this year, seven people in Newfoundland and Labrador have died of COVID-19.
11 people have died since Labour Day.
Only three people died during the first outbreak in March and April 2020.
A couple died in the February outbreak in St. John’s this past winter.
That likely doesn’t line up with what you think happened, even if you have been paying attention to the news.
The past couple of deaths may even have slipped your notice completely.
These days, deaths from COVID are normal. People accept them like they drive past the slaughter on our highways and trails, in cars and on all-terrain vehicles, without noticing the pools of blood.
These days, people likely have no idea how many cases of COVID are out there, right now.
A year ago, you would have no trouble finding someone who could tell you how many active cases there were, how many people were in hospital, and how many were in intensive care.
There are still COVID briefings. These days, they usually feature the chief medical officer alone. No health minister. No Premier. Just the CMO or the stand-in CMO and a handful of reporters.
The most recent briefing included just four reporters. Lasted less than a half hour, with the CMO talking up most of that with her remarks.
CBC’s Peter Cowan got the first trip to the microphone. After a question about booster shots, he asked Dr. Janice Fitzgerald when she might lift restrictions. We’ve got more vaccinated than the latest target of 90%. Cases are mild in children who get it, as in the outbreak on the Burin Peninsula. He laid out the facts.
“I don’t think we’ve had enough cases [in Newfoundland and Labrador] to comment on severe outcomes,” came the reply. Fitzgerald then mentioned that in other parts of the world – no locations or other context – “children had severe outcomes.” She added that at one point “their” – presumably the Americans, since she mentioned them – their ICUs were at capacity at some unknown place and time.
The unvaccinated get and spread the disease, Fitzgerald noted, and we have to be careful about who they spread it to.
And when we look at restrictions, Fitzgerald noted with a smile, “we are actually pretty good” – whatever that means – there are “very few restrictions” at this point.
But “we are getting close” Fitzgerald finished with another, knowing smile.
She never said close to what, though.
Fitzgerald’s said all of that before, of course. She has set targets for easing restrictions and then found a reason to shift the finish line down the road a ways. Send the fools further. Masks don’t work. Everyone put a mask on. I don’t use Alert levels and then a few hours later “Alert Level 5”.
Cowan’s question came because we have already nailed the vaccination target she set a couple of months ago. Gone beyond. But then Fitzgerald added the condition that we will get the kids done, first.
That will take us at least until the middle of next year.
And then, we’ll see.
That’s pretty much the way Fitzgerald has run the public emergency since early 2020. She doesn’t have the kind of evidence-based approach they’ve taken in New Zealand, for example. As Fitzgerald explained last February, she just sets the restrictions she thinks are needed. She just calls them Alert Levels because … well… we don’t know why she does call them that.
In her answers to Cowan, Fitzgerald talked about COVID as she always has. Getting sick is the problem. She isn’t concerned about severity – she blew off Cowan’s comment with a figurative sweep of her hand and dismissal of the evidence, the overwhelming evidence that children tend to have mild experience with COVID, unless they have other serious health issues.
If Fitzgerald was worried about the small number of children’s intensive care beds in the province, she could have just said that. People would understand it. After all, at the end of October, Eastern Health started diverting cases to Halifax because the intensive care unit for children at the Janeway was at or near capacity – six beds – and staff problems caused what health minister John Haggie said was an unusual situation *not* caused by the outbreak on the Burin Peninsula.
He was clear about that.
But Fitzgerald didn’t mention that at all.
She went for the bluff instead. Fuzzy. Vague. And in her smiles, there was the comfort of someone who has the power and will wield it without question as she sees fit.
What Fitzgerald calls “pretty good” compared to unknown others or “very few” is actually a pile of complex and convoluted limits on life unrelated to either the presence of disease in the province or the risk of it.
But the important part is that we are among the most vaccinated people in Canada if not North America. We met and went beyond the most recent target Fitzgerald set. We have a handful of cases. No one is in hospital, let alone in intensive care.
And yet Fitzgerald is still finding excuses *not* to ease restrictions when she said she would.
That’s the point.
That should be the problem.
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That should have the public up in arms just like they should have screamed about the pile of bodies since summer ended.
But they don’t scream. Well, at least not at government officials.
Allan Richarz is a lawyer who you likely never heard of. A quick Internet search will show you that he written pieces for a raft of major news outlets and magazines. It will also give his latest piece, an opinion job for cbc.ca on the Forever War on COVID.
The arguments are familiar. Regular readers will recognize them from any Bond writing since 2005, let alone the commentaries on government’s response to COVID. Anyone concerned about civil rights - free speech, the right to vote, the right to meet, freedom of movement and so on - will know the cautions Richarz makes against unchecked government power dating back to Magna Carta in 1215.
Heck, people who have read Animal Farm will recognize Richarz's arguments about state power. If they follow his links, they can find examples from around the world of what he talks about in Canada during COVID.
Met the provincial vaccination targets? Great; but now it's time for a booster. Ready for the "temporary" vaccine passport system to expire? Sorry, we need to extend it through spring; proving once again that if you give the government an inch on your rights, they will go for the mile every time.
Less than a year ago, government and public health officials touted vaccination as a panacea to end the pandemic. It's safe, effective and will allow the country to put COVID behind us, we were told. To that end, citizens were encouraged, prodded and eventually threatened to get their shots, with holdouts demonized by politicians at all levels. Yet, in Ontario, even as the province exceeded by weeks its vaccination and case number targets of the government's phased reopening plan, citizens were offered only breadcrumbs in return: moving up Phase 3 reopening by just a few days, with no plans at the time for a complete reopening.
Richarz even points to the standard defence of all this – it’s all about science – and notes the ease with which officials also disregard science when it is convenient.
What’s most noticable over the weekend has been the howling from some corners, especially self-styled “progressives”, journalists, and former journalists. They criticised Richarz for his supposed lack of knowledge. They attacked the CBC for printing the piece in the first place let alone for supposedly not fact-checking it. They called him paranoid or, the worst of all to them, apparently, he was a libertarian.
Incidentally, Orwell defined the 20th century's struggle as not between left and right but between libertarian and authoritarian.
Even the old, pixelated, Telegram hack who used to fight with a popular CBC hack for lip space on Danny’s butt cheeks joined the virtual dog pile on Richarz.
No surprise, especially as he made a joke out of freedom.
All the pack did was prove what Richarz said: “Debate and dissent in the age of COVID, however, have become four-letter words.”
We are not on the transition out of the pandemic and the public emergency. We are now used to the emergency. That’s why we don’t pay attention when the undertaker picks up another load. Getting the politicians out of the briefings, cutting back on the number of briefings, isn’t a step closer to a time after the public emergency. We are just settling into the Forever War on COVID. The public silence at almost a dozen deaths in a few weeks and the elite anger at the mere thought of ending the emergency is proof they are conditioned to it. Used to it. Inured.
Wars end. Either the sides agree to stop fighting or one destroys the other. Either way people can tell what war looks like and they know what peace looks like.
But in the Forever War on COVID, no one can imagine the world without travel bans, masks, lockdowns, and casualty reports. We cannot achieve what we cannot imagine.
Politicians, unelected officials, ordinary citizens cannot – will not - imagine a world without the current health emergency. There is no dark conspiracy. They do not merely follow blindly. They simply act as humans do.
Part of that is the fear of disease and death. People have always feared illness. The Black Death. Spanish Influenza. Even as science knows what causes illness and how to fight it, people are still frightened by the tiny creatures they cannot see that kill them all the same. It is the stuff of movies. There is a reason why the conspiracy in V for Vendetta used a disease outbreak as part of their plan to seize power.
But V is fiction.
In reality, evil is bland. It is Jakob Schmid. Evil does not need conspiracy. People just need to be people. They do what they do. Like treating a challenge to what they believe as if it came from the foulest demon they can imagine.
So, in Canada, educated, intelligent people who consider themselves enlightened and morally superior attacked Richarz like MAGA-hats on Biden.
Cognitive dissonance is real.
Regular readers have seen it before. COVID ones are the same as the ones pretending that Muskrat Falls started in 2012 or 2016, not when it really began in 2006 or when they were cheering for it in 2010. That they always opposed it when their own words in public show they got original issue Muskrateer’ s hats. That it was a great project that went bad because a few someones lied about something trivial… and that the lies happened after 2012. It wasn’t a golem when it started, but it turned into a golem after.
All of that is easier on the mind than believing you were duped. You made a mistake. That you were naïve and gullible. Or admitting that joining in the two minute hate is easier than being different and being right.
That all animals are equal but some are more equal than others and the barn wall *always* said that.
That is why the Forever War on COVID will not end any time soon.