Your COVID-19 Stories
· 35 min. read
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Where were you when you first heard of COVID-19? It may have been the day the lockdowns were announced, or it may have been when Italy was overwhelmed with patients, or it may have been when the Princess Diamond was adrift at sea. It may have even been in 2019 with reports of a new illness being recorded in China.
Personally, I remember sitting on a bed at the Hotel Saskatchewan on New Year's Eve, as Jessica was watching outside for the fireworks. I was scrolling through Reddit and told her there was a strange virus going around in China. I may have known about it before that, but that's my first memory of actually talking about it with somebody else.
On the (unfortunate) anniversary of COVID-19s arrival, I decided to put together an online survey to hear other people's stories about what happened to them during the pandemic. About 20 people responded to my questions, and I really enjoyed reading them. I had them answer ten questions about the day the pandemic hit. Here is what they had to say:
(For sake of transparency, I did vet a few entries from this to weed out the trolls. I also left all spelling and grammar as the originals.)
Where were you when the lockdowns were first announced?
"Home/work" - Anon
"Regina, Saskatchewan" - Jess
"At home, and apparently it would stay that way for a while lol." - Anna
"Regina" - Barb
"I was in the master bedroom of our house. " - Just Jeff
"At home, recovering from a broken leg" - Anonymous
"At home, we were told not to come in to work the next day" - Anonymous II
"In my house" - TB
"I was working in Saskatoon" - BS
"Winnipeg at home. Had just returned from Mexico City." - Tag Along Deb (aka Deborah Zanke)
"Work" - Anon II
"At home, in Saskatchewan." - Sheldon B.
"Saskatoon, probably read it at work." - SB
"I was at home. There was a walk out at a High School in Saskatoon to protest the lack of covid restrictions for schools whem hospitals etc already had them, and then they called the lockdown." - V.J.W.
"At home studying." - AA
"At work" - Marie
"Sitting at my office desk." - Mike Kelly
"At home, celebrating the fact that I had juuuuuat signed a lease on my new bookstore building" - Dr. Coffee
"Paris, France. I was living there at the time." - Kathleen S.
Did you lose your job because of the lockdowns / pandemic? What happened?
"No, work full time from office. Essential but not a front line worker. " - Anon
"No" - Jess
"Yes, I like many women didn't have the option to work due to childcare." - Anna
"No" - Barb
"No. Donna, my wife, having to remember to lost her" - Just Jeff
"I'm very fortunate that I was earning WCB from my leg break, so I continued to earn 80% of my wage. Had it not been for this, I would have been on CERB." - Anonymous
"Temporarily laid off until we knew what we were dealing with. Working in the dental field, there were too many unknowns initially." - Anonymous II
"No but we worried my partner would as I'm a stay at home mum" - TB
"No, I worked from home" - BS
"No. I'm a freelancer who always worked from wherever." - Tag Along Deb
"No, I worked from home" - Anon II
"I lost employment opportunities with my videography business. No events meant nothing to record." - Sheldon B.
"No I got to be deemed essential and kept going full time" - SB
"Was not employed." - V.J.W.
"Yes. I was working as a server. I knew it was coming. I was just waiting for the call. " - AA
"No, but we moved to online." - Marie
"Kept my job as maintenance manager" - Mike Kelly
"No, I had already quit my job and looking to go self employed again. That all got delayed for 6 months!" - Dr. Coffee
"No, I was working online already" - Kathleen S.
Describe your life the following weeks after lockdowns were implemented. What had changed?
"Digital friendships only to maintain contact" - Anon
"Not much changed because I work from home already, but it was scary reading the news about this new coronavirus originating in China. I was recently looking at my Facebook memories from 2 years ago, and it was strange reading the posts that everyone was sharing about how the media was "scaring us" about this new virus reaching North America, and not to give into the fear. Until it did." - Jess
"My husband was working from home with us which was nice but it was hard not to see the extended family we would normally see every day or two." - Anna
"Felt very surreal. ...like living in a movie" - Barb
"Having to remember go have a mask . Not the gator . Keeping a physical distance." - Jeff
"I liked it! I had a nice routine of rehabbing my leg, zooming with friends, reading, and doing puzzles. It was nice to have a daily routine and not have to plan ahead in life." - Anonymous
"I had nothing to do but stay home and wait to find out more information as to when I could return to work. Gas prices hit an all time low and we had nowhere to go. Plans were cancelled, grocery shopping changed for us from going every few days to a maximum of once per week to limit contact. My husband and I watched all the daily federal briefings as well as any provincial briefs that came up. Since my job was deemed one of the top riskiest for possible spread, I wanted to know as much as I could before I got the call to return to work. Things were changing so quickly and learning to adapt was challenging at times, but we both understood it was for the greater good. I understand how the chain of infection works, so the added steps of sanitizing, distancing, masking, limiting contact and eventual immunization was a no brainer for us." - Anonymous II
"We didn't see any family and my partner wad the only one to go grocery shopping" - TB
"I was allowed to work from home, it was great" - BS
"Not too much, other than cancelled travel. As an introvert, it wasn't hard to hunker down." - Tag Along Deb
"I worked from home with my kids because the schools closed. Online school was attempted and failed." - Anon II
"I live alone in a residence on the family farm. Nothing changed on the farm. Same in 2020 on, since I moved back out here 6 years ago." - Sheldon B.
"The first part had shorter hours overall but I kept my full time hours. I still had to go into work every day though, no working from home. " - SB
"School was optional, so as the responsible person I am, I didn't do it. I spent more time playing on the computer and xbox, and actually met someone - an American girl. Two years later, we're getting married." - V.J.W.
"All my classes (2nd yr nursing) went online. There was a scramble to figure out our labs and exams. I was so stressed for money and didn't know what to do." - AA
"I was anxious. I couldn't stop scrolling Twitter for updates, stories and news to keep myself informed. That took a huge toll on my mental health. My children were home all day long while I tried to work. My spouse continued to work away from home in an office. Our sole "exciting" family outing was to take drives to go look at the hearts that had been put up in windows to show support for front line workers. We designated my spouse to be the sole grocery purchaser and then wiped down groceries when they came into our house. We watched movies, we baked bread (yep, some of those people), we FaceTimed with extended family members, we binged Tiger King, we "camped" in our living room. Anything that could take our minds away from the uncertainty of the pandemic." - Marie
"All my employees lost respect for me" - Mike Kelly
"Kids were home from school, confused and worried. It was tough." - Dr. Coffee
"My kids switched to online learning which as difficult for my youngest who is autistic. I basically moved to homeschooling him. He could no longer attend therapies, and in France the lockdown was so strict you needed a specific reason to leave the house and an attestation filled out each time. " - Kathleen S.
Some people took up hobbies during the pandemic. Did you? What did you do?
"Diamond painting (new) and other hobbies I already had. Penpal, video games, walking the dog, scrapbooking etc" - Anon
"I made homemade cards for a bit, and I started a walking club. I also took more pics with my DSLR and got more into photography. My boyfriend and I would go to different locations all over Sask and discover some cute small towns and points of interest, which was fun too 🙂 " - Jess
"No, I took up having kids lol!" - Anna
"Did more puzzles played board games watched a movie every Sat nite" - Barb
"We moved so downsizing and purging" - Just Jeff
"Puzzles and reading." - Anonymous
"I read more books. Got some bigger things done around the house I normally would have put off for weeks. Dabbled in some new cooking skills I wouldn't have tried before with the extra time I had." - Anonymous II
"Learned to crochet in 2020" - TB
"My wife and I did renovations" - BS
"I did some organizing and minor renos in my condo. I took up knotting for a bit." - Tag Along Deb
"I stayed home." - Anon II
"I finished writing a movie script I started and shelved in the early 2000s. Created some board games. Subscribed to the "Master Class" video series." - Sheldon B.
"Drawing and more video gaming for the most cathartic exercises." - SB
"I played video games more, I got a girlfriend. Not much changed." - V.J.W.
"I got pregnant." - AA
"Our family tried to watch all of the classic Disney movies. We made bread. We started seeds inside the house and gardened in the summer. We took part in weekly drive-by birthday parades that took place in our city to lift people's spirits. We started going on walks and using garbage pickers to pick up trash and then counted the bags to see how many we could fill each month. Our oldest child took up drawing by using step-by-step tutorials on YouTube." - Marie
"Took up knitting." - Mike Kelly
"I started crocheting (amigurami) to stop myself doomscrolling!" - Dr. Coffee
"Cook, knit." - Kathleen S.
Some people felt afraid during the pandemic. Others felt a sense of calm. How did you feel?
"Fear. Constantly." - Anon
"Initially, I was worried, anxious, and a bit depressed for all the people who were experiencing loneliness and isolation, particularly the older folks in homes who weren't able to see their family, but (and I feel kind of guilty about this), I felt such a sense of happiness, joy, calm, and peacefulness during the pandemic that I haven't felt in years. It felt like the crazy world stopped turning for a bit, and it was nice to have things "calm down" and to see the world begin to heal by not having humans ruin it for a bit." - Jess
"I felt anxious for sure. " - Anna
"Little of both" - Barb
"Annoyed, concerned and put jpon" - Just Jeff
"Definitely afraid at the beginning when things were still unknown, but I truly liked hiding out at home. I also reminded myself it could be much worse- so many other countries really struggled." - Anonymous
"Anxious. Unsure. Grateful. Overwhelmed some days. It was a huge rollercoaster of emotions, that's for sure." - Anonymous II
"Yes and no I started out worried but after a while became less worried about covid and more worried about the state of the world/ country" - TB
"I was scared of getting COVID but I was happy to be working from home" - BS
"Somewhere in between. Certainly concerned and a little anxious but knew it would just take time to overcome." - Tag Along Deb
"Stressed, worried, and helpless." - Anon II
"Regular, general anxiety. My parents are elderly and immune compromised. I am more concerned about what catching Covid will do to them than any of my own problems. " - Sheldon B.
"Fairly stressed before the vaccines came out but I felt once they came out it proved they helped mitigate the worst results, which helped my risk assessment at least." - SB
"It didn't bother me much at first." - V.J.W.
"Scared for my sister who was going through chemo (breast cancer diagnosed Dec. 2019.)" - AA
"Extremely anxious and stressed. My blood pressure and heart rate had increased so much that I was put on medication." - Marie
"Stressful" - Mike Kelly
"Frustrating and anxious" - Dr. Coffee
"Boredom and sometimes overhwhelm. We were initiating a move from Paris back to Canada and we rerouted to my husband's home country because Canada implemented the hotel quarantine and my autistic son wouldn't have been able to handle that well." - Kathleen S.
The pandemic showed the good side in a lot of people. Did you have any positive experiences?
"No" - Anon
"I was so happy to see the community band together to support local businesses since so many were struggling because of the lockdowns. It was amazing to see, and I hope more people support local long after the pandemic is over!" - Jess
"I did like how much time we got to spend as a family and how much my husband got to be with my kids which normally wouldn't have been the case (as he'd be at work). " - Anna
"Not really" - Barb
"No" - Just Jeff
"It strengthened true friendships and helped me cut out ones that no longer served me." - Anonymous
"My husband and I were able to reconnect with friends we haven't seen in a long time prior to the restrictions, via zoom" - Anonymous II
"No" - TB
"I don't remember there being any." - BS
"Nothing extraordinary" - Tag Along Deb
"I kept my job and was allowed to work remotely as much as I wanted." - Anon II
"Not really. Nothing pandemic specific I can recall at this time." - Sheldon B.
"On the whole, the vast majority of people are good and want to be part of something greater than themselves as long as they get a return on that investment. " - SB
"I met the love of my life." - V.J.W.
"I got to spend a lot of time with my husband which was awesome. Had a pandemic wedding, which made the guest list super easy." - AA
"My favourite part of the pandemic (what a strange thing to say), was to see how creatively people had to adapt to so many unknown things. I loved seeing SNL recorded from home, or news anchors filming in their living rooms. The human element was seen in these moments when the things were allowed to be "messy" and imperfect; cats could walk in front of the zoom camera, we could let our hair-dye grow out and that was OK because we were experiencing something together for the first time. Meeting my coworkers on zoom for weekly "happy hour" at the end of the week. The coordinators of our birthday parades put in a lot of time and effort to bring joy to others. Seeing all of the hearts in windows to support front-line workers was heartwarming." - Marie
"I was happy to have a few employees support my decisions in the workplace yea" - Mike Kelly
"The "shop local" effort has been wonderful and I fully support working from home. In the first few months, it was a joy to cycle because there were fewer cars. Wish that had stayed!" - Dr. Coffee
"Yes, some of my son's therapists started sending him videos and things to keep him connected. Paris did the nightly window clapping, and it kept us connected to our neighbours" - Kathleen S.
Was there a news story that stood out to you during the pandemic?
"Jim Halpert doing "some good news"" - Anon
"Nothing in particular." - Jess
"I loved the painted rocks the kids did, and the rainbows in the windows. I loved all the signs and support for front line workers. It's sad to see so much division amongst Canadians now. I remember these moments fondly and the feeling of "banning together" in those first few weeks was sort of magical. " - Anna
"Not really ...can't think of one right now" - Barb
"No" - Just Jeff
"Not one in particular, but I loved comparing covid to spanish flu and learning about that period in time." - Anonymous (Note: Kenton liked this comment a lot.)
"At the very beginning, it was very eerie to see the world report on normally bustling areas, Times Square or the Vegas strip for example, be completely quiet and shut down without a person in sight. It was nice to see our local fire department put on drive by parades with the trucks for kids on their birthdays, when they weren't busy on calls of course! That got a lot of attention on social media, and it was cool to see other communities do the same. It was also cool to see on the news, the emergency responders drive by hospitals to show their support to the Covid and Emerg workers all across the world." - Anonymous II
"I had to stop following news for my mental health as it was all contradictory" - TB
"No not really" - BS
"The long-term elder care system collapse. I was oddly happy that my mom passed away a year before the pandemic hit." - Tag Along Deb
"Assholes being selfish, horrible people and thinking they were above health and safety measures, simply because they couldn't deal with the tiniest bit of inconvenience." - Anon II
"China building a hospital in mere weeks, while the majority of people seemed to be in denial a virus was already spreading outside China's borders." - Sheldon B.
"Everything getting weirdly cleaned and quiet during the initial lockdown, that was crazy." - SB
"The Prime Minister violating covid Restritcions.. rules for thee but not for me!" - V.J.W.
"All those people dying in Italy in the early days. I remember talking to my dad about it and it just didn't seem real, the numbers were just so wild." - AA
"When Tom Hanks got covid. The professional sports' "bubble". When Trump got covid. When vaccines were announced. The daily covid number updates from the govt were top of my mind. I checked them every day." - Marie
"I usually got the information before it was made news, so nothing was a surprise." - Mike Kelly
"Nothing specific but I think everyone was doing better when Trudeau did his daily "hang in there" speeches" - Dr. Coffee
"The first wave of deaths in Italy hit me hard. My dad has family in Italy and I have been there several times. The images and stories of hospitals deciding who to treat and who to let die were horrifying" - Kathleen S.
Did you lose anybody during the pandemic?
"Not yet!" - Anon
"No" - Jess
"Luckily no. " - Anna
"No" - Barb
"My godparents. Not from covid" - Just Jeff
"Not from covid, but I had a grandparent that had to go into intensive care and I was unable to travel to say goodbye." - Anonymous
"I haven't." - Anonymous II
"No" - TB
"My wife's grandmother who was in a long term care facility when lockdowns happened passed within a few weeks" - BS
"No" - Tag Along Deb
"No" - Anon II
"Yes" - Sheldon B.
"Yeah but a non-covid one." - SB
"Not technically. My Mushum passed away the thursday before lockdowns were called, in palliative care. I'm glad he passed when he did instead of dying alone." - V.J.W.
"Thankfully no." - AA
"Thankfully, no. Nor has anyone in my family or extended family caught covid that we are aware, although perhaps we had been asymptomatic." - Marie
"I lost some solid friends due to my stance on the pandemic." - Mike Kelly
"No, fortunately" - Dr. Coffee
"Not me directly, but I have friends who lost immediate family members who were older." - Kathleen S.
We were asked to "bubble" with only a small group of people during the pandemic. Who was in your bubble?
"My roommate" - Anon
"My boyfriend and my parents." - Jess
"Our household, my parents in law and sister in law." - Anna
"My sister & her family & step daughter" - Barb
"My family, the four of us" - Just Jeff
"My husband." - Anonymous
"Parents and siblings, even though we didn't see each other often. We kept our bubbles very tight." - Anonymous II
"Family so my daughter grandparents, her aunt and that's pretty much it." - TB
"My wife, and our roommate" - BS
"No bubbles." - Tag Along Deb
"My kids and my parents." - Anon II
"My parents and my brother who travelled out on weekends, but I was mostly at my own residence alone." - Sheldon B.
"My workplace, my three roommates, and my parents." - SB
"My two best friends and, after their shot, my Grandparents (who essentially raised me)." - V.J.W.
"My husband, and his mom. My family is out of the city so it was just the three of us here." - AA
"My two children and spouse for the first few months and then eventually my spouse's parents, in order to provide childcare." - Marie
"Just my family. Lost all my friends." - Mike Kelly
"Immediate family only, really. Didn't see my parents (in England) in over two years." - Dr. Coffee
"In France there were no bubbles. I only interacted in person with my husband and kids for about a year." - Kathleen S.
If you could go back two years and give yourself some advice on how to handle it, what would it be?
"No contact to the people who don't respect your decisions " - Anon
"Just take it easy. Take it one day at a time. The world is going to hurt a bit, and there's nothing you can do. You can only control what you do. You're going to have a different view of people who are close to you by the end of this. People's true colours are going to come out, but stick to your guns and do what you think is right." - Jess
"I would just reassure myself that my kids would be fine, I always worried about them as they're under the age of vaccination availability." - Anna
"Not to be so scared at the beginning" - Barb
"This too shall pass." - Just Jeff
"Enjoy not having to have any responsibilities." - Anonymous
"Take a minute to breathe and center yourself. And don't read the comments!" - Anonymous II
"Block it out and don't stress" - TB
"Spend more energy trying to find ways to stay physically active because getting back into the rhythm was painful" - BS
"Embrace the mask!" - Tag Along Deb
Anon II didn't answer this question.
"When people show you who they really are are, believe them the first time." - Sheldon B.
"Learn to build a routine better I guess. " - SB
"The fight will be over soon enough, time flies when you're having rum." - V.J.W.
"Don't go back to your job. They don't care about your safety and will put you at risk multiple times." - AA
"Do not doomscroll." - Marie
"Stay in Ireland" - Mike Kelly
"Leave twitter!!!" - Dr. Coffee
"Carve out more alone time. Be in a house with a garden instead of a Paris apartment" - Kathleen S.
I really appreciate everybody who participated in my survey and who shared their stories with me. One of the things the media asked us to do early in the pandemic was to keep a diary or a journal of our experiences. I never did that, and I don't think many people did either. However, during the early days of COVID-19, I was able to get my hands on the diary of a woman who lived during the 1918 Spanish Influenza pandemic. The comments from her diary match these ones almost identically, from going to work during the pandemic, knitting, worrying, spending time with loved ones, falling in love, even getting sick from it. It's humbling to experience such a traumatic event with all of you, and also to resonate so well with somebody a century ago.
I closed the online form a few days before publishing this, but if you have any stories or experiences, please feel free to share them in the comments or you can message them to me too. I might add more to this list since I found it really beautiful to hear them all.
Thank you all again, and I hope you're all doing well.
Don't forget to pin it!
Categories: Canada, COVID-19, Spanish Influenza