We’ve Been Living With The COVID-19 Pandemic For A Year Now And Oh, What A Year It Has Been

Hundreds of temporary hospital rooms were constructed at the convention center in anticipation of surging COVID-19 cases in the early days of the pandemic.

It’s been a year since we first started feeling the impacts of the pandemic here in Ohio.

In late February and early March 2020, most communities in the United States entered into some version of a COVID-19 related lockdown.

On March 5, Governor Mike Dewine announced that the Arnold Sports Festival would be held without any spectators and that the market portion of the festival would be cancelled. At the time, it was a jarring decision. Coronavirus seemed like a distant problem. There were already cases happening around the country, but here in Ohio, we hadn’t had any confirmed at the time.

Former Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton said in the order that closed the festival that “A large gathering of this type, which puts thousands of people shoulder to shoulder in a confined space, increases the risk of exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19.”

The decision came just in time, because only a few days later, on March 9, the first confirmed cases of coronavirus were announced here in the Buckeye State. In just two weeks, the state already had its first confirmed death, in-person learning was suspended, businesses were closed, and a stay-at-home order was in place.

For many of us, the month of March was an introduction into our new lives. As we figured out working and going to school from home, we also got used to experiencing our social lives in a digital format.

We learned how to Zoom.

We made video calls with our loved ones.

We baked and crafted and DIY’d.

All the while, the pandemic was speeding up. Facilities where residents live in congregate settings, like nursing homes and prisons, were hit hardest initially. The stay-at-home order was extended through the end of May, but the Governor had already begun opening some businesses with strict guidelines.

Restaurants returned as carryout only and our local businesses faced an uphill battle, figuring out how to operate safely and how to keep their stores, diners, and bars open in the face of overwhelming stress.

By the time the summer rolled around, we had all begun to settle into our new normal routines. We wore masks in public, maintained six feet of distance from others, and washed and sanitized our hands frequently.

In the warmer months, it was easier to forget that the world was facing a deadly pandemic. But as the temperatures cooled and we were forced back inside, the COVID-19 numbers in Ohio reached their highest rates so far.

During the holidays, coronavirus cases were reaching over 10,000 cases per day. But it wasn’t all bad news. In early December, the FDA announced that the first COVID-19 vaccines had been granted emergency approval.

“The tireless work to develop a new vaccine to prevent this novel, serious, and life-threatening disease in an expedited timeframe after its emergence is a true testament to scientific innovation and public-private collaboration worldwide,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D at the time.

Since then, two more vaccines have been approved for use, including the Moderna vaccine and most recently, the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The pandemic isn’t over. We’ve still got long days ahead. But there is hope on the horizon. Governor Dewine just recently announced that events would be able to resume soon, albeit at a reduced capacity. Dewine also mentioned that the number of doses coming into Ohio would rise from about 230,000 last week to about 310,000 this week.

Over 60% of Ohioans 80 and over have gotten a shot, followed by 52% of those 75-79, 41% of those 70-74 and 27% of 65 to 69 year-olds. As of February 28 Ohio has administered at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine to 1,654,903 people, or 14.16% of our population.

As more and more Ohioans are able to get vaccinated, we can all take a collective deep breath and start thinking about life after this pandemic.

To date, we’ve lost 17,297 of our fellow Ohioans to COVID-19. It’s a number that would have seemed unimaginable this time a year ago and their loss is felt everyday by their friends and families.

As we move forward and eventually come out the other side of this pandemic, I can only hope that we’ll take what we’ve learned about ourselves and our society with us. If the past year taught me anything, it’s that we really are all stronger when we’re together, when we’ve got each other’s backs and when we’re working for the common good.

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