January 2020 started out as normal as possible. By the middle of April, the entire world had changed entirely.
How the World Has Changed Since January 2020
Back in January, Americans hadn’t really heard of coronavirus or COVID-19. If it had crossed our radar, it was as a distant threat – not something that would pause life as we know it.
2020: A Very Interesting Beginning
In January, Americans were caught up in the daily drama of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. There were daily updates and new developments as Congress determined whether his alleged actions should result in his removal from office.
Generally, our worries were inward facing: impeachment, the wild winter weather, Kobe Bryant.
We were shocked as Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, announced that they would become financially independent and move to North America immediately.
The attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad rattled us deeply. It felt too close to the other recent embassy attacks in 2013. Many celebrated when US forces killed Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani. And we all worried when Iranian forces retaliated by shooting missiles at US bases. The rising toll of troops suffering from varying degrees of TBIs kept us glued to our seats.
Australia suffered a devastating bushfire season, with an estimated one million animals dying in the weeks-long blaze. We cried when images of scorched koalas or kangaroos flashed across our newsfeed.
Everything felt a little too fast, a little too much. It was the longest year ever – and it was only February.
Many Feel It’s the Longest Year on Record
By early February, the first coronavirus death outside of China was recorded in the Philippines. Nations across the globe began to tighten their borders, with many restricting or preventing travel from Chinese nationals. However, this looming international health crisis still didn’t seem real to Americans.
President Trump was acquitted on February 5, effectively ending his impeachment trial.
The Democratic presidential primaries continued their months-long slog toward the summer convention. Candidates launched barbed one-liners at each other in debates and attempted to appeal to the diverse liberal audience for support.
Still, coronavirus was lurking in the background as we marched toward March. The world watched as several cruise ships were quarantined in Japan, confirmed cases of COVID-19 aboard. Funny TikTok videos and grim daily Twitter updates competed for our attention on social media.
Still, the problem mostly seemed contained to Asia.
We saw a severe winter storm slam New England while Antarctica recorded the hottest ever temperature of approximately 65ºF.
Commenting on the possibly retaliatory firings of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, his brother Army JAG officer Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman and EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland was more pressing news than discussing coronavirus.
But by the end of February, coronavirus had spread from China, South Korea and Japan to Europe, Africa and North America. Major world sporting events, like the Tokyo Marathon, are impacted. The Marathon reduced its size to just 200 elite runners instead of the planned field of 38,000.
And the US recorded it’s first coronavirus death on February 29, 2020.
Swift Slide to Pandemic & Global Lockdown
From that very first death on the last day of February, many parts of the US swiftly moved from total ignorance to complete lockdown.
By mid-March K-12 schools were closed. Businesses and even the federal government moved toward teleworking options to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Suddenly, parents were attempting to both work-from-home while also supervising and facilitating distance learning.
President Trump also began giving daily briefing from the White House press room, supported by Dr. Anthony Fauci. Reports and recommendations from the White House often conflicted each other as well as the recommendations of the CDC and WHO.
States attempted a piecemeal approach to contain the spread of COVID-19. Some states quickly moved to cancel schools and limit public gatherings. Others are still not responding with any preventative measures.
The US death toll, as of April 6, has topped 10,000. In just one month, we have gone from complete denial to pandemic, from one death to tens of thousands.
A Nation of Hand Washers
Except in those places where the state or local governments haven’t acted, Americans are staying inside. We wear face masks when we leave the house and we stay 6 or more feet from everyone.
Every cough and sneeze in public is met with glares of suspicion, followed by people nearby swiftly scuttling far away.
Now, coronavirus dominates our news and conversations. The 2020 election and all the contention over President Trumps controversial presidency seem to have largely faded into the background. We’re all just focused on our daily survival.
Juggling working, educating kids and sanitizing our homes has taken firm priority in our lives.
Vacations are effectively canceled through at least June. Schools are closed for the year. Professional and college sports pulled the plug on whole seasons.
Suddenly, our world has shrunk. We have the four walls of our homes and any additional land. We have walks in the neighborhood or on unpopulated trails, staying far from all others.
Hands are washed ad nauseam. Never have counters and doorknobs been so very clean. Even groceries and mailed packages are being sanitized in an effort to keep COVID-19 far from our own doors.
The world has changed since the heady beginning of 2020. We’ve become more careful and also more community focused. Many of us are realizing the joys of interacting with people in real life instead of from a screen. Everything has become a little bit cleaner, more sanitary. Everyone has become a whole lot more worried, more aware of our own mortality.
And more grateful for the blessings we currently have: a roof over our heads, food on the table, the promise of tomorrow.