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