Sunday, April 05, 2020

Coronavirus Chronicles, Entry 1

I've spent a bit of time today trying to piece together when we began to take Covid-19 seriously. L. ordered elderberries to make into syrup to boost our immune systems as early as late January. Tornadoes touched down near us in early February and as warnings continued to pop up on all campus screens and sirens screamed the library dean ordered staff back onto the public desk contra university policy to seek shelter in the basement away from windows. Essential personnel equals expendable personnel, I began to think then, and have had no reason since to modify my opinion.

Not that it was anything I particularly brooded over that month (the dean is now aware of and in line with university policy where tornadoes are concerned); I was busy. I went on an otherwise lovely writers retreat mid-month with WMK where I was attacked by an escaped ram while on a walk down a country road and came home bruised, achy and swollen; friends' parents were ill and required much discussion; Millay's vet saw fit to prescribe her an Albuterol inhaler and I had that to fret over. It was late February, the week of an extended family gathering and an Old Crow show with a friend (we took light rail uptown, something I cannot imagine doing again in 2020), that L. finally pushed me into paying attention to the spread of the virus.

I resisted at first; we'd stockpiled canned food against a coming apocalypse once before and I had no desire to repeat that particular bout of nonsense. Then L. said he had no problem with us starving but he didn't want to live in a house full of starving cats. That was a point I could concede. By Feb. 23 I was placing large orders for food and litter on Amazon instead of purchasing it all locally. I spent $300 at CVS on March 1, although most of that was spent on Millay's inhaler meds. That same day I did the same at Food Lion.

Already too late to buy hand sanitizer, though.

And I was reading more about it. I made my first Facebook post about coronavirus--a link to the Atlantic's "You're Likely to Get the Coronavirus"-- on February 24 and a high school classmate (the one with the inactive medical degree) commented by saying Corona beer was an "affective" vaccine.

I'd concluded that North Carolina would have its first case by the end of the first week in March. I glanced at my phone while working at the polling station Tuesday, March 3, and saw that a case had been identified in Raleigh. That was the point when it felt real, not a mere hypothetical to run through in my mind.

L. worked from home that Friday and had a week of vacation carried over from 2019 scheduled for the following week. His boss told him by the time he'd be ready to come back to work, he wouldn't be coming. (He's still home, working out of our upstairs study.)

Still halfway in denial, I sent a link touting low airfare to London to WMK Friday evening. We closed on a home equity loan before work on Monday, March 9, and by then I was astounded that the closing officer offered his hand to shake. I took it, though. I scrubbed my hands thoroughly once I reached the library.

Oh, the library. The library with its book dust and the students who make me sneeze. I'd stockpiled tissues since I knew I couldn't stop touching my face. We had one container of Clorox wipes out at the desk and we'd been told to make them last since the next shipment was backordered to July. I knew that everyone in admin probably had an unopened container in their office, but it took another week, after admin was sent home to work remotely, for a full box of them to make their way downstairs to the front desk.

Wednesday, March 11, the university community was told we'd be moving to online instruction "wherever possible," beginning March 16 and continuing until the end of the month. Public services had been asked the previous day who'd volunteer to come in if we moved to online classes. The old essential/expendable situation, when everyone else got to stay home. One of my co-workers cried frequently; she didn't have leave to take if she refused to volunteer and wanted to stay home. Another, of the age and with the health problems that indicated she ought to stay home, hated to use her leave when she needed it to visit family over the summer. Our supervisor put together a schedule where no one would have to come in more than twice a week; we'd work from home the rest of the time.

I'd requested Monday off so that I could take my sister, who lives back in our hometown, to a doctor's appointment. Spent the weekend questioning whether we should go out to lunch prior to the appointment with our cousin and a couple of friends. In the end my sister and I met my best friend from high school at 11 am to limit any possible contact with other people. We didn't hug.

My daughter had phoned over the weekend to say she was coming home. Then I talked to her again and she'd said she was staying in NY. By Monday night she'd gotten spooked and had decided she would leave her apartment, but would stay with friends at a lake house outside the city. She's still at the lake house.

Monday night the dean sent an email saying we would no longer process physical items for ILL. When I got to the library Tuesday morning and saw that circ desk was still accepting returns, I got a co-worker to help me move a return bin out in front of the desk so that we wouldn't have to touch them.

That Tuesday would be my last day at work. The number of employees going in constricted, as did the library's hours. Gov. Cooper issued an executive order to close sit-down service in restaurants. The next day the public libraries in Mecklenburg closed at 5 pm.

Our small crew was still expected to provide services for the students who remained on campus. When Mecklenburg issued its stay at home announcement on March 24, the provost said at first it didn't apply to us and that the students on campus and those who lived in the surrounded community needed a place to go. Our dean didn't send the letter saying we would indeed close until 10 pm.

The state stay-at-home order went into effect on March 30.

Learned in an online meeting last week that all instructors are being told to plan to teach their classes online again in the fall. On April 2 we were told that six dorms on campus are to be used as a pandemic field hospital.

I think we're going to be home for quite some time.


4 comments:

  1. Very nicely done, thank you for this.

    It made me realize just how gradually this whole thing seemed to creep its way into my daily life. I keep a relatively skimpy daily journal that I was looking through just last night to see when things started to really change for me. Looking back even four weeks, it astounds me how naive I still was about where we were headed.

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  2. Thanks, Sam. I intended to start a journal weeks ago, but continued my usual course of using emails to friends as a sort of diary. I wish I had a fuller accounting of events, but at least this is something. I think we were all caught off guard. Even though we all knew pandemics were a legitimate fear, there's this sense as well that we were prepared to stop one in its tracks. Magical thinking, I suppose.

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  3. This is important work. I'm in Minnesota, and our historical society announced last week that they're going to develop a COVID archive, and will be looking for accounts like this. I've been keeping what I call a plague journal, which I may or may not donate when the time comes. Being in the Midwest, it's been slower to arrive. I attended an in-person conference on March 7 (although I gave it some hard thought the week before), and my husband and I had some outings on March 8, but by March 9 we were hunkering down. We're lucky we didn't get sick. Haven't taken those risks since.

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  4. Special Collections at our library has already put out a call for Covid-19 diaries. I'm not so sure I'll be donating,either, but I am glad people are recording their experiences and that future generations will have the information to curate.

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Coronavirus Chronicles, Entry 1

I've spent a bit of time today trying to piece together when we began to take Covid-19 seriously. L. ordered elderberries to make into ...