Pandemic-weary Greater Akron anxious to embrace new year with hugs

A hug. 

Such a simple gesture of love, camaraderie or good will.

Hugs take no money, no planning and very little effort.

Yet hugs are what many Akron Beacon Journal readers say they’re most looking forward to in 2021 once a majority of Americans have had their two doses of COVID-19 vaccines and the grip of the pandemic loosens.

Infectious disease experts warn that the beginning of 2021 will look and feel much like 2020. Most Americans won’t begin receiving vaccinations until late March or early April.

And even then, the U.S. will likely face regional COVID-19 flareups and widespread precautions — like continued masking — to prevent disease spread among those who are not vaccinated. 

Nevertheless, Beacon Journal readers appear bullish on 2021.

When asked what they were looking forward to most in the new year, some said they wanted to hug their mothers, their fathers, their neighbors, their children, their friends and, one woman suggested, anyone who will let her.

Others want to get back to their familiar life before the pandemic. They want to travel again, go downtown and watch Akron RubberDucks game, listen to a polka band or head back to the classroom, teaching children in school instead of online.

Some Akron leaders want something more.

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan dons his mask in 2020 during a weekly series of virtual town hall meetings.

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan’s wishes are twofold: “My hopes for 2021 are for people to believe in facts as opposed to hyperbole, and that as country and a region we start to believe in each other again.”

Akron NAACP President Judi Hill said she is looking forward but never wants to forget 2020, a year not only distinguished by the pandemic, but by the fight for racial justice. 

“Never forgetting the pain, hurt, anguish as well as the energy and passion of so many people,” Hill said. 

“Only a crisis can produce real change,” Hill said. “I am looking forward to real change that will create a more equitable, civil America.”

Judi Hill, Akron NAACP president, speaks before a Black Lives Matter Solidarity March hosted by Copley-Fairlawn For All, a group of students, alumni and community members in July 2020.

Here are what some other Beacon Journal readers said they’re most looking forward to in 2021:

First, I’m looking forward to hugging my mom. She went into a nursing home after falling the day they locked them down March 11. I have seen her three times this year for doctor visits but each time she had to go into quarantine after. Second, I’m hoping to take a trip with my husband, Tedd, to San Diego. Last Christmas he bought me tickets to the zoo there but we were not able to go. Both of those things would make my new year wish come true. — Meghann Quinlan

Melissa Salva, an assistant nurse manager in the cardiac and neuro ICU at Cleveland Clinic Akron General, receives a COVID-19 vaccine Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020.

Hoping everyone gets the two COVID-19 vaccines and everyone will be back to good health and everything is back to normal by this time next year so we can celebrate our life — Christine Errett-Galletta

The vaccine, teaching students in the brick and mortar classroom again, and stability/consistency from the federal government — Angelo Donatelli 

Many teachers and students are long to reconnect in classrooms. Alisha Tamang, North High School Class of 2020 valedictorian, urged her classmates to learn and grow as they experience life, even as the final months of their senior year was upended by the pandemic.

I can’t wait until bands can start touring again and to see my local favorites in my favorite local places. — Kristina Bunnell

Giving my son a hug again! — Christie Wotring-Wilson

Shannon and Tom Hasenstab of Cuyahoga Falls kiss after Summit County Probate Court Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer renewed their wedding vows with 34 other couples in June 2019. Many couples postponed weddings or drastically cut the guest lists in 2020 because of the pandemic. [Phil Masturzo/Beacon Journal/]

My niece is getting married June 12th, and I have a beach house rented for the following week. Hoping that more than my nuclear family can enjoy the beach with us! — Ann Bryner Hedington

Calmness and less chaos. It will be nice to return to some sense of normalcy — Adam VanHo

Hayden Gilbert (left) and the Ruckus are one of the 12 bands that pre-recorded sets for CouchRokr 2020, the virtual version of the popular Highland Square music festival PorchRokr.

#PorchRokr2021(Akron’s Highland Square annual neighborhood music festival) — Kyle Julien

Hoping I can take my youngest out for his birthday. Hoping my April birthday is normal…all of my boys into school come September. Have a feeling we will be virtual until the end of the year. — Rhiannon Crim

Going back to my home town, Barberton…and hearing a polka band. — Gerry Tokie Hyde

Seeing and hugging my grandchildren without THEM being afraid they will infect me with COVID-19 and I’ll die. It’s a real fear for them because I have a really lousy immune system. — Laura Larue

Gathering with family and loved ones. — Marie Stump

The James Webb space telescope is scheduled to launch in October and aims to find the first galaxies that formed in the early universe.

The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. Hoping very much that it’s a success. (NASA says the new telescope, scheduled to launch in October, will find the first galaxies that formed in the early universe and peer through dusty clouds to see stars forming planetary systems.) — Jason Lallo

Hug my Dad!!! — Tiffany Carr 

Hugs, something most of us took for granted before the pandemic, are among the things Akron Beacon Journal readers are most looking forward to in 2021. Infectious disease experts caution,, however, that COVID-19 vaccinations won't begin for most Americans until late March or April. And even then, pandemic protocols will likely remain in place. Here, Candice Szachury hugs her daughter Kayla Safari in the entryway of Woodridge Elementary School.

I look forward to peaceful mornings without “nasty” tweets. — Cliff Anthony

Seeing my son play high school baseball after last season was canceled! — Holly Pierpont

Seeing and hugging my grandma who’s in hospice before it’s too late. — Chris Eggert 

Spend more time with family. — Deby Barle Bretz

Attending Cleveland Indians and Akron Rubberducks in 2021. — Mark Thut 

Seats are ready for fans to cheer on the Akron RubberDucks at Canal Park.

Give hugs to all my family and friends. — Kathleen Gill

Hopefully going to Ireland/Northern Ireland on a vacation, seeing friends/family again. — Lauren Mostardi 

I wanna see my kids and the flesh!!! — Elise Hokman

$100K Bitcoin. (The value of the cryptocurrency has soared since March. A single bitcoin was worth about $26,635 Dec. 29 after sinking below $4,000 near the beginning of the pandemic.) — John Sapp

Hanging out with friends and traveling. — Lisa Marie Stuart 

Before the pandemic, crowds of friends and strangers gathered weekly for Downtown at Dusk at the Akron Art Museum.

I’m looking forward to not hearing about COVID anymore. — Billie Helbert Richter

Hugging everrrryyybody. I’m gonna make it weird. — Marion Schmarion

Browns SUPER Bowl! — Brad Sutter

Could quarterback Baker Mayfield finally lead the Cleveland Browns to a Super Bowl? (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Jetting off to a faraway land!! — Francine Sommerville Bostice

Blossom Music Center. — Sue Matulis

Concert goers listen to the rock band Poison at Blossom Music Center on Tuesday June 13, 2018 in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. [Mike Cardew/Beacon Journal File]

Hugging my son and granddaughters. — Margie Wotring

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