Halloween last weekend made me think a lot about Halloween last year, when COVID-19 changed most everything about the holiday. So, the City of Yankton offered a fireworks display at Meridian Bridge on Oct. 31. After missing out on the Independence Day and Riverboat Days pyrotechnics, it was a nice, explosive gesture of normality, a needed break from our COVID anxieties as we waited for the arrival of a vaccine, which we were hearing was just weeks away.

But on that crisp All Hallow’s Eve, we were also on the eve of our darkest days of the pandemic.

What followed in November and most of December was a dramatic escalation of misery with the arrival of a fall surge that had already swept across much of the U.S. Cases spiked and COVID-related deaths escalated, with more than 1,000 South Dakotans dying in the final two months of 2020. By late November, the Yankton area was nearly overwhelmed by the coronavirus. It finally began easing in mid-December, just before the first vaccine arrived right before Christmas.

It was a harrowing time. The Press & Dakotan was bowled over with obituaries, just like newspapers everywhere. The daily updates from the South Dakota Department of Health (DOH) carefully chronicled what was unfolding, and each day seemed to deliver a shocking statistic or two. At one point, right after Thanksgiving, I wondered where all this would end. I will never forget that exhausted, anxious feeling.

But then the infection numbers, which began rising in late summer before exploding after Halloween, finally started falling, the vaccine arrived and the protocols for getting shots were established. By New Year’s Day, there was a wary hope in the air that had been missing for a long time …

A year later, things are mostly different — in good ways and in ways I never imagined, especially considering last fall’s surge.

However, this one-year anniversary of that dreadful COVID autumn did not begin auspiciously. On Monday, the day after Halloween, the daily DOH update reported two new COVID-related fatalities for Yankton County, which raised our pandemic death toll to 40. Early in the pandemic, I heard that 40 was a projected number of potential COVID deaths for Yankton County. At the time, that number jarred me, and I prayed that it was an overly high estimation. But that toll crept up on us slowly, gradually, which numbed us to its arrival. It’s still a stark milestone: 40 of us are gone, just as more than 2,200 South Dakotans are gone and more than 750,000 Americans are gone.

Even so, things are mostly different this fall.

Among other things, we are armed now with vaccines, and Yankton County is also doing well with booster shots. And as of this week, children as young as age 5 have access to pediatric vaccinations, which should further bolster our defenses ...

But, of course, that’s just a point of view, a controversial one at that. This is something I never saw coming a year ago.

Vaccinations have become a divisive social and political flashpoint, a battle over a particular sense of freedom. (In fact, vaccines were issues in the past, too, with things like smallpox and polio, but our internet age amplifies the doubts beyond precedented measure.) I’ve been criticized for advocating vaccines in editorials and columns. One person told me via email that I was, in effect, condoning murder by supporting vaccinations (or, more precisely, by not reporting the real “truth” about vaccines that lurks in some online corners). When I told this person that I based my knowledge on what I get from the CDC, the WHO, the DOH, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (back when it acknowledged COVID existed) and local doctors, the reply I received explained, “(Expletive) those groups.” At least the logic was to the point.

But that’s where we stand now. A year after the bleak autumn of 2020 — when it felt like we were in a race against the virus as we waited on a vaccine — many people are recasting reality as a conspiracy and dismissing the science as a threat. And some people still insist the virus itself is fiction.

Of course, the COVID dead can’t reason with these people.

But the rest of us can try; more than that, we can persevere in the face of that resistance.

Just as we now look back on last fall’s grim experience, we will likely look back one day on this pandemic and these debates over vaccines, masking and mandates and wonder how we ever survived it all. Today, we’re winning the COVID fight, even while we are again demonstrating our boundless capacity to be our own worst enemy.

Follow @kelly_hertz on Twitter.

(12) comments

BigSky57062

This deadlock over vaccination will (sadly) continue. And the Republican win in Virginia’s governor‘s race is an indication that this conflict won’t end soon.

And the Republican win issues a stark warning to Democrats. But it also should caution Republicans of the challenges ahead when their impulsive leader gets involved in the coming GOP primaries.

But Tuesday it was the Democrats who lost. Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe mostly campaigned against Trump. But Trump was not on the ballot. Instead, he was held at arm's length by Youngkin, who didn’t seem at all scary like the Republicans who’ve doubled down on Trump fealty.

So demonizing Trump didn’t work so well. And he was kept out of Virginia. And with the pandemic still raging as folks refuse vaccination, and with their legislation stalled by internal dissension and Republican unanimity, the Democrats have few accomplishments - so far - to show to the electorate.

Polls show the Democratic agenda is largely popular, but what matters is whether they can deliver, and that’s not clear at all.

And despite all the great aspirations - the ones that got them elected - Democrats have yet to enact them.

Furthermore, Democrats committed two BIG unforced errors. The Ragin’ Cajun, James Carville says it pretty clearly: “Democrats need to go to ‘Wokeness’ rehab.”

Although only a minority of the Democrats truly want to “defund the police,“ that slogan was a deadly mistake. This was NEVER a popular (or smart) idea - even among Democrats. A majority of sane Minneapolis voters proved that. Still it does it’s damage.

Also when McAuliffe said “we don’t want parents involved in education“ he committed a huge blunder that allowed Republicans to double down on their campaign against CRT, even though it’s not even taught in Virginia.

(The “race card” is still the ace in the deck for both parties, and it has been and will be for the foreseeable history of the Republic. No surprise there, how could it be otherwise for a nation born with slavery protected by the first writing of its Constitution - however much we might like to ignore this.)

But there are also lessons Republicans should look at closely. Trump is still the best driver of votes among DEMOCRATS.

And Youngkin DID NOT have to go through a bruising primary where Trump would have certainly been front and center behind his chosen primary candidates. Instead Youngkin won the Republican nomination at the party's May 8 convention.

Republicans won’t be so lucky in the primaries ahead of the midterms. The presence of Trump pushing his favorite Trumpster clones and calling for revenge for a stolen election will be a great boon for Democratic candidates.

Where does this all leave us? VoiceforAll is quite certain.

But I’ll take a “wait and see” attitude. Anyone aware of the vicissitudes of political fortune for the entire history of the United States knows that nothing is certain this far ahead of an election.

And the wild card yet to be played in the midterms is how successfully the Republican’s recent gerrymandering and extensive new voting laws will alter the electoral playing field.

Abe

Oh my, it looks like there's a problem with young athletes who took the jab! Remember my warnings? Just wait, you'll see.

Abe

What your side fails to realize is that many, if not most of those deaths were fully unnecessary. Instead of giving any consideration to the many doctors and scientists who warned against Remdisivir, as well as the jabs, your side continues to denounce them as quacks. Funny how so many people are eager to accept the MSM claims when information that completely refutes them gets no press. I know several people who are with us today because they or their loved ones spoke out against the Remdisivir protocol and survived. They ALL claim that their physicians would not entertain hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin. Yet those two drugs have proven to be effective in the countries that have accepted them as safe to treat and cure their infected citizens. Now you idiots that believe these experimental concoctions will be safe to give to our children, despite the mounting numbers of serious complications and even death. Again, your side turns a blind eye to the documented tragedies; information that would have never allowed any previous vaccine to continue. How will you reconcile your complicity as children begin dying by your efforts to make things better based on a hunch. Bottom line: you're all being lied to by those groups and we will hold you accountable.

SoDakD

🙄🥱

Abe

https://foreignaffairsintelligencecouncil.wordpress.com/2021/11/05/ceo-of-pfizer-arrested-charged-with-fraud-media-blackout/?fbclid=IwAR2PjcnPcCIQIO8PA6yjCWLSi--ZP1r3WOz3vhKP2eDaes6fuSXdl_CYb3I

SoDakD

😳🥱 another conspiracy theory blog

Abe

Except it's the published numbers from the CDC, dimwit. Go back to your dustbin of ignorance and ennui.

Abe

“I always like to say, if we had surveyed 2 years ago in the public, would you be willing to take gene or cell therapy and inject it into your body, we would have probably had a 95% refusal rate”

Bayer Head of Pharma, Stefan Oelrich, at the 10/24 World Health Summit on "Capitalizing on the Momentum of Innovation from COVID-19"

VoiceforAll

Not sure what polls BigSky is looking at, assume it's the ones on CNN, the least watched and most unreliable news organization in America, don't believe me, go look at the ratings, they are falling as fast as Jill Biden's husband and someone named Kamala poll numbers. The democrats won't win because they keep pushing more spending, higher taxes, higher fuel and gas prices, higher inflation, less freedom's, less parental involvement with their kids, higher illegal immigration, an awful foreign policy, more wokesim, etc. etc. Just keep saying parents don't have rights, just keep saying individuals don't have rights to make their own medical decisions (unless they want to kill a baby before it is born), just keep telling anyone that disagrees to shut up, just keep censoring people, that is why the democrats have and will lose. You have all given in to the progressives and socialists of your party and even AOC says you are not far enough left yet, and since she and the "squad" are now running the show, because it sure isn't Jill Biden's husband, Kamala or Nancy, your party will continue to give in to wokeness, you will continue to give in to socialism, your party is in a free fall, polls show it, voters are showing it. People are seeing what a country under democratic/socialist control looks like, higher consumer goods cost, higher gas prices, higher heating costs, higher inflation, supply chain problems (which sounds a lot like a poor socialist country, doesn't it) excuse after excuse, blaming anything and everything on Trump, the pandemic or others, on and on and on. And if you don't think people are seeing this, you are just as blind as the people that ran McAuliffe's campaign. As a republican, I say keep it up, keep blaming Trump and keep saying why the republican's will lose if they follow Trump, it's great how every democrat is so afraid of Trump, you all hate what he did, he made America strong and independent, that's not what the democrats want, what they want is what you have done in a short 10 months, a weak country being ran by a weak party that begs other countries and OPEC to help us out. This is the new America ran under the democrats.

SoDakD

🙄🥱 More of the same…

VoiceforAll

It sure is SoDakD, hard to believe this is happening with the current administration, thanks for the supporting comment, you are really starting to come around to the light and are seeing what the democrats are doing to destroy this country, thanks.

SoDakD

🙄🥱 More of the same

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