This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.
We don’t know what’s coming next – and the past three months are not a reliable predictor.
We’re all tired of this virus. The past seven months have been stressful. The ongoing interruption of personal and professional routines. The loss of everyday freedom. Economic devastation. The imposition of restrictions and regulations with which many of us disagree.
Our tempers have grown short. Our patience has worn thin. Rules we once conscientiously tried to follow now fall by the wayside, as the weight of contradictory government edicts accumulate, and our faith in the authorities evaporates.
Last Friday, the director of Public Health for the state of Illinois broke down in tears during a press conference (watch the video here). Illinois Governor JB Pritzker observed graciously a few moments later that medical doctor Ngozi Ezike “has had the weight of the public health of the people of the state of Illinois on her shoulders,” since the beginning. In addition to working long hours seven days a week, she’s had to deal with protesters outside her home.
Whatever she imagined her new job would involve when she became director last year, it wasn’t this. A news report quotes her: “My message to you is to stay strong. I’ve never run a marathon but I have the utmost respect for those who have been able to train, plan and finish a marathon, but this is a difficult race when you can’t actually see the endpoint” (italics added by me).
Not only can we not see the finish line, we have no way of predicting what’s coming next. Earlier this year, matters looked rosy for Israel. During the first four months, 415 people died of COVID in that country. Then things changed. During the following three months, rather than 100 people dying per month, 650 people did. In July, Israel’s deaths-per-million rate was 45. It’s now 261.
The Czech Republic has followed a similar pattern. During the first four months, 90 people perished per month, for a total of 364. But deaths have since risen to 600 a month. The deaths-per-million rate in that country was 34 in July. It’s currently 205.
Canada’s story has been almost the reverse. (We have four times the population of Israel, and three times the population of the Czech Republic.) The first four months here were brutal: 2,200 deaths per month. In July, our deaths-per-million rate was 232 – way beyond the double digits (45 and 34, respectively) of the above-mentioned nations.
During the past three months, however, COVID deaths in Canada have fallen dramatically, to 400 per month. Our deaths-per-million rate is currently 263 – a mere 2 points ahead of Israel.
Some countries did an excellent job of containing the spread of this coronavirus early on. But circumstances change. There are lots of pieces to this puzzle, and they’re constantly in motion.
Humility is our friend. Let us not make the mistake of thinking we know what’s coming next. The past three months do not, in fact, predict the future.