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Expecting the unexpected during 2021

Things don’t always turn out the way we expect, and that’s something we should keep in mind as we enter 2021.

It occurred to me as 2020 was winding down that I had started something during the initial pandemic-related lockdowns that I neglected to complete. Way back in March (a little more than nine months ago) I started making a daily social media post to encourage my friends to maintain a positive attitude while staying at home as much as possible.

Right around March 17, when Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health ordered polling places closed for safety reasons on what would have been Election Day, they also ordered “non-essential businesses” closed and urged anyone who could work from home to do so.

The Times Leader closed our doors to the public, and most of our staffers were able to do much of their work from home. As a result, I found myself reading reporters’ articles, writing editorials, columns and articles of my own and designing newspapers pages from a small office inside my house in Belmont. Sure, I ventured out to cover some news events or to attend socially distanced meetings, but I went from spending 40-plus hours a week in Martins Ferry to spending much of that time at home.

My husband Mike’s workplace did not close, but since his position dealt mostly with on-site customers he also ended up at home and without any shifts for several weeks during the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak in Ohio. It was a nice change of pace to have so much time together, and we changed our eating habits, accomplished several projects and became more active in the process.

In the evenings, we often passed a little time by playing board games or cards or by watching a movie. In fact, we managed to watch the entire Marvel series of films about superheroes.

Whatever recreational activity we chose for the day, I would make a post about it. Most of those posts went something like this:

“End of Day 32: Stayed up too late watching a movie.”

The post would be accompanied by an image from the movie in question or a photo of the board game we had played. I also usually included a few hashtags: #InThisTogetherOhio and #StayHomeOhio. And in one case, “#TurtlePower.” Sometimes I would also tag people who I thought would be interested or entertained by seeing what Mike and I were up to that day.

I believe I remained pretty vigilant about making these posts up until June or July. Then, they just sort of trickled off; I didn’t abandon the habit intentionally. I simply got distracted by other things and some changing work responsibilities as the days turned to weeks and then months spent mostly at home.

Looking back on those regular updates, it seems odd to me now that I actually believed I would be able to measure my time working from home in terms of mere days. Sure, I could still count those days up as there have only been a few hundred of them, but I really thought 30 or 40 days would be it.

Boy, was I mistaken.

I guess I believed that people would want to do everything that they could to bring the virus under control. I had faith that people everywhere would wear masks, keep a safe distance from one another as much as possible, sanitize surfaces frequently and wash their hands well and often.

I was wrong about that, too. I never expected so many individuals to take the position that donning a cloth face covering was an assault on their personal freedom. I couldn’t imagine that adults everywhere would not want to do every single thing that they could to halt the spread of this terrible illness and to protect others from it.

I was not naive enough to think a vaccine was just around the corner. I actually studied microbiology and some related topics in college, so I was well aware that finding just the right tool to combat a specific pathogen would take some time.

I also realized that no vaccine could be rolled out without thorough testing to ensure it was safe to administer. So, I knew it would be months before ordinary people could be inoculated against COVID-19.

Now, however, the vaccines have begun to arrive. They are a real source of hope. With an effective vaccination program, it’s possible that most Ohioans could have immunity against the coronavirus by mid-summer.

But, things don’t always turn out like we expect. A surprising number of people — including some health care professionals — are refusing to be vaccinated. A new variant or the virus that appears to be more transmissible is on the loose. Who knows how things will turn out?

My advice to our readers: Set realistic goals and expectations for the new year. Follow the guidance of scientists, and don’t believe everything you see on social media. Keep a positive attitude, and believe that we can overcome this and any other challenge that comes our way.

∫ ∫ ∫

As we put 2020 in the rearview mirror, I would like to reflect on those we lost along the way.

From great athletes to staunch defenders of civil rights, legendary musicians and giants of the stage and screen, we said goodbye to a number of figures who helped shape the culture we know today. Some of the most notable deaths included:

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose death created a controversial vacancy on the Supreme Court during a tumultuous presidential election season.

Basketball great Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash with his young daughter and others at age 41. Also from the world of sports, the playbook closed for NFL coach Don Shula.

Guitarist and rock legend Eddie Van Halen and singer/songwriters Little Richard and Bill Withers were lost from the music world, along with John Prine and country favorites Kenny Rogers, Charlie Daniels, Charley Pride and Joe Diffie.

Among actors who heard their final curtain call were Olivia de Haviland, Jerry Stiller, Wilford Brimley, Chadwick Boseman, Carl Reiner, Sean Connery and Kirk Douglas.

TV hosts Alex Trebek, Regis Philbin, Hugh Downs and Jim Lehrer passed on.

Linda Tripp, whose taped conversations with Monica Lewinsky led to a presidential sex scandal, died, as did Las Vegas magician Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy.

Charles “Chuck” Yeager, the daring World War II pilot who was the first person to break the sound barrier, passed away, as did fashion designer Pierre Cardin.

Locally, we mourned the deaths of Blaine native and baseball legend Phil Niekro, former Belmont mayor and longtime Union Local science teacher Stan Sobel as well as Murray Energy Corp. founder, President and CEO Robert E. “Bob” Murray.

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