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Reflections on COVID One Year Later – Apprehension and Appreciation

By Gemma Healy-Murphy

Recently, while researching case law, I happened upon the words of Master Short who set the stage for those who might read his decision in years to come. He wrote:

[1] At some future time, these reasons may require clarification arising from the 2020 impact on Ontario of a global pandemic. On January 26, 2020, a man in his 50’s who arrived in Toronto from Wuhan, China, the epicentre of the outbreak, became the first “presumptive” case of the new coronavirus in Canada. The man called 911 as soon as he got sick with relatively minor symptoms and was placed in isolation in Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital. The next day, the National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg confirmed that a man in quarantine was Canada’s first documented case of the new coronavirus.

[2] A tracing of the early Canadian tracing of history of this disease found at noted that, on the January 28th  2020 Health officials in British Columbia reported that a man in his 40s was presumed to have the new coronavirus and was doing well.

[3] Shortly there-after, on January 30, 2020, it was reported that the Toronto man hospitalized with the novel coronavirus “is well enough to go home”. [1]

I thought I might take this opportunity to do something similar for our blog and recount what has been my, and many others’, reality for this past year. Pardon my indulgence.

Tomorrow, Thursday March 11, 2021, marks the one year anniversary of the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic.

On March 11, 2020, I was settling back into working life as a mom of two. I had just returned from maternity leave a short six weeks prior. My seven year old son was in grade two. My one year old daughter was settling into home daycare. It had been a rough few weeks of getting back into the swing of things, no thanks to the double ear and eye infection that was keeping the baby awake at night.

News of this novel coronavirus had been trickling into us from our family in Ireland, where its impact was being felt a few days ahead of Canada. I was naively optimistic and thought Canada would escape its wrath. My husband, who errs on the pessimistic side of life, started stock piling the essentials – frozen pizzas, toilet paper and wine. He had just left Costco when the first school closure was announced.

It has now been one year of working from the cocoon of my bedroom. I don’t wish to calculate the number of hours spent in here between working and sleeping. Too many, that’s for sure.

I’m not sure I’ve used this word since my high school basketball days, and I’ll be glad to soon erase it from my vocabulary again. But, to use the undisputed word of the pandemic, life has been a constant “pivot” since March 11, 2020.

Our firm pivoted to remote operations within a matter of hours. For months, many of us pivoted to working irregular hours from quiet nooks in our homes, fitting work in between diaper blowouts, long division and snack time.

We have pivoted between full lockdowns and partial lockdowns, school/daycare openings and closures. No learning and virtual learning. Runny noses and COVID-19 tests. Social distancing and isolation. Masks and hand sanitizer. Zoom video conferences. And yes sorry, I thought I was on mute.

As a family, we have also pivoted. We replaced play dates with family runs and YouTube gym class. We replaced family meals out with themed Friday night dinners in. We bought a trampoline for the summer, against my better judgement. We built an ice rink in the winter.

Our trips to Ireland to visit parents and siblings were replaced with FaceTime. And oh, were we ever grateful for FaceTime. Our parents became grade two teachers and early childhood educators overnight. While we worked, they taught reading, spelling and math. They read stories and played games. My toddler got to know her grandparents from a distance and now physically hugs the phone goodbye. We all yearn for the day when she can hug them in person.

The last year has been hard, but looking back, I cannot credibly claim any hardship. My family has been left relatively unscathed by a virus that has ravaged many others.

Tomorrow, I will pause to commemorate those who have died due to the virus and in appreciation of those who are fighting against it. I look forward to the brighter, vaccinated days ahead.

[1] J.A.L. Developments v. Residences of Springhill Inc., 2020 ONSC 2222 (CanLII)