Reflections on a Yearlong Battle With COVID-19
A year has swiftly passed since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. At this time last March, CNN reported that there were 118,000 cases and that "the virus has found a foothold on every continent except for Antarctica." As of this writing, 529,267 Americans have died from the novel coronavirus, and just over 29 million have been infected since January 2020, according to health-tracking data from Johns Hopkins University. Almost 10% of the nation has been fully vaccinated. Thinking back to January of last year, which feels like a lifetime ago, most of us did not realize how abruptly our lives were going to change.
I remember looking forward to the field trip that I took in February with students, faculty and staff from the Ohio State University at Lima to Cincinnati's National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Museum. We had no idea that we would soon not be able to do the little things we enjoyed on that brisk Saturday outing -- fellowshipping and laughing during the bus ride, and sharing tasty saratoga chip appetizers at Montgomery Inn. A few weeks later, after spring break was extended due to the rapid spreading of the virus, we were informed that we would not return to school and would finish the semester through remote learning. I was in Georgia with my mother after the funerals of two close relatives. Mask mandates had not been implemented, but social gatherings were limited to a maximum of 20 people. Social gatherings eventually morphed into social distancing, which elevated Zoom calls and meetings to the prime mode of communication during the pandemic. And the Zoom fatigue that quickly ensued reminded us of something that we have known for a long time: Technology cannot replace festive, in-person interaction.
Moving forward in 2021, we hope for a better future for those who were hit the hardest financially as the pandemic wrecked our economy. The $1.9 trillion COVID relief package that President Joe Biden just signed will help tremendously, but we have a long path ahead to recovery. One small observation I have made within the past year that can probably be attributed to job loss is much lighter traffic on my morning commute to school. Although much of this is due to people working from home, I wonder how many absences on the road are the result of layoffs and furloughs.
Unemployment soared to 14.7% last April, with those working in the service industry suffering the most. Lost jobs ranged from laundry, transportation and retail workers to performing artists. As this crisis was unfolding, we gained a newfound appreciation for those deemed essential workers in grocery stores, folks we often overlooked who stocked the shelves with the No. 1 panic-buying items at the onset of our national lockdown: paper towels and bathroom tissue. We also witnessed the immense pain and grief of doctors and nurses on the frontlines who felt helpless with thousands in their care on ventilators and dying. This burden weighed even more heavily upon them because many people still believed the coronavirus was a hoax and turned mask-wearing into repulsive partisan debates.
Reflecting on what our country has endured combatting COVID-19, I think mostly on how I slowed my life down to pray more and be thankful for everything that I have. I'm grateful to God for my health and healing virtue through Christ, as every COVID test that I have taken has come back negative. I'm grateful for employment, and I am praying that doors open for those still looking for work. And, as I have previously written, I am praying that God strengthens the faith of our leaders. Biden has the daunting task of governing our nation in a season when it is fighting not just to overcome COVID but to hold on to the hope within its soul. Legislation, no matter how effective, cannot heal the brokenness and hurt that so many Americans are feeling at this time. As we continue to battle the pandemic, it will take a discerning heart to minister to this hurt.
Dr. Jessica A. Johnson is a lecturer in the English department at Ohio State University's Lima campus. Email her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JjSmojc. To find out more about Jessica Johnson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate, Inc.