Differences in COVID-19 infection rates depend on whether a given jurisdiction is, or is not, data-oriented

Click here to access the Dec. 6, 2020 CBC News Second Opinion article >

I have an email subscription to the CBC News Second Opinion weekly update on health and medical science news. I am impressed with the quality of the writing and journalistic research.

I highly recommend this subscription.

At the current post, I’m not going to post excerpts; you can read the article by clicking at the link at top of the page.

I’ve been following news about science and public health research related to COVID-19 and the differing ways that governments around the world are responding. You can do a search at this website to find previous posts.

Data related to COVID-19

Some general thoughts come to mind, quite apart from details in this week’s Second Opinion article from CBC News.

The first thought is that a person can distinguish between an orientation toward life that is data-based, and an orientation that is not data-based. For the past 30 years my orientation has been strongly data-based; before that, it was a little bit of data here and a lot of opinion there, all mixed together into a bundle. I am much more focused now on data.

It follows that I follow COVID-19 guidelines from public health authorities with care. I avoid as much as I can situations where such a care about guidelines is not in evidence.

I’m intrigued with what is happening in Alberta and some other jurisdictions such as Iowa where the following of data appears not to be a priority. I see such as approach as a textbook case of a situation where rhetoric about personal choices – about freedom and personal responsibility – takes precedence over the requirements (such as mask mandates) of public health, when faced with a crisis such as the current pandemic.

I also continue to follow with interest news about the COVID-19 pandemic as it makes its presence known in Sweden, which is the country where I was born, to a Second World War refugee family from Estonia. From time to time I post news updates about Sweden at this website. You can find them by doing a search for “Sweden.”

I am impressed with the fact that Sweden appears to be changing its approach to the pandemic in line with emerging data.  The willingness to make adjustments as data emerges is a source of inspiration for me. It underlines the fact that in life, trajectories may be in place – life trajectories may be in place – and yet those trajectories can be changed when the will is there.

How life on our streets is organized

A related thought concerns how life in city streets is organized, in countries around the world.

Amsterdam, August 2018. Jaan Pill photo

Amsterdam bike scene, August 2018. Jaan Pill photo

I’ve noted in previous posts that I was hugely impressed when I observed bicycle culture in Amsterdam when I visited the city with my family in August 2018. It was amazing to see how cyclists of all ages were constantly travelling and socializing (people cycling side by side contentedly conversing, kilometre after kilometre; young children enjoying the passing scene seated side by side in purpose-built cargo arrangements) along dedicated bike lanes (separated from vehicular traffic) built across the city.

That stands in stark and arresting contrast to cities where motor vehicles run the show and people on bikes are being fatally injured by cars. Amsterdam didn’t always have a bicycles-first approach to life. I’ve found it most interesting to learn, little by little, how Amsterdam got things right starting with a mobilization of political and civic resources in the 1970s.

That story inspires a person tremendously!

Updates: In a sense, we see two different COVID-19 response universes

An article from the Dec. 14, 2020 issue of the New Yorker is entitled: “Getting Through the COVID Winter: We’re in a strange limbo. Real empowered national leadership won’t arrive until Inauguration Day, and the next wave of infections is already here.”

Distinction between two approaches: The article sums up what the current post communicates. An excerpt reads:

Many Americans, of course, do not have the luxury of isolation, among them the health-care workers who will be fighting the pandemic during the next, terrible weeks. And the task of distributing the vaccines is incredibly complex, involving everyone from commercial pilots (who’ve been given a dispensation by the F.A.A. to carry on board more dry ice, which it classifies as a hazardous material) and FedEx drivers to pharmacists who will give the injections. Solidarity, to borrow one of Merkel’s terms, may mean supporting those workers. For people who can stay home, perhaps the promise of a vaccine will make it easier to be patient with the winter’s restrictions – it won’t be forever.

By way of additional updates, the following Guardian article underlines the distinction between a national COVID-19 approach that gives scant credence to public health recommendations, and a national pandemic approach that takes such recommendations closely into account.

A Dec. of 6, 2020 Guardian article is entitled: “Arriving in the US from Australia during Covid was like walking through the looking glass: Australia has shown that the response to a pandemic needs to be strict. Lives and a nation’s economy hang in the balance.”

Each day requires a focused approach toward COVID-19: The following article underlines the fact that the threat from COVID-19 remains constant; with each passing day the threat must be faced anew.

A Dec. 6, 2020 ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) article is entitled: “Sharp rise in RSV infections among children has experts warning parents not to relax COVID-19 social distancing measures.”

Analysis of differences in COVID-19 responses: Differences in COVID-19 responses, at the level of provincial and national jurisdictions, are amenable to analysis, as the following articles illustrate.

A Nov. 26, 2020 Policy Options article is entitled: “In the Canadian federation, pandemic response is hyper-local. The stringency of COVID-19 measures varies wildly across the country. But is that a compelling reason to centralize the pandemic response?

A Dec. 7, 2020 Reuters article is entitled: “Pandemic’s uneven march across U.S. paved way for wider outbreak.”

An excerpt reads:

How did it get to this point? Once-in-a-century public crises might seem a natural rallying point for a nation, but the current pandemic hit a trifecta: a politically polarized society, the uneven spread of the virus, and an economic impact that was disparately felt and quick to fade in some parts of the country even as it kept others fast in its grip.

Today’s rampant spread of the virus is bound with those facts: Local and state decisions to let the economy reopen as much as it did, as soon as it did, with public health rules spotty and unevenly enforced, set the stage for it to rotate through the country and eventually to spread unchecked.

Climate crisis requires data-based approach as well: The following article from Australia underlines the fact that the climate crisis is a public health emergency.

A Dec. 4, 2020 Croakey article is entitled: “Landmark report presents wide-ranging calls to action on climate and health.”

In the heading for this section, I refer to two response universes. By that I mean that there is a data-based world, with regard to how problems are addressed, and a world that is not data-based.

In practical terms, we are dealing with a question of competence in dealing with matters of life and death. A data-based approach is associated with competence in dealing with public health threats such as COVID-19.

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