Thursday, March 12, 2020

it's starting to get surreal around here

Or so the news tells me. I'm not seeing too much of it in my daily life, but then - hey, "social distancing" is my daily life. I'd say that the days in which, aside from purely business transactions with store clerks and such, I don't speak with anyone except B. (and the cats, to whom I talk quite a lot), quite outnumber the days that my conversation is wider. The vast majority of my social interaction is over the internet, and that's been true for well over 20 years.

I'm still doing grocery shopping and a few other errands. All I've seen unusual is that, on Monday in one store, the toilet paper was nearly cleaned out. (I didn't check the hand sanitizer: I dislike using the stuff, and I doubt its efficacy on viruses anyway.) That store had recovered its supplies a bit by Wednesday, and another store looked completely normal.

All the concerts I was going to attend this month have been canceled, one by one. Nothing next month has been hit yet, but I'd be surprised if this doesn't wipe out at least the rest of the concert season, through June. The theaters, as in stage plays, had been resisting longer than the musicians, and had put out announcements about how they would be scrubbing down their premises and encouraging caution by attendees, but that was obviously not enough. The ones I'm on the mailing list for have been putting out closure announcements, pretty much simultaneous with the closure of Broadway.

I don't follow sports, but what concerns me is the closure of libraries. Stanford - which judging from their general attitudes towards outside visitors has probably been salivating for a chance to do this - has closed their libraries to all unaffiliated users. One local town issued a statement that they're closing all city facilities to the public. That should include the library, but there's nothing about it on the library website. My town is not closing the library, but they're canceling all programs.

All this is of concern to me because I'm in the middle of compiling the annual Tolkien Studies bibliography. The first stages of this are done at home, using public web databases. But I should be ready to take my usual round of 3 academic libraries by next week. But the third of them is Stanford, and now I'm not sure if I should even go to the other two, assuming they're still open by then. It's my job, but it's not worth the risk of spending two full days in two more uncertain environments.

What's most grim is knowing that none of this will prevent the virus from spreading. The goal here is to slow down the spread enough so that an eruption of cases won't overwhelm the health system. That's the goal. We'll probably all get it eventually, and - since that will still be long before there's a vaccine - we just have to hope our systems are strong enough to withstand it.

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