No real threat?

Phase three is here. Here in Delaware County, we’ve been there, done that with phase two. That’s old news.

What does phase three mean? If you have been dying to get some ink, this is big news. Tattoo artists are back in business. And if you’re a massage therapist, run a nail salon, or work in a restaurant, you’re probably celebrating.

I recently had the somewhat odd experience of traveling to Ulster County, where phase two is still a relatively new achievement. It was surprising to see masks everywhere in Kingston, like they were no big deal. Kingstonians are clearly a roll-with-it kind of people. Granted, there was that couple at a restaurant who showed up without masks. But among the people I saw, they were in the clear minority.

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Masks are a big bone of contention where I live.

Despite some grumbling, my neighbors did their part during the shutdown. The roads were quiet. People stayed home. We hoarded hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and rubbing alcohol just like everyone else did. We were all in it together, for awhile.

But while New York City was still a ghost town, my neighbors were getting fed up. They were ready to get their lives back. They were looking at the case numbers locally, not seeing any major spikes, and demanding the state reopen. They were typing their hatred of the governor in all caps on Facebook.

The people pleading with them for caution were whispering into a tornado.

To be fair, the virus didn’t hit us like it hit the city. It didn’t hit us like it hit the Hudson Valley. It didn’t travel here on trains or buses. The numbers stayed low enough that many folks never felt like it was a real threat. Because we didn’t know the people it hit, with the exception of state senator James Seward, and because our county decided that knowing precisely what towns were hotbeds might cause a panic… Anxious people were anxious, but they always are. There was nothing that persuaded the disgruntled that there was cause for anxiety.

Now we’re in phase three and people are complaining that social distancing is inconvenient, that masks are hot.

They’re not wrong, but I suspect they should get used to it. I think it may be what the new normal looks like.

Read more installments of Village Voices by Susan Barnett.