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

As part of Earth Week, Ucluelet Rotary Club member Ryan Wackett will be handing out free Clean Up Packages with grabber picker up tools at his shop Westcoast Connect from April 10 to 23. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Ucluelet Rotary honours Earth Day with week long community clean up

“Let’s spring into action and clean up our beautiful communities!”

Hwy. 4 was shut down in both directions for 10 hours on March 23 as a rock bluff was blasted as part of Kennedy Hill’s ongoing construction. Commuters can expect five more 10 hour closures on five consecutive Wednesdays beginning April 28. (Photo courtesy of Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Five 10-hour closures coming to Hwy. 4 between Port Alberni and Tofino-Ucluelet

Closures needed for rock blasting as part of the Kennedy Hill Safety Improvement project.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control maps showing new COVID-19 cases by local health area for the week of April 4-10. (BCCDC image)
Parksville-Qualicum passes Nanaimo in new COVID-19 cases

Greater Victoria had more new cases than any other Island area: B.C. Centre for Disease Control

A screenshot from a Nuu-chah-nulth healing song and performance created in collaboration between Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso. (Screenshot from YouTube)
WATCH: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers produce COVID-19 healing song and performance

Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso share dance and inspiration.

Ucluelet locals Rachael, Caroline and Tom enjoy refreshments on a sunny Monday afternoon at a picnic table dining area set up by the District of Ucluelet to help residents and visitors support local businesses while staying outside. (Andrew Bailey photo)
Ucluelet chamber launches bingo contest to support local restaurants

Four Ucluelet Co-op shopping sprees are up for grabs in #Ukee2go competition.

Rainbow trouts thrashing with life as they’re about to be transferred to the largest lake of their lives, even though it’s pretty small. These rainbows have a blue tinge because they matched the blue of their hatchery pen, but soon they’ll take on the green-browns of their new home at Lookout Lake. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
VIDEO: B.C. lake stocked with hatchery trout to delight of a seniors fishing club

The Cherish Trout Scouts made plans to come back fishing soon

For Leela Harrop, the recent death of her brother Raju Tiwari pushed her to sign up for the vaccine. Photo supplied
Island woman on fence about vaccine prompted by brother’s death

Leela Harrop of Comox says she did have issues with signing up online this past week

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
RCMP intercept vehicle fleeing with infant taken from Kamloops hospital

The baby was at the hospital receiving life-saving care

Vancouver Police Const. Deepak Sood is under review by the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. after making comments to a harm reduction advocate Sunday, April 11. (Screen grab)
VIDEO: Vancouver officer convicted of uttering threats under watchdog review again

Const. Deepak Sood was recorded Sunday saying ‘I’ll smack you’ and ‘go back to selling drugs’ to a harm reduction advocate

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate persists, 1,005 new cases Friday

Hospitalization up to 425, six more virus-related deaths

Premier John Horgan receives a dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at the pharmacy in James Bay Thrifty’s Foods in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. Premier John Horgan gets AstraZeneca shot, encourages others

27% of residents in B.C. have now been vaccinated against COVID-19

The Nautical Dog Cafe at Skaha marina is getting its patio ready in hopes Mother Nature will provide where provincial restrictions have taken away indoor dining. (Facebook)
‘A lot of instability’: B.C. restaurants in layoff limbo

As COVID-19 cases stay high, restaurants in British Columbia are closed to indoor dining

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Expectations high as Trudeau Liberals get ready to unveil first pandemic budget

The Liberals will look to thread an economic needle with Monday’s budget

John Furlong, Own The Podium board chairman and former CEO of the Vancouver Olympics, addresses a Vancouver Board of Trade luncheon in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday November 25, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
John Furlong presents 2030 Winter Games vision to Vancouver Board of Trade

Vancouver and Whistler would remain among host sites because of 2010 sport venues still operational

Most Read