B.C. has done well at controlling Covid-19, but we could soon see a surge with summer travel and complacency

Playgrounds in Osoyoos are reopened, as are other facilities and businesses that were closed in late March. Are we reopening prudently enough? (©Richard McGuire Photo)

The B.C. government released new statistics on June 23 to bolster the case for moving to Phase 3 of reopening, now that Covid-19 cases have been reduced to a manageable level.

Phase 3 permits non-essential and recreational travel to other parts of the province as the summer season gets underway. In reality, people have been doing this kind of travel for weeks anyway as there never was a legal ban on non-essential travel in the province – just a recommendation.

The numbers for B.C. are good right now. But as more and more summer tourist traffic fills the streets of Osoyoos, we need to remain vigilant. Continue reading “B.C. has done well at controlling Covid-19, but we could soon see a surge with summer travel and complacency”

Geography and Covid-19 Part 2 – Cellphone location data provide insights on physical distancing

Many Android and Apple apps record people’s location data unless this is disabled. While it can raise privacy concerns, the data – when anonymized and aggregated – can provide information about physical distancing during the pandemic. (© Richard McGuire Photo)

As B.C. and other jurisdictions around the world begin to lift physical distancing measures, how will we know how well it’s working?

Human behaviour never exactly mirrors the measures implemented by governments. Some people defy guidelines to stay at least at least two metres apart in public. On the other hand, just because a nail salon or gym opens again, it doesn’t mean people will return in pre-Covid-19 numbers. The public makes its own judgments about what is safe.

In a previous article, I talked about how geography can be used to understand the spread of the novel coronavirus. In this article, I’ll talk about how cellphone data can be used to estimate people’s movements and adherence to social distancing guidelines. Continue reading “Geography and Covid-19 Part 2 – Cellphone location data provide insights on physical distancing”

Guest Comment: A pandemic survival guide for B.C. wineries – Part 3: What regulators can do to help

Ripe grapes hang on their vines as autumn adds colour to the leaves. (© Richard McGuire Photo)

By Al Hudec

Introduction

British Columbia’s wineries are quickly developing new business strategies that will allow them to survive and prosper in the post-pandemic recessionary world. These new business models require accommodating regulatory changes.

The Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch (LCRB) and other regulators need to act quickly and decisively to implement the required changes. Failure to do so will deny B.C. wineries the flexibility required to adjust their business strategies in response to the pandemic and the coming recession. Continue reading “Guest Comment: A pandemic survival guide for B.C. wineries – Part 3: What regulators can do to help”

Geography provides valuable Covid-19 information when data is made public

While B.C. authorities have been tight lipped about the geographic data of Covid-19, the U.S. reports data at the county level. Johns Hopkins University uses geomatics to provide an excellent map with data of Covid’s spread in the U.S. The dark purple indicates areas with the highest per capita infection rates. (screen grab of Johns Hopkins U.S. confirmed cases by population)

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. I would argue that a map is worth much more.

Can maps provide valuable information about the coronavirus pandemic? Absolutely.

I’ve had a fascination with maps since I was a young boy and used to buy topographic maps with my allowance. I enjoyed geography in school and when I studied political science and political economy in university, I took courses in human geography and statistics. Later, in one of my jobs, I used geomatics to analyze public opinion data.

Geomatics is defined as a “discipline concerned with the collection, distribution, storage, analysis, processing, presentation of geographic data or geographic information.” It’s related to GIS (geographic information system), which pertains more to the software used for this analysis.

Geomatics can be used to look at spatial information about where the SARS-CoV-2 virus is spreading. Combined with demographic information about race, poverty levels and access to healthcare, it can provide insights on the types of places and populations most at risk for Covid-19. Continue reading “Geography provides valuable Covid-19 information when data is made public”

Guest Comment: A pandemic survival guide for B.C. wineries – Part 2: How to re-open your tasting room

The Covid-19 pandemic will make it necessary to change the way wine tastings are done — when they’re allowed again. (© Richard McGuire Photo)

By Al Hudec

Introduction

As governments announce plans to re-start the economy, the B.C. wine industry needs to develop a set of operating protocols that will allow us to operate tasting rooms responsibly. We need to do this collectively, as a community, to maintain customer confidence, to protect our employees and guests, and to forestall our overly zealous regulators from imposing far less sensible rules than we can design ourselves. We need to work together right now so that we are ready when opening day comes.

Don’t misinterpret the recent announcements as meaning that your tasting room will be re-opening anytime soon. If you are an optimist, think about maybe re-opening in July or August; but also realize that we may lose the whole 2020 season and maybe even 2021.

Don’t believe for a moment that we’re going back to pre-COVID status quo in terms of how you operate your tasting room and interface with customers. A lot of advance planning is necessary to ensure that protocols are in place to protect the health of employees and guests. Continue reading “Guest Comment: A pandemic survival guide for B.C. wineries – Part 2: How to re-open your tasting room”

Relaxing Covid-19 restrictions could be achieved by technology, data and understanding which measures are most effective

Social distancing has greatly helped to slow the spread of Covid-19, but some measures are more effective than others. Measures such as closing Haynes Point (swiws) Provincial Park to walkers were likely unnecessary impositions with no significant benefit. Other measures, for example those taken at long-term care homes, were probably much more significant, if late. (© Richard McGuire Photo)

In recent weeks attention has shifted from the primary goal of containing the spread of the coronavirus outbreak to asking whether it’s time to start reopening the economy and relaxing restrictions.

The rate of new Covid-19 cases has been leveling off in B.C., fewer people are being hospitalized and even fewer are in intensive care.

People who have been staying at home and physically distancing in public are getting antsy – especially those with young children underfoot.

And while some businesses are doing well in these unusual times, overall the economy has slowed to levels not seen since the Great Depression. Workers are laid off, and many businesses that were already struggling may not recover, even when the virus is gone.

But reopening too quickly or too drastically poses the risk that the virus will flare up again and all the gains achieved by social distancing may be lost. For many businesses, it might be more costly to open up too soon and then have to close again when the virus again spreads out of control. Continue reading “Relaxing Covid-19 restrictions could be achieved by technology, data and understanding which measures are most effective”

Guest Comment: A pandemic survival guide for B.C. wineries – How to weather the coronavirus

Grapes ripen in a vineyard of the South Okanagan. (© Richard McGuire Photo)

By Al Hudec

Introduction

Surviving Covid-19 requires that winery owners be quick to comprehend the overall severity of the pandemic, accept the economic reality of the situation and adjust their business plans accordingly.

The immediate impact of the pandemic has been a significant increase in overall wine and liquor sales, coupled with a seismic shift in distribution channels. Consumers in isolation are both increasing consumption and stockpiling in the face of ongoing uncertainty. Sales through the tasting room and restaurant channels have collapsed; replaced by dramatic increases in direct delivery/internet sales and in the liquor retail and grocery sales channels.

Recovery will be mostly up to us – our hard work, persistence and innovation. But government needs to help by reforming some of the rules that have slowed industry growth and which will now impede our recovery. Examples include the restrictions on the interprovincial shipment of wine, the prohibitions on secondary tasting rooms and the unavailability of wholesale pricing to restaurants in the hospitality industry. Removal of these restrictions would do much to aid the recovery. Continue reading “Guest Comment: A pandemic survival guide for B.C. wineries – How to weather the coronavirus”

As border closure extended, Canada and U.S. take very different approaches to pandemic

Closure of the Canada-U.S. border to non-essential travel has been extended for another 30 days. The two countries have taken very different approaches to the Covid-19 pandemic based on their different political cultures. (Richard McGuire Photo)

When U.S. President Donald Trump mused last week about reopening the Canada-U.S. border, there were gasps from many Canadians, fearing an influx of Covid-infected Americans.

At a time when most Canadian provinces – Quebec and Ontario being the exceptions – have been gaining some control over the spread of the novel coronavirus, the situation in the U.S. is raging out of control.

But Trump has no more power to unilaterally open the border than he has to force states to scrap their social distancing measures. And Canadian authorities quickly responded that it was too soon.

Today, Saturday, April 18, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the two countries had agreed to extend the closure a further 30 days. Continue reading “As border closure extended, Canada and U.S. take very different approaches to pandemic”

Getting exercise is essential, but don’t forget physical distancing

A senior couple takes a quiet walk at Haynes Point (swiws) Provincial Park on Tuesday, April 7, one day before all BC provincial parks were closed. Physical distancing was easy with a wide roadway and the few people who were there were good about physical distancing. (Richard McGuire Photo)

Getting exercise and fresh air is essential for your physical and mental health, even during these times of physical distancing and isolation. More accurately, especially during these times when many people are under stress.

Walking is great exercise that most people can do. It restores the mind and body. I find I sleep better if I’ve had a chance to take a good walk.

But mixed messages from public health authorities have left many people confused about what they can and can’t do to get exercise.

Some interpret the message to “stay home” a little too literally as meaning you shouldn’t step outside your door. Worse, these people sometimes make it their mission to attack others who might go out for fresh air.

But health authorities have been clear that getting outside and exercising is necessary, although you need to adhere to guidelines on physical distancing. Stay at least two metres apart from others and don’t congregate in groups. Continue reading “Getting exercise is essential, but don’t forget physical distancing”

Shopping scares me, even though stores are doing their best to make it safe

Buy-Low Foods is doing its best to make shopping safe, but narrow aisles make physical distancing a challenge. (© Richard McGuire Photo)

As my fridge and kitchen cupboards got emptier and emptier in recent days, I realized I would have to make another dreaded trip to the grocery store.

I’ve been trying to limit my grocery shopping to once every two weeks to avoid unnecessary exposure to other people. But I only managed to hold out for 11 days. My eggs, bread and other items were all gone. The remaining small amount of milk in my jug was starting to smell.

I’ve also been holding out on a few other items I’ve needed or wanted. Prescriptions down to the last pills. A needed hardware item. And, since I don’t intend to give up all alcohol until a vaccine is available, a trip to the liquor store.

Shopping scares me. I try to go in as quickly as I can, armed with a plan, knowing exactly what I need to get. I wear a face covering, which offers limited protection to myself and others. I’m careful about what I touch and the bandana reminds me not to touch my face. Continue reading “Shopping scares me, even though stores are doing their best to make it safe”