Having lived with COVID for more than six months, condo boards are challenged to make long-term decisions in an environment with limited factual information, many opinions and conflicting agendas influencing what we read and hear.
An incomplete narrative, some believe fueled by those benefitting from COVID, has been presented by relying on selective presentation of data, daily news items and government announcements. As a society we act in accordance with recent headlines while failing to understand more credible information. Any void of accurate and reliable information gets filled with rumour, belief and misrepresentation.
This is familiar territory for condo boards; energy efficiency upgrades being one of numerous similar situations. Information provided by vendors and government agencies can be a combination of reliable data, massaged information, and less than reliable numbers. Residents in support of or opposed to specific initiatives will put their own spin on data to support personal views. It is up to the condo board to sift through this information, determine which data is relevant and reliable, and make long-term decisions likely to disappoint at least some.
Toronto Condo News set out to evaluate available information on COVID the same way condo boards are encouraged to gather information prior to making decisions.
If one is to believe the data, from two independent sources both of which offer similar results, the COVID narrative presented by politicians, various authorities and major media is deceiving. Condo boards basing their decisions and actions on what appears to be a false narrative may not be making wise decisions.
The View from Canada
The general view is that we are in the middle of a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. COVID is highly contagious and many are dying from it. Compared to most countries, Canada is doing well at minimizing both infections and death utilizing a combination of efforts including physical distancing, closing of public spaces and businesses, and wearing of masks. The percentage of the population that was infected, required medical attention, or perished was a tiny fraction of the 40 percent suggested in March by our health minister and politicians.
High-rise communities have enacted a range of policies and procedures including closure of amenities, limiting the number in elevator cabs, restricted access to concierge and management office, and enhanced cleaning procedures. In fact, nobody seems to know what measures are effective. Despite speculation that COVID may be transmitted through elevator use, HVAC systems and sewage systems – as with SARS in the early 2000s – no evidence of this has been found.
A second wave of COVID infections is anticipated. Thus far Canada, and our condo communities, have continued with nearly all measures, for longer than most countries on the presumption that some are effective. While much of this may be found to be correct over time, the narrative is not consistent with available data.
Canada’s Failure in the COVID Pandemic
Bureaucracy gets in the way of science
Canadian politicians and bureaucrats appear to have taken actions regarding the COVID pandemic inconsistent with what they claim to be a science-based approach.
Canada chose to shut down a key part of its early warning system for pandemics last year. This is the system that first detected SARS and other pandemics some countries tried to hide from the world. The scaled back version did not allow scientists to share findings without political approval. This is detailed in the Globe and Mail’s July 25, 2020 article “Silenced” in which they report that Canada was aware of COVID as early as January 15 and chose not to make this information public. The country was poorly prepared for the pandemic and allowing bureaucrats to control messaging has been a disaster preventing us from being better prepared.
The system has been restarted since the Globe and Mail article.
Toronto Condo News looked at data from two generally accepted sources; World Health Organization and John Hopkins University.
We monitored data for seven countries early April to late July. China was included since it was where COVID first appeared. Data from China is inconsistent with every other experience; suggesting COVID had been eradicated by early April or that reporting from China had stopped prior to April.
Overall, approximately 10 percent of developed OECD countries did not implement full lockdowns. They successfully ‘flattened the curve’ with COVID death rates approximately the same as countries that implemented lockdowns.
Infection and Death Rates
Infection and death rates fail to match the narrative.
“I would say that it is safe to assume that it could be between 30 per cent of the population that acquire COVID-19 and 70 per cent of the population.”
Federal health minister Patty Hajdu
(In Canada this translates to 15 million to 26 million people with COVID. So far about 115,000 got it and 106,000 have recovered.)
The CDC counts deaths in such a way that, by their own admission, 6 percent of them are entirely due to COVID 19.
Death rates from COVID have been between 1 and 70 deaths per 100,000 residents; far less than the 500 and 900 deaths per 100,000 residents used to justify lockdowns and other actions.
The vast majority of those infected with COVID are asymptomatic meaning no visible symptoms. Of those remaining, few are sick enough to require hospitalization. In Canada this means our health system has been able to support those requiring hospitalization. It is not coincidental that increased COVID infections have been widely reported. This makes good headlines but is irrelevant to understanding the risk of COVID. A more important indicator, hospitalizations which does not appear to have increased, is not an eye-catching headline. Among those hospitalized, a majority may be “from COVID” rather than “with COVID” making the disease less dangerous than reported.
A worldwide death rate of three percent fails to reflect population. When population is considered, the death rate from COVID is not much different than from other known viruses.
Deaths may be over-reported, at least in Canada. Confirmed cases include both “from COVID” and “with COVID”. As of late August 2020, about 9,000 deaths had been attributed to COVID which amounts to about 1,500 deaths per month. To put this in perspective we looked at total deaths in Canada. In 2016 there were over 267,000 deaths according to Statistics Canada; an average of 22,268 deaths per month or 730 per day. Cancer accounted for 48.6 percent of all deaths. In 2018, nearly 80,000 people died from cancer with smoking being a leading cause. Heart disease killed more than 53,000 Canadians; accidents killed 13,300 people and 8,511 succumbed to influenza and pneumonia. There is a strong likelihood that many deaths attributed to COVID may be the result of other causes.
“There’s far more mortality for children from flu than there will be from COVID. Influenza deaths for school-age children over the last five years, they’re anywhere from five to 10 times greater than COVID19”
“in high schools, we’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from COVID. We’re seeing far greater deaths from drug overdose that are above excess that we had as background than we are seeing the deaths from COVID.”
Robert Redfield, Director,
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Yes … COVID can kill. And every preventable death is a tragedy. Yet it kills at a much lower rate than cancer from smoking, heart disease, car accidents, influenza and pneumonia. None of these causes have necessitated the extreme actions we’ve taken in response to COVID. While all are deserving of more attention and preventative measures, for the moment COVID is the only cause of death that appears to have our attention.
Despite reports of high infection and death rates in the USA, their death rate is less than half the rate compared to Canada. This contrasts with reports of the USA being a “hotspot” with more deaths than any other country.
Mitigating Virus Transmission
Physical distancing, hand hygiene, face masks and enhanced cleaning are widely encouraged as being the best defense against COVID transmission. Yet nobody seems clear on what actually works and data is conflicting. If contact with other people was a major risk factor then Canada, with a higher percentage of its population living in cities, and high-rise communities where physical separation is more difficult because of common areas and elevators, would be hotspots for virus infection. In fact, Canada has one of the lower death and infection rates suggesting other factors may be more relevant.
Hand hygiene, including hand washing with soap and hand sanitizer, is the best available method of preventing virus transmission. This has been verified in numerous studies going back decades.
Face Masks have been widely promoted and generally accepted as being effective at preventing virus transmission. Science has studied the effectiveness of face masks at preventing virus transmission for about 100 years. During this time there have been no studies suggesting they help prevent virus infection despite initial hopes it would deter influenza, more commonly known as the flu. The overall conclusion, until recently, is that masks are not effective and may facilitate virus transmission. There has never been an approval for any facial covering intended to be used in the general population to suppress any illness, including but not limited to COVID-19, in Canada or the United States. Masks may be nothing more than an ineffective and exaggerated response to fear and mistrust of others.
Lockdowns have been implemented throughout Canada and elsewhere despite any evidence they are effective.
Where we are today
In Canada we have successfully:
- Slowed down virus transmission and thus far avoided overwhelming our health services;
- Crashed our economy such that many may never find full-time employment again while virtually guaranteeing higher taxes and reduced government services possibly for decades; and
- Scared most into compliance without full consideration of facts.
Today many of those not working and paying for these measures are content to remain at home. They may feel differently a year from now if unable to pay for rent, food, condo fees and higher taxes because employment remains unavailable to them.
Only one-third of one percent of the population have been infected with COVID. Among this group 92 percent recover. The impact of COVID, as compared to other causes of death we live with daily, does not appear to match our actions.
A recent Leger poll reports that most (66 percent) want physical distancing to continue at double the distance recommended by the World Health Organization. This virtually guarantees that most restaurants, stores, airlines, sporting events, concerts and bars will disappear. This same study reports that 74 percent expect a second COVID wave and 51 percent think they may get it.
At the end of the day our choices are limited. We can seek to control COVID-19 virus transmission which may or may not be possible. We can accept it is uncontrollable. Or we can adapt to the existence of COVID-19 as we have when confronted with other new viruses.
The key question to ask is if our actions thus far are warranted and should continue, or if we have overreacted and been overly-influenced by the current narrative in which case are changes warranted? As condo boards throughout Toronto, the GTA and Canada make decisions for their communities they are urged to stick to the data and resist the herd.
Alec Berenson, former New York Times Journalist, has become a leader at speaking out against the current COVID narrative. Unreported Truths about COVID-19 and Lockdowns: Part 1: Introduction and Death Counts and Estimates, the first of a series of booklets based on his coronavirus reporting, is available through Amazon after early efforts to prevent publication. Mr. Berenson draws on primary sources from all over the world – including state and national-level government data, Centers for Disease Control reports, and papers in prominent scientific journals. It offers factual, accurate, and well-sourced information.