COVID-19 medal designer drew inspiration from pandemic

By Jesse Robitaille

A previous story (‘CCN’s COVID-19 medal available in silver, cupronickel, bronze,’ Vol. 58 #17) incorrectly referred to the medal designer as Anthony Waite. Anthony’s surname is spelled ‘Wait.’ We apologize for the error.

An avid collector for more than half a century, Edmonton’s Tony Wait saw CCN’s COVID-19 medal design contest as an opportunity to share his life interests and experiences with the world.

Wait, 57, was one of six contestants in the recent contest that drew a dozen designs from collectors across the country. His winning design – one of four he submitted for the competition – depicts an older face-masked father placing a mask on his daughter. The words “STRONG,” “SAFE,” “UNITED” and “CANADA” surround the design, with each word separated by a maple leaf. The 2020 year-date also appears above “CANADA” at the bottom of the medal.

“I know how important this subject is – not just for Canada, but the entire world – and as a proud born-and-raised Edmontonian, I realize Canada is a world leader in health care, so this particular subject was near and dear to my heart,” said Wait, who’s a member of several Edmonton-based clubs, including the Edmonton Numismatic Society.

“With my health not as strong as it once was, I am at a significantly higher risk for catching this virus than your average Canadian, but it is my friends, family and fellow Canadians I worry about more than myself. I would not want to be the person to pass this virus along,” he said, adding he’s hopeful everyone can come together to limit the pandemic’s negative impacts.

Wait’s design is featured on the reverse of the one-ounce medal that’s now available in three compositions, including silver (with a limited mintage of 100) plus cupronickel and bronze (both with low mintages). He drew his inspiration from his personal experience within the healthcare system.

“I was born with several debilitating lifetime disorders that have unfortunately kept me in the Canadian healthcare system from birth,” said Wait, who was familiar with the system’s inner workings long before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic this March. “I wanted to portray a physician, or a father, placing a mask on a child, because I could see that they, too, were in serious danger along with all Canadians.”

As he worriedly watched wait times to see family physicians and specialists increase after COVID-19’s entry into Canada, Wait noticed “special attention had been focused on how this vicious virus had impacted the elderly.”

“But I knew it was far more reaching than that.”

Since March, provincial health officials across Canada have prioritized hospital space for pandemic-related patients while cancelling thousands of elective surgeries – a dangerous secondary impact to an already deadly virus. The first Canada-wide study on specialist wait times – published this June in Canadian Family Physician – found shortages across all physician specialties, causing “patients across Canada continue to face substantial delays when accessing specialist care.”

The situation with family doctors is similarly dire: with a national population of 37 million, there are fewer than 45,000 family doctors currently working in Canada. Nearly five million Canadians have no access to a family doctor.

“COVID has seriously impacted my life,” said Wait, who now spends his days in isolation to mitigate as much of the risk of catching the virus as possible. “My income has been virtually non-existent since January, when the first cases were reported.”

In the meantime, however, he’s happy to have numismatics by his side.

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