The County’s first COVID assessment centre opened in March 2020. /FILE

Three years in a COVID world

By Emily Stonehouse

It’s officially been three years since the country was shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many surely remember March 15, 2020. A day that the country began to implement shutdowns in an attempt to reduce the risk of COVID infection.
It was a time of uncertainty, of questions, of concerns.
But here we are, three years later, and the sun still shines. Despite the disease killing over six million people across the globe and impacting thousands right here in our little towns, it’s become something many have learned to live with.
Most of the considerations that were put in place during shutdowns have been restored back to pre-COVID days; hand sanitizers lessened and glass barricades removed.
Many are still more comfortable wearing masks, but the politics around them seems to have fizzled out. It seems most are just tired of still talking about it.
And so, after three years of uncertainty, what’s changed? And what does the future hold?
Mike Gervais, the principal of Archie Stouffer Elementary School, was optimistic about the next steps for the school. “We have learned a great deal about students and student learning,” he said. “We have used diagnostic tools to determine the learning gaps that students may have developed during the Covid school closures, and planned and implemented targeted programming to address these gaps.”
He noted that the school board has retracted many of the restrictions that have been in place over the past three years, opening up the opportunities for assemblies, concerts, and regular recesses once again. He believes these have been some highlights from the past year, and is optimistic about the direction the school year is going at this point.
Gervais believes that through it all, he has seen that staff and students at the local school are resilient, adaptive, and resourceful. “We have learned that when we work together we can accomplish anything,” he said.
Molly McInerey, the owner of Molly’s Bistro Bakery was hit fairly hard with the pandemic uncertainty, like many restaurants were. “I know that we weren’t hit as hard as restaurants in the city,” she shared, “and because of COVID, our full-time population has grown. I think we learned how to be flexible and adjust to change.”
McInerey said that while the shutdowns were challenging, she didn’t mind a bit of a break to come up with some new ideas and recipes. She was also able to think outside the box and offer alternative food options, as the traditional sit-down dining was off the table.
She developed a series of themed date night ideas, as well as Carry Home Frozen Cuisine, which allowed her to keep her business open, even if the doors were closed. “You are always used to highs and lows when you have a business in Minden,” she said, “but COVID certainly put a different spin on that.”
One observation McInerey made in this “post-pandemic” world, is that once restrictions started lifting, visitors seemed to have misplaced basic manners that were usually utilized in a public setting. “There was a huge increase in rudeness and impatience,” she told the Echo. “I think people forgot how to behave in public. It’s calmed down now, but it was interesting to see.”
McInerey believes that now is the time for the local government to start moving forward. “We need people visiting our community again,” she said. “We also need to attract and woo new businesses to our town. The reality is, if there aren’t any draws to attract the public then we are not going attract the businesses and they will go somewhere else.” She fears that Minden will become a “dead town” if effort and energy are not put into recruiting visitors.
Despite life going back to “normal”, COVID-19 cases are still prevalent in the region, with 3,914 identified cases and 34 deaths in Ontario between Feb. 26 and March 4, 2023. According to Public Health Ontario’s weekly epidemiology summary, cases seem to be declining over the past eight weeks.
This is a developing story, and will continue in next week’s paper.