Remembering how little we knew

By Dennis Minich

We mark a milestone this month: one year of COVID-19 and stories related to the disease’s spread. Although in many ways it seems like a million years ago, the fears of the Coronavirus were negligible one year ago. In looking through old copies of The Tribune, I found one year ago we were talking about spring plans, the arrival of a new city administrator and the usual things that accounted for news at the time.

It was one year ago this week that a concert I had tickets for was cancelled at the last minute. Not knowing much about COVID made the cancellation a mystery. On March 9, the first case was reported in the Kansas City Metro Area.

The first story in our paper, which appeared that same week, was mostly an overview of recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control. Among the details at that time: “The risk of catching COVID-19 was less than catching the common flu.” It also noted: “The same preventive measures you would take for avoiding the flu would probably be sufficient, wash your hands, don’t touch your face and avoid close contact with anyone displaying symptoms.”

The following week, it was announced the Kansas City St. Patrick’s Day celebration was cancelled. We had a story about how the county was bracing for the Coronavirus arrival. Then the next week was when everything changed. We had a picture of empty shelves where toilet paper would normally be found. We reported the county commission had issued a stay-at-home order and we, for the first time had a front-page graphic display ing COVID numbers. At that time, we reported nine confirmed cases in the state of Missouri.

How truly naïve we were at the time. Since that time, we’ve learned much more about stay-at-home. We’ve learned the normal precautions are probably not enough and that COVID-19 is very contagious. If anyone really wants to dispute this fact, I will be glad to tell them my personal story.

The past three weeks I have had the chance to observe vaccinations being given throughout the county, including Tuesday morning where the Cass County Health Department was directly handling a mass vaccination site. It is reported that about 10 percent of all Americans and about 7 percent of Cass Countians have been vaccinated at this point and with the opening of eligibility to more Missourians, those local numbers should grow quickly.

I will admit I was an early skeptic of the virus threat. I remember discussions about whether to keep the paper’s office open or not and how to go about the daily tasks. It was like an episode of “The Twilight Zone” going shopping finding empty shelves where cleansers and paper products should have been. Seeing empty coolers where eggs and milk would normally be stored seemed surreal. But as it often happens, what had been odd became normal.

It is not uncommon at all now to go to the store and find products in short supply. Many times, it is a cause of celebration when you can actually find the items on your shopping list.

More and more, people have become more connected. While in-person visits have been frowned upon, phone calls and social media with friends and relatives have reportedly become much more commonplace. There still aren’t concerts or many shows, but gradually a few things are opening up and it is fun to watch a sporting event where the crowd sounds are made by real people at the scene, not all simply tape-recorded effects designed to create a false sense of excitement for the television audience.

Hopefully, the vaccines perform as promised and life gets even more back to pre-disease normal. I am optimistic. I was informed the concert I missed one year ago this week has been rescheduled: March 5, 2022. It’s something to look forward to.

Help me secure that date. Wear a mask and get a vaccine when you can. If we all work together, next year I can write about how worried we were about this silly COVID-19 stuff.