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My own private COVID-19 Part Two – ‘The human spirit is capable of creating a new normal’

Peter Caulfield
My own private COVID-19 Part Two – ‘The human spirit is capable of creating a new normal’

Canadians are constantly being told, “We’re all in this together.”

“This” being the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve been enduring since March.

Thanks to face masks, social distancing and other restrictions on our movements and communication, many of us are cut off from co-workers, friends and even family.

In an attempt to bring us a little closer together, the Daily Commercial News and Journal of Commerce spoke to six individuals who either work in construction or are suppliers to the industry and asked them how they’re faring and what’s on their mind. Their comments have been separated into three articles that will be featured this week. Read Part One here.

To allow them to speak freely, we let them recount their experiences anonymously. One person, however, because of the non-personal nature of his comments, spoke on the record.

Their remarks have been edited and paraphrased for clarity.


Male, B.C.

“I’m in a family of six, one of whom is immunocompromised. We’re hyper-vigilant with her and the other kids, which is stressful for all of us. We’re probably more vigilant and more stressed than other households.

Our family is definitely in the masked camp. Everyone wears a mask outside the bubble. We also sanitize our hands everywhere, and before we get in the car or return to the house.

My niece’s husband is a GP and an emergency room doctor, so he’s exposed to a lot of germs. He was sick for six weeks and his symptoms suggest he could have contracted COVID-19. It was very difficult for them because they have four young children.

One of the worst things about the pandemic is the impact on children, because they can’t go out with their friends on their birthdays.

Another is the quiet anxiety caused by all the uncertainty. What’s next? Who can I socialize with? When is it all going to end?

There’s a lot of really serious life and death stuff going on here. Our kids see the strain on my wife and me, and that affects them.

A pleasant surprise is how the construction industry pivoted so quickly after the pandemic arrived and how something abnormal became normal in a short time.

People are resilient and the human spirit is capable of creating a new normal without sacrificing principles of basic decency.”


Ahmed Shalaby

Shalaby is a professor of civil engineering at the University of Manitoba and an engineer who specializes in pavement design and highway materials. The following are his experiences.

“The roads have become less safe since the pandemic was declared.

In the beginning, I was optimistic that we would see fewer crashes, injuries and fatalities, because of reduced travel and closed provincial and international borders.

Unfortunately, the nearly empty roads encouraged some people to drive much too fast.

There has also been less enforcement of commercial vehicle laws. Long-haul truck drivers travelling coast to coast report not being stopped at weigh scales or not being inspected due to pandemic restrictions.

And trucking regulations on hours of service were loosened in Canada and the U.S. if vehicles were transporting emergency supplies.

This allowed some drivers to work too many hours while they were tired. Fortunately, safety measures are gradually returning to pre-COVID conditions.

Early safety data from other countries shows that, although the total number of incidents from April to June (2020) was down, the ratio of crashes per kilometre of travel was up, meaning the roads became more dangerous.

The pandemic has also had an impact on the infrastructure we build. Our society’s demand for facilities that hold many people has changed.

Sports arenas, theatres and even subways and roads will be impacted by COVID and by social distancing. Engineers and contractors will have to adapt to these new realities.”


The final part in this series will feature more personal views from those in the industry about how the pandemic has impacted their lives in an article on Oct. 9.

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