This will surely go down as one of the strangest years on record, largely due to the coronavirus.
At least 1.3 million people have died of COVID-19 worldwide, more than 257,000 of them United States residents. In Virginia, 3,942 people had died of COVID-19 as of Nov. 23, including 77 Alexandrians.
The economic impact has been enormous. The U.S. gross domestic product fell by 31.4% in the second quarter of 2020, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. This decline was felt across sectors and regions, including in Alexandria and at this newspaper: The gross revenues of the Alexandria Times fell by 37% in the second quarter of 2020 compared to last year.
The pandemic is also taking a toll on education, as schoolchildren learning remotely are falling behind in learning, according to the New York Times and others. Isolation and anxiety caused by COVID-19 have also resulted in spikes in suicides, calls to mental health agencies and drug overdoses, according to RollCall.
Layer racial unrest and political discord on top, and the result is a year in which there’s much to fret about and seemingly little to celebrate, let alone give thanks for.
And yet, we know that’s not the whole picture. There is actually much to be thankful for, even in 2020.
For starters, the United States successfully held a presidential election, that was fairly if not flawlessly conducted, in the midst of a pandemic. Yes, there were glitches in places with mail-in voting and at times access to vote-counting. And yes, moving forward we need to have a national conversation about voting processes that are and aren’t acceptable.
But the logistical feat that was just accomplished, which will culminate in the inauguration of former Vice President Joe Biden as the 46th president of the United States in January, is a major accomplishment. For that we are grateful.
We are especially thankful that effective COVID-19 vaccines are possibly just weeks away from becoming available to the public. The tremendous speed with which these vaccines were developed and tested is possibly the most remarkable accomplishment of 2020, and one for which the much-maligned pharmaceutical industry and, yes, even President Donald Trump, deserve our gratitude.
We are thankful for the third quarter economic rebound that followed the second-quarter crater. GDP advanced at an annual rate of 33.1% in the third quarter, according to BEA. As the Alexandria Times mirrored the Q2 overall economic downturn, we also experienced the Q3 rebound, when revenues bounced back to previous year norms.
Here in Alexandria, though numerous businesses haven’t survived the pandemic, others, including restaurants Piece Out and Silver Diner, sustainable grocer Mason & Greens and dog bar Barkhaus, courageously went ahead and opened. These businesses served as our own local phoenix, with new life emerging from the ashes.
We are thankful for the proactive efforts by Alexandria’s local government to work with and support restaurants and retail businesses in the city during the pandemic. This collaboration saved many establishments from going under.
Regulations were tweaked to allow curbside outdoor dining, which has not only helped businesses survive – it’s allowed residents to safely continue to enjoy one of Alexandria’s most distinctive features. Meanwhile, loans and grants have helped businesses buy needed tents and outdoor heaters.
This year has been difficult for everyone. Yet, even in the midst of darkness, there’s always light if you look for it. For that we give thanks.