• Photograph by Erik Mclean

COVID-19 changes everything

COVID-19 is shifting the "Overton Window"

I had a COVID-19 dream, where I was trapped in a sprawling resort crammed with people desperate to escape the virus.

In my dream, I was on the run. I sprinted past a buffet of cakes and custard pies as diners gorged themselves. I broke through crowds of people and escaped by way of waterslides, which deposited me into a dark, empty hallway that led me to a hospital ward filled with crying children.

I have not contracted COVID-19, but the idea of this virus has infected my thoughts, both day and night. Maybe it has for you, too—trailing us when we go to the grocery store, as we adjust our idea of household necessities, as we worry about loved ones and already see too many “rest in peace” tributes on our news feed.

April is proving to be a cruel month. Within the blink of an eye, life as we knew it has been upturned. While we all crave a return to normalcy, there are some things that will have been forever altered. The loss of loved ones; the inability of many small businesses to survive the downturn; the debt incurred by loss of income.

I’m thinking about how the Overton window is shifting on so many facets of our lives here in Canada. Maybe some of it is only temporary. Maybe it’s not. But here are some initial observations:

The cult of individualism is giving way to social solidarity as most of us stay indoors to protect ourselves and others from viral spread.

Consumerism is mutating as markets shut down and the grocery store becomes the new retail epicentre.

Public health is suddenly appreciated for what it always has been: essential to a functioning economy—are we entering a post-austerity world where funding for public health takes top priority?

COVID-19 is changing the political narrative, de-centring the economy and re-centring the public good.

Yes, there are still divisive political voices but, increasingly, they’re coming across as tone deaf. Yes, there are still people disregarding the advice to stay home and physical distance, but polling is showing they’re in the minority.

Here at Upstream, we’re monitoring all of the health, social, economic, and political developments in the age of COVID-19 and I’ll be weighing in on this more deeply in the weeks and months to come.

We are also acutely aware that there is a lot of misinformation and confusion, so we are cutting through falsehoods and bringing you tips and information based on expert advice and research. Scientific knowledge about COVID-19 is also in flux, so as expert knowledge changes, we’ll share that with you too—thanks to support from the Government of Canada.

We’re also partnering with our friends at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) to bring timely analysis on a broad range of COVID-19 related issues. Below, I’ve included a roundup of Upstream’s latest COVID-19 news and a CCPA round up.

Stay home and stay safe,


Trish Hennessy

Upstream Executive Director


Upstream's latest on COVID-19

  • Masks: Jo Snyder looks at the debate over wearing masks outside on the blog and Ralph Benmergui interviews Dr. Chris Mackie about the differences between masks and their utility in protecting people against COVID-19 on Upstream’s Plan B podcast.
  • Denial: Why are some people oblivious to physical distancing? Why do some people think COVID-19 reactions are overblown? Jo Snyder looks at the dynamics of denial in a pandemic, on the blog.
  • Grocery store shopping: Are you doing it right? Jo Snyder gives helpful tips for navigating the grocery store. Read here.
  • Physical distancing: Jo also looks at the need to physically distance but stay socially connected; something to think about as we head into a holiday weekend. Read here.

CCPA's latest on COVID-19 and its implications

  • Think about front line health workers: Sheila Block and Simran Dhunna show how long-term care workers need better supports to do their job safely. Read here. And their piece on why health care workers need supports too. Read here.
  • We’re plunging into recession, what now? Jim Stanford gives a helpful primer of how Canada is going into quantitative easing and what it means. Read here.


Basic income: The Basic Income Canada Network is looking for stories about how COVID-19 is affecting people’s economic wellbeing. You can send your story—in 250 words or less—by April 17 to info@basicincomecanada.org. Put My Story in the subject line. They ask you to include the name of the city or town where you live and your province or territory, but avoid personal information that could identify yourself.

While you’re at it, read Senators Frances Lankin and Kim Pate’s oped on why a universal basic income is a worthwhile idea even after the COVID-19 crisis fades.


Vancity Credit Union in Vancouver is temporarily slashing its credit card interest rate to zero, due to COVID-19 and the strain that households are under. We hope the Big Five banks are listening.

Connect upstream.