COVID-19 Update: New Year, Same Difference

A new year should mean that the pandemic is over – or, close to it. 

The number cases and deaths rose in the USA to new levels that set off alarms across the country. A new set of guidelines and lockdowns were in place from state to state. The entire holiday season was spent with a few people at home with varying guidelines, depending on where you lived. 

Minnesota’s restaurants kept their dining rooms closed from before Thanksgiving through about two weeks ago. While Minnesota was closed, a few folks ventured into Wisconsin to sit down at some places. Yet, they felt the wrath of their neighbors when they came back across the St. Croix River. 

Travel was still affected. However, some people were brazen enough to spurn some guidelines and travel bans. A furor was raised over some Canadian federal and provincial politicians vacationing outside of their country. A couple of politicians went to Hawaii, which was supposed to be a closed border between the USA and Canada. 

Meanwhile, the vaccines arrived. People who were given priority to get their first doses were finding some relief, despite some fears of side effects. I saw a friend who worked at the local hospital, received her first dose of the vaccine through social media. It gave me relief that we can get through this into the new year.

So, why are we still on edge? Why are still talking as we cannot make plans because we don’t know what will happen tomorrow, the next week, and beyond? Why have we eased on many things that should be resolved, or heading towards resolution? 

And, why in the hell are people who refuse to wear a mask are taking their frustrations out of those who are complying by the guidelines? Why have they become so violent?

Before I attempt to answer any of those questions, I need to reconsider thinking out loud on some subjects. 

There is a danger in doing so. Frustration, fatigue…not just about the pandemic. This past year served up a dumpster fire that was mixed with not just this pandemic, but of politics, society, and business. 

Frankly, I rather not talk about politics on here. I can certainly acknowledge the sadness and anger over what happened on January 6. It cannot be ignored. That’s all I’m going to say about it without going off the deep end. 

In fact, it leads to the next part…

In terms of society, I talked about how there is a now a focus mental/emotional/behavioral health as exacerbated by the pandemic. A focus now? Seriously, this should have been talked about earlier! While we hear about those who dealt with or are dealing with COVID-19 – including those who have died from this virus – the biggest toll would be on our own psyche. Our coping mechanisms and the many ways we exhibit frustration, sadness, fear, and the determination to survive have been exacerbated in ways that we have never ourselves before. 

Could it better before it gets worse? I hope so. Or, at least I hope so. 

As for business, one could look at the year-end sales figures that were released recently from the automotive industry. It was expected that auto sales would miss initial projects due to the massive drop in volume through March and April at the onset of the pandemic and the initial lockdowns. 

In the end, USA automotive sales slumped by 14.4% to a final figure of 14.6 Million units, down from 17.1 Million in 2019. One would hope we could see a rebound towards that 17 Million figure. Who knows? 

Another thing I was hoping we could do was to do a hard reset on everything. It appears we are heading that way. While inside dining has returned to restaurants in Minnesota, new strains of this virus have popped up that can spread quicker and wider than the main strain of COVID-19. It does not help that we are in the midst of a confluence of multiple storylines that could affect this country’s future and economy. 

The hope that a new year will see better days may have been temporarily shelved for the time being. If you’re an optimist, you might want to look at some reality first. The road ahead towards normalcy and a return to the way things used to be before March of 2020 may have been detoured, but its directions are recalculating.

Give it time. Be patience. We might just get through this. We will see a thaw in this harsh winter of this pandemic.

All photos by Randy Stern

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