About. . .

This website is meant for family historians. Readers will find information about how people and communities were impacted by natural phenomena – or Mother Nature. Blog posts will present examples of actual events and how families coped with them. Links will be added to websites and articles that may assist genealogists looking for specific data about certain areas.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Living with a pandemic 46

 South Korea: A Covid-19 success story

From the time of the initial outbreak of Covid-19 a year ago, South Korea has been a leader in the control of the spread of infection and the resultant death rate.

At present (18 January 2021) the country has had 72,729 cases reported and 1,264 deaths. With a population of 51.71 million people, that represents 24.4 deaths per million. One of the lowest on the planet.

How did they achieve this?

Much of the low rate of spread was voluntary. People stayed home or away from others once they had seen the results of the experience in Wuhan, China.

The government put in place rigorous and extensive programs for testing and contact tracing using rules allowing the use of phones and credit cards to determine prior movements of people. This is unlike many western nations where people are more concerned with “privacy” issues than with national health emergencies. But the South Korean programs have probably been the most responsible for the containment of the virus along with the support of the population.

From top to bottom then from left to right: a queue in front of a pharmacy in Wonju for the distribution of masks, a drone of disinfection in Seongnam, a closed elementary school in Daegu, protest inscriptions against Shincheonji on a car, video call between members of the South Korean government, manufacturing of masks in Busan, 2020 South Korean legislative election, admission of a symptomatic patient to a hospital in Busan, portable medical negative pressure isolation stretcher in a fire station in Hoengseong, firefighters' training in Daegu, thermal camera at the entrance to Wonju hospital, temperature check at Incheon International Airport, drive-through testing in Gyeongju.

Testing numbers have been estimated a 26 to 120 times higher than in other countries in the first few months of the pandemic. Innovative drive-through centres were opened to facilitate people getting tested quickly and efficiently.

Anyone thought to have been near to infected individuals were alerted, prompting immediate testing. Travel into and out of the country was discouraged. Once identified with the virus those infected were required to go into isolation in government shelters.

There was no general lockdown of businesses but there was early closure of schools and other facilities where people would normally gather in large numbers, such as gyms and movie theatres. Major sporting activities wee allowed to go ahead in April with no fans in the stands. Easing of restrictions was only done when information about the rate of infections was better known and could be controlled.

Through April 2020, daily increases in the number of new cases were kept to single digits.

Even with the higher numbers in south Korea’s third wave of infection, the number of new cases is still well under any other country of similar size. Canada, for example, has had 18,014 deaths to date, or 479 per million people. We average over 6,000 cases per day, over 10 times the number in South Korea.


Ongoing testing, distribution of information and cooperation of South Korea’s people have combined to allow the country to manage the pandemic very well.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Living with a pandemic 45

 
Living Online…

The online experience was new to many people in 2020. Some even learned new techniques such as group meetings through Zoom and other similar programs. Having to stay home has meant using the Internet to find information, to shop, to communicate and to do many of the things we would normally do in person.

For my part, life has not changed a great deal, other than fewer trips to local restaurants and shops. Not being able to visit with friends and relatives, especially our children and grandchildren, has been the worst experience.

For many years, at least since I retired from the workforce, I have spent a great deal of time online, researching ancestors and writing articles about genealogy. If anything, I have learned about even more places to find records and data. I had seven articles published last year and two so far this year. Two more are scheduled and several others are in draft form at present. And I have made good progress researching the lives of some specific ancestors.

Missing our normal Christmas get-together and unable to share special occasions like our 50th anniversary, though, was the pits. I don’t want to miss those kinds of things again! We were fortunate that our children and grandchildren could connect online.

In December many countries approved vaccines to combat this deadly infection. Those were developed in record time, compared to past epidemics. So, we are lucky. But it will take almost a year before everyone in Canada, for example, who wants a shot to get one. In most regions, people are now complaining about what they perceive to be slow rollouts of vaccines. That is likely to continue until the Fall.

Infection numbers of Covid-19 have never been higher. World-wide over 90 million cases have been confirmed and 1.9 million people have died from the effects of the virus. This second wave is relentless. Several countries now have reached a mark of over 1,000 deaths per million population. Canada is at 450 per million. Canada’s cases today total 664,606 which represents 3.3% of all tests. Very high!

In Alberta, where I live, there have been over 1,200 deaths, still low compared to other provinces and countries, but still alarming. The pattern still shows the average age of those succumbing is 82 years but there is a greater number of people contracting the disease who are much younger. Everyone is at risk.

Lockdowns and curfews persist everywhere but people still think they can travel freely and without danger to themselves or others they may come in contact with when they get home. Consequently, following each of the major holidays in the past year, there have been spikes in cases.

We are weathering the storm, but you can tell people are more stressed and more worried, as much from the loss of jobs and incomes as from getting sick.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Natural Disasters and Family Misfortunes 20: 1929 Newfoundland Earthquake & Tsunami

 
A recent blog post on Watts Up With That? was titled, Raise your hand if you knew Newfoundland was devastated by a major tsunami in 1929. I had to raise my hand because, probably like many other people, I did not know that.

This is one of those stories that is close to home (at least it is in Canada, if on the other side of the country) which too often we do not study about enough. When I got to looking up the event, I discovered that there is quite a lot of information about the event along with considerable scientific research on the physical aspects of this tsunami and tsunamis in general using this example.

The 1929 tsunami was the result of a magnitude 7.2 earthquake and subsequent slump of debris in the Laurentian Channel on 18 November 1929. The centre of the disturbance was about 150 miles south of Newfoundland.

Map showing intensity of earthquake felt throughout Maritime Canada from 2011 report by Natural Resources Canada

The tsunami generated by the earthquake struck southern Newfoundland about two and a half hours after the event. It came in three pulses causing sea level to rise over 20 feet. At the heads of inlets, the water was over 40 feet higher than normal. According to the government report, “In more than 40 villages in southern Newfoundland homes, ships and businesses were destroyed. More than 280,000 pounds of salt cod were lost. Total property losses were estimated at more than one million 1929 dollars [$14.5 million today].”

Map showing extent of damage along the Burin Peninsula of Southern Newfoundland from 2011 report by Natural Resources Canada

The Burin Peninsula had been isolated prior to the earthquake when a storm the previous weekend had broken the one strand of telegraph wire that connected the area to the rest of the province. The tsunami took care of the rest of the communications infrastructure along the southern coast.

Some damage from the earthquake and tidal wave had been reported in towns further up Placentia Bay to the northeast, but news of the disaster along Burin Peninsula was not relayed for over two days. Newspapers across the country shouted reports of the disaster which had killed 27 people and caused untold destruction.

Because of the market crash the previous month, much attention from the news media was being directed at the international economy. What was happening in the natural world did not get much notice. And being cut off from the world by broken telegraph lines on land and submerged cables running across the ocean floor of the Grand Banks. Over several hours following the earthquake, 12 trans-Atlantic cables were cut.

Map showing location of broken cables resulting from the earthquake and debris flows; source Earth Magazine website

Eventually the world heard about the disaster and relief came in the form of food, blankets, medical supplies, and doctors and nurses. Some areas partially recovered, in terms of infrastructure at least, in a few years; others never did. Many families were impacted and a few entirely wiped out.

These kinds of events are not unique. They have happened along coastal margins for hundreds of millions of years. They achieve notoriety when communities are destroyed, and people are killed. Some events may go unnoticed by the outside world for years because of competing news stories, their remote location or, in this case, the break in communications.



Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Truth Behind the White Christmas Dream

The title of this blog post is not mine. I found it in the Blog of The British Newspaper Archive. The piece was written by Rose Staveley-Wadham and published on 10 December 2020. 

I could not write about this subject any better than did Rose, so I recommend readers of this blog go read Rose's post, The Truth Behind the White Christmas Dream.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a much improved New Year!



Sunday, December 6, 2020

Living with a Pandemic 44

The Forgotten Generation 

 In a recent blog post a fellow genealogical blogger made a point about elder people being a disposable generation, with infection rates of Covid-19 soaring all around them and transmission mainly by younger people being careless. 

https://genealogysstar.blogspot.com/2020/09/no-longer-silent-or-boomers-we-are-now.html 

We are possibly not so much disposable as forgotten. 

If you are a retiree, then you have likely already been more at home that you were a few years ago. If you are lucky, your children and grandchildren live close by and you can visit them while maintaining a family bubble. Larger gatherings, though, are not permissible, whether by government edict or just common sense. 

If your family is not near where you live, as ours are, you are pretty much out of luck. Younger families, as they should, have their own concerns, with work, social networks and school-aged children. Our children stay in touch regularly by telephone, video chats and social media connections. But it is not the same as when we could all travel and visit in person. 

I often wonder if this is how we are going to spend our twilight years – basically in isolation. 

The second wave is upon us with a vengeance now, as was predicted last spring. This one is much worse, again as I think we knew it would be given the pattern of previous pandemics. 

In the province of Alberta, not unlike other jurisdictions, we are seeing records for confirmed new cases and hospitalizations set almost every day. More rigorous rules were instituted last week so it will be a while before we know whether they will have any impact on altering the trend.
And once again, it is cutting a swath through continuing care homes, as one newspaper headline pronounced yesterday. It seems we – and I mean those in charge whether at municipal, provincial (state) or federal level – have not learned anything from the first wave. No new rules were put in place to prevent the spread through care homes, even though we knew that the elderly were particularly vulnerable to this disease and that those confined to long-term facilities were really in jeopardy as they could not escape the wave of infections. 

In Alberta, 66% of the 590 covid-19 related deaths so far have been people aged 80 or over. And 64% of the total have been linked to long-term care and supportive living sites – patients and health-dare workers. These are disturbing numbers and quite likely were entirely avoidable if more attention had been paid to changing the way these facilities operate after what happened earlier in the year. 

In the City of Calgary, as shown below, there are outbreaks in most continuing care facilities, with 36 deaths. The dark blue areas are the hardest hit areas for case numbers. Other cities in the province have similar numbers.
Overall, in most areas around the world, this second wave threatens to overwhelm health systems. And yet there are still those people out there who refuse to accept the situation as being real, as being dangerous or as being something they have any responsibility to change their habits for. The anti-maskers, for example, are out in force, whining about their rights having been abrogated. It’s as if they do not recognize that there are other ways to voice their opinions on masks or restrictions on gatherings other than showing up in large super-spreader mobs. They are mostly younger people, too, who think the health emergency does not impact or apply to them. 

Vaccines appear to be on the way now with a few countries approving their use. But the numbers of individual doses that will be available mean that it could take a year before most of the population of any region has been immunized. We still do not know how long these vaccines will last, though. Or whether the expectations of how effective they are indicated to be will be true. But at least it’s a light at the end of a tunnel. 

Notwithstanding all of this, Christmas will be very different this year. It will be the first that we will not share in person with any family member. That’s going to be sad. 

I hope the “Forgotten Generation” fares well through Christmas into the vaccination era and that somehow measures can be taken to diminish the strain, stress and death-rates for this (our) group of people.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Obtaining Information During the Covid-19 Restrictions

 As I am working on a number of stories about ancestors, I have had many occasions to contact archives, libraries and other institutions for information. But wherever you go these days, there are restrictions in place for access.

Many offices, government and otherwise, have been closed with some employees working from home. That means they do not have access to the actual files unless those records have been digitized. Even then, getting copies made can be more time-consuming and difficult.

Last fall, I ordered a copy of military records from the UK Ministry of Defence for a relative that served with the British Army during WWII. They were just in the process of getting the file copied when they were locked down in the spring. I realized that this would be a problem so did not pursue the matter until the summer. Their office was completely closed for five months. An email message from them in July told me that they were doing some processing but that it could take many more months to get the results. The file finally arrived in the mail in October.

Some archives, such The National Archives (UK) have opened on a limited basis. Only a few people have been able to visit the premises and orders for record copying can only be sent in on weekends. At least it is something. Unfortunately, it did not last long as a new lockdown this past week shut down in person visits again.

I have been able to put in an order for a document to be copied online (you can only do so on weekends). I hope to get the copy with a month. For records that are already digitized, one can now download many more files than was the case in the past.

I have been busy getting copies of ships’ crew lists for vessels my great-grandfather served on in the early 20th century. All of it was achievable because people were in the archives offices and able to access the records. The Glamorgan Archives in Cardiff, Wales, has been very helpful even with limited staff onsite.


Some sites, such as the Maritime History Archive only offer access online, but it still depends on someone being able to get to the place where files are stored in order to make copies. The MHA has been exceedingly cooperative in looking up information and making digital copies.

Having access to database subscriptions has meant that I could continue to search for and find records for many people and events. For those that do not have such access or cannot visit family history offices to use their facilities, the current situation must e very frustrating.

We are being challenged to find different ways to get information or falling back on some of the old ways – such as email – to make contact with various groups. Libraries and archives offices are understaffed all over the world, so it takes much more time to get acknowledgment and results of requests. When you live a long way away from locations where records are kept, as I do with respect to British files, you are somewhat used to doing things online or waiting for files to be sent.

Mother Nature does not care much for our little dilemmas, though. We may as well get used to using different methods and experiencing longer wait times until this latest pandemic passes.



Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Season of Storms

This is the time of year when most major tropical storms form in the Atlantic Ocean and begin their journey westward. The hurricane season normally begins in late spring (May of June) and ends in late fall (November or December). September in the peak month.

Atlantic hurricanes can generally be more frequent and intense between the time La Niña and El Niño conditions are present, although it is not a hard and fast rule. This year (2020) is one of those years. So far there have been eight storms of hurricane intensity out of 24 tropical or subtropical cyclones.

According to the US National Weather Service:

El Niño produces stronger westerly wind at upper levels of the atmosphere across the tropical Atlantic than in normal non-El Niño seasons. This increases the total vertical wind shear, basically shearing the tops from developing storms before a healthy circulation can form. El Niño events generally suppress Atlantic hurricane activity so fewer hurricanes than normal form in the Atlantic during August to October, the peak of Atlantic hurricane season.

During La Niña, westerly winds high in the atmosphere weaken. This results in an expanded area of low vertical wind shear, allowing more Atlantic hurricanes to develop during La Niña events. La Niña increases the number of hurricanes that develop and allows stronger hurricanes to form.

The chances for the continental U.S. and the Caribbean Islands to experience a hurricane increase substantially during La Niña and decrease during El Niño.

El Niño and La Niña also influence where Atlantic hurricanes form. During La Niña, more hurricanes form in the deep Tropics from weather disturbances that originate over North Africa. These systems have a much greater likelihood of becoming major hurricanes, and of eventually reaching the U.S. and the Caribbean Islands.

The incidence of hurricanes is higher during the neutral phase (when neither El Niño nor La Niña are in effect) than during El Niño. Although hurricanes occur more often during La Niña episodes, significant tropical weather events have occurred during the neutral phase. For example, the record shattering 2005 hurricane season that included Katrina and Rita occurred during the neutral phase. Hurricane Andrew, the most destructive United States hurricane of record, made landfall along the Gulf coast during a neutral phase of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation in 1992.

Superstorm Sandy, struck in 2012, during the tail end of an extended (2012-2012) La Niña event. It was the one of 18 named storms that year and the second major hurricane of the season. Damage totaled US$70 billion along its route from the Caribbean to New England, with 233 people killed. While only a category 3 storm, what made it so devasting was that it came ashore in the highly populated and developed area of New Jersey and New York.

Radar image of Hurricane Sandy on 29 October 2012 as it approached the Jersey shore

The Great New England Hurricane was also one of those. It struck New England in late September 1938 was a major storm that just preceded the 1938-39 La Niña event. Few people will remember this event or perhaps even read much about it as it competed with pre-WWII news out of Europe. But it was one of the deadliest storms to hit North America. The 1938 hurricane season produced nine tropical storms of which four developed into hurricanes.

Its westward track across the Atlantic missed most of the land masses around the Caribbean. It rapidly developed into a category 5 storm east of Florida with over 160 mph (260 kph) sustained winds. Coming up against a cold front, it then took a right angle turn to the north. It decreased in intensity but was still at category 3 when it made landfall on Long Island.

According to the National Hurricane Center:

Blue Hill Observatory, Massachusetts measured sustained winds of 121 mph with gusts to 183 mph (likely influenced by terrain). A U.S. Coast Guard station on Long Island measured a minimum pressure of 27.94 in. Storm surges of 10 to 12 ft inundated portions of the coast from Long Island and Connecticut eastward to southeastern Massachusetts, with the most notable surges in Narragansett Bay and Buzzards Bay. Heavy rains before and during the hurricane produced river flooding, most notably along the Connecticut River. This hurricane struck with little warning and was responsible for 600 deaths and $308 million in damage in the United States.”

Nearly 9,000 homes and buildings were destroyed, and 15,000 damaged. Nearly 3,000 ships were sunk or wrecked. Power lines were downed across the region, causing widespread blackouts. Innumerable trees were fell ed, and 12 new inlets were created on Long Island. Railroads were destroyed and farms were obliterated (This Day in History).

Aftermath of Great New England Hurricane of 1938 – photos from The Boston Globe archive (other photos on National Weather Service website here)

Hurricanes are one of those types of events that cause widespread destruction. Prediction as to how and when the biggest ones may occur is still difficult. Even the less intense storms can be devastating if they come onshore where there are many people.

·         The deadliest storm was the 1900 Great Galveston Hurricane when between 8,000 and 12,000 people were killed. It struck a lowland region with a very high population.

·         The costliest was Hurricane Katrina in 2005 with damage tagged at US$160 billion.

·         The highest wind speed at landfall was recorded during the Hurricane Allen onslaught in 1969, which attained sustained winds of 190 mph (305 kph).

·         The most active season was 2005 when 15 storms developed into hurricanes.

It is difficult to see any trend in the number or intensity of hurricanes over the last century and a half.

The point here is that what we see today in terms of natural disasters is not dissimilar to what has gone on in the centuries past. Mother Nature frequently interferes with communities and the lives of people, in uncontrollable ways. And she will continue to do so.



Sunday, September 20, 2020

Getting along with Mother Nature

 Mother Nature is always testing us. Mostly it has always been common sense that allowed humans to progress, work out solutions to whatever tests were brought to us. It’s no different now than it has been for 10,000 years. What is different is that we have technology now, and science, if we open our eyes and minds, to assist us.

Too much focus is being put on only one aspect – CO2 – that we do not even know is a real problem. Not enough attention is being paid to the Earth’s system as a whole and what things we can actually control. Politicians and self-interest groups, whether or not they are well-meaning will not help solve problems. Many do not even understand them.

Watch Return to Eden. Some interesting perspectives are presented regarding the environment and climate. Some ideas for managing ecosystems and producing sufficient food are presented.

What will work to solve the challenges that face seven billion people? Not fighting about minor issues but a collective effort, based on real science and understanding how Mother Nature operates.

Canada: https://youtu.be/1s4vWrHw3WY
Dutch: 
https://youtu.be/TTNOnXHPvHA
German:  
https://youtu.be/p3D1Ggkrz9M
United States: 
https://youtu.be/BM5P9GA-Mc4



Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Living with a pandemic 43

 Are we learning anything?

Most news reports about the pandemic these days are about the rising infections related to opening up the economy and the schools. Many people are nervous or angry or both as restrictions are eased or new procedures are put in place.

The new protocols, if one can describe them as that, are nothing but new experiments because no one really knows what might work to reduce or halt the spread of Covid-19. And yet, on the other hand, there is a group who think that all limitations on public behavior should never have been imposed. Have we learned anything from past epidemics and pandemics?

National Geographic has an interesting analysis of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic and how different jurisdictions reacted to rising infections and deaths. Cities that shut down schools and enforced physical distancing early fared better.

We are doing many things that were done during past pandemics. The question is were they instituted in time to avoid the worst of the impacts. In Canada the rate of infection growth has been slowed with much better results than in many other parts of the world. Our deaths are ~244 per million population, far less than the worst-hit regions. The province of Alberta is just ~55 per million population. [Covid-19 infections confirmed at 10 September 2020 – 11,781; deaths – 253]

Locally, while cases are climbing again, hospitalizations are not. It is still worrying, though. Most new cases are among younger age groups who are trying vainly to go about their normal lives again. We may or may not have entered a second wave. There is non one alive that remembers the 1918 flu or what to expect.

In reading about the events of 100 years ago, it is interesting to learn that methods have not changed much other than medical facilities are much more advanced. Even in the last six months our medical people have learned more about what works in treatments and what is less effective. We are fortunate that this virus, while highly infectious, has not yet reached the devastation of the Spanish Flu.

I think we have learned from the past in getting control early and bringing in rules and restrictions to stem the tide of infections. There is not time to rest on our laurels, though, or relax our vigilance.

References to the Spanish Flu pandemic in Canada:

Alberta Doctors’ Digest (May – June 2020):

By the time the infection was over, Alberta would officially record 38,308 cases with 4,380 deaths (cf. 40,000 to 60,000 deaths in Canada) in a population of 500,000. Many felt this under-reported the cases. . . Most of those affected were 20 to 40 years of age. Houses were quarantined with a placard placed in the window, although not everyone chose to flag their homes. . . on October 30, all non-essential stores were closed, although some offered telephone-ordered goods for front door pick up. The community response was not unanimous. Some churches circulated pamphlets condemning their closure.

CBC News (December 2018):

Those struck by the illness were those impacted by the city's rapid urbanization, living in cramped, slum-like conditions . . . Many were young mothers, some whose husbands had left for the war. . . If Calgarians were hit hard, those living on reserves were hit harder. . . By the end of October, the province ruled everyone must wear face masks outside their home to stop the spread of the disease, loitering was banned and police were given the authority to quarantine people if deemed necessary.

Edmonton Journal (March 2020):

. . . They [theatres] were forced to close anyway on Oct. 18, when the Edmonton Board of Health banned public gatherings and ordered schools and churches to shut their doors. Gauze masks became mandatory — the Journal even printed instructions for how to make one out of cheesecloth. . . Businesses struggled to stay open. The government forced stores and offices to remain closed until 1 p.m.

The Canadian Encyclopedia (March 2020):

The pandemic brought not only death but social and economic disruption as well. Children were left parentless and many families found themselves without their chief wage earner. Armies on both sides of the First World War were temporarily debilitated. Businesses lost profits because of lack of demand for their products or because they were unable — as a result of a reduced work force — to meet the demand. Municipal governments, in an attempt to halt the spread of the disease, closed all except necessary services. Provinces enacted laws regarding quarantine and enforced the wearing of masks in public.

 


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Living with a pandemic – 42

 

Schools are opening; the pandemic is still going on…

This is the first week of school openings in many parts of the world. In the great unknown of what to expect from or due to Covid-19, parents, teacher, school officials and government authorities are predictably nervous.


Many families have opted for home schooling rather than risk the health of their children or others with whom they would come in contact at home. One friend told me that since his son’s wife is a doctor, she could not take the chance of having one of her children bring the virus home. A positive test would mean she would have to quarantine for two weeks, knocking her out of her job for an extended period and causing havoc with family finances, not to mention getting sick herself and possibly passing it on to her patients. That is especially dangerous for medical personnel as we depend on them to keep the system running in case the rest of us get sick.

Information about whether children who contract the virus get seriously sick – in the short term or long term – is very much lacking at present as this is a new disease. The death rates for younger people have remained low and it is those age groups that are chaffing at the bit to get back to working and normal lives. Who can blame them?

Classification

Cases

Hospitalizations

ICU

Deaths

Lethality

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

No.

%

 

All

121,372

100

11,382

100

2,315

100

8,968

100

7.4

Age

80+

18,669

15.4

3,701

32.5

270

11.7

6,404

71.4

34.3

70-79

8,395

6.9

2,337

20.5

539

23.3

1,629

25.4

19.4

60-69

11,564

9.5

1,908

16.8

573

24.8

650

25.4

5.6

50-59

17,872

14.7

1,567

13.8

480

20.7

210

2.3

1.2

40.49

18,115

14.9

848

7.5

224

9.7

50

0.6

0.3

30-39

17,658

14.5

539

4.7

115

5.0

15

0.2

0.1

20-29

18,885

15.6

337

3.0

87

3.8

9

.01

0.0

0-19

10,214

8.4

145

1.3

27

1.2

1

0.0

0.0

Table 1 – Cover-19 cases in Canada by age as of August 23, 2020

Infections are rising in those groups, though, with the probability that the virus can and will be passed along to the older members of the community who remain the most vulnerable. There are also new strains being recognized about which we know nothing, particularly what their impact may be on younger people. During the 1918 pandemic, it was the second wave that killed more people in the prime of their lives.

Most countries have now taken measures to keep their hospitalization numbers low. That’s a good thing. Were we too uncertain about where numbers would go without restrictions on social distancing or other restrictions? One only has to look at a few places where controls were lax to see that systems could be stretched to the limit had the infection rate been allowed to go unchecked – looking for that herd immunity being professed as an ultimate cure.

The telling statistic is in death rates, not cases identified. There has been a wide spread of test numbers, in total and as a ratio to population. In most areas, tests have only been given to those who had been in contact with infected people or who showed signs of sickness. That is gradually being opened up. The infections per number of tests remains generally the same indicating that there are many people who have the virus but don’t show symptoms.

While deaths may be more than are being recorded, we can still get an idea of the magnitude from published data and compare how various countries have handled the pandemic. Canada is doing reasonably well relative to other jurisdictions. South Korea and Taiwan locked down hard and early. The United Kingdom was late and haphazard in its reaction. The respective death numbers probably illustrate how different rules resulted in different results.

Country

Population (millions)

 Covid-19 Deaths

Deaths/ Million

Belgium

11.46

           9,884

         862.48

UK

66.65

         41,504

         622.72

Spain

46.94

         29,152

         621.05

Italy

60.36

         35,483

         587.86

USA

328.2

       187,441

         571.12

Sweden

10.23

           5,808

         567.74

France

66.99

         30,661

         457.70

Netherlands

17.28

           6,220

         359.95

Canada

37.59

           9,126

         242.78

Switzerland

8.57

           1,725

         201.28

Germany

83.02

           9,371

         112.88

Turkey

82.00

           6,370

           77.68

Australia

24.99

               657

           26.29

South Korea

51.64

               326

              6.31

Taiwan

23.78

7

0.29

 

Table 2 – Death rates for select countries as of August 31, 2020

Lockdowns, on the other hand, are causing severe strain on economies, not helped by generous contributions of cash by governments to assist people who have become unemployed or have had unexpected expenses. There is a worrisome trend among some of those in charge in keeping the gravy train rolling rather than open up business again. That, of course, garners votes from many people who like more money for less work. In the end those policies will hinder rather than help any recovery and disincentivize people from working at all – and paying taxes to reduce the debts being accumulated.

News reports from around the world indicate infection rates are rising almost in lockstep with the relaxation of social distancing rules and opening of businesses. We will have to eventually do the latter, but it may also be necessary to still control the former. In Alberta, the numbers are showing that either we did not flatten the first wave as well as we thought or that a second wave is well in progress. Flattening, or at least keeping the spike in numbers low can, I think, be attributed to locking down our society. Had that not been done, it is not inconceivable that all those cases now being seen might have been experienced months ago and the peak could have been much higher – and still growing.



The argument rages whether locking down early or late is best. Ultimately, we won’t know if there is an answer to that possibly for several years. It has been inconvenient. It has been devastating for businesses. It has caused hardship for families. But then every pandemic through has had those results. Some have killed many more people, in total and as a proportion of the populations. We don’t know that this virus would not have had or will not have the same impact without the stringent rules put in place. Hindsight is great. We are learning more each day about it and about how people respond to both the illness and the restrictions put on them.

It is clear to me that, since I am in a highly vulnerable age group, I will need to take more precautions about how I interact with others, that I might have hoped to be able to do with respect to other diseases and epidemics that have and continue to come along.

That’s just the way it is going to be! No use in getting stressed about it.