Excerpts from a COVID-19 lockdown diary
Friday, March 13, 2020
My last day in the office. I finally decided to ask permission to work from home because I’m immuno-compromised. Since the outbreak was first reported in China last January, riding jam-packed streetcars and subways now feels like playing Russian roulette.
With COVID-19 raging in Italy and Spain, there are fears it will hit us equally hard in Canada. The first coronavirus death was reported in Vancouver on Monday, which is too close for comfort.
I see more and more people wearing masks on the subway and streets. How they managed to snag them is a big question – they’re all sold out.
Bought aloe vera and alcohol to make my own hand sanitizer, before these, too, disappear. Hand sanitizers, toilet paper, disinfectant sprays and wipes have disappeared from the shelves of pharmacies, supermarkets, and corner stores.
Thursday, March 19, 2020
My daughter was able to book the last Porter flight out of Ottawa, thank God. She and our beloved ShihPoo, Olive, weren’t supposed to come home until Easter. But the airline announced this week that with fewer passengers, it would cancel flights until June.
How long she will be home, we don’t know. But her office has given employees the option to work from home indefinitely. We are thankful we can work from the safety of our home.
I ask her to bring some toilet paper from her apartment, and remind her to bring Lysol wipes to disinfect her airplane seat and tray.
A nagging thought: What to do with the individual air vent inside the plane? Should she turn it on or off during the flight? Will it protect or expose you to COVID-19 if it’s on? We’ve never had to consider this question before. Pre-COVID-19, you simply turned it off when you got chilly. Opinions vary. But I find a Travel + Leisure article which consults a medical director and expert on the spread of infectious diseases associated with air travel. In sum, air inside combines with air outside and goes through HEPA filters; this filtration process occurs 15 to 30 times each hour. HEPA filters remove more than 99% of dust and microbes in the air. So, yes, turn the nozzle on.
Another trip to the supermarket during off-peak hours to stock up on more essentials. There will now be 3 of us eating and washing at home.
I wonder if our soap and toilet paper will be enough. I hate shopping at Amazon, but at this point I have no choice. I want to buy local, but supermarkets are overwhelmed with deliveries. People with disabilities, who have long used online deliveries, are now having a hard time accessing this lifeline.
I know I have to be grateful that I’m not worrying about whether we will have food and supplies. There are millions of vulnerable people for whom the impact of this pandemic will be devastating.
Friday, March 20, 2020
Bittersweet reunion with daughter and dog. I didn’t meet them at the airport like I used to. My daughter will be practicing physical distancing for two weeks even though her flight is local. Just to be safe. She feels guilty about the possibility of bringing the virus to her 55-year-old mother who not only has a chronic disease, but is in the demographic most likely to be severely affected by COVID-19. I assure her it’s better to be together in case one of us gets sick.
She tells me there were only 5 people on her flight, one of whom was a co-worker; the third was Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.
Monday, March 23, 2020
Our province, Ontario, has ordered a lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The number of COVID-19 cases in Canada has surpassed 2,000. We brace ourselves for what will come. But we are bottle-ready, with our alcohol spray and hand sanitizer.
I bookmark the Ontario COVID-19 self-assessment guide, just in case.
Stories about people dying from COVID-19 are heartbreaking. Since relatives are not allowed inside hospitals and nursing homes, they had no loved ones by their side.
Saturday, March 29, 2020
After more and more studies show that it’s better to wear face masks than none at all, I decide to order reusable/washable, double-layered cloth masks with pocket for disposable filter from an online store. The only design left is watermelon. Do I really want to walk around with an image of a fruit plastered on my face? First World problems, I know. I decide to buy them.
Tuesday, March 31, 2020
With non-essential businesses closed, some are doing everything they can to earn a living. A tattoo parlor is now making face shields for frontline workers; a craft beer company, hand sanitizers; a trendy clothing store, face masks.
Saturday, April 4, 2020
It’s only been two weeks, but I’m tired of disinfecting and receiving Amazon boxes filled with more of the same things: toilet paper, coffee, hand soap, laundry detergent, rice, tomato sauce, almond milk. These are now our prized possessions. Lockdown has been good for the Earth in terms of reducing emissions. But I feel bad about all the extra packaging that come with the deliveries. Plus, I hate that I’m buying from a company that doesn’t treat its workers right.
I look out the window to see whether people are practicing or flouting social distancing. I read that some have been calling City Hall to tell on neighbors and strangers who continue to congregate. I get it. We want this lockdown to end soon. They’re ruining it for us. That said, I feel like a Stasi. I wonder how we will behave in a real war.
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
Every day is now COVID day. Today’s unsettling news: Nearly 1 million Canadians applied for COVID-19 emergency benefits on the first day of its launch, April 6.
Monday, April 13, 2020
About 6 million have now applied for income benefit, 2 million more than what Ottawa anticipated. There will be more as this pandemic has shown that many of us are doing precarious work.
Heartening news: Some Canadians are putting out a “table of kindness” on their frontyard, where people can avail of free bread, fruit, eggs and other staples. Some of our libraries have become “food banks,” where people can either donate or pick up donations.
Saturday, April 18, 2020
A friend tells me that life during COVID-19 will produce great art. She’s probably right. But in my case, the only “art” I’ve produced so far is a crookedly handsewn, cloth face mask that will serve as an alternate to the first one I bought.
The good thing about this pandemic is how it has exposed inequalities in our world. Suddenly, we are confronted with the millions who need emergency support because they work in the informal economy and have lost their jobs.
We have also redefined the meaning of essential work, which is good. Other than doctors and other healthcare workers, it’s been finally recognized that those often ignored by society – farm workers, delivery people, grocery clerks, line cooks and caregivers – are essential workers.
From The Guardian: “Analysts forecast Amazon to report first-quarter revenues of $73bn…. That works out as sales of $10,000 every second, day, and night.” COVID-19 has been a boon for Amazon and tech companies. A nightmare for the rest of us.
Sunday, April 19, 2020
Distressing news. Mass shooting in Nova Scotia, of all places. At least 19 people killed, including the gunman. As if a pandemic wasn’t enough. Now this?
Thursday, April 23, 2020
One month into our lockdown, Toronto Mayor John Tory announces that we won’t be able to go anywhere near any cherry blossom trees this spring.
Two public parks that normally host throngs of Sakura enthusiasts (and Instagrammers) in mid-May have now been temporarily closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The pink and white blooms will now be viewed through a computer screen, via multiple livestream events. It is, the mayor says, “one more sacrifice” Torontonians will have to make in the interest of public health.
It’s one hell of a cosmic joke, isn’t it? People perpetually glued to their mobile phones will only get to experience virtually the thing they actually want to see in person.
The news may not seem like a big deal. But for city dwellers like me who live in tiny apartments and condominiums with no frontyards, backyards, or gardens of our own, spring and summer are much-anticipated arrivals. Winters in Canada can feel interminable, and after being stuck indoors, by the end of March we’re all dying to go out for long walks.
With COVID-19 still very much a moving target, visits to the public gardens and parks – is almost a wash. We’re still allowed to jog, take walks, and walk our dogs to the park. But having to hold on to my hand sanitizer, walk 6 feet apart from other people, and in most cases, dart like a squirrel to avoid other walkers, have made lockdown walks such stressful undertakings that I now only go to the park once or twice a week. With my lack of exercise, I have gained COVID-15.
We’ve been told that someone in our building has the virus. “For privacy reasons, the resident’s identity, and location (floor) will not be disclosed,” says an email from the building manager. “I can assure you there is no fear of spread, the virus cannot travel through the HVAC system. We have been and are continuing to disinfect all touch surfaces to keep our building clean and sanitary.”
It was bound to happen. I just hope it doesn’t come to us.
Friday, April 24, 2020
Death toll in Canada so far: 2, 390.
Received another email that our building is now enrolled in a program “to disinfect and treat all high-touch surfaces in the building with a permanently bonding antimicrobial as part of our COVID-19 Pandemic Response Plan.” It’s the same program now being used by the subway and bus system.
This will cost us, for sure. I’m trying not to dwell on all the extra expenses caused by this pandemic and the bleak forecasts for our post-COVID-19 world.
Marites N. Sison is a journalist based in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @maritesnsison