MANDEL: The highs and many lows of another pandemic year

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Well, 2021 began with some optimism that our pandemic nightmare may soon come to an end.

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Vaccines were being given to frontline healthcare workers and the rest of us could look forward to getting our jabs soon after.

But here we are again, virtually back where we started.

What wave is this now?

This time, we’re wrestling with a superspreading variant that has us doing the Hunger Games scramble for third doses and rapid tests while new public health measures have once again curtailed anything resembling a normal life.

Sigh. Remember that quaint belief in 2020 that all we had to do was stay home for a few weeks and flatten the curve?

We also witnessed the near overthrow of the American government, a useless federal election, creeping inflation, the pain and agony of online school, John Tory’s ever-lengthening coiffure, the constant flip flopping of Premier Doug Ford – Let’s close all playgrounds.

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Oops, let’s not —  and the terrifying weather extremes in British Columbia.

So since there were enough lows this year to keep us hiding under our bed, let’s begin with the highs of 2021, shall we?

The Golden Girls – Canadian ladies killed it this year — from the pool party of Penny Oleksiak, Margaret Mac Neil and friends at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and swimming world cup in Abu Dhabi; to the soccer field where the women’s team won Canada’s first ever Olympic gold in the sport ; and to the tennis court, where spunky Leylah Fernandez’s incredible run at the U.S. Open captured hearts around the country and the world.

The Golden Ticket – Was there anything more exciting this year — other than getting your hair coloured and cut — than finally getting your vaccine appointment? Whether it was Team Pfizer or Team Moderna (or for some of us – the later maligned AstraZeneca,) it truly felt like the beginning of the end. The mobilization had a bumpy start but we witnessed the record-breaking mass vaccination clinic at Scotiabank Arena that saw 26,771 doses in a single day and even a clinic at the Zanzibar Tavern peeler bar .

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Our very own superheroes :  Across the country, the amateur detectives of Vaccine Hunters Canada used their time and savvy to secure appointments and publicize clinics for desperate thousands who found it impossible to navigate the befuddling online booking systems for vaccines.

My angels wear scrubs – It wasn’t enough that they’ve worked tirelessly through the pandemic, overwhelmed, burned out and stressed out health care workers had to deal with trolls and death threats from the lunatic right. But they continued to look after us all.

Sizzling – Who knew that even a pandemic couldn’t slow our crazy hot real estate market , with the average price of a home rising over $1.1 million? But that wouldn’t get you much. The 24,000 sq.ft. Toronto mansion featured in Schitt’s Creek with its 12 bedrooms and 16-bathrooms would set you back $17,888,000

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I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream – Chapman’s found itself the target of an anti-vaxxer boycott after they gave a $1 an hour raise to all employees who were fully vaccinated to offset the cost of requiring rapid tests for all unvaccinated staff. Talk about failure. News of the boycott enraged so many that a counter-movement of supporters cleared out supermarket freezers of the ice cream throughout the province.

The boys are back in town – After COVID 19 exiled our sports heroes, the homeless Blue Jays finally returned to Rogers Centre in July and even though it was at reduced capacity, it felt like we were inching towards normalcy, topped off by a stellar season by Canadian baseball player of the year slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

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A place in the sun – There was nothing quite like this summer of 2021 – after a claustrophobic lockdown winter, we all exhaled as restaurant patios opened, long-delayed weddings were celebrated, movies were watched under the stars, Canada’s Wonderland threw open its gates and even backyard pools were being rented by the hour.

Toronto’s Finest – In May, Toronto Police were hailed for saving a man in distress dangling from the eighth floor of the Roehampton Hotel. In a dramatic video, three officers could be seen holding the man for 12 minutes before they managed to break a window and pull him to safety.

What’s Chinese for Quid Pro Quo? – After more than 1,000 days of captivity in China, the sweet homecoming of the “two Michaels” was one of the rare good news days of the year. Detained on espionage charges on Dec. 10, 2018, just days after Chinese tech executive Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition warrant, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were finally set free hours after Meng resolved her American legal case and was on a plane to China.

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The Lows

Maybe too many football tackles to the head? – How else to explain the increasingly bizarre anti-vaccine rants of misinformation and conspiracy theories by Krista Ford Haynes, daughter of Premier Doug Ford and former captain of a team in the Lingerie Football League?

What exactly was he smoking? Farewell to rebel pitmaster Adam Skelly of Adamson BBQ infamy, who shut down his three restaurants after the self-proclaimed freedom fighter, who refused to close indoor dining during the lockdown, said he couldn’t abide by Ontario’s mandated vaccine passport.

It’s Greek to me Personally, after Alpha, Delta, and Omicron, etc., I never again want to hear another letter from the Greek alphabet.

Queue Jumpers – Shame on Rod and Ekaterina Baker, the millionaire Vancouver couple who chartered a plane to the Yukon and posed as locals to get first vaccine doses earmarked for the vulnerable and remote Indigenous community. They had to pay a $2,300 fine —chump change for the rich scofflaws.

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Keep your pants onLiberal MP William Amos is caught twice in flagrante on virtual House of Commons broadcasts. He wisely decided to seek help — and not reelection.

Falling off your bike – After the huge at-home fitness craze exploded, a bust was soon to follow. First gyms reopened. And then Mr. Big had a heart attack on his bike and Peloton, the popular lockdown purchase, saw its popularity — and share price — nose dive.

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Dark history – How could this happen here? The shocking discovery in early June of 215 unmarked children’s graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential school shook the country. More discoveries followed. In response, protesters toppled the statue of Egerton Ryerson, architect of the residential school system.

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Party like it’s 1999, and not pandemic 2021 – If only they’d been socially distanced. Maskless drywall workers are fired after a video goes viral of the men guzzling vodka and partying with a stripper on a Milton job site.

The anti-vaxxers doth protest too much, methinks – Protest is a fundamental right. If the anti-vaxxers want to demonstrate their opposition to vaccines and mandates and all the other measures designed to keep them safe, so be it. But instead of voicing their opposition at Queen’s Park, these yahoos have targeted hospitals, kids’ vaccination sites and the private homes of politicians.

Coyote Ugly  – Like an apocalyptic movie,  this year saw the disturbing rise of the aggressive canine menace. Prowling through city parks and streets, there were numerous reports of coyote attacks – including two people bitten at Bayview and Sheppard and brutally mauled Macy, a little Yorkie whose Scarborough owner crowdfunded $38,000 for its vet bills after the tiny rescue dog successfully fended off a canine chasing her 10-year-old daughter.

Here’s hoping 2022 is brighter and safer for us all.

Happy New Year.

mmandel@postmedia.com

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