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VIDEOS: How Newfoundlanders and Labradorians living away are coping with COVID-19 - Volume 1

From across the country, or the world, they're thinking of home.
From across the country, or the world, they're thinking of home. - Contributed


Atlanta, Georgia

19,881 confirmed COVID-19; 799 people dead; 3,779 hospitalized in the state. — Georgia Department of Public Health as of April 21

Maya Keiser


As she lives amid a storm of politics versus science on the COVID-19 front in the United States, Maya Keiser worries about not getting to see her father back home in St. John’s for a very long time.

“The real and continuing fear is that people are making choices based on politics and appearances rather than medical expertise and real science,” the Atlanta, Ga., sixth-grade public school choral teacher said via email of what’s changed in recent days.

“The despair at having a leader (U.S. President Donald Trump) who has not once expressed condolences over the loss of 40,000 lives. The embarrassment of people protesting science with Confederate flags and guns, as if the virus is a hoax.”

Keiser is one of a number of Newfoundland and Labradorians living away who agreed to share their experiences with The Telegram, after we put out a call.

While Keiser is teaching via online these days, her school system has made some adjustments to ensure students from low-income families have devices to receive their education online, such as Chrome books, as well as essential meals and Wi-Fi.

Buses have travelled their routes with volunteers, including Keiser and her daughter, delivering meals that would normally be available through breakfast and lunch programs in school. Several buses have also been equipped as Wi-Fi hotspots and Comcast has offered free internet for a couple of months to those who can’t afford it.

Keiser has lived in Atlanta for 22 years, but her father, a semi-retired doctor, and her brother — also a doctor at the Health Sciences Centre — and his family remain in St. John’s. She also has a sister who is a doctor in Halifax, so she worries for family and friends working in health care.

Her father was to travel to Georgia to attend Keiser’s oldest daughter's college graduation, but that was cancelled.

“The person I worry about (most) is my dad,” she said, adding she still hopes to see him this summer.

“When am I going to get home again?”

Atlanta’s warm climate has been a saving grace, as have the sidewalk chalk messages of hope, and kind gestures residents are showing one another in her neighbourhood, such as shopping for seniors.

When it gets overwhelming, she goes for a walk amid the lush trees of her blue-sky, green-lawned neighbourhood and takes enjoyment from simple things like grilling hotdogs with the family in the backyard.

“I have good days and bad days. I am trying to only go to the store every 10 to 14 days,” said Keiser, adding that with she and her husband both working at home, and with their daughters, they go through food pretty quickly.

Keiser is not a Trump supporter and hopes his response to the pandemic will open some eyes.

In contrast, she said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has appeared caring and concerned.

”Trump has never said what happens if you don’t have health care,” Keiser said of the absence of universal health care in the U.S.

Maya Keiser is from St. John's, but lives in Atlanta, Ga. -Contributed
Maya Keiser is from St. John's, but lives in Atlanta, Ga. -Contributed


 Cincinnati, Ohio

12,516 confirmed cases; 509 deaths; 2,653 hospitalized in the state — Ohio Department of Health as of April 21

Roxanne Barney Dalton


Roxanne Barney Dalton is from L'Anse au Loup, Labrador, but lives in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio, where the number of new COVID-19 cases in the state has been spiking drastically — 1,000 new cases a day on April 20.

Empty freezer shelves in Cincinnati, Ohio. - Contributed
Empty freezer shelves in Cincinnati, Ohio. - Contributed

But amid that uptick, there was a protest in Ohio on the weekend by those who want restrictions lifted and state Gov. Mike Dewine has announced he will start the first phase of opening the economy back up on May 1.

Schools remain closed though for the year with online classes only.

Just last week, Dalton, a travel agent who’s been working at home dealing with rebooking and sorting cancelled vacations, had spoken to The Telegram about the lack of social distancing in grocery stores, the craziness of how filled they were with people, as the shelves, like many places in North America, were being emptied of various foods.

“Hopefully when all this is over, people will want to travel again and maybe I’ll even get to go home,” said Dalton, who has family back home including her mom, living around St. John’s and L'Anse au Loup.

Roxanne Barney Dalton is from Labrador, but lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. - Contributed/Facebook
Roxanne Barney Dalton is from Labrador, but lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. - Contributed/Facebook

Winnipeg, Manitoba

254 confirmed cases; eight hospitalized; six deaths in the province — Manitoba Department of Health as of April 20

Erica Clarke Whalen


Erica Clarke Whalen is an internal medicine specialist working as an intensive care unit (ICU) fellow in Winnipeg, and like many people, she wonders when she’ll get to see her family back home again in St. John’s.

Erica Clarke Whalen is a medical resident in Winnipeg, Man. -Contributed
Erica Clarke Whalen is a medical resident in Winnipeg, Man. -Contributed

She has two clocks on her wall — one showing Manitoba time, the other Newfoundland time.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” said Clarke Whalen of completing her residency amid COVID-19.

“I’ve been washing my hands every five minutes… and quite frankly they are rubbed raw.”

Still, she wanted to take some time to say her heart belongs in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Thanks for your sacrifice… for understanding that we just need to do this right now,” Clarke Whalen said to folks back home.

Though sadly some special people have been and will be lost to the virus, if everyone follows precautions, that number will be as low as possible, she said.


Ottawa, Ontario

11,735 confirmed; 622 deaths; 859 hospitalized in the province — Ontario Department of Health as of April 21

Jason Sears 


Jason Sears is originally from Mount Pearl, but now lives in Ottawa. -Contributed
Jason Sears is originally from Mount Pearl, but now lives in Ottawa. -Contributed

Jason Sears completed a 14-day self-isolation after driving from Kenora, in northern Ontario, to Ottawa.

A construction worker originally from Mount Pearl, he said the changes brought about by COVID-19 were obvious to him as a newcomer, despite the fact that he's not super-familiar with Ottawa.

‘When a city of a million-plus people and our nation’s capital looks like a scene from an apocalyptic movie, it starts to set in that there’s something terribly wrong,” said Sears.

“I’m not really nervous per se, but I’m definitely more cautious about my surroundings. I’ve never washed my hands so much before in my life. In the stores, when you do pop out to get essentials, people are definitely social distancing from each other, the food supply seems to be in good shape and the steps the stores are taking for customers and staff are very appreciated. Although, I have noticed that booze, eggs, hand sanitizer and bags of all-dressed chips are a hot commodity.

"Overall, I think the combination of the measures the provincial and federal governments have in place for Ontarians and Canadians is having a positive impact on flattening the curve.”

Restrictions in Ottawa, as in most Canadian cities, include playgrounds. - Contributed
Restrictions in Ottawa, as in most Canadian cities, include playgrounds. - Contributed

Jason Sears is finding the streets of Ottawa quiet during the COVID-19 crisis. -Contributed
Jason Sears is finding the streets of Ottawa quiet during the COVID-19 crisis. -Contributed


Barrie, Ontario

11,735 confirmed; 622 deaths; 859 hospitalized in the province — Ontario Department of Health as of April 21

Carla Seaward


Carla Seward switched to work in personal home care in Ontario to a cleaning service out of concern for lack of personal protective equipment. -Contributed
Carla Seward switched to work in personal home care in Ontario to a cleaning service out of concern for lack of personal protective equipment. -Contributed

Carla Seaward was working two long-term care jobs in Barrie, Ont. But growing concerns about the severity of COVID-19 outbreaks in care homes and lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) led her to instead turn to restart a cleaning business to make ends meet.

Seward, originally from Burgoyne’s Cove, said the PPE she had been given consisted of a non-medical grade disposable mask.

“Not one per shift, not one per resident room, not even one (a) week… Just one. My husband works in a warehouse, and they were recently supplied with hundreds,” said Seward, who is raising two children plus her step-daughter’s three children after Deer Lake native Savannah Simon and her boyfriend Jo Williams were killed while crossing the street in Barrie last fall.

“Yet frontline workers like myself are forced to stay home to prevent the spread of infection. With only one mask, and travelling between homes and to my personal home, the risk is just too great to our five kids and my diabetic/asthmatic husband. A bigger plea needs to be made to these industrial companies, they need to see the dire need for better personal protective equipment on the front lines. It’s absolutely ridiculous."


Slough, United Kingdom

129,044 tested positive; 17,337 dead (as of April 19) in the country — Gov.UK

Heather (Power) Udell


Heather Udell is a Newfoundlander and Labradorian living in Slough, United Kingdom. -Contributed
Heather Udell is a Newfoundlander and Labradorian living in Slough, United Kingdom. -Contributed

Heather Udell is hoping the pandemic peak has been reached and life can get back to normal soon in the United Kingdom.

“The positive side of this crisis is we get to spend more quality time at home with the family, being grateful we still have our health and appreciate the smaller things in life while in the U.K. And a special mention to our health service, the (National Health Service). They have been amazing in their jobs, as have shop workers who are working so hard to make sure the country can keep going,” said Udell, whose husband, Tony is in isolation because he falls in the vulnerable group.

Udell, who is from Mount Pearl, is still going to her public sector job supporting frontline colleagues who are dealing with a high volume of benefit claims.

She said her daughter, Jessica, is finding it hard to not spend time with friends, but keeps up on things via the TikTok app.

With more weeks of lockdown announced, Udell said she is disappointed, but understands the need for COVID-19 prevention.

With mother and daughter set to celebrate birthdays this weekend, the famly is throwing a virtual online house party for Jessica on Saturday evening for her friends, as well as an afternoon tea party with mini cakes and sandwiches for Udell on Sunday.

Heather Udell's cat Neva is not impressed with the COVID-19 situation. Udell is from Newfoundland and Labrador, but lives in the United Kingdom. - Contributed
Heather Udell's cat Neva is not impressed with the COVID-19 situation. Udell is from Newfoundland and Labrador, but lives in the United Kingdom. - Contributed

•••

This article is part one of a series.

VIDEOS: How Newfoundlanders and Labradorians Away are coping during COVID-19 times  - Volume 2

Are you an Newfoundlander and Labradorian living away and want to share your experiences about COVID-19?
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