January 21st 2020 – The CDC confirms the first case of the Coronavirus in the United States in Washington State
March 6th 2020 – The first positive test is confirmed in the state of Minnesota.
March 13th 2020 – A state of emergency is declared by the Governor.
It’s now been 365 days since the world came to a halt and our lives were turned upside down. So much has happened in that time that it’s hard to believe only one year has passed. Our kids stopped going to school, many of us stopped going to work, and going to the store for milk and eggs became a life threatening journey. The world has become so unrecognizable in so many ways that it’s almost impossible to imagine it going back to the way things were. I know that we’ll eventually be able to return to something resembling normalcy, but I don’t think it’ll ever truly be the same. We’ve suffered too long and lost far too much.
For a lot of people, “normal” means getting to do the things that we once enjoyed doing. Getting to go back to a packed movie theater on opening night, or to an arena to see a concert or a Vikings game. Going to conventions has always been one of my favorite things to do, but can you imagine being packed shoulder to shoulder in the halls of the LA Convention Center or a hotel ballroom? Will I ever be able to feel comfortable shaking hands with the sweaty Hagrid cosplayer or the hundreds of other people who stop by the Mega Dads table during a show? And the thought of ever going back to the Minnesota State Fair is enough to give me a panic attack.
Going out to restaurants is another personal favorite thing of mine to do, but Covid-19 has left that scene all but decimated. I’ve tried my best to support smaller, independent restaurants by ordering take out over the past year, but as good as that can be it still isn’t the same as sitting down in a dining room to a really great meal. Recently things have loosened up a bit making it possible to try and eat out, with masks, distancing, and limited seating times making things a bit safer. But with the limited capacity it’s hard to see that being sustainable much longer for many places. I’ve already seen so many of my favorite eateries shut their doors for good. Soon the only dining options left will be Applebees or Olive Garden.
I feel for the waiters, hotel staff, and convention workers who have struggled financially over the past year, not knowing if their jobs would be there next week or if their hours would be cut in half. Not knowing how they would be able to make rent next month or pay the electric bill. I’ve been in that position before in my life and there’s no worse feeling than the uncertainty of not knowing how much longer you can hold out. I’ve felt incredibly lucky (and often times guilty) to not have shared the financial struggles that so many others have been put through this past year, even though that security meant going to work in a place loaded with Covid positive individuals and fearing every day that I might catch the disease and bring it back home to my family.
My children’s schooling might be the biggest way in which Covid has personally effected my family. Distance Learning has been a tremendous challenge as I’m sure it has been for every family having to do it. With both my wife and I still having to go to work, it meant that our two girls were left home alone to try and get through their school day. For our oldest it was easier as she’s a bit more technically savvy, but my 4th grader struggled consistently with computer issues and the inability to get the personal attention she needs from her teacher. I know everyone has tried their best, but their education has almost certainly suffered due to being at home.
Sadly, for so many people the damage that has been done by this pandemic cannot be undone by a vaccine. There is no “going back” to the way things were. The damage is done and we’ll have to live with the consequences of our governments inaction for the rest of our lives. Grandparents have died alone in nursing homes, unable to see their families in their final moments. Parents have gotten sick and will have potentially years of complications due to the way in which the disease ravages the respiratory system. And we’ve lost friends. Friends who we always thought would be there, but have suddenly and tragically been taken from us.
It’s been one year since this nightmare began and there is a glimmer of hope beginning to appear on the horizon. Signs that the worst might truly be behind us. More and more people are being vaccinated and numbers are beginning to drop. The scary thing though, is that all of the progress we’ve made can be undone if we let our guard down too early. Some states are removing all limitations on businesses and telling people that they aren’t required to wear masks anymore. This kind of ignorance combined with new strains of the disease could send numbers skyrocketing again if we aren’t careful.
Yes, I want to go back to E3 very badly one day, and I want to go see the next big Marvel movie on the big screen, but not if it’s at the risk of prolonging the end of this terrible pandemic any longer. It’s been awful to see how my children have suffered socially and academically while they’ve been stuck at home for the past 365 days, but I would accept, without hesitation, another year of distance learning if it meant that it would spare one family from having to grieve the loss of a loved one.
When the unthinkable became a reality last spring, we didn’t know how long it would last. And now one year later, all of the social distancing, mask wearing, and not being able to leave the house has become the norm. But for as used to it as we’ve all become, I cannot wait for the day that I can feel safe enough to take my family out and enjoy the outside world again. So please keep wearing your mask, stay at home as much as possible, and get vaccinated as soon as you’re able. We’re going to make it to the other side of this, but it’ll take much longer if we don’t do it together.