Thursday, April 30, 2020

Will We Repeat the Mistakes of 1918?

One of the costliest lessons to emerge from the Spanish Flu of 1918 is that pandemics often come in waves over a span of 12 to 18 months and the second wave tends to be the deadliest.

It's claimed that, after the first wave during the spring of 1918, the guard was dropped.  People went about their lives, business as usual, lots of mingling. That, we're told was all the virus needed to come roaring back with a murderous vengeance in the fall of that year.

Half a billion people, one out of three at that time, became infected. Some 50 million died.

The lesson of the Spanish Flu seems to be 'don't let down your guard.' It's not a 'one and done' contagion. You have to anticipate a second, even a third wave and how we act during the hiatus can influence the severity of the subsequent wave.

Now we're poised to put those warnings to the test. We're not even through the first wave and already some governments want a return to business as usual. They argue that we must breathe life back into the economy lest it be permanently damaged. There is a legitimate argument to be made for their position, risky as that may be.

As lockdowns are lifted we'll be treated to the influence of creeping normalcy, social amnesia. Today even the direst warnings are flushed down the memory hole, forgotten, within a matter of days.  The more threatening or inconvenient, the faster we manage to purge them from our consciousness. We've become quite adept at this coping mechanism in the age of climate breakdown. It's a technique equally suited to a pandemic.

It seems we're in for that dreaded second wave this fall. There will probably be no vaccine by then although there are encouraging reports of various anti-virals that may reduce Covid-19's lethality. Let's hope so.


Anonymous said...

Canadian governments don't take the precautionary principle seriously when it comes to the environment and climate change, so there's little reason to believe things will be much different when it comes to a pandemic. They'll shop around for experts who will tell them what they want to hear and act accordingly. The great clusterfuck of Republican governance south of the border will put additional pressure on our own politicians to relax precautions too early. I'd say a repeat of 1918 is inevitable.


The Disaffected Lib said...

There isn't much evidence to refute your conclusion, Cap. The government doesn't heed the precautionary principle even though it's the law of the land. That said, the public is complacent enough that the pols know they can do as they like.

Lorne said...

I have a feeling, Mound, that Quebec's rush to reopen the economy precipitously will backfire badly; the resulting sickness and death may serve as object lessons not to be so quickly dismissed and forgotten by other jurisdictions.

Trailblazer said...

I believe that we, in Canada, have a decent but not perfect hold on the virus.
For sure we could have done better, we could have taken the lead given by BC some time ago.

Any occurrence of the virus will likely have its origin in the excited states of America.
With must be mindful of re opening our borders with the US to it's usual flow of traffic.
It could well be the flow of Nexus seekers of cheap dairy and beer could let us down; don't let it happen!


The Disaffected Lib said...

Lorne, we've had plenty of warnings but governments in this era have little resolve. We're still caught in "art of the possible" politics that are hopelessly flawed in meeting emergencies.

The Disaffected Lib said...

Historians tell us that grave public catastrophes have, in the past, healed deeply fractured societies but my reading of these examples suggests they build during periods of great carnage and linger in the post-emergency era. In our case this extended through the first 3+ decades of the postwar era. Then it fades. Societies succumb to rifts, divide and weaken.

As for Mr. Trudeau, I think the voice of Morneau will have his ear soon enough.

Anonymous said...

I fear we'll happily wander direct into the second virus wave for a boffo death toll this fall and winter. The Feds seem sane to me, but I am not impressed by most provincial governments.

BC still has over several dozen new virus cases each day, including their own chicken plant problem. Why are they relaxing so soon?

Alberta has numbnutz kenney talking about May 15 restaurant/salon re-opening after golf today, and he has meat packing plant/tar sand camp virus problems and still 300 new cases a day. Crazy fucker anyway, who gives not a toss about anyone but himself.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba have had very few new cases recently, so have justification to relax a bit.

Ontario has big problems. They're not relaxing anytime soon. Are they?

Quebec is nuts and opening anyway. Their health care providers are worn out -- who's supposed to do their jobs when it all explodes again, a bunch of Army recruits? Ring-a-ding-ding, Legault. Wake up. A Newfoundland town mayor found Quebec tourists come to view the icebergs. How in hell did they get there? By ferry. No plans whatsoever for 14 day quarantining. Martians. Some control at the NB, NS, CN ferry and NL borders!

New Brunswick no cases for almost two weeks, so why not lift restrictions? Contrast letting the folks in NB golf this week with Alberta at 300 cases per day allowing golf today. Mind numbing.

PEI found one the other day. Easy to track down contacts in that place, so re-opening seems fine to me.

NL two cases in the last few weeks. They can afford to lift a bit unless more Quebeckers come to rubberneck and disregard regulations.

NS - well, we're in a mess, so nothing happening for a month at least.

All the usual loons are out and about, mostly Cons. And so we have Con leadership, ha ha, candidate Derek the Slavering Slob Sloan openly being racist about Dr Tam, and moronic ideologue Scheer doing fuck all about it. Nor the authorities about what seems to me to be illegal overt racist incitement. If they acted, that would give those Con dopes something to think about, squawk, moan, bleat. If they didn't think things were serious up till now, that would show 'em different. But the plods are basically Cons themselves, I think. Their shit show non-communications for the first week after the mass shooting here shows them to be secretive and incapable of reacting to social conditions at the brass level. Deaf.

Overall, I'd say we were sitting ducks. It could be worse -- Americans have targets painted on their foreheads and a sign saying Shoot Me. No money, no food, no health care for tens of millions. Now there's a failed society, and they still think they live in paradise.