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A COVID Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving, a day traditionally meant for giving thanks for our blessings. For some of us, pausing to reflect on what we’re grateful for this year might be more challenging than it’s been in the past. But one thing we might want to include on our list is the technology, warts and all, that has allowed us to maintain some normalcy in our lives and has made social distancing tolerable. 

What would we do without Zoom and similar applications? Video conferencing platforms have enabled us to continue working, have playdates, attend religious services, throw dinner parties, and otherwise socialize from our homes. While Zoom was recently under investigation by both the Federal Trade Commission and NY Attorney General (and has since signed agreements to clean up its privacy and security practices), and nobody will ever look at Jeffrey Toobin the same way, the benefits that video conferencing platforms are providing are huge.

The impact that e-commerce has had during COVID cannot be overstated. While brick-and-mortar stores have suffered huge declines, and businesses small and large including iconic ones like Lord & Taylor and Neiman Marcus have experienced closures and bankruptcies, e-commerce has been “at the forefront of retail.” What would we have done during lockdown without groceries, toilet paper, and root touch-up kits delivered to our doorsteps by our delivery heroes?

Recently, contact tracing apps have come into use as a way to fight the virus on a widescale basis. For decades, contact tracing had been a manual, labor-intensive infectious disease control measure employed by public health personnel as a key strategy to identify and prevent the growth of potential “hot spots” and disease spread. Tracing apps enable much greater scalability, thereby increasing the efficiency of tracers’ work. (Reminder: check out a tracing app’s privacy practices before you sign up.)

There have been many other technological developments, like “ed tech,” online educational services that have made it possible for our children to continue to learn remotely, and telehealth, which has allowed us to go to the doctor remotely. Services like Teleparty (formerly Netflix Party) and Houseparty even enable us to watch TV or go to the movies remotely with friends, or to “hang out” in groups online.

But perhaps the most meaningful use of technology during the pandemic was and continues to be the use of cellphones which, during the darkest days that unfortunately still continue, allow terminally ill patients to say their final good-byes to loved ones who cannot be with them during their last moments on earth.

So while 2020 has been hideous, I will take the time this year during my Thanksgiving (Zoom) celebration to give thanks, as usual, for health and my loved ones, the vaccine that is finally coming into sight, and yes, for the (imperfect) internet and the technology that has enabled so much.

By Gille Ann Rabbin, Esq., CIPP/US, CIPP/E

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