As the expiration date for the governor’s stay-at-home order approaches, we in the Heart of Dixie have been waiting expectantly to see what will happen. The governor declined to open early last week, when the states surrounding us did, and maintained that Alabama’s re-opening would be data-, not date-driven. Three days ago we received the new ‘safer at home’ order, which is a ..very slight relaxing of the rules. Retail is now re-opened, though entertainment venues, gyms, and hair salons remained closed, and restaurants must hold the line as far as takeout-only. The changes strike me as minimal, with only the opened beaches striking me as a point of concern: I think people will swamp them just as in Georgia they’re currently swamping the restaurants and hair salons. Retail is less problematic…. I can’t see people storming the gates of Books-A-Million and BassPro Shops at the moment. (Actually, depending on where you live, BassPro was probably still open — two thirds of their stores never had to close. God himself can’t cancel turkey season.)
Two weeks ago the library staff began pondering what a phased re-opening would look like. Our plan, in the event of re-opening, was to open only for three hours in the afternoon, the rest of the day being reserved for our curbside service, and to sharply restrict the number of people in the building, and their time using the computers, in conformity with whatever the governor declared. We’ve removed chairs so that no one can sit within the six foot radius of another person (going from 40+ computer stations to 15), and would be closing the building an hour before our official closing to enable deep cleaning. All staff and all visitors would be required to wear masks and gloves, and the librarians have been making masks to give to those who have not been able to find any. We’re also covering the keyboards and mice with plastic film, some of which can be cleaned after every use and some of which will be disposed of after every use. All this seems to comply with the governor’s new rules, but we’ve decided to follow her example, insofar as caution is concerned, and so we won’t try this restricted opening until May 18th.
Last night I visited Walmart to pick up some groceries and was annoyed by the outside loudspeakers declaring that loitering inside or out was strictly verboten. Inside, I noticed there were new stickers on the floor informing people they could only enter aisles from certain directions, to create one-way traffic. Though I understand the purpose, the atmosphere all this creates is ominous. I half-expected to have to present my papers to some humorless individuals wearing Hugo Boss uniforms. Amusingly, the policy was adopted by Walmart corporate about a month ago, but my local store is only just now putting it into effect.
It seems like we’re at the end of the beginning — though I imagine it will be some time yet before we approach the beginning of the end!