THE SHIFTING LANDSCAPE OF A PANDEMIC
How quickly things have changed. In January 2020, COVID-19 was considered a distant problem, primarily for a region in China. There was a consensus among Canadians; it was not necessarily worse than the seasonal flu and that it primarily impacted only those travelling to affected regions. By February, COVID-19 had spread to Italy, but still, in Canada, it was viewed as an outlier and, for the most part, our lives were unaffected. The federal and provincial governments considered the risk of an outbreak in the community very low. Only a few short weeks later, however, things changed dramatically.
Within two days of my return from Hawaii, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic1. Initially, a 14-day self-isolation period was recommended for travellers returning to Canada from other countries. If you were asymptomatic as a health care provider, however, it was recommended you attend work, self-monitor symptoms and only self-isolate if you became symptomatic. This directive quickly changed to self-isolation and remote work for everyone, regardless of symptoms, unless you were required to be physically present at your place of employment. As a result, I had a head start on working remotely from home. Then, everything changed again. Social distancing measures were enacted by provinces and municipalities. Schools closed and academic and university programs moved online. Some provinces passed Emergency Measures Acts and ordered all but essential businesses closed in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Following the Ministry of Health’s directive, hospitals were directed to move to essential services in order to prepare for a potential surge in COVID-19 patients.