The past 12 months have been so extraordinary that it’s sometimes easy to forget just how far we’ve come since the COVID-19 pandemic – coronavirus was the operative word back then, though we’d soon be talking routinely, probably via Zoom, about COVID times.

Let’s just remember where things stood on St. Patrick’s Day of 2020.

The weekend preceding St. Patrick’s Day was when the panic set in. Hundreds lined up on Friday the 13th outside of Costco in North Riverside – you look at the photos now and just gape; not a face covering in sight – to buy the place out of paper products, cleaning solutions, hand sanitizer, flour, rice and canned goods.

By Sunday, there was no meat in the cases and shelves normally packed to the ceiling were nearly bare. At Riverside Foods, Tischler’s, Jewel (remember them?), Aldi – it didn’t matter – panic buyers cleaned them out.

Within an hour of presiding over a ribbon-cutting for a brand new Hobby Lobby on March 16, North Riverside’s mayor shutdown the Village Commons to the public and postponed that night’s village board meeting. 

That same day Riverside and Brookfield closed their village halls, cancelled all recreation programming and made parks off limits. By that day, the governor had already closed all schools in the state. On March 16, all restaurants and bars would be shut down.

The headline on the March 18, 2020 Landmark was in all-caps: “LIFE GRINDING TO A HALT”

On March 17, 2020 there had been no actual confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in Riverside, Brookfield or North Riverside. But those would come soon enough, in fact by the following week there was one, in North Riverside.

The next week there were 16 cases, followed the next week by 41, then 72, then 112, then 133, then 163.

Little did we know at the time that those confirmed weekly cases, as well as deaths from COVID-19, would spike to even higher levels in the fall. One week in November, in Brookfield alone there would be 152 confirmed cases.

For the week ending on the morning of March 16, 2021, for the second time in the last three weeks, there were 20 new cases in the three villages combined.

For most people, lives changed radically. Businesses shut their doors completely as did places like zoos, libraries, churches. Streets normally packed with cars were largely empty as people worked from home or worked to survive after their jobs disappeared.

Last March and April were awful. We were scared, largely uninformed, and uncertain of what the future held.

Let’s be clear, the pandemic isn’t over, but it feels different Vaccines have been rolled out and more supplies are arriving weekly. Yes, it’s still frustratingly difficult for some people to land vaccine appointments.

But, just as we eventually knew someone who would be infected by the coronavirus or who died from COVID-19, we now know more people who have been vaccinated against it. Those numbers will continue to grow.

This time last year, Major League Baseball shut down spring training and at the time we had no idea if there would be baseball at all in 2020. Last weekend, you could watch spring training games on TV and hear the claps and shouts of fans – socially distanced and hopefully wearing masks – in the background.

We’re convinced that we’ve turned the corner, through the discipline and dedication of all of us as citizens. We’re not done, but we’re getting there. Stay dedicated and we’ll be rewarded. Hang on.