One Year Later: Reflecting on how COVID-19 Changed our Lives
Over the last year we have experienced a presidential election with an unprecedented number of by-mail and early votes cast, and we saw both effective and ineffective rollouts of virus testing and more recently vaccinations. We saw hospitals and medical professionals learn and adapt to provide the best care possible as knowledge of the virus changed daily, and we redefined the term ‘essential worker’.
Palm Beach County took a hit in many facets of the economy, and we have seen small businesses struggle to keep their doors open, major layoffs in the tourism and hospitality industries, and enormous budget cuts in universities. And the list goes on. There is not a single person, from the preschooler, to the college professor, to the Amazon delivery driver, to military personnel, who have not had their life affected by the pandemic. Every single candidate who campaigned in the most recent municipal election ran with COVID-19 as one of their key issues.
We have also learned about the mechanism of local government, the impact it has on our lives, and the relationship between our city, county, state, and finally, the United States a whole.
And then of course there are ever-evolving theories about the long-term effects of COVID-19 on every profession you can name. Some people are desperately waiting for things to ‘go back to normal’, while others predict and even hope that the wide-spread use of modern technology for every aspect of business and education possible will remain in place, and the pandemic will forever change our outlook on daily life.
After the first wave of vaccinations made its way to Palm Beach County, the Palm Beach Department of Health’s 200,000 person backlog of individuals requesting vaccination appointments coinciding with the inability of websites across the state to handle unprecedented traffic highlighted just one issue between the intersection of technology, health, and government.
Another amplified technology and health issue was, when doctors appointments in person are scarce, who does and who does not have access to a computer and/or the internet to meet their basic healthcare needs?
We have seen an increase in individuals, particularly students, reporting depression, and an uptick in alcohol abuse, but have also learned how to connect to friends, family, and colleagues online and even in person safely.
After three major country-wide COVID-19 spikes we move past the March 1 date, which marks one year since the first two Floridians tested positive for Coronavirus.
As of March 10, 2021, there have been a total of 124,230 COVID-19 cases in Palm Beach County, resulting in nearly 2,530 deaths. Currently, Florida sits 45th on the list of all 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of percentage of vaccines administered out of the total number received, coming in with 70.51% administered. Palm Beach County has administered at least one round of vaccinations to over 300,000 people, with almost 70% of seniors having received at least one dose.
Who could have predicted a year ago that a handshake would be considered a higher risk activity than riding in an airplane, or that clearing your throat in a store could feel like a crime?
There are still more questions than answers, but that’s everything; there are always more problems than solutions. And it is important to remember that while COVID-19 has at times shoved a wedge between Americans along political lines, and although everyone has been affected differently, everyone has been affected.
So as we take stock on the anniversary of the pandemic, some of us grieve, some of us struggle to find work, and some of us try as hard as we can to carry on business as usual. But, whether it is in the forefront of our minds or simply exists as a nagging thought we just can’t shake off, all of us, together, are stepping into uncharted territory.