2020 in the Quad Cities: Reflecting on the changes COVID-19 brought with it

2020 in the Quad Cities: Reflecting on the changes COVID-19 brought with it
Published: Dec. 30, 2020 at 7:01 PM CST
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(KWQC) - Social distancing, PPE, mask mandates, and lockdowns became everyday terms throughout the Quad Cities and across the U.S. in 2020.

For the past 10 months, COVID-19 has changed the world and brought new challenges to everyday life.

“Just think that the next time we are able to gather safely for holiday gatherings, just how many people won’t be there,” said Janet Hill, chief operating officer at the Rock Island County Health Department, in a recent interview with TV6.

On Jan. 24, Illinois officials reported the first confirmed case was a Chicago woman who had returned from Wuhan, China, almost two weeks earlier. The state’s second case – the woman’s spouse – was confirmed on Jan. 30.

“Our first call with the state department of public health was Jan. 27 and the CDC call was the next day,” Hill said. “The WHO declared the virus had originated in Wuhan; the Public Health Concern on Dec. 31, which is why it’s called COVID-19. If it would have been the very next day, it would have been COVID-20.”

On March 8, Iowa officials reported the first three presumptive positive cases of coronavirus.

On March 11, President Donald Trump addressed the nation and said he was suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for 30 days.

Several days later, the newly formed Quad Cities COVID-19 Coalition held the first of many briefings to provide recommendations on minimizing the risk for community spread.

“At this point in time, there are no known cases of COVID-19 in the Quad Cities area,” officials said in a media release. “However, it’s likely there will be COVID-19 cases in our community in the future. With that in mind, we come together to provide reassurance to the community that we are prepared. We are monitoring this situation and are implementing emergency response plans.”

Scott County reported its first confirmed case on March 21. Rock Island County reported its first case the next day.

“Even though that first reported case came on March 21, there were cases in the community long before that,” said Ed Rivers, director of the Scott County Health Department. “Back in February.”

Big events, such as the NCAA’s March Madness Tournament and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, were canceled.

Then came the lockdowns shortly after.

“There was a lot of public understanding and compliance at the beginning,” Hill said. “They were very scared because this was something we had never dealt with. This was a brand-new virus, and we knew it was deadly.”

Added Rivers, “What we’ve been experiencing is epidemiology in real-time.”

Restaurants tried their best to adapt, and education changed.

On March 13, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced all public and private schools would be closed starting March 17 until March 30 to help prevent coronavirus spread.

On March 15, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds recommended that Iowa schools close for four weeks to limit the virus’s spread.

“Based on new information today from the Iowa Department of Public Health, now is the time to move to the next level of response,” she said at the time. “I am now recommending that all Iowa schools close for a period of four weeks to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

On April 2, she announced that schools would remain closed through the end of the academic year.

“Keeping Iowa students out of classrooms is a very difficult decision, but it remains necessary for now,” she said during a press conference.

Pritzker made a similar announcement on April 17.

Reynolds, a Republican, and Pritzker, a Democrat, approached the pandemic in different ways.

“We work together, we align our efforts as closely as possible,” Rivers said. “But being in two states, the state requirements vary from time to time, and that’s just something we have to do differently.”

Pritzker issued a stay-at-home order on March 20. Reynolds did not issue a stay-at-home order but issued a proclamation that closed all restaurants and bars to the public, except for carry-out, drive-through, and delivery options. Other businesses, such as fitness centers, health clubs, health spas, gyms, and aquatic centers ordered to close.

The summer months arrived, and many of our regular activities – including the Quad-City Times Bix 7 and the Mississippi Valley Fair – moved virtual or were canceled altogether as cases and deaths rose.

Scott County reached 100 deaths in early December. Rock Island County hit that mark just over a month earlier.

“It took us from April 7 through the 25th of October to reach 100 deaths, and we have more than doubled that since,” Hill said.

Schools tried to return to the classroom in the fall, but some would move remote as outbreaks occurred within districts in the Quad Cities area.

Adjustments were key to continue some normalcy. Eventually, two vaccines were released to provide relief for frontline healthcare workers and others throughout the country.

It wouldn’t be long before those very vaccines would arrive to the first healthcare workers in the Quad Cities at Genesis Health System and UnityPoint Trinity.

“It was an exciting morning,” Rivers said.

Added Hill, “It was, really, just affirming that all the work all of us had done, it was really kind of the beginning of the end.”

Officials say there is now an end in sight after many months and over 300,000 American lives lost.

“When we come together, there’s nothing we cannot beat, but at the same time, I’ve seen this virus cause so much pain and suffering,” Dr. Toyosi Olutade, chief medical officer at Unity Point Health Trinity, said.

Although this fight is not over yet, local officials said the vaccine reminds us how far we’ve come in 2020 and what we can look forward to in 2021.

“I was reminded of the season of advent,” Hill said. “December is a season of light and hope. Seeing those first healthcare providers receive their vaccine definitely reminded me of light and hope.”

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