The onset of the first symptoms globally occurred on December 1, 2019, becoming news days later. I began watching the media with detached interest for details of the spread of a pneumonia like virus, believed to have originated in a wet market in Wuhan, China, and spread within the city, then Asia. When I heard of the first death resulting from the virus, I though to myself that there was no way this was going to make it’s way to North America let alone impact my life. I felt, that like other viruses such as the bird and pig flu, there would be no impact on me beyond its eventual inclusion into the seasonal flu vaccine I would eventually have injected into my body.
I was so utterly and completely wrong.
As the virus spread, it made it’s way to Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong, then the first case in North America was identified on January 21st in Washington State, and my belief that this virus was something that would never impact North America was shattered. Just a day later, the news delivered a scary message, the virus could mutate and I became acquainted with the term COVID for the first time.
With so few cases in the United States, and none yet to be identified in Canada or Mexico, my partner and I felt safe enough to elect to proceed with our plans for a sun and sand vacation in Mexico to allow us to recharge our mental batteries and soak up some warmth to tide us over until the warmer weather would arrive with spring. I enjoyed Mexico, relaxed, and largely forgot about the COVID reality, only being reminded of it as I sat on a tour bus with a woman coughing and hacking away behind us, non-stop. I thought in the moment ‘I hope that’s a cold, not COVID‘ and decided I’d pay some extra attention to how I was feeling over the next few days. On January 25th, the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Canada, a fact that I would not become aware of until a few days later when we returned home and were greeted with symptom screening questions while clearing customs on at the airport.
Around the world stock markets started to plunge; travel bans were being implemented by and to countries that had increasing number of cases, while other nations started to recommend that travellers not engage in non-essential trips. The news about COVID kept growing, consuming more time and becoming something I was constantly aware of. Italy confirmed it’s first case, China had rapidly built hospitals to contain and provide treatment to COVID patients, and I started to feel the dread of something inevitable. A degree of panic was setting in around Canada with the news sharing stories of hording of staples by shoppers, including of all things, toilet paper. On the morning of March 11, the news informed me that the World Health Organization had declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic, a term I didn’t truly comprehend at the time. Later that evening while I did chores around the house, the radio broadcast that the NBA had elected to pause the season after a player tested positive for COVID after having earlier jokingly touched the microphones of reporters hours before; the effect and threat of COVID was now plainly obvious. The next day, the NHL followed the NBA’s lead and suspended their season, and locally public gatherings were no longer permitted for groups of 250 or more.
On Thursday, March 12, I had become subconsciously aware that my life, as I knew and lived it routinely, was about to change. As I shut down my laptop at the office at the end of my work day, I thought about the snowstorm that was due to hit the city the next day and elected to pack it and take it with me in order to work from home, with thoughts of avoiding the disaster that traffic would become with the snow and easing into the weekend. Having heard of the shut downs and isolation in Wuhan and other parts of the world and with social distancing being now being advised locally, I joked with my work colleagues that I would see them in a few weeks as I departed. That joke, in part, became a reality over the course of the next 72 hours, however the punchline is still hanging and waiting to be delivered by my return to my workspace.
Over the course of the next days, my world began to shut down as my extra curricular activities as a volunteer were paused to allow time for leaders to evaluate and determine a response to COVID’s spread, then local schools were ordered closed, and states of emergency were declared, closing non-essential businesses. On Monday, March 16th, my employer encouraged all those that could work from home to do so, and I could.
With the last straw broken, it was done, we were fully into isolation, and my old familiar life was now over, and The Pause began.