New year, new hope

We’ve finally made it. After 12 exhausting, seemingly endless and torturous months, we’ve managed to put 2020 — a year of death and tragedy — the year of the global coronavirus pandemic — behind us. Yes, we are still very much in the throes of dealing with the blasted virus, fighting for our lives and the lives of our loved ones as millions will now hopefully line up to get vaccinated against COVID-19, while continuing to wear our face coverings, wash our hands religiously and social distance to protect ourselves and others from getting sick. But at least there is some relief in knowing that the year 2021 has, at long last, arrived. And with a new year comes new hope. 

It’s been difficult, to say the least, to make it through this past year. It began with the unnerving knowledge that an unknown virus had made its way over from Wuhan, China, to our shores in December of 2019, only to see cases explode in New York by mid-March, 2020. Soon the Big Apple was the epicenter of the COVID crisis in the U.S., and Governor Andrew Cuomo shut down the state with his Executive Order putting New York on PAUSE — closing all non-essential businesses, schools and mass gatherings through most of the fall. Slowly, New York began to reopen in phases, though not all of it has returned to normal, even today, nearly one year later. 

That’s understandable, as the U.S. saw the pandemic escalate dramatically in November, when the daily number of reported deaths rose steadily; by mid-December deaths surpassed 3,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Those numbers are only getting worse as we now enter the new year, and have a new strain from the U.K. complicating matters. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the coronavirus is the worst pandemic to hit America in more than a century. But CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield was not completely discouraged when he spoke at the end of 2020.

“This has been a year of challenges, but also of innovation, modernization and advancement in public health,” he said, noting the numerous vaccines now on the market, from the American vaccines to the British vaccine; China and Russia, even India, have also come out with vaccines. “I am hopeful for the future and the months to come as [the] CDC continues to secure the safety of the American people and this Nation.”

We, too, have hope for the American people. We have hope that in the coming months people will start to become inoculated against COVID-19 — first healthcare workers and front line workers; then the elderly and other vulnerable citizens; along with essential workers like teachers and government employees; then bus drivers, garbage collectors, etc.; then those who most need the vaccine, be it children, those with compromised immune systems (once it’s figured out how they can do so safely), etc. Everyone should get the vaccine. Period. That’s what vaccines are for, to protect society during a pandemic. We need to make sure everyone is kept safe and healthy, as quickly as possible.

Once our citizens are inoculated, once we have eradicated the coronavirus from our land, we, as a society, can refocus on the issues that brought us so much unrest in 2020. We can revisit topics like social justice and its impact on rural communities like ours. We can talk about police reform, and see if our local departments would benefit from new policies. We can discuss how to expand broadband services in the Harlem Valley and how to ensure residents in the region, especially students, have reliable access.

So instead of looking at 2020 as a year to rue, and rather than striking a match to last year’s calendar, why not instead consider 2020 as a year of learning, possibly of loss, but certainly one from which to move on with something gained? Perspective, perhaps, and now, with 2021 having arrived, new hope.

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