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Reflecting on one year of the ‘new normal’

One year ago today Beaufort County recorded its first case of COVID-19.

And what a year it’s been. On March 24, 2020, we were adjusting to the rapid onset of a new normal — an era of social distancing, mask-wearing and frequent hand sanitizing; an era of ordering take-out, teleconferences and virtual hangouts; and an era of uncertainty and concern, as businesses were ordered closed, hospitals began to fill with COVID-19 patients, and many of us quarantined in our homes, hoping to avoid or recover from the illness.

Some never did recover. Eighty-four Beaufort County residents, including Mac Hodges, the late mayor of Washington, have died of COVID-19-related reasons. Each addition to the death toll is a painful, somber reminder of the severity of the pandemic.

A year later we know much more about COVID-19, and we have several vaccines that are helping us curb the pandemic. Local businesses are slowly returning to return to some sort of normalcy, albeit with numerous restrictions in place. Families are slowly beginning to reunite in-person, comforted by the security that comes with vaccines and social distancing.

Beaufort County is certainly in a better place than it was a year ago. Our COVID-19 metrics are continuing to trend in a positive direction, and, as of Monday, approximately 26% of the county’s population had been at least partially vaccinated.

We still have some work to do before we can put the COVID-19 pandemic in the rearview mirror. The Beaufort County Health Department and its partners will continue to do a lot of the heavy lifting as they continue to administer vaccines and educate the public on the importance of getting vaccinated.

We can help with some of that heavy lifting by being cognizant of community health while also helping the local economy rebuild.

Spend your dollars locally. Wear a mask. Practice social distancing. Thank a first responder or health care worker.

Let’s work to make this the last time we have a reason to observe the anniversary of Beaufort County’s first case. The anniversary of the end of the pandemic will be one worth celebrating.