The Pandemic Papers: Kevin Carr

Kevin Carr

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 piece, fourth-year Communication, Culture, Information & Technology student Kevin Carr writes about how new pandemic precautions have changed his part-time work at a grocery store and his experience as a student. Despite concerns about his health, Carr remains optimistic about what the future holds.

COVID-19 has created substantial uncertainties in our everyday lives and in society as a whole. Fortunately, the impact on a personal level has not been terribly intrusive, but has imposed problems regardless.

My employer is an essential service that requires me to work at least three days a week. Currently, I am keeping my hours at a minimum in order to reduce my exposure to other people. Within the establishment, there have been numerous changes implemented, signaling that our current situation is far from normal. Plexiglass barriers block cashiers from customers, several employees and customers wearing face masks (less than 50 per cent, I estimate), temperature checks are required before entering the store to see if you have a fever, and many other drastic measures have been implemented to try and slow the spread of this virus.

I will not deny the fact that I feel unhinged when I go to work as do many of my coworkers. Even customers in the store are eager to pick up their products and exit as soon as possible. It is thi.s and the fact that they could be asymptomatic carriers of the virus, that makes me worried about my own personal well-being. Fortunately, I do receive a little more pay during this time period, and I have more time to relax due to the forced indoor quarantine restrictions imposed by the government. But I still worry about getting sick and being virtually immobile for several weeks due to the debilitating symptoms some people have encountered while infected with COVID-19 including fever and shortness of breath.

In relation to the news, I can fully understand how some people may be riddled with anxiety when they turn on the television or browse through news websites. There have been many conflicting reports regarding the nature of the virus, the figures and the politics behind it. I have read numerous stories relating to U.S. incompetence, inaccurate figures being released and concerns about the duration of the virus, as well as how long it can stay airborne. Personally, I try to take some of these remarks with a grain of salt as I find that some of these stories are rather sensationalist in their claims, [some of which rely] on flimsy scientific evidence, such as small group samples.

In terms of school, the transition has been quite smooth so far here at UTM. The transition to online course delivery has not been as stressful as the exam-time workload and part time job. Many of my profs have been very understanding of both the sudden switch to online course delivery, and that I am one of the fortunate ones who still have a part time job.

It feels strange having to attend lectures online as oppose to in-class, but the measure is welcome as I do not need to spend time commuting, which allows me to prepare better for classes. I hope this will lead UTM to provide students with more online classes. On a personal note, the operation of online classes has been smooth and even viable for some semesters such as the summer where students may be less inclined to come to campus due to the warmer weather. While online classes are great for theoretical classes such as ours, it has proven somewhat tricky for more practical classes as physical interaction is part of the learning curve within these classroom environments. This can make learning within lessons more difficult as there are no instructors and/or professors to assist you with course content. While online learning is great for theory-based classes, it can impose problems.

COVID-19 has obviously brought many challenges to our day-to-day lives, but it has also done some good. We are seeing a variety of different things in a new light, such as sanitation standards, the viability of hosting certain services online, and the importance of community.

I remain optimistic that we will learn some important lessons out of this event that will help us in the future once we are out of these dark times.