SNOBELEN: When the facts don’t align with public health’s preconceived notions

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Our farm manager, Blake, turned eight awhile back. He might have lost a step or two, but he still keeps elephants out of the pasture.

There are some skeptics who believe dogs don’t really have much to do with the absence of elephants.

But skepticism aside, there is an abundance of evidence that dogs prevent elephants.After all, most farms have dogs and pretty close to zero farms have elephants.

Which is the logic governments use for evidence-based policy. That keen reasoning has been on full display during the great COVID panic.

Think back to early January when the public health authorities unveiled the latest scary COVID modelling. Every one of those models featured a hockey stick graph taking COVID cases from historic highs to the viral stratosphere.

In Ontario the medium level of infection by mid-February was targeted at 20,000 cases a day.

The public health response was pulled from the 1918 Spanish Flu playbook – wash your hands and stay home. Despite all of the advances in science and technology, public health pandemic advice hasn’t changed much over the last hundred years.


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The COVID models proved to be accurate. They just had the hockey stick going in the wrong direction.

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Canada-wide, the rate of infection started dropping dramatically in mid-January (pretty close to the day after the public health folks rolled out the scary models) and continued through February.

Well, by gosh, obviously, the lockdowns worked. The public health dogs had repelled the virus elephants.

But darned if there aren’t a few skeptics who don’t believe that the forced closures of (some) businesses, schools and recreation areas (think Ontario ski hills) caused the reduction in infections.

Some stubborn facts fuel those skeptics. The crash in the rate of infections happened just about everywhere, even in jurisdictions that didn’t close businesses and schools.

And the rate of decline was about the same, regardless of the intensity of public health initiatives.

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Undaunted by these anomalies, the public health authorities have marched on.The damn elephants are coming, they’re just a little late.

Our own Dr. Theresa Tam pulled out yet another set of projections showing infection rates blasting off (the “rocket ship” chart) as new COVID variants roared through the country.Toronto’s Dr. Eileen de Villa said of the falling infection rates: “I have never been more concerned.”

By gosh, they are sticking to evidence-based strategy even when the evidence and the strategy are in different galaxies. Fact-based decision making isn’t easy.


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Based on last week’s media releases, it would appear that Tam and de Villa are now cheering the virus on. That’s not a great look.

But it’s not surprising. Facts are funny things. It seems that even scientists tend to ignore facts that don’t fit with preconceived notions.

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And facts are scarce when you are just making stuff up. Which pretty much sums up the public health, fear-based response to this pandemic (see testing, contact tracing, masks, vaccines, international travel and all those models).

Tam and company have no clue why the rate of infection went down and they won’t know why it starts to rise again.

Based on the last 11 months Tam, de Villa and their fellow travellers would be well-advised to get out of the modelling business. It’s not going so well.

And Canadians would probably be wise to take anything public health folks say with a large grain of salt. Two grains when it comes to vaccination projections.


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