York Region residents wait in line for a COVID-19 vaccination at a mass vaccination site for residents 80 years and older, in Richmond Hill, Ont. on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

York Region residents wait in line for a COVID-19 vaccination at a mass vaccination site for residents 80 years and older, in Richmond Hill, Ont. on Monday, March 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

The moment everything changed: Canadians remember when reality of COVID-19 set in

Many people felt uprooted and confused as the ‘new normal’ set in

One year after the World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, the Canadian Press asked people to share their memories of when they realized the crisis was about to change everything.

What a mother’s love can’t fix

Liz Rivard says her daughter planned to ring in her 29th birthday on March 13, 2020 with a weekend’s worth of celebrations.

Then, one after the next, every event Delaney Rivard had planned was cancelled.

Rivard said her daughter, who has autism, needs structure to help get her through her day.

The Calgary retiree cried for the first time in recent memory when that structure was erased.

“Moms are always supposed to be able to fix everything,” she said. “And there was nothing I could do.”

Rivard said she’s since been impressed by how community groups have shifted online to give her daughter activities to look forward to.

She said Delaney Rivard is ringing in her 30th birthday this week with a princess party on her driveway.

Empty aisles

For Jessica Alexanderson, a trip to the grocery store used to feel like an excursion, not an errand.

The 40-year-old social service worker in London, Ont., would take her time browsing through the aisles.

But once the pandemic took hold, Alexanderson said she was taken aback to find many of the shelves suddenly bare, a sight that reminded her of the shortages in her home country of Mexico.

“It’s not a thing that you see here,” said Alexanderson. “I told my husband that it felt like those disaster movies.”

Since then, grocery shopping has become a stressful chore.

As she looks to become a permanent resident of Canada, Alexanderson said she has to be extra cautious about COVID-19 so she can continue working at an addiction treatment centre.

“We don’t have a safety net,” she said. “If you get sick, there’s no one here for you.”

A shutdown in the city that never sleeps

Stephen Shirt felt apprehensive about travelling from Calgary to New York City in early March last year.

But at the time, there were only a few hundred COVID-19 cases in the city, so he decided to go forward with the trip.

While sightseeing, Shirt got word that New York had declared a state of emergency as people started lining up outside of stores to panic shop.

“It’s kind of a traumatic experience, being away from home and having the world change,” said Shirt, 36. “I was away from home and away from my support.”

After scrambling to board a flight back home, Shirt said he served a 26-day quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, with some symptoms lingering until August.

“I wish I would have listened to my intuition and cancelled the trip.”

READ MORE: B.C. relaxes outdoor gathering rules, allows kids to have playdates

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Eckville Town Office. (File Photo)
Town of Eckville planning pathway around Manor and Villa

Plans for the pathway has changed slightly following feedback from the community

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

Erin O’Toole said he supports a woman’s right to choose and will personally vote against the private member’s bill

A empty classroom is pictured at Eric Hamber Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Monday, March 23, 2020. The Alberta government says schools in Calgary will move to at-home learning starting Monday for students in grades 7 to 12.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calgary schools to shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12 due to COVID-19

The change, due to COVID-19, is to last for two weeks

A man wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as he walks past the emergency entrance of Vancouver General Hospital in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
COVID-19 spike in B.C. could overwhelm B.C. hospitals: modelling group

There are 397 people are in hospital due to the virus, surpassing a previous high of 374 seen in December

Ron Rauch and his wife Audrey are photographed at their home in Victoria, Friday, March 5, 2021. Their daughter Lisa Rauch died on Christmas Day 2019 when a tactical officer with the Victoria Police Department shot her in the back of the head with plastic bullets after barricading herself in a room that was on fire. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. families push for changes as special committee examines provincial Police Act

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth acknowledged the need to update the legislation last year

Major-General Dany Fortin, left, looks on as Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. The Public Health Agency of Canada has set aside up to $5 billion to pay for COVID-19 vaccines. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada negotiating contracts to secure COVID-19 booster shots for next year: Anand

Most of Canada’s current vaccine suppliers are already testing new versions against variants

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Health Canada headquarters in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Health Canada releases guidelines for reducing COVID-19 transmission at home

Improve indoor air quality by opening up your windows and doors, among other encouraged ventilation measures

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help with COVID-19, in Edmonton on Friday, March 20, 2020. Alberta is set to join three other provinces in exploring the feasibility of small modular reactors as a clean energy option. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Four provinces to sign memorandum of understanding to explore small nuclear reactors

Alberta government said in August that it would enter into the agreement to help diversify its energy sector

Sharis Carr, a nurse at the Aaron E. Henry Community Health Service Center in Clarksdale, Miss., holds a box containing doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, April 7, 2021. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in using the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
EXPLAINER: What’s known about COVID vaccines and rare clots

These are not typical blood clots – they’re weird in two ways

Most Read