Sunday, 26 July 2020

Pondering the pandemic

Masked up at BernArt Be aMAZEd 
We're into our fifth month of living with coronavirus here on the east coast of Canada. In some ways, life feels remarkably normal. Husband and I are amongst the lucky minority who are retired and have enough resources to deal with the economic fallout of all this - so far anyway.

For the first two months, when coronavirus cases were still on the rise, we rarely went farther than our local grocery store to pick up supplies for the week, and visited with family and friends only via telephone and videoconference. Our various volunteer commitments moved online as well. 

Over the past two months, as cases have declined to almost none locally, we've gradually made our way back out into the world in careful and limited ways. There have been a few dinners on restaurant patios, a handful of outside gatherings with trusted friends and family, and occasional day trips to local beaches. One day a couple of weeks ago, we ventured as far as Halifax (an hour away) to pick up a couple of items we needed for an upcoming kitchen renovation and two weeks ago I attended my first (physically distanced) board meeting at a local fire hall. This week, I went on a photography field trip with a small group of photography friends to a fabulous local attraction, BernArt Be aMAZEd, where the photos accompanying this post were taken.

On the one hand, I like being able to interact with other people more normally again. Attending so many meetings and other events online was exhausting. On the other, this new stage is just as tiring in a different way. There's so much to negotiate. Do the people with whom I want to interact take the pandemic seriously? Are they comfortable meeting in person? What risks will I take being in close contact with them? Do the benefits outweigh the risks? What if we can't meet outside? Is our preferred venue big enough and does it have windows that open?

In mid-summer, it's usually possible to settle on a plan that works for everyone, but I already dread the challenges colder weather will bring - particularly, if the predicted "second wave" arrives. Personally, I plan to avoid "in person" indoor meetings when/if case numbers rise again but I expect there'll be pressure to attend them from people whose risk assessment is different from mine - either because they don't feel personally at risk, or because they hate virtual meetings enough to take more risks.  

Of course, there's no point worrying about that yet. Lots could change in the next few months, and - if and when push comes to shove - I mostly have the luxury of choosing which risks I'll take. It's just hard to hold my ground sometimes in the face of others' disapproval - even when I feel it's the right thing to do. 

I've thought a lot lately about the ways in which the pandemic has disrupted our lives - economically, socially, personally - and the thing that worries me most at the moment is the growing generational divide. Is our society cohesive enough to keep people of different generations pulling in the same direction, even when their interests would otherwise take them in very different ones? Bluntly put, how long will younger, less vulnerable people be willing to sacrifice their own interests to protect those who are older and more vulnerable? If a vaccines or effective treatments aren't available within a reasonably short period of time, how might things change? Will older, more vulnerable people find themselves living in isolation indefinitely while younger people return to business as usual? And what are the long term effects of that divide likely to be? 

I suppose it's possible one outcome will be to disempower the baby boomers enough that the concerns and interests of younger generations finally get the attention they deserve from public policy-makers, marketing directors, etc. However, it seems to me unlikely boomers will let that happen without a fight. After all, they've spent their whole lives being the centre of their universe so they're bound to resist playing second fiddle, even for the sake of their kids and grandkids. 

For the moment, all we can do is take it one day at a time, support one another to the extent we can, and hope for the best. We human beings can be remarkably innovative, compassionate and resilient when we have to be, and a worldwide pandemic is as good a reason as any. 

Here are a few more favourite shots from our photo outing this week. 


  1. Black Death in Europe is what ended feudalism. Maybe COVID will end Boomerism. We can but hope. Personally, I'm sick of old white guys running things. Pity we can't make a rule that says white men over (say) 40 are not eligible for any elected office. Yes, I'm well over 40.

  2. Barbara O'Sullivan27 July 2020 at 16:11

    Thank you for this thoughtful reflection. I think there are coeval realities – one in which we’re all in this together, and another in which our experiences differ widely. You’ve touched on that in providing your personal context. I’m not sure about Canada, but the generational issue is huge elsewhere – in Manchester UK recently, a receptionist job at a pub garnered nearly 1000 applicants in 24 hours ( The hiring manager commented that this speaks to the decimation of jobs in the hospitality industry. No, it speaks to the decimation of jobs across all sectors. Of course, not all the applicants for that receptions job were young. But young people entering the job market are seeing the world fall out from beneath them. Is it the same in Canada, and if so, what does the social contract between generations look like and who is shaping it? I’m finding that another big difference is between those who have jobs and those who do not, but even then it’s not a simple equation. Some folk with jobs are working at great personal risk, and in difficult conditions. From Amazon delivery people to hospital cleaners, to personal care assistants, to nurses, to teachers. Underlying some of these conditions is deep-rooted racism, sexism and even classism. And these are only the “first world” problems. In parts of the world, people are staring down catastrophe on a scale beyond comprehension (
    Me? I live in a little bubble of semi-safety in a small American state (Maryland) – neither the worst nor the best. Our past two days stats for new cases of Covid in a population of around 4 million are 1278 and 694 (and yes, the differences in numbers each day make me wonder about the testing process). The mental wear and tear of navigating this strange and treacherous new reality is exhausting. All any of us can do is to figure out how to make today a good day, for us and for others. Thank you, my friend, for doing just that.