Editorializing with Krisi Marples: When the numbers just don’t add up

This editorial ran in the Tuesday, Feb. 9 edition of The Saint Croix Courier

Well, this day was bound to arrive. I’m sure there have been quiet cases of COVID-19 in our region – it would naive to assume there had not – but last night St. Stephen High School parents received the notification they’ve likely been dreading for a year; there is a confirmed case of the virus at the high school.

And while we don’t have anything sent to us by Public Health, my inside sources tell me the result is there are currently 22 students in self-isolation, along with two teachers.

And while I don’t know the individual who is the primary case, nor do I know the individuals who are self-isolating, I do know simple math, and that I stopped doing it as quickly as I started, because 24 people, even with an average of two other individuals in their home, individuals who then go to other schools or workplaces creates a potential exponential case growth I don’t want to contemplate.

If we then factor in the possibility of the U.K. variant being the culprit, which has a much higher contagion rate, well, we’re into scary potential numbers.

But that’s all they are – potential numbers.

The fact is as it currently stands, there is only one single confirmed case of the virus at the school, so all math aside, there is no need to push the panic button yet.

My real hope is what this will do is bring the virus home to those who have gotten to the point of COVID fatigue that has them walking around with their mask below their nose (this fills me with rage, FYI) and touching random items in our local stores. To those who have stopped washing their hands, and generally stopped following Public Health advice.

With 22 students in self-isolation, I speculated the primary case is indeed a student, and it made me realize our local economy runs on the backs of said SSHS students.

They work in our stores, pack our groceries, stock store shelves, and pass us our burger through the drive-thru window.

And while I have seen excellent compliance amongst staff wherever I go in St. Stephen, it’s certainly something to think about when you realize how many of those students who have been potentially exposed were handling items you now have on your shelves.

Again, don’t mistake my pragmatic ramblings for fear mongering – that’s not my intent. What I want to do is remind everyone how easy it is for a virus to spread when we let our guard down.

I feel for those in self-isolation. It’s likely a frightening thing to have a letter appear from Public Health telling you it’s possible you’ve been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19. This virus has such a wide swathe of impact, it’s bound to be nerve-wracking to not only wait to see if you’ve contracted the virus, but if you have, to wait and see how dramatic an impact, if any, it will have on you and your family.

But here’s where I will start to point fingers; vaccination.

Here in New Brunswick, based on numbers identified by Minister of Health Dorothy Shephard during the live briefing on Monday, Feb. 8, the province has fully vaccinated (both doses of the vaccine) 5,347 people.

That is near as makes no difference to 0.69 per cent of the population. Doing further math (I hate math almost as much as winter) provincially, 18,643 doses have been administered. But, if only 5,347 have been fully vaccinated, that leaves 13,296 individuals who still require a second dose to be fully vaccinated.

Shephard said an additional 600 people will be vaccinated at a clinic this weekend, but it would seem to me this vaccine rollout isn’t being managed as effectively as it should.

This is a numbers game, and the idea that over 13,000 people still require a second dose to be fully vaccinated, but only 600 are being done this weekend does indeed fill me with some dread.

And I don’t hold the province entirely responsible. For the manner in which the vaccination process has been rolled out here? Yes, that’s on NB Public Health. But the truth is we seem to be failed largely on a federal level with Canada at the bottom of the pack when it comes to procured doses and a delivery schedule. The most recent number I could find is Canada is 38th globally for vaccine rollout, and it’s not a placing of which we should be proud.

And while I am generally a “you catch more flies with honey” type of person, in this case it’s time for someone – both provincially and federally – to put their collective foot down and start demanding an increase in the flow of vaccines both into Canada and into New Brunswick.

Less than 1 per cent of the population vaccinated since December, with such a gap between those who are fully vaccinated and those who have had a single dose is embarrassing, and I question the efficacy of a vaccine meant to be administered within two weeks of itself not following that protocol, which it clearly cannot.

It’s math even I can do.

Krisi Marples