Two Kinds of Leadership

Last night, the Montreal Canadiens beat the Philadelphia Flyers in an empty arena. Two hours before puck drop, the provincial government of Quebec asked the team to close the Bell Centre to spectators. It was one of a series of measures instituted, in the words of the CBC, “as COVID-19 cases soar.”

Other measures: Reduced capacity in bars, restaurants, theaters, places of worship, funerals, weddings, any indoor public gatherings. Private indoor gatherings are capped at 10. It’s pretty damn serious.

Province-wide, 2,736 cases were reported Thursday, the highest single-day total since January 3. The government expected Friday’s total to be around 3,700.

Wow, that’s a lot of cases.

Wait. How many people in Quebec?

8.4 million.

How many in Vermont?

643,000.

Hmm. Cases per capita in Quebec on Thursday? 3.25.

Cases per capita in Vermont on Thursday? 10.

Ohhhhhhh. So a case rate enough to trigger decisive action in Quebec is less than one-third Vermont’s total for the same day. I’d say we have two contrasting kinds of leadership here.

I hear a quibbler in the back row pointing out that Thursday’s total in Vermont was one of the highest we’ve ever recorded. Well then, let’s take the seven-day case rate of 432.

Per capita? 6.75. More than double the emergency-triggering rate in Quebec.

Okay, the voice replies, Quebec probably acted on that Friday projection of 1,000 more cases, right?

Sure. That would be a much higher per capita rate. How much?

4.4.

Still nowhere near the case rate in Vermont. But here we are with Gov. Phil Scott stubbornly insisting that no additional measures are needed. Certainly nothing as drastic as losing NHL games or ordering restaurants to cut capacity by half or forcing holiday gatherings to include no more than 10 people.

So, are there differences between Quebec and Vermont in terms of vulnerability to Covid? I don’t know of any. Well, here’s one: The Omicron variant accounted for about 20% of cases in Quebec, while it has yet to arrive here. But it’s only a matter of time. And our Delta-only case rate is higher than Quebec’s.

How about vaccination, then? Surely Vermont outstrips Quebec.

Nope. A little under 84% of Quebecois have gotten at least one shot. That’s almost dead even with Vermont. No difference there.

Premier Francois Legault wasn’t speaking directly to Scott when he announced the measures by saying “In this fight that we are waging, it’s not enough to just get vaccinated.” But he could have been.

Scott still thinks vaccines are all we need.

A scientist of my acquaintance reacted to the news from Quebec with these words: “We are wholly unequipped for the hurricane that is about to blow through.”

Meanwhile, Captain Phil Scott stands on the deck of the S.S. Vermont and cordially invites us on a three-hour tour.

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