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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 4, 2020
Fourth in a series profiling frontline workers of the pandemic.
GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR — Darrin Murray is like a lot of us in these current times.
There are times when he takes stock of our situation and thinks about what he is missing. When the COVID-19 lockdown went into effect, the 47-year-old Gander resident spent a lot of time at the local skating rink.
As an official and coach, it wasn’t strange for him to spend three or four nights a week at the stadium. Other days would be filled with trivia nights and socializing.
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In the eight or so weeks since the lockdown, those evenings after work have been drastically altered to the point where catching an episode of "Jeopardy" is a welcome reprieve.
“The next day, you get up and start work all over again, and the same thing for the weekends,” said Murray.
Murray is a manager at Kingsway Living, a retirement home in Grand Falls-Windsor, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been front and centre for him and the facility's staff of over 30 people.
Their normal safety protocols have been dialled up as they stick to the regulations put in place by Central Health and the provincial government.
In his role, that has meant ensuring those staff have plenty of personal protective equipment and are comfortable doing their jobs.
“We need to be cautious and be sensible.” — Darrin Murray
For employees, that has meant getting used to declaring they’ve followed all isolation guidelines upon returning to work, checking their temperatures and taking extra sanitization steps.
Meals for the more than 80 residents have also been staggered at Kingsway in an effort to social distance as much as they can.
“Communication is a key component of my work,” said Murray.
The home hasn’t had any COVID-19 patients. As of May 25, the Central Health region has seen just eight cases.
The province sits at 18 straight days without a new case of the coronavirus and that has the government eyeing entering into Alert Level 3 of its reopening plan early next month.
In the days following the initiation of the lockdown, seniors' homes across the province shut their doors to visitors.
That has left residents and their relatives being forced to connect with each other through tablets and from behind window panes.
“(Residents) miss the connectiveness with families," said Murray. “That's what the biggest impact has been.”
As the province moves toward the next stage of its rollback plan, the question inevitably is when seniors' homes will start opening their doors to visitors.
There are cautionary tales for keeping things the same long after the province has completed its rollbacks. The coronavirus has ravaged seniors in Quebec and Ontario.
Murray doesn’t know when he will be able to open the facility's doors again, and the province hasn’t indicated a timeline for that.
When that happens, they will be careful, however.
“It is a dangerous situation that we are in,” said Murray. “We need to be cautious and be sensible.”
At the end of each day, Murray makes the hour-long drive between Grand Falls-Windsor and Gander. Inevitably, he thinks about his day and at some point, what he may bring home flashes across his mind.
“It is one of those things that you always have to be cautious of,” said Murray. “I think more intently on what I’m doing, how I’m doing ... than prior to the situation that we’re in right now.”
Nicholas Mercer is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Central Newfoundland for Saltwire Network.