March 17, 2020
Earlier today in conversation with a priestly friend, she mentioned that she and some of her fellow clergy were keeping “Corona Diaries” to document their respective organization’s practices in the wake of the current pandemic, to monitor what worked and what doesn’t. As someone who kept a journal regularly from 1996 to 2009 or so, and as a historian, this idea appealed to me. I thought I might keep an intermittent log here to look back on in a few years and remember how things were.
On Friday afternoon, just before lunch, the State of Alabama confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in the state, from a civilian working on behalf of the military who had recently returned. The entire atmosphere changed within an hour, as organizations began implementing pandemic response plans: schools and churches suspended activity for the next three weeks, the Selma Pilgrimage (a tour of historic homes that takes place in the spring) was rescheduled for late April, etc. Pandemonium erupted at the local Wal-Mart, which is the main source for most consumer goods within Selma, as people went after the toilet paper (??) and the medicinal alcohol. The library remained open throughout the day, as well as Saturday. Following Governor Kay Ivey’s declaration of a State of Emergency, however, the Library put its own plan into effect. Until April 6th, the library building would be closed to the public; staff would remain inside to serve the public as much as possible under the circumstances.
What that’s to look like is still being determined. Yesterday, we devoted ourselves to a deep cleaning of the library. Not a light switch, not a pencil, not an elevator button went un-cloroxed. We also answered phones and tried to keep the public informed. As I’ve recently taken over the responsibilities of a colleague who had to abruptly retire following some medical issues, I have an entire office of books and documents to examine, sort, etc. Today, however, I’ve mostly been kept running – literally – through our attempt at offering curbside service. As we’re the main source of scanning, copying, and faxing in our community, we’ve been directing people to come to one of our exits, meeting them down there, accepting their paperwork, then running back inside to process it to meet their needs. We’re following hygienic procedures, of course: putting on latex gloves prior to handling outside documents, and washing our hands on re-entry into the library. Needless to say, we are all getting our exercise!
So far I haven’t heard of any serious problems as a result of the panic; Winn-Dixie was perfectly normal on Friday night when I picked up some drinks and chips for a games night party, and on Sunday when I visited Wal-Mart I noticed lean-looking shelves but no destitution. Lean-looking shelves aren’t that uncommon at the local Walmart, so nothing out of the ordinary there. Personal-wise, I have plenty of books to occupy myself with, and have started playing a new-to-me game called 9-1-1 Operator. The player takes phone calls and dispatches a limited number of police cars, fire engines, and ambulances to deal with a much larger number of incidents and emergencies. Some incidents merely appear on the map, but others are actual phone calls where information has to be interviewed-out of the caller, or picked up from background information. One ‘prank call’ is actually someone calling the police while pretending to place a pizza delivery order, for instance. There’s something therapeutic about responding to crises in the wake of one — although, when I had five fires in Albuquerque and only two engines to address them, I didn’t feel very relaxed! The Breaking Bad reference amused me to no end, though.
Anyway! I hope everyone stays safe. I’m still reading, so there will be reviews coming out soon.