Commentary: The Coronavirus Diaries March 18, 2020

Commentary: The Coronavirus Diaries March 18, 2020

Ian Haysom, a veteran journalist and writer, is a news consultant for CHEK. His coronavirus diary will appear here regularly.

So how are you enjoying being in the middle of a sci-fi movie? Just like in the movies, this whole situation started slowly and somewhere far, far away, then suddenly it helter-skeltered out of control and now we’re using phrases we never used before – like social distancing and self-isolation – and we’re being bombarded daily with new dramas and disturbing facts and figures. And, yes, it’s hard to keep up. Is it overkill? Or just kill?

And in the midst of it all, I’m trying to figure out how not to scratch that itch on the end of my nose. I have no problems washing my hands repeatedly while singing Happy Birthday twice (though for some bizarre yet understandable reason I am now singing Don’t Stand So Close To Me by The Police and REM’s It’s the End of the World as We Know it. And I feel fine, is the last line of that chorus, so there’s hope).

But not touching my face? That’s torture. A neighbour walked by our house yesterday with his dog and we kept apart by the requisite two metres and he said, “Yes, as long as we don’t touch our faces I figure we might survive this.”

At which point an itch appeared on the end of my nose. Then the back of my head started itching. Then something in the middle of my back. I tried to remember when I’d last washed my hands. Could I risk it? How about I pick up that small stick.  Now my eyebrow has started itching. I’ll use the stick. But try not to put my eye out.

We are now keeping our distance from our grandkids, which is difficult. All grandparents have the same problem, Thank goodness for Skype and FaceTime and the rest. But many grandparents want to help out at this time by looking after the kids, particularly now schools are closed. So that’s frustrating.

The irony is that our own kids are now ordering us to stay inside because they’ve seen the stats and know anyone over the age of 60 is especially vulnerable. All my friends have been given the gears by their kids. Stay inside. You’re not invincible, even if you are a baby boomer.

My son Tim posts a tweet from the Australian journalist Brigid Delaney: “In an unsettling reversal of my teenage years, I am now yelling at my parents for going out.”

Harry and Meghan are staying just up the peninsula from me and are likely self-isolating since they just got back from the UK. So I’m not expecting them to pop in for tea. They may, however, be taking some small comfort from the fact the pandemic has kicked them off the front pages.

Some of the papers did note that Harry had hugged Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton at a public event. Lewis, it transpired, had two days earlier been photographed at a charity event alongside Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and actor Idris Elba, both of whom tested positive for Covid-19.

But since then, nary a word. Actually, hardly a word about anything else, anywhere. The world is on hold. And if it’s not coronavirus, it ain’t news.

I have been transfixed by the young chap doing the sign language at the Bonnie Henry/Adrian Dix briefings in Victoria. I can’t actually concentrate on what the officials are saying because he seems to be doing his own one-man show, wagging fingers, emoting grandly, and staging his own silent soliloquy. You can’t take your eyes off him.

I have been impressed by our leaders at this time of crisis. Justin Trudeau looks to be handling things competently from his front door step, though I can’t help comparing him with his dad, Pierre, when he had to handle his own crisis with the FLQ. How far will Justin go? We are re-evaluating all the time, he says. How far would Trudeau pere go? “Just watch me,” he said.  Different times. Different approaches. Same message.

It was good to see Bill Morneau, the finance minister, pay tribute to not only the front-line health workers, but also journalists across the country for doing such a professional job getting information – real, not fake – to the public. I’ve been mightily impressed by the standard of coverage of the rapidly evolving story.

It may sound self-serving, but I’ve been proud to see how CHEK News is handling the crisis. Reporters and camera operators are editing their stories in the field, and keeping a healthy distance from those they interview. Many of our staff, including me, are working from home and not going into the building. Ed Bain is doing the weather from the top of Mount Tolmie. And those inside the newsroom and control rooms and studios are separating themselves from one another.

Two senior managers came into the building on the weekend and disinfected desks and computers.

One thing that can’t shut down right now is the news.

Many people tell me that this will all get better once the hot weather comes. Even Donald Trump said it, and surely we can trust him, right? I’m not so sure. I was Skyping my sister in Australia the other night, where things are just as bad – or worse – than here, and where it’s the tail-end of summer. And where they have serious summers, when temperatures can hit 40 degrees. They’re feeling the heat. And so will we. Don’t count on this thing going away anytime soon.  Time to start binge-watching Breaking Bad again.

I am not totally under house arrest. I’ve been out hiking and biking and my wife and I even played tennis yesterday. The racquet came in handy for scratching the itch on my back, which is now chronic. As for my head, I think I have nits.

My buddy was playing pickleball as recently as Monday with a bunch of older people. I gave him hell for it, saying it was irresponsible to take those kinds of risks, even if I think playing pickleball is a near-death experience anyway.  (Kidding. Don’t write in. I know you’re a cult).

The thing is, we do have to take this thing seriously. Whoever we are. Young and old. My favourite tweet this past week came from Ariana Grande, the singer, who told her millions of followers to wise up and stop partying in public: “like your hip hop yoga class can f-ing wait…I promise.”

Words to live by.




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