Yes, this is a newspaper. And what follows isn’t exactly news.
It’s content won’t exactly be surprising or even newsworthy, which again seems a bit contradictory considering this is a news medium. It also isn’t groundbreaking considering media coverage of COVID-19 has been impossible to avoid since mid-March.
Instead, this is more of a reflection on what was a year that was pretty much impossible to comprehend or put into words. Yet, it’s exactly what I’m attempting.
The year 2019 didn’t end any differently than others – and the early portion of 2020 seemed status quo. Families got together to enjoy the holidays and, get this, gathered in their homes, coffee shops, cafés, restaurants and bars to share laughter, memories, food and maybe a few beverages.
No one worried about getting too close to one another. In many cases, such behavior was encouraged. There were holiday hugs and New Year’s Eve kisses, and no one gave it a second thought.
We had heard about this coronavirus thing and that it might make some people sick in this country, but anyone other than an epidemiologist who says they knew 2020 would unfold as it did is either a liar or a psychic – of which only one truly exists.
Within months, as warning signs mounted, we started hearing about things previous thought unfathomable. Positive coronavirus cases emerged, and deaths slowly followed. That’s when reality hit, even though it seemed anything but real.
The Minnesota State High School girls’ basketball tournament was canceled one day before state champions were to be crowned. The boys’ basketball tournament was called off the morning after most teams earned their spot in the annual late-March event.
“March Madness” turned into “March Silence” as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s cancellation led to empty arenas and workplace brackets that never had the chance to get started.
Still, that was only sports.
Positive cases, closed schools and businesses, massive testing and unthinkable death tolls followed. Along with that fear came seemingly countless words, phrases and sites that were previously unheard of and which we all hope to never again experience. A short brainstorming session brought the following but hardly all-inclusive list of things that hopefully become a distant memory:
• Global pandemic
• Social distancing
• Mask mandates
• Make-shift morgues
• Over capacity ICU’s
• Overworked health care workers
• Zoom meetings
• Empty schools
• Distance learning
• Hybrid learning
• Empty restaurants
• Empty hotels
• Empty stores
• Empty airports and airplanes
• Empty stadiums
• Cardboard cutouts posing as “fans”
• Piped in crowd noise
• Sports in a bubble
• Golf holes with sponges inside
• Drive-through testing
• Brain-tickling nasal swabs
• Contact tracing
• Daily news briefings
• Businesses with “permanently closed” signs
• Toilet paper shortage
• Wiping down groceries and packages
• “Canceled” holidays
• Wuhan, China
• Positivity rate
• Face coverings in public
• Face shields
• Droplets spread through people “sharing air”
• Contact-less delivery
• Plexiglass barriers at stores
And, not to be outdone:
• Social injustice
Hopefully, some good comes of this and we can all learn to co-exist and live in happier and less-stressful times.
By the way, did you know it was an election year? That mess, too, can be forgotten.
Yes, I think we’re all ready for 2021.