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Signs of spring and hope for a brighter future

Have you noticed the changes?

You can hear the signs without even going outdoors. Birds are singing in the trees. Frogs are peeping around streams and ponds. Doves are cooing on rooftops.

You can use your other senses to detect the changes, too.

Take a deep breath of fresh air. The scent of the great outdoors has changed. There’s an earthy element to the air, especially right after a rain shower. There’s also a bit of freshness you can detect — a greening of the grass and a hint of the budding leaves on trees and shrubs.

Simply step outside and look around, and you will see that spring is almost here. Patches of bright green are growing, beginning near water sources and warmer spots and spreading across lawns and fields. The earliest flowers, such as white and purple crocuses, are already blooming. Slightly later floral displays are on the way as well, with daffodils, irises, tulips and hyacinths all poking through the soil and reaching for the sun.

It’s easy to see animals greeting the coming season as well. Deer can be found congregating in the countryside and around the edges of our communities early in the morning and from the evening into the night. Rabbits have begun to hop about our neighborhoods, exploring, seeking food and looking for their mates. Foxes and coyotes are having pups, making them more visible as they search for enough food to feed a family.

The world is renewing itself right before our very eyes.

Not all of the changes are pleasant. More insects are beginning to creep and fly about. Of course that’s part of the natural process, but shooing away mosquitoes or finding ticks on pets who have been outdoors is not much fun.

Overall, though, nature is putting on its annual show for us, gently easing us into warmer weather , prettier scenery and all of the outdoor activities we love.

I’ve done my best to take advantage of and appreciate the warm days we’ve been blessed with recently. I have made sure to walk around the neighborhood at least once a day. I have had the chance to chat with neighbors (masks on, of course), to make note of homes that have added new dogs that might not be friendly and to just observe the signs of spring unfolding.

In the wee hours of this morning, our clocks moved forward one hour. That means we will have longer days to enjoy, but we may have a little trouble adjusting our sleep schedules over the next few days. This coming Saturday is the official spring equinox. Other springtime occasions are happening as well.

Remember to celebrate your Irish ancestors and all things green on Wednesday, St. Patrick’s Day.

On March 27, Passover begins, marking a holy time for Jews and Christians alike. Easter is just a few more days away, on April 4.

Enjoy the season!

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As the seasons change, we are reminded that it has officially been an entire year since COVID-19 arrived here in the Ohio Valley. On March 13, 2020, the first two cases among Belmont County residents were confirmed. Today, 65 Belmont County residents are hospitalized with the virus, and another 193 are sick with COVID-19 at home. In total, 5,415 of us have had the virus, and 101 of us have died as a result.

Across our wider region, more than 12,500 people have been sickened in Eastern Ohio. In Belmont, Harrison, Jefferson and Monroe counties combined, 301 people have died.

Our losses have been heavy, but not as great as once anticipated. For those who have lost loved ones to the disease, though, the loss is incalculable. My heart goes out to all of you who have lost parents, siblings, children, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and dear friends.

Even here within our newsrooms, we lost a veteran newspaperman who helped shape the careers and lives of many young journalists during his decades of work as a journalist. That happened when Mike Myer, executive editor of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, died in January after contracting COVID-19.

Even though the toll could have been much worse, we have lost too many and too much. In addition to all the people we have lost, the residents of our region, our state and the nation have lost too much time. Time in school. Time with friends and family. Time spent attending concerts, fairs, festivals and doing things we love.

Now, however, case numbers are on the decline. Fewer people are getting sick, because we have learned ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

New hope is available for us in the form of three vaccines that are being administered to people across the United States and around the world. Thousands of elderly Belmont Countians and essential workers such as medical professionals and teachers have already received their first and, in some cases, second doses of the shots.

Let’s keep doing all the right things and stay on track to beat this virus. When March 13, 2022 rolls around, let’s plan for the lockdowns, masks and restrictions to be a distant memory.

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