The year 2020 started out like any other, or so we thought. It wasn’t until late in the year we found out from Bob Woodward that Trump knew of the real dangers of the coronavirus in January. Like so many I lived the first two months of the year oblivious to any danger.
My last trip before my personal lock-down was at the end of February returning to D.C. in the beginning of March. I visited good friends in one of my favorite places in the world, Carmel Valley, Calif. On my trip home there were some in the airport wearing a face mask. I had yet to begin wearing one but that was the last time I would leave my home without a mask. Signs went up in my condo building that we needed masks in the hallways and only one person at a time was allowed on the elevator.
Even with all the other things going on including the presidential election, 2020 would be remembered as the year of the coronavirus pandemic. The world economy shut down and kept people close to home. Borders were shut and businesses closed. Life as we knew it before the pandemic came to a quick end. As of Dec. 20, the World Health Organization reported there have been 72,851,747 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,643,339 deaths, reported to them. Various countries dealt with the pandemic in different ways. President Trump’s negligence, what I consider criminal behavior, led to the U.S. having nearly 18 million people infected and about 350,000 deaths by the time this column will be published.
While my life changed, the first four months after my return to D.C. from California I ate every meal alone: I was just one of many who had to do that to protect themselves. But there was real suffering caused by the pandemic and exacerbated by Trump’s criminal behavior. Millions lost their jobs, their health insurance, their homes and couldn’t afford to feed their families. Trump’s utterances both supported and egged on people who wouldn’t follow the simple rules to prevent spreading the virus: wear a mask, stay six feet apart and wash your hands regularly. Simple ideas to stay alive and keep others alive. For me life was difficult but I was lucky to have many friends with whom I kept in touch daily over Zoom. Not everyone was as fortunate.
In many countries like Germany, France, and England governments supported their business community paying wages when it shut them down and people were forced to stay home. We made an early attempt to help people but then a Republican Senate and president wouldn’t continue that effort. Democrats in the House of Representatives passed an additional $3.2 trillion stimulus package in May but couldn’t get the Senate to act on it. So bread lines grew, evictions continued and people suffered, many dying. We have a president who modeled Marie Antoinette. He lived in luxury, played golf, and traveled to Florida in essence saying to the people, “Let them eat cake,” apparently not caring they had no food.
It wasn’t until November when we saw a light at the end of the tunnel and more than 80 million people voted to help Joe Biden and Kamala Harris defeat Trump. Now in December that light shines brighter as people begin to be vaccinated against the virus.
So my optimism as we enter 2021 is boundless. Biden and Harris will be sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021, and we will rejoin the world of nations.
As more people are vaccinated in the first six months of the year economies here and around the world will begin to reopen along with borders. People will once again be able to get together with their families and friends, go into an office, eat inside at restaurants, go to a ball game and take vacations.
It is my hope 2021 will be a year in which people and countries recover. While we mourn those who passed, we prepare for the future. This will not be the last pandemic we see but relying on science and experience can help us weather the next one. As Joe Biden has said we must “Build Back Better.”
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.