This pandemic forced everything and everyone to change. Normal life and all its habits have been overturned, and we’ve been forced to develop other ways of conducting business, meetings, communicating and working together. For many, if not most, the past year-plus has not been pleasant, but there are lessons we’ve learned that we can carry forward, and should.
At the top of the list is the increased awareness of how interconnected we all are, how much we must depend upon and look out for each other. Something as simple as wearing a mask, despite the inconvenience, discomfort and political resistance, turns out to be essential in slowing the spread of infectious illness. In Asian countries, wearing masks in crowded public settings is normal, and has been for some time. America, and Sonoma Valley, would benefit from a willingness of people to wear masks when cold and flu season are in full swing, not to mention the risk of Covid variants.
Government has had to modify the way it works and how it operates. Sonoma City Hall, for example, has been mostly empty of employees for the past year or more, yet the business of the city has continued. The business community is facing this same question and finding itself with office and facility expenses that might be partially or even entirely unnecessary. It turns out that many people prefer working from home, and don’t want to return to the world of everyday commuting just to sit at a desk.
Meetings conducted via the internet have created a Zoom boom, and as familiarity and ease of use have increased, online meeting access has become a customary and reliably available option for the public. While there are advantages to in-person meetings, connecting online is a valuable option, and now an accepted alternative.
Our relationship to cars and parking has changed as well. Rather than hopping into the car to run around doing errands, many people rediscovered walking; that’s good for the environment and good for personal health as well. Auto traffic is generally so much less than it has been and it’s unpleasant to imagine going back to what it was.
Coincidentally, the City of Sonoma eliminated about 25 percent of the parking spots on the Plaza and devoted that space to outdoor dining, proving that both the public and the food purveyors could make it work. An idea that had been repeatedly rejected during the past decades — using sidewalks for dining space — suddenly was embraced. There’s a lesson there that can inform how regulations are crafted going forward.
This is just a short list and description of the ways we’ve had to depart from normal. The community – all of it – would benefit from a robust examination of how we’ve done things in the past, what we’ve discovered, and how we’ve changed in response to the pandemic.
— Sun Editorial Board