I want to start by saying that I have NOT contracted COVID-19. I work at a public library and we were told on Monday that we would not be coming to work until March 30, 2020. That is subject to change, but it’s what we know for now. I thought it might be a good idea to write about what I’m experiencing and what is happening around me. I wish I had started before now, but I’ll do my best to recap.
When I first heard about Coronavirus, my reaction was that it’s just like the flu. As I learned more about it and thought about how fast it spreads, my thought process changed. As someone with an autoimmune disease, I’m more susceptible than the average person. Furthermore, my grandparents have health issues and I could easily pass it on to them, even if I never get sick from it. As time went on and confirmed cases started popping up closer and closer to where I live, my anxiety skyrocketed.
I can handle the things that come with a pandemic. I wasn’t in panic mode. The anxiety came from the fact that I work with hundreds of members of the public every day and our only precautions were to wear gloves when we get books from the bookdrop and to use wipes to clean surfaces. This past Saturday, I had to clean up after a patron who coughed up mucus all over our computer. She was very clearly sick with something serious, though I’m sure it wasn’t Coronavirus, and she came in anyway. I decided then that if people can’t be trusted to stay home when they’re sick, I had to keep myself home even though I’m not.
We were told that the library would be closed to the public on Monday, but that staff were to report for a meeting to decide what our next steps would be. A few of my co-workers and I chatted via group message and discussed the possibilities. By this point, schools, parks, and restaurant dining areas were already closed. We all agreed that regardless of whether or not the library would remain open, we would not be coming to work. It was clear to all of us that the best way to get ahead of the virus would be for as many people as possible to stay home and practice social distancing.
I went to the store to get a couple of weeks worth of groceries and bandages. The store was completely out of toilet paper, potatoes, chicken, and most red meat. Fortunately, there were a lot of paleo friendly foods left. People seem not to want the organic stuff. I made sure to buy a mix of fresh, frozen, and shelf-stable products. I didn’t want to get into a situation where all of my food had gone bad.
On Monday, I went to the meeting. There really wasn’t any news to be had. We were told that as of that moment, there was no decision on whether or not we would be open the following day. We did talk about contingencies in the event that we would be closed. IT set me up with a VPN connection so that I could work from home. I also put several PowerPoint documents on a flash drive so that I could work on converting them to online tutorials. I went home fully expecting to have to call my supervisor in the morning to tell her I wouldn’t be coming in. However, that evening, we received an e-mail to notify us that the library would be closed through March 30, 2020. Words cannot express my relief.
On Tuesday, Day 1 of Quarantine, I evaluated some National History Day Indiana projects and then met one of my co-workers back at the library. She had to swap out laptops and I had forgotten something. We decided to go together so that we wouldn’t be alone in the building. The buddy system is always best. Once back at home, I worked on some odds and ends for work, checking voicemail, answering e-mails, etc. I had at first had grand plans for my free time. I wanted to write some more or read a book. I found when I had finished my work, I had no energy for anything and I just watched Star Trek: The Next Generation.
On Wednesday, Day 2 of Quarantine, I had intended to work on some of the PowerPoints, but I was not able to find my dongle that connects flash drives to my Mac. (I still can’t find it). I did manage to find that I had saved one of them on Google Docs, so I downloaded it and started working on that one. I knew I had a teleconference scheduled for 2:00 pm, so I set an alarm to go off fifteen minutes prior to allow time to get connected.
After a little while, one of my volunteers called to check on me. She asked how we were all doing and if I or any of my co-workers needed any food or money to help get us through. I assured her that we are being paid while the library is closed. She’s the sweetest and I miss seeing her.
At 1:45, I logged in to my e-mail to get the link for the teleconference, and I saw that it was scheduled for April 2nd. So, I went back to the PowerPoint. I turned the sound off on my phone because I had gotten to the point where I needed to record myself presenting. At this point, my sister had a friend over. This was stressing me out, in part because I could hear them and I was afraid that would come through on the recording, and in part because I hadn’t felt like I was distancing enough and I really just needed to be alone. I was in the basement alone, but for whatever reason, it didn’t feel like enough to me just then. It’s not rational, but it’s how my anxiety rolls.
I took a break from the PowerPoint at 2:50 because I was getting frustrated. I saw that I had a missed text from my supervisor asking why I hadn’t joined the teleconference. I panicked. I logged back in to my e-mail and frantically searched until I finally found a different e-mail with today’s conference information and a link. That required me to download two different pieces of software to be able to connect to the conference. By the time I finally got connected, there were four minutes left. I understood none of what was said at that point. Probably because I couldn’t focus. I was so overwhelmed by this feeling of panic.
When the conference was over, I began to cry. Nothing had gone right and I felt claustrophobic. That is particularly strange because I don’t get that feeling. I’ve never been claustrophobic. I apologized to my supervisor and my co-workers. They assured me that it was no problem and I could watch the recorded version later. It didn’t matter. I was in full panic. I knew I needed to calm down, so I set everything else aside and turned on some music. Paul Spaeth always calms me down, so I listened to Cobalt Blue. It did help, but my nerves were shot for the day. I made some guacamole and settled in to watch The Office for the 100th time.
Today, I went back to the library to e-mail myself the rest of my PowerPoints. My friend and co-worker, Meghan, met me there. She was my buddy today. When we arrived, a few of our other co-workers were there filming storytimes to put on the website for the children. After we left, I stopped by Roadrunner Kitchen to get a spinach salad. In addition to their commitment to locally grown, organic meats and produce, they cater to vegetarian and vegan customers and are willing to modify things for paleo with some notice. I want to make sure they stay in business through this crisis.
Meghan met me back at the house and we watched Contagion. That may seem insensitive or morbid, but I actually found it very helpful. It helped to put things into perspective for me. When it was over, we watched a few episodes of 100 Humans. That is an interesting show. They do a lot of social experiments to test the differences in age groups, genders, etc. Dad picked up some pizza and he got one for Meghan and I that had a “no doh” crust. Meghan is doing the diet with me. After we ate, we played board games with my dad, my sister, and my brother. I am doing much better today.