Editorial: Leave The Pandemic, Keep The Drive-Bys

Editorial: Leave The Pandemic, Keep The Drive-Bys

On Monday, Governor Ned Lamont signaled that changes are coming to Connecticut.

Previewing a special announcement to be made on Thursday, March 4, Lamont hinted that the state is about to ramp up its reopening, allowing for more capacity at businesses ranging from restaurants to entertainment facilities.

This is, of course, decidedly good news. First and foremost, it signals that state leaders truly do see the light at the end of the tunnel, and that Connecticut’s success in administering the vaccine — it is one of only a handful of states to have already inoculated at least 20% of its population — has helped push us closer to finally breaking the back of this terrible virus.

It will also allow businesses to begin the slow climb back, after nearly a year of being stuck like a hamster running on a wheel going nowhere. Not only will the easing of mitigation protocols allow for the immediate possibility of increased business, but it also gives local and state business owners an idea of where things are headed. That may encourage people who have been holding on for 12 months to hold on a little longer.

The goal, of course, is a return to normal. It may take a while to get there, but with Lamont’s expected announcement coupled with many of the positive signs seen across the country over the last month, returning to that normal way of life seems closer now than it has in a very long time.

However, if we could make the case for one pandemic-related innovation to stay, even after we put behind us so much of what has become known as the “new normal” in the months ahead, may we suggest that the drive-by celebrations that have become so popular this last year remain. 

Last weekend, as the rain came down around him, John Hecht sat outside his home, protected from the elements by a small tent, surrounded by friends and family who, careful to stay socially distant, helped him celebrate a special milestone. Hecht turned 100, marking a century of life that has allowed him to experience much. Just think, Hecht was born into a world that had just emerged from one great pandemic — the Spanish Flu — and is now experiencing another.

But it wasn’t just Hecht’s closest loved ones who had the opportunity to wish him a happy birthday. Beginning at about 1 p.m., a steady stream of cars began to pass Hecht’s home, slowing as they came closer. The drivers and passengers waved, held up signs congratulating Hecht on his special day, and yelled out their “happy birthday” wishes from open car windows. A few fire engines and police cruisers even made appearances.

Though Hecht wore a mask the entire time, he also wore a smile so wide it could still be seen by all. The entire event lasted only a short time, but we have no doubt that it was meaningful for Hecht to see such love expressed by the community.

After 12 months of a pandemic that has forced many to limit or eliminate their social interactions with friends and family, there is obviously a strong desire to once again interact with each other in more informal surroundings. Drive-by “parties” cannot take the place of normal get-togethers, the likes of which we all long for at the moment.

But these drive-by acknowledgments need not be in place of more traditional get-togethers but, instead, in addition to them. They allow the community to acknowledge a resident’s special day or achievement in a no-hassle, convenient manner. The parties can still go on as planned, only with a brief intermission to experience the “parade” of gratitude and love as it goes by.

John Hecht certainly seemed to appreciate his community’s love. That would seem one of the few things worth keeping from this terrible pandemic.

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