CathyHird banner 09Nov22

Very early in the pandemic during a church zoom meeting, the leader said that he did not expect to get back to in-person church services until there was a vaccine.

I was shocked. I was expecting that as summer made it easier to gather outside, case numbers would drop, and we would be back in person. Even earlier, I had thought that extending March break for an extra two weeks would be enough.

In fact, my congregation chose to wait until September 2020 for in-person worship. With no singing, the atmosphere was quite different as we sat, masked, in our six-foot bubbles.

Then, we had to record the Christmas Eve service as we returned to pandemic lock down, and my last service before retirement was on Zoom.

Through 2021 and 2022, I watched from the sidelines as vaccine roll-out expanded. More congregations and other groups went back to gatherings in person.

But the disruptions continue. Returning to in-person stuff has been slow. Many have not come back to church. Gatherings are smaller. Some people remain very isolated.

Some things are starting to make more sense. We had only phone call doctor appointments until July 2022. Now, in person appointments are followed up by phone. In the past, the follow-ups would have been in person also, so this saves time and travel.

Hospitals, though, have not gotten back to normal. The strain there was extreme in the first months of the pandemic, leaving lasting stress marks. This fall some viruses we had not seen for a couple years exploded on the scene. Children landed in hospital with respiratory illnesses in huge numbers. So many procedures were delayed. The backlog continues.

My dentist’s office did a temperature check up to November. They are not screening now, though signs are still up with specific Covid messages and the more general instruction to “Stay home if you are sick.” I have not read one of these posters in a long time. One glance at the red letters, and I know what it is about. I heard those questions so many times.

Out in a public setting, I have heard someone say, “I’d give you a hug, but I am not feeling great.” I wanted to say, “If you are not feeling great, why are you here?!!”

“I tested so it isn’t Covid” I have heard a few times. Do we remember that the tests miss sometimes?

Nursing homes have a clear policy that everyone who enters has to do a test. This means arriving fifteen minutes early. The space is set up with screened cubicles to do the swabs, and timers for waiting two minutes before applying the liquid to the test strip. The test strips are then placed with another set of timers while people take other seats to wait fifteen minutes for the results. There is a staff person to help, but most people know the system and look after themselves.

I wonder what message most people take from the screening set up. Does it help us take illness seriously? Or do we become complacent that the screening will catch the illness so that we don’t have to think about it.

Up and down our road, more people who stayed home the last two winters have headed south for a warm holiday. People are trying to slip back into the life they knew in January 2020.

In so many ways, my life is as close to normal as I need it to be. I can wear a mask and limit the events I attend. I have gotten to like Zoom meetings, and it is nice to talk to someone far away and see their face. There are things I miss though.

A part of me wants to say that we have learned some new things from the pandemic. But as I listen to the anxiety in so many people, I don’t think we have worked it all through yet. It is important to allow ourselves to express all the ways in which we do not feel back to normal.

 Cathy Hird lives on the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation.





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