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Covid-19 News Issue 1

COVID-19 NEWS  DAY 1            

30 March 2020

Where Are We Now?

We are in a hard place.  No sense pretending otherwise.  It is going to take courage and determination, compassion and selflessness, if we (and the world) are going to get out of this mess.  Let’s hope we have what it takes.   Many of us are living now in self-imposed house arrest. Our classes were cancelled effective 16 March, which means most of us saw our students for the last time on Friday, March 13.  By now, 18 days later, if you have developed no symptoms, and if you did not return to the college afterwards, you know you did not contract COVID-19 at Fanshawe.  There was reason to be concerned.  Many of us work very closely with students, sometimes one-on-one at deskside less than a foot or two distant, in crowded classrooms, and often enough with students from around the world who travel home during the breaks or visit friends and relatives in Toronto on weekends.  In my own classes, before the cancellation, when someone sneezed or coughed, we made a joke of it, but soon enough the humor was starting to wear thin.  The College closed just when it needed to, and it was right to close the campus.  The disaster was ready to hit like a wave poised to break.  It has broken, and we have all scurried into our homes to wait it out.  I still have hope.  I know what human beings can do in large numbers when they work together, but I also have fear, plenty of it.  We all do, I suspect, although some of us are stronger than others and can face fear with real courage.  I think of those 39 doctors who died in Italy working in terrible triage hospitals.  The word ‘hero’ has been cheapened like many other words, but those men and women were heroic, and sadly, there will be many more.

I am working online now, and it’s a lot of work.  My classes were not designed for online and suit it poorly, but at least I can deliver them, some of my colleagues cannot put what they do on a screen.  They work hands on and face-to-face with students who want to learn how to do the kinds of jobs we now describe as “essential,” such as auto mechanic, electrician, plumper, health worker, and lots of others.  If we ever doubted the importance of this work, we know differently now.  Some of my colleagues are concerned that management may have an agenda to use this crisis to make online teaching the norm even after COVID is behind us.  I know what they are talking about.  They are concerned about what some call “disaster capitalism,” the deliberate use of public adversity to promote private interests, or more exactly, privatization interests.  The Canadian journalist, Naomi Klein, wrote about this in a book called The Shock Doctrine (2007).  Maybe there is something to it, but I admit I can’t bring myself to think it’s true of our management.  I can’t help believing that almost everyone is humbled by the scope of what we are facing and is trying to do whatever they can to help.  I’m no great fan of Doug Ford, for instance, but he has spoken well and temperately during this crisis, and he looks and sounds sincere.  I believe he feels the weight of this just like you and I do.  I could be wrong, but in the midst of this disaster, my default is trust.  I’m knocking myself out online.  I want every one of my students to complete the term, and if I had some of the fancier computer gadgets, I’d use them.  Once this disaster is over, I’m in the fight against driving everything online, but right now, I’m glad I have it, and I’ll use it for all it’s worth.  What do I have to complain of?  My stepson is a fire-fighter and his wife a hospital acute-care worker; they have three children and no daycare.   My daughter is in insurance and is considered essential so she goes into her office eight hours a day Monday to Friday.  I’m at home on the computer, enough said.

What Are You Doing?

I wonder how my colleagues are managing daily life now.  I’d like to hear about it and report it to the membership.  My wife and I stay home as we’ve been told to do.  At first, we would take walks in nearby Springbank Park, but there were just too many people too close together, so now we walk only in the neighborhood, usually at dusk, and we aren’t shy about avoiding people.  If someone is walking toward us, we cross the street.  My wife is always careful to wave cheerily and say good evening to minimize any suggestion of insult, but I’m not working with 6 meters, I want 12, and 30 if I can get it.   I have a few N95 masks I purchased a year ago when I was removing black mold from broken window seals, and I wear one when I go grocery shopping.  I didn’t know they were N95 masks until now.  I just knew they were good against mold.  I wear the same one repeatedly, which a Singapore site suggests you can do if your exposure is slight and if you observe proper fitting and removal procedures.  I also have a box of surgical gloves (for black mold again), and I wear them under my outdoor leather gloves when I pump gas or buy groceries.  I wipe down the outer gloves with Clorox wipes before I remove them, and then I wash my hands for as long as it takes to sing Handel’s Halleluiah Chorus, forget Happy Birthday.

Is all his precaution excessive?  Sometimes I think so, but then I hear on CBC that my doorstep newspaper could be a source of contagion and I should leave it for a day before reading it.  Well, I haven’t, and I even get the Sunday New York Times, that massive missive from COVID central.  Sometimes I feel fatalistic.  I think there’s no avoiding COVID.  Sometimes I think I’ll just have to see if my aging immune system can manage it and be done with it.  Can I hide like this indefinitely?  Of course, I want to help flatten the curve, and if I have to live immured in my home for a year, I guess it can be done, but I‘ll still have to go out for groceries now and then, although a friend suggests I order them online and have them pre-packaged for pickup.  I guess that’s next.

On that note, I’ll end here with another COVID tip.  In the midst of all this, on one of my infrequent grocery trips, my engine light came on.  I had forgotten to change the oil.  Ordinarily I’m religious about this.  I didn’t want to go too long without getting the oil changed, and I knew car care was considered essential, so I suited up in my homemade Hazmat gear and headed to Jiffy.  Turns out they now have a touchless oil change and you stay in your car for the whole procedure.  All you do is pay by machine, which you can manage not to touch as well.  I watched them do their job.  Three uniformed stalwart guys wearing surgical gloves moving quickly and efficiently.  It was encouraging to watch.  It was an intelligent system.  I threw in a tip.

Colleagues, If you have a moment, let me know what you’re doing to manage.  You may know something of use to others, and I’ll post it here in the next COVID