Just as I was getting used to quarantine, the push to end it comes barreling along. At my age, I’m a proponent of the “better safe than sorry” perspective, but I also know we can’t stay home forever. Our economy cannot bear it. I watch the numbers of those infected, of those who have died, but I also watch the state’s revenue numbers, the numbers of people applying for unemployment, “forgivable loans,” and other assistance.
When a human being experiences a traumatic event, that person is permanently changed. We may wish to return to normal, to the being we once were, but we have been altered by the event and there is no reclaiming our former self, no un-doing of the changes made to us. Just as it is so with human beings, I believe it is so for human cultures.
During quarantine, I have heard and myself have expressed, a desire to “return to normal.” But in a world contaminated by a virus that is 1000x more contagious than others we have dealt with, zero percent human immunity to it, at least 15% error in the testing data, and no sign of a vaccine in sight, I believe our society has been permanently changed. There is no “back to normal” after this socially traumatic event. Even when the vaccine comes (and it will, though predicted to take up to two years), telecommuting, telehealth, remote work, video conferencing, and an entire generation of children who have been trained to social distance will continue to exist and propagate. I have read articles that note that the ingrained social handshake of greeting will become as frowned upon as smoking.
My father was a Navy Medic who served with the Marines in the Korean War. As a result, personal hygiene and cleanliness (and thus sterility) were important to him all his life. He showered twice a day, every day, and washed his hands more than any man I have known. He had hand cleansers, degreasers, and soaps, and little scrubby brushes that cleaned in the creases and beneath his fingernails. My father was not above getting his hands dirty, but they certainly never stayed so for long. I was raised knowing the proper way to wash my hands–twenty seconds at least and including the thumbs, which are most often overlooked.
During 9-11, I often wondered what Daddy (who left us the year before) would have thought of the events. I longed for his advice, input, commentary for comfort. During COVID, I know how freaked out my father would be. I think of Indiana Jones when he realized the floor of the tomb was covered in snakes. I can hear Daddy saying, “Germs, why did it have to be germs?” (“Germs” being a catch-all term that covers bacteria, viruses, etc.) I imagine he would have had us all on lock-down, with military attention to all methods of sterilization and safety. I know what Daddy would say. Wash your hands, wear a mask, social distance, clean everything constantly, stay home. I have no doubt Daddy would be wearing masks and gloves. I can even imagine him in a homemade protective bodysuit of some sort just for a run to the grocery store.
As a library director, it falls to me to develop a plan to re-open the library with the virus still out in the world. Along with my board, I am suddenly responsible for ensuring that our employees and patrons are protected from an invisible enemy of which none of us are immune. I can honestly say, this is the heaviest burden ever placed on me when serving in a leadership position. I cannot insist that our employees wear masks to return to work, but they have all expressed willingness to do so, and the library has purchased n95 masks for all of them, and a cloth mask to wear when washing the other. We have also purchased disposable gloves and masks and will be asking patrons to wear them while interacting inside the library. This is my father manifesting in me. This is me, following my father’s advice.
This morning, I almost cried when I read that two governors re-opening with “mandatory masks” in their guidelines were withdrawing their mandates for masks due to rioting and the concept of violating personal rights. As a librarian and a child of a war veteran, I carry a respect for personal rights that ranks even higher than my personal respect for safety. Like everyone else, I have “thrown caution to the wind” a time or two (likely too many) in my life. But I have been suddenly saddled with the burden of protection. Protection for myself, my employees, their families, our patrons, their families. To my count, that includes about 2,000 people—many of whom will not want to wear a mask to execute their right to library access.
This is not a time to throw caution to the wind. Trust me. I’m a librarian. I’ve done the research. We will not be “returning to normal” any time soon, and masks quadruple protection if BOTH parties interacting (not just one) wear one. If you are not wearing a mask, bandana, or scarf in public, you should be. As West Virginia re-opens, please respect those who ask you to wear protective gear in their establishment. Of course, you have a right to go without one, but don’t the rest of us have the right to feel safe?
From Normantown Historical Community Foundation president Blair Wright:
NHCC will be giving EMERGENCY FOOD BOXES on May 8th, 2020. All workers will be selected volunteers and volunteer firemen. Don’t come before the scheduled time, and if you are not from West Virginia, do not come at all. All special health regulations apply–no loitering, visiting, etc.. You must remain in your vehicle; do not get out of your car until you are told to do so.
ALL VEHICLES MUST LINE UP ON THE WEST (STUMPTOWN) SIDE OF RT. 119. If you are traveling West towards Stumptown, after you pass NHCC, turn around in a safe and legal location, and join the client line from that side. Traffic flow must be maintained as much as possible. Have your vehicle’s trunk clear or your truck bed reasonably empty. Food dispensing will begin at noon or as near as possible to that time. Questions? Call 304-884-6962.
A special thanks to Calhoun Banks and to Parkersburg Area Community Foundation for contributions to purchase food and to fund operations of the NHCC Food Pantry. The pantry averages nearly 100 families each month. NHCC was recently awarded a $2000 grant to assist with the operation of its pantry by Kroger Company. These donations are greatly appreciated.
Donations to NHCC can be made online at https://nhccwv.com/donation or mailed to NHCC, 3031 Hackers Creek Road, Jane Lew 26378, c/o Margaret. Donkey Basketball has been rescheduled for October 17th, 2020.
If you have any 25267 area news you would like to share or any personal messages you want to be posted in local media, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message on our machine at 304-354-9132. I also have a seasonal email newsletter that includes links to this column online. You can subscribe at tinyurl.com/two-2020.