LFH: Day 6
Yesterday was supposed to be an easier day, and it started promisingly. But then things ramped up in the afternoon, partly because of semi-panicked emails from different university units I belong to, and partly because, well, we’re not getting easier days for a while.
The two cases of COVID-19 involving locally based university personnel led to a ramp-up in exclusion policies for everyone on all the campuses. We’re not quite on lockdown, or “full closure” as they term it, but we are strictly admonished not to come to campus unless we are designated as essential personnel or have designated essential tasks on campus. Research that requires campus access cannot be carried out, only maintained (in the sense that labs have animals, experiments, etc. that can’t be abandoned). The university is trying to make accommodations for things like season-dependent research, but everyone else, from lab researchers to humanities scholars who need continual library access, is to wind down and do alternate types of work. I wonder if the additional policies are in response to the number of people still on campus this week. I believe our faculty and grad students have stayed away, but clearly that’s not the case everywhere.
TheH and I drove into campus and picked up the few additional things we thought we’d need. I brought home my laptop dock, monitor, keyboard, more files, and a pile of books. I’ve resisted setting up an office-equivalent workspace at home; I much prefer a minimal work surface. But that’s not going to cut it for the next six weeks.
The undergraduate students are really anxious, we were told in the administrators’ daily briefing. Some professors haven’t checked in with their classes at all, even though we start back up on Monday. WTF. I know we’re all stressed and at our wits’ end, but we’re supposed to be the adults here! That said, I’ve been dragging my feet on finishing my course revisions. I’ve been thinking about them nonstop, but I haven’t settled on answers to most of the questions. But I’m out of time, so it’s decision time.
We missed the worst of the storm powering its way up I-44 yesterday. We had everything from light drizzle to heavy downpours, but by evening it had moved through our immediate area and there was even a colorful sunset. We did a one-dish meal of roasted chicken thighs with turnips, carrots, brussels sprouts, and baby potatoes, all cooked together in a big iron skillet.
I spent my cocktail hour on the AT&T website in order to change our phone plan from our ancient, grandfathered 35G (with rollover) plan to an “unlimited” one. Our friends and family group includes someone with intermittent wifi access, and that won’t cut it today. Isolation is bad enough without regular internet access. On top of that, we had our fancy fiberoptic internet go out at least twice this week, which is at least twice more than it has in the last two months. The accounts I’m reading suggest that the internet will be able to bear the weight that is increasingly bearing down upon it, but we won’t really know until we’re in the midst of the heaviest usage, so having a backup system is only prudent. Mobile data is expensive and kludgy, but if it’s all you’ve got, you use it.
We didn’t watch anything on TV last night once the Newshour ended. After a day of feeling as if we had experienced repeated virtual shrieking in our ears, we decided silence was the optimal choice. Clearly we need our outside time every day, regardless of the weather conditions. And hey, if we can hike through rain in Wales, we can walk around our neighborhood. We certainly have the equipment for it.
My home situation is different: just trying to run a household with no help and a toddler but it is helpful to read your updates. My husband is finally going to be working from home next week so that’s a load off my mind (he works in financial markets and needs 3-4 screens simultaneously and blah blah blah reasons).
I have never been one who is keen on being abreast of news but recently had started going down a never-ending rabbit hole. We’re in NYC so that might have something to do with it. Finally last night, I realized that the current of news is very very strong and it is so easy to get swept up in it. To be able to function and do everything I need to, I need to limit my news time to scanning headlines and devoting 5-10 minutes at the maximum in a day to NYT. Else I will ball up and simply stop functioning.
Releases a sigh. Thank you, just for helping me articulate this and share.
Sending you and your loved ones lots of good vibes.
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Glad to see that your neck of the woods dodged the severe weather. None of us need tornadoes on top of everything else.
Maryland now has its first case of Covid-19 in someone under 18–a 5 year old in my country. Erp! The statewide stats, as of this a m, show 76 cases in the 18-64 age group and 30 in the 65+. All of which I find interesting, but I’m not sure what to make of it.
Good luck with your class prep. Remind yourself that plans can be (and will be) revised–they are not carved in stone.
@Juhi: Believe me, you have the harder job. I’d take fighting with video platforms over trying to entertain a toddler all day, not to mention keep the house functioning at the same time. I’m glad your husband is finally going to be home with you. Even if he has to work a lot of the time, just being there has to be better.
The first few days I had no time to read the news because I was doing so much work triaging and communication. Now the pace of must-be-done-NOW things has slowed a bit and I have to force myself to stay away from the rabbit holes. Catching up in the morning and evening is enough. We’re getting a firehose of details which we don’t actually need and which just ratchet up the anxiety.
Hang in there!
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@Barb: The numbers are so unhelpful. NY state is coming closest now to having useful numbers because they’ve expanded testing. But it’s incredibly difficult to get tests in MO and a lot of other states, which means we are severely undercounting the number of people who have the virus. Which is bad, because at some point we’re going to hit an ugly critical mass of more than slightly ill people.
The Youngs are more susceptible than the news reports make it sound. They aren’t just carriers, they’re potential patients. But my heart breaks for a child getting ill. The one thing I was counting on was that we Olds were more at risk. That only seems fair. Leave the Youngs alone!
I have been worrying a bit about the internet so I’m glad people have done some thinking about whether it will cope. My bandwidth is not noticeably worse than usual yet, which is to say pretty poor.
@Ros: This article has a good summary of the situation at present and links to more general studies beyond their Utah readers. I think the fact that we’ve seen major increases in usage without the systems going down is heartening. And if things get worse, or go on for longer than expected, there are a number of mitigating actions that can be implemented. I think Netflix is already reducing quality and speed in some places in Europe. Yes we need our internet, desperately, in these times, but we don’t need to stream Friends for 12 hours a day in HD. At least not yet.
Ros (and any other UK readers), I don’t know who your internet provider is, but the Guardian linked to this tweet from BT. They’re removing caps from home broadband for at least a while. So it may be crap broadband, but you’ll still have it. 😀
Sunita, I’ve enjoyed reading your daily notes. I don’t read blogs every day, so I play catch-up every once in a while. I think there is great benefit to keeping track of how the days are going.
While I do Morning Pages and LiveJournal every day, their focus has changed over time to not being able to do this type of recording. And since I don’t want to do it publicly on my blog, I will have to come up with a different method of noting this down.
How are parents with full-time jobs and small children with online schooling managing to get any work done? I am struggling with my part time job and online course. Don’t get me wrong, I am very glad that our schools pivoted so quickly from in-person to online teaching, so the kids are benefitting, but it is eating into all my time.
@Keira: Thanks! I’m finding these cathartic and helpful for organizing my thoughts, and I’m thrilled that readers find them useful as well.
This is so, so hard on parents and their kids. I haven’t talked to my colleagues who have small children (they’re not talking much on our various loops, which says something in and of itself), but even the ones with middle-schoolers are finding it a challenge. I know that one of my colleagues has both her boys sick this week and yet she’s managing somehow. I’m in awe, frankly.
Hi Sunita — Thank you for doing these. I’m not quite sure why, but I too find them comforting and useful to read. The university I just retired from, is also now in a strict lockdown because there were 2 confirmed cases of C-19. Both cases were people who recently had returned from trips abroad and both so far are relatively mild cases. the whole university community has asked to self-monitor and self-isolate. Classes have also moved online there and most students have left. The university is letting students who have nowhere else to go or who can go home (due to expense or whatever) to remain, but they being set up in separate floors / wings to help with social distancing.
So far the only C-19 cases in my Canadian province (New Brunswick) are few in number and all are people returning from elsewhere. But NB is underfunded and I know that testing has been going forward slowly there.
I’m in Michigan right now. My father was supposed to have a knee replacement on Monday and I flew down in early March to be with him for a couple of weeks before and after the surgery. But now of course the surgery has been cancelled (as have all elective surgeries here in Michigan). It’s hard to believe that I’ve been here for 2 weeks (with no symptoms so no worries right now for me or my father). Time has been incredibly elastic and surreal.
At first I considered staying here until I was originally scheduled to leave (just before Easter), but the uncertainty over the border, the significant cancelling of flights between US – Canada and within Canada, and the possibility that my travel health insurance might be cancelled have forced me to change my flight to early this week.
Had conversations with my father, brothers, sister-in-law, and husband before I did this and we all agreed that there was no easy decision here. My dad encouraged me to go because he does have a home-care worker who comes in twice a week to help him (he can hobble around, but stairs and shopping are too much). She’s started practising social distancing (e.g. not coming near my dad) and washing her hands when she comes and cleaning up surfaces in the house before she touches them. And of course he’s already practising a form of staying in place since he cannot easily leave the house because of his bad knee. And one of my brothers and his family live only about 45 minutes by car away, while the other lives about 3 hours.
The local hospital system has set up a drive-through test centre (need to get doctor approval to use) and so far there are no reported cases in the section of Michigan. Still this has been one of those times when I am all too aware of how little control I have over my choices.
Once I get home the Canadian government asks that I self-isolate for 14 days and I’ve already discussed with my husband (who is at home in Canada) having me stay in separate section of the house during that time to minimize any risk to him. although he is also planning to stay home while I’m self-isolating.
Strange times indeed.
@Kathryn: Thank you so much for checking in and telling us your story. It’s comforting to hear what is happening to people we’ve known a long time online. What a difficult situation for you. It sounds like you made the right decision, and your father does have backup, thank goodness.
TheH and I were together 24/7 in the UK, so we didn’t need to isolate from each other. That’s been a relief.
We’re in total confinement here, day 5 and I have to say it’s quite peaceful. We must have an attestation to leave, to buy food or pharmacy products, but I haven’t seen any panic except on TV, so I avoid watching it till the evening, trying to stay present. I walk around my residence, chat from a distance to neighbours I never usually see, pause to watch a young couple in one of the parking area training with boxing gloves, urban music playing beside them and I wonder at the appreciative feeling I have, to see people calmly adapting to the new way of doing things. Until there is forced isolation it seems there is panic, worry, noise – now five days in there is a quiet serenity.
I hope you all find that place, or at least aim for it in the days and weeks ahead. I don’t know what is ahead, but for now I’m taking guidance from the flowers bout my window. 😊🌸✨
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@Claire: That is a real lockdown, then. You’re helping us understand what some (all?) of us are going to be living at some point in the next couple of months, so thank you for sharing it with us. I’ve been in short-term curfews, but one of the unnerving things about this situation is it won’t be short-term. But you’re right, there are ways of coping, and I am so glad that spring is coming. We’re finally seeing our daffodils in full bloom, and my favorite magnolia tree is budding.
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Thanks, Sunita! One of the advantages of living alone is that I can control how much broadband usage there is and it’s generally nowhere near any cap. But it’s nice not to have to worry about that at the moment.
My son made it home last night on an eerily almost-empty ferry. Today is the last day of the ferry-but service, so it really feels like just in time. When we set out to pick him up from the bus station, we discovered our car battery is dead. But he got a cab and it’s so good to have him here. Luckily our weather is supposed to continue pretty nice for another week of outside time, and we need to plan some fun family activities.
I had a Zoom happy hour with some friends in which we all tried to stay cheerful. One works for a company that makes reusable menstrual products and they are talking to the government about whether they can switch to masks—which would help keep them going, too.
I learned this morning that in the midst of all this, our faculty association negotiated a tentative agreement with the college, which is a nice hopeful sign, although it’s hard to believe we won’t see a major contraction as a result of the pandemic. We have a ton of international students…. Some of my students are checking in and that feels good. Thanks to colleagues who have made how-to videos, I think I’ve got virtual office hours figured out for next week.
@Liz: Oh, that’s a relief. And as you suspected, it is already harder to get home. At least you’ll all be in this together, bumping into each other, getting on each other’s nerves. 😀
TheH is way ahead of me on class stuff so I’m drafting off him this weekend. And a number of other colleagues have been the guinea pigs for the new platforms, so we should be able to support each other when we run into problems.
@Ros: You’re welcome! And apparently AT&T has done the same here in the US. Like you, we don’t come close to our cap, but I’ll be curious to see what working from home does. I’m relieved that our broadband network seems able to handle at least the early stages of increased usage, but I worry a lot about rural residents, who are already greatly disadvantaged in terms of speed and reliability.
I already use Zoom for my online teaching and obviously lots of people are now using it for all kinds of things. One of the things I like about it is that you can dial into meetings using a normal telephone if you aren’t online/are worried about bandwidth or data limits.
@Ros: Oh that is good to know, because I’m worried about how easily some of my students will be able to connect.