Family Gatherings Right Now, 2020 Style



Our eldest daughter and her husband were up to visit Saturday. It was wonderful to see them; it had been two months. Normally, this wouldn’t have been a big deal. Joyful, yes, a great chance to catch up on how they’re doing, assess the results of their latest house projects, hear what’s new with their sibs, and so on. But would it be this involved? No.

We all wore masks, except while eating. We have a 7-foot table, and each couple sat at diagonal corners. Normally, we’d mix it up, closer to one another, a cutting board of antipasto in the middle.

Of course, right now, few things are normal. As I polish this up, just before dawn on Monday (Oct. 12), cases across the United States come to 7,762,809, and deaths have hit 214,771. We have zipped past 200,000 deaths surprisingly rapidly. Likely in less than a month, we will close in on a quarter million.

That is an incredible toll in a nation as advanced as ours. And a reminder, again, that leadership matters.

I fear that this thought will inevitably flit into and out of our heads a number of times in coming weeks. What’s safe? What’s not? We just finished the Jewish holidays. We have Thanksgiving coming up, and then Hanukkah and Christmas. A time when we normally would have big family gatherings, siblings and parents and children flying or driving in from all over, and then flying and driving back home. And, who can forget Halloween, a mere two and a half weeks away?

I ask, how many of you have been on a plane this year? Been to a business convention or trade show this year? Been to a large wedding? Not many, I venture. You may recall I’d written earlier about the drugmaker Regeneron, of Westchester County, and efforts across the Hudson Valley to promote bio-pharmaceuticals as a focus of economic development. This is good for Westchester, obviously, but also all of the Hudson Valley, including Putnam. And, of course, the drugmaker’s efforts — as President Trump’s use of the experimental drug from the company demonstrated — will soon bear fruit.

But make no mistake, the Regeneron drug the president took, the drug that knocked his case of COVID back in days if not hours, is not a drug likely to be available to you and I for some months. What

I’m reading:

*The Washington Post has an excellent occasional series, Voices from the Pandemic. It’s essentially an oral history project of this deeply odd time. Oct. 10’s installment was “What are we so afraid of?” and recounted Tony Green of Texas, and his story of “dismissing, denying, contracting and spreading the coronavirus.” I commend it to your attention. Other pieces in the series are also exceptional, especially about the doctor who volunteered for intubation duty.

*“Why British Police Shows Are Better” from The Atlantic’s November issue. As the article says, “When you take away guns and shootings, you have more time to explore grief, guilt, and the psychological complexity of crime.” In my experience as a student of several such shows, this is indeed true. Of course, as they run into a dangerous situation that will obviously end badly, not a one of the Brits has a handgun, even a revolver, let alone the .40-caliber semi-automatic most of our police officers carry.

Until next week.

Douglas Cunningham is editor of the Putnam County Courier and the Putnam County News and Recorder, in Cold Spring. Reach him at 845-265-2468, or at

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