I could hear this morning arrive before opening my eyes. A solo American robin performed his clear, full-throated first call that pierced the dark silence in the seconds before sunrise. A song sparrow, a goldfinch, a towhee, Townsend’s warbler –– each bird seemed to sing politely one after another before the trees erupted in birdsong and wild chatter all at once from all directions. It seemed every single bird had something important to say. Whatever thoughts I had about snuggling back under the covers to sleep a bit longer were useless.
Spring is here and there is much to do.
In the years before Covid, spring signaled the time for KP dwellers to come outside and play.
We looked forward to the KP Livable Community Fair in early May at the KP Civic Center. For the uninitiated, it was a one-day gathering of local and area nonprofit exhibits, a chance for all sorts for people to meet and learn more about all the cool things happening out here and how to get more involved. Complete with food and live music, it was always a crowd pleaser. Outside on the lawn was the extraordinary Lakebay Fuchsia Society annual plant sale. There were even years when the long-running community event boasted an outdoor fish pond stocked with trout and kid-sized poles. The six-hour fair did exactly what it was billed to do: It made the KP more livable in every way.
Longbranch Improvement Club members and guests traditionally celebrated the opening day of boating season that same weekend at the Longbranch Marina. There was a big buffet breakfast, good drinks, great friends and a regatta that was so much fun it wasn’t the end of the world if there wasn’t much wind.
For me, the point of both long-time favorite springtime events was about being together, working together to put the show on, learning about what’s happening in the community and having fun making fresh memories to hold onto when things go very wrong.
As families, friends and as a community, we have endured much of what has gone wrong this past year.
Our memories of those times shared as “before Covid” help battle the despair and longing for face-to-face connections we still desperately miss today.
That combination of sunshine and months-long — maybe year-long — absence rekindles our spirit with a genuine desire to be a little social again after an extended and unusually wet winter. Even the self-described hermits among us will admit it is good to be out and about.
Being around people laughing, smiling, giving each other hugs, is contagious in all the best ways. Seeing a face light up and hearing the words, “I’ve missed you,” feels really good after a long absence.
But there is still far too much we can’t do, at least not yet. It’s both confusing and frustrating. Take it from a retired Lakebay gentleman among the first to be fully vaccinated: “I keep waiting for something to be over. I’ve done everything I’ve been told, but nothing has changed.”
Our desire for normality won’t end the pandemic. We are in a fourth wave of COVID-19 that is spreading among more and younger people, according to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. Hospitalizations are again increasing; the death rate has fallen from its peak, but has reached the level it was at the beginning of the third wave in November.
Pierce County has already slipped back into Phase 2 restrictions; King, Snohomish and Spokane counties are on the verge of doing the same. The current positivity rate in Pierce County — 9.3% — is higher than the last wave in January. The target level to begin stopping transmission is less than 5% for at least two weeks.
We still need to wear masks, social distance and follow guidance for gatherings. And we need to get vaccinated.
Almost 481,000 county residents have been vaccinated against Covid, less than half the population. In some areas, including on the Key Peninsula, the vaccination rate is as low as 20%.
The evidence is clear, according to TPCHD: “In areas where more people have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, case rates are lower.” Covid infections have plummeted in long-term care facilities because of their very high vaccination rates.
Everyone 16 and older is now eligible for a Covid vaccine. There are more providers getting more vaccines to more people now than ever. But vaccination rates are slowing.
What memories will we carry with us from this time? Well, that’s up to us.
UNDERWRITTEN BY NEWSMATCH/MIAMI FOUNDATION, THE ANGEL GUILD, ROTARY CLUB OF GIG HARBOR, ADVERTISERS, DONORS AND PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT LOCAL, INDEPENDENT NONPROFIT NEWS