ORLANDO, Fla. – Given that 2020 has been a tragic year with coronavirus deaths and infections growing every day, it can be difficult to name things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
There’s no denying it’s been a bad year, but it hasn’t been all bad, all the time.
While we of course mourn those who lost their lives this year and send our best wishes to those who are ill, we can also look for a silver lining or two and try to focus on the positives this holiday season, as hard as it may be sometimes.
To help with that, News 6 has revamped its list of things Floridians should be thankful for to be more in line with the pandemic-related trials and tribulations this year has brought.
1. Health care workers and first responders
This one is first for a reason. While many of us get to relax and unwind during the holidays, our brave and dedicated doctors, nurses, firefighters, paramedics and police officers will be hard at work trying to keep us safe from COVID-19 and just about everything else. These men and women have been working nonstop even before the pandemic hit, even when it means putting their own health and safety at risk. If there’s anyone who deserves a “thank you” this year, it’s them.
2. City mask mandates
Experts have consistently said that mask mandates could save thousands of lives. While there’s no statewide order, in Central Florida nearly every local government has created some kind of ordinance that requires residents to wear masks while they’re out and about. Although masks can be uncomfortable and even hot in the Florida weather, be mindful that by wearing one you could be helping to keep your friends, family and neighbors safe.
3. Nonprofits and food banks
As the need for financial assistance reached unprecedented levels this year, our local foodbanks and other charitable nonprofits stepped up to meet the need. We’ve consistently seen lines of cars snaked around buildings and winding down roads any time a drive-thru food bank or another similar event is hosted. These volunteers have given their time, energy and even their own money to ensure that those who’ve found themselves unemployed in recent months are still able to feed their families this Thanksgiving.
4. Crewed launches
A pandemic hasn’t stopped two history-making crewed launches from blasting off from Florida’s Space Coast. The first happened in May, just when pandemic fatigue starting setting in, and the second happened just recently on a clear Sunday night. Keep in mind that before this spring, astronauts hadn’t launched from U.S. soil since 2011 and now, we’ve had two crewed launches in about six months. If that doesn’t give you hope for what our future might hold, I don’t know what will.
5. Smooth election
The last thing Florida needed this year was a big recount or election debacle like we’ve seen in the past. Surprisingly, everything went exactly as planned during the general election in November, at least on our part. Other states have made headlines after it took days for them to be called due to razor-thin margins but Florida’s results were pretty clear early on in the process and not much has changed since then. No lawsuits or recounts here.
6. Good spirits
Floridians have faced countless hurricanes and natural disasters, so it’s safe to say we know how to weather a storm. Anyone who has ever survived one of those unfortunate events knows that once the rain has cleared and the sun is back out, neighbors band together to help those who were hit the hardest. It’s been no different with COVID-19. Taking it even further, Floridians have offered all sorts of jokes and memes to try to bring some levity to what is no doubt a tough situation.
7. Outdoor dining
Park Avenue, downtown Winter Garden, College Park -- the places you can dine al fresco in Central Florida are endless. Dining indoors in restaurants has been deemed a potentially risky activity but when you set tables up outside, the prospect of danger starts to diminish. To give eateries even more room to set up tables, local leaders in some areas have even opted to close off certain roads to allow for dining in the streets so no one has to miss out on their favorite meal.
8. Virtual queues
Let’s hope this signals the end to waiting in long, sweaty lines at theme parks. When the attractions reopened this summer, they made quite a few adjustments designed to keep guests and employees safe. One of those changes that has proven to be popular is virtual queues that allow thrill-seekers to enter an online waiting list for a ride rather than physically waiting in line. That way, they can enjoy everything else the park has to offer without missing their turn.
9. Springs and beaches
Officials have said time and time again that if you’re itching to get out of the house and need something to do, go outside. The fresh air disperses virus particles and thus makes it harder for them to infect another person. Spending time outdoors if often easier said than done in Florida due to the sweltering sun but luckily, we have several springs and beaches that offer a relaxing place to cool off all while social distancing and taking in the beautiful scenery.
10. Pets and adoptions
Working from home means having more time for yourself and your cat, dog or whatever other pet you’ve decided to share your house and heart with. Though they can’t speak, it’s pretty much a given that our furry friends have enjoyed having us around for extra walks and belly rubs. Of course, the most grateful of those pets are the ones that were scooped up from local shelters and now get to spend all their time with their new best friend.
11. To-go alcohol
This one is last but certainly not least. When restaurants closed for in-person dining in March, the governor lifted some restrictions so those restaurants could still serve alcohol but just in a to-go capacity. That allowed Floridians to grab their favorite and enjoy safely once they got back to their homes. Months later and restaurants are back open with full capacity but they’re still allowed to provide to-go drinks for patrons who’d prefer not to dine in. The whole concept has been so successful, in fact, the governor is debating making the change permanent. I’ll drink to that.