We are in the midst of a global pandemic. COVID-19 is ravaging the United States and the European Union and other countries are slowly easing their lockdown restrictions as doctors, epidemiologists, paramedics, and other essential workers scramble to get it under control.

As a member of the immune-compromised I have been extremely careful. I haven’t been to a store, restaurant, or bar in months, and I don’t let anyone in my home unless they wash their hands, remove their shoes, and keep two meters apart during their visit. When I go out, it’s always straight to a car and to a private home where I am extra careful to minimize physical contact and wash my hands regularly. When I’m in any public space, however briefly, I always wear a mask.

That said, while it is highly unlikely that I have COVID-19, it’s not impossible. I am having flu-like symptoms that started with a mild sore throat and a little chest congestion.

After mulling it over, I decided to bite the bullet and get myself tested yesterday. If you’re having any cold or flu-like symptoms, have been to a bar recently, or come in contact with anyone who tested positive for COVID-19, you should get tested too.

Not sure how? I’m here to help.

This article is about how to get tested for COVID-19 in Quebec and what to expect. I hope you’ll be encouraged to at the very least get assessed to see if being tested is necessary. We’re all in this together, so let’s keep each other safe and informed.

First step is to call one of the Quebec government’s COVID-19 information lines, depending on your region. Not sure if you should get tested? Tell the phone operator and they will transfer you to a nurse who will assess you.

If she thinks you need to get tested for COVID-19, she will ask you for your postal code, find the nearest test center, and book you an appointment that best fits your schedule. You will also need to provide your phone number, Medicare number, and email address.

You should get an appointment confirmation by email almost immediately. You can also expect to get multiple reminders by text message in the day or two before the appointment. They will give you the option of cancelling your appointment online.

While it’s not my place to tell anyone what to do, I will say that it is better to know one way or the other than to not know if you have COVID-19, so keep that appointment.

Bring a mask with you and be prepared to wait in line outside the test centre. The one closest to me was at 5800 Cote des Neiges in Montreal, in a sort of construction trailer in the parking lot of the Jewish General Hospital. Every once in a while someone in full mask and protection gear will come out and ask if anyone has an appointment. If you do, they will call you in.

Once inside, you are immediately required to put on a fresh mask and sanitize your hands. Then you are sent to a waiting area with chairs divided by walls to ensure social distancing.

You’ll feel a bit like a sideshow display, but it’s comfortable. The ambiance of the test centre feels like the pop up lab the government set up in the movie ET and you will be required to sanitize your hands nearly every step of the way.

After a few minutes, the worker who called you in will sanitize the phone allowing you to speak to the administrator who is protected by a wall with a window, not unlike the setup in some prisons. You are required to press your Medicare card to the window for the admin worker who will register you, which includes confirming your email address and emergency contacts. They will ask if you’re ok getting a negative result by email as well.

You are then sent back to the waiting area. I cannot vouch for wait times, as I know they vary, but I was called in less than thirty minutes.

A nurse in full protective gear will then bring you to a room near the exit. Another nurse similarly dressed will be seated at a computer and will ask you questions about travel, who you have been in contact with, and what your symptoms are. They will then give you a sheet with a number you can call if you don’t get your results in two to five days and your file number.

If the results are negative you will get an email. If they’re positive, expect a phone call.

Then the dreaded moment comes: the nurse asks you to lower your mask below your nose, holds out a giant flexible swab, and tells you to tilt your head back.

You know that expression “Mind if I pick your brain”? That’s exactly what the test itself feels like. You think that swab can’t possibly go further up your nose, that there simply isn’t room, and yet it does.

However, the test is quick, and the nurses are as gentle with administering such an uncomfortable test as can be. Just when you think you can’t take it anymore, the swab is out and you’re free to go with your information sheet and instructions to self-isolate for five days.

You are warned that the phone call when and if it comes will say “Private Number” in your caller ID and won’t leave a message. A healthcare worker will then instruct you to sanitize your hands immediately before you go out the exit. You are then free to go home to self-isolation.

That said, if you are having any symptoms resembling a cold, flu, or sinus infection and/or have been anywhere or in contact with anyone that puts you at risk of catching COVID-19, get yourself tested. The comfort of knowing one way or the other far outweighs the speedy discomfort of the test itself.

We’re all in this together. Stay safe, stay sane, wear a mask, and wash your hands.

Featured image by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante announced on social media today that the city is working on a bylaw that will require everyone to wear a mask when in enclosed indoor public spaces as of July 27th. There will be fines for businesses and individuals caught breaking the bylaw after that date.

The Quebec Government made mask wearing mandatory on public transit last week. This latest move by Montreal builds on that and was spurred, according to Plante, by outbreaks of COVID-19 off-island and the current situation in the US.

Plante explained to Le Téléjournal that while the bylaw will apply to bars and restaurants, people will, of course, be able to remove their masks when eating and drinking. The mayor said the city consulted with bar and restaurant owners as well as other merchants before making the announcement.

The bylaw will not apply to private shared spaces like the common areas of apartment buildings or office towers. The Quebec Government is working on regulations or recommendations for those spaces.

While it will take three weeks to work out all the specifics and make sure people are properly notified before the bylaw goes into effect, Plante hopes Montrealers will start acting like it’s already a reality and wear masks when indoors in public. As the mayor told CBC, the bylaw will be re-evaluated on a monthly basis.

Quebec Premier François Legault is in Montreal today. Speaking alongside Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, Quebec’s National Director for Public Health Horacio Arruda, Public Health Regional Director Mylène Drouin and Transport Minister François Bonnardel, he announced that Montreal-area schools won’t re-open until the fall.

Primary schools across Quebec, excluding the Greater Montreal Area, re-opened on Monday, with Montreal expected to follow on May 25th provided COVID-19 numbers were dropping on par with World Health Organization criteria for deconfinement. With over 20 000 people infected, they aren’t and Montreal has become Canada’s epicenter for the virus, so it will be late August and September before any schools re-open here.

Pushing re-opening back a few weeks only to close them when the school year ends mid-June would have made no sense according to Legault. Daycares that don’t run on the same school year may re-open June 1, provided Coronavirus containment conditions are met.

Non-essential retail businesses not located in malls or in malls with a separate street entrance in Montreal could possibly re-open on May 25th as planned. That date may, of course, be pushed back.

When they do re-open, though, there will inevitably be more people using public transit. Legault announced that Quebec will assist Montreal in providing masks for commuters, which Plante welcomed.

The Premier and his colleagues have been recommending people wear face coverings whenever they leave their home for a few days now, and in particular when they ride public transit. While they won’t rule out making masks mandatory on transit at some point in the future, we’re not there yet.

There’s nothing like eight characters prancing, dancing, and, at one point, collapsing on the stage to get your attention, especially when they are all directing their comments at you. The impersonation of all these different characters is so brilliantly done, you could easily forget that they are played by the same actor.

Eight characters, uncountable costume changes, and over an hour of drama and energy. With all that in mind, part of the mystery of Anana Rydvald’s one woman show, Love, Child, is wondering whether she can pull this thing off.

In collaboration with local director Zach Fraser, Love, Child is the brainchild of Rydvald. She’s the writer and the creator of the eight masks that give a different face to the eight bizarrely different characters that take to their turn centre stage. All eight represent the people in the life of Lina, a young woman that Rydvald plays unmasked, who we encounter at different stages of her life.

Love, Child is comfortably encamped in Infinitheatre’s cozy Rialto Studio, the bastion of new, local theatre. The piece explores the imperfections of parents and parenthood through the relationship between Lina and her eccentric and largely negligent mother Magda, who’s much too busy trying to find meaning in her own life to worry about the existence of Lina and her other daughter.

“She was going to be my love child,” says Magda of her good intentions for her daughter that go sour. “She was going to be my light in all the madness.”

Much of the non-linear story is told in subtext of these sometimes ranting monologues. The relationships between the characters, such as the troubled mother-daughter relationship, are brilliantly portrayed, despite the inability to see characters appearing at the same time on the stage.

Magda, who like Rydvald, comes originally from Scandinavia, takes us on a journey around the world, where her whims and her suitcase, which she drags around the stage, take her in search of herself. Much of the play centres on Magda, her daughter, and the other pieces of Magda’s life that she leaves behind on her journeys to find herself.

Lina, meanwhile, must come to terms with her absentee mother while attempting, often without great success, to avoid many of the pitfalls that have trapped the other women in her life. Magda’s estrangement from her daughters fails to protect them from the men in this story, who are largely useless, and often abusive with impunity.

Magda

But Love, child is able to give a delicate touch on these weighty topics. There’s much joy in watching Rydvald tell a story through her cast of these masked characters, a story that successfully blends tragedy with hope. You could still fall for the otherwise absurd Magda for example, even if she seems to be just on the lovable side of madness and delusion.

Then there’s always the entertainment value in watching masks magically transform this performer into her different creations. That includes a chuckle provoking portrayal of Lina’s elderly religious grandmother, a pair of the good-for-nothing men in Magda’s life, as well as a teenage Lina, and her intellectually challenged younger sister. These “impersonations,” as Rydvald puts it, of different characters representing different stages of life, gender, and culture was something she was able to nail more often than not.

The show is showcase of Rydvald’s considerable talents as a mask artist, who also has a background in stage and screen acting, dancing, and miming. Rydvald also brings the energy necessary to sustain a successful one-woman show over its full length of over an hour.

If Love, Child intends to provoke thought about our parental relationships and the influence of that on our adult lives, it would have to be considered a success. “I always wanted children but I’m too scared they’d hate me” says Lina. It was the line that perhaps gives the audience the most food for thought.

There’s something about watching the masked characters in Lina’s life that reminds us of the less than perfect people in our own lives and maybe the unresolved need to make some peace with them.

Love, Child plays until December 6th at the Rialto Studio. Tickets available through the Infinitheatre website

Here are some of the sounds of the production, along with an interview with Anana Rydvald by Chris Dodd: