I was recently interviewed by the Toronto Star on this project and why we began to collect stories related to the pandemic almost as soon as it was declared. I directed the reporter to this exhibit and realized that it had been some time since we had added anything new here.
We are quickly approaching the second anniversary of “the new normal” as the world grappled with a pandemic unlike anything we had seen in approximately 100 years. This anniversary got me looking back at this time two years ago when we, as a staff, struggled with what to do for our March Break programs.
Friday, March 13, 2020 was the last day of the “old normal” at the Museum. By the end of that day, we had decided it would be prudent to cancel our March Break programming and hopefully rebook with the partner organizations in the near future. By the time I had returned home from work that day, March Break had been extended by an additional two weeks that turned into at home schooling until the end of the June.
By now there are all sorts of words that are closely tied to the pandemic. Words like pivot, online, and case counts, and phrases such as “I think you are on mute” became a part of our everyday vocabularies here at the Museum. Staff have become comfortable with a wide range of online tools that have helped us bring the Museum and its collections to the public while we were all at home. We have developed online workshops, created online exhibits and perfected our talks over Zoom. The pandemic was a catalyst for us to find new and inventive ways to share the Museum. It wasn’t always smooth – I remember one of my first Zoom talks where my internet just could not handle the whole family online at the same time, but we pushed forward and got it done.
I think the lack of new posts on this project is due, in large part, to pandemic fatigue. We are all tired of the “new normal,” the restrictions and the impacts on our day-to-day lives that have come about because of the virus. It feels like the virus has changed all aspects of life, and to be collecting and writing about it just added to that fatigue. As we are on the cusp of ending restrictions, hopefully this fatigue will lessen and we can look back at our world for the past two years and ensure that we accurately document it for future generations. Hopefully, I will have met my goal of working to collect the items that I wished were available regarding the 1918 pandemic. This online project is a big part of meeting that goal, of collecting the human experience of a worldwide pandemic, for researchers in the future.
I am a sucker for good branding and creative marketing, and while walking around downtown, my attention was grabbed by the signage outside the Tribute Communities Centre (formerly, GM Centre). This hockey rink is used by the Oshawa Generals (when they are in season) and by community groups for practice and play, and the clever signage, clarifying which masks are acceptable for entry was humorous and ‘on brand’ for the site and how the space is typically used.
Photographed early January 2021.
-Lisa Terech, Community Engagement co-ordinator for the Oshawa Museum and frequent walker around Oshawa’s streets
It’s been a while since writing an entry for our Covid blog. I look back and can’t fathom where the time has gone. Ten months. How did whatever this is become the new normal? My family made it through the first round of online schooling; we made it through the summer – contending with packed campgrounds and a big family move, but otherwise didn’t do too much. A benefit for us was indeed the lack of commitments. I read more books and spent more time in my garden than I had in years.
But then came “back to school.” Everyone was conflicted about sending their kids back to school, and we were in the same boat. I refused to do any typical “back to school shopping” because no one knew what was going to happen in the next few weeks. My kids were back a matter of days when we got a letter from the school Principal saying that there had been a confirmed positive case of COVID at the school. Wow. The school’s Facebook page for parents was a flurry of commotion. My anxiety (which had been on the rise already) was back in full force. What do we do? Will we get a call from the Durham Region Health Department? Only those close to the person with a positive case are deemed high risk and contacted. It was around this time that I remember hearing on the radio that Durham Region hadn’t submitted its number of new case numbers to the media. Shortly after, everyone found out that was because there had been a mistake in the lab.
On September 23, 2020, Global News reported that “34 people” in Durham Region “were given incorrect positive COVID-19 results due to an error by Sick Kids Hospital.” What a relief. The supposed positive case at my kids’ school was negative after all.
Fast forward almost one month, and 2020 tested our strength/sanity/fears again. A day after I experienced my first (and so far only, thankfully) COVID test, we learned that there was a true positive case at the school – in my daughter’s and nephew’s class on top of everything. Now what? Now there were two out of four of us in the family that needed to isolate until tests results came back.
The staff and organization at Lakeridge Health, where I had my COVID test, were phenomenal. I am sure that there are days where tensions are high but certainly not when I was there. The professionalism of the nursing staff and security staff was top notch.
Have you had a COVID test yet? Boy, was I anxious. “No big deal.” That’s what everyone said. “It feels like water up your nose.” To me it certainly didn’t feel like that! I can’t really describe what it was like, but definitely not that. It didn’t hurt, but it was definitely uncomfortable. It helps to think that there are so many more professionals and front line workers that need to be tested a lot more frequently, and what you’re going through is so trivial compared to that.
My daughter had her COVID test at the school. They set up a mobile testing centre for the children in the class affected in an unused portable on the school premises – incidentally the same portable the class just left for a new classroom inside the school. At least the setting was familiar for them? This is one of the first steps/precautions the school took to mitigate any further exposure to staff and students. She also saw a return to online learning, for her class that was isolating.
Edit: As I finished writing this blog post, I learned that my COVID test was negative!
My growing collection of non-medical masks, which hang by the front door, ready to grab when I leave my house. The beads on the straps help these masks fit more securely on my face – a suggestion made by an employee at Oshawa’s Ultimate Sewing Centre! I was on the hunt for toggles and she recommended beads.
Masks were made mandatory to wear in all indoor spaces in Durham Region as of July 10, 2020 to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
It’s been almost five month since Friday March 13, the day the OM made the decision to cancel March Break programs and, “out of an abundance of caution,” close the Museum to visitors. Little did we know that the Provincial State of Emergency which came into effect shortly afterwards would have closed our doors had we not already. While we have once again opened our doors to the public, it is by no means business as normal.
A “normal” July and August at the Oshawa Museum sees thousands of people walk through our doors. We get the casual ‘just want to see what this is all about,’ and our regular visitors, like the park walkers who stop by for hot chocolates or OHS members swinging in to say hi! We see people who come specifically for a tour of the site, or those casual visitors are often so intrigued that they too decide to take a tour. Our summer students, anywhere from two to four students, are amazing front of house staff at the Museum, guiding those tours, greeting people as they pop in, and assisting in the gift shop. Lakeview Park buzzes with activity, and with our welcoming signage, those park goers often make up a large percentage of our casual visitors.
2020 is looking very different.
Until July 20, we remained closed to visitors; part of that was due to when Durham Region moved into Stage 2, the stage of the Province’s reopening plans for when museums can open. Another part of why our reopening took place later in July was so that Museum staff could take all appropriate safety measures to ensure quality and SAFE experiences for our visitors and staff.
The biggest change lies with the tour itself. Our museum houses were build over 150 years ago – needless to say, ‘social distancing’ wasn’t a thing at that time, and it is challenging to maintain safe distances in the small rooms. Where tours pre-pandemic were guided, our tours are now audio tours. This means museum visitors can still see and experience Henry House but can easily maintain a safe distance from staff. The audio tours are available through Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and from Podbean, where we host the podcasts; simply search for our channel Oshawa Musings.
We have also decided, at this time, to keep Robinson House closed. We do not have any exhibition on the bottom floor and our Indigenous gallery has far too many hands-on components to be able to safely let guests experience this space. We have made aspects of this exhibit available online on our YouTube channel.
As per Region of Durham mandates, masks are required inside the Museum. I have to say, I rather like the branded masks we had created for OM staff to wear!
Another big change to the tours is that they are no longer drop-in. Pre-pandemic, our doors at Guy House were open, people could wander in, and if they wanted a tour, one could be offered right away. However, to safely maintain numbers in Guy House, we are currently keeping the doors closed unless by appointment, and tours are pre-booked through Eventbrite – you pick your date and your time slot. One consistent is that the tours are by donation, and we greatly appreciate the support from those who have already booked their tours.
Since mid-June, staff have been splitting their time between working in the office and working from home, a trend which will likely continue for the foreseeable future. It still amazes me how quickly I was able to adjust to working from home, how quickly the new routine settled in; the flip side is how quickly I adjusted to more time in the office and with a few of my co-workers there with me. I’m an extroverted-introvert – I like my alone time and need time to recharge after a lot of social interactions, but I missed seeing my work friend every day, of getting to share laughs with them, hear their stories and share my own.
If you feel safe and comfortable doing so, and if you are not displaying any of the COVID-19 symptoms, I encourage you to book your time slot and visit the Oshawa Museum. Tickets can be purchased through our Eventbrite page: https://oshawamuseum.eventbrite.com/
The following are measures in place to ensure the safety of our visitors and staff for your visit:
Timed entry. Tours will be offered at 11am, 12pm, 1pm, and 2pm, Monday to Friday. We ask that you book your tour ahead of your visit using Eventbrite. We will try to accommodate drop-ins if we can. Choose your time and ticket option. When the tickets are available, you can find them on our Eventbrite Page: oshawamuseum.eventbrite.com
Tour Experiences. Henry House and Guy House ONLY will be available for tours. An exhibit celebrating Lakeview Park will be featured in Guy House. Tour groups will be restricted to a maximum of five people, we ask that social distancing measures are respected and masks worn. Visits start at Henry House.
The Audio Tour. We are launching our new audio tours available wherever you get your podcasts – simply download and press play, There are three experiences to choose from:
Our standard tour, with a tour through the Henry House Gardens,
An abbreviated version of the above mentioned tour
A tour designed especially for families and kids!
Signage. Signs are posted encouraging social distancing and self-screening upon entrance. Plexiglass shield at the main desk at Guy House. If you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, such as coughing, fever, or shortness of breath, please remain at home.
Regular disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces. Where items (e.g. museum artefacts) are not able to be disinfected, signage is present to indicate this. Where possible, hands-on artefacts and displays are removed.
Hand sanitizer stations. You will asked to use hand sanitizer upon entry.
Contact tracing. We may be asking for your name and phone number/e-mail upon entry. This information will be kept private and will only be used where necessary for contact tracing.
Credit/debit as the preferred method of payment. The credit/debit machine will be cleaned after each use.
We all knew COVID-19 was coming! The big question was “When?” Trailing close behind and of equal importance were the “Why,” the “Where,” and lastly, the “How.”
Let’s start with the “When?”
History has shown us that pandemics have occurred for as long as mankind has been in existence. We only need to look at text from old books, census records, cemetery transcriptions, etc. The pandemics caused disabilities & fatalities in all demographics. A couple of examples are the Black Death and the Spanish Flu. It seems every generation has had to deal with disease of great proportion and consequence.
The National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg confirmed that a man in quarantine at Sunnybrook Hospital (Toronto) was the first documented case of the new coronavirus (January 27, 2020) in Canada. The following day, health officials confirmed the second case. The woman had travelled to Wuhan with her husband, who was the first case noted above.
The first death related to COVID-19 in Oshawa was reported in the news on March 24th. This brought home the message clearly: It was now in our community!
Why COVID -19? The answer to that question is still up in the air. Speculation is that it began in Wuhan, China where the first person we know of died of the disease. Researchers have delved into the genetic make-up and a theory is that it originally came from an animal, possibly a bat.
Where? It is everywhere, whether it be a developed or an undeveloped country. It seems to be prevalent in people who live or work in close quarters (nursing/retirement homes) and in those who have compromised immune systems but that is not always the case! It has also shown up in people (young & old) who are otherwise healthy. It knows no boundaries!
How? It appears that transmission has been mainly through our global networking – specifically travel, business and social interactions.
The pandemic is a reality check. It’s a precise indicator of our vulnerabilities and a reminder of who and what is important in our lives.
The question is, “What have we learned from it?” More importantly, “Have we learned from it?”
Due to the severity, strength and speed of the virus, our life has changed drastically. Restrictions of who we see, where we go, how we shop are just a few of our day to day challenges.
So how are we coping or perhaps I should say, adjusting to this new lifestyle?
Patience, understanding, self-discipline and creative pursuits are the strategies that I’ve used to adjust to the “new normal.” A fear of the unknown and the frustration of not knowing when the disease will be eradicated is a genuine concern.
Many people are spending quality time at home with their loved ones, and yet there are others who are denied the privilege due to the restrictions that had to be put in place. As the old adage goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”
We are going back to basics and finding out more about ourselves and others – more caring & more sharing. In the face of adversity, and in most cases, we have become one – one family, one community, one country, and one world. The virus has made us take notice of those who walk beside us, at a distance of course. It’s made us more open and friendly with others. We’ve tapped into our resources: creativity is in its full bloom. Just look at YouTube and you will find many song parodies, art projects, instructions for making masks and sanitizer, recipes, research – an endless list, really!
If anything, the “lockdown” has taught me to be mindful on a physical, emotional & spiritual level. I try to spend at least an hour a day doing physical exercise (walking) and am spending less time in front of a computer. That’s a good thing!
Most of my walks have been along the lakefront or in wooded areas. It feels good to take deep breaths of the fresh air. Unfortunately, the beach area was off limits shortly after the virus had reached our shore, so to speak. A few days prior to that I had started to collect “beach glass” with the intention of making a piece of art. (I learned of this craft from a friend in Nova Scotia who has made beautiful jewellery and pictures from “sea glass” that she collects along the seashore). Although my new interest was curtailed, I was happy that we were still allowed to walk through the park as long as social distancing was adhered to. My walks continued regularly for at least a month but the ‘old’ shoes were showing their “wear and tear.”
So were my feet! After a month of daily walks I had to put my routine on hold because I developed a painful blister. I did a small indoor workout in bare-feet, but it just wasn’t the same.
I resorted to giving some photos a touch of humour as seen in the next picture. It was a means of escape from the troubling news of the day.
Anyone I encountered along the lakefront trail or through the park stayed within the social distancing guideline. It pleased me because I was afraid that if the rules were broken then the privilege would be taken away. A few people had been on the beach, but I don’t think it was intentional. They just didn’t see the sign! In the beginning, I didn’t see it either but thankfully a kind man informed me of the sign as well as the presence of bylaw officers. If my memory is correct, the beach sign was installed sometime in mid-March.
The only downside of long walks at the lake is the lack of bathroom facilities.
I took the following photo a couple of weeks prior to the restrictions. Trust me, it wasn’t easy! My intention is to return and take more photos but it’s proving to be a rather long wait. That’s where patience comes into play!
Lakeview Park has been an important part of my family history; in fact my family’s fascination for it began long before it became a park. Since then, many happy events have been celebrated at the park. This year marks the 100th birthday of Lakeview Park. In recognition of this historical milestone I want to express my gratitude for the kindness of Col. R.S. McLaughlin and George McLaughlin. The brothers bought the land in 1920 in the name of General Motors of Canada Limited. It was then deeded to the Town of Oshawa for just one dollar with only one restriction, which was that the land be used as a public park for the citizens of Oshawa under the control of the Council and Parks Commission. They also provided the necessary funds to cover the initial improvements and a suitable park playground.
I made it a point to always visit the three museum buildings at the lake. I couldn’t resist taking photos of the daffodils at Robinson House. They were beautiful this year; in fact they were so beautiful that I decided to use one of the photos in an Easter greeting.
I also walked through various neighbourhoods within the city. I don’t recall seeing as many pristine lawns as I have this spring. I suppose it’s partially due to the stay at home/workplace rules. Many families had leisure time and several hands to work on their gardens and yard. We rejoiced at the arrival of the first warm, sunny day. It gave us an opportunity to socialize outdoors with family, friends and neighbours at a safe distance.
I heard many power tools in operation, so new spring projects (planned or unplanned) have come to the forefront.
Other Signs of the Times
Another past time is baking. I’ve been making banana and molasses ginger muffins forever, but I thought I’d try something different. My social media friends/groups have posted many recipes during the pandemic. Three of my favourites thus far are Amish molasses cookies, an apple fritter loaf and Hawaiian Banana Bread. I’ve even resurrected old recipes like marmalade coconut cookies.
My great grandparents would be proud of me as I was also doing my laundry by hand (minus a washboard that is) for several weeks. Some people might think that this is an extreme measure but really, it wasn’t too difficult as I wore the same thing (mostly of light material) over and over again. Nothing piles up but I sure missed wearing my jeans! My husband continued to do his laundry and the household linens in the communal facility.
I’ve done my own hair (dying & cutting) for many years as well as my nails so I haven’t missed those luxuries at all.
Moving right along to the present…
The beautiful month of May arrived and as restrictions are slowly and carefully been lifted, I’ve become a little less concerned and decided to go back to doing my washing in the communal laundry. Of course I use wipes upon wipes upon wipes on everything from the coin slot to the bottom of my laundry basket, all the while wearing my ever ready face mask.
My blisters have finally healed and I’m back to my daily walks. It’s surprising how resourceful one can be out of necessity. I have several gel inserts and have cut and glued sections in the worn out heels of my old runners. I’m also walking less heavy footed which has eased some of the pressure. So far so good!
I see spring slowly emerging from the shadows of winter. It’s great to see families out walking or biking the trails and paths. I take notice of all the signs of the season: the lovely gardens, children playing, painted rocks, chalk drawings on sidewalks, squirrels chasing each other, the birds chirping & rabbits hopping along their merry way. It’s nice to see dandelions in the parks, a sign that less chemicals are used in public spaces. Beautiful wildflowers and tulips are springing up everywhere. A healthy environment and lifestyle has become more important than it has been in a long time.
May also brought Mother’s Day – a time to celebrate & remember. It was nice to meet-up with our family after such a long absence. The day was bitterly cold and windy so I suggested we go for a walk on a safe wooded trail. We kept our six foot distance and the woods provided some shelter from the cold; in fact, the sun came out for short while. Due to the weather we encountered very few people.
Here are a few photos of the wildlife that I’ve seen on my walks:
The COVID-19 crisis has shown me the resilience of mankind. I admire the frontline workers and everyone else who has shown care and compassion for others. My respect and admiration of the parents, the caregivers and the children has only risen higher.
I thank everyone who has played a part in keeping us healthy and safe: healthcare workers, first responders, grocers, farmers, truckers, etc.
I’ve decided to close now as I want to focus on Mother Nature. (That’s where the spiritual comes into play). It’s my favourite escape from reality albeit a temporary one. To be perfectly honest, I’m just tired of seeing and hearing about COVID-19. I was quite hesitant to write about it, but for history’s sake, I knew I had to!
Thank you to the Oshawa Museum for suggesting and encouraging Oshawa citizens to share their personal experience during these trying times. Be well and stay safe!
Addendum: May 17th 2020
The news of one of the Snowbirds crashing in Kamloops was felt with much sadness. Capt. Jennifer Casey (Public Affairs Officer) died a hero – she was on the “Operation Inspiration” flight – a cross country tour to raise people’s spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pilot, Captain Richard McDougall is in the hospital in serious condition. My thoughts and prayers to Jenn’s family and to Capt. Richard MacDougall (Pilot) in his recovery from this tragic accident.
Please note that this write-up reflects my personal thoughts and experience of living through these challenging times. My intention is to keep a historical record for personal and local interest.