OTTAWA -- Physical distancing doesn’t mean social activities need to be put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic. People and businesses are discovering new technology to bring a little bit of normalcy back into our lives.

The Glebe Neighbourhood Activities Group is going ahead with their usual exercise class and more than 50 people are taking part, working up a sweat. The only thing is that the centre is closed. They, along with other community centres across the country, were forced to lock their doors amid the spread of COVID-19.


“How can we reach out to our clients to keep socializing,” is the question Mary Tsai, executive director of GNAG asked herself.


The answer came in the form of a video platform service, Zoom. It’s becoming the app-of-choice for many people, businesses and community groups.  It has the capability of connecting up to 100 people together.


“It gives the ability for some interaction amongst the participants, just like they would at the community centre,” said Tsai.


That interaction comes in the form of passing notes, and messaging as well as indicating when someone is talking. Connecting to one another through video is the new normal and Zoom has become the platform of choice for many people. 


Connecting to one another via video has quickly become the new normal, and the GNAG has embraced it. The classes are free, but they are asking for donations, to help staff that has been affected.


“It was really fun to see everybody’s face again,” says Tsai. “They’re smiling they’re waving and their talking to each other, it was really hard to not shed a tear.”


It’s not just community centres that are taking advantage of video-conferencing, Ottawa Councillor Jeff Leiper has logged-on. Work hasn’t slowed and meetings still happen everyday, using video, he says, creates a more engaging experience.


“You can see whether people are shaking their heads or nodding affirmative,” said Leiper. “It’s just a much richer experience and I’m finding the video conferences that we’ve been hosting have been as productive in some cases as what I would have around my boardroom table.”