ANALYSIS: Sunday Roundup of COVID-19 Information

By John Swartz

How are you doing?

My impression is we feel relatively well with how our country is handling this crisis. There is a mix of individual responses ranging from who cares (very few I think), to I didn’t know we were supposed to do that (a few more), to doing the right things, and to a few going way overboard on the other end of the Bell Curve.

So I read with interest a Maclean’s story about a poll stating Canadians having more faith in how our government(s) are handling the crisis than the Americans and Brits do; 56 to 42 and 40 percent.

While I think the ranking is about right, I looked into who was doing the polling (Public Square Research and partners Maru/Blue ) and the methodology is revealing. I thought the numbers of Canadians should be much higher, and for the others much lower.

Maru/Blue makes no bones they do not do random surveys. Instead they survey, “expertly profiled known respondents.”  Public Square, “specializes in accessing and engaging stakeholders, donors and communities that are often hard to reach-thereby enhancing the dialogue in the public square and putting the people back in research.” Public Square also states they gather data with “online panel research.”

Having taken two semesters of statistics for sociology, though I may have struggled with the mathematic equations I do know the pitfalls of random samples, selecting sources, and focus groups. Both these companies are basically saying they select their polling groups based on some criteria.

If you want to gauge what Canadians think, your results won’t line up if you only ask a selected subset who fit a socio-economic profile, and have a computer. They would have been more accurate saying some Canadians, Americans and Brits.

Objectively, considering the road apple show unfolding south of the border, and the refusal of the British government to act in any meaningful way until this past week, compared to our quick, reasoned, and measured response, having only a 14 point margin of satisfaction seems pretty low. I believe what the number really is can best be figured by random sampling in each country.

Imagine what the numbers would be on the same question if only Ontarians were asked and not Albertans and then calling it a Canadian poll. You will most definitely get different results. Same goes for asking New Yorkers only compared to Arizona residents. You’ll also get different results asking only university educated people with degrees, or college educated diploma holders, or trades schooled construction workers.

Selecting is OK depending on what you want to find out. One would not poll engineers or nurses to find out what doctors think. Bottom line, methods matter.


An earlier update relayed information doctors found in an analysis of COVID-19 patients ibuprofen did not help, and as the doctors said, aggravated recovery from the virus, particularly for those with diabetes and hypertension. The information was sourced from The Lancet and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Ibuprofen (Photo by Petr Čeština – Pixabay)

Here’s the conundrum of reporting. Certain sources are viewed to be trustworthy, legitimate, and reliable. I think you’d find little disagreement The Lancet is one of those.

The WHO should be and has been trusted, but recently has been taking credibility hits regarding how it handled itself when the outbreak happened in China and on Saturday video started circulating of a WHO official ignoring questions about Taiwan and then when pressed, hanging up the video call.

China is also playing pussyfoot officially as countries are finding the COVID-19 test made by Bioeasy Biotechnology are proving to be unreliable, just at the time prime minister Trudeau told Canadians medical supplies from China are being imported.

China officially reports 2,500 deaths in Wuhan, but late this week reports were saying as many as 45,000 urns were delivered to Wuhan funeral homes to passed on to families. The WHO’s kowtowing to China now makes the WHO less trustworthy in my opinion and a more critical view of their information is in order.

The initial Lancet study (worth a read) was not published as a peer review article, but in a section of the magazine researchers use to publish initial findings for others to test. This is more like a, “hey folks, look what we found,” than it is, “we tested this six ways to Sunday and believe x, y, or z.”

Much has been written since, calling it a theory, and journalists often either jump on theories as fact, or dismiss. Peer review does not mean accepted, it just means other researchers have gone over the information and either confirmed or rejected it. Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity is the same, except since publication it has been tested and accepted – and it’s still called a theory. The word theory in general use has a much broader meaning than in scientific use.

I was not the only one on the planet to relay the information. In my case the WHO endorsement swayed my thinking. The WHO has since reversed itself and says there is no evidence. They did this by way of Twitter and I was unable to find a specific reference to the reversal on their website or the original warning. “No evidence” is how it’s been reported elsewhere. What they really mean is there is no corroborating and tested evidence because the original Lancet article clearly states the evidence used for the warning.

Does anyone remember when we were told not to eat eggs? Only to find out a couple decades later (after new research indicated) eggs were healthy to eat? I think we’re in the same territory here. It may turn out the original Lancet article has some value, or part of it does, or it may not. I don’t think we’ll know for sure until well after the current pandemic passes into history.

In the course of running this down I found a comment dose matters regarding the acetaminophen alternative. Acetaminophen is an ingredient in all kinds of off the shelf remedies typically used for colds and flu and what people don’t realize is using combinations of cough, sleeping and pain medicine along with a tablet can add up into overdose territory.

Bottom line, ask your doctor about anything you read, even from the Lancet, the WHO, CDC, Ontario Health or online sources when it comes to drugs. Those sources could be right – but not right for you.

Next Levels Latest Developments

On Saturday both The Ontario and federal governments put new emergency rules in place.  In the morning the prime minister announced those who have signs of symptoms (one can assume a lot of coughing) will not be allowed to use public transportation anywhere in Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

It’s important to understand the difference between being told to self-isolate, and being quarantined. The latter is definite order under the Quarantine Act, the former, if directed by an authority (and it has been by virtue of being listed in Ontario as a must do) carries less restrictions under the emergency declarations made by all three levels of government. Quarantine means stay at home, no venturing down to the grocery store for you. Self-isolation allows some going out in public with conditions.

People who have returned recently from outside the country have officially been quarantined. Your neighbor down the street who has a cough can go shopping for necessities, provide they take precautions to not potentially spread the virus – if they have it (most have not been tested).

Ontario announced Saturday evening changes regarding how many people can be in one place at one time falls under the emergency declaration – and the City of Orillia has been following in lockstep under its emergency declaration.

The 50 person rule for public gatherings is now 5. That includes gatherings in your home unless you have been busy and there are more than 5 members of your family (or household). 

Those orders are a direct result of the public asking why have tickets (federal minimum penalty $1,000, provincial $750) not been issued to people flouting the orders?

It appears to me a majority of people who can’t go to work, are stuck in their homes, don’t go to parks or out on leisurely shopping time wasters are fed up the government is not taking action on this count. I think the governments do not want to appear to be authoritarian and cause a media stir if tickets are issued or arrests made.  I think they are reading the mood of the public wrong.

I am the last person who wants to have less choice than I have now. I need to eat. My job may require me to go out into public (so far it hasn’t).  Observing protocol, I don’t want to have to be denied the ability to go to someone else’s home if they need help. Typical of bureaucratic decision making, when push comes to shove a new rule or law gets made placing the restrictions which should be exercised on a few on all of us in order to be seen as being fair. Well it’s not fair to wait and impose on everyone. Warm up those pens, print the tickets and start issuing.

Imagine being the 11th family member of dear Uncle Ed. Everyone in the family recognizing and practicing the protocols, funeral homes insisting on them, and you can’t go to his funeral.

The good news, if any, is funeral home directors told SUNonline/Orillia  it is more likely celebrations of life will happen once this has passed because that’s been the trend in recent years, having the ceremony and wake weeks after a person has been cremated – which is most commonly used.

Be Careful Out There

We’re going to find out over time a lot of what experts are saying now doesn’t hold after adequate research is done. It’s only been less than half a year with a new virus. We don’t even have a vaccine for SARS yet.  What we do have is a lot o collected knowledge and advice based on similar experience with the coronavirus family and on the whole what we are being told to do now is good. But, some things may turn out to not be a factor because researchers just don’t know much about the virus yet.

(Photo by Jacqueline Macou – Pixabay)

The one thing you can bank on based on evidence is washing with soap and water is the best line of defense. It has been proven soap breaks down the fatty layer protecting the virus. Go wash your hands. It you touched your face (you likely did) wash that too – and your mother asked me to say, “and behind the ears.”

Now I’d like you to watch this video. Not by yourself. If you have someone in your family or circle of friends who has not been taking the virus seriously, watch it with them. The doctor in the video uses a few schoolyard words, but he makes the point, after point, after point. I’m thinking mostly of your immortal children who need to be brought down to earth, and by children I’m thinking the college age variety who know so much they know everything. OK, your teens fit that description too. Then watch his second video, and you‘ll likely find yourself with some converts, regardless of age. Let them feel uncomfortable in front of you, or grandma, or Uncle Ed who has had previous respiratory illness but is not dead yet. Gather your skeptics – no more than 5 of them – and watch them.

Two last things, which include where to go for information. First, Refillery District is closing to the public, but they are still on the job. This week they are launching online grocery shopping for pick up and will take orders by phone. Find out more here.

The Ontario Medical Association has answers to frequently asked questions here. Also see the Ontario ministry of health (here as well), the federal government website, City of Orillia and the SMDHU.

If you need help, or can help, check out the CareMongering-Orillia Facebook page.


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