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'A historic moment': Saskatoon historian developing COVID-19 archive

A lot has changed since Saskatchewan reported its first case of COVID-19 two years ago, with wearing masks, limiting in-person contacts and doing rapid tests quickly becoming the new normal.

It has been especially interesting for historians like Erika Dyck.

“We’ve been searching for answers about the future by looking at the past. How did the Spanish Flu play out here? How did Cholera play out in other places?” said Dyck, who is a history professor and Canada Research Chair at the University of Saskatchewan.

Dyck is part of a team that is developing a COVID-19 archive in Saskatchewan.

It captures voluntary responses about life during COVID from the time the first presumptive positive case was detected in the province on March 12, 2020.

Dyck said the archive reflects the resiliency of Saskatchewan people and the creative ways they have coped and connected with others throughout the pandemic.

“This is a historic moment right in front of us and we want to be careful and sort of conscious of how we memorialize this and what lessons we might offer future generations,” she said.

With changing public health orders and restrictions, Dyck said there has also been more division now than ever.

“People are frustrated, they’re tired, they’re exhausted from being in this fight or flight position."

Dr. Cory Neudorf, interim medical health officer with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said the unprecedented spread of disinformation is also to blame as it makes people more reluctant to follow public health advice.

He said it’s important to learn from this as we move forward.

Neudorf adds that it’s crucial for there to be risk assessment tools available to the public and more support for the healthcare system.

“We’ve been operating very, very close to the margin in an effort to get a very efficient system but that leaves very little margin for surges that can happen for a variety of reasons,” he said.

Neudorf said it’s also important to recognize the positive steps that have been made such as developing vaccines faster than any other time in history.

He said the pandemic isn’t just “a flash in the pan” and people will need to learn how to continue living with COVID-19 for the foreseeable future.

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