28 April 2020

Bursting bureaucratic bullshit bubbles #nlpoli

The daily average for new CVD cases
has been declining since late March.
In one of the provinces hardest hit by COVID-19,  Ontarians got a roadmap on Monday on how the provincial government will loosen restrictions on their daily lives.

One of the indicators used to make the judgment will be two to four weeks of lowering daily numbers of infections.  Not zero cases, mind you, but a clear downward trend that was about half of the current rate, according to Ontario's chief medical officer of health last week.

Two other key indicators will a decrease in cases not traced to a source and a decrease in new hospitalizations.

In one of the provinces least affected by COVID-19, people in Newfoundland and Labrador found out on Monday that they could be locked down for weeks and potentially months more before provincial government bureaucrats and politicians will consider easing any of the restrictions imposed on them in mid-March.

That chilly outlook came from politicians Monday afternoon after a presentation by one of the government’s key advisors that confirmed:
  • we are now in the fourth week of declining and lately low numbers of new cases per day,
  • only two percent of cases across the province cannot be traced to a source, 
  • that there have been no new hospital admissions for COVID-19 for more than a week (it's actually two weeks), and 
  • no deaths for more than two weeks.
In Ontario, a decision to loosen restrictions will also depend on available capacity in the health care system to handle a surge of new cases.  In Newfoundland and Labrador, health managers emptied half the beds across the province by halting elective and non-urgent surgeries and postponing treatment for a wide variety of other conditions.

20 April 2020

The three CVD19 pressures the NL government will face #nlpoli

Last week, SRBP raised the likelihood that declining numbers of active cases of CVD19 in Newfoundland and Labrador will put pressure on the provincial government to ease the current restrictions on daily life and the economy.

Officially, government officials like the Premier and health minister blew off the idea of restrictions with concern that supposed bad behaviour on the Easter weekend might trigger a renewed climb in numbers.

More testing.  Fewer cases.
Well, we are a week past Easter and the average number of daily cases is at two, down from three the week before.  At the same time, health officials completed two of the largest days of testing at the end of the week.

The number of active case son Sunday was 62, down from a peak on 06 Apr of 192.  Basically, the active cases on Monday date from infections dated after 01 April.  That is, they date from just before the peak.

Governments across Canada faced choices when responding to CVD-19.  They had two extreme choice, neither of which was politically nor practically feasible.

15 April 2020

Trends #nlpoli

How do you keep in place the very necessary and successful restrictions on public life needed to combat the spread of CVD19 when the success of those measures reduces the local daily number of active cases either to zero or to a handful and hence the threat appears to have passed?

In the 15 years I’ve been writing SRBP, the one enduring feature of public discussion about my writing happened again this week, in spades.

People come at me on social media about what is going on in their own heads and attribute that to me.

They don’t deal with the point I was actually making.  They deal with whatever they imagine I said.  And no amount of explanation will dissuade them from their crusade to shut me up or take me down or do whatever it is they are hell-bent on doing besides understanding my point and then having a productive conversation.

On Monday and Tuesday, I wrote about the very real political dilemma facing the current government.  It’s the one spelled out in the first sentence of this post.  I thought it would come in a couple weeks.  It appears to have arrived Tuesday.

So much for forecasts.

John Haggie is already frustrated that people are not listening.  On Tuesday, I told him the government need to ditch the current daily briefing format and messaging for something else that was less patronizing.  In the Tuesday briefing, Haggie delivered his stock message but did it for merely 53-odd seconds before taking questions.

Not really the point, but if the current trends continue, as they seem likely to do, then we will likely also see the mounting public pressure to ease restrictions on life in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The federal government is already talking to the provinces about the return to something approaching normal with the mention of re-opening the economy.  The economy never shut so what they are using is a code word for easing up the limitations on the public.  Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island and some others will undoubtedly do so by the end of this month or early next month.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, though we will have to think twice about that.  Our two bordering provinces – Nova Scotia and Quebec – are still fighting a hot war against the spread of the disease.  The risk of infection across the border is real.  New Brunswick will face the same challenge.

The challenge for the - quite literally – two or three people effectively running the government in Newfoundland and Labrador will be holding off that political pressure and sustaining restrictions because the threat of disease will remain.  The situation of needing to do something unpopular will not be unprecedented.  We have lots of experience recently with it. Every time, the politicians have failed.

Will the trend continue?

Time will tell.


14 April 2020

Doctor Aggie's H'Answer #nlpoli

“What do I have to do to get you to listen?” health minister John Haggie asked rhetorically and with considerable exasperation at Monday’s daily COVID-19 briefing.

Haggie was ranting once again about people across the province who he claims are flouting the restrictions on public comingling during the current health emergency.

On Monday, though, Haggie’s daily rants started to sound a bit more shrill and more than a bit condescending.

Anyone can appreciate his deep concern to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 of the sort people have seen in Italy, New York City, or even Quebec.

But Dr, Haggie has the problem that the measures put in place so far have worked so well at containing the disease across the province that no one can see the danger in front of them.

And to be honest it is hard for the ordinary person to see the immediate danger, at least in the extreme way Haggie apparently sees it.

13 April 2020

Number of active COVID cases in NL declines dramatically #nlpoli

Newfoundland and Labrador is already emerging from the first wave of the COVID-19 infection.

The data from the provincial government’s daily COVID-19 media briefings is clear.

Starting on April 6,  the number of new cases detected was less than the number of recovered cases.  As the week progressed,  the number of recovered cases increased as rapidly as the infections had increased two weeks before. 

The result, shown in the chart at right, is that the number of active COVID-19 cases (cumulative total less cumulative recovered and deceased) has been declining steadily.  

By the end of this week,  the number of active cases should be about the same as they were before the massive increases started on 23 March 2020.

The most likely thing that could change that forecast drop in active cases is an increase in the number of tests conducted by provincial health officials.  But to produce a dramatic increase in the number of new cases – on the order of what we saw in the middle of March – the province would have to test thousands of people a day.

That’s because a consistent testing effort yielded a steadily declining number of new cases. An average of 177 daily tests the week of March 23 produced an average number of 18 new cases daily. 
The following week 208 daily tests yielded an average of 12 new cases per day.  In the first full week of April, though, an average of 178 tests a day produced only an average four new cases.

06 April 2020

Financial Fustications #nlpoli

If we had Equalization, we'd have a budget surplus.

On Friday, 20 Mar 20, Premier Dwight Ball wrote to the Prime minister to say that the financial arse was out of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Ball included in the letter not a shred of financial evidence nor did he include any hint as to what exactly he expected the federal government to do to fix this situation.

Last weekend, once the public heard about this alarming letter, the Premier was anywhere and everywhere confirming that the provincial government was mostly, completely destitute.

*This* weekend his finance minister is – not surprisingly – telling a completely different story. 

02 April 2020

Bollocks #nlpoli

Kill the wabbit?
Moody’s has changed its outlook on the provincial government’s debt from stable to negative while sustaining the A1 rating it gave the province in July 2019. That, by the way, was a downgrade.

In a statement issued Wednesday, Moody’s said the change in outlook reflects the company’s view that the provincial government’s “credit profile will weaken due to the sharp decline in oil prices and its reduced budgetary flexibility to adjust to this shock. Under Moody's base case, oil prices are expected to average $40-$45/bbl in 2020 before returning to $50-$55/bbl in 2021…”.

Moody’s expects the provincial deficit for 2020 could reach 25% of revenue in 2020 and about 11% in 2021. Previously, Moody’s had forecast deficits of 11%  and 4% respectively for those years.

Moody’s expects the provincial debt will reach 270% of revenue by 2023 with pressure that this will increase after 2023.  In other words, Moody’s doesn’t believe that the government will balance the budget in 2023.