Dear Editor:

This week marks two anniversaries, one somber and one hopeful. March 20th is the six-month anniversary of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Scotch Plains. In the 185 days since then, we have had a total of 358 confirmed cases. Putting it into perspective, that’s the equivalent of over one infected person for each of the 345 streets in our town, and we have likely had many more that were not confirmed.

As the (attached) chart indicates, the first two months were the worst, with an average of 31 new cases per week. Tragically, in the first three months we also lost 15 of our residents, for whom we should mourn, even if their names are not public.

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Those times were difficult for us all. We endured a lockdown, the closure of most businesses, and the rationing of critical supplies. Few of us will ever forget how empty the streets were during those terrible weeks in the spring when we had no idea how much worse it would get.

Yet through it all, we rallied. Residents made masks, staffed food banks, and hung ribbons of support. The Rotary Club ran a program to help our most vulnerable. In March, Fred Rossi of the Scotch Plains Times chronicled multiple stories of generosity and good deeds. And in my small way, I tried to help our local economy by launching the Scotch Plains Small Business Survival Plan in early April. I think I averaged five takeout meals a week throughout April and May.

Since June the average number of new positive test cases has been low, and we haven’t had a death from the virus in over 12 weeks. This stable situation has allowed for the partial reopening of our town, and we just hit a hopeful milestone. The last restaurant to close due to the virus, the Highlander on Park Avenue, reopened last Saturday. Happily, all restaurants in town are now open to serve you.

Additionally, Town Hall is now open to visitors by appointment only, as is our library, which reopened with limited services on Monday the 14th, also by appointment. We’re getting there!

However, with the cold weather coming we need to continue to expand indoor dining and other indoor activities if our local businesses are going to successfully get through the winter. So please continue to follow the good hygiene rules of social distancing, wearing a mask as necessary, frequently washing your hands, and using common sense when in public. I also recommend getting a flu shot now. Our health professionals are worried about a double hit this fall of a resurgent coronavirus and the normal seasonal flu, which killed nearly 35,000 people over the 2018 season. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Looking back, it seems to me that we were exceptionally kind to each other during the blackest months of the spring. As fear gives way to frustration, and uncertainty to inconvenience, we mustn’t devolve into unkindness, any more than we should stop practicing good hygiene because our positivity rates are low. For all the bad that came out of 2020, let increased understanding, tolerance, and kindness toward one another be one lesson we take away from this terrible time.

Again, let’s keep up the good work.  See you around town.

Al Smith
Mayor of Scotch Plains