A Very COVID Timeline

Not that we haven’t been open already to the university crowd, but starting Thursday (July 1st), Mantor Library (where I’m the director) will be back open to the public to use, with no phone call or reservation needed. This is the last major step toward “reopening” that I think we’ll take (well, aside from the university lifting its mask mandate at some point.)

In honor of the occasion, I thought it might be interesting to see just what the timeline has been for me over the pandemic. A little waltz down memory lane, to remind myself of how far we’ve come. In some ways, I’ve been trying to resist thinking about all of it. But I think it would be a good activity to review just what happened when. And lucky me, I keep a daily journal (beyond the blog), so reconstructing all of it shouldn’t be too hard . . .

Ready? Deep breath. Here we go.

  • January-February 2020–I watch with growing concern as more and more reports of this new disease start to circulate. I remember reading Reddit posts when it was just in China. Someone had supposedly smuggled out a video of Chinese hospitals overwhelmed, contrary to what most reports were claiming. I wasn’t sure how accurate the video was, but it was alarming to say the least. I watched it move from China to Europe and over to the US, though it had yet to actually affect me in any immediate way other than general anxiety.
  • March 10, 2020–The first time “coronavirus” appears in my journal. Tomas had a robotics meet in Massachusetts that was cancelled due to it. He was bummed, to say the least. So was I.
  • March 11, 2020–The university tells us all students will be in quarantine when they return from spring break, which was slated to run from March 16th-March 20th. I scramble to try and figure out what that’s going to mean for the library.
  • March 12, 2020–The university changes course, deciding students will leave for the semester and not come back to campus after spring break. We’ll be switching to remote learning for the rest of the semester, instead. (Also, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cancels all in-person meetings worldwide. There was a fair bit of scrambling to figure out what that was going to mean for me and my family.)
  • March 13, 2020–We find out our school district intends to close for “a couple of weeks” to do some deep-cleaning. (As a side note, this really illustrates how up in a tizzy everyone was about COVID at this point. The disease was almost non-existent in Maine (we were averaging two cases/day). True, that wasn’t nothing, but in all likelihood, there was nothing in the school to deep clean. (Well, not from a COVID viewpoint, at least . . .) Still, things were very upsetting, and we were definitely in the “something must be done, and this is something” mindset. Taking two weeks to figure stuff out made a lot of sense.)
  • March 18, 2020–We close the library to everyone. This is my first day of working from home. The library is still staffed with workers to keep the books moving (requests, orders, interlibrary loan, etc.), but the doors are locked to everyone else. I decide to stop trimming my beard until I have to go back to work in person.

Please note the huge gap that now comes in the timeline. About four months of just staying at home, day in, day out. That was . . . unpleasant. One of the worst things was being uncertain when, exactly, it would be over. At first I thought we’d be able to make our planned trip to Disney World over July 4th, no problem. Then that seemed like a 50/50 shot. Then . . .

  • July 9, 2020–We break down and buy a dog, even if we won’t be able to pick him up until August. Thus, our “typical American COVID summer” is complete.
  • July 15, 2020–In preparation for in-person church coming up (and because I had long since discovered that yes, Virginia, there is a beard length Bryce really doesn’t want to have to deal with), I trim my beard again. There is much rejoicing.
  • July 19, 2020–I go back to church in-person for the first time. Meetings are capped at 25 people. We had been doing Zoom church up until then, having switched over a week or two after the in-person meetings shut down. For the next while, we go to church in-person once or twice a month. No singing. Face masks required.
  • August 12, 2020–My first day back in the library in-person.
  • August 15, 2020–We pick up Ferris and bring him home. Puppy!
  • August 17, 2020–The library opens up via keycard to all UMF students, staff, and faculty. The public can call and get curbside checkout of materials, and they can make a request to come into the building for specific reasons. In practice, this meant around 5 people from the public ended up coming in over the next academic year. Each one came to use our microfilm collection, which had to be used in person. I didn’t turn down other requests; I just didn’t get any. Most people seemed reluctant to come to campus for fear of COVID. Most employees thought we had slim chances of having the semester last past the middle of October. The plan is to have the semester run until Thanksgiving, and then be remote after that.
  • September 8, 2020–The kids go back to school in person. Tomas is there every Monday and Tuesday (remote the rest of the week). Daniela and MC go in person every other day, and are remote the other days. For Tomas and Daniela, “remote” means “sitting in front of a computer in a Zoom meeting.” For MC, it means “no school.” (Practically speaking. I think she had a few “assignments” every day, but nothing that really took MC longer than a bit to complete.)

Another huge break in the timeline here. In a way, so much happened in these six months. In another way, almost nothing did. Reading over my journal entries for this period is actually kind of traumatic. You can see things deteriorate in a way I just was unable to recognize at the time. Maybe I’ll write more about that at some point, but I’m not up to it right now.

The good news was that the university had its classes as scheduled, and we made it the whole time with that plan. It worked for the next semester as well. The kids’ school also went off without a hitch (more or less). We were doing Zoom church still, though at some point they raised the cap to 50 people. (I forget exactly when.)

  • March 20, 2021–Denisa and I get our first vaccine shots.
  • March 21, 2021–We have our last Zoom church. The Maine CDC raised its cap on people in a building to a point where anyone who wanted to come to church in person, could come to church. Zoom broadcasts would still be happening, but my family and I would be able to go in person each week. (Still masked, still socially distanced in the building, still no singing.)
  • March 28, 2021–We had our first “no cap” in-person church. About 75 people showed up, more people than I’d been around in a good long while.
  • April 16, 2021–Denisa and I get our second shot. Two weeks until we’re “fully vaccinated”!
  • May 10, 2021–With the semester over, the library “opens” to the public. People can now come for any reason, though they do have to make an appointment ahead of time to come. Masks are still required.
  • May 9, 2021–Our trip to Puerto Rico, which really represented the end of the pandemic for us in many ways. Things began to feel more and more normal.
  • May 30, 2021–Mask mandate is now lifted for church. Singing resumes, as well as in-person second hour meetings.
  • July 1, 2021–The library doors go back to being unlocked to everyone (during our open hours). In preparation for this, the furniture returns to its normal positions throughout the building. (Thanks, Facilities!) The library feels like it’s largely back to normal as well, even though masks are still required. (And there’s no sign of that being done away with any time soon at the moment.)

This list is in no way comprehensive. There are definitely some events I’ve left out, but it gives a good general overview of the arc of this whole thing. It’s a good reminder that even in world-changing events, a family still finds its equilibrium and hammers out a new normal. Looking back on it all, I’m impressed we managed to do as much as we did. I finished the final draft of one book (coming out in a bit more than a month!) and the first draft of another, then did two more drafts of that book to get it ready for my editor to see. The kids came through everything with all A’s in school, even. Incredibly proud of the whole family for banding together and barreling through.

Here’s hoping the next while sees more bright days ahead. It’s going to take some time to get over all of this. Right now, I feel like I think I’m back to normal, but every now and then I’m reminded of just how abnormal things were, and how “normal” now is really just a codeword for “better than things were a year ago.”


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