Jordan: By now, we all know, or at least I hope we all know how serious this situation is, and I think everyone had a moment when it really sunk in. Claire, when did you realize just how serious this was.
Claire: For me, I think it was when I came back to work at the beginning of March, after taking two weeks off, I had been so unplugged from the world during my time off, and to be honest, I was really surprised that the conversation around the Coronavirus, when I came back, it was really shocking how much had changed. And as I said, that was weeks ago, beginning of March, before all of this social distancing.
Jordan: See, I kind of saw it getting gradually more serious, cause we were talking about it on the podcast while you were on vacation. But I had this moment last week where I made a list of everything that we would need to take this podcast out of the office and off the grid, and we went out and got that and got it to everybody. And then on Thursday I was packing up to go home and I looked around the studio that we usually work out of and I said to myself that I actually have no idea when I will be back here. And I can’t stop thinking about just walking away from the job I do every day, or at least the place I do it, and not having any idea when I’ll come back.
Claire: Yeah, I had that exact same thought, and it’s crazy because you and I both know how serious this is, but even now with governments practically begging people to stay home, there are still some people not taking this seriously.
Jordan: Oh my gosh. Did you see the videos, uh, over the weekend from students at universities still planning to go out and celebrate St Patrick’s day like it was nothing?
Claire: Oh, I sure did.
News Clip: Are you worried that gatherings like this will potentially spread the virus? Yeah, you know what, I’m not worried. I know it will. Like, it’s not like, it’s not, it’s not a question. If I get Corona, I get Corona. At the end of the day, I’m not going to let it stop me from partying. Like it’s really messing up with my spring break. We need a refund. This virus ain’t that serious.
Claire: Or, uh, how bout, uh, Vanessa Hudgens on her Instagram live saying what she feels like she has to say about it?
News Clip: It’s a virus. I get it. Like I respect it, but at the same time, like, even if everybody gets it like, yeah, people are going to die, which is terrible. But like, inevitable?
Jordan: I can’t begin to tell you how furious those clips make me. I feel like so many people are doing their part, are literally changing their whole lives, to try and help us fight this thing. And then you have people who don’t care out there risking at all. And today we’re going to talk about exactly whose lives those people are putting at risk. But first, Claire, can you just rundown where things are at as of 6:00PM Wednesday?
Claire: Well, Canada now has 656 cases of the Coronavirus with nine deaths, seven in British Columbia, one in Ontario, and the latest one in Quebec. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made an announcement promising $82 billion to help Canadians.
News Clip: In these extraordinary times our government is taking extraordinary measures. The measures we’re announcing today will provide up to $27 billion in direct support to Canadian workers and businesses, plus $55 billion to meet liquidity needs of Canadian businesses and households through a tax deferrals to help stabilize the economy. Combined this $82 billion in support represents more than 3% of Canada’s GDP.
Claire: So workers who don’t qualify for employment insurance can apply to receive the emergency support benefit every two weeks for 14 weeks. That can include people who have to stay home because of the Coronavirus, either because they are self isolating or maybe they’re taking care of someone else. British Columbia and Saskatchewan have joined the list of provinces who have declared a state of emergency. The US and Canada have banned non-essential travel between the two countries. This will not affect a trade. West Jet says some passengers may have been exposed to others infected with the Coronavirus. So if you flew with West jet anytime between February 28th and March 12th, go to their website to see if you were on any of the effected flights. Worldwide the coronavirus is now infected more than 200,000 people and killed over 8,000. I will leave you though with some good news, in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the coronavirus was first detected, which has been under lockdown for weeks now, just one new case for the second straight day on Wednesday. So a bit of a bright spot there that we can all keep in mind during this time.
Jordan: It’s one thing when people refuse to listen to experts because they don’t care if they get sick. I don’t like that, I think it’s dumb, but it’s their life. But when they do things that are putting other people at risk, that’s a different story. We all have people in our lives who this virus could kill and yes, it’s easy to say, okay, I’m going to stay away from my elderly parents. Or I’ll avoid seniors, but there are people for whom this disease is literally a death sentence that don’t show it. It’s not visible. These people are living with illness or are immunocompromised in some form or another. And our guest today is one of those who is at the most risk from Covid-19, and somehow he’s got a better outlook on this than I do. Which is really nice at a time like this. I’m Jordan Heath Rawlings, and this is The Big Story. Jeremie Saunders is the host of Sickboy, a podcast dedicated to breaking down the stigma associated with illness and disease. Hi, Jeremie.
Jordan: Where are you joining us from?
Jeremie: I am in my home in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Jordan: This is your home studio? Do you usually record from here or are you self isolating?
Jeremie: Self isolating, yeah, my recording studio is actually downtown Halifax. I’m holed up in the North end in my, in my little, uh, my little home.
Jordan: Well, one of the reasons we wanted to talk to you is because, uh, you, yourself, and a lot of your guests are some of the people at risk, uh, and most, at risk from Covid.
Jeremie: Yeah, no doubt. Um, yeah. I live with, uh, what’s called cystic fibrosis, which is a genetic lung disease. Um, and it’s something that I’ve lived with my entire life. And, uh, I would be considered one of those people that are, um, more so at risk at not being able to survive if I happened to catch Covid-19. Um, and uh, yeah. Which is why I’m trying to really, really practice some smart and mindful social distancing and social isolation.
Jordan: It kind of seems to me when I open my social media feed, that maybe less so now, but for a long time there were like two worlds. Did you see those videos of Queen’s students out, ready for St Patrick’s day or videos that are like Fort Lauderdale, where spring break is still happening?
Jeremie: Yeah. You know, it’s a real shame. Part of me, it really like, you know, obviously it really saddens me that some people don’t see the severity of what’s, what’s happening around them. But at the same time, I also, I also understand it. I get it, you know, um, this is like such a bizarre time for us right now. And everybody has their own way of kind of managing the pandemonium around them. Uh, you know, there was for a good long while there, there was this dialogue going around where, um, people were saying things like, well, you know, I have nothing to worry about because I’m healthy, so it’s not going to affect me. Um. And that’s like, that’s one of those things where I fully understood where that was coming from, but I felt so, I felt like it was really important to step up and kind of remind those people why it actually really does matter regardless of whether or not you have a healthy immune system, you know, a big part of, uh, what we do on the show for Sickboy is we, you know, we talked to people living with illness, and one of the big things that we’ve learned from that show is that every single one of us is affected by illness in some way. You know, whether or not directly, we’re, we’re all affected by it indirectly. And so this idea of people living with compromised immune systems like, we see those people, we interact with those people every single day, whether we know it or not. Um, and so I feel like slowly, maybe a little slower than than it should be happening, but I feel like slowly people are starting to realize how important this whole idea of social distancing and social isolation is becoming.
Jordan: You kind of touched on it a little bit, but can you explain for those of us who aren’t versed in this, uh, what immunocompromised or immunosuppressed means and how it can display or what are some examples of it?
Jeremie: Yeah, so I mean, uh, immunocompromised is simply, your immune system is not as, uh, tiptop as someone who is living a quote unquote. Um, healthy life. Uh, someone who’s not dealing with any sort of underlying chronic condition. So, you know, uh, myself living with cystic fibrosis, because I have this genetic disease, my immune system is working that much harder to kind of, um, to battle what’s going on within my body. Uh, the same thing could be said for someone living with type one diabetes. The same thing can be said for someone living with some sort of congenital heart disease. The same thing could be said for someone who’s currently pregnant. Um, the idea of living with an immune system that isn’t quite up to snuff, um, is kind of what puts people like myself or people like people living with any kind of underlying illness in that category.
Jordan: I guess what I want to ask you, because I’ve struggled with it and as I mentioned to my producer, Claire, off the top, when I see those videos of people out partying, it just, it makes me angry because I’m as not at risk as they are. I’m not immunocompromised, but I’m doing my part and trying to be a good soldier and it feels like they’re wasting the efforts of the rest of us to protect people who are at risk. How do you have those conversations with people? Do you know people in your life who have talked to you about how they think this is overblown? Or to your point, they feel like this is just a flu? How do you have those conversations?
Jeremie: Yeah, for sure. Um, in fact, my old man, my dad, uh, he was one of those people that kind of used that, that dialogue of, well, you know, it’s all kind of blown out of proportion. It’s only quote unquote old people that are going to be affected by this. And, uh, I had to remind him, I was like, dad, you know this, you know that I’m one of those people who are at risk. And, um if the whole community doesn’t take this seriously, that just increases my risk of contracting this, and in turn, dying. The way I’ve kind of tackled this, which is the way I’ve tried to tackle any and all of the conversations that I have on the podcast on sick boy is through, is through the use of, of humour. So, you know, on the weekend, um, on Friday, actually, uh, I took the Instagram and I made just a little post about why it’s important that we practice social distancing for people like myself, people who are immunocompromised. Um, but I did it in a really, you know, kind of like playful and, and humouristic way. Um, we took that little video, we edited it down, put some silly stuff behind it, just to make it a little more digestible, but, but at the same time, really hammering home a pretty serious point. The other thing that I find kind of important, especially in times like this, is that right now there’s no place that you can turn to or look without being inundated with really heavy information that’s coming at us. You know, there’s no television program. There’s no radio program, there’s no podcasts, there’s no social media platform that isn’t just being filled with Covid-19 crisis news. And so what I’m trying to do is take the little bits of information that I feel are really important for our community, and trying to put it out there in a way where it’s a little less scary, a little more digestible, and just trying to really have some fun with it. And that’s, that’s what I’m trying to do. Like I feel like that’s me doing my part in trying to support the community around us so that we can kinda change the way that we’re going about our day to day. And I dunno if I live in an echo chamber or what, but I feel like, you know, every day it’s sinking in a little bit more for everyone around us.
Jordan: How do you feel about the messaging that’s been coming from public health officials and the government? I mean, you mentioned that it maybe has been sinking in a bit more. Um, do you think they’ve been doing a good job? What are you hearing from them?
Jeremie: To be honest with you, I feel like Canada has done a really fantastic job. Although we might have been better off in taking the steps and the precautions that we’ve taken so far just a little earlier, you know, I feel like, uh, by looking at what has been happening around us in other countries around the world, I feel like our government’s kind of stepped up and have really made the right decisions and continue to make the right decisions to really push that message forward of how vital it is that we practice social distancing. And that comes from, uh, you know, on a provincial level and from a federal level. I mean, here in Nova Scotia, we were the last province to have a confirmed case of Covid-19. And even before we had that confirmed case, things were shutting down all around us. You know, and I think it’s those types of like preventative measures that are hopefully, fingers crossed, I feel very hopeful, that are going to prevent our country from falling into the sort of situation that other countries have fallen into, like Italy. You know, it’s a complete war zone over there. And that’s all because the dialogue just wasn’t being put out there quick enough for people to realize how hardcore this could become and how quickly things can change.
Jordan: What about conversations among the community of people who are living with illness? What kinds of conversations are you having that I’m probably not having with my family?
Jeremie: You know, we’re having conversations about extra precautions that we can take at home. My wife in particular, you know, she sent out a group email to, we have a couple of roommates and we have someone who lives in our basement, and just sent out an email to lay out some, some ground rules of things that we can do around the house to really make sure that we are taking as much of a proactive approach to keeping the place sanitized. There’s a lot of conversations like in the chronic illness community of people sharing their own tips for self isolation, things that you can do at home to not, you know, fall into the pitfalls of cabin fever. That’s definitely one thing that I’ve been having a lot of conversations with others about. I feel like there’s a lot of conversations that are naturally just occurring of trying to keep people in good spirits, you know, to uplift those around us. I think with the rate at which things have evolved, people are really quickly realizing that this very well could take a huge hit on a lot of people’s mental health. So I think that’s a really big part of the conversation. Like, what are the active and key things that we can be doing to ensure that not only are we taking care of ourselves physically and keeping things sanitized, but like how are we managing our own mental health? By practicing the social distancing, like that can be really hard for a lot of people. And so what are the tools that we have at our disposal to make sure that we don’t completely lose it while we’re stuck at home and away from one another.
Jordan: What about on a local level? I know one thing we’ve seen is some grocery stores in some areas, either opening an hour earlier or dedicating the first hour of business to elderly people and people with compromised immune systems. What else can a community do to support people who are really in the most danger at this time?
Jeremie: Yeah, I mean, like that’s the one thing that I will say has really injected this sense of hope within me, is just to see how the community, especially here in Halifax has like, rallied around one another. We too, our grocery stores have offered, you know, to open early for those who are more at risk, um, you know, to get into the store after things have been sanitized so that they can be the first in and the first out. One thing that I am so grateful for is almost all of the microbreweries, we have quite a few here in Halifax, although they’ve closed their doors, they’ve all implemented a, a home delivery service. So no one’s going to go dry. You know, there’s lots of beer to go around.
Jordan: Listen, that makes a difference.
Jeremie: It most certainly does. Yeah. Especially in times like this. And then even on top of that, like I’ve been seeing a lot on the Halifax subReddit. Um, of people chiming in to go, Hey, listen, I have a car. Gas is really cheap right now. If anybody needs anything delivered or picked up, shoot me a message, send me a personal email and I will do that for you. You know, it’s things like that that really make me meditate and think about the good that will inevitably come from this. Like, things are really hard. Things are tough. Things are super weird. But when the dust settles and we get to the other side of this crisis, I really feel like there’s going to be some good that comes from the realization that we will all inevitably make of how powerful it can be when we all really come together to support one another. And I really feel like that’s showing here in Halifax. I mean, I can’t speak for other places, but I just feel so proud and so happy to be here in this city, and just to see the way that people are coming together to help one another.
Jordan: How are you doing? On a real level. Cause, you know, I’ve had a lot of anxiety about this. I know everybody on our team is worried. I know it’s almost impossible not to be anxious in a time like this. And you’re dealing with more than the rest of us are. How are you doing? How are you coping?
Jeremie: To be completely honest with you, I’m doing really great. I feel like I’ve been training for this moment for my entire life. You know, the harsh reality of living with cystic fibrosis is that, at least once a year, actually in 2019, it was three separate occasions, where I get really sick. And I mean, like really, really sick. Hospitalized for upwards of three to four weeks. And in those times when I do get very sick, because I am immunocompromised, I’m forced to go into a version of self isolation. I need to be really cautious about being around other people. If I go out into public when I’m sick, I need to wear a mask and gloves. So this, this whole notion of social distancing and being more isolated, I’m so used to it. You know, I have these little, these little tips and tricks up my sleeve to ensure that I feel comfortable and I feel happy and I feel fulfilled in times like this. So when this all kind of came to be, I felt prepared to be honest with you, you know, the idea of stepping outside today and potentially catching Covid and knowing that that will likely kill me, yeah, that’s a pretty scary thing. But also, if I let that thought overwhelm me and like, become all consuming, if these are the last days of my life, that’s not how I want to spend it. I really do believe in keeping calm and keeping a cool head, but also just being really smart about it. So as, as dire and as intense as this situation might be, especially for someone like myself with a compromised immune system, I’m trying to just stay light and stay happy and stay productive. And, I feel like I’m doing a pretty good job so far.
Jordan: First of all, that’s fantastic to hear. I’m so glad to hear that. And second of all, listen, you mentioned tips and tricks, and I just told you how anxious the rest of the world is feeling. Do you have any?
Jeremie: Yeah, sure. Uh, so, when this wasn’t happening. I would say it’s pretty safe to say that most of us who are walking around the world going to work, doing our every day, day to day thing. There was all these things that we would constantly catch herself saying that we wish we had time to get around to. You know what, I’ve been really trying to like start a meditation practice, I just don’t have the time. I’ve got this collection of books that I, you know, I started, got through five chapters, I’m so in love with this book. I just don’t really, I can’t find the time to like sit down and actually dig into it.
Jordan: Oh, that’s familiar.
Jeremie: Those sorts of things, like if any of that resonates with you, this is the time. You have all the time in the world now to tackle those things that you’ve constantly kind of been shoving off to the side. So I would say, you know, my first tip is to maybe just sit down with a cup of coffee and shut off all your screens and just look out the window and think about the things that you could pick up and that you could do from home that you’ve kind of always wanted to have more time to get into. I really love good quality drinks, so I’ve stocked up my bar and I didn’t go with the cheap stuff. I got really good quality, uh, alcohol and nice bourbon, a nice Mezcal, lots of beer. Treat yourself, you know, if you have the ability to get your hands on those things, treat yourself. Cause who knows, maybe it’s the end of the world. Again, I’ve been, I’ve been reading, I’ve been reading a book that is just like blowing my mind right now. So being able to escape the world and get into that has been really great. And then I have a dog, I know a lot of people have pets and this is like for all the dog owners out there. This is one self isolation trick that I absolutely love. I play this game of hide and seek with my pup. So basically how it works is I take a little piece of cheese, I take my dog Bigby into a separate room. I sit him down, I make him smell the cheese in my hand. I tell him to stay, then I move off into another room, place the cheese somewhere kind of hidden, but you know, somewhere accessible for him. And then I call him into that room to find it, and then just watch him as he tries to sniff it out. It is honestly one of the most, it’s one of the most enjoyable games to play, and you can do it right from your home.
Jordan: So read more, drink more, and play with cute dogs.
Jeremie: Yeah. Oh, you know, and one other, one final one is one player board games.
Jordan: Oh yeah?
Jeremie: I’m telling you right now, the board game world has like just exploded in the last, I don’t know, 10 years, and there are some like unbelievably fun board games that exist that are one player friendly. So if you’re totally by your lonesome, go check out boregamegeek.com and like look up some one player board games cause there’s some amazing ones.
Jordan: This has been so helpful and honestly uplifting. I’m so glad that the community is rallying and that you feel the message is getting through.
Jeremie: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I really do hope it is, and I feel like it truly is. So the one thing that I would say for people just to remember, especially if you’re feeling a little bit overwhelmed by this, is that life will always be beautiful again. You know, everything is temporary. This will only lasts for so long. We’ll get to the other side of it. And when we do, I feel like we’re gonna live in a very different world. And, I really do feel like that world is going to be a world that. Might be a little bit more enjoyable than it was.
Jordan: Jeremie, thanks for this. I’m so glad we talked today.
Jeremie: Yeah. Thank you so much.
Jordan: Jeremie Saunders is the host of Sickboy. That was The Big Story podcast, but we’re not quite done yet. Like many of you are working from home for the next little while and we’re doing our best to stay healthy and sane. This is what that sounds like.
Montage Clips: Hey guys, I’m just going for a run. I’m going to paint this ugly ass mirror that I stole from my parents’ house and see if I can’t make it look a little nicer. Okay, today is day five of my quarantine plank challenge. I’m doing planks every day for 30 days, and I never do planks. Oh my gosh. It’s still so ugly. Do you understand? Entiende. Entiende. Desculpe. Desculpe. Entiende. Desculpe. She answers, No sir. No senor. No Senor. Nailed it. I’ve been trying to learn to be a better cook because I am genuinely terrible. So my friend Patrick is teaching me how to do that. So grab the knife. And then you’re going to chop up the Napa cabbage, the red pepper, and the bok choy. Do I keep the white part on the bok choy? Boom, 40 seconds! Where are my abs? Oh my gosh. I think I made it uglier.
Jordan: What does this new world sound like for you? If you’re staying home, what are you doing to pass the time? Are you bingeing everything on Netflix? Are you exercising for the first time in awhile? Learning a new language? Maybe, like me, potty training a toddler. Let us know. Record a 30-second clip of yourself using the voice recorder on your phone, or just take a video and we’ll use the audio, and email it to us at email@example.com and we’ll feature you in an upcoming episode. Like I say, we may be physically apart during all of this, but we can socially distance together. You can find more episodes of The Big Story at thebigstorypodcast.ca. You can find us on Twitter. We got nothing but time to talk to you, at @thebigstoryfpn. You can find this podcast in your favorite player. And please, if we’re helping you get through this, leave us a rating. Leave us a review. We’ve got nothing else to do, but read them. Thanks for listening. I’m Jordan Heath Rawlings. Stay safe, stay healthy. We’ll talk tomorrow.
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