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Mario's Quarantine Diary, Day 4: Trying to contain the fear

The barrage of bad news associated with the COVID-19 pandemic can take a toll on everyone stuck inside. Meanwhile, why doesn't Nunavut have an NHL team?
Oscar Bartel
Seven-year-old Oscar Bartel holds a benefit concert "to help bring back sports" to an audience of nobody.

Tri-City News journalist Mario Bartel is voluntarily self-isolating and working from home for the rest of the month after his wife and son returned March 13 from a brief getaway in Arizona. He is writing a daily diary during that time. 

Four days into our self-isolation and it’s becoming more and more apparent that this effort to bring COVID-19 to its knees before it does the same to a good chunk of our population is becoming as much about mental health as physical well-being. 

There’s no doubt about it, being stuck at home, bombarded by an ever-increasing barrage of worries sucks. 

Retirement funds tanking, jobs lost, even more jobs in peril, grocery shelves being emptied, the cultural and athletic endeavours that bring joy and richness to our lives getting cancelled, even police being called because someone coughed in a dispute. 

It’s like a straight-to-Netflix movie, except it’s really happening and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight. 

Every click on to the New York Times website or log in to the daily briefing by B.C.’s health minister comes with a sliver of hope the trends are reversing and normalcy might once again be within our grasp. But alas, no such luck. Yet. 

The fear, stress and anxiety over everything are overwhelming, crushing at times. 

Then your seven-year-old comes to you with a comic book he’s drawn and written quietly in his room for the past hour while you’ve been helping to tell the story of this calamity, or pitches you an idea he’s hatched to help bring back sports. Your heart melts, the fear lifts ever so briefly. 


We’ve been trying to go outside a couple of times a day; sometimes all three of us, sometimes my wife and I spell each other off so we can have some alone time to get a task or assignment done. We’re vigilant about keeping our distance from people. We find a quiet corner to kick the soccer ball back and forth. Sunday, we drove to four parks before we found an empty basketball court so we could shoot some hoops for an hour. 

Afterward, my son asked if we could go for ice cream, as we sometimes do as a treat when we’re out and about on a sunny day. I had to remind him why we couldn’t do that. He was sad but he understood. 

Tuesday, he was crushed to learn he might not be going back to school this spring. He loves it there and his hunger for sharing what he’s learning is so joyous. For weeks he’s been telling us about the regions of Canada, and he’s amazed there’s a piece of France right off the coast of Newfoundland. He also doesn’t understand why Nunavut doesn’t have an NHL team “because it’s so big.” 

It’s hard to know the toll all this is taking on him, on all the children. But we have to fight for their mental health, as much as our own.


Miss a day? Catch up here

Day 1: A brief trip means a COVID-19 condo quarantine

Day 2: Doing the right thing at the 25th hour

Day 3: How much do you tell your kids about COVID-19

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