For most Canadians, the introduction to COVID-19 (the virus formerly known as ‘corona’) came in early January, as a short news item about something that was happening far away and for most, had very little to do with their own lives.
By now, of course, it’s a term so familiar and pervasive that in some ways it feels like it’s been with us far longer than a few months.
But it’s probably fair to say that unless you had travelled overseas to an affected country or had friends or family in the midst of the outbreak in its early days, the actual scope of this situation really only hit home over the past 10 days or so, as Canada and B.C. began announcing increasingly strict measures to help contain the spread of the virus.
There’s a definite sense of the surreal the first time you enter a supermarket and encounter empty shelves where the toilet paper, hand wipes or spaghetti should be, or watch a video of a couple loading every package of meat in an Okanagan grocery store into two carts and hauling it away in front of a crowd of mystified shoppers.
By now, many people are working from home and trying to figure out how to keep kids busy now that schools have been closed. They are holding tickets to events or concerts that won’t be happening, perhaps they’ve even cancelled small social outings and are hesitant to enter a grocery or drug store.
The strain of worrying about your own health or that of a loved one who might be particularly vulnerable, combined with this forced isolation can weigh heavily on even the most lighthearted among us. But while we’ve already seen that a crisis can bring out the worst in people – the meat- and tp-hoarders among us – we’re also seeing evidence of the best in humanity, from a local Facebook group that’s been set up to offer advice and support (both physical and emotional) to people who need it, to a local family who set up signs of their front lawn, decorated with rainbows and bearing the message “Everything will be OK.”
And you know what, it will be.
In all likelihood, things will get worse before they get better. But just how much worse depends a great deal on us and our behaviour. That means not only keeping a minimum safe distance from others wherever possible, but reaching out instead in other ways – by phone or online – and taking only our fair share from the shelves.