Jill’s COVID-19 Diary

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Coordinator

March 23, 2020

My first recollections of the coronavirus are between Christmas and New Years of 2019. Over the Christmas holidays, I gradually became aware of the shift in news – from the devastating wildfires in Australia to this new coronavirus. I remember my son, Joey saying (whining?) “Why do they have to keep talking about the coronavirus?” To which I replied, “Because it is new and important.” We visited cousins over the holidays and joked about the world ending.

I watch CBC news in the mornings before heading to work and remember hearing about the first cruise ship (the Diamond Princess or Princess Cruise Lines[1]) that was stranded out of port, not being allowed to dock because of the new cases cropping up in China. While I wasn’t shocked, I commiserated with the people stuck on board. How horrible it must have been for them to be on the ship, without any comforts of home. At first you’d think of how fun it might be, to be able to roam around on extra vacation, but these people were confined to their cabins. So if you had an interior room with no window, or a deluxe suite with a balcony, that is where you were quarantined to, whether you wanted to be or not.

CBC began doing Skype interviews with some of the Canadian residents onboard. Over time (a period of a week or so), they told how they were being treated, fed, tested and updated. Food was delivered to individuals in their rooms, they were provided with thermometers to take their temperatures hourly. Fever is a common symptom of the coronavirus, which was unnamed and unidentified at the time. People were desperate to get home to their loved ones. They had already been onboard for two weeks with another two weeks of mandatory quarantine. This happened in mid-January, through February.[2]

In time there were at least two more cruise ships that you heard of in similar situations, one disembarking in Cambodia after being turned away from Japan.

Online, on Facebook especially (a platform used mostly by Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, people took to sharing memes about the coronavirus using the beer brand Corona to make light of the situation. Admittedly, they were funny! Then the memes about people hording toilet paper came, equally funny and ridiculous. 

Seemingly, it was around this time that more people began to take notice. On February 11, 2020, the World Health Organization “announced that “Covid-19” will be the official name of the deadly virus from China.[3]” In the middle of February 2020, I was spending a lot of time in elementary schools providing outreach to schools about Oshawa’s local Black History. I was becoming more vigilant about hand washing and using sanitizer when hand washing wasn’t available. I was in at least ten different schools, using dozens of laptops, in places I had never been before. It was also at this time in Ontario that many school districts were in the middle of rotating strike action. More people were worried about this, and when the teachers might not be in the schools for a day or two, what they would do with their kids if day care wasn’t an option. Many parents had already been taking time off to care for their kids. By the end of February, I was glad to be back in the office at the Museum in a more controlled environment. We only had two programs that were rescheduled due to strike action, but many more cancellations would be implemented in the next few weeks.

As an aside, in hindsight, I can’t believe that the virus was named as far back as February 11. It doesn’t seem like that long ago.

At the Oshawa Museum, in the beginning of March, we were finalizing some major events for us – March Break and our presence at the Purple Woods Maple Syrup Festival. These were both things that were bound to bring in another 1000 people (at least) in attendance numbers.

On March 12, 2020, the Province of Ontario received notice that all publicly funded schools were closing for two weeks after March Break. It was unreal. Would I take holidays, how would the kids’ education continue? Thankfully, they are happily enjoying a combination of outdoor play and indoor learning.

However, this would be the impetus for a number of local, sweeping changes that were about to be implemented throughout the City, following Provincial, North American and global shut downs, self-isolations and social distancing – just two of the new terms to come into our vocabulary in the last few weeks.


[1] Science Magazine. Feb. 25, 2020

[2] Business Insider. Feb. 28, 2020

[3] Today World. Feb 11, 2020

Published by Oshawa Museum

Since 1957, the Oshawa Museum has been acquiring and preserving for the public, records that trace Oshawa's rich history from its earliest settlement. Our collection includes historical information on Oshawa, its families, businesses, social organizations and many other areas of interest. Included in the collection are photographs, documents, scrapbooks and other Oshawa related memorabilia. In addition to making Oshawa's historical inforamtion available, our staff also provides lectures, presentations, conservation work and research assistance.

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