Things might have gotten better faster if not for a rather odd aversion to wearing face masks and a widespread denial that we were dealing with a once in a lifetime global pandemic. One wonders how many of the half a million Americans killed by the virus might have been saved if everyone had taken the pandemic seriously from the start.
Vaccines to combat COVID-19 started to become available at the end of 2020. The initial rollout of the vaccines was a bit rocky, but we are now at the point where folks over 50 and people at special risk can get vaccinated. Within the next month or so, pretty much all teens over 16 and adults should be able to get vaccinated. A fully vaccinated population is the best way to put the pandemic in the rear view mirror. Like mask wearing, vaccinations are important for everyone, regardless of politics. All of our living former presidents have been vaccinated.
My wife and I have both now had both shots of the Moderna vaccine. We are both starting to relax a bit regarding the risks of infection.
As the first tentative efforts at reopening things started, the city took steps to try and help our struggling bars and restaurants, most notably by closing Railroad Square to traffic on the weekends and allowing more tables and chairs on the sidewalks so that the businesses could expand outside to allow for more customers while allowing social distancing.
Over the course of the last year, we’ve slowly reopened things, such as the playground and pools. One notable exception is that the city hasn’t been approving special events for the parks. With this past weekend, that has begun to change.
The Native American Pow Wow, presented by the Chasco Fiesta folks, was the first event held in Sims Park in months. It featured social distancing, attendance limits, and masks, and it appears to have been a big success. I expect additional Chasco events later this year, including a golf tournament and a car show Memorial Day weekend.
The successful Pow Wow event will pave the way for other events in the coming months. I’m aware of at least two groups that are looking to hold small scale events in the park during the second quarter of the year. While I can’t speak for my colleagues, I would expect those proposed events to receive the same sort of consideration that they would have received before the pandemic.
It has been a tough year for all of us. Being unable to visit with my mom during the final months of her life weighs heavily on me. Her adult living facility was all but completely locked down this time last year. Friends have lost loved ones to COVID-19. Others have become deathly ill as a result of the pandemic.
Some businesses have been hurt by the pandemic restrictions and some have closed forever. The way surviving businesses operate will likely never return to the pre-pandemic “normal”. There will be a new normal going forward.
I suspect the CDC and other experts will be in a position to give us a green light to return to something approaching normal by late summer. A big Fourth of July celebration isn’t in the cards, but a Labor Day celebration, followed by Bike Fest in October and a Christmas parade in December are all possibilities. Until then, I suspect we’ll try to keep events relatively small so as to allow pandemic safety protocols to be observed.
A key is for everyone who can get vaccinated do so. The greater the percentage of Americans that are vaccinated, the harder it will be for COVID-19 to spread and mutate.
Masks are still highly advisable for the near future. Once enough Americans have been vaccinated to give us “herd immunity”, I expect the CDC to announce that we can relax the mask wearing. I’ll be hanging onto my masks. In addition to a mild flu season this year that is being attributed to mask wearing, I’ve personally noticed that the oak pollen this month hasn’t had its usual effect on me. I haven’t had to take the first antihistamine this year. That alone makes wearing a mask worth doing for me.
I am optimistic that we can indeed see “the light at the end of the tunnel” and I’m pretty sure it is not an oncoming train. It is my fervent wish that each of you will hang in there a bit longer, wear your masks, and get vaccinated as soon as you can.