Update

Our thanks to everyone who participated in this study by journaling during the early days of the pandemic in Nova Scotia. We appreciate the time and consideration that you offered, and learned from hearing about your experiences.

We have published a paper titled When work came home: Formation of feeling rules in the context of a pandemic.

A second paper reflects on online journaling as a research methodology and is available here.

 

Everyday Life in a Pandemic: Exploring How Nova Scotians Respond to COVID-19 Public Health Measures in Their Daily Lives

Overview

This study investigates the research question: how are Nova Scotians responding to social and physical distancing in their daily lives? The goal of the study is to record and explore experiences of daily life among Nova Scotians working from home during COVID-19 related restrictions.

Purpose

We want to learn about how COVID-19 has impacted people’s daily lives and how they are coping with the changes. Participants will be asked to reflect on:

  • How they are keeping themselves safe
  • How they are dealing with isolation and physical distancing
  • How they navigate news sources and use them to make decisions
  • What challenges they have experienced as a result of COVID-19, as well as anything positive that has resulted from COVID-19
  • How their work experiences have changed since COVID-19 and, more generally, how their experiences have changed and are changing during the pandemic
  • What they expect to happen in the future

This research helps us to capture how people are living and working during this pandemic and creates an opportunity to study how people are understanding and implementing public health and other advice related to COVID-19.

Background & Context

On March 22, 2020, Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil declared a State of Emergency in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. After initially advocating less extreme public health measures, the State of Emergency measures required, among other measures, quarantine periods for people returning to the province; the closure of provincial parks, beaches, and trails; the prohibition of social gatherings greater than five people; and specific requirements for the operation of non-essential businesses. In addition to these specific measures, Nova Scotians are being asked to stay home except to go out for essential items and services. While recognizing that measures seem harsh, the Premier called the State of Emergency “absolutely necessary,” adding that “we all have a moral and legal obligation to obey if we want to bring the spread of COVID-19 under control” (Nova Scotia Premier’s Office 2020).

As Nova Scotians are asked by politicians and public health officials to stay at home, we have watched with interest as the discourse of “social distancing” that was used prominently has been replaced or coupled with “physical distancing”—an acknowledgement of our profound need for social connection, as well as a more literal approach to the distancing required for public health prevention.

While this discursive shift is important in recognizing the importance of social connection, social and/or physical distancing have profound implications on people’s overall well-being and ability to navigate everyday life. Literature on solitary confinement (Donald 2016), military conflict (Clark 2012), and aging populations (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2020; Singer 2018) describe a wide variety of mental and physical health effects of isolation from other people, up to and including pre-mature mortality. Not surprisingly, popular media are cautioning that the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to a “social recession,” as well as an economic one (Klein 2020).

Just as the pandemic is unprecedented, the public health response has been unique in the scope of the target audience. The messages on precautionary measures against COVID-19 are taking place at international, national, provincial, and local (municipal) levels, while parallel decentralized and non-professional messages are generated by citizens and disseminated in the streets or on social media. It is typically the case that there is a hard-to-anticipate distance between public health messaging and the behaviours that take place as a result (McDonnell 2016).

The public health advice has halted business as usual, but people must figure out ways to continue to live and work. We are interested in the everyday ways people are responding to these changes and how they are coping. We want to examine how individuals are interpreting public health messages through their actual day-to-day behaviour, as well as how they feel about public health messages and their sources.