On March 16th, 2020, I began working from home for my full-time paying job as a science librarian at the University of Manitoba. A week later, my library colleagues were all sent home to work and the entire campus was shut down during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Manitoba was lucky to have been spared the brunt of that first brutal and frightening wave; we were unfortunately not nearly so lucky on successive waves. At one time, in May 2021, Manitoba had the worst outbreak in all of North America (Canada, U.S.A., and Mexico), and had to airlift patients to neighbouring provinces and states as our hospital ICUs were overwhelmed.
Today, December 15th , 2021, a full 640 days after I first started working at home, is officially my first day back on campus, the beginning of what is planned to be my permanent return to the office.
Note that I did come into my office on a few Mondays over the summer and autumn of 2021, but I am now expected to show up in person every day rather than work from home. I am the last of the librarians in my library to return to full-time work in the office; our returns have been staggered over the past few months. I asked to be the last librarian to return, because I have several underlying health conditions (obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension, and asthma) that put me at risk of a severe case of COVID-19 if I were to become infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Ever since news broke about the Omicron variant in southern Africa, I have been scouring the daily headlines, desperate to glean what updates the doctors and scientists could provide. The news is not encouraging. It would appear that cases of people infected by the highly-transmissible Omicron variant are doubling every two to three days in various countries, such as the U.K.
Even more worrisome, fully-vaccinated people are becoming infected; a triple-vaccinated Israeli cardiologist got Omicron at a British conference, and passed it on to another triple-vaccinated doctor! Even though most of the cases reported to date have been relatively mild, the fact that so many people are getting sick means an additional strain on an already overburdened healthcare system.
I will be receiving my third booster COVID vaccination at my local pharmacy next Monday, and this science librarian is profoundly grateful for the researchers whose pioneering work on mRNA vaccine technology made this possible. TIME magazine has named four of those vaccine scientists as its Heroes of the Year for 2021 (and quite frankly, they should have been named People of the Year instead of Elon Musk!).
While my university has made plans for a full return to normal, on-campus classes and other activities starting in January 2022, I believe that COVID still has the possibility of upending those carefully-laid plans! Already I am reading news reports of Canadian and American university campuses with outbreaks (for example, over nine hundred cases at Cornell University), leading in some cases for in-person final exams to be abruptly cancelled, and switched to an online, virtual format. Yesterday, I tweeted:
So I am feeling particularly anxious. Between the recently-concluded faculty strike (which lasted a full five weeks and broke the record for the longest strike in the history of the University of Manitoba), and this rising new wave of the pandemic, I must confess that I am utterly exhausted. Stretched to the limit. Burned out.
Thankfully, my Christmas holidays start next Monday—the same day I get my third booster shot—and I am looking forward to two weeks of vacation. I still plan to continue my December vacation from blogging, even though all the metaverse news and announcements are coming fast and furious! Now more than ever, there is no shortage of things to write about. But I need to take a break.
Stay safe and stay healthy in these challenging and stressful times!