For some, it was the last time they remember hugging a friend or a colleague, the last time they were with a class, in a crowd or with a group, the last time they took public transit without thinking about risk.
In episode 18 of The New Normal podcast, University of Toronto students, alumni and faculty talk with host Maydianne Andrade about the moment they realized COVID-19 had changed their world – and what they’re most looking forward to when the pandemic ends.
“On Friday, March 13th of 2020, I was working in the emergency department and we were overflowing with people – mostly travellers returning and needing or wanting to get tested for COVID,” recalls Erin Bearss, a professor in U of T’s department of family and community medicine in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine and a staff physician in family health medicine and emergency medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital.
“I recruited some of my residents to come and help with the swabbing and the overflow, which then led to subsequently the development of a COVID assessment center at Mount Sinai, which has continued to run over the past year.”
Recent grad Isheeta Chakrabarti was in Robarts Library.
“I was streaming the basketball game,” Chakrabarti recalls. “And suddenly we got a notification saying one of the players had caught COVID.”
Andrade, a professor at U of T Scarborough and Canada Research Chair in Integrative Behavioural Ecology, describes life one year later as one in which “hope and longing” are intertwined.
What, she asks, are people most looking forward to in the future?
“Post-pandemic, I'm most looking forward to just being able to see and hug my grandparents, family and close friends again,” says undergraduate student Abhay Singh Sachal.
“The thing I'm most looking forward to is going back home to Alberta and hugging my whole family as soon as I can,” says second-year internal medicine resident Nikita-Kiran Singh.
For Professor Joseph Wong, interim vice-president, international, visiting with family also tops the list – but “second thing is, I can't wait to be at a Toronto Raptors game again in the Scotiabank Arena and to be in that live audience and just going crazy.”
The New Normal is created in collaboration with a University of Toronto Communications team led by Lisa Lightbourn. You can listen to the podcast on Spotify or listen on SoundCloud. You can also find it on Apple or listen on Google.