Ontario in selected Stage 2 of Re-opening

As of today, in Ontario, Canada, we are in the midst of reopening from a tight lockdown started in mid-March. The current rules are best explained in this article. While I love staying indoors enjoying my music, videos, and learning new stuff from watching tutorials on YouTube, to reading articles and books, I am certain others are feeling restless and having an innate urge to go out and enjoy the beautiful weather that is bestowed upon us in the middle of June. Part of this enjoyment, is to gather around with friends and family who we have not seen for so many weeks.

I too have been enjoying the blue skies and sunshine by riding my road bike. However, I have seen many people gathering around without practicing social distancing. Of course I am not here to tell people what to do, but I do want to take this opportunity to present my own risk assessment of the current situation. If anything else, many months or years from now I can look back to this post and re-read this assessment, hopefully in a lighter mood.

Currently Ontario is limiting to group gathering of sizes of up to 10 people, while practicing social distancing. The government also allowed the expansion of your household to connect to another household, so called double bubbling, as referred by the previously linked article. On the surface, these new rules seem to relax the isolation policies. However, my interpretation of these rules is that it will provide little opportunity for me to change my current behaviour. Personally, the double bubbling of your household is limited to one additional household, and this assumes the other household is only connected to yours, so the limitation is reciprocal. For us, this is still currently impractical. If you just include our parents (my wife and I), we have already exceeded the limit. As for the group gatherings of 10 people while practicing social distancing, this really means that the other 9 can be potentially asymptomatic carriers of the virus, and we should be wise to treat them as such. The personal risk of contraction really has not been reduced. The group size limitation is probably more for ease of enforcement than a reflection that you are now more safe.

So what is our risk of contraction versus when the lockdown began? I am not a doctor, but I can collect some data from the worldometer web site, and perform some amateur analysis. Here is what I found.

The above clearly shows that daily new cases within Canada is still much higher than before the lockdown (started in mid March). The current active cases are equally alarming. Although the trend is heading in the right direction, it does not appear to reach a state where we can say we are better off today. Granted that these are national numbers, but then I come across articles like this, where the CBC reported less than a day ago that a local Home Depot store (less than 10 km away from our house) has 14 of its employees tested positive for Covid-19.

For contrast, I compare our Canadian numbers with two other countries. The first is New Zealand, who victoriously eradicated the virus, and the other is Australia, a country comparable to Canada in terms of population distribution and size.

As you can see that both countries are in much better shape than we are. My point is that Canada should at least be looking like Australia before we even think about re-opening, because our numbers are still 1 to 2 orders of magnitude away from Australia, where they are experiencing a tolerable flatten daily infection rate.

A couple of weeks ago I heard a horrible story. Someone contracted the virus and was asymptomatic and unbeknownst to them, gave it to their parents. The father passed away because of it, and the mother was hospitalized. Although this was second hand information, it was direct enough for me to treat this information to be real. The first thing that came to mind was that to be responsible for your own parent’s death is a burden and a regret that no one should bear. I for one certainly do not want to be in that position, when I can currently control my own behaviour in this current environment.

So in summary, I personally feel that Covid-19 in Ontario, Canada is still a clear and present danger. Any reopening policy should be taken into context and I will personally continue to behave as if everyone who I encounter is a possible carrier of the virus.

So am I paranoid, or do you feel the same after you process the data from above?

Updated: Added South Korea

Experimenting with Residential Fibre

We have a need to expand our home network and to place another switch in the house. Normally I would run a CAT-6 cable and call it job done, but I thought I try something different and run a fibre optic cable.

My existing UniFi Switch 24 POE-250W already has 2 SFP ports, which supports fibre if I purchase the appropriate transceivers. I decided to buy the Unifi 1 Gbps multimode SFP modules (Ubiquiti U Fiber Multi-Mode SFP 1G – UF-MM-1G) just to make sure there are no compatibility issues. There was no point in getting a pair of 10Gbps transceivers because the Unifi Switch can only handle 1 Gbps any ways.

Since I only have one switch that has SFP ports, I needed to buy another device that will receive SFP port and bridge it to a standard RJ45 connection. I found a nice little converter called the TP-Link MC220L Gigabit Media Converter. This worked perfectly.

I already decided to use the more popular multimode vs single mode fibre operation, so I went and got hold of 50M of OM3 Duplex 50/125 fibre cable (Jeirdus 50M LC to LC 10G OM3 Indoor Armored Duplex 50/125 Fiber Optic Cable).

Fibre from UniFi Switch going into the TP-Link Converter and then out to another normal NetGear Gigabit Switch

The only confusing part was the different types of fibre connectors that are out there, and whether to go with single vs multi-mode. Apparently most installations are using LC (Lucent Connector), which is the type that I went with. There was no need for me to go with single mode because I don’t need kilometres of cables.

Fibre connectors galore!

Everything worked like a charm. It was much easier than I thought. So step into the light and give fibre a try!

Remote Learning

I have two boys enrolled in York Regional District School Board (YRDSB). Both are in high school, Kalen is in grade 9 and Jason is in grade 11. As with their peers both had to accommodate their learning habits in the new age of the Covid-19 pandemic. Both have recorded their experience during this crisis, and you can read their perspectives:

As an observer of their new habits during the pandemic I noticed the following things:

  1. We have to impose a strict schedule that mirrors a regular school day. For example, they have to wake up no later than 9am, and must conduct their studies from 9am to 3pm. They have a lunch break which last between 30 minutes to an hour, and they can use their own discretion to take 15 minute breaks throughout this period. However, if we notice the breaks are being abused, then they are persuaded to continue with their assigned curriculum. This was followed for about 6 weeks, but since Ontario has decided to cancel the remaining school year, the start time of this schedule is slowly creeping to 10am instead of 9am. Without this imposed schedule discipline, they will continue to sleep in until the afternoon.
  2. In subject areas where they are challenged and find the online learning medium to be insufficient of their needs, we hired tutors from Superprof.ca. Even though the tutoring sessions are still remote, the technology employed by the tutors offer a more one on one and real-time access to the material and help. In contrast, all most all the remote learning from YRDSB is based on material delegation. Students are expected to check for online updates and materials, and follow reference links to other self-learning materials, such as power points and PDF documents. Assistance can be obtained through commenting systems or online forums. Although both of my sons are dealing with the situation I think for most students, this is simply woefully inadequate. A live video conferencing medium I think will go a long way here.
  3. The technology employed is under-utilized or insufficient and on the whole subpar to the contemporary online tools that today’s businesses are employing to assist telecommuting. Most teachers are simply inexperienced on how to manage a remote group atmosphere. Students may have the impression that the teachers themselves are being cavalier, so they adopt the attitude of, “Why should I care?”
  4. Group cohesion that is typically experienced within a classroom has disappeared entirely, because no one has access to standardized technology to get together in a live fashion.
  5. The learning motivation has disappeared, since most students feel a lack of recognition for the work that they do put in. Positive enforcements are hard to convey when it is not live.

Like all of us, the Covid-19 situation has caught all of us off guard and many find ourselves unprepared for the crisis. Therefore, it is understandable that our education system falls short in trying to attain the same level of education with the students in a remote setting. In hindsight, it was a good effort, but the goal is simply too ambitious and not enough resources, training, and support to achieve it.

I am not complaining, but simply taking this opportunity to note the observations that were experienced by both Jason and Kalen. I hope by articulating our experiences here, we can help the movers and shakers at YRDSB to formulate an enhanced strategy for the Fall of 2020, as I fear the current situation will continue to persist until a vaccine is widely available.