Looking back at Herald issues from March 2000 (See Page 5B.) has made me reflect back upon this past year.
Life really changed during that time.
In February 2020, talk of a deadly coronavirus – a term I don’t think many of us had even heard before – making its way from China into other countries was just starting to hit the news. For a while there was optimism that it wouldn’t reach the U.S. at all.
By March, though, 19 of 50 states reported cases. There had been fatalities. Our first story reported that there were 164 cases nationally – but that that figure had jumped from 80 the day before. Most of those weeks, by the time the Herald went to press with numbers gleaned on Thursday or Friday of the previous week, the figures – and often the dynamic of the situation itself – had often totally changed.
As Sandra Bell said in that first Herald article, things seemed to change almost hourly
As meetings began to be canceled, along with many community activities, COVID-19 news became more and more our main news staple.
Looking back, I feel the county was very fortune to have the leadership it had. Sandra Bell, director of the county health department until her retirement in early July, was on top of the situation and ushered the city and county into the coronavirus era as smoothly as was feasible. She was beaten up by those who thought she was being too tough and by those who thought she was being too lenient. She sometimes butted heads with elected and appointed officials, but worked with them to implement common sense guidelines that helped keep local numbers low while surrounding counties were erupting.
As the arrival of vaccines and increased pressures to completely reopen schools and other aspects of life have increased, Jennifer Mueller has masterfully taken over the position. In between, the county was fortunate to have Julie Flieg, who stepped into the role temporarily, when no one else would, and Jeanette Wood, who volunteered to take on the thankless responsibility last fall.
The county and city governments have provided strong leadership in taking the virus seriously but not taking advantage of the situation to exercise dictatorial powers, as many states and municipalities have done.
We are not out of the woods yet, but we appear to have weathered the worst of the pandemic largely intact. Hopefully 2021 will emerge as a halfway normal year and COVID-19 will gradually become a shrinking image in our rear view mirror.
While they may not want to talk about this, I will say well after the fact that I sat in on meetings in 2020 in which local leaders reached out and made inquiries about availability of refrigeration units. At the time, this was not with the idea of storing vaccine vials at some point in the future. It was rather facing the worse-case scenario of the virus taking a deadly grip locally and the need arising to stack numerous bodies somewhere. Thank Heavens things never cane anywhere close to this scenario.
This is only mentioned now to remind everyone of how uncertain things were at times and how cataclysmic things might have been, had things broken differently. It is also noted to point out that our leaders were trying diligently to plan for all contingencies.
Now, with 35-foot river crests predicted, maybe we can get back to worrying about traditional things the second half of 2021.