I had a good week. I visited two of our locations – our Southern Ontario hub at Pullman Court in Toronto and our Southwest Ontario office in Stoney Creek. Both are relatively short drives from my own office and I enjoyed feeling the comfort of a familiar routine.

I told people I was coming. But I did not have a schedule nor a series of meetings. I just went.

I know things are improving. I hear the news from every corner of our company. But it was good to see the activity firsthand and to sense the energy and the bustle. I walked the halls and the back shops. Said many hellos and offered many appreciations. I enjoyed informal conversation with people from all the local constituencies – field, shop, garage and office. Took a lot of good-natured flak about the long hair and the unkempt beard. I sat and visited with some of our managers and chatted with our safety leaders.

Lots of the old normal was on display. People are still hard at it. There was Donny Ross. Beavering away on a truck wheel. Back at work again. A new knee and the same old smile. Every one I encountered was positive. Optimistic. Grateful. We got this they said. It is coming. There will be better yet.

I observed the evidence of our COVID-19 protocols. Diminished crews, reorganized office spaces, new seating arrangements, signage, shields, cleaning stations and masks. COVID-19 has added an extra layer to everything we do. At home and at work. A layer of complexity. Uncertainty. Inconvenience. Anxiety.

It is a little sad of course. The signs of this enormous disruption are so palpable. The chairs taped off. The barriers. Having to carefully avoid others. The awkwardness. I miss the handshakes and the hugs. This is not the usual us. But we are making it work. We have chosen to adapt and push forward.

We can still have moments of informal social interaction. We just have to be a little more intentional about making them happen. Yesterday, I had a meal with a handful of others in Stoney Creek. We had all packed a lunch. We sat far apart. There was moment in the sunshine later in the afternoon. Out back with a few old friends. I had packed a few cold ones too.

This mix of the old and the unfamiliar is now what is normal. With Founders Day 2020, we mark a strange new era. I never would’ve believed it unless I had seen it with my own eyes.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 had a good week too. The pandemic in the United States has taken a disturbing turn for the worse. After declining for nearly two months, new infections are growing exponentially overall. 2/3 of US states have growing case counts. The numbers in Canada are better but the virus remains stubbornly pervasive, particularly in the big cities.

For those who somehow believe the pandemic is subsiding, I suggest you inform yourself and think again. This morning, the State of Florida reported 8,942 new cases in the past day. New York’s daily peak was 11,743 on April 15. Two months ago. This is going to be long, difficult haul and there is nothing to suggest the virus is receding.

For those who believe that COVID-19 is insurmountable, I suggest you consider the success of some of the Canadian Provinces. Manitoba has only 15 active cases for a population over a million. All the Maritime Provinces are doing well. Nova Scotia has a million residents, nearly half of whom live in the greater Halifax area. No active cases in the province. The last confirmed case was May 28. A similar story in Newfoundland. Prince Edward Island has been without an active case for nearly two months. New Brunswick has only 14 active cases. These ongoing accomplishments are not happening without hard choices and personal sacrifices. Maritimers are some of the most social and family-minded people on the planet. They love being together and enjoying life. But they have chosen to stay apart, to restrict travel, to voluntarily quarantine, to mask up. All in the interest of helping one another and stopping the spread.

Nobody likes the new normal. I wish it would just go away as much as anyone. But the simple fact is that there are new rules now. How long they will be applied is indefinite. We just have to accept doing things a little differently for the foreseeable future.

I know we can do it because we already are doing it in many places. We can live and work safely by controlling the risk of COVID-19. We can be busy and productive. We can arrest the transmission the virus in our communities. We can interact socially without danger by distancing. We can restore some of our routines provided we observe our new protocols. We can protect one another by wearing our masks.

I entered my 30th year with B&M last week. Over half my lifetime working here. I have never been more proud of our company and our people. The resilience. The hard work. The carefulness. The participation. The patience. The positive attitude. All of it so vibrantly displayed in my visits this week. All of it is so deeply valued and appreciated by me, my brothers and all of the McDonald family.

We simply have to keep it up. The summer is upon us and we are approaching the July 1 and July 4 holidays. It is typically a more relaxed and carefree time for people and their families. But this virus is not taking a day off. It doesn’t care that we are restless or frustrated. It has no conscience. So please remain vigilant. Make the right personal choices to protect your health and the wellbeing of others. We must continue to step forward together.