A collection of my high school friends have a running group text. Wednesday morning they were sharing jokes and memes about the virus. It started with a cute cartoon reminding everyone to wash their hands, then it escalated from there.
People need to laugh. I totally get it.
This morning the jokes stopped when one announced their kids school was closed for the day because a relative of the kid’s classmate might be sick. Another woman chimed in that there may be a case at her kids school.
It’s not as funny anymore.
By the end of the day, Everett Schools announced it was closing down for a month. Some seemed shocked. I am impressed.
Today my chest is tight. It hurts a bit. I remind myself as I try to breathe through my anxiety that flowers are also suddenly blooming, and my discomfort is likely from that, as it is every year at this time.
There was a building-wide meeting conducted via video-chat this morning. Go home, work from home, check in with your team leaders.
And email sent out by the Office of the President yesterday announced that students who are off campus for spring break this week are discouraged from returning. On the FAQ page linking from this community-wide letter, there is the infuriating statement “We have a large number of students on campus during the break, and we encourage those students to consider going home, if possible. However, our residences and dining halls will remain open during this period for those who choose to stay on campus or are unable to return to their homes.”
Allow me to fix that sentence for you – “We have a large number of students on campus during the break, and we strongly encourage those students to
consider going go home, if possible. However, our residences and dining halls will remain open during this period for those who choose have no choice but to stay on campus or are unable to return to their homes.”
I have work to do. Photos from yesterday to process, but also, this is a story. Historic. I go out onto campus with my camera and immediately meet a student who is bringing collapsed cardboard boxes into his dorm room. I join him and photograph him packing up his things to go into storage for the foreseeable future. He is an international student, and is going home to Taiwan. He knows how bad this will get, he says, and since it’s passed through his continent already, it is safer for him at home.
He is confused my American kids and how they just aren’t grasping the severity of the situation.
One my way out, I wander the building some more, trying to ignore the sensation that I am breathing in toxic, viral air (in an essentially abandoned building in a part of the city with no known cases yet, I’ll point out) and I meet a Chinese student. He will be staying here. And when classes start online at the completion of Spring Break next week, he will stay in his room for the most part. He too, knows how bad this will likely get.
I was telling my mom over the phone tonight that I am moving through the world right now as though EVERYTHING IS CONTAMINATED. It may be extreme, but I don’t care. I will not be spending time with friends. When I interact with people, I will keep six feet away from them.
I touch a keypad at the pharmacy then wonder what to do with that finger until I can get to the hand sanitizer in my car (Why did I leave it in the car?).
Yesterday after the one video meeting, there was a second one, in person. Fifteen people around a table like everything was normal. I pulled my chair away from everyone, at the ned, so I didn’t seem nuts. There is a reason why the president’s office said all meetings are canceled and only the researchers, who cannot stop their research, are permitted to have meetings in groups of ten are smaller.
And here are 15 of us sitting around a table together, talking about how we’re going to cover this historic event on campus. Well, I’ll tell you – Not very well if we get each other sick. (Sidenote, that was the last group meeting and most everyone is working from home now)
Once I got home I immediately felt my anxiety decrease. Being in my own pace with my own germs only and my dog, and food, and a Crabby’s alcoholic ginger beer, was good stuff. I also talked with Meg a bit and Facetimed with one of the twins (which one was that, Meg?) to see her street chalk work. (at right!)
Hearing a friend say I’m not alone in my worry was helpful.