Today marks a year since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Galveston County — a woman in her 30s from Friendswood. At the time, it felt shocking.
Gone was the somewhat arrogant notion that “It can’t happen here,” a sentiment that most honest Americans would confess was running through their minds as we watched the novel coronavirus take its first bold steps out of Wuhan late in 2019 and early in 2020.
But it can happen here, and it did. And it still is even as the light at the end of the tunnel brightens with each rolled-up sleeve and needle jab that happens at vaccination hubs, pharmacies, doctors’ offices, church halls, nursing homes and community centers around the county.
“Pandemic” was declared the word of the year for 2020, but it easily could have been “pivot.”
At its core, to pivot is to keep one foot on the ground while using the other foot to change direction. In 2020 and continuing into this year, we’ve all been forced to pivot in one way or another.
School districts had to keep teaching while pivoting to embrace distance learning. Doctors had to keep seeing patients while pivoting to provide counsel via virtual appointments. Businesses had to keep people working while pivoting to allow and equip them to do it from home.
Personally, people had to keep family connections strong, now more than ever, while pivoting to do it in any other way than in person. And in the worst-case scenarios, parents had to keep feeding their children while pivoting to do it on a suddenly gone or reduced income, and families had to keep going while pivoting to figure out how to do that in the absence of loved ones who succumbed to the virus.
COVID-19 challenged and changed us, every one of us. If nothing else, it woke us all up to just how quickly life can change — for people, for families, for communities, towns, nations, the world. A year ago last week was the last “normal” week that any of us has had in the past 52 weeks and for who knows how much longer. Thing is, no one knew.
No one knew schools would close, businesses would shut down. No one knew that last hug at the nursing home, that last beer with friends, that last workout at the gym or that last family birthday party would be just that — the last, for a while at least.
Looking back, some of the headlines in this newspaper and in the media everywhere, though reporting the most up-to-date news at the time, seem naïve: “Masks provide no real protection against virus,” “Port of Galveston braces for revenue hit after feds warn cruisers,” “Nursing homes in Galveston County limit visitation, resident gatherings.”
Others, in retrospect, seem ominous: “Coronavirus cases in Galveston County could soon ‘explode,’ health district says,” “As COVID-19 fears grow, local health officials preparing for worst-case scenario.”
We talked about the “interim normal,” which is the normal where we are now as opposed to the old normal of 53 weeks ago. And of the “new normal” that’s still to come once the pandemic is declared under control.
It’s been a day-to-day thing for most of us, an uncomfortably steep learning curve. But the thing is, we learned. And we keep on learning and adapting and conquering. It’s amazing how quickly the pivot can happen.
The main thing we’ve learned is that the human spirit is resourceful and resilient. We find a way to go on. Together.
Today’s edition of The Daily News features an in-depth retrospective of the past 12 months dealing with COVID-19, appropriately titled “A Year of Living Dangerously.”
At The Daily News, our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones, who’ve lost their homes, their jobs, their health, their peace of mind. And as always, we’re proud to stand with all of Galveston County as we continue to deal together with what’s now and prepare to pivot into what’s next.
•Margaret Battistelli Gardner