COVID-19

Lineups and Closed Playgrounds: Portrait of A Socially Distanced Victoria

As BC prepares to return to normal, we took a good look at the bizarre world COVID-19 has created

By James MacDonald
April 26, 2020
COVID-19

Lineups and Closed Playgrounds: Portrait of A Socially Distanced Victoria

As BC prepares to return to normal, we took a good look at the bizarre world COVID-19 has created

By James MacDonald
Apr 26, 2020
James MacDonald for The Capital.
COVID-19

Lineups and Closed Playgrounds: Portrait of A Socially Distanced Victoria

As BC prepares to return to normal, we took a good look at the bizarre world COVID-19 has created

By James MacDonald
April 26, 2020
Lineups and Closed Playgrounds: Portrait of A Socially Distanced Victoria
James MacDonald for The Capital.

With COVID-19 cases beginning to stabilize across Canada, officials are now openly talking of a return to normalcy. On Wednesday, BC Premier John Horgan tweeted that the province was looking to “lift restrictions and re-open our doors in the coming weeks.”

One bizarre characteristic of pandemics is that, unlike other tragedies, they’re often forgotten as quickly as they began. There are no shortage of war memorials on Vancouver Island, but there is no cairn to the Spanish Flu, polio, cholera or the many devastating smallpox outbreaks that defined BC’s first decades. 

In only a matter of months, we may struggle to remember the bizarre measures we had to collectively adopt to keep our community safe from COVID-19. So, The Capital sent out photographer James MacDonald to capture it for posterity. The lineups, plexiglass screens and face masks in the following pictures may seem normal now, but if BC’s promising trends continue, by fall they could all seem like a bad dream. 

Lines have been one of the most defining features of civic life under COVID-19. The mere act of buying groceries now requires a level of processing on par with airport security. Here, a collage of all the lineup guides, carefully set two meters apart, that are currently ubiquitous on the sidewalks outside essential businesses. 

Playgrounds all across the South Island have been closed since March 20, soon after research emerged proving that COVID-19 can live on hard surfaces for upwards of three days. Although most municipal parks are still accessible, any playground on them is now awkwardly roped off like a crime scene. 

This particular aspect of COVID-19 maybe hasn’t been quite as visible to most residents of Greater Victoria. Just as the downtown was emptied out by store closures and offices shifting to telecommuting, a dense, blocks-long tent city emerged alongside Pandora Avenue; fueled in part by the shutdown of shelters that were no longer able to practice adequate social distancing. As of publication time, two people have died in the encampment from non-COVID-19 related causes, and on Saturday the province announced plans to shut it down. 

This was photographed just a block away from Royal Jubilee Hospital, one of two Island facilities designated as COVID-19 response hubs. For much of the city, the "sharp end" of COVID-19 has been occurring unseen in hospitals now strictly barred to visitors. Many have responded with spontaneous messages of praise for health workers, including a daily cacophony of horns and banging pots at 7 p.m.

Costco was where locals got their first taste that COVID-19 was going to be dramatically changing the world they had known. As the first shutdowns hit the province in early March, it spawned a wave of regional panic buying with Costco as its epicentre. Now, entering the store takes upwards of one hour, and large sections of the parking lot are subject to impromptu barricades in order to increase the space available to approaching shoppers. 

Although the province has released rough guidelines on the safe operation of a grocery store under COVID-19, the specifics of how to sell food through a pandemic has often been left to the discretion of individual stores. Fujiya Foods was one of the earliest and most comprehensive adopters of screening measures, as seen here. 

Not all closures have been without controversy. BC Provincial Parks have been shuttered primarily as a measure to protect against wildfires, and Greater Victoria has seen the shutdown of parking lots and even bike racks close to recreational areas. It’s technically possible to shoot hoops safely, provided you’re doing it solo or with members of your household, but this particular basketball hoop was removed regardless. 

Gym closures and the near-total shutdown of team sports have dramatically reduced the workout options in a city that prides itself on fitness. This is Tim Simpson, owner of The Westshore Warehouse, in the garage from which he continues to livestream workouts with his clients. 

Here’s Walmart at Uptown fitted out with queue barricades worthy of a high-traffic amusement park. And Uptown is lucky; at least it has plaza space to demarcate for line-ups. Across much of the city, these queues have needed to be awkwardly routed down sidewalks or through parking lots. 

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