As I watch the pandemonium unfolding in my community and in the world at large, I’m left with a nagging feeling of fear and unease. I’s not panic, but this reluctant acknowledgement in the back of my mind that life as we know it has changed. It’s difficult to reconcile the beautiful March day with the global pandemic that will likely result in a new way of life for the foreseeable future.
But that’s what we’re dealing with.
As the death toll from Italy rolls in, I’m horror-stricken in a way that I didn’t experience when reports out of China looked similar. I’m uncomfortable admitting that, because of the obvious racism implications, but it’s the truth. To be honest, I don’t know why I’ve reacted this way. I’ve been to China and I’ve had Chinese friends and colleagues, while neither is true of Italy.
If I’m honest, Europe feels closer to home. I mean, it is geographically closer, relative to China, but I guess I’ve been guilty of viewing China as “other”. When I believed Covid-19 was an issue mostly isolated to China, it felt further away. Like less of a threat.
But seeing the way it has ravaged Northern Italy makes it uncomfortably real. And I know I’m not alone in that assessment.
Canada and its provinces are finally taking decisive action. I don't mean that in a critical way; I think before Italy, we were all in denial. Italy serves as a powerful case study of what can happen when what appears to be extreme action is delayed. Governments are terrified of the impact this novel coronavirus will have on their nations if they don’t act quickly and severely.
It’s surreal how quickly things have progressed. Two weeks ago, COVID-19 was something we discussed, but not something we felt overly worried about. People planning vacations were on the fence about whether to go, certainly, and people were diligent about hand-washing. But nobody was engaged in social distancing. Nobody was afraid to go to work. Life was normal.
A little over a week ago, that all changed.
It has been a week and a half since I’ve been to my office. I don’t know if and when I’ll work outside my home again. I don’t know what will happen to my job, or to my husband’s.
Schools and childcare centres are closed, as are gyms, bars, and movie theatres. Restaurants are accepting takeout orders, but not permitted to seat customers. Anyone entering our province is mandated to self-isolate for 14 days.
And people are afraid. They’re hoarding supplies and food. We are assured that essential supply chains will not be disrupted, but I was unable to get flour, sugar, butter, chicken, or peppers in my recent grocery order. These are not normal times.
The scariest part of it for me isn’t even the prospect of getting the virus (although I am terrified of my asthmatic mother contracting it). I truly believe that the measures our country is taking will help flatten the curve and will prevent our healthcare systems from becoming overwhelmed to the point of being unable to treat critical cases of COVID-19.
The scariest part is the uncertainty of when, or if, life will return to normal. My son is 19 months old and now has no means of socialization outside our family unit. His small, home-based daycare is closed, his music classes are cancelled, and with the exception of going out for walks in our neighbourhood for fresh air and sunlight, we are staying home. It will likely be months before I see my parents, before he sees his grandparents, and before he plays with another child.
I’m left wondering, is this how life will be for the next three months? Six months? A year? More terrifying still, is this just the beginning?