Looking back at 2020 (good riddance!) and ahead to 2021

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December 31, 2020

party and mask

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Well, 2020 is ending - - finally!  As such, this is a shortened newsletter, focused on looking back at 2020 and looking ahead to 2021.

This has been a year unlike any other I can remember.  Our society, assumptions, lifestyles, economy and relationships have all been stressed.  Those with resources and a safety net, including good health care, have mostly been able to weather these stresses.  Other neighbors and Washington state residents have suffered terrible losses, including the loss of a job, a home and, in some cases, a loved one, a family member, a colleague, a neighbor... And the huge concern about schools being closed and child care becoming scarcer. And how our economy has suffered, in many cases with businesses having closed permanently, especially in the hospitality and tourism industries with untold numbers of jobs lost as well as tax revenues to our governments that are unable to provide all the services on which people depend.

The Coronavirus pandemic has been – and continues to be – tragic and terribly painful.  Recent estimates suggest that total deaths in the nation could reach over two million by the end of January.  Businesses have closed, unemployment has skyrocketed, almost 20 million people have contracted the virus and more than 300,000 have died of it.  People have lost their homes and are experiencing homelessness and using food banks for the first time in their lives.     

However, there have also been some bright spots that are, I believe, hopeful signs for our future.  The pandemic forced many of us to slow down and rethink some of our most basic assumptions about what constitutes a good “quality of life.”  The importance of family, neighbors and personal connections came into sharp focus.  I personally saw and heard about numerous examples of neighbors reaching out, strangers helping strangers and acts of amazing bravery, creativity and ingenuity on behalf of others.

The pandemic has also laid bare the long-term, ongoing effects of systemic racism.  The media and general public saw clearly – many for the first time – that Black people, Latinx people, Indigenous people, people of color, those with disabilities or a lack of resources, died and got sick at highly disproportionate rates when compared to white people.  The murder of George Floyd at the hands of police (following the deaths of so many others) galvanized an enormous response.  People took to the streets in huge numbers, many of them people who had never attended a protest, many of them white, declaring, “Black Lives Matter.”  Though so much remains to be done, this awakening was a positive step.  And local governments have begun to respond.

The virus is also showing us the heroism of so many health care workers.  Some have not been able to sleep at home for months, out of fear of infecting a family member.  Many have worked outrageous hours, with inadequate PPE and other resources.  In addition, it has brought a new appreciation for all essential workers - - first responders, trash collectors, bus drivers, postal carriers, grocery workers and all the others who work behind the scenes and make it possible for many of us to carry on. 

The world also accomplished something once thought to be impossible - - developing safe and effective vaccines in under a year.  That is quite an accomplishment, despite the issues with vaccine distribution.

The acts of kindness and heroism, instances of amazing ingenuity and a new understanding (on the part of some) regarding the impacts of racism do give me hope for the future.  We face serious challenges moving forward – the most immediate continues to be the Coronavirus.   However, I believe we also must take immediate action to swiftly and dramatically decrease our greenhouse gas emissions.  The recent wild fires have demonstrated vividly the need to seriously tackle climate change.  The response of most Americans to the virus over the course of 2020 gives me hope that we have the imagination, will and audacity to combat the environmental crisis.

As always, I would like to hear from you. You can call me at 206-477-1004 or you can reach me by email at jeanne.kohl-welles@kingcounty.gov. 

All the best and I hope you are staying safe.