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


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