Multiple dumps of wet, fat-flaked snow covered up Clark County’s anxieties about COVID-19 on Saturday morning. If you woke up feeling like weird times were only getting weirder, you sure weren’t alone.
Fort Vancouver Regional Libraries’ announcement of a two-week closure starting at the end of business Saturday elicited a first-thing-in-the-morning, supermarket-like run on items meant to keep minds lively and distracted. Lines at retailers for toilet paper and cleaning supplies were reportedly matched by the line at the downtown Vancouver Community Library for books, magazines and DVDs.
“It was a major rush first thing in the morning. It was crazy, crazy,” library access manager Brian Hulsey said. “Every single thing was flying out the door. A mix of print and media.”
None of that will be due back until after the closure.
“All due dates will be suspended,” according to a statement from library system Executive Director Amelia Shelley. “Please feel free to hang on to any checked out materials until the libraries reopen. As always, we do not charge late fees for overdue items.”
Also, Shelley said, a library e-card will give patrons access to a wide variety of online resources, including ebooks, audiobooks, newspapers and periodicals, streaming TV and films, educational programming, music and even arts and crafts instruction. Sign up for a library e-card by going to www.fvrl.org.
But Shelley acknowledged that the library is more than a collection of resources; it’s a community hub. That will just have to wait, she said.
“Many people count on us to provide in-person learning services and gathering spaces,” she said. “We are choosing to balance the greater good to our community with a temporary loss of those services on which you rely.”
The Gebhard family was just emerging from the library on Saturday afternoon, loaded down with materials meant to last for weeks — books, graphic novels and more.
You might think an extended vacation from school was good news, but the Gebhard kids see it differently, they said.
As her senior project, 18-year-old Madison Gebhard had been preparing to take a school dance troupe to perform at senior care center and nursing homes. That plan is out the window now, of course, she said.
“Six weeks of no school when you’re about to graduate is not good,” she said.
Abbie Gebhard, 8, said she had to bid her school friends goodbye without hugging. She cried about it in the car on the way home, said her mom, Kristie.
Next on the itinerary that day was buying a massive LEGO set, the Gebhards said.
The Washington State Department of Health on Saturday issued a statement asking consumers not to overstock supplies at home, sweeping store aisles clean.
“The more you overstock those supplies, the less is available for your sick neighbors, and for doctors, dentists, and emergency response personnel. Doing our part to keep vulnerable people healthy includes making sure they have access to necessary supplies,” the statement says.
There’s no disruption in supply chains of items like hand sanitizer, wipes, toilet paper and plastic gloves, grocers say — just a huge amount of consumer overstocking taking place.
“We want the public to be assured that if they will return to their normal pace of grocery shopping that there will be an adequate supply of products for their consumption,” said Jan Gee, president and CEO of the Washington Food Industry Association. “We also want the public to be assured of the fact that the grocery stores are taking extensive measures to reduce any opportunity for contamination in our stores, and with the public’s cooperation, we will continue to provide a clean, virus-free environment stocked with healthy and fresh foods for everyone.”
Early St. Patrick’s revelers were disappointed to learn that the Vancouver Firefighters Pipes & Drums canceled their Saturday plan to barnstorm pubs and restaurants in Ridgefield and Battle Ground. Similarly crestfallen were people looking forward to Tuesday’s annual Paddy Hough Parade in downtown Vancouver, which was also canceled.
But that parade’s musical leaders, the Fort Vancouver Pipe Band, contacted The Columbian on Saturday to say they will still warm up a St. Patrick’s Day audience with authentic Scotch-Irish sounds 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Kiggins Theatre before a 6:30 p.m. screening of classic film “The Quiet Man” starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara and an emerald Irish countryside.
“Unless more restrictions are imposed, the event will take place,” said Fort Vancouver Pipe Band coordinator Penny McLaren.
At 340 seats in a spacious, old-school auditorium, the Kiggins is likely large enough to maintain plenty of social distance while still enjoying the music and taking a European vacation from all your troubles. Staff has increased “disinfection of all surfaces, including countertops, door pulls, railings, armrests and other public spaces,” according to a statement from the Kiggins on Facebook.
“We’ll be happy to give you a high five once this threat is under control,” it concludes.
Keep it local
Vancouver declared a state of civil emergency on Friday, and announced Saturday that it would close the Firstenburg and Marshall community centers as of March 16, through April 1.
“This is a decision without local precedent,” said Vancouver Parks Director Julie Hannon. “Given the seriousness of the current situation, we believe this is the most responsible choice we can make.”
Washougal joined Vancouver Saturday in declaring a state of emergency. Scheduled city council meetings will continue but with social distancing measures such as extra space in between chairs. The interested public is encouraged to stay home and live-stream meetings.
Camas and Ridgefield have announced similar restrictions and operational changes.
“We are committed to working with our local businesses who are hurting due to the shutdowns and cancellations,” Ridgefield City Manager Steve Stuart said in a press release. “We would encourage you to shop local, buy gift certificates to use at a later time, and eat at or order take-out from a local restaurant.”