Coronavirus: Londoners reflect on the first year of living through the global pandemic

People get exercise outside on the lake shore path along Lake Ontario in Toronto on Thursday, April 2, 2020. Health officials and the government has asks that people stay inside to help curb the spread of the coronavirus also known as COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette.

As we mark the first year since the start of the pandemic, Global News spoke to some Londoners about how this last year has gone, and what they look forward to as more people get vaccinated.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, setting off a course of events, unlike anyone expected.

Since the start of the pandemic, at least 895,631 Canadians have contracting COVID-19 and 22,330 have died as of Wednesday.

“I feel like we, as a community, have really come together in some really difficult times,” said Dr. Chris Mackie, London’s medical officer of health.

Mackie said looking to the future, he is “optimistic over the medium term,” but it’s the near future where we could still see ups and down with case numbers.

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“The question is where we can get vaccines into the arms with the most vulnerable to prevent a wave of deaths with a third wave.”

Read more: COVID-19 and the Canadian economy, one year later

At least 2.59 million doses of vaccine have been given to 3.5 per cent of Canada’s population. As of Sunday, Londoners have received 43,074 doses.

As more vaccines are rolled out, Mackie said the number of people dying from COVID-19 is starting to “plummet” in this province and locally.

Looking out three to six months, Mackie said he is hopeful we will start to see things get back to normal with people able to gather together in larger numbers.

“We need to maintain those public health measures like masking, staying home for the next few months.”

Read more: Canada saw over 13,000 ‘excess deaths’ during 1st year of COVID-19, StatCan says

Michael and Rina Anglestand

When the pandemic hit, both Michael Anglestad, 48, and his wife Rina, 49, saw a dramatic drop in their income. The couple both work in the restaurant industry, Michael as a chef and Rina as a bartender.

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“During the red zone she was shuffled into a delivery driver, which was not ideal, but a paycheque is a paycheque.”

He said they both lost a lot of hours through the pandemic, and had to “heavily” rely on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

“I am lucky enough to be in a salaried position, so I have not had to rely on that (CERB) as much, but government assistance has saved our lives,” Michael said.

With CERB, the couple’s income was down about 20 per cent of what they normally make.

As things start to reopen, Michael said right now they are still only making about 65 per cent of what they were earned before the pandemic.

Read more: MLHU extends max time between COVID-19 vaccine doses to 112 days

Through everything, Michael said they have tried to stay positive. On top of work, they have also been parenting a teen girl during COVID-19.

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“We have gotten to spend a lot more time with our daughter than if she was in school full time, but the low is we have been fighting about school constantly,” Michael said.

“She tried to finish Grade 8 online, and that was a real struggle, and when we found out that high school was going to be disrupted in the way it has been, she was upset.”

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Rina Anglestad (left) working on homework with her daughter Alice at their Kitchen table during the pandemic. Supplied by Michael Anglestad

Michael said their daughter Alice’s first year of high school has been very different from what she expected, without clubs or sports.

“It’s not great, and not having that social interaction has been really hard on her,” he said.

With three years to go, Michael is hopeful she can still get a more “normal” high school experience but says it’s disappointing she missed out on things like a Grade 8 graduation party.

“It’s just weird because my wife and I remember that time in our lives — it was very important — and we wanted her to have those experiences, and she knows she is missing out on something.”

For now, Michael said he is “cautiously optimistic” and that he and his family will be getting the vaccine as soon it’s available.

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Read more: ‘Burnout is real’: COVID-19 pandemic takes mental health toll on health-care workers

Randy and Marianne Shouthen

Randy Shouthen, 78, and his wife Marianne, 80 at the Agripex in London after Marianne got her first vaccine for COVID-19 on March 10, 2021. Sawyer Bogdan/Global News

Both Randy Shouthen, 78, and his wife Marianne, 80, say that over this last year, they have missed seeing their grandchildren, but they have had the opportunity to read more.

“I have not seen the grandchildren more than a couple of times at a distance the whole year,” Randy said.

“They are both in town, and we used to pick them up from school once a week, but now we don’t see them from one month to the next.”

Read more: ICU nurse Barbie Allen lives in an RV to protect her family from coronavirus

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Randy is also missing social interaction.

“You can’t go anywhere, so we stay home, we walk and we are comfortable, but it’s the fact I can’t go out for lunch with the guys, can’t go to the gym,” he said.

Marianne was at the Agriplex on Wednesday to get her vaccine. Marianne said she has not minded not seeing people as much because she is not as social but does miss her two grandchildren.

Marianne said during the pandemic, she has kept busy by going for walks and reading more.

“It will pass, and we are getting along in life,” she said.

Read more: Asymptomatic COVID-19 testing for TVDSB opens with delay in Aylmer, Ont.

Although she has received her first shot and is waiting for the second, Marianne said they are not planning on doing anything different any time soon.

“For the next while, things will not change. Until more people get the vaccination, it will be the same.”

Their son and daughter-in-law are both teachers, so Marianne says between that and her grandchildren in school, they don’t want to risk spreading the virus.

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Carol Quinn

Carol Quinn, 84 waiting for her friend to get vaccinated for COVID-19 outside the Agriplex in London Ont. March 10, 2021. Sawyer Bogdan/Global News

Despite a global pandemic and a battle with cancer, 84-year-old Carol Quinn said with vaccines coming out, things are looking “promising.”

Although she was not at the Agriplex to get her vaccine, Carol Quinn, 84, says she has an appointment scheduled to get the shot next week.

Quinn was at the Agriplex Wednesday to take a friend to a vaccine appointment.

Read more: Ontario expands COVID-19 vaccine rollout to family doctors, pharmacy pilot to start Friday

Looking back at how the last year has gone, she says it’s been “very different.”

Quinn was diagnosed with cancer this last year and had to undergo chemotherapy this winter.

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“It’s been a rather harrowing winter for me, but things are looking up.”

Quinn said she was really impressed with how hospital staff looked after her during her treatments.

Throughout the pandemic, many hospitals had to limit capacity and cancel elective procedures as the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 rose.

As case numbers have dropped, so too have the number of patients in hospital battling the virus.

Read more: New online system aims to combat delays, case backlogs in Ontario tribunals

Before the pandemic, Quinn was an active senior, spending time with friends, going to the seniors centre, and seeing plays.

“I live in a retirement building, and we can’t get together for any social actives, so it’s a very different way of life.”

FaceTime and phone calls have helped her stay connected to loved ones as well as being in the same bubble as her brother and his wife.

Although she is soon to get the first dose of the vaccine, Quinn said she won’t be doing anything too crazy.

“I still think we have to be pretty cautious, so I am hoping to get together with some family and friends – with the nicer weather we can meet outside even.”


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