The Pandemic Papers: Kassandra Monterroso

Kassandra Monterroso

This essay is part of a series of reflections by UTM visual studies students about the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The essay collection will be donated to Heritage Mississauga where it will become part of the city’s official historical record of everyday life during the global health crisis. Read the full series here >

In this essay, Kassandra Monterroso, a fourth-year double major in philosophy and art and art history, writes about noticing the creeping changes imposed on everyday transactions, and how she is occupying herself at home.

I was never really one to pay attention to the news. I first heard of COVID-19 mid- February of 2020. My concern was minimal, as my idea of the virus was that it was halfway across the world in China. Late February was when I started paying attention to the news, when a few cases of people with symptoms began appearing in Canada. Some students started to get concerned and wondered whether they should start wearing masks. Yet, as I commuted from Toronto to Mississauga and back for school, it seemed like nothing was happening. No one was scared. Life moved on as normal.

In March, more cases started appearing and there were confirmed cases in Toronto. It was all anyone wanted to talk about. People were getting scared. Public schools were announcing closures, some universities across Canada were closing, while U of T remained open. On March 13, U of T announced that campus would close, and studies would continue online.

After classes I would usually go to Wholefoods to pick up some snacks for when I get home. Usually, the grocery store is empty, but on the last day of classes, Wholefoods was packed. Although there was no atmosphere of panic, people were lining up at the checkout with their carts filled to the brim. Shelves were sparse and all sanitary supplies was out of stock. As I walked down an aisle, a mother rushed past me, stacked her arms with cans of minestrone soup and, with the same urgency, rushed right back to her spot in line.

People were panicking. My attitude towards the virus was to not be scared, but to still be cautious.

While the news helped keep people informed, it did little to prevent public fear. [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau announced that people should shop as normal and not to stock up on groceries, but no one listened. The grocery store near my house was constantly filled with people trying to buy the entire store. I noticed that more public places were putting up signs reminding people to “wash your hands” and putting out sanitizers for people to use.

With all this going on and more and more cases being reported, it was hard not to start to be more cautious myself. Whenever I heard someone near me cough, I instantly moved away, and washed my hands twice every time I got home. I started wearing face masks when I had to go out, and because it was a time before it was recommended, people were looking at me weird.

Eventually, fewer people started to go out and it was announced around mid-to-late March that we would all go into quarantine. Non-essential businesses were to close, but both my dad and brother work in essential businesses, so they still had to go out for work.

My oldest brother was fortunate to be able to work from home while his fiancée stayed at their home. It was frustrating for them since they were supposed to get married late March, and they kept trying to make alternate plans with their wedding officiant. However, with how the virus was progressing, they have had to reschedule the wedding for October.

As classes were changing and shifted to using online platforms, it felt like an extended reading week being at home. Transitioning from school to home was difficult since I needed to implement a new work routine. Professors have made it easier with allowing more time to work on assignments but focusing and starting assignments is still something that I am working on.

An increase in people at home means an increase in the number of people using the Internet. My brother had to purchase to strengthen the Wi-Fi in our house.

At this time also, a lot of youths are occupying their time with social media. Posts about the virus and quarantine are predominant. A lot are poking fun at stay homing and having nothing to do but eat. The biggest trend on social media is at-home fitness. There have been many motivational posts about using the time we are given from quarantine to improve ourselves physically. Many follow along workout videos have been posted on YouTube catering to the quarantine circumstances (e.g. no gym equipment, minimal workout space), and only use bodyweight for resistance.

As I remain in quarantine, I look to see the positive in the situation and try to come out of this improved through fitness, finishing classes, and gaining new skills.