Frontline Diaries

We asked essential workers to film a week in their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic
By Jeyan Jeganathan - Published on Aug 31, 2021
Essential workers Amie Archibald-Varley, Lily Chen, Lorraine Lam, and Josie Barberi reveal what it's been like as essential workers during the pandemic.

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Essential. Heroic. Brave. These are just a few of the words that have been used to describe the people who have been working on the front lines during COVID-19.

Now, nearly 18 months into the pandemic, those words are triggering for some. The messages of thanks have mostly ended. Pandemic pay is mostly gone. Many workers feel as if they’ve been forgotten.

To understand their work and the toll the pandemic has taken on them, TVO.org asked five workers from a range of industries to film a week of their lives on the front lines. Some find themselves constantly exposed to the dangers of COVID-19; others advocate for better conditions — both for their colleagues and for the public.


Paramedics Evan Eichler and Lily Chen


 “I've had entire shifts where every single patient was tested COVID-positive.”


Grocery-store clerk Josie Barberi


“We just saw the worst of humanity from our angle, and we need to do better.”


Outreach worker Lorraine Lam


“There was this saying around COVID, 'We are in this together,’ and I think we saw that we are not."

A man filming in The Agenda studio

Our journalism depends on you.

You can count on TVO to cover the stories others don’t—to fill the gaps in the ever-changing media landscape. But we can’t do this without you.


Nurse Amie Archibald-Varley


“I felt if I can’t contribute by way of working in an ICU, I can contribute by way of continuing to lift others’ voices.”

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Ontario Hubs are made possible by the Barry and Laurie Green Family Charitable Trust & Goldie Feldman.​​​​​​​

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