“When will it End?”
Ross Farnham’s letter of April 2021 raises COVID-19 issues that are alarming if they are true. They are not, his letter is full of misinformation and half-truths. Where to start, the inaccuracies are so numerous. Ross writes that case numbers increase after mask mandates (and other controls) are mandated by governments. Ross clearly doesn’t comprehend that case numbers are expected to go up shortly after a government mandate because the incubation period for the virus is up to 14 days. Meaning that the increase in case numbers are expected as they reflect exposures prior to the date of the mandate. The case data clearly shows that daily case numbers go down sharply starting about 14 days after implementation. Let’s be clear, Australia provides a really good example of just how effective a total lock down can be in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and in fostering a vibrant economy. Australia has close to zero cases of COVID-19.
Ross goes on to make misleading and false claims about mask filtration, vaccine efficacy, and vaccine side effects. His information deficit on these and other topics is bewildering. It is so important to wear a mask, socially distance, wash your hands, and get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect your health and the health of your friends, family and community.
Ross then goes on to question whether the number of deaths attributable to COVID-19 are lower than presented by the government because many of those who died had comorbidities. He suggests “there is a big difference between dying from COVID-19-19 as opposed to dying with COVID-19-19.” Let’s explore the validity of Ross’ assertion. A person with a COVID-19 infection may accumulate inflammatory fluids in the lung caused by the virus. In turn this can enable a bacterial infection to take hold, further comprising oxygen exchange to result in death (asphyxia). Another example, increased cardiovascular stress from inflammatory agents in the blood from the infection may predispose you to having a heart attack and dying if you have pre- existing heart disease. Up until then your underlying conditions may have been well managed. To summarize, the combination of a COVID-19 infection along with a pre-existing condition can make you more vulnerable to a cascade of compounding adverse effects that can kill. The example of death caused by a secondary bacterial pneumonia in an infected person with asthma or COPD or of a heart attack in a person with high blood pressure was actually initiated by COVID-19. The fundamental cause of death is COVID-19. This is not a debatable conclusion as Ross seems erroneously inclined to make.
Ross then goes on to make the insensitive and outrageous claim that because the average age of people who have died from COVID-19 in Alberta is 82 years that they “would probably have died shortly anyway from their other conditions.” This is termed “early harvesting” of the elderly. Let’s be clear, Ross is suggesting that the premature death of our elderly grandparents or parents is no big deal, they were going to die shortly anyway. I don’t imagine family members would be as blasé about this as Ross is. Regardless, let me make it absolutely clear to everyone that analysis of COVID-19 mortality data since 2020 in countries around the world like Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom clearly show that “early harvesting” is not occurring in any age group (ourworldindata.org/excess-mortality-COVID-19). The COVID-19 deaths that have occurred, and are still occurring, are excess deaths, deaths greater than what is normally expected to occur over the course of a year. People are dying of causes that they normally die of, on top of that are premature COVID-19 deaths. Ross’ early harvesting hypothesis is flat out wrong.
Ross is right though on one level, 94% of COVID-19 deaths in Alberta are in people over 60 years old. Don’t forget this means at 6% are younger than 60 years. However, death is a crude measure of COVID-19 health impacts. Forty-five percent of people in the ICU due to COVID-19 are younger than 60 years old. Eighty-six percent of people in the hospital due to COVID-19 are younger than 60 years old. The age demographics of people in the hospital, ICU, and dying are getting younger because of the COVID-19 variants and with the success of elderly vaccinations. Plus, there is the added distress of COVID-19 “long haulers” who continue for months with lingering debilitating COVID-19 side-effects after leaving the hospital, and these include many who are younger than 60 years old.
I strongly disagree with Ross’s letter and really find it offensive – COVID-19 is not a virus to be taken lightly. Ross asks, what has happened to the flu this year? The answer is that the flu has disappeared as a collateral benefit of the COVID-19 precautions of wearing a mask, distancing, and handwashing. These measures have successfully curtailed the transmission of the flu virus. The disappearance of the flu this year just goes to show how much more infectious and dangerous COVID-19 is in comparison. The precautions that are so successful against influenza are not nearly as effective against COVID-19, especially if we are not all rigidly following those precautionary measures. Take care everyone, the variants are out there and they are even more transmissible and deadly.