After eight long months, with the distinct prospect of a potentially isolated holiday season staring straight at us, leading up to a very uncertain new year, we are approaching a crossroads; exactly how do we contend with the coronavirus pandemic?

Opposing sentiments are moving further and further from the center by the day. We have government leadership that is pinning any hope of corralling the virus with vaccines, a Florida governor who ascribes to herd mentality, a segment of the public that believes the virus is all a hoax and many others who simply believe they have the right to do whatever, whenever and wherever they please.

Thankfully, there’s also another group that believes that face coverings, handwashing and social distancing are reasonable steps to slow the spread. If not for this appreciable segment of the population, there’s no telling what shape we’d be in.

Early on, the rallying cry surrounded ‘flattening the curve.” But forget that now; that ship has sailed. All we really have now is faith that these controllable measures will prevent the spread from escalating further. Faith alone is clearly not a successful strategy as hospitals in many metropolitan areas are beginning to overflow again with COVID-19 patients. Another wave, likely more dangerous than what we faced in April and May, is upon our nation now. Thankfully, that’s not the case here in Monroe County, but it wouldn’t take much to stretch our health care system to the limits. If visitors entering the Keys, who come here expressly for an escape from this very brutal health situation, continue to disregard safety protocols, we will be in dire straits.

We may choose to paint our visitors as the lone villains, but we must also accept that county residents of the county are not doing enough to stop the spread. While terribly unfortunate, and we wish him and his family a speedy and compete recovery, but it is possible that one of the county’s commissioners was hospitalized after hosting a victory party where many of the attendees were not wearing masks and did not observe other safety protocols.

That said, we should accept the inevitable and admit this pandemic is not disappearing any time soon. Attempts at scaling mass vaccine distribution to over 300 million Americans is at best, months, if not a year away. And can we be sure, after a scant few months of limited clinical trials—ones that typically take years to conduct — that any vaccine will be effective?

But that’s still progress. The sky isn’t falling, nor are we at a moment of reckoning. Neither is it something you can unequivocally bank on. Because while the severity of this virus shouldn’t be underestimated, we all have learned how to operate — and how not to – throughout this eight-month journey.

We know that super-spreader events like concerts, weddings and victory parties must be avoided. We know that heavy congregation spots like bars and restaurants, unfortunately, will be forced to adjust to some sort of ‘new normal’. These businesses mean so much to the business landscape in the Keys, but they are the low-hanging fruit here in our community for minimizing spreads of the virus.

And even then, our best efforts at operating responsibly will still make us vulnerable. This is what makes this virus so insidious. It’s also what makes it so essential to remain vigilant.

Vigilance is a by-product of hope. Without hope, vigilance is pointless and we are not at that point nor should we be. Our world has experienced all sorts of challenges and will figure this one out like most of the others.

Maintaining hope while everything around you appears hopeless is daunting. Each one of us has our own personal saturation points, which is evident in some of the behaviors and frustrations we see today. Fear is manifested in many ways.

There is a saying that it’s always darkest just before the dawn. It’s also said not every poem has to rhyme and not every story has a happy ending.

But if we can maintain hope, do the sensible things to protect ourselves and our families, and be resilient in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, we will emerge from the other side stronger.

We wish the entire Florida Keys community a safe, joyous holiday season and send a message of hope we so desperately need right now to all our residents.

Richard Tamborrino is the former Editor and Publisher of The Key West Citizen and Free Press newspapers.

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