Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – January 14, 2022

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – January 14, 2022

The distance between Ocean City and Donegal, Northern Ireland is approximately 3,229 miles. It’s the distance a bottle — containing a handwritten note from an Ocean City boy and two, $1 bills — covered over the course of three years.

The story is incredible. Then 11-year-old Sasha Yonyak was on a boat during the summer of 2019 with his neighbor Wayne Smith when he located a bottle floating in a marina. Inside the bottle was two, $1 bills and a note encouraging the finder to “pass it on.” It was clear to them the bottle they found was put in the water in Ocean City. Therefore, Yonyak and Smith decided to drop the bottle with a new note off the coast about a mile.

The bottle evidently took a northern trek with the currents and was discovered last week by a couple walking on the beach in the northwestern Ireland town of Donegal. It must have been an incredible journey. The story is further highlighted by the fact Yonyak – now 14 years old – has a special story to fondly remember of his older fishing buddy who passed away last summer.

Ocean City needs to get rolling on its special event planning. It’s mid-January and there seems to be far too many uncertainties. Tourism and Business Development Director Tom Perlozzo acknowledged the resort is not where it should be with its event planning and calendar. “We’ll put together an overall plan,” he said this week to the town’s tourism commission. “We just want to get some of these things on the calendar and start making some offers because it’s competitive. I feel like we’re two months behind already. We just need some direction.”

Worcester Preparatory School Virtual Tour

It was puzzling to see Ocean City does not have a solid grasp on its special events. Memorial Day weekend is less than five months away, and the resort’s special event calendar is in flux with tourism officials asking for direction on the weekly value-added summer events like the drones and fireworks shows. There will probably be more drone shows next summer, but it seems like discussions are just now starting. It appears as if the calendar flipped to the new year and there was a realization a lot of work remains, and some big decisions need to be made, especially when it comes to booking entertainment for proposed events.

Equally surprising is the uncertainty surrounding a date for Sunfest. The inclination seems to be to push it into the second week of October to allow for a new music concert weekend to be held after bike week. Sunfest has been a huge event for Ocean City for decades. Moving it might not be a big deal for many, but it will not sit well with traditionalists accustomed to it kicking off the autumn season at the beach.

Everything will surely get worked out with these special events, but there needs to be a sense of urgency.

The term “cautiously aggressive” comes to mind with the Worcester County Public School’s revised approach this week to managing the pandemic. It’s clear the school system is looking to continue moving forward through the pandemic with an aim and focus on keeping kids in school.

There will be positive cases among students and teachers and there will be close contacts who must quarantine as a result. The data will rise and fall with community spread. This just seems to be the new normal. However, with increased testing, different rules for the vaccinated and smart practices on protocol management, in-person learning can continue through positive spikes like we are seeing now. Since it’s not happening in many other areas of the state, the local school system deserves credit for not closing schools even when numbers hit high levels. Over the course of last week, Jan. 3-7, there were 194 new COVID-19 cases, including 48 alone at Stephen Decatur High School. However, some perspective is needed considering there are more than 6,650 students in county public schools and about 1,000 at Decatur High alone.

Worcester County Public Schools is managing the pandemic right. Not overreacting to spikes and managing the positive cases in a reasonable manner. Changes will need to be made often to protocols as circumstances vary, but the course is proper so long as the focus remains on keeping kids in school as safe as possible. Adopting the CDC changes on quarantine protocols is an obvious change, but there other more practical changes being made as well to help families, like offering convenient PCR testing at local schools.

For example, in his message this week to families, Superintendent of Schools Loy Taylor outlined a “change to our contact tracing protocol,” which illustrates the need to be fluid while moving forward toward progress.

“… Worcester County Public Schools will now focus our contact tracing efforts on school activities where individuals are unmasked, such as lunch and athletics, as well as identifying household contacts,” he said. “We continue our commitment to notify families and staff when an individual in their cohort has tested positive. However, as individual contact tracing proves to be less effective when community transmission is high, our health staff will shift their efforts from investigating relatively low-risk in-school exposures to more critical activities like the identification, early isolation, and management of students and staff with active COVID-19-like symptoms.”

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.