EDITORIAL: A light at the end of the yearlong tunnel

York Dispatch Editorial Board

One year. One year since the COVID-10 outbreak was declared a pandemic. One year since the lockdowns began.

Everything else followed. 

The pandemic officially began March 11, 2020, and York County reported its first two cases of COVID-19 on March 18. Schools closed on March 13, and on March 19, Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all "non-life-sustaining" businesses in the state to close.

Unemployment skyrocketed, and grocery store shelves were soon stripped of everything from meat to toilet paper to hand sanitizer as people rushed to prepare themselves for the order that soon came: Just stay home.

The mask mandate followed, and soon the pushback began. By mid-May, even as case numbers and deaths climbed, rallies at the state Capitol and at Wolf's home in Mount Wolf demanded that the coronavirus mitigation efforts be lifted. 

Wearing a mask, a proven method of slowing the spread of the virus, became a political statement, with many Republicans refusing to cover their faces and some restaurants flouting the regulations and opening for indoor dining. 

The stalemate continues, with two businesses in York County, Sonnewald Natural Foods and Corner Stable restaurant, ordered to close in the past two weeks for alleged violations of COVID-19 mitigation regulations.

And all along, the numbers climbed. York County saw a spike in June and July, with a day in July when only five adult ICU beds were available in the county. But the worst came in January, after holiday celebrations, when on some days more than 700 new cases were reported in York County alone. 

By Thursday, York County had reported 738 deaths from COVID-19 and 36,781 cases of the disease, with 112 new cases and one new death on Thursday.

York Academy Regional Charter School teacher Keri Schmid shows second-grader Samiha Storms how to apply a COVID-19 test Thursday, Feb 4, 2021. School nurses, Megan Halloran, background left, and Marla Urey visited the classroom while students did the testing which is part of the new pandemic protocols implemented at the York City school. Bill Kalina photo

But there is hope. With three vaccines approved now, nearly 33,000 York County residents had gotten a full dose and 31,000 a partial dose by Thursday, according to the state Department of Health. 

The COVID-19 relief bill waiting for President Joe Biden's signature will give states more funding for vaccines and for other mitigation programs, along with funds for individuals from expanded unemployment benefits, child subsidies and $1,400 being sent to most adults in the country.

There's a light at the end of the tunnel, but there's still a long way to go. This is not the time to start letting down our guard, said Dr. Matt Howie, medical director for York City's Health Bureau.

“We’re at a critical phase," Howie said. "I am always happy to see caseloads go down. Those are really hard-earned improvements. I really appreciate the sacrifices the community had to make. But we are not done.”

Unfortunately, no, we're not done. We all have to keep wearing our masks, social distancing and avoiding crowds.

Vaccines are coming for everyone who wants them. It's just a matter of making it until then.