Winter, Discontented


I know, it’s not winter yet. Late fall. Very late fall, perhaps. Most of the leaves were gone by the end of last week. Also at the end of last week, nothing quite like a cold rain in November to cheer things up.

We were at the dog park, Hazel and I, on Saturday.


Hazel has always loved to run, much like a purebred horse. She can cover an amazing amount of ground rapidly, loping along. But she is 8, and 8 in dog years isn’t young. A younger, faster dog friend joined us, and Hazel ran and sparred a bit, but at other times looked askance: What’s with all the running? The circles? Really. And I’m thinking, I know something about that. It’s a good day if I get 10,000 steps, and that’s with no running of any kind.

But at least everyone in our family is alive. Wearing a mask, washing our hands, social distancing. Friday, according to the New York Times, the nation reported 181,000 new COVID-19 cases. That is an incredible number. A huge number. Once we start dealing with numbers like that, things will only get worse, and do so faster. This will be a dangerous time.

Above, Hazel with her new dog friend Saturday at the dog park.

Above, Hazel with her new dog friend Saturday at the dog park.

I predict our schools will return to online only learning within the next two weeks, possibly even a week. The positivity rate is increasing across the county, and it might trigger a school shutdown regardless of how things are in our specific community. And this: New York is among the best places in the country relative to the pandemic. In many states, it is materially, exponentially, worse. We are staying home for Thanksgiving. The things we are doing, the mask wearing, the social distancing, have worked for us so far, and we don’t see any sound and compelling reason to change. Might be dangerous to change, in fact. Yes, we are damned tired of it. Has our freedom been impinged on? Damn right it has, but not because we’ve had to wear a mask or avoid gatherings. Make no mistake, we could have maintained almost all of our freedom, all of us, nationwide, if the apparatus of government had simply been allowed to do its work and take the appropriate public health measures from the beginning. That might have included wearing masks, I know. But we’d all be a lot better off if these public health measures were simply routine, instead of regarded as deeply political.

My father had an expression, “Calling a donkey a horse doesn’t make it a horse.” Translated to today’s times, declaring the pandemic over does not mean that it is, in fact, over. We will surpass a quarter million deaths this week, maybe even by the time you read this. That is more than half the war dead from the United States in World War II. Incredible, to be laid this low. I’m not sure, nationwide, we could even agree that a donkey has four legs right now, let alone that it is not a horse. We learn Saturday that Putnam County’s numbers on COVID are the worst in the Hudson Valley. The positivity rate among all tests performed was 6.4 percent Friday, and the 7-day rolling average positivity rate was 4.7 percent. So, I guess we have the words for the week: Grim and grimmer. On the other hand, we know how to beat this back. We have done it once before. We could — it might not be a bad idea — simply do that again. What I’m watching: Ted Lasso, on Apple TV. Kansas football coach hired to coach soccer in England. Very high production quality, several twists, and the plot itself is already a paradigm shift. I know there are many soccer fans in Putnam and in our schools, and would be interested in their perspective. Strong characters, both male and female. We devoured the first season.

What I’m reading: Well, listening to, actually, one of Lee Child’s latest Jack Reacher books, Blue Moon, from October 2019. It is a classic Reacher plot, and one of the beauties of the Jack Reacher books is they are predictable. Different, yes, but also predictable, as the wandering ex-military policeman sets things right in whatever place he stepped off the Greyhound bus. I wonder: What would Jack Reacher think of Washington?

Until next week.

Douglas Cunningham is the editor of the Putnam County Courier and the Putnam County News & Recorder. Reach him at, or just call 845-265-2468. Letters can be sent to the same address in plain text or a Word document (no PDFs).

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