Whenever I hear the Canadian national anthem, the first thing I think about is skaters, moving in place near center ice, fidgeting until the puck is dropped.
I think of the heart, the core, of a country, a sport, a way of life. I think of great nights in Montreal and Vancouver and Edmonton, the Stanley Cup waiting in the wings.
I hope this does not seem condescending. There are a lot worse things that could pop into mind for a country.
Saturday was Canada’s 150th birthday. I did not realize this version only became official in 1980.
The second thing I think about is music. Again, this a high compliment. I think of k.d. lang’s album “Hymns of the 49th Parallel” – she aces Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” – and Neil Young and The Band and Joni Mitchell and all the other musicians known around the world.
Really, that’s enough right there.
As the birthday approached, I thought about Dave Semenko, the enforcer on the great Oilers teams, who passed the other day at 59. And I thought about Kate McGarrigle, of the McGarrigle Sisters, who passed in 2010 at the age of 63.
In tribute, I put on “The McGarrigle Hour,” a collection of folk and pop with Kate and Anna and also the talented extended family, which became our family.
I thought about my friend’s mom from Montreal who always reminded me who Lady Byng was (on hockey’s sportsmanship trophy) and I thought about the family in Victoria with the garden and lawn bowling and music, and I thought about my e-pal Bruce from near Hamilton, who sends me bird photos from his window, and reminds me about the good medical care up there in the deprived wilds of the frozen north.
I thought about the grand old gent, Camil Des Roches, publicist extraordinaire of the Canadiens, who gave me my first tour of the Forum in 1984, and sent me cassettes of Danielle Oddera, singing Jacques Brel.
I thought about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, wading into a gay parade in Toronto recently, practicing inclusivity.
(I admit, my mind also wandered to Emmanuel Macron of France and Angela Merkel of Germany, but I could not afford to go down that melancholy path.)
Mostly, I thought about the good neighbors to the north, going their own way, doing fine.
Joyeux anniversaire. Happy anniversary.
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.