Wednesday, June 2, 2021

A tale of two pandemics

I've seen a tweet/meme circulating on social media over the past few days, moaning that 95,000 mostly maskless people were in the stands at the Indy 500 (in Indiana) this past weekend, while we in Ontario still can't even go to a store to buy underwear, and how embarrassing is that??  

(I think the actual figure was more like 135,000) -- and that was 40% of capacity!!) 

With great effort, I bit my cybertongue -- because my first reaction was that ummm, maybe there shouldn't BE 95,000-135,000 mostly maskless people in the stands right now?? (hello, pandemic? hello, highly contagious and lethal variants?) 

Then I thought, well, okay, maybe more of them are vaccinated than we are?  And (to be fair) it WAS an outdoor event (and outdoors is better than indoors) -- although 135,000 people close together, even outdoors, is not exactly my idea of social distancing...! (I'll be curious to see whether there is a significant spike in cases/deaths in Indiana over the next two weeks or so.)  

Anyway -- I did a little digging.  I'm not a statistician, and sometimes finding comparable stats (apples vs apples, etc.) was a bit tricky, but I think I've interpreted things correctly here.  Among the sites I consulted were the New York Times coronavirus tracking site for current stats for Indiana, the Globe & Mail's covid stats page and the Toronto Star's home page (for vaccine info), the Ontario government covid site, as well as Google (for population and specific May 31st case & death stats).  As of May 31st/June 1st, here's how things stack up (more or less): 

  • Population (2021):  Indiana: 6.8 million/Ontario: 14 million 
  • New cases (May 31st):  Indiana: 0/Ontario: 916
  • New deaths (May 31st): Indiana: 0/Ontario: 9
  • 7-day average daily new cases (per 100,000, May 31st): Indiana: 7/Ontario: 7.40
  • 7-day average daily deaths (per 100,000, May 31st): Indiana: 0.14/Ontario: 0.1
  • All-time total cases (per 100,000):  Indiana: 11,096/Ontario: 3,601
  • All-time total deaths (per 100,000): Indiana: 202/Ontario: 59.3
  • Percentage of population with one vaccine: Indiana 41%/Ontario 57.4%
  • Fully vaccinated: Indiana 35%/Ontario 5%
In summary: A greater percentage of Indiana's population is fully vaccinated. (So far.)  Of course,  Ontarians started vaccinating later than they did in the U.S., and we're only just starting second vaccinations for most people. I have no doubt we'll be catching up on that front soon. 

In terms of the recent 7-day average of daily new case numbers and deaths (per 100,000 people), the stats for both places seem to be roughly even.  (In terms of one-day stats, it's been quite a while since we've recorded zero new cases or new deaths here in Ontario...!) (ETA: I suspect that perhaps Indiana just didn't release any stats that day?)

But in terms of the pandemic totals to date -- sorry, Indiana, but there's just no question that overall, Ontario has a better track record, with far fewer cases and far fewer deaths over the course of this pandemic to date. 

The lockdowns/stay at home orders/mask mandates and other restrictions we've endured over the past year have been tough, no question. But -- they've worked. They've kept people alive and healthy.  I'm not saying our stats are great, mind you -- 539,000 sick people and 8,700 deaths over 15 months is nothing to brag about. And I shudder to think of where we'd be right now if we hadn't locked down when we did -- and of course many (including me) will argue we'd be in a far better place right now if we hadn't lifted restrictions prematurely back in March -- and/or been quicker to reimpose them -- thus launching the third wave.  And of course, there will always be people (on both sides of the border) who ignore whatever restrictions are put into place, for a variety of reasons. 

I suppose some might argue that, current case/death numbers being equal, and vaccinations going well, if they can gather in such large numbers without masks, why can't we? (or if not that, at least go into a store to buy underwear?)  There is a case to be made that you're less likely to encounter COVID-19 in a smaller retail outlet (especially if it's operating at partial capacity) than in, say, big-box stores such as Costco or Walmart (which remain open at reduced capacity, but are currently prohibited from selling non-essential items... like underwear).  

But look at the numbers. Within about two weeks after the last lockdown/stay-at-home/school shutdown order was implemented in early April, the numbers peaked at an all-time high -- and then, FINALLY, began heading in the right direction. Earlier this week, daily new case numbers dropped below 1,000 for the first time since March, and the last time we hit yesterday's one-day case numbers (699) was in mid-OCTOBER. 

It's taken us a long time to get here -- longer than it probably would have taken if we'd stuck longer with Lockdown #2 and not been in such a hurry to reopen in March (against most medical advice -- thus triggering Wave & Lockdown #3). But we've still got some distance to go before we get down to zero.  And who wants to risk triggering Wave/Lockdown #4? especially with summer just starting? 

The provincial government has announced a staged reopening plan, with some non-essential retail and outdoor dining scheduled to reopen around June 14th.  There's been a LOT of grumbling about that. It's hard to be patient -- especially when we see the rest of the world starting to open up and normalize. But, given the variants in circulation, the current (still high) ICU numbers and the small number of people here who are fully vaccinated, I think we need to hang on just a little bit longer, keep following the guidelines, and get vaccinated when it's our turn. Then, hopefully, we can all enjoy this summer a whole lot more than the last one (if not the ones before COVID-19). 

(steps off soapbox) 

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad your numbers are going down. The side-by-side comparison of Indiana and Ontario was interesting. Yes, lockdowns are hard. But so are deaths! And 135,000 people at the same place, with only 35% fully vaccinated (and I imagine the crowd at the Indy 500 would have a lower percentage vaccinated, given the politicisation of the virus/vaccinations?), is just asking for trouble.

    Thank you for getting on your soapbox!