Chris Rogers, editor, Winona Post
Sometimes in life you can either cry or laugh. Looking back on our headlines from early March 2020, I feel a bit of both. “Winona takes coronavirus precautions,” we wrote on March 8, interviewing health care leaders about steps they were taking just in case this crazy virus thing made it to Winona, not that that was really going to happen. American society was still collectively ignorant of what was coming our way. Oh, to be that blissful again.
We all know what happened next. A little more than a week later, life as we knew it was suddenly shut down, and hand-written “closed until further notice” signs were plastered on local businesses. Once bustling streets became ghostly quiet. By the end of the month, Winona saw its first cases of COVID, and it wasn’t much longer before the first deaths. Our community learned early on how dangerous the virus can be without the right precautions.
As the months dragged on with no end in sight, we learned to cope with this virus. I’ve become a pro at spitting in tubes, and the smell of bleach is now subtly reassuring to me. For once, I lectured my parents about making safe choices. And I’ve learned how much loneliness really can bring me down. During the first lockdown, just passing a human being on the sidewalk seemed like a precious moment.
The other weekend I saw my fully vaccinated parents and hugged my mom for the first time in a year. Not having to worry about them was an enormous relief. Seeing them felt like a sea-change moment. Yet, 80 percent of Winona County residents still aren’t fully vaccinated, and health care experts tell us we’ll need to stay on guard until they are to avoid new surges of the virus and its more dangerous variants.
Our psyches could really use a definitive end to the pandemic and one huge celebration. We may not get that. But for the sake of our sanity, let’s celebrate little victories. Buying toilet paper in normal quantities was one. Seeing young students return to school was another. With luck, we’ll soon have the luxury of choosing not to attend social gatherings. Here’s to new excuses.