It’s unbelievable how far we’ve come in one year of living through the coronavirus pandemic. At this time last year, we were bracing for lockdown, stocking pantries, and wondering how to homeschool our children. We wept for the lives lost, the overflow of patients needing emergency medicine, and the faces of the brave medical workers trying to save lives. We saw the virus burn through nursing homes, taking our most vulnerable elders. We wondered what isolation would truly mean. We bleached our groceries, quarantined our mail, and learned all about the wonders of Zoom and the mute button.
What we knew then was a lot different than what we know today — much of it is steeped in unfathomable sorrow and ire for the ugly political battle that ensued, including the distrust and downright hatred for science. Yet, despite the grief and vehemence we greet the anniversary buoyed by such unimaginable hope: a vaccine! And many of us in Montana, including our elders and members of our community most susceptible to COVID-19, are fully vaccinated. Each day we learn of increasing vaccine doses made available and our tireless county health departments scheduling appointments and pharmacies handling doses.
Although Gov. Greg Gianforte dropped the mask mandate, I thank him for wearing one publicly and hope we all continue to do so as well. We are still in a fight against the virus and wearing a mask is proven to help save lives, slow the virus’ spread, and keep our communities safe. And in one year, the range of fashionable masks has exploded and it seems like this year’s stylish accessory item is the face mask. If you’re lucky to have a mom like mine who’s a whiz with the sewing machine, she’ll even customize fabrics to reflect the season, or cater to her daughter’s whims for polka dots and plaids.
As a state, our case numbers are dropping while we continue to vaccinate more and more. In the Flathead Valley, our school systems have successfully offered in-person learning, which is critical for the health and wellbeing of our students and our families who need kids in the class so they can return to work. I’m so thankful that the Kalispell school district has maintained its policy on wearing masks. Kindness still ripples throughout the community even if those angry voices get the most airtime. Most adults don’t laugh at children at public meetings. Most adults look in on their neighbors, shovel sidewalks, and offer a friendly hello when passing on the sidewalk. Most adults don’t hurl slurs when they’re asked to wear a mask before entering a business.
We don’t bleach down our groceries any more, but we still wear our masks in public. Will we wear masks next winter during the flu season? Likely, yes. On an airplane? Heck yes. Will we get ice cream cones when my children’s grandparents get their shots? Of course!
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.
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