Pandemic Living Pt 1
Contributors share how their lives have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
I didn’t think I’d be so scared.
I work in a retail store. When COVID-19 hit, the store shut down for a couple of months and some of us were laid off. By the time the store was allowed to re-open in late May, the owner had put a number of safety measures in place such as limiting the number of customers in the store at any one time, floor markers to encourage social distancing, plexiglass shields at the check-outs, instructions to sanitize high touch areas frequently, and so on.
Still, when I first returned to work I was nervous, particularly about the May long weekend. I cowered behind the plexiglass, cleaned and sanitized obsessively, and cringed if a customer got too close.
But gradually I relaxed. It’s amazing what we will adapt to.
Then one day, when a customer was asking me a question, we both instinctively moved to the left of the plexiglass shield so we could hear each other better. We talked for a minute or so, then the customer coughed right in my face. He didn’t cover his mouth, neither of us had a mask on, and we didn’t have the plexiglass between us. He just coughed right in my face from about a metre away.
I didn’t recognize this customer as one of our “regulars”, so I feared that he may be visiting from the GTA where the virus is more prevalent, and I panicked. I ran to the washroom to wash my face, but I didn’t have any Listerine or anything like that, so it was probably a pointless exercise. What was done was done. I just didn't think I would be so scared.
I called the COVID-19 Assessment Centre, explained what had happened and got an appointment to be tested within the hour. I’m grateful for how quickly they got me in, how thorough the interview was and how empathetic the nurses were. But I sure hope I never have to have that test again.
It was kind of eerie walking into the Assessment Centre. It was spotlessly clean and stark, with a desk behind a large plexiglass shield, and a virtually empty room with only one chair. The three nurses were all dressed in full PPE, including gowns, booties, gloves, masks and face shields. I was asked to leave my purse outside, remove my cloth mask and put on one of their surgical masks. Then I was directed to sit in the chair and tip my head back.
Whenever I talk about this to someone, the first question is always, “How did the test feel?” In a word, unpleasant.
The nurse told me that the test would be a swab, so I was picturing a Q-tip twirled in my nose. But she came toward me with a plastic implement that was at least six inches long, adjusted my head and eased this thing up my nose all the way to the back of my throat, then back out. It only took a second or two, but it felt like sandpaper while it was in there. My nose started to run and burn, and my throat started to burn as well. That burning sensation lasted for the rest of the day.
The nurse told me the results could take up to two weeks, and I was dismayed. I’d just gotten back to work a few weeks ago, and now I was going to be off again. But she said to check the online Test Results Viewer every couple of days, and after four days I had my results. Negative. No need to stay home, it said; just follow the guidelines for physical distancing.
So I’m back at work. All's well that ends well. I’m not as nervous as I was back in May, but I’m more circumspect now than I was when the customer coughed on me. The store owner went to a lot of trouble to protect both employees and customers. and I’m now careful to make the most of those safety measures.
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