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.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

***blows off the dust***

Oh, dear. I'd forgotten all about my attempt to return to blogging last January. Let's hope I'm more successful this time!

Reading plans for the year, I have a few. I completed my 60 by 60 challenge last week. Yeah, I'd wanted to complete that five-year challenge by my 60th back in October, but I procrastinate and I get distracted. I'll continue drawing from the list for suggestions over the next five years instead of coming up with an entirely different pool of books and authors because my real challenge will be to read all 11 volumes of Will and Ariel Durant's The Story of Civilization before I retire. I read the introductory chapters in the introduction on "the nature and foundations of civilization" in December and am ready to devote the next nine weeks or so to the Near East.

I would like to read more non-fiction, particularly history, and more science fiction over the next year. I need to branch out beyond the time travel/parallel universe and the post-apocalyptic fare that I reach for when I do read sf.

Late last January I decided to embark on another long-term reading project, one I'm calling the Decades Reading Challenge. My intention was to read ten previously unread classics published within a particular decade within a calendar year and I started with the 1850s since that would give me a century of books to draw from before my birth at the tail-end of 1959. I was on track until I hit Little Dorrit over the summer, and my dithering on whether to force myself to finish the book or to move on to another brought me to a standstill where the 1850s were concerned. (I do not understand my difficulties with Dickens.) I'm now sporadically reading Trollope's The Three Clerks, published in 1858, but I only finished eight books from the 1850s last year. Henceforth I will consider the Decades Challenge a success if I finish a mere seven books and I will also allow myself a couple of rereads.

I've completed two books since January 1: Hope Jahren's Lab Girl (now anxiously awaiting the release of The Story of More in March) and Elizabeth Gaskell's Lois the Witch, an 1861 novella about the Salem witch trials. I am totally absorbed in Lucy Ellmann's Ducks, Newburyport and I'm a few pages into Dominic Brownlow's The Naseby Horses. I've also just started Katherine Mansfield's Selected Stories. I have a slew of books on hand that I'm champing on the bit to start, but I can save those for another post.

A bang, not a whimper

  Two months into L.'s retirement, and I'm finished with the stockpiling of books. No more book purchases! Or at least, no purcha...