Leah Coghlan has no worries of a pending zombie apocalypse, but with the pandemic still raging in the world, she’s doing all she can to keep that evil C-virus from spreading.
Coghlan works from home as a self-employed virtual assistant, as she’s done for years. She gets her groceries delivered and rarely leaves her house. Since the outbreak hit in mid-March she has avoided direct contact with people and her friends are equally vigilant maintaining their own self-isolation discipline.
“This is something my generation or my parents’ generation hasn’t lived through and it spreads and keeps mutating so I just kind of stick to myself,” said the 42-year-old Coghlan. “In the beginning they told us to stay home to stay away from people and that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve worked from home by myself since 2017 so it wasn’t much of a big change for me, it was only deciding not to go out.
“I really haven’t seen anybody, I’ve had one hug since this happened, because I live by myself. They’ve lifted the restrictions but I haven’t been out to restaurants. It’s the summer and it would be great to go out for a drink to patios, but it’s just not for me at this time. Being able to have people over or going to other people’s places, I just don’t feel comfortable doing that. People are still getting sick.”
The provincial curve has flattened with just 65 confirmed cases and no deaths in the Northern Health region, which covers the entire northern half of the province. Coghlan understands why many people don’t recognize the pandemic as much of a threat to their own lives and why they are more relaxed about close interactions with other people. But she says it’s too early to go back to pre-pandemic behavior, especially with another cold and flu season just four or five months away.
“Sure, we don’t have a ton of cases up here but it doesn’t mean that I’m not an asymptomatic carrier,” Coghlan said. “A lot of people think I stay home because I’m scared, but I’m just doing my part. I’m not scared of getting it and I’ll deal with that if it happens. But this is something that’s so different and it’s killed so many people, not necessarily in Canada, but in the States. Florida had its worst day or record yesterday with 4,000 (new cases).”
She has friends with compromised immune systems and doesn’t want to jeopardize their health and that’s all the motivation she needs to remain cautious about keeping her distance. She’s had a couple friends visit her in her backyard but not in the house. If she does leave home for any reason she wears a mask and encourages others to do the same, but says it is a personal choice and people should be kind and not give the “stink eye” to others who choose not to wear masks in public.
Coghlan says she won’t feel comfortable going out in public places to socialize until there’s a proven readily-available vaccine. This time of year she looks forward to going to the Show and Shine car show, taking a walk to Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park for Canada Day festivities or showing support to her LBGTQ friends on Pride Day. But not this year, thanks to COVID.
“We all have to do our part or it’s going to be another summer when that’s not happening,” she said. “A lot of people say the second wave is coming, well we’re not even out of the first wave yet.”
Like many housebound city folks with more time on their hands in these COVID times, Coghlan has taken up gardening and her potted vegetables and herb plants have never had so much love and attention. She hasn’t been to a hairstylist in months and points to her head and calls it “a science experiment.”
“I know that I can go get my haircut, but….” she said. “I’m not going to date for another year, why even try at this point. That’s a story you should do, people trying to date during a pandemic. I wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot pole.
“I was hoping three months of isolation would change perceptions in people, because online dating is so disposable because it’s so readily available, with all these choices. People are always looking for the greener side of the grass. I was hoping if we were locked up long enough people would change that mentality and would really get to know each other before they date six people and lie about it. I’m totally happy not dealing with that right now and just being with myself and talking to my friends.”
Leah Coghlan Graphic Design caters to entrepreneurs and her expertise in branding, web design and graphic arts raises their online presence to market their products. The pandemic brought a noticeable drop in her business the past three months.
“My clients are all entrepreneurs and some of them have physical locations and some of them are solely online and they’re either adapting or having to close their doors because of this,” she said. “We’re all in one way or another totally affected by what’s happening.”
Ashley Provencher, Coghlan’s friend, closed her downtown holistic health centre – Golden Rays Apothecary and Wellness – in early March and now serves her customers virtually or through personal visits to their homes.
“Opening up an online store was the only way to save my business,” she said. “There’s a lot of us business owners that are feeling the crunch on it and we’re all casualties of it in some way. The majority of my clients can’t afford to come and see me anymore.”
Provencher, 37, has multiple sclerosis and the treatment for her condition suppresses her immune system, which increases the risk of infection. She avoids public places and takes added precautions when she does go into stores, wearing gloves and a mask. Before she visits a client she goes through a list of pre-screening questions more than once to find out if they’ve been travelling or if they have any COVID symptoms.
“Everybody has to do their own thing with regard to safety,” said Provencher. “I don’t interact with other people, I keep my bubble small.
“There’s so little known about how to stop the spread. Are we able to carry it or give it away when we’re asymptomatic? We don’t know enough about it. If wearing a mask and gloves makes you feel safe when you’re out shopping, then wear a mask and gloves. Do whatever makes you feel comfortable. People who judge on that or say you’re fear mongering or letting it get to you, that’s not for them to say. It’s not their call.”