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  • Ray St-Amour


Today all over the news the 1 year anniversary of the pandemic is discussed. And, like most of you, I went down memory lane… Where were you when you realized that this was a pandemic and life was going to go sideways, pivoting in ways we would not have ever thought imaginable? And look at us now! We have learned so much! And we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I visualize in my mind’s eye more countries reopening, small bubbles being made between countries, and then having these bubbles grow until the world is safe again, and open to all.

Last year, on February 1st we embarked on an 18 day trip through Egypt and Jordan. We had heard about the corona virus but at that stage it was limited really to China. As we cruised down the Nile I kept up with the news and read about the Diamond Princess cruise that was quarantined. Again, I wasn’t very worried. I remember saying to my partner “Good thing we are in Egypt. We are safe here”. And we were. Then. I did continue looking at the number of cases daily on my ipad. I did feel really safe. I remember speaking with another traveler who said a friend had cancelled coming on this cruise because of this virus. I remember thinking “how silly”. Well, it turns out this person was not silly. There was a pandemic on the way. We just didn’t know yet.

The other memory of last year that is imprinted on my brain is the Thursday late afternoon, one year ago, when I read a breaking news that all Ontario Schools were going to be closed for 2 weeks after March break and for students on Friday to bring home all their personal belongings. As a former teacher this spoke volumes! Wow! School never closes, unless of course, it’s a bad snow storm in Dufferin and Wellington county! The reality that we were not dealing with a MERS or SARS type of virus started to sink in.

I am so thankful to be Canadian. Our neighbours to the south lost so many loved ones to this pandemic. It was disheartening to see day after day the amount of infected and deaths in this allied country. Thankfully there is major change right now with the vaccine and they are recovering. And then there was Europe, where many of us have relatives, with again so many deaths and infections. They have suffered immensely. And now Brazil is still going through this phase, as they do not have the infrastructure that first world countries have to be able to fight this virus.

I am also so grateful to live in Dufferin County and have the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Health Unit to be our leader and guide through this pandemic. They were the first health unit in Ontario to mandate masks in public spaces. Our medical officer of health, Dr. Nicola Mercer was praised on a live Ontario update last week by retired Gen. Rick Hillier, head of the COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force, stating that Dr. Mercer was forward thinking and had started with her team way back in the summer 2020 to put together the navigation tool that is used to pre-register and book the residents of WDG for the vaccine. This didn’t make the big news. I just happened in mid afternoon, to have the television on and was watching the Ontario updates. Big kudos to Dr. Nicola Mercer! I am also eternally grateful for Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik, a doctor in Guelph who, daily, when the pandemic was at its worse, blogged letting us know in plain language what was going on with the virus, appeased our fears, strengthened our resolve to wearing masks and keeping 6 feet apart. She is still guiding us through this stage, putting on videos explaining how each vaccine works in plain language. If you haven’t heard of her please look her up. Her blogs are easily available if you follow her on Facebook.

I navigated my own feelings through this pandemic along with my clients were also navigating those same feelings. The ups and downs, the feeling of impending doom in March-April, the beginning of hope in late spring as I met friends for walks, the almost normal summer mode, entertaining a couple of friends or our children and grand-children in our back yard. Always following our guidelines. Being careful. And then the fall arrived, then the winter, and a Christmas season like no other, missing what we had. And then the second wave came. And then the variants. But the vaccines appeared and in December hope came back that we would be able to get to a new normal really soon. And then the hiccups with the delays of the vaccines.

Never had mental health been discussed so much. It was and still is on the daily news. People who were anxious already became so much more anxious. The slightly agoraphobic became even more so. The people who were depressed could not depend on their usual help to lead them out of the dark vortex. The people in poor relationships became overwhelmed with their issues. The parents were frustrated having to negotiate the internet to help them their children do on-line school. They had signed up to be parents not teachers.

But then, new strength appeared. Out of the crisis came an opportunity for growth. Baby steps. One day at a time. Slowly people started to feel pride in their accomplishments. And now, spring is almost upon us. And the vaccines are arriving! The WDG Health Unit just opened phase 2 yesterday for people to pre-register. The government is hopeful to have everyone who wants to be vaccinated have their first dose by July. And now we have 4 vaccines that will become available. There is so much hope. Spring and vaccines. What a combination!

Ray St-Amour



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