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"'Happy one-year pandemic anniversary,' said no one ever" was the greeting on an email I received Sunday night. Indeed, we've been once around the sun since Gov. Phil Scott's lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and everyone seems eager to mark the miserable milestone. The governor declared a state of emergency on March 13, 2020, and ordered the closure of all bars and restaurants on March 16 — one day before Saint Patrick's Day. In that sad moment, all of us were Irish.
A year later, there are many reasons for hope: effective vaccines, lengthening days, more aid money coming to individuals and businesses. At Seven Days, we are celebrating the return of help-wanted ads — the spring robins of our local economy.
Scott's favorite metaphor these days is the "light at the end of the tunnel," and the image is a welcome contrast to the darkness of 2020. But the fact is: Most of us are still in a tight spot, trying to estimate the distance between here and the place where we will emerge, like released hostages, into the sunlight. Stuck so close to freedom, we worry: What if a car breaks down in front of us? Do those emergency phones really work? A longtime claustrophobe, I'm recalling a dark, five-mile tunnel in Iceland that narrowed to one lane in the middle, with pull-off spots for the oncoming cars. My partner and I had no idea what we were getting into and, thank God, had the right of way.
The question of "Who goes first?" has complicated the final phase of this epic public health crisis. Once in it together, with most of us taking precautions to protect each other, we've become more competitive near the exit. It makes total sense for older Vermonters to get vaccinated first, and witnessing their liberation has been thrilling. I love the idea of seniors painting the town red, restaurants catering to the early-bird crowd. Ditto for health care workers, teachers and people with underlying medical conditions.
But it is hard to wait while others are able to see friends and family, to watch while planes fill and vacation places get snapped up. The closer the end of the tunnel, the more anxious everyone is to get there.
The best antidotes are patience and empathy. Chelsea Edgar's cover story this week is about three single moms and what they've gone through to keep their kids, jobs and lives together over the last year. As Edgar notes, "Single working mothers have borne the psychic and economic brunt of the pandemic." On Monday, International Women's Day, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen confirmed it.
Edgar's perceptive, in-depth reporting suggests: No matter how challenging the last 12 months have been for you and yours, someone else has probably had it tougher. That realization is worth remembering when this isolating ordeal is finally over.