Even a pandemic can’t stop last-minute Christmas shopping

·3 min read

WATERLOO — The line of cars turning into Conestoga Mall was steady as a pulse.

As usual, a few days before Christmas, the mall parking lot was a flat grey landscape filled with cars and people heading in and out finishing their last-minute gift buying.

Inside, masked faces were everywhere, and people were, more or less, able to stick to their groups and keep their distance from others.

Some stores had lineups around the corner, while others were woefully empty with lone attendants leaning on back counters.

The Region of Waterloo is currently in the red zone, meaning stores selling non-essential items are still allowed to open. The region’s medical officer of health, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, said Friday that stricter measures are needed to slow the spread of the virus.

On Sunday the region reported 571 active cases and 5,007 total cases for the region, with close contact the leading cause of spread.

Steve and Vicci Eckhardt came into the region from an orange zone to complete their Christmas shopping. Vicci says coming into a red zone was a hard decision.

“It’s hard to come for sure, but you can only do so much shopping online and in a small town, so we had to come.”

Vicci says they saved all their in-store shopping for one day to minimize the time spent in stores. The experience of shopping during a pandemic has been surprisingly pleasant for the Eckhardts because it’s done with fewer people in a store at once. Still, they think everyone should keep shopping to a minimum.

“You can’t expect to find that perfect gift for that perfect person,” says Steve Eckhardt. “We’ve had to make substitutions along the way.”

David Myer and his wife came to the mall to finish buying each other Christmas presents. “I’ve just been successful buying for myself so far,” said Myer.

For him, this year’s Christmas shopping has been surreal.

“I miss people’s faces. I like smiling. I miss the personal interaction,” he said.

Myer operates a residential design business from his home out of town and says he isn’t sure how a lockdown in Waterloo Region will impact his life.

Emilly McMahon was also finishing her gift buying for her family. She says her family is preparing in case a lockdown is announced.

“We’re making sure we get everything for Christmas and stock up on supplies in case it becomes essential services only,” she says.

She thinks students should enjoy time relaxing if they’re out of school.

Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang issued an order to anyone operating shopping malls and retail stores on November 27 requiring them to actively manage and monitor the buildings to make sure people are practicing physical distancing.

Leah Gerber’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows her to report on stories about the Grand River Watershed. Email lgerber@therecord.com

Leah Gerber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Waterloo Region Record