Sure, most of us understood we weren’t out of the woods yet.
After the New York State COVID-19 lockdown back in March, April and May, the pandemic curve flattened and everything eventually reopened. Those of us not working from home went back to the office, stores and restaurants reopened fully, and even gyms and movie theaters were allowed to accept customers. Come autumn, most of the schools also opened for in-person classes, or at least for a hybrid version (half remote/half in-person).
Many people became complacent and began ignoring the COVID guidelines. Some blamed it on COVID fatigue; others simply felt that if they hadn’t already gotten the disease, they weren’t likely to. There was no longer that fear of partying – after all, these were all friends and family, right?
The weather stayed warm and summery well into early autumn. People took the opportunity to have outdoor barbecues and street parties. After all, you can’t get sick if you’re outside, right?
Halloween was a big party time for many people. I saw on Facebook that there were members of my own extended family who hosted parties for pretty much everyone they knew, including friends, families, neighbors, colleagues. I don’t doubt that the pizza delivery guy was invited in as well. But those parties were held in backyards and garages – that makes it safe, right?
Apparently, COVID-19 is smarter than the party people – and apparently COVID is very patient.
In the last few weeks, the numbers of positive cases and hospitalization have surged. My county has the highest percentage rate of COVID cases in all of New York State.
Gov. Cuomo instituted new COVID guidelines for “hot zones.” My county was declared a Yellow Zone, meaning somewhat tighter restrictions. Restaurants and retailers had to limit the amount of customers at any given time, and of course everyone was required to wear masks (as they should have been doing all along), but otherwise it wasn’t much different than it had been since May. Even schools were still allowed to have in-person classes, with the caveat that they had to start COVID testing both staff and students on a regular basis.
Yellow Zone status lasted only about two weeks. The infection rate continued to surge. Now we are in Orange Zone status.
Orange Zone restrictions mean no indoor dining of any kind – only outdoor dining and take-out is allowed. (It’s now November, temperatures have dipped, and even those restaurants with outdoor patios are unlikely to get customers willing to sit outside when it’s 35 degrees Fahrenheit.) Schools are remote-learning only. Gyms and movie theaters are closed, as are beauty salons.
At the moment, those of us who still go to offices at “non-essential” business can continue to do so.
But according to some reports I’ve heard in the last couple of days, that may change as early as next week. We may go to Red Zone status – which means total lockdown for all except essential businesses.
Right back where we were in March, April and May.
Mostly because people just can’t be bothered with following some simple guidelines, like wearing masks in public and staying six feet away from others. Or simply because some people simply can’t forego their socializing.
This time will be worse. There will be no federal funds to supplement those meager state unemployment benefits, and there will be no federal funds to help smaller businesses weather another lockdown.
The holiday season is upon us. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve overheard discussing their upcoming Thanksgiving plans with family and friends – just like every other year, they will host huge dinner parties, with absolutely no consideration given to COVID guidelines. Come Christmas, a lot of those dinner guests may be too ill to care about food or gifts.
On the other hand, there are many of us who realize this is not going to be a normal holiday season. I worried that my own kids would be upset when hubby and I bowed out of both Thanksgiving dinner and the annual Christmas get-together. Imagine my relief when I received word from every one of my daughters that they also are spending the holidays in their own homes, with just their significant others. It’s been decided that this year’s get-together will be virtual, and I’m all for that. I even scored the very last basic webcam which our local Best Buy had in stock, and I’ve already set up my Zoom account.
The holidays will be somewhat different this year, but they’ll be enjoyable nonetheless. And as a mother, I am very, very happy that my kids all have the sense to take the pandemic seriously. There’s enough to worry about right now without having to deal with potential super-spreader events.
Of course, the annual cookie-baking party is also cancelled, but who really needs shared cookies anyway? This year, I guess we’ll each bake our own.
Everyone just needs to hunker down and get through the next few months, until the much-touted vaccine is available. Hopefully, by this time next year the entire COVID-19 pandemic will merely be a bad memory. With luck, and a lot of common sense this year, next year’s holiday season will be a normal one – and probably a better one because of this year’s sacrifices.
May you all stay healthy and safe wherever you are. This, too, shall pass.
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Image by Cordelia’s Mom/TeddyRosalieStudio