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Editorial: Faith Fourth marked return of largest community events

The Faith Fourth of July marked an important milestone this year, and it’s not the one you think.

While the event marked its 75th edition, the Faith Fourth also brought together the largest crowd at a community event in more than a year. Photos from concerts in the run-up to the parade on Monday showed large crowds of people gathered in the park used for Fourth of July festivities. Main Street was lined with people, with some sports four or five people deep.

Photos of crowds like that might be routine in non-COVID times, but they look unusual after the previous 16 months or so.

There are simultaneously good and bad aspects to events returning with crowds in the thousands.

The bad aspects are easy to spot. COVID-19 is still a threat, and most Rowan County residents haven’t built immunity to the virus through a vaccination or previous positive test. That means most people who live in the county are still at risk of catching the virus, which can be deadly for people who aren’t medically compromised or elderly. Even one death is too many when a safe, effective vaccine is available.

Crowded events can result in new, unvaccinated people contracting COVID-19.

Still, the Faith Fourth parade and many of the popular outdoor community events in the immediate future — Cheerwine Festival, Pops at the Post, Farmers Day and the Dragon Boat Festival — don’t rise to the level of super-spreader-type events even with large crowds because people spread out, move around or  generally gather with friends, family or coworkers. When you’re outside, fresh air disperses droplets containing COVID-19. So, people are much less likely to breathe in enough to become sick.

Making new connections and rekindling old ones is a major benefit of returning to regular community events. Organizers don’t put together fun events for their own benefit; though, they may enjoy the planning process and seeing it through to completion. They do it to see the smiles on people’s faces and create enjoyable experiences for people who live in the same community.

Even people with a high tolerance for risk have spent much of the last year engaged in their individual, curated silos — both in person and online. It means they’ve had opinions reinforced, done little in terms of meeting new people and probably spent an unhealthy amount of time on social media. People with a lower-than-normal tolerance for risk have probably spent an unhealthy amount of time stuck in a room with their own family members or away from other people.

Human beings are a social species, and regular social interaction is important for our general well-being. This means more than social media or seeing people through high-resolution screens.

So, let’s mark the Faith Fourth as the beginning of a social season — preferably one where crowded events happen mostly outdoors — and encourage people to remove themselves from the comfort zones they’ve formed in the previous 16 months so Salisbury and Rowan County can recreate the social connections that create a community.

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