A new report commissioned by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) looks at the broader health impacts of COVID-19 in Canada. The November report, called A Struggling System, explores a range of growing problems, from mental health issues to substance abuse and deteriorating social determinants of health. Sadly, the report also confirms a fact that many have suspected since the beginning: that delays in care have led to thousands of preventable deaths.
“Although it is not surprising that more Canadians died in 2020 than in a typical year,” the authors write, “the number of excess deaths was greater than can be explained by COVID-19 alone. While there may be several drivers of these excess deaths, delayed or missed care due to shutdowns of services and lack of sufficient capacity in overburdened health systems may be a contributing factor.”
After analyzing the data, the authors estimated that delayed and missed health care contributed to more than 4,000 excess deaths not related to COVID-19 between August and December 2020. Needless to say, the total number of preventable deaths over the pandemic to date is likely much higher.
Public health officials say they’re investigating cases of severe liver disease “of unknown origin” among children in Canada as global scientists race to understand a mysterious hepatitis outbreak that has affected nearly 200 youths around the world.
“The Public Health Agency of Canada is aware of reports of severe acute hepatitis of unknown origin in young children in Canada,” the department said in a statement on Tuesday, in response to questions from CBC News.
“These are being investigated further to determine if they are related to cases in the United Kingdom and the United States. As the investigation evolves, we will keep the public updated accordingly.”
The latest available data from the World Health Organization (WHO) shows at least 169 cases of acute hepatitis of unknown origin have been reported in close to a dozen countries, with the bulk of the reports — 114 — from the U.K.
ON JULY 4TH President Joe Biden stood on the White House lawn to declare that America was nearing independence from the coronavirus. But with covid-19 not fully “vanquished”, he called upon his fellow citizens to get vaccinated, telling them that “it’s the most patriotic thing you can do.” About 55% of Americans over the age of 12 have now been fully vaccinated, and a further 10% have had the first of two doses. But in recent weeks America’s vaccination rate has slowed markedly. In April 3m doses were administered each day; since June that figure has fallen to an average of 1m per day.
There are three possible explanations for this slow-down. The first is that it is typical for vaccination rates to fall as more people are jabbed, since those in cities and other easy-to-reach areas are likely to have been targeted already. Yet America does not appear to have reached such a threshold. Other rich countries, such as sparsely populated Canada, continued to vaccinate at a decent clip until about 75% of their populations had received their first dose (see left-hand chart). Germany, which has vaccinated a similar proportion of its citizens as America, is currently vaccinating at nearly three times the rate.
The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) is hunting for investments in the world’s transition to renewable energy as it aspires to be a global leader in sustainability, the head of the company told Reuters on Thursday.
The pension manager last month announced it was creating a new investment group that would generate investment opportunities in renewables, conventional energy and new technology and service solutions.
CPPIB’s exposure to renewable energy producers rose to C$7.7 billion at March 31 2021, from C$6.6 billion at March 31, 2020, according to a spokesman for the firm.
New York’s state pension fund is restricting investment in six Canadian oil sands companies because they have not shown they are prepared for a transition to a low-carbon future, the fund’s Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said on Monday.
The New York State Common Retirement Fund will divest more than $7 million in securities already held in the companies, and not make any further investments in them, DiNapoli said in a statement.
Canada’s oil sands hold the world’s third-largest crude reserves and have some of the highest emissions intensity per barrel, due to the carbon-intensive production process of extracting tar-like bitumen from the ground.
Thanks to surging bond prices, Canadian defined benefit (DB) pension plans ended the first quarter of this year at their highest funded levels in more than 20 years, according to Mercer. However, the asset manager and consulting firm warns that the lofty funded positions might not last, depending on the trajectory of interest rates, inflation expectations, and equity market performance.
Mercer’s Pension Health Index, which tracks the solvency ratio of a hypothetical DB pension plan, increased to 124% at the end of March from 114% at the end of 2020. That is the index’s highest level since it was launched in 1999. Meanwhile, the median solvency ratio of the pension plans of Mercer clients was 104% as of the end of March, up from 96% at the end of December.
Long bond yields jumped 77 basis points (bps) during the quarter to lower the plans’ liabilities and more than offset the negative returns reported by many pension funds during the period.
In comparison, there were 132 per 100,000 in the U.S. during 2020, 100 in England and Wales, 33 in Germany and 175 excess deaths per 100,000 in Poland.
Perhaps most interesting were the minority of countries that have managed to keep the coronavirus at bay with a variety of public health measures.
Australia saw a three per cent decrease in excess deaths in 2020, New Zealand a six per cent reduction, while deaths in Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore were flat or lower, according to Karlinsky’s list. His source data were slightly different than those used in the Oxford study, but all the excess-death monitoring projects, including ones run by the Economist magazine and Financial Times newspaper, generally line up.
Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), a scientific advisory group to the government, has made a forceful and dramatic statement strongly favoring First Doses First (delay the second dose.) This is a very big deal for the entire world. Basically NACI have endorsed everything that Tyler and I have said on First Doses First since my first post tentatively raised the issue on December 8. I am going to quote this statement extensively since it’s an excellent summary. No indentation.
Despite the fact long-term care workers were the first in Ontario invited to get the COVID-19 vaccine last December, a little more than half of them have volunteered to get the shot.
As of this week, only 55,000 of 100,000 long-term care workers in Ontario have been inoculated, according to the province’s Ministry of Health.
Dr. Hugh Boyd, chair of the Ontario Medical Association’s section on long-term care and care of the elderly, said a lack of confidence in the vaccine and pervasive myths about the quick development and safety of the shot is at the root of the low numbers.
Canada’s Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) reported a 2.7% loss last year, well off its benchmark’s return of 6.9%. It’s the first time the pension fund has seen a loss since the financial crisis of 2008.
As a result, the fund’s total net assets declined to C$105 billion ($82.4 billion) from C$109 billion. The fund also reported three-, five-, 10-, and 20-year annualized returns of 3.7%, 6.5%, 6.7%, and 6.0%, respectively.
Absent that nightmare scenario—and most prognosticators believe science can vanquish any of COVID-19’s shape-shifting—the conventional Wall Street wisdom is for better days ahead on both the health and the economics fronts. And since escalating rates are co-dependent on an improving economy, a sunny thesis appears pretty solid.
Historically speaking, low rates like today’s are an aberration. Thus, at some point, it’s reasonable to assume they will return to normal. Or at least to higher than now, to a degree. A new normal that’s hardly towering.