Jim King column

My colleague Nick Carroll made an observation last week that had me kicking myself that I hadn’t put the pieces together. 

“Have you noticed,” he asked, “how big the turnout has been for events around the county? It’s like everybody has this need to be together.” 

Hanged if he isn’t right. 

After more than a year of hunkering down from the Covid-19 pandemic, when people had the opportunity to gather, it seems they have. 

The rush began in earnest with the Hampshire County Fair. At about that time, thanks to vaccinations, the county went 7 straight days without a new case of Covid. 

So, come fair week, gate receipts were up. Sponsorships were up. The joint was a-rockin’. 

A week later, the West Virginia Peach Festival returned to Romney after a year’s hiatus with its biggest crowds ever. 

Even after the Delta variant began its spread and Covid roared back to life here, gatherings didn’t stop. 

And the crowds didn’t slack off either. 

Yes, Capon Bridge canceled its Founders Day festival, but football games at HHS drew their crowds, bleacher concerns aside. 

On the weekend after Labor Day, people turned out for the Heritage Days car show and the Arts Council’s arts and music festival in Romney and the Veterans Appreciation Day in Capon Bridge. 

The 1st weekend of this month saw throngs in Paw Paw, Springfield (a 1st-time gathering), Capon Bridge (its 1st parade) and Romney on a Friday night to light the town for Christmas. 

And last week? Nick’s comment proved true, even as the threat of storms hung over Saturday in Romney. 

The fire company fed more people than ever at their Breakfast with Santa. Kids got crafty with the library crew (downstairs at the fire hall), Legion Post 91 and Taggart Hall. 

The 1st Christkindl market on South High Street had buyers throughout the day. 

FNB’s 81st annual Christmas party had a steady stream of cars driving through (here’s hoping for a return to walk-in traffic next year). 

The new sleigh rides were a sell-out. 

And the parade, organized by my boss and friend Sallie See. Oh, the parade. 

“It was packed,” she told me Monday morning — shoulder to shoulder along Main Street with candy and stuffed animals flying into the crowd. 

If there is joy in numbers, in camaraderie, then there are also questions. 

What impact are the gatherings having on our Covid-19 numbers? And what impact is Covid-19 having on this county? 

Since that glorious virus-free week back in summer, Hampshire County’s battle against Covid has been disturbing to watch. The county has been red in the state’s 5-color tracking system every day for more than 3 months. 

That means we’re getting too many new cases day in and day out, despite the availability of vaccinations. 

Of course, having vaccines available isn’t the same as having shots in the arm. Hampshire County is in the bottom 5 of the state on vaccination rates. 

As of Monday morning, less than 40% of county residents age 5 or older are fully vaccinated. That’s sad. 

But then there’s this statistic: Hampshire County has 1 of West Virginia’s 10 lowest death rates from the disease. 

We’ve lost 56 people to Covid-19 — 56 deaths that didn’t have to occur if we had all done our part to contain this virus. 

But that pales in comparison to neighboring Mineral County. Mineral has had 127 deaths in a population that isn’t much bigger than ours. 

So, we gather — in joy, in long-missed camaraderie, in the face of Covid, in defiance of the odds. o

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