No one seems sad to see 2020 over.
This year COVID-19 has dominated both national news and our daily lives. It’s changed who we see, how close we get, whether we work, where we eat, and who watches the children. Weddings, sports events, school attendance, even church services, have undergone radical changes. And people are dying alone as hospitals and care centers ban visitors.
And, really, even without the pandemic, 2020 had serious problems. The National Interagency Fire Center reported over 52,000 wildfires burned twice the acreage that was destroyed in 2019. Atlantic hurricanes started early and continued into November, doing $37 billion of damage in the U.S. and devastating much of Central America.
Thousands of Black Lives Matter supporters took to the streets after an internet video showed a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on George Floyd’s neck until the man died. BLM and other organizations held over 10,000 protest demonstrations in the next three months. When violence occurred at some, Americans grew both anxious and angry.
And then President Trump lost both the November election and 49 out of his 50 lawsuits claiming fraud. (The one victory involved few votes.) Angry that Republican officials didn’t support his attempts to override state voting rules, Trump attacked via Twitter. His supporters bombarded Republican officials in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona with death threats.
Anti-maskers in state after state added to the ill will with verbal attacks on officials, shop keepers, and mask wearers.
It will feel good to put this year behind us.
Except, deep down, we know that nothing fundamentally changes with the New Year. We agree upon a date so we can synchronize plans, but we will start January 1 just where we left off on December 31.
We’ll still be in the midst of a worldwide pandemic with nearly a half million new cases daily and 1.7 million persons dead, including over 330,000 in the United States.
Two remarkable accomplishments during December give us hope for this year.
Two vaccines for COVID-19 were approved and another three are undergoing large scale trials. In spite of the extreme cold required for Pfizer’s product, nearly two million Americans received doses prior to December 27. The Center for Disease Control website assures us that vaccines will be available to most ‘later’ in 2021.
And Congress passed a second relief bill, 453-59 . It was a compromise finalized during what is normally Christmas break for Congress. Besides providing $300 a week in unemployment benefits and $600 in direct payment to individuals, the bill authorizes the $28 million necessary to buy and distribute the COVID vaccines.
Democrats were relieved even though unemployment benefits are only extended another 11 weeks.
The relief bill was annexed to a long overdue general appropriations bill allocating funds necessary to fund the government, including payroll for the military and other government employees. It included several programs that President Trump had specifically requested, including money for the border wall, the Kennedy Center, and aid to Egypt.
Many were dismayed when President Trump called the bill “a disgrace” and insisted that everyone should receive a $2000 payment rather than a $600 one. Many Republicans in Congress were opposed to any stipend; the $600 payments were only added after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin indicated that Trump wanted them.
Trump did sign the bill Sunday evening.
So we can face 2021 with hope. We still face a pandemic, high unemployment and failing businesses, and the extreme weather conditions that go with global warming. But we have a chance of improving on all three fronts.