On the Coronavirus

Well, this is developing rapidly, isn’t it? I mean, I’ve been following along with (I assume) the rest of you, watching the COVID-19 makes its steady way from China to Asia to Europe to America and on and on. As I’ve watched that seemingly inevitable encroachment, I’ve managed to somehow simultaneously feel like we were blowing things out of proportion (toilet paper stockpiling) and foolishly ignoring serious warning signs (under testing). And I continue to have that feeling. On the one hand, yes: this isn’t some worst case scenario Ebola nightmare. The vast majority of people who get sick will get better. On the other hand, it spreads very quickly and can cause serious illness, which runs the risk of overwhelming our already strained medical system.

From what I’ve read, one of the best approaches to dealing with this bug is to quarantine populations. This isn’t necessarily to make it so no one gets the bug, but it does wonders for slowing its progress. A slow pandemic is much less threatening than a quick one. A pandemic where sick people have beds to stay in at hospitals, but where hospitals continue to have beds for all the other sick people they normally have. Things can spiral out of control quickly, and just because they haven’t done so here in America yet doesn’t mean they can’t.

And that isn’t even going near the economic impact this is having on the world and our country.

But still, all of that continued to be in the abstract. It wasn’t directly around me, so I didn’t have to seriously consider what I would do if this hit Maine. And then today at work we started to see talk of plans being made to figure out how we would handle a campus shutdown. Let me be clear: my university hasn’t decided to close its doors yet, but we’ve been asked to figure out what we would do if we had to go that route. Honestly, I think having a plan is a good idea, and I’m pretty red-faced that I haven’t been thinking about it prior to this.

I quickly discovered there’s a big difference between thinking about things in theory and thinking about the nuts and bolts of them in practice. How would we handle reserves? What about the building itself? Would we close the library? How do we handle reference help? What about conference travel? What do I do about conferences I’ve already registered for? What about airfare? Hotels?

It’s easy to think, “Quarantine! That solves the problem.” But boy howdy does the thought of actually quarantining leave me scrambling for “what about”s.

Have any of you had to face a quarantine about this already? How have you handled it? Inquiring minds want to know.


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