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A look back at the pandemic year

Published: Mar. 5, 2021 at 5:17 PM EST
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WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - This weekend marks the one-year anniversary since the first case of coronavirus was announced in Vermont. Since then, there have been highs and lows as we all navigate our way through the pandemic.

The last 12 months were unforgettable. They gave many of us a new perspective on day-to-day life. As journalists, at WCAX, we helped document and inform our communities every step of the way, including when Governor Scott announced the state’s first case.

When the first case of COVID-19 was announced in early March of 2020, no one knew the complete scope of the pandemic, but the situation escalated quickly. A state of emergency was declared a couple of days later, businesses began closing, and kids were removed from the classroom -- a remote-learning model that would stay in place for the remainder of the school year.

The grim reality of the contagious and deadly virus hit home on March 19th when the state’s first deaths due to the virus were announced. Hundreds more would follow. Medical surge sites were set up as hospitals worried about being overrun with patients. Travel restrictions were implemented. Vermonters were asked to stay home except for essential needs like buying food. Bare shelves in grocery store aisles exposed the panic many were feeling during the early stages of the pandemic.

Financial relief began to flow in from Washington as thousands of Vermonters lost their jobs. The tourism and service industries took the biggest economic blow.

But warmer weather returned, the economic “spigot” opened a little as life began to return to a quote “new normal.” Restaurants were once again serving diners with restrictions, and outdoor activities that the region is known for resumed. Beginning in August, all Vermonters were asked to wear masks indoors and where social distancing was not possible. Dozens of states issued similar mandates.

In September, the start of the school year was delayed, but kids did return to the classroom. Temperature checks are now part of the daily drop-off routine.

As testing ramped up across the region in the fall, the number of cases spiked. A COVID-19 outbreak that began in Central Vermont spread across the state. Highway signs were put up alerting travelers about quarantine guidelines. Multi-family gatherings for Thanksgiving were banned. The November election was held as scheduled, though many chose to vote by absentee ballot rather than in-person at the polls.

In December, the next phase of the pandemic began, the rollout of the vaccine. Health care workers and the region’s most vulnerable were the first to get the shot. The state has been slowly expanding who is eligible. Now, a year after the pandemic first began, roughly 20% of Vermont’s total population has received at least one dose.

Moving forward in 2021, as the vaccine continues to be administered here and across the country, there is a sense that things are moving in the right direction. Though, if the last 12 months taught us anything, it’s that life can be unpredictable.

Click here to check out an index of the year in WCAX stories and a timeline of major events.

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