You’ve heard the phrase with which baseball fans console themselves — and Seattle Mariners’ faithful know it well — particularly after yet again being denied a World Series championship or even post-season play: “Wait ’til next year.”
Fans of Minor League Baseball’s Everett AquaSox — as well as those of the Everett Merchants semi-pro team — now find themselves muttering those words without having heard even once this summer the National Anthem carry over loudspeakers into the evening air at Funko Field, without a first pitch, without a ball bouncing past an outstretched arm to turn a single into a double, without a beer and a dog, without a homer launched to land somewhere between the outfield wall and Mount Pilchuck, without kids running the bases after the game to tire them out a bit before the ride home.
Even slim hopes for an already postponed Northwest League season were called on account of COVID this week.
So we’ll wait ’til next year.
Major League Baseball, even as it prepares to start a shortened 60-game season for its big league teams — sans fans in the stands — announced Tuesday it had canceled the season for Minor League Baseball teams at all levels, from Triple-A down to the short season Single-A schedule the Frogs play.
The loss of local baseball is just another blow to hopes for a return to something close to normal after a string of disappointments related to daily life during the pandemic. This weekend’s Fourth of July festivities will be limited to family-sized gatherings. No parades. No concerts. No public gatherings to watch fireworks.
And other mainstays of summer — concerts, festivals, even the passenger ferry to Jetty Island’s stretches of sandy beach — have all been shelved. Wait ’til next year.
This is not to diminish the more significant changes that many have endured because of business closures, layoffs, closures of school and adjustments to online learning, parking-lot church services and postponements of weddings and memorial services or the cold comfort of their virtual substitutes. Nor can we forget the devastation suffered by families who have lost loved ones to the disease. Washington state has tallied more than 1,300 deaths from COVID-19; the national death toll is now nearing 100 times that: 130,000.
Yet, after enduring our shut-down spring and after enjoying a few weeks of less-restrictive life under Phase 2 of the state’s “Safe Start” plan, COVID appears to be resurging in the county, state and nation and threatening even that level of relief.
As of Tuesday, the latest weekly tally of new coronavirus cases in the county grew to 42 per 100,000 residents, the disease’s fastest growth in the county since late April. To qualify for Phase 2, the county — among other metrics — had to show no more than 25 cases per 100,000; we’ve now exceeded that mark, as we have for increased activity and lax attention to social distancing and use of face masks.
Snohomish County officials canceled plans to request authorization from the state Department of Health to move to Phase 3, which would allow the reopening of movie theaters, gyms, libraries, museums and other businesses, as well as gatherings of 50 or more. Instead, Snohomish County Health District and the county executive’s office are having to contemplate a return to Phase 1 status and again closing up restaurant dining areas, barbershops and salons and other retail shops.
Such a move would be disheartening to morale and further destabilizing to a local economy that is struggling to get back on its feet. But it may be necessary, unless we all take our responsibilities with greater resolve.
Too many have taken the measured loosening of restrictions as if they’ve been given the “all clear.” Health officials are investigating reports of parties and large gatherings, “super-spreader” events where one or more individuals pass along the infection to scores of others who then could pass it on among family, friends and co-workers. And those who have risked such events are now being asked to quarantine themselves and get tested for the virus.
Some may be heeding the advice — now a state mandate — on masks, at least. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that 65 percent of respondents in the U.S. reported using masks “most of the time,” and another 15 percent “some of the time.” But actual mask use may not yet reflect those numbers. The same poll found that only 44 percent thought most people were using masks in stores “most of the time,” and 40 percent only “some of the time.”
We recognize we’ve hammered this issue repeatedly, but keener attention to the use of masks, practicing good hygiene and keeping at least 6 feet of distance between ourselves and others — even with masks — remains our best hope to avoid further growth in COVID’s spread and a necessary slide back into Phase 1. And it’s our only shot at regaining the level of control that will allow us to again consider advancing to Phase 3 and Phase 4 as the world waits for a vaccine.
Yes, we can wait until next year for baseball.
But there are far more important things at stake now — including students heading back to school this fall, a return to jobs and a full work week, the reopening of small businesses — that should not and can not wait until next year.
Some fairly simple steps will help ensure we don’t have to.