How y’all holding up?
I guess we may as well talk about COVID-19 because that’s all anyone is thinking about anyway. I know I am. I can’t get away from it at my office. We have no cases in our county (yet), but as of Sunday, there are 36 confirmed cases in Oregon and one death.
It was a busy week in the newsroom trying to keep up with everything that was happening. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown prohibited any public meetings over 250 Thursday morning, and then, less than 24 hours later, canceled all schools until April. So we were trying to keep track of those changes as well as what was happening locally.
People here are taking it very seriously and practically everything has been canceled. Pressed up against deadline with notices still coming in, I put a notice on the front page that, because everything was changing so quickly, information published could (would definitely) be out of date by the time it reached subscribers. The interesting part of this too is that, with activities canceled, what do you write about? It’s a huge struggle to fill pages when the press releases you had detailing community events are no longer relevant, and the events you’d planned to cover are canceled.
Kinda hard to have a sports page when there are no sports is what I’m saying.
One of the first indications I had that things were getting serious was last Sunday at Mass. The priest started off by listing the changes: No holy water as you enter the church; no cup; host only, placed in your hand only; no shaking hands during the sign of peace. Catholics are all about routine and tradition and these changes were just … weird. Totally on board on a personal level, thanks bishops for keeping us safe, it’s just that I have been Catholic all 47 of my years and I have never seen anything like this. Mass rolls along on the same tracks every single week. To see that derailed was jarring.
This weekend, our priest started off with a letter written by the bishop giving everyone dispensation should they miss Mass: If you’re over 60, if you have underlying health conditions, if you’re sick, if you’re afraid of getting sick. And everything besides Mass is canceled, from donuts after the 10 o’clock service to the parish council meetings. We had maybe 60 of us at the service we went to — about a third of the usual crowd.
It’s kind of weird how quickly the human mind adapts to changes. What seemed weird last week seemed normal this week.
Last weekend, I noticed toilet paper was gone from store shelves (which I do not get, it’s respiratory not … well, you know), but everything else seemed to be in good supply. THIS weekend, it was a lot of empty shelves. I felt lucky to get a gallon of milk; bread is gone, most canned goods are gone and forget paper products or cleaning products. I’ve been adding non-perishable items to my cart for the last two weeks, so I wasn’t worried about stocking up, but I did want to get fresh fruit and veggies, dairy products, eggs and the like. And a few treats. I don’t know, a crisis just seems easier to deal with when you’ve got cookies. (No, I can’t eat cookies because of my guts. That was an act of mercy on my part.)
On Wednesday, we had a staff meeting that involved all of our sister papers. Blah blah blah, it’s a hard time for newspapers but also: The company president was like, some of you are concerned about coronavirus and if you want to work from home, that’s fine, just make sure you’re set up to do that and also maybe think about department hubs. And I was like, I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE.
I am thriving when it comes to social distancing!
After the meeting, I pulled ol’ Freida out of my backpack and started downloading programs. I came into the office on Thursday — deadline day — but decided to make Friday my test run at home — soft deadline, good practice, and if it didn’t work, I could go into the office and fix it.
Um, and also I just really wanted to work from home.
Long story short, I have access to my work desktop on Freida as well as all essential programs, and my test run went perfectly. The only drawback was watching my co-worker, Goose, munch a spider and then spit it back out. Dude, gross, what are you, an animal?
Incidentally, I set myself up in my newly cleaned reading retreat, which is a lovely home office space. I am so grateful that I have this area to work in. It makes me feel settled, and, with everything triggering my anxiety right now, that is a big help.
Abby is home for spring break. Her university has extended the break for another week and will resume with online classes. Um, except she’s a nursing student and there might still be labs? Clinicals are out — just because the hospitals are overwhelmed and having students shadow is a distraction staff doesn’t need. Anyway, she’s headed back today. She’s not entirely sure what she’s headed back to, and neither are we.
Johanna will be out of school for the next two and a half weeks — one of those is their scheduled spring break. All students have a school issued iPad, but not all have access to wifi at home, so teachers cannot assign new work. I get the feeling that things changed so quickly that staff didn’t have time to plan and everyone is winging it. It’s hard to be upset about that because let’s be honest, we’re all winging it.
Grandma’s assisted living center went into lockdown a week ago Monday as a precaution. Eric is still going into the office, but he says it’s been pretty quiet. I plan to go in today after lunch, dip in quickly for tomorrow’s staff meeting and then work from home until Thursday, when I will reassess. Mondays and Thursdays are deadline days and I want to be a team player, but also … I’m set up to work at home and why go out if I don’t have to?
But still, it feels weird to be proactive rather than reactive — which is really what all this caution is about: Staying home to ensure that those who are most vulnerable not exposed unwittingly. I might be fine, but what about the grandmas? Hey look, a soapbox: Public health is only as strong as our weakest members. That’s who we need to protect.
I’ve been thinking about self care in times of crisis. I’m having a hard time with it because I can’t concentrate. Let’s think about how we can bring a bit of normalcy and care into our daily lives and then talk about that on Thursday, okay? I look forward to it.
And also, tell me how you are — I am hoping everyone is hanging in there. I almost just wrote “hugs” but what I really mean is “nods in an empathetic manner from at least three feet away.”