Yvette d’Entremont is a reporter with the Halifax Examiner

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One year ago, I began what amounts to a pandemic diary. I didn’t write something every day. Some days I wrote a single sentence. Other days I wrote paragraphs.

It’s impossible to accurately describe what I was feeling as I watched the Government of Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 briefing on March 15, 2020. I didn’t do a great job of it in my diary.

But I think it’s fair to say there was a sense of foreboding as my two sons and I sat in front of the television on that Sunday afternoon to hear what then-premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang would say. While we all knew it was only a matter of time before the virus arrived here, we didn’t know when or how hard it would hit.

A screenshot from the March 15, 2020 COVID-19 briefing.

The first three presumptive cases of the virus had been identified in the province the day before.

Public school students had just started their March break that weekend. McNeil announced schools would remain closed for at least two weeks beyond that, ushering in the beginning of the longest March break ever.

It was, as one of my friends said recently, “the day shit got really real for a lot of us.”

I got through this past year because I was fortunate enough to have a home, a steady income, supportive family and friends. I also found solace in writing in my diary, along with saving memes and sharing funny/amusing posts. I’ve curated some of my pandemic diary entries here.

Reading through these entries a year later brought me back to those days of uncertainty, sorrow, gratitude, fear, and frustration. But it also contained glimmers of hope.

It isn’t by any means an exhaustive list, and I left out some of the more difficult, personal parts and bits related to stories I wrote and painful stories people shared behind the scenes.

I was fortunate not to have lost anyone this past year from COVID-19 (or to anything else). My heart goes out to those who have.

March 16, 2020

This tweet I saw tonight about numbers really hit me.

I’m not quite sure how to articulate it, but I have this sense of deep despair. There’s so much uncertainty right now and things are shifting fast. It’s hard to keep your mind from going to dark places.

What’s going to happen? How bad will this get? How many people will die? Will anyone I know get sick, or worse? How do we *effectively* do our best to protect ourselves and our communities when there are still so many unknowns? What if people don’t get onboard with public health protocols?

It’s a lot to handle. I have to keep reminding myself to just breathe.

The numbers are incredibly disturbing . From 30 to 70% infection. Mortality from .5 to 3% . Even a “flattened” curve only delays the inevitability by a few months (but now you might get a ventilator ) This makes Sept 11 look like a hiccough

— Frank Graves (@VoiceOfFranky) March 17, 2020

March 17

St. Paddy’s Day today, but there are no public celebrations this year. Effective Thursday, all restaurants, pubs, bars, etc. have to close. It’s take out and delivery only for restaurants. Concerned for friends in the service industry.

March 19

Seeing awful news stories out of Italy. From The Guardian:

‘A generation has died’: Italian province struggles to bury its coronavirus dead

Coffins pile up and corpses are sealed off in homes as Bergamo’s funeral firms are overwhelmed

I fear this might only be the beginning, and it saddens and scares me in equal measure.

March 20

NO MORE NOON TIME GUN. 🙁

Also, it happened a week ago, but the poignancy of this video I saw on Twitter today made me ugly cry.

Locked down citizens in Siena, Italy singing into the darkness from their windows and balconies.

Accompanied by the occasional barking dog, you hear a chorus of voices united in delivering this hauntingly beautiful folk song popular in their town. ‘E Mentre Siena Dorme’ (‘And While Siena Sleeps’). It starts with one voice and then others join in.

This to me reflects the beauty of the human spirit and is a nod to the wonderful ways people find to stay connected in difficult times. I hope amid so much sorrow and uncertainty, we can all maintain our humanity and compassion and find joy and beauty in the simplest things.

I still have fear about what might be ahead, but this example of the strength and resiliency of the human spirit gives me hope.

A Siena, città alla quale sono molto legato, si sta in casa ma si canta insieme come se si fosse per la strada. Mi sono commosso pic.twitter.com/IDPqNEj3h3

— David Allegranti (@davidallegranti) March 12, 2020

March 21

It’s recommended people wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap. Many have taken to sharing what tunes best work to accomplish this.

I’m still smiling over Heather Rankin’s fun ditty shared on Twitter yesterday. Her toe-tapping, upbeat, 20+ second hand washing rendition of “Barrett’s Privateers” still has me smiling today.

These days it really is about the little things.

Cheerful Things Day 7: Doing Silly Videos with Your Friends and Colleagues! Here is my bit of @billymaclellan’a great hand washing Privateers Video; you can see the whole thing here: https://t.co/46NEt4LV6d #WashYourHands #plankthecurve pic.twitter.com/CaOxahBdy2

— Heather Rankin (@HeatherRankinMe) March 20, 2020

March 22

A sign approaching Burnside on March 23, 2020, reminding drivers about the state of emergency. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

State of emergency issued. Boys are most upset by the fact that we can no longer go to the woods every day (Sackville Lakes Provincial Park). Social gatherings are capped at five people.

March 23

On Facebook today I started a “daily happy thing” in an attempt to highlight the positives that still exist.

A child in our neighbourhood wrote ‘When you can’t find the sunshine, be the sunshine’ in chalk at the end of her driveway.

These are the same neighbours who put up Christmas lights on the weekend to cheer us all up. These little things make me surprisingly emotional.

March 24

Today’s daily happy thing? I got a text from Nicki, upset after leaving a doctor’s appointment.

She drove by the NSLC and was stunned by crowds crammed together in line to get inside, not observing social distancing at all.

Her: “Do you have a minute? I’m going to drive by, I just want to see your face.”

“I just want to see your face.” This hit me. I choked back tears and told her I’d stand outside and wave.

She parked at the end of my driveway, 20 to 30 feet away, and we chatted for 10 minutes. She insisted on taking a photo of me acting silly to make her laugh before she left. Of course I obliged.

These little things are big things.

March 25

Chatted from a distance with my postal person today. She is understandably very stressed. I thanked her for what she does.

One of many items saved to my phone during the pandemic.

March 26

Had to get groceries today. Went to Costco when it wasn’t too crowded. This was the first time I’ve been inside a store for awhile.

I’d not yet seen so many people wearing masks and gloves. It was upsetting.

The distancing, all the floor markings, the eerie silence. No one was making eye contact. I was overwhelmed, moved to tears, and desperate to get out of there.

I know all too well the situation we’re in, but the stark reality really hit me in the face today. And I still can’t find sanitizing wipes anywhere!

Thankfully I always buy a few packs of toilet paper at a time, so I’m stocked up on that for now.

March 27

About 800 iPads are going to long-term care facilities in Nova Scotia to help residents connect. I can’t begin to imagine how isolating and scary this must be for long term care residents and their families. It’s heartbreaking.

March 28

Yeast is apparently a hot commodity now. No one can find any anywhere, as people are making their own bread, cinnamon rolls, or whatever else that requires the stuff.

I’m glad I bought a Costco sized bag of yeast before all this started!

March 29

No haircut since February, so Pete had to trim my bangs. It was a surprising success! We are all learning new skills.

March 30

Public schools and licensed child care providers must stay closed until at least May 1. At-home learning, here we come! This is going to be interesting.

March 31

So many garbage (fake) COVID-19 “cures, preventative measures and diagnostic tools” floating around everywhere. Hold your breath, gargle with lemon, breathe hot air from a hair dryer. Seriously? Reputable sources only, folks. :/

April 1

I saw a cartoon this morning that said:

“You are not STUCK at home. You are SAFE at home.”

Perspective really is everything.

I miss coffee dates with my best friend. I miss my daily walks in the woods. I miss the freedom of spontaneous weekend road trips to places I’ve never been.

I miss what used to be “normal.”

But like I’ve seen posted elsewhere, I have a home. I have my cozy candle nook. I have books. I have food. I have coffee (and wine!). I have my family. I am safe, and I am helping keep other people safe.

April 4, 2020

Yesterday the premier sternly warned us to “stay the blazes home.” Except for essential things like grocery and pharmacy trips.

I’m trying to do groceries only once every two weeks anyway, but this reinforces that decision I guess.

April 5

We apparently shouldn’t go for drives anymore, and people around me are disheartened and overwhelmed by this news.

I use the word overwhelmed a lot these days, but it fits. For many, driving to remote places was a de-stresser, a way to escape for a bit.

On another note, my sons are driving me foolish replaying a ‘Stay the blazes home’ remix. Non-stop. All day. Please send help.

April 6

Brought Nicki the face mask I bought for her, since I suspect everyone may be needing to wear them sooner rather than later.

There’s apparently no elastic left in the city, so making our own fabric ones would’ve been a challenge. What’s going to run out of stock next?

A message of hope in a Lower Sackville window on April 7, 2020. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

April 7

The province reported the first COVID-19 death in the province today. A woman in her 70s died in hospital yesterday due to complications from the virus.

Dismayed by this and fearful about the days ahead, we went for a long walk in our suburb tonight. We saw many homes decked with colourful lights and messages of hope on their lawns and in their windows.

People are trying to spread a bit of joy to their neighbours during this sad time, and this makes me smile.

April 9

Went on my first grocery shopping trip in a long time today. Spent far more than I’ve ever spent in one trip, and also picked up a few things for Nicki.

She left a pair of medical gloves outside on her doorstep for me to wear when I go.

Not looking forward to this trip.

My best friend Nicki Himmelman, staring longingly out the window as I dropped her groceries off on April 9, 2020. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

April 14

My key pegs at the entrance of my front door have turned into mask hangers. There’s now a designated peg per person with masks ready to go. I’m the only person leaving now, and that’s only for groceries. But “some day” I hope to leave home again for more than food.

This blurry photo was taken on April 18, 2020 between Sackville and Bedford on a grocery drop-off. This sign served as a stark reminder about what was happening. ‘COVID-19 is deadly. Stop the spread. Stay home.’  Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

April 18

A friend said the First Lake Sobeys is packed. It’s apparently worse than Christmas.

Also, C messaged us in our group to say someone related to her husband was one of the Northwood residents who contracted COVID-19. He died today. 🙁

April 19

This day has no words. The horror of this mass shooting tragedy on top of the pandemic is indescribable. My Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of sadness and despair.

April 21

Met a couple on my neighbourhood trail today. The man commented on my NS tartan scarf. “This really is not an easy time, is it?” he asked me. His wife shook her head sadly. We all nodded at each other and kept walking.

April 22

With so much sadness, I found joy today in an unexpected place.

Went for my daily walk on the neighbourhood trail. A mom was out on a bike ride with her 12-year-old daughter. The mom told me it was the first time she’d been on a bike in 20 years.

From a safe distance, she laughed, and as she wobbled to keep it straight told me “I think I’m going to need to practice. A lot!”

So we had a nice little chat from a distance. We talked about that, how she was failing at baking bread, how hard it was to work from home. Just regular stuff. But I left there kind of happy because I’d had normal dialogue with a passing stranger.

My eyes welled up with tears on the way home though, because I realized how much I’ve missed basic interactions like this with people.

It reminded me that in the midst of all of this stress and uncertainty and unhappiness and horror, there are still moments of normalcy. There are still people going about life, making the best of it and finding humour where they can.

April 25

Had a virtual meeting with my therapist today. She said a lot of things that resonated, as always. But this really hit home. And yes, I cried:

There is a before and there’s an after, but we’re not currently in either of those places. We’re in that limbo in between. But most of us, I think, recognize that no matter how much normalcy we can work our way back to, we’re never going back to the time before.

There’s a lot of grief involved in the recognition that life has changed, the world has changed, reality has changed. Not to the degree that it’s different right now. But in some ways, in a permanent sense, we know that things will be different going forward. And we don’t really know exactly how that’s going to look. 

April 27

The boys went out to the shed to “barber” each other’s hair. Neither has had a hair cut since February. I heard raucous laughter from the eldest, and shouts of dismay from the youngest (who went first). He’s more or less bald now, but is comforted by the fact he has nowhere to go and no one will see him like this!

April 29

Captain’s log: My intake of coffee, tea, sparkling water and wine has increased dramatically..

May 1

A family friend in Alberta shared this post: “I say we close down the media for 30 days and watch 80% of the world’s problems go away. 😉 “

This is not surprising, but it makes me sad. She messaged me privately to say few people trust the news any more because it’s fake. This pandemic continues to bring out the best and the worst in people, I guess.

In some really GREAT news, provincial and municipal parks are reopening and I feel like a burst of sunshine has just hit me. It took effect immediately, so I was on the trail at Sackville Lakes Provincial Park an hour after the announcement.

Met another woman on the trail. We smiled at each other and she said “This is the best news I’ve had in months. I really needed this.”

Me too. Me too.

May 2

Stumbled upon a duet I’d never heard before. It was George Michael and Elton John performing together onstage years ago,  ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me.’ I started crying, something I admittedly seem to do so much more often lately.

It wasn’t because the song was particularly sad.

It’s because the audience didn’t know Elton John was there. Three minutes in, he walks on stage and everyone starts cheering and screaming. I realized in that moment just how much I miss live music, the rush of excitement you get from a live concert, and the wonder of being surrounded by people who deeply love the same thing as you.

Sometimes it feels like that may never happen again.

May 3

Today the province announced six more deaths. They all occurred at Northwood. We now have 37 deaths in this province related to the virus. This is awful and I have no words for all the lingering sadness that doesn’t seem to go away. It just keeps piling on.

May 6

Had an article published today based on a conversation with a researcher. She said the nursing home COVID deaths reveal “fault lines” in our care (or lack thereof) of our older citizens. I cried listening back to what she said:

“They’re very complex cases. These folks have multiple comorbidities, they’ve got dementia. But you know what? They’re still people.”

They’re. Still. People. How is this happening? I feel such despair.

May 22

It is 28 degrees Celsius today, but there’s a frost advisory in place for the wee hours of the morning.

Proof that no matter how much uncertainty there is, Nova Scotia’s unpredictable weather remains a constant.

May 27

I’m sure I heard neighbours shouting and whistling in their homes when it was announced today that beginning June 5, businesses that were closed can reopen. Restaurants, bars, hair salons, fitness facilities, dental offices, etc.

There will be many protocols, but this is a breath of fresh air.

June 11

My friends and I are talking about getting dressed up in fancy clothes for a big group wine night when this is all over. We were joking about whether our pre-pandemic clothes will fit, since we’ve all been wearing leggings/yoga pants/sweats for weeks.

Or is it months?

WHAT IS TIME ANYMORE?

June 18

Big day. The premier announced we’re “bursting the bubble” and can now gather in groups of 10 without physical distancing!!

June 1

Thousands of people gathered in downtown Halifax tonight in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and resistance to police brutality. This is truly an historic time we’re living in.

June 19

It has been more than three months since Nicki and I have been closer than eight feet from each other.

Tonight, we shared multiple hugs and tons of laughs on the deck surrounded by lantern light and music. It was a warm, calm, almost summer’s evening and a reminder of what matters most.

June 24

Things are looking up! An even better bubble has been announced. After 15 straight days without a single COVID-19 case in Nova Scotia, residents can now travel within the four Atlantic provinces without having to self-isolate for 14 days. This takes effect July 3.

Newfoundland, here we come!

Also, all four provincial governments had some fun on their Twitter feeds following this announcement.

You there @InfoPEI? 🤓 pic.twitter.com/iJOUrVYfBj

— Government of NL (@GovNL) June 24, 2020

July 19

Covered an anti-mask rally for work today. Believers in science also showed up and pushed back on the anti-mask, anti-vax, conspiracy theory messaging. I was told I was a member of the sheep brigade and that I was breathing in my “own poop” by wearing a mask.

July 22

Today we learned that students will be returning to public schools on Sept. 8. The youngest is understandably a bit concerned about it. This whole thing has been so hard on young people.

July 24

I’ve been wearing masks in public for months, but today they announced masks are mandatory in public starting July 31.

I am sure there will be some in the conspiracy theory crowd who’ll try to fight this.

Good. Save it for December when the White Walkers come for us in the 2020 season finale https://t.co/XimxnQ3xVN

— Josh Silverman (@JoshMSilverman) August 19, 2020

September 10

Aiming for a little dark humour, the youngest son said:

“I feel like I have a little scratchiness in my throat maybe. Hopefully I’m not part of the COVID-gang.”

Despite a little chuckle over it, in these COVID times, the reality is a mere possibility of a scratchy throat or notion of a runny nose takes on a much more sinister tone than it used to. 🙁

October 18

Had to remind both boys, again, to download the COVID Alert app. They said since they don’t ever go anywhere, it doesn’t make sense. They did it anyway.

November 11

I am super annoyed by life these days. I am optimistic, positive, am blessed to have no issues with depression or anxiety.

But I think I am worn down and out. I was having this conversation with the grocery store cashier last night, and I think it was the first time I actually verbalized what I’ve long internalized.

Social bubbles in a pandemic.

Share this like your life depends on it: because someone’s does.

Please consider this before any & every gathering you’re planning on hosting or attending. COVID19 is probably at the party, too. pic.twitter.com/uDul0ldrZs

— thoughtsofaphd (@thoughtsofaphd) November 17, 2020

November 20

Numbers are back up, so restrictions are back in. Most of HRM and a few outlying areas have reduced gathering numbers from 10 to five now.

It feels like a roller coaster. I don’t like roller coasters.

November 23

The bubble has sadly burst for at least two weeks for anyone wanting to visit Newfoundland and Labrador.

This announcement was followed soon after by another from PEI, which also suspended the Atlantic Bubble for at least two weeks.

Understandable, but sad. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick aren’t yet closing their borders to each other. For now.

November 24

Numbers continue to climb. 37 new cases today. New restrictions again. Starting Thursday until at least Dec. 9, Nova Scotians are being asked to avoid leaving or going to parts of HRM unless it’s for essential reasons.

Also restaurants and bars are closed again for in-person dining, fitness facilities are closed. Organized sports and cultural activities are on hold. Again. Sigh.

December 16

During today’s news briefing, I cried tears of relief. I had no idea just how upset I was about not seeing mom until this announcement. Effective December 21, we can travel from point A to B in the province. My biggest fear was mom sitting alone by her tree on Christmas morning.

It’s been tough since dad died, and having me, the boys and Pete there really helps.

I know it’s minor in the grand scheme of things, but this is huge. I feel very privileged to be living here.

January 8, 2021

A spike in the number of cases in NB means that starting tomorrow anyone coming here from that province will have to self isolate for 14 days.

February 9, 2021

The spike in cases in Newfoundland and Labrador means they have to self isolate for 14 days when entering NS now.

March 2, 2021

There’s a chart that shows when you’re likely to get your vaccine depending on your age grouping. It looks like I’ll be getting mine by August! I can’t wait.

Like I said at the beginning of this, I was blessed to have weathered this pandemic with a roof over my head, steady work, food, family and friends. So many people haven’t been as fortunate.

As the saying goes: “We’re all in the same storm, but we’re in different boats.”

Many researchers I’ve spoken with over the last year have expressed hope that perhaps we’ll come out of this pandemic intent on making this a better, more equitable world. I’ve frequently been told the last year has exposed the many cracks we already knew existed, and it’s beyond time we take concrete action to fix them.


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Yvette d'Entremont

Yvette d’Entremont is a bilingual (English/French) journalist and editor, covering the COVID-19 pandemic and health issues. Twitter @ydentremont

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  1. What a great pandemic diary Yvette. I would like to save this as it says what so many of us have been thinking and feeling over the past year. Thank you.