Suwannee Valley Times is distributed into the following cities and towns: Lake City, Live Oak, Madison, Branford, Dowling Park, Falmouth, Lee, Wellborn, Jasper, White Springs, Fort White, High Springs and Alachua

2020 Year in Review

By Jeffry Boatright

Certain calendar years from history are forever etched in our memory. For most of us, 2020 was such a year and will likely be a topic of conversations for decades to come.

It was a year that left many with a taste of infamy and sorrow. That is not to say that everything about the year was bad. It was not. We all found an opportunity to laugh, give thanks, to live and to love. At some point, we even found hope. Nonetheless, 2020 was tainted with pandemic, dirty politics, misrepresentation and social unrest.

In just eight hours, on March 17, a team erected a tent to triage ED patients outside of Penn Presbyterian Medical Center (PPMC). -Courtesy Photo

The year began relatively normal with another political season getting underway. The impeachment of President Trump headlined the news with the college admissions scandal and “Me Too Movement” garnering plenty of coverage. Although it did not really seem to pose much threat to the United States mainland, especially our area, the World Health Organization announced that a deadly coronavirus had emerged in Wuhan, China.

The world scrambled for ventilators. -Photo: Ennomotive

We remained optimistic in February. The Senate ultimately acquitted President Trump on Feb. 5, and the impeachment trial was behind us. The US Centers for Disease Control reported on Feb. 25, a total of 14 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States. Just a few days later, the CDC advised that 50 countries had reported at least one case of the coronavirus.
Within two weeks, 647 cases of the virus had been confirmed in the United States, the CDC reported. Cases had been confirmed in 37 states and Washington D.C. Concerns grew throughout the nation as the potentially deadly virus overtook our lives. To make matters worse, the coronavirus pandemic had already triggered a global recession as numerous countries went into lockdown. The Dow Jones industrial average suffered its worst single-day point drop ever on March 9, 2020.

The pandemic really hit home on the afternoon of March 13, when Governor Ron Desantis announced the temporary closure of schools throughout the state. Those closures later became effective for campuses for the remainder of the school term as educators and students quickly transitioned into the world of virtual learning. DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order on April 1, to curb coronavirus.

The pandemic had hit home, bringing a new normal with it. We panicked, buying frozen meat, toilet paper, and disinfectants in the bulk. Store shelves quickly emptied, and we leaned heavily on the essential grocery store workers. Friends and family shopped for the elderly and disabled. Social distancing, protective masks and hand sanitizer became part of our everyday life.
We learned to use Zoom, Facetime, and other media tools in place of seeing our loved ones in person. In many cases, digital meetings sufficed for family gatherings, business meetings and even church services. While we agree that no family function or church service can be effectively replaced by digital meetings, we did learn that they can be a great supplement during normal times.

Some people even cultivated new skills, such as baking and gardening during the stay-at-home order. It was a time of adjustment and most learned to cope and make the best of it. Others did not. Sure, we all feel victimized, and we have all been affected. Some, however, have been much more severely affected than others.

If we were merely inconvenienced or missed our favorite entertainment or sporting events, we were lucky. Unfortunately, many have not been so lucky. Countless business and individual incomes were negatively impacted. Some individuals battled the virus and were left physically affected and weakened. Others battled the virus and ultimately died. Almost everyone has lost a friend, relative or acquaintance to COVID-19, regardless of the survival rate.

There was an emptiness beyond explanation on the morning of April 12. That was an Easter Sunday like no other with family gatherings and egg hunts cancelled. It was the unopened churches, however, that left a void that seemed impossible to fill. For the Christian, a simple statement made all the difference. Christian blogger Kristi Bothur is credited with writing, “The churches are empty – but so is the tomb.”

By Mother’s Day, we had either learned to cope or thrown in the towel. Many Americans continued to Zoom and celebrate the cherished day remotely. Other springtime and summer events were canceled. Festivals and fairs, sporting events and school functions were halted. Alternative and rescheduled events did absorb some of the disappointment in many cases. Formal events and services such as weddings and funerals had to be altered and postponed. The pandemic certainly had us in disarray by early spring.

By late spring, a pandemic-weary America turned its attention to Minneapolis. The May 25 death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, who died during an arrest, sparked nationwide protests, riots, and social unrest that remained throughout the summer.

Live Oak’s May 31 Unity Rally after the May 25 death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd. -Photo by Demetrius Armstead

After a decline in new COVID cases between April 9 and June 9, new cases sharply increased well into July, prompting the cancellation of many Independence Day celebrations.

Meanwhile, the political arena was taking shape and heating up. Former Vice President Joe Biden clinched the Democratic presidential nomination on June 05, and selected California senator Kamala Harris as the Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate. Harris, who had bitterly opposed Biden during the primaries, was the first black woman on a major party’s presidential ticket.

With a reduction in new COVID-19 cases between the middle of July and the middle of September, our attention turned to the reopening of schools and politics. We enjoyed friendly and sometimes heated debates over our candidates of choice, and we seriously considered the pros and cons of students returning to campuses and social distancing in general.

Although Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had been in poor health, we were shocked and saddened to learn of her death on Sept. 18. The vacant seat in the high court sparked a new debate about replacing Ginsburg, who was a trailblazer for gender equality. Ultimately, the vacated seat was filled Oct. 26, when the U.S. Senate officially confirmed Amy Coney Barrett for appointment to the Supreme Court.

By election day on Nov. 3, new COVID cases nationwide had more than doubled since a Sept. 13 trough. Of course, all eyes were on the election and concerns of voter fraud escalated. It initially appeared that President Trump had been reelected, but after a few days of recounting in various states, Joe Biden was named President-elect on Nov. 7, leaving millions of Americans even more suspicious of election fraud.

Despite tens of thousands of Trump supporters attending rallies throughout the nation, the 2020 election officials are saying Biden won the election. Lawsuits with allegations of massive voter fraud still plague the nation into 2021. -Photo Courtesy @DonaldTrump

With the number of new COVID cases still high at Thanksgiving and Christmas, many families chose to social distance and avoid the risk of exposure. Still, many Americans carried on with plans and tradition. The year closed with 20.1 million COVID-19 cases in the United States alone, with Florida accounting for more than 1.3 million of those cases. The virus has been blamed with over 350,000 deaths in the United States and over 22,000 of those deaths have been in Florida.

Through it all, congress skillfully managed to politicize every aspect of the pandemic. It is difficult, at best, to decipher the recent 1.4 trillion-dollar bill, which consists of 5,593 pages. Perhaps that is by design.

The year was not all bad, however, and we were left with glimmers of hope toward the end of 2020. The first Americans were vaccinated against the coronavirus on Dec. 14, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the emergency use of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

December 10, the FDA approved the first emergency use authorization of a COVID vaccine by Pfizer. -Photo Courtesy CDC

Many of us became stargazers on the night of Dec. 21, when Jupiter and Saturn appeared closer together than they had been in about 800 years. It formed what was called the “Christmas Star.”

Countless other good things happened throughout the year, many of which resulted from the pandemic. Two Pennsylvania dads started a bakeoff last April that led to them donating 15,000 cookies to essential workers. Jigsaw puzzles made a comeback and drive-in theaters experienced a renaissance in some places.

A Texas teen was awarded 25 thousand dollars in 3M’s Young Scientist competition in October after she developed a potential treatment for COVID-19. Grace Moore, A 12-year-old, became one of the youngest composers for the New York Philharmonic in November.

Certainly, 2020 was not all bad. It is doubtless that many great things happened that never made the news. Still, here’s hoping that 2021 will be a better year, bringing good health, hope, prosperity, peace and love for fellow man. Who knows, we might even be able to hug again, just like in the good old days. It is said that the most beautiful skies follow a storm.