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Friday, Sep. 29, 2023

COVID-19 pandemic No. 1 2020 local story

Editor’s note: This week, the Van Wert independent will be publishing what it judges to be the Top 10 local stories of 2020. Today’s story is the top story of 2020.

DAVE MOSIER/independent editor

It’s unusual for a top local story to also be the top state, national, and world story, but, like the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 has created serious disruption to life as it was lived prior to the advent of the virus.

The virus, which is responsible for more than 83 million cases and 1.8 million dead, has also resulted in nearly 20 million cases and more than 345,000 deaths in the U.S. — more than any other country — as well as more than 690,000 cases and more than 8,800 deaths in Ohio.

Van Wert County has not seen as many deaths as some of its neighboring counties, with 38 deaths reported so far locally, but the number of cases has spiked dramatically from a total of just 10 on July 11 to 1,655 as of December 30.

In addition to those who have died from the virus, many people have needed to be hospitalized, which has put a strain on local healthcare resources — medical staff and supplies, hospital beds, and ICU beds — as well as across Ohio and nationwide.

The coronavirus pandemic, and the resulting statewide lockdown this spring, also had a devastating effect on the economy, resulting in Van Wert County experiencing an unemployment rate of more than 16 percent in April, although that number was down to 4.1 percent in November. Still, many small businesses remain shuttered, or with limited hours, while many restaurants still provide only carryout or delivery to their customers, and the state has set a curfew of 10 p.m.-5 a.m. for bars and restaurants that serve food or drinks in-house.

The pandemic has also shuttered cinemas and performance venues across the state, with the Niswonger Performing Arts Center and Van Wert Civic Theatre closed most of the year. The 2020 edition of the Van Wert County Fair was also much reduced in size, without entertainment, rides, or games. Junior Fair exhibitors made up the bulk of this year’s fair, along with some food vendors, and this year’s Junior Fair Livestock Auction was conducted virtually.

Several big annual events, including the Van Wert Peony Festival, weren’t held at all in 2020.

Because people were out of work for months because of the shutdown and the shuttering of some local businesses, governments didn’t receive the income taxes they expected. The City of Van Wert, which had predicted a 4 percent increase in income tax revenues, instead experienced an approximately 3 percent decrease in tax revenues.

Schools were also heavily affected by the pandemic, with local districts closing early in the spring, and then having to make a number of changes to how they educate students when in-school classes resumed in the fall. A number of students and staff members were also forced to quarantine when either they or someone in close proximity to them tested positive for Covid-19.

Athletic contests had to be canceled or postponed, although it fortunately didn’t prevent the Van Wert Cougars from winning the Division IV state football title in late November. However, there is still plenty of uncertainty on how the remaining athletic seasons will play out.

The situation will also likely continue into 2021 as vaccines adopted and approved late last year are distributed in phases to healthcare workers and first responders, the elderly, educators, and the general public, with hopes that life will return to at least a semblance of normality sometime in 2021.

POSTED: 12/31/20 at 11:09 pm. FILED UNDER: News