Updates from March, 2020 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Kate 23:22 on 2020-03-16 Permalink | Reply  

    A summary of the current COVID-19 situation in Le Devoir gives some numbers.

    A case of the virus has been spotted at Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf (and another at Université Laval in Quebec City).

    Desjardins is closing half its branches; the Cirque du Soleil is laying off a lot of people.

    Dr. Mylène Drouin, director of the city’s public health department, says she’s certain there have been cases of community transmission here that have not yet come to light.

    As noted below (and as I’ve also seen on Facebook) the STM union is directing bus drivers to tape off the front door area to distance themselves from passengers, and only allow boarding via the back door.

    • Ephraim 10:01 on 2020-03-17 Permalink

      Businesses aren’t taking this seriously enough. A lot of offices that could do WFH are still refusing to do so. Including Quasi-governmental offices (like the CCQ). If you normally work at a computer all day, you should be telecommuting. And a company shouldn’t have the right to decide your health security for you.

    • Blork 10:15 on 2020-03-17 Permalink

      Just because you work on a computer all day it doesn’t necessarily mean that WFH is just a matter of working from home. Many (most?) such offices have security infrastructure in place, including internal networks and so on that are not so easy to connect to remotely. There are VPNs to do so, but not everyone has the VPN software installed or knows how to use it, plus some offices’ VPNs are set up with the expectation that maybe 5% of the workers will be using it at any time. Jump to 95% of workers on the VPN and you get a series of crashes.

      There are other security issues too. Some offices do not let people leave the premises with a computer because of all the sensitive information on it (or that it can connect to).

      Also hardware. Many employees do not use laptops, so if they suddenly need to work from home that means either schlepping a desktop machine home (not possible for everyone) or the office suddenly has to buy and configure all these laptops for people. (Assuming — and it’s a valid assumption — that the employee’s home computer doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for the job and/or does not have the required software and licenses, etc.)

      All that to say, WFH for many office workers is a lot more involved than just typing into MS Word or fiddling with numbers in Excel.

    • Michael Black 10:42 on 2020-03-17 Permalink

      My sister has a tiny computer at work, kind of a laptop without built in screen or keyboard. That would be easy to bring home.

      I guess she classifies as an office manager, but it’s in a factory. The computer is.important, but would be limited without the factory. They have no business without the factory. So not a lot of.sense to have the office workers work from home.

      Stores are more likely to be places for the virus to spread, and we can’t live without them.

    • Ephraim 11:57 on 2020-03-17 Permalink

      Blork – It may be, but the question is… do they have a right to put you and your family at risk IF there is a way around it? For example, at one office, they moved everyone “essential” to WFH but not those who are “non-essential” or should we call them disposable? Why are they deciding who’s health is important?

      And here’s the other side of it… what if your cluster comes from that office, does that mean that that choice becomes a reason that the business can be sued, because it was preventable, you just decided not to follow the guidelines and risk your employees?

      But, in Quebec, if you can work from home, the CNESST guidelines require the company to do it. So, by not complying, they violate the law as well. Why? Because the company is supposed to do it’s utmost to protect the health of their employees.

      Two days ago, the calculation was that in 250 people in Paris, 95% chance that 1 of them had COVID-19 and was spreading it in the office. The numbers increase 33% per day exponentially unless you flatten the curve. The less people in the office, the less risk.

    • Alison Cummins 14:46 on 2020-03-17 Permalink


      Blork just explained why it’s typically NOT possible for everyone to work from home.

      We also don’t know if a company might have different measures in place for non-essential staff, who are by definition more flexible. For instance, maybe non-essential staff work (at the office) only one week out of two so the office is emptied and they can keep an appropriate distance from one another. Maybe half the staff is now working from a secondary office to reduce density. Maybe everyone has high cubicle walls now, and official permission is granted to eat lunch at their desks. Maybe IT is working around the clock to give everyone the technology they need to have video meetings from their desks.

      +++ +++ +++
      It’s not as simple as essential vs non-essential even for companies who are using that metric in their calculus.

      A telecom technical call centre is definitely something we want to keep going during a time like this when virtual connection is even more important than before. So, essential. They work at computers but for all the reasons Blork listed most of them almost certainly CAN’T work from home. (But you can bet that budget is about to be reassigned for the technology to make this possible two or three years from now.)

      Sales support in the same type of company can usually work from home, though they would be non-essential.

      When I was in the corporate world, emergency preparedness was a very big deal. There were plans in place for the eventuality of any given office being completely shut down. None of them involved. These plans will be kicking into high gear now. (None of them involved killing off non-essential staff.)

    • Ephraim 16:31 on 2020-03-17 Permalink

      @Alison – This is not the usual situation. If you can get people out of the office, you do it. You don’t decide that you are getting out just the “essential”. If you can’t do it, then you better have a great plan in place. But when it’s this important… maybe the CNESST should be picking up the phone and asking… what are you doing, what are the plans, how many more can you get to WFH.

      And safety is different for different people. Imagine if you live with someone who is compromised… do you have to stay away from work with no pay because you are “non-essential”.

    • Ephraim 18:23 on 2020-03-17 Permalink

      Great, now a friend was told to go home because he’s a diabetic. No WFH.

    • Chris 19:01 on 2020-03-17 Permalink

      Ephraim, don’t you run a hotel or something? Curious to know what you’ve done in light of all this… if you don’t mind sharing.

    • Ephraim 19:39 on 2020-03-17 Permalink

      @Chris – Essentially, closed. All I get are cancellation emails. Basically, I’m unemployed with no UIC.

  • Kate 17:15 on 2020-03-16 Permalink | Reply  

    I’m on a 55 bus in which the driver has taped off the front door section & is only letting passengers board via the back. Anyone else see this today?

    Also was thinking: this is the first time I’m encountering a crisis my parents did not. I had older parents and whatever happened they could always counter it with “the Depression… the war…”. But they never had a “pandemic” card to play.

    • david100 17:35 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      Well, the San Francisco Bay Area has just ordered a total lock down like Legault has been suggesting he wants. How long until we think it happens?

    • JaneyB 18:13 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      SF’s ‘shelter-in-place’ order is basically what we’ve already got. You can go out for necessities and walks while keeping the social distance but otherwise, stay home. Meanwhile France is going to deploy 100,000 police to help the Français stay home. Apparently Parisians at least had moved from the shut restaurants into social groups in parks. I, like many now, am spending too much time online lol.

    • Kate 18:18 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      JaneyB, we can still go to work. I am still going to my job (which is far from being an essential service) because I want to get paid. Lots of folks must be in the same boat.

    • JP 20:43 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      My mom described the bus thing too.
      Re work: My parents don’t have work-from-home type jobs. They work in textiles and shipping. They’re quite robust, but given that they’re in their 60s, I do worry a bit.

    • david1000 20:45 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      The restrictions in SF bar people from “non-essential” work or activities – huge difference from what’s going to in Montreal.

      Aside from the money situation, staying home is pretty great. Even though I can work remotely, with these extra nights, the plan is to finally work on some research and cookbook translation I’ve been unable to find the time for until now. Never waste a good crisis.

    • Kate 20:48 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      JP, the STM is not describing the bus thing on its site. I have a feeling it’s the union that’s circulated the idea, not management.

    • Meezly 21:36 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      Our parents did have to deal with measles and polio, both of which had waay higher mortality rates than covid-19. I hope a certain subsection of society will have a better appreciation of vaccinations after all this!

    • Raymond Lutz 21:45 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      “France is going to deploy 100,000 police to help the Français stay home” Ceux qui suivent le gouvernement Macron s’engouffrer depuis plus d’un an dans un fascisme mou ne peuvent que sourire à la lecture de cette phrase.

    • Kate 22:26 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      Meezly, you’re right. I also forgot about tuberculosis. I remember my mom talking about how they would come to the huge factory where she worked with a portable x-ray machine, and every time, a certain number of people would be shipped off to a sanatorium in Ste‑Agathe. It could take a year to recover from TB and I don’t know how people paid for it, because this was before socialized medicine.

      Polio was also a major nightmare I managed to forget about.

      I’m not sure measles is more fatal than COVID-19 but then we may not know exactly what the numbers are on that, till later.

    • Uatu 08:53 on 2020-03-17 Permalink

      This is also happening on the 45 express bus to Brossard. It’s probably a union thing to keep drivers healthy so they don’t have to be replaced. And let’s face it, they do come into contact with a lot of people who are within the 6ft “social distance” buffer zone…

    • jeather 09:17 on 2020-03-17 Permalink

      Measles has a higher death rate, but polio absolutely did not. The mortality rate for the paralytic form was high, but less than 1% of people infected had the paralytic form. (One major difference is that polio hit mostly children — but that’s because the adults had it already, of course.)

    • Ephraim 10:03 on 2020-03-17 Permalink

      Measles has a very high R value…It catches like wildfire. Polio left a lot of people disabled. I’ve known a few people with two different leg lengths caused by polio.

    • jeather 12:07 on 2020-03-17 Permalink

      Both measles and polio are terrible in multiple ways. But polio has a lower mortality rate than Covid-19, because it has a very very high rate of asymptomatic infections (75% ish, with another 20% with just minor symptoms). Measles is also terrible because it lowers your immune system long-term and also you lose immunities you already had before you got measles.

  • Kate 08:13 on 2020-03-16 Permalink | Reply  

    Thank goodness for the odd police blotter story to break things up. Two men stabbed each other in a brawl at a downtown hotel, early on Monday. Nobody is expected to die. CTV calls the location a “motel” but although there are a couple of small guest-houses along there I wouldn’t call anything on that part of Sherbrooke Street a motel. A motel has as its key feature that you drive up to it.

    • walkerp 08:36 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      Those guys should have been practicing social distancing.

    • Michael Black 09:31 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      So they should have used guns, not knives?

    • Ian 22:00 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      Perhaps cattle prods at dawn

    • dmdiem 02:13 on 2020-03-17 Permalink

      coughs at high noon.

  • Kate 08:00 on 2020-03-16 Permalink | Reply  

    The news continues to be about the one topic: Bishops are shutting down religious ceremonies, the order of dentists is postponing non-emergency appointments, well-known restaurants are closing till further notice. Food banks need donations and volunteers.

    Metro and buses continue to operate normally. Taxi drivers are getting worried about their exposure.

    There are endless stories about falling markets, Canadians abroad trying to get home and so on. I’m trying to focus down on Montreal specifically, as always – not ignoring those stories, but not linking them.

    A couple of weeks ago, I happened to text in to CBC radio during their late afternoon show, and I won a gift certificate to a well-known fancy restaurant (it was being given out as part of the High Lights festival, which may turn out to be the last big festival here for a long time). A friend and I went and had a great nosh with some nice wine. The restaurant, which I’d never visited before, was crowded, and people were relaxed. News of the virus was already out, but we didn’t imagine that in two weeks’ time the resto might have to close and the street outside be nearly empty.

    As another friend tweeted, he likes to read science fiction, not get caught up in it.

    • Michael Black 09:36 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      Resilience Montreal is looking for hand sanitizer, they can’t find any. I saw a post directly from Nakuset about it. (They were looking for warmish clothes last week, just a general need.)

    • Kate 09:46 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      Nobody can find any hand sanitizer, Michael Black.

    • EmilyG 10:36 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      I tried to buy a bottle of hand sanitizer online, but by the time I got to the checkout cart, it was sold out.

    • Michael Black 10:50 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      I think Nakuset was hoping some of the hoarders would cough some up.

    • Kate 10:59 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      Michael Black, they might as well. Kijiji has shut down resale of sanitizer, masks and other items prone to getting hoarded in a time of pandemic panic.

    • Raymond Lutz 11:14 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      “Kijiji has shut down resale of sanitizer” Shit! Et la liberté d’entreprendre? Ce sont les entrepreneur qui créent de l’emploi… Les Bronfman n’auraient pas pu développer leurs entreprises si on avaient empêché leur trafic d’alcool durant les 14 ans de la prohibition US! Et on n’auraient pas bénéficié de tous ces emplois!

    • Raymond Lutz 11:56 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      Here’s a Hand sanitizer recipe, copied from a Stanford professor of neurobiology and bioengineering SARS-CoV-2 presentation:

      “Hand sanitizer is just 60-70% ethanol with moisturizers.
      Home recipes suggest aloe vera gel, but that may be hard to find. You can use glycerol instead; it is a common ingredient in moisturizers and makeup.

      ‘Lin Lab’ recipe: Mix two parts 95% non-denatured ethanol with 1 part 90-100% glycerol.
      – Use non-denatured ethanol, which lacks toxic additives (that is, avoid bottles with the health hazard logo).
      – Do not use dehydrated/absolute/anhydrous/100%/200- proof ethanol as that has benzene from the purification process.”

      Also learned reading the slides: Windex can be used to sanitize objects! Good to know (I’m emptying Windex Costco racks as I’m typing this).

      This Stanford MD hand routine is quite strict, from p.27: “Sanitize objects given to you and only pass objects that have passed your own cleanliness test to
      others. For example, I have my hand sanitizer bottle open and ready to clean my credit card immediately after I get them back from cashiers, before I put it back in my wallet.” Go read the whole pdf! But here’s some last snippets:

      “Virus presence on surfaces: On steel and plastic, 10-fold drop in ~12 hours; On cardboard, 1 hour.”

      “Most transmission correlates with coughing symptoms, according to WHO. Anecdotally, people can spread 1-2 days before having symptoms (e.g. first Germany cases). This makes biological sense; the first replication cycles won’t create enough tissue damage to be noticed.”

    • Michael Black 12:14 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      My sister was making it (or thinking about it) using vodka. A lot of the available rubbing alcohol isn’t a high enough percentage, you have to look a bit further and pay a bit more. But then I read that drinking alcohol may not be pure enough alcohol wise.

    • Ephraim 12:46 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      @Michael – They have 70% and 99.9%, but some of the pharmacies have it at the cash, so people don’t horde. You need just one, a small hand spray bottle and a little essential oil (lavender or tea tree, though people don’t usually like the smell of tea tree, but it’s anti-bacterial). Put it in the spray bottle with a drop of essential oil and spray on hands and rub. Different than the gel, but works. If you have the 99.9% stuff, you can mix in some aloe to protect your hands. If you only have the 70%, just the tea tree oil or lavender essential oil.

    • jeather 13:23 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      Tea tree oil is poisonous to most household pets when concentrated, be careful if you have cats or dogs.

    • Chris 17:22 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      People, soap is *more* effective than alcohol/sanitizer in killing the virus you know.

    • Michael Black 17:27 on 2020-03-16 Permalink

      Yes, but you aren’t always near a sink. Especially if you’re homeless.

  • Kate 07:17 on 2020-03-16 Permalink  

    This is based on a tweet I saw from Hannah McGregor, whom I don’t know.

    If we do social distancing and self‑isolation right, it will feel like we were overreacting. That’s the goal of preventative public health. It’s like Y2K: if we pull this off, everyone will remember it as an overblown threat that fizzled out.

    We need to keep this in mind when we’re coping with inconvenience, distancing, isolation.

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