New York Canadians reflect on pandemic epicenter coronavirus


Originally from St. Thomas, Ontario, Dr. Bottrell is part of the Canadian diaspora in the largest city in the United States.

Kellyann Petry for The Globe and / The Globe and Mail

In the small New York hospital where she works in the intensive care unit, Dr. Leslie Bottrell has several measurements to measure the rising tide of the coronavirus.

COVID-19 patients occupy all intensive care beds and have been discharged to emergency rooms. Staff wear fabric coverings over N95 respirators to extend the life of protective masks. While Dr. Bottrell used to have only one “code” per shift, these urgent calls for resuscitation are now an hourly occurrence.

“It increases everyone’s cortisol and adrenaline levels,” she said in an interview before going to work one morning last week. “You operate at a higher level. “

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Originally from St. Thomas, Ontario, Dr. Bottrell is part of the Canadian diaspora in the largest city in the United States. Attracted to Wall Street or Broadway, or jobs in advertising and healthcare, they are now watching their adoptive home become the epicenter of a global pandemic.

On Sunday, New York State recorded 122,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 4,100 deaths – the most numerous in the country – mainly concentrated in New York and its suburbs. “This is war,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo at his daily press conference. “It’s a war. “

Reena Bhatt, a tax lawyer from Ottawa, moved to New York 20 years ago and experienced her two previous crises of the current century. On September 11, 2001, she was on her second day of work for Deloitte at the World Financial Center when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center across the street. In the fall of 2008, Ms. Bhatt was a partner at Ernst and Young when the banks, then the economy, collapsed.

“I have seen this city go through some of the lowest times,” said Ms. Bhatt, now senior director at Alchemy Capital Partners. “September 11 was terrifying, but it was a finished event from which we had to recover. After the financial crisis, the city turned and became the best-funded venture capital on the East Coast. Right now, we’re not going through the pandemic, so we don’t know what the recovery will look like at the other end. “

Ms. Bhatt is also vice-president of the Canadian Association for New York, which has helped expatriates in the city by providing information and contacts on the new travel and border rules, and has served as a forum for that Canadians probe each other. on their options. “The Canadian community certainly looks to each other for support and to get a feel for what other Canadians are doing,” she said.

A Canadian who chose to go home is Petrina Bromley, who plays Bonnie in the Broadway production of Come from away. Appearing with its partners on Hello america On the morning of March 12, she recalls, it was already clear that the city was changing: the talk show had no studio audience and the crew was smaller than usual. By the end of the day, Mr. Cuomo had closed the theaters.

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Ms. Bromley decided to return to Newfoundland. She said in part that she wanted to be closer to her family. And she didn’t want to have to negotiate the American private healthcare system if she fell ill. “I’m a Canadian so leaning to the left, I had a hard time with how they manage everything in the United States,” she said.

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From her home in St. John’s, Ms. Bromley stayed in close touch with the rest of the cast and crew. They have an ongoing thread, she said, and regularly hold happy hours on Zoom. She said the group had thought about the relevance of their show, on Canadians meeting after a crisis in New York, in the current context.

“A story of kindness, acceptance and embrace is something that people yearn for it to continue and after it ends,” she said. “It’s a long time since people need help. What is so different is that we cannot get together physically; some of the help now does not come out. ”

The closure of one of the busiest cities in the world has created surreal street scenes.

“It’s weird,” said Mark Pytlik, CEO of Toronto-based advertising company Stink Studios, who spent the first three weeks closing his home in Dumbo’s Brooklyn neighborhood. “It’s a neighborhood that usually has a lot of tourists, so it’s really weird to walk on the road and not see anyone outside. “

Whenever he looked across the river in Manhattan, Mr. Pytlik said, he could see the flashing lights of emergency vehicles running along the FDR highway. He, his wife and 18 month old daughter finally decamped for a rental in the Hamptons of Long Island last weekend.

Tim Krupa, who moved to New York last summer to work for a hedge fund, said the quiet streets didn’t need a lot of adjustment for him, having grown up in the relative peace of Kelowna, British Columbia. During a Costco race for supplies, he made sure to buy two liters of maple syrup – much to the amusement of his American friends.

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“I wanted to be ready just in case,” he said. “My friends took advantage of it. “

Dr. Bottrell and her husband, for their part, have decided to send their two pre-teenage sons to his parents’ home in St. Thomas, where access to a courtyard will make closing a little easier than during their usual searches on the Upper West Side.

She works 12 to 13 hour shifts five days a week at the Saint Joseph Medical Center in Yonkers, N.Y., a suburb that borders the Bronx. The days off are spent on podcasts and articles detailing the latest medical discoveries about the virus it helps fight.

“This is a new disease, so we are all looking for it all the time, looking at what’s coming out of Italy and California,” said Dr. Bottrell. “You just work to stay on top and do the best for the patients. “

Christopher Mio and Meghan Hoople were unemployed and wanted to help after the isolation of COVID-19 in Toronto. After traveling around their neighborhood with a free offer, they received a surge of support and requests from people in need.

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