March to March: Random thoughts on the COVID year that was.

Last Thursday was a day of personal celebration and reflection. That day, March 11, was the day I received my second virus vaccination. It also marked one year since the corona outbreak was declared a pandemic.  

What I most remember about that day a year ago is that I was camping in the snow at Kearney State Park and listening to the chatter of sandhill cranes roosting on the river. Later that day I learned that the Crane Trust near Hastings had shut down and that Row Sanctuary would also be  closing the center and canceling all tours and viewing opportunities due to virus precautions. Over the next week or so, schools across the state closed for spring break and never reopened. 

Playgrouds closed due to pandemic.
Orange fencing surrounded Mathew’s Playground at the Blair Sports Complex. The city closed all of the playgrounds in April due to coronavirus concerns.

March and April last year are kind of a blur in my memory. What I most remember are the empty shelves at the grocery stores and the run on toilet paper, milk, eggs and cleaning products. Except for grocery stores, many businesses, including our Enterprise office, shut the doors to the public.  The library, the YMCA, city offices and the court house closed  Even the sports fields and play centers in the city parks were fenced off. 

A Memorial Community hospital and Health System employee tests a patient for COVIC-19 during a Test Nebraska event in June in Blair.

Over the next few weeks our nation was in a collective state of shock. We all wondered what would happen next.  For awhile the economy was in free fall. Without the PPE loans, increased unemployment benefits and other federal government help, it could have been much worse.

Fort Calhoun staff members roll out boxes of food items to families in need.

Throughout the spring and summer we at the Enterprise did our best to keep the public informed and tell the stories of individuals and organizations that were performing extraordinary acts of kindness and generosity to help those who were most in need. We also covered the parades, car cruises, the Washington County Fair and other events that helped to safely provide some fun and a sense of community.  

Jackie Warrik, left, Joey Morton, Mark Znotto, and Alicia Lourens prepare lunch orders in April at Butch’s Deli to help residents during the pandemic.

While people can be fearful, angry, and just plain ornery, they are also resilient. As the weeks progressed, businesses found ways to provide services while maintaining a safe environment for employees and the public. 

Playgrounds closed due to pandemic
Keala Roy administers a vaccine dose at a clinic held by Memorial Community Hospital and Health Systems at the Gardner Hawks Center.

During the summer, after much soul searching and intense planning, all of the schools in the county decided that students and teachers could safely return to classrooms in August. While remote learning and home schooling may be best for some families, I think  the majority of parents, students  and teachers agree that the return to in- class learning has been a success. Through the use of masks and modifications and social distancing, the schools have found ways to allow students to take part in traditional school activities.  

First school day at Deerfield Elementary School, Blair.

Getting students back in the classrooms and finding safe ways to continue to hold sports and music events is important because these activities provide a sense of the normal rhythms of life. 

Wearing masks, Ovation Show Choir performs during the spring Pops Concert.

Something else that surrounds us and can help to keep us in tune with the rhythms of life is nature. Our county is blessed with rolling hills and river valleys that provide beautiful landscapes. In town we have access to lightly traveled tree lined trails and city parks. While the visitor center is closed, DeSoto Bend Wildlife refuge is open. The Cottonwood trail and the Bob Starr overlook provide great views of the lake and wildlife. 

Snow geese at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge, March, 2021

There is a Wall Street Journal article popping up on Facebook that confirms what I have known intuitively for a long time that getting outside is critical to health and increases longevity.  Spending time in nature is linked to lots of good things including reducing stress hormones, and decreased anxiety, depression and fatigue. 

Pat Jesson fills a syringe with COVID-19 vaccine during a vaccination clinic at the Gardner Hawks Center.

Getting vaccinated is a big deal. I generally don’t share my medical information with anyone – let alone social media, but I proudly posted the news when I received my first and then second shot. I do appreciate the many congrats and “likes”, and I happily reciprocate as friends and neighbors get vaccinated. I want people to know that my arm was mildly sore and a bit feverish for a day, but other than that I suffered no side effects. I want to get on and promote the vaccination bandwagon because the faster the majority of us are vaccinated the faster we get back to at least some sense of normality. 

Getting vaccinated is a big deal. I generally don’t share my medical information with anyone – let alone social media, but I proudly posted the news when I received my first and then second shot. I do appreciate the many congrats and “likes”, and I happily reciprocate as friends and neighbors get vaccinated. I want people to know that my arm was mildly sore and a bit feverish for a day, but other than that I suffered no side effects. I want to get on and promote the vaccination bandwagon because the faster the majority of us are vaccinated the faster we get back to at least some sense of normality. 

Published by Joe Burns

Educator and freelance photographer living and working in Washington County.

2 thoughts on “March to March: Random thoughts on the COVID year that was.

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