University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel emailed an announcement at 4:16pm Wednesday, March 11 saying, most notably, that class would be canceled for the following two days and would resume on Monday via online platforms. The novel coronavirus had stopped time.
We are all experiencing the world in a dimension that we have never before. All museums, movie theaters, performance venues, sporting events, gyms, recreation centers, spas, casinos, restaurants, bars, cafes, libraries and coffee shops are closed indefinitely, until further notice.
This vocabulary has a sense of finality. Countless store fronts don signage saying they will be closed indefinitely. I know in my mind it does not mean forever, but an unspecified period of time, yet I’m finding it difficult to see beyond the horizon of this pandemic.
While it is in the interest of the public health to close such a sweeping category of places, the demands of public health and the demands of cultural well-being are working at odds with each other. We go to these places for a sense of community, belonging, identity, pattern, routine, and human interaction. These demands of cultural well-being make us feel human. They have been stripped, until further notice. No social, cultural, or any others gatherings will materialize in the coming weeks, perhaps months.
While most of us living in Ann Arbor are young and healthy, many of us are only one or two connections away from the vulnerable population. An aging grandparent. A diabetic. Someone with lung or heart disease. Being aware of our personal health and actions validates that public health is everyone’s responsibility; how we all choose to behave impacts all others’ health. However we choose to exist in space over the next few weeks will decide how we will be allowed to exist for the next many months.
The world is truly very scary right now and it will continue to be for a while. This is unprecedented; no one has all the answers we wish for. Professors must learn new mediums and techniques previously never necessary, while students must do the same and are not expected to be experts at this either. It comes at a strange time as many are not only trying to finish the school year, but also their college careers. Two days after President Schlissel’s initial announcement, he sent another deeming all commencement ceremonies canceled.