The chaotic effects of COVID-19 have afflicted Calgary for what feels like an eternity now. However, just beyond the southwest end of the city in the heart of the Foothills, 79-year-old Pauline Lyken enjoys a cloudy afternoon on her acreage.
She stirs together Clamato juice and a beer to make her signature 'Red Eye' cocktail, followed by the routine clinking of her spoon against the rim of the glass.
"I think it would affect me more if I lived in a town, but I don't, so it's ok," she says.
Like people across the world, residents of Black Diamond are trying to make the best of life under the historic coronavirus pandemic. Pauline is one of three individuals based in this tight-knit rural community who have put aside their time to speak about their personal experiences.
Pauline has lived in Millarville for 45 years. Despite her age, she portrays uncanny confidence in the face of the COVID-19 threat. She does not necessarily fear for her health, but more so her way of life.
"I've been here since the library was built, and I'm one of its best patrons. I think the hardest thing for me is not being able to go to the library to get a dozen books a week," she explains. "When the librarian told me that they're closing, she phoned me and said 'Pauline! Come on down!' I was barely out of bed. I threw on some clothes and went down and got four bags of books."
Aside from her book habit, Pauline does not feel the pandemic has affected her in many ways. She does, however, worry for the small local businesses, including her daughter's brewery, which is just coming up on its second anniversary.
Three individuals from the Black Diamond area give their thoughts on coronavirus. Video by Nikita Lehnert-Thiel
Her daughter, Pamela Lyken is the co-founder of Hard Knox Brewery (HKB) based in Black Diamond. It was business as usual for the HKB team, putting in the effort to serve at a 50 per cent occupancy of 25 patrons, but then, the dreaded call came in. AGLC informed Pamela that she had to close down her taproom, and as a result, lost 60 per cent of her business.
"The taproom is kind of our bread and butter," she explains. "We have regulars that come in every day, and they're locals, so they don't really go out of town. A lot of them are semi-retired or retired or have seasonal jobs, so they come and visit us on a daily basis."
Another consequential impact has been the closing of other bars and restaurants, Pamela explains. "Our distribution side of things, the back of our house where we sell kegs and cans to all the other establishments have flat-lined. We have zero sales, instantly, overnight."
Black Diamond resident and Co-Founder of Hard Knox Brewery Pamela Lyken maintains an enthusiastic attitude and positive outlook amidst the recent business challenges. Photo by Nikita Lehnert-Thiel
As a result, many difficult decisions had to be made.
"We've had to lay off all of our staff, with the exception of our head brewer. He'll continue to make beer, in hopes that as soon as we're all allowed to open again [...], all of our summer beers will be ready, and lots of people will have a reason to visit."
They are still allowed to conduct off-sales on location, such as selling four-packs and growlers. Also, HKB has since launched online beer orders and deliveries to provide for those who may be self-isolating at home.
As of April 2, Alberta is home to 968 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 589 of those belonging to the Calgary zone. As a result, Albertans have been advised to practice physical distancing. This involves keeping a six-foot distance between yourself and others and making a conscious effort to avoid social destinations; such as grocery stores.
Canadian COVID-19 cases as of March 31, 2019. Graphic by Erin Sweere
Other businesses have been taking part in this new conformity as well, such as Country Food Mart AG Foods in Black Diamond.
Mark Muller, the owner and manager of Country Food Mart, has been in the grocery business for 50 years. He explains that he's never experienced a situation quite like this.
"We've seen an unprecedented increase in business. A lot of challenges trying to keep up with the demand and the amount of product people are buying," Muller explains. "Whether they're stockpiling, or whatever it is, we've seen double the business we usually have."
Black Diamond’s Country Food Mart AG Foods experiences a spike in business as community members stockpile on groceries amid COVID-19 frenzy. Photo by Nikita Lehnert-Thiel
Muller has always offered delivery for seniors and people who can't get out of the house but has recently started promoting it to individuals who are struggling because of COVID-19.
"We've opened it up and advertised it for people that are self-quarantined or self-isolating themselves because they've been out of the country or have been in contact with someone who has. As well as seniors that are concerned about mixing too much with the public, concerned over the virus."
Muller explains that the community has been very supportive, and many people have come forward volunteering to help with deliveries.
"We haven't had to use that yet, we've been able to manage that ourselves, but it's something we may do in the future."
According to experts, it's too soon to tell if the COVID-19 curve is flattening, but it's important to maintain hope. As of April 2, it was reported by Alberta.ca that 174 Albertans have recovered from this novel coronavirus.
- By Nikita Lehnert-Thiel