We can still be thankful

Believe it or not, this year, we actually still have much for which to be thankful — now and, we hope, in the near future. Yes, the world is in the middle of a deadly pandemic. As of Monday, Nov. 23, 1,396,579 people have died across the globe from the coronavirus. That’s a staggering number of lives lost, far too many, considering it’s only been since Dec. 31, 2019, when COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan, China, although we have no real way of knowing when the virus first reared its ugly head in that city. 

But COVID didn’t really make its appearance in the U.S. until Jan. 20, and then in New York on Feb. 29. By March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) was profoundly concerned by the spread and the severity of the virus, and by the apparent apathy with which many people seemed to be responding to the outbreak. It was then that the WHO decided to characterize the coronavirus as a pandemic — a disease that is so prevalent it can spread over an entire country or the whole world. 

That is where we are today, with cases of COVID-19 once again flourishing, even though many states had seemed to get their numbers under control months earlier. According to estimates by separate research teams at Columbia University and the University of Washington that were reported last week, an estimated one in 100 Americans are contagious with the coronavirus right now — the worst it’s been since virus deaths peaked in the U.S. this past spring.

Between the colder weather forcing people indoors, states relaxing their restrictions, many people still refusing to wear masks, more people socializing and general pandemic fatigue — there are multiple reasons why cases are surging. And with about 40% of Americans reporting they plan to attend large Thanksgiving celebrations, despite health officials warning to do otherwise, we’re deeply concerned — and we’re echoing those health officials who advise people to stay home, keep Thanksgiving gatherings small and play it safe.

But, back to being thankful, just last week, pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Moderna came out with the encouraging news that they now have experimental vaccines that are between 90 to 95% effective, which, according to experts, is incredibly impressive in the medical field. Those vaccines could be available to about 20 million Americans by December, with the first doses going to the vulnerable, health care and front line workers. It would not be widely available, most likely, for many months more. The question is, will people take the vaccine? It could be a lifesaver and the very thing that helps society return to a sense of normalcy sooner rather than later.

Think about it, we could ultimately go back to work, our kids could go back to school, we could go back to church or temple, we could reopen our businesses, we could go out to dinner and to the movies, we could visit the theater and go dancing, we could go to the museum and antiquing, we could go skiing and sledding (yes, it’s almost that time of year), we could go shopping at the mall and at the supermarket — in-person, at 100% capacity and without fear. Most importantly, we could spend time with our friends and family — all of them. We could do all of those things we used to do on a daily basis that we took for granted but just never realized it. But hang in there, the time will come.

We also have a new administration to look forward to. A White House that will bring us new leadership, new plans, new partnerships, a new approach and a new outlook. A fresh start, much needed during these dark and troubling times, when there is social unrest and political turmoil and a president so unwilling to abide by the democratic process he swore to uphold that he won’t even concede an election he lost fair and square. Trump is putting the American people he vowed to protect in jeopardy because he’s too petty to share vital information the president elect is entitled to, data he needs to make informed decisions before he takes office. That is inappropriate, immature and inexcusable. The president is doing nothing but tarnishing the highest office in our land. But we digress. Soon, Trump will be out, and for that, we should all be thankful.

Mostly, we should be thankful that we live here, in the Harlem Valley, where we still have a strong sense of community, of neighbor helping neighbor (just read Janice Hylton’s and Gail Smallridge’s letter to the editor on this page to understand exactly what we’re talking about), where we can rely on people looking out for one another. That still means something in this increasingly chaotic world — and it offers us a sense of calm and reassurance when we start to feel overwhelmed. 

No, we can’t gather with all of our friends and family at large feasts this Thanksgiving as we have in years past. It’s too dangerous, tempting as it may be. But we can still stand behind our fences, masks on, and wave to our neighbors; we can still chat, via Zoom, and clink glasses virtually with our relatives; we can still pick up the phone, and talk for a good couple of hours, and share an intimate conversation with those who are close to our hearts. 

These are the things we have to be thankful for this year — that our connections and relationships endure even as the pandemic rages on around us — and we must do our due diligence to stay safe and healthy until the virus is quelled and we can celebrate together in person once more. 

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