The HARD MATH of Re-Opening Canada for Business
Disclaimer – I am neither an epidemiologist or health care professional! I have spent much of my life dealing with worker safety including infection control and offer my thoughts, learnings and hopes. Please investigate from reliable sources such as Health Canada and BC for yourself.
The public protests from tiny but strident fringe groups mixing economic fears with entitlement, racism and conspiracy messages is NOT what I fear nor their disjointed words/writings in the media. What disturbs me are the Social Media messages from friends expressing that “reopening our economy is the better choice for the human condition.” Arguments that a returned Economy will save more lives than the pittance of lives that they think we will lose to COVID-19 may be overlying concerns for their personal well being, I also accept that some really have no concept of how many we risk losing, let alone who. If you haven’t lost anyone close to you, have no personal connection to someone at risk, discount the elderly, cancer patients, auto-immune, immune-compromised, diabetics, heart diseased, First Nations and so many others, then “why should you care?”
I do care and I think most others do as well. For the rest I hope some hard truth or Hard Math might persuade you?
With NO vaccine or effective treatment for COVID-19 we are dependent on Social Distancing until those solutions are readily available to our population at large or accept what I and the Health Community feel are unacceptable death levels. A distributed effective vaccine is not expected until the New Year, far later or horrifyingly never. Testing solutions for the virus and antibodies are available with new ones undergoing evaluation, but to date, Canada (and the World) neither has the capability to do blanket testing or to get speedy on-the-spot test results. Checking temperatures has proven less effective than asking sick people to self quarantine. The scary evidence that a disturbing number of those infected show no visible symptoms yet can spread the virus requires Social Distancing or a testing regime not yet available to prevent unimaginable death counts and the overwhelming and collapsing our Health Care System . We know far too little about how many potential asymptomatic carriers there are out there nor how long they may be able to shed the virus. There are also disturbing symptoms/deaths amongst children due to a toxic shock-like syndrome as well as healthy adults stoking out from blood clotting who could be detected with more testing.
The capability to do massive speedy COVID Testing as needed, combined with the ability to do rapid on-the-spot antibody testing can enable a planned progressive waiving of Social Distancing allowing safer transit, work places, eventually followed by schools, daycare and more. In my opinion, all our Health Care Workers, people in care, First Responders, and current essential workers along with their families should first be tested before we move towards the new normality. Retail and Food Service Staff, teachers, and students should be tested <before> the resumption school along with those returning to work. If we don’t Test first, we will be responding and playing detective to every outbreak in an effort and I fear failure to keep the virus in check.
Without a robust testing/investigation regime in hand to accompany the planned staged reopening in Canada, we risk an unimaginable and avoidable/preventable death toll of our elderly, at-risk, and First Nations peoples. A DEATH Count of genocidal proportions.
An immediate withdrawal of Social Distancing with work resumption, school and more exposures risks a DEATH TOTAL of 769,080 in Canada and 104,040 in British Columbia!
This toll could be higher as I have used a conservative estimate and have not factored in the collapse of our Health Care System (calculations explained below) but it could also be lower if Testing and detection improve or treatment are found.
Do YOU think 769,080 Canadian lives (104,040 British Columbians) is a fair trade for trying to return to normal?
I certainly do not!
Within a month or two we should have a testing and detection regime in place in Canada and BC to enable a planned staged resumption of work and eventually school/daycare and more, but with new rules/regulations/expectations for spacing and social distancing. In my opinion, two more months is not too long to wait to save most of those lives and buy the time to maintain our health care system . If Canadians and British Columbians decide otherwise and move to reopen, I will then have to decide which First Nations community of friends I will stand on a blockade with to keep the virus out of and likely be saying adieu. Because I am one of those with a compromised immune system who is more likely to die if Canadians should decide to sacrifice lives in a rush to reopen the economy.
The premise for my calculations is that at least 60% of a population needs to be infected  to attain Herd Immunity (the point where on average one infected person infects less than one other; the point where an epidemic no longer spreads and eventually burns out with normal infection control, investigation and follow-up). Some epidemiologists suggest that an infection rate 70-80% or more may be needed for COVID-19 and there are also concerns that recovery from COVID-19 may not grant long term immunity from re-infection. Unfortunately we still know too little about the virus to certain about far too much. The current World Mortality Rate for COVID is 3.4% . Canadian population used is 37.7 Million and 5.1 Million for BC (Google).
60% x 37.7 Million x 3.4% = 769,080 Canadian Deaths
60% x 5.1 Million x 3.4% = 104,040 British Columbian Deaths
Canada’s current infection Rate is estimated at approximately 4%  or less and cannot / will not be confirmed without massive testing. Canada’s death toll has remained low because of quick closure of our borders, social distancing at an early date and aggressive early testing of suspected cases. All forecasts show a massive surge of infections and death with a return to normal . Per Dr. Tam, Canada’s COVID death toll is likely higher due to lack of coroner testing and faulty national reporting/sharing issues . It is assumed that the discrepancy in the deaths will balance out with unreported COVID cases (too mild or not developed yet)
 Herd Immunity 60%
 current World Mortality Rate 3.4%
Mortality rate of coronavirus is 3.4% worldwide — more than double that of the flu.
 Canada’s current infection rate of 4%
 INTERPRETATION: Without substantial physical distancing or a combination of moderate physical distancing with enhanced case finding, we project that ICU resources would be overwhelmed. Dynamic physical distancing could maintain health-system capacity and also allow periodic psychological and economic respite for populations.
 Canada COVID death toll low
COVID-19: Recent updates on the coronavirus pandemic
Laura Eggertson | Wolfville, N.S. | May 13, 2020
May 12: Canada’s “archaic” system of recording deaths delays vital data
Canada’s antiquated system of recording deaths makes it difficult to know the full impact of COVID-19, warned public health experts. The current method of doctors filling out and faxing paper death certificates to the provincial bodies responsible for collecting mortality data means that it can take years to get a complete picture of deaths. Hospitals and coroners may also report deaths using different methods. According to Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, the federal government is working with the provinces “to see if we can address those gaps.”
 Forecast if social distancing ended, work and school resumed
Mathematical modeling of COVID-19 transmission and mitigation strategies in the population of Ontario, Canada
Ashleigh R. Tuite, David N. Fisman and Amy L. Greer
CMAJ May 11, 2020