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What a long, strange year it’s been

One year ago this week, coronavirus hit home here when we learned two Gordon students had been exposed while working at an off-campus location. On March 12, 2020, Georgia experienced its first coronavirus death and the University System of Georgia shut down all campuses for two weeks. They have still not returned to full operation, frustrating parents and students who have missed out on so much, not the least of which are live sports, concerts and in-person instruction. On March 17, 2020, Lamar’s first case was confirmed and the cancellations began in earnest. Life as we knew it was upended. By the end of that month, was easier to list things that were open and continuing than list all those which were shut down. My thought at the time was that we, as a nation, were overreacting and I am still not sure that wasn’t the case. Entrepreneurs, those far more attenuated to the needs and desires of Americans than politicians and bureaucrats in government, found ways to operate safely in time of pandemic and did so, often fighting off government officials in the process. However, COVID-19 caused fear to set in and fear is a huge motivator. Many were motivated to cower in their homes. Fear also emboldens those who live to control others and the control freaks have emerged in force with one mandate after another. One year later, Lamar and Pike counties have experienced 2,252 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 167 hospitalizations, 60 deaths and another 22 probable deaths. (These stats are as of Sunday, March 7, 2021.) We have paid a considerable price! No one that I could find has measured local economic impact by county in Georgia but you can bet coronavirus has cost us millions in lost wages, medical bills, etc. The list is nearly endless. Another cost of the pandemic has been written about in this space before and likely will be again. It is the death of civility. While many have gone out of their way to be kind and helpful to others during the pandemic, others have turned to meanness. People are accosted in grocery stores for not wearing masks. Mask wearers are ridiculed by no-maskers for being cowards. Business owners trying to save their life’s savings and dreams have opened only to be slammed and boycotted for doing so. Again, the examples are endless. Violent crime and domestic violence rates throughout the nation have soared because people kept from working or studying have grown bored and bought into divisive rhetoric spewed endlessly online. Now that COVID-19 vaccines are available and have been proven to greatly reduce the chance of death, people are fighting over whether it is right or wrong to be vaccinated. How many people would have been permanently crippled had we fought like this over the polio vaccine? COVID-19 will pass. Crises always do. We will mourn the dead and get on with our lives but have we learned – will we learn – the lessons afforded us by the pandemic? I worry that the fabric of society has been ripped and torn beyond the point of mending – a mending that can only be accomplished through kindness. When given the choice of being right or being kind, always choose kind!

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