Home > About > Bill Peak's Library Column > The Talbot County Free Library Battles Pandemic Fatigue
Recently (October 18), The New York Times announced that America was suffering from “Pandemic Fatigue.” I was kind of surprised it took the paper so long to figure that out.
But I have to admit, The Times did describe the problem, and its consequences, in a way I hadn't considered before. Apparently, weary of all the changes in their lives the pandemic has required of them, people are beginning to take undue risks, visiting bars and bowling alleys, holding family gatherings, attending sporting events. The paper attributes much of this change in attitude to the fact that “in sharp contrast to the spring, the rituals of hope and unity that helped people endure the first surge of the virus have given way to exhaustion and frustration.”
The reporters who worked on the story cite some pretty convincing statistics to back up this assessment: “The United States surpassed eight million known cases this past week, and reported more than 70,000 new infections on Friday, the most in a single day since July. Eighteen states added more new coronavirus infections during the seven-day stretch ending on Friday than in any other week of the pandemic .... Illinois recorded its highest daily number of confirmed cases since the pandemic began, and the most deaths in a single day since June .... This past week in Wisconsin, a field hospital at the state fairgrounds with a 530-bed capacity was reopened for coronavirus patients.”
Fortunately, looking at our state and county COVID-19 websites (https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/ and https://talbotcovid19.org/), it seems we're doing a pretty good job of protecting each other-though there has been a recent, rather disturbing uptick in the number of new cases. Which, when you think about it, is not really all that surprising.
Though I know we all get tired of hearing it, this pandemic presents us with a truly unprecedented situation. We are all in this together. But, at the same time, more than at any other point in our nation's history, we are all in this alone. To keep ourselves safe, to keep our communities safe, we have been told to practice social distancing, to stay as far away from each other as we can. But we are social animals. Socializing, getting along with one another, learning from one another, cooperating with one another, is how we express our humanity; it is the way we have become the dominant species on our planet, it is the way we have become what may well be the most advanced species the universe has ever known. And when things go south, when the water rises or the volcano rumbles, we instinctively turn to one another for aid and comfort. Well, the COVID volcano has been rumbling for almost a year now and we desperately want to touch each other, to share a joke, punch a shoulder, shake a hand. But we can't.
When I think about this, when I think about what may be coming, the fact that all the experts predict this disease will grow stronger and more widespread as winter approaches, I worry about our community. What can the Talbot County Free Library do to combat “pandemic fatigue”? What can I do?
Well, not surprisingly, the library is well ahead of me on this. If you're feeling a little blue these days, if you find yourself missing the warmth of human contact, I would encourage you to put on your face mask and visit either our Easton or St. Michaels branches. We're operating with slightly reduced hours now so that every day, at noon, both libraries can receive a thorough cleaning, but when we are open you'll still find the same helpful staff members you remember from your last visit. And, if you look closely at the eyes above their masks, you'll see that, as usual, they are smiling at you.
But if you can't get to one of our branches because your risk status means you're still sheltering at home, I would encourage you to visit the library's website. There you will discover an online program that allows you to browse our shelves as if you were in the library itself, children's programs that will keep your youngsters entertained and learning throughout the pandemic, assistance for a variety of online chat and meeting apps, and, on top of all that, a calendar of upcoming (mostly online) library events that already stretches into 2021.
Finally, though I'm now retired and health considerations at home make it difficult for me to visit the library, I want to do my part as well. One of the best ways I've found to connect with friends and family is Zoom. If you'd like to learn how to use Zoom (and trust me, if a computer illiterate like me can figure it out, you'll find it a breeze), I'll be offering a Zoom instructional session on Tuesday, November 17, at 6 p.m., and a second on Wednesday, November 18, at 3 p.m. If you want to participate, shoot me an email at email@example.com, let me know which session you'd like to attend, and I'll send you an invitation that explains in clear, easy-to-follow language how you can join our little get-together. Each session should take no more than twenty minutes. It's that easy. And afterward, if I've been a good enough teacher, you will be able to do your bit, too, to bring our community closer together and help us weather (safely) this strange and often lonely time in our lives.
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