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Not All Sneezes Carry COVID-19

Photo for illustration purposes only, sneezing etiquette should be used.

It’s almost mid-September. After a spring and summer of various states of quarantine, things are starting to return, if not to normal, at least some semblance thereof. People are slowly – very slowly – starting to go back to work places.

Many students are in classrooms, however very much different looking classrooms. Not exactly the good old days, but a step in the right direction. At least until things go wrong. It’s a bit like walking on eggshells.

The usual sniffles are still going to be around. Colds and allergies will remain a nuisance to sufferers.

With that in mind, it is important to note that not all sneezes are created equal.

The usual sniffles are still going to be around. Colds and allergies will remain a nuisance to sufferers. But what stands to make this even worse this year is the presumption that all sneezes are chock-a-block with Coronavirus droplets. Children sneezing behind masks are going to be a common occurrence as long as the ‘cold’ remains common.

Desks are enclosed in plexi-glass bubbles to prevent any spread

That sneezing woman with the puffy eyes may well just be battling ragweed or pollen. Allergies are not contagious.

Let’s not ostracize those who tend to sneeze; allergy and seasonal cold sufferers should not be made to feel like Typhoid Mary

Let’s not ostracize those who tend to sneeze; allergy and seasonal cold sufferers should not be made to feel like Typhoid Mary . Let’s not jump to conclusions. Common sneezing etiquette should be practised, but assuming that all sneezes are COVID-19 spreaders is not the way to go.

Achoo! Gesundheit!

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Will COVID-19 Change New Car Sales Procedure?

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A recent post on Facebook by a friend of mine got me thinking about another possible long-term effect of the COVID-19 confinement. In her post, she illustrates her frustration with a new car salesman.

In a nutshell, having come to the point when all that was left was to sign on the dotted line, the salesman seems to have imploded. She made an appointment to meet and finalize the deal. When she arrived, on time, the salesman was tending to other customers.

“I’m like a doctor, you see, and I’m very busy so you can’t expect me to see you at the time you were scheduled for. Do you want the car?”

After waiting for over twenty minutes, the salesman said to her, “well, you would not expect to be seen at your real appointment time if you were at the Doctor’s office. I’m like a doctor, you see, and I’m very busy so you can’t expect me to see you at the time you were scheduled for. Do you want the car?”

Needless to say, she bought the car at another dealership.

For most people, after a house, a car is the biggest purchase we make. I once worked for an advertising agency that had a local car dealership as a client. The owner would often mention that the company, in this case, Ford Canada, would love to do away with new car dealerships entirely.

Wear and tear would and does have an effect on the worth of the vehicle. But new cars have no wear and tear

If you were interested in a Ford product, once you did your research, you would build your car online, including financing, then go pick up your purchase. If you wanted to take a specific model for a drive, you could make an appointment to do so. If you liked the car after driving it, the showroom would have several computers available for you to make your purchase.

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Certainly, this does not apply to used cars. Previously owned cars are no longer identical. Wear and tear would and does have an effect on the worth of the vehicle. But new cars have no wear and tear.

As Carvana has shown, there is no real need for new car salespeople. In theory, all new cars, comprised of exactly the same features, should cost precisely the same. There should not be any haggling; when you haggle with a new car salesperson all you’re doing is trying to reduce his or her commission. A commission for a ‘service’ that is unnecessary.

Will automobile manufacturers continue to soak new car customers by allowing salespeople to pad the price? Or will they take advantage of the COVID-19 confinement to overhaul the system?

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COVID-19 And Drinking In Public

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As the weather turns more summery, and people who have been in some form of COVID-19 isolation are chomping at the bit to get outside, public parks are filling rapidly. They provide ample space for proper social distancing while still allowing for small groups of family and friends to meet.

Before COVID-19 people sitting in the park swigging beer, or elegantly sipping wine, were told to put it away, or given a ticket. I don’t mean being drunk in a public place, but the mere consumption of hooch was/is verboten

Clearly, there have been instances of over-exuberance during which people have let-down their 6-foot guard. But from my point of view, most folks appear to be playing by the rules.

And that includes police and local security forces. In my city, it has long been against the law to consume alcohol in public. Before COVID-19 people sitting in the park swigging beer, or elegantly sipping wine, were told to put it away, or given a ticket. I don’t mean being drunk in a public place, but the mere consumption of hooch was/is verboten.

Now we have no option but public parks should we want to share a drink with the allowed number of people (from the allowed number of households). And the authorities have wisely looked the other way. A recent article in the National Post poses the possibility that COVID-19 is making Canadian cities more European. I have over the years had numerous conversations with people from Europe who were baffled to learn that responsible adults are not allowed to consume alcohol in a public park or beach.

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On several occasions recently my wife and I have attended small gatherings of friends for a drink in the park. We have been careful to adhere to proper physical distancing requirements. Needless to say, we have cleaned-up when leaving.  While I am fully in favour of this easing of the draconian ban on sharing a drink in public, there is one COVID-19 related catch.

It’s diabolical. Did they get together and decide OK, we’ll let them drink beer, but then lock them out of the washrooms

On the one hand, municipal authorities have, evidently, instructed police and local security to turn a blind eye to alcohol consumption in public during the pandemic. While on the other hand, also in keeping with COVID-19 restrictions, they have closed and lock all public bathrooms.

It’s diabolical. Did they get together and decide OK, we’ll let them drink beer, but then lock them out of the washrooms. You can almost hear the fiendish laugh.

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Let me just state that those of you who live near a public greenspace, as I do myself, please follow the approach of the police and look the other way should you notice an otherwise civilized-looking person having a whiz in your lane. Remember, we’re all in this together. And please accept my thanks and apology!

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Can Physical Distancing And Retail Shopping Coexist?

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Ste. Catherine Street/Montreal Gazette,

Let the shopping begin … or resume. Today is the long-awaited day when Montreal stores, those with dedicated entrances from the sidewalk, not those located in malls, can reopen. Back to normal you say. Nope.

There is something wrong with governments that implore people to both practice social distancing and take public transit

The city has engaged sixty additional security staff to make the rounds of stores to make certain COVID-19 regulations are being observed. The number of people allowed into a store at one time will be limited. Shoppers will be strongly urged to wear masks and maintain social distancing procedures. Ideally ‘shopping’ will be more of a grab-pay-dash activity.

While I fear this reopening is premature, I wish all the shopowners the very best of luck. If your place of business is downtown, you’re going to need it!

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Photo by Shinya Suzuki (Flickr Creative Commons)

I went for a stroll on Saturday, a beautiful hot sunny day. As the old saying goes you could have fired a cannon down Ste. Catherine without causing anyone any harm. Except for the fact that longs tracts of the street are torn-up by roadwork that has been in abeyance during the lockdown.

One of the nice things about the pause in economic activity was the absolute plethora of available parking spots downtown. Unfortunately once you parked there was nothing to do. Stores, restaurants, and bars were all closed. But I have a feeling the few remaining spots, those that have not fallen victim to roadwork, BIXI stands or security measure (the U.S. Consulate alone costs the better part of two streets worth of parking spots).

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The United States Consulate in Montreal

So while merchants are eager to get back to business, and shoppers have money burning a hole in their pockets, keep in mind that the old downtown problem – parking – is not any better, and may well be worse than before the shutdown. I fear that many people with the ability to drive, will, more so than ever, ignore please to use public transit.

Metro

A normal day on Montreal’s Metro, and a COVID-19 day. Will things go back? Can physical distancing work?

There is something wrong with governments that implore people to both practice social distancing and take public transit.

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Quebec Referendum Forty Years Later

Rene

Video RCI

Today, May 20, 2020, marks the fortieth anniversary of the first referendum in the Canadian province of Quebec. I recall casting my vote on that day at the school across from our home. It was, much like today, a beautiful sunny spring day.

… were those who wanted to begin the process of establishing an independent Quebec, outside of the Canadian federation, and would vote Oui

The details of the vote have been well documented so I will not bore you with minutia. Suffice to say the two sides of the issue were those who wanted to begin the process of establishing an independent Quebec, outside of the Canadian federation, and would vote Oui; and federalists who wanted things to remain as they were, and would, therefore, vote Non.

The question itself generated much debate as it was nothing if not convoluted. The lengthy question and results are below. It was a decisive 60-40 victory for the Federalist side.

The Oui side, led by then Quebec Premier René Lévesque was devastated by the margin of defeat. Many of them gathered in an east-end arena for what they hoped would be a victory party. Sadly there were many tears, but none of joy. The room was smoky and hot, emotions were running high. Forty percent of voters’ dream had been quashed, at least for the time being.

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While I never agreed with his sovereigntist position, I was a great admirer of Lévesque. His command of the English language was better than most mother-tongue English speakers. He had been a much-respected war correspondent prior to entering politics.

On the night of the referendum, when he made his way across the stage to the microphone to address an impassioned group of Oui voters who had just learned of their loss, he could have, with the wrong words, ignited a volatile situation.

But he controlled a very volatile situation by reassuring those present that this was not the end of their dream. Just a delay. That’s responsible leadership at its best

But instead, Lévesque, all five and a half feet in stature, stood tall at the microphone and said Si j’ai bien compris, vous êtes en train de me dire: à la prochaine fois. (My dear friends, if I understand you correctly, you’re saying: ‘until next time.)

A lesser man would have worked up the emotional crowd and sent them off to do God only knows what. But he controlled a very volatile situation by reassuring those present that this was not the end of their dream. Just a delay. That’s responsible leadership at its best.

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COVID-19 Long Weekend Social Distancing Challenge

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Montreal police tell people to observe physical distance regulations or vacate the park.

It’s the first long weekend of the summer in Canada. Known as Victoria Day, a throwback to our colonial days, or Journée nationale des patriotes in the Province of Quebec, it traditionally heralds the unofficial beginning of summer.

By this point in the calendar, it is assumed to be safe to plant annuals without fear of frost. Garden centres are packed with people buying flats of flowers, bags of soil, window boxes and, hanging plants.

As quarantine weary people make their way into public, the police are being very vigilant

Of course, that was the case before COVID-19. This year, while the weather is cooperating, the ability to purchase garden goods has been slowed by physical distancing.

Strict rules on maintaining safe distances while ‘socializing’ are still in effect. As quarantine weary people make their way into public, the police are being very vigilant. While sitting at my dining room table yesterday I heard the unmistakable sound of a loudspeaker coming from the park a few metres away.

Six-Feet

When I looked out of the window I was somewhat surprised to see a police car, not a public security vehicle, parked partially in the park and admonishing people for ignoring the restrictions.

It was a good thing, it had to be done, but it was also a reminder of just how surreal this pandemic seems at times. Yet it is all too very real.

I get that we need to boost the economy, but what’s the point of having a robust economy when everyone is sick or dead?

Had someone suggested to me a year ago that I would soon look out of my apartment window and see police ordering people to “vacate” the local park because they were flouting the regulations of pandemic survival I’d have thought them mad.

This is just one example of how difficult it will be to gradually reopen society, once it is deemed safe to do so.  If people can’t even cope with social distancing in a relaxed, open environment, how are they going to manage in more confined areas? Public transit, houses of worship, elevators, classrooms, stores, and, restaurants all pose significantly greater challenges than a park when it comes to keeping distance.

No wonder many places that have reopened too soon have seen sharp spikes in new cases of the virus. I get that we need to boost the economy, but what’s the point of having a robust economy when everyone is sick or dead?

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COVID-19: Oops Too Soon

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Tagging up. Don’t go too soon!

The perfect poached egg takes about four minutes in a pot of water that has come to a boil then removed from the heat and the lid placed on it. Removing the egg before the time is up will result in a half-cooked mucky slimy mess.

Oops, too soon.

Many a teenaged romantic dalliance has been thwarted by the lad’s premature expression of his, no doubt, true love.

Oops, too soon.

Oops, too soon – just doesn’t cut it during a pandemic

Every baseball season experienced MLB baserunners try to get a head-start when advancing on a caught flyball.  They tag-up, or so they believe, and take-off for the next base only to be called out upon appeal.

Oops, too soon.

Many well-meaning but inexperienced classical concert-goers have suffered the wrath of more knowledgeable patrons when they have applauded after a movement. Mistaking it for the end of the piece.

Oops, too soon.

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Perfect poached egg

All of these hasty actions have their consequences. None of them terribly hazardous to the individual or society at large. However, the attempt by several governments to reopen society amid the current COVID-19 pandemic may well result in catastrophic results. The potential for a spike in cases and deaths seem to far outweigh the need to reopen society as far as this humble blogger is concerned.

Oops, too soon – just doesn’t cut it during a pandemic.

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COVID-19: Herding Cats and Drunken Bro-Hugs

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There are many idioms that refer to undertaking a difficult if not impossible task. One hears that something was like herding cats or nailing Jell-O to the wall. Or occasionally pushing water uphill with a rake. Just imagining how hopeless any of these chores would be may give one an idea of how difficult applying social distancing in some cases can be. 

Assuming Duct Tape is not permitted, attempting to keep even a small group of school-age children from encroaching on each other’s space is next to impossible

As I write this the Quebec government is planning to open daycares and elementary schools in Montreal over the next two weeks. This has caused much anxiety, specifically on the part of parents and teachers. 

Even with strict physical distancing guidelines in place, actually applying them in practice will be a whole different endeavour. Assuming Duct Tape is not permitted, attempting to keep even a small group of school-age children from encroaching on each other’s space is next to impossible. 

Floor markings indicating proper distancing in grocery stores and banks are overlooked or ignored by alleged adults on a regular basis. A room of energetic children who have been cooped up at home for a couple of months would pose a significant challenge for any teacher.

Some will say that young children are not really susceptible to the virus, so while the assignment to keep them distanced may be nigh on impossible, the potential danger is limited.

However, a more alarming potentiality arises when the subject moves from schools to bars and restaurants. If you read this blog with any regularity you are no doubt aware of my fondness for bars. But even I am pleased the government has not yet mentioned when those establishments will be able to reopen. 

… after a few pitchers of beer, and maybe some shots to celebrate the reopening, any adherence to social decorum, let alone social distancing, will be quashed in a sea of drunken bro-hugs

As much as I feel for the owners of bars and restaurants, many of whom were already facing tough times, I think any attempt to enforce physical distancing will be impossible. Again, like the schools, it’s all fine and dandy to outline restricted sections. Tape-off areas of dining rooms, close every second table, remove half of the barstools if you want. Good start.

Then open the doors. Initially, I think people will obey the limits. But I also have no doubt that after a few pitchers of beer, and maybe some shots to celebrate the reopening, any adherence to social decorum, let alone social distancing, will be quashed in a sea of drunken bro-hugs. 

RealLife

Enforcing physical distancing on a bar half-full of semi- to totally drunk people will be a Herculean task. 

In fact, I would go so far as to say it, along with the controlling of young students would be impossible.

Maybe someday people will describe an unworkable undertaking as being akin to controlling a room full of drunks during social distancing.

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COVID-19: Guinea Pigs And Lemmings

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Today, May 11, 2020, marks the day when the province of Quebec tips its toe in the water of school reopening. As numerous newspaper articles have pointed out, the rest of the country is watching to see how things go. 

It is important to point out that these reopenings are in what is referred to as the “regions” (although everywhere is a region, that is the term used to indicate non-urban areas). In Montreal, Canada’s COVID-19 epicentre, schools will remain closed until May 25th. 

The students returning are doing so to enable their parents to return to work…Teachers will essentially babysit the children

Many of the regions of Quebec have seemingly succeeded in controlling the virus, which hit them much less severely than in large urban areas. Therefore opening the schools there has been deemed a calculated risk worth taking.

The fact that there are but a few weeks left in the school year is irrelevant. The students returning are doing so to enable their parents to return to work. It is entirely optional for parents. Teachers will essentially babysit the children. 

This appears to be a relatively safe gamble, nonetheless, there is an element of the children and teachers being used as guinea pigs. Just the fact that all eyes are on this return would be enough for me to think it is a mistake. Why did the Quebec government decide to go first?

GuinPig

Courtesy Betsy Primes | The Daily Reveille, with edits

Yet last evening on the news many parents in these less-populated areas seemed keen to get their kids back to school. I sure hope that this doesn’t blow up in the face of those who have devised the scheme. These are lives at stake, children, teachers, and those who are in contact with them. 

Watching the news reports I found myself thinking that these trial students and teachers are being used as guinea pigs. But I hope that by advocating what many have termed the premature return to school we are not using them like lemmings. The rush to get back to ‘normal’ may be an expensive, and regrettable, undertaking.

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COVID-19: Hank Aaron Knew What To Do With A Curve

Hank

It should come as no surprise that some, arguably all, politicians, from time to time, tell a wee lie. Sometimes, of course, they are real porky pies, and not wee at all. Outright lying is one thing, unacceptable under almost any circumstances other than life or death. The current US President is an example of either bald-faced lying, or just extreme stupidity (frankly it could be both). 

But sometimes politicians make statements that they have to countermand at a later time under different conditions. George H.W. Bush became the poster child for this when he had to levy a new tax in 1992 after making a point of saying clearly and precisely in 1988 “Read my lips: no new taxes” 

This is new to everyone, there was no “Pandemics For Dummies” available 

I fear that our current COVID-19 pandemic is making similar liars out of many leaders. This is new to everyone, there was no “Pandemics For Dummies” available, although there may be several once this is all said and done. Politicians, and their perpetual need for voter support, must balance things with scientific evidence (and even that is a bit sketchy). 

Firstly it seems to me that the politicians and public health authorities decided to agree on a middle ground in their initial response: this took the form of flattening, or planking, the curve. Evidently, lock-downs, self-quarantining, and the like could be eased once the graph that illustrates the number of new daily cases leveled-off, stopped rising. Not once the curve disappeared, not once there were minimal new cases, but at the point where the number of new cases remained static. Even if that was 800 new cases daily! Apparently the “new reality” we will be living also has a new concept of the word good, as in “It will be good once the new cases stop increasing”. 

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Translation Google

No, it will be good once there are no new cases. 

So government officials told us, about two months ago, to self-isolate, stay home, don’t mingle, masks don’t really help. They shut down all gatherings, religious, entertainment, even funerals, of which there have been many, were deemed verboten. They scared the bejayus out of us to the point that we all huddled under our beds and society just about shut down completely – with the obvious exception of essential services.

But now people are getting antsy, the economy has sputtered to a stop and the fear of it rusting and seizing looms large. So someone has decided that it’s time to “reopen” the economy. All of a sudden it will be okay to go to work and mingle. Buses and Metros will no doubt start to see more passengers. The nearly deserted streets will once again have pedestrians. It will be lovely, except for one thing.

Are we jumping the gun by reopening things, albeit slowly? I believe so

To all appearances, we are no better off now than we were two months ago. The daily number of cases and deaths rises or stays around the same. We are still urged to practice physical distancing, maybe even don a mask. What happened? Could we have been doing this all along? The Quebec government claims to have the virus under control (with the very sad exception of senior’s residences where COVID-19 still runs rampant). 

Flattening the curve isn’t controlling the virus. Eradicating COVID-19 will be a sign of control. Forest fires are often referred to as being under control or not. A forest fire that is under control is one that is not spreading, but the danger it poses is no less horrific. Folks with homes in the controlled fire certainly can’t return to them. Yet with COVID-19 allegedly under control, it seems prudent to restart commerce.

Did our leaders lie to us from the outset? I don’t think so. I think they were completely in the dark as to how to handle this hideous curse. Are we jumping the gun by reopening things, albeit slowly? I believe so.

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