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There's a reason for New York to be hopeful

People wearing protective masks during the coronavirus pandemic

People wearing protective masks during the coronavirus pandemic exit the Kew Gardens subway station on Oct. 5, 2020. Credit: AP/Frank Franklin II

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What do deafening silence, crash landing and jumbo shrimp have in common? They are oxymorons, self-contradicting figures of speech. Add Rapid City, South Dakota, to that list.

Seems that Rapid City and most other towns in South Dakota are not too swift, as evidenced by widespread skepticism about mask wearing and social distancing. This attitude has led South Dakotans to stage two catastrophic "celebrations of freedom": a massive Fourth of July rally at Mt. Rushmore with thousands of maskless participants, followed by a 10-day motorcycle rally in Sturgis attended by nearly a half million people, most defiantly unmasked with zero social distancing.

The results were predictable: South Dakota shot up to the No. 4 position for the first week in December in the number of COVID-19-related deaths per capita, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New York registered at #34, below the national average.

Since our state became the epicenter of the virus when it hit the United States, New Yorkers have become well aware that freedom doesn’t include the right to contaminate others. Many of us wear masks and social distance.

Even so, the virus-infection rate has now crept back up in this area, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is talking about more closings if things don’t level off quickly. We know that many restaurants will simply not survive another shutdown. We also know many New Yorkers will not survive another surge in COVID-19.

We have reached another crisis point, but the cavalry is coming. Next week the first round of COVID-19 vaccines from the Pfizer pharmaceutical company will be dispensed on Long Island, New York City and all around the state. The initial batch will be given to nursing home residents and staff, with high priority health care workers next in line. Other companies’ vaccines are expected on the market soon. By spring, COVID-19 vaccinations should be available to virtually all of us. Finally!

So let’s hang in there, and stay informed. We are not Rapid City. While this winter might be brutal, most savvy New Yorkers will severely limit our holiday gatherings. There is a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel, and it will grow brighter next week. Meanwhile, stay strong, safe and smart.

Playwright Mike Vogel is the author of "New York Attitude: A lifetime New Yorker Defends his City With Humor and Heart."

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