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How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s first case – CityNews Toronto

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On Jan. 25, 2020, Canadians were still living their lives like they always had: commuting to the office, visiting friends, dining out, hugging loved ones, vacationing. But the announcement that day of Canada’s first COVID-19 case set in motion a chain of events that would soon change everything.

By March, with cases climbing, health officials began implementing a series of measures that would fundamentally alter how many Canadians live. Lockdowns and calls for physical distancing led to companies shifting to work from home, travel restrictions, mask-wearing rules, cancellation of major events, and video meetings replacing in-person interactions as people were asked to avoid seeing anyone, even loved ones.

Jack Jedwab, the president of the Association for Canadian Studies, says the biggest change to Canadians’ daily lives has been the isolation from friends, family and co-workers.

“I think at the root of a lot of that change is these limits on our mobility, which take different forms, whether it’s interacting with family and friends, or seeing people that we’re accustomed to seeing in our daily lives in person as opposed to on screens,” he said.

An online survey conducted for Jedwab’s group in September found that over 90 per cent of the 1,500 people polled said COVID-19 had changed their lives, with most citing the inability to see family and friends as the biggest factors.

While few Canadians have been untouched by the pandemic, Jedwab says women, newcomers to Canada and people who were already economically and socially vulnerable appear to have been among the most deeply affected, particularly by job losses.

Here’s a look at how COVID-19 has changed daily life for some Canadians of different groups:

Seniors

For Bill VanGorder, a retired 78-year-old from Halifax, the pandemic put a temporary halt on his active social life and his favourite pastimes of volunteering in the local theatre and music scenes.

“Theatre people, as you may know, are people who love to hug, and not being able to hug in these times probably has been one of the most difficult things,” he said in a phone interview.

He considers himself lucky, because at least he and his wife Esther have each other, unlike many of his single friends who are completely isolated. Many older people, who are more at risk of severe complications from COVID-19, are struggling to stay connected with family or finding people to help them with household tasks.

VanGorder, who works with the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, also believes unclear government messaging, particularly on when older adults will get access to the vaccine, is “creating huge anxiety and mistrust in the system,” among already-nervous seniors.

But while the pandemic has been hard, he says there have also been silver linings. He and many of his friends have been learning to use platforms such as Zoom and FaceTime, which help seniors stay in touch with relatives and connect with their communities.

“We think the positive thing is that, of course, this knowledge will continue after COVID and will be a real step forward, so that older adults can feel more involved in everything that’s going on around them,” he said.

The first thing he’ll do when things get back to normal is to hug his grandchildren and theatre friends, he said.

University students

As classes have moved online, many students have had to adapt to living and studying in small spaces and being isolated from friends and campus life at a stage when forging lifelong friendships and social networks can be crucial.

Small living quarters, the inability to travel home, financial fears and uncertainties about the job market have contributed to a “greater sense of isolation” for many students, according to Bryn de Chastelain, an Ontario resident studying at St. Mary’s University in Halifax and the chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.

While he believes schools have done their best to support students, de Chastelain says many students have seen their mental health suffer.

“A number of students are really struggling with having to learn from home and learn online, and I think that a number of strategies that students are used to taking up are very difficult to replicate in the online environment,” he said.

Parents

Schools across the country were shut down for several months in the spring, ushering in a challenging time for parents who were suddenly forced to juggle full-time child care, work and keeping their families safe.

The reopening of schools in the fall brought different challenges depending on each province’s COVID-19 situation and approach. In Ontario, some parents opted for full-time online learning, while others were forced into it when Premier Doug Ford chose to extend the winter break. In Quebec, which doesn’t allow a remote option for most students, some reluctant parents had no choice but to send their children back to class.

“I think uncertainty, not only for kids but for everything — work, life relationships and everything — that has certainly been the theme of COVID,” said Doug Liberman, a Montreal-area father of two.

Liberman said the biggest challenge has been trying to balance the health and safety of his family with keeping his food manufacturing business going and maintaining a sense of normalcy for his two girls, ages 10 and 12.

For his family, that has meant trying to spend time outside but also accepting more screen time, and ultimately, taking things day-by-day.

“I certainly think that we certainly don’t have the answer, and I think we’ve done as best as we could, like everybody else has,” he said.

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Canadian Press NewsAlert: B.C. to offer second dose of COVID vaccine after 4 months – Todayville.com

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EDMONTON — Alberta is lifting more economic restrictions tied to COVID-19 while delaying others.

Premier Jason Kenney says low intensity group activities, such as Pilates, can resume in fitness centres, and libraries can open at 15 per cent capacity.

But he says loosening measures for retail shops, hotels and community centres can’t happen yet.

“While our hospitalizations are dropping … active cases have levelled off recently. And the testing positivity rate has risen a bit,” he told a news conference Monday.

“We have also observed a small increase in the daily number of new variant cases and that is worrisome too.

“That is why we have to proceed cautiously while still moving forward.”

This is Stage 2 of a four-stage plan to reopen the economy announced by Kenney a month ago.

In Stage 1, restaurants were able to reopen for dine-in service, gyms were allowed to resume one-on-one fitness training and some restrictions were lifted on youth sports.

Some medical experts, including the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association, warned the province last week against further loosening public-health measures.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021.

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These 9 Ontario regions are now booking COVID-19 vaccinations for seniors – parrysound.com

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Montreal’s Olympic Stadium opens to long lines as Canada plays catch-up on jabs

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MONTREAL (Reuters) – As COVID-19 vaccinations ramp-up in Canada, one of the country’s largest stadiums is taking in a long line of elderly, while provinces enlist dentists, midwives and chiropractors to help meet the expected rush for jabs.

A slow rollout of vaccines has recently dented Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s popularity, with the lack of domestic production being blamed for Canada trailing many other developed nations in its vaccination drive.

Montreal’s cavernous Olympic Stadium, which once hosted young athletes during the 1976 summer games, on Monday saw thousands of octogenarians donning folding chairs and canes as they waited in a snaking line for jabs.

Tony Caccese said he had already waited more than an hour to get his 85-year-old mother vaccinated, as the two faced a longer line-up than during the Montreal summer games he attended as an 18-year-old.

“I’ve been to many baseball games, football games, soccer games, concerts, and I’ve never waited this long in a line-up,” Caccese said.

About 3,000 are expected to be inoculated on Monday at the stadium nicknamed the Big O, which was equipped with wheelchairs and golf carts to help those unable to walk, organizers said.

“There are people who are coming out of their home for the first time since the start of the pandemic,” said Caroline St-Denis, director of the vaccination campaign at the stadium.

Canada’s vaccine supplies are expected to get a boost after health regulator on Friday approved AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, becoming the third shot to be available to Canadians.

That will help as provinces begin targeting elderly residents beyond those living at the long-term care facilities which accounted for the majority of COVID-19 deaths during the first wave.

With less than 4% of the population inoculated so far, the pace of Canada’s slow campaign has caused frustration, resulting in at least two senior corporate executives resigning for trying to jump the vaccine queue.

“We are going to have everyone vaccinated probably by the end of the summer,” Trudeau told NBC News’s Meet the Press on Sunday.

OVERWHELMED

In Manitoba, which plans to enlist chiropractors, massage therapists and optometrists, more than 300 dentists, or about 40% of registered dentists in the province, have joined the vaccination effort, said Dr. Marc Mollot, past president of the Manitoba Dental Association.

The western province of Alberta has started using pharmacies to administer vaccines to people aged 75 and over, but the province’s health services website initially crashed after more than 150,000 people logged on.

“It’s been 10 long months in this pandemic, people’s nerves are worn raw by nearly a year of restrictions, a year of uncertainty, frustration, stress and anxiety,” Alberta health minister Tyler Shandro told reporters last week.

While the country’s most populous province Ontario will not launch a centralized booking system until March 15, some public health units have already started booking elderly patients.

Quebec’s campaign at the stadium gets underway during the province’s spring break, amid fears that a variant of the novel coronavirus could spread during the holiday.

The Quebec government is wrestling with plans to bring elderly residents to inoculation sites like the stadium since the Pfizer vaccine’s cold storage requirements make it impossible to transport the vaccine to individual homes.

Quebec has also reached agreements with pharmacists and businesses to expand inoculations in the coming months.

British Columbia said on Monday that seniors over 80 and indigenous people over 65 would be able to book appointments for vaccinations in the coming weeks. The province issued orders last week allowing health care workers like dentists and midwives to administer vaccines.

“Vaccines are our ticket out of the pandemic,” Alberta health minister Shandro said.

(Reporting By Allison Lampert and Christinne Muschi in Montreal. Additional reporting by Nia Williams in Calgary, Rod Nickel in Manitoba, Moira Warburton and Allison Martell in Toronto; Editing by Denny Thomas and Nick Zieminski)

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