WASHINGTON — As COVID-19 was quietly starting to consume the nation, I covered my last in-person political event exactly one year ago, on March 10, 2020.
I was shoulder to shoulder with political operatives at a crowded River North bar, a Super Tuesday watch party organized by the Illinois Biden for President campaign.
Two days later, I sat at a four-top table lunching with three high school pals at Abigail’s American Bistro, a restaurant in Highland Park.
I haven’t eaten inside a restaurant since.
On that day, March 12, 2020, the Chicago Sun-Times bosses asked everyone to work remotely for the first time, sort of a one-day test, it seemed, for us to figure out how to do it just in case this thing called coronavirus or COVID forced the office to close.
We never went back.
I think I had it easier than many of my colleagues on the work logistics front.
I’m a one-person operation in D.C., and I’ve been working remotely for years. From home, the Capitol, the White House, a hotel lobby, a borrowed dining room table, inside a car, sitting on a lawn — no big deal to me.
I was in Illinois to cover the March 17 state primary, staying with my sister, Neesa, when the remain-at-home orders came down.
The adjustment for me — and an unexpected blessing of this COVID year — was being “stranded” in Illinois at my sister’s place for months. We haven’t lived together since I was in high school and she left for college, decades ago.
I was the house guest who would not leave, and because of COVID, could not be kicked out. Everything turned out fine, especially finding joy in planning and cooking meals together.
So many of us remember the “lasts” of these past 12 months because these events now seem frozen in time. Mingling freely with family and friends; in-person school or work; eating inside a restaurant; getting on a plane, train, bus or subway.
For those who lost jobs or businesses or loved ones or friends, the year has been a horrible disaster.
I’m writing this on the eve of President Joe Biden’s address to the nation on Thursday night to mark the one-year anniversary of the pandemic.
On Wednesday, Congress sent the massive $1.9 trillion COVID-19 “rescue” bill to Biden to sign. The final House passage came Wednesday with only Democratic votes.
The story was the same in the Senate, where the legislation advanced with only Democrats on the roll call.
The victory was significant for Biden, who will deliver his speech on day 50 of his presidency and as more people in the U.S. are getting vaccines.
Biden previewed his speech Wednesday.
“Tomorrow night, I’m going in prime time to address the American people, to talk about what we’ve been through as a nation this past year. But more importantly, I’m going to talk about what comes next.
“I’m going to launch the next phase of the COVID response and explain what we will do as a government and what we will ask of the American people.
“There is light at the end of this dark tunnel of this past year. We cannot let our guard down now or assume that a victory is inevitable.”
Former President Donald Trump deserves blame for his handling of the pandemic as it spread in 2020. He denied that COVID was a problem. He peddled false cures. He would not wear a mask and encouraged what became the politicization of masks — wearing them betrayed your politics rather than being a rational health move.
The list of what Trump did wrong is long.
What Trump did right: On his watch, vaccines were developed and given emergency approval by the Food and Drug Administration. That Trump did not set up an adequate distribution and manufacturing network meant the chore was left to Biden.
The Biden presidency depends on beating the pandemic.
The politics over the one-party passing of this latest COVID relief bill will be intense though diminished, perhaps when people with kids who are eligible get the benefits of the cash and tax credits and other breaks in the legislation.
With no more access to Twitter, Trump has taken to sending out short press releases.
Said Trump in a Wednesday dispatch, clearly concerned about Biden taking “credit” for vaccinations, “I hope everyone remembers when they’re getting the COVID-19 (often referred to as the China Virus) Vaccine, that if I wasn’t President, you wouldn’t be getting that beautiful “shot” for 5 years, at best, and probably wouldn’t be getting it at all. I hope everyone remembers!”
Yes, everyone remembers. This entire past year. Everything. We won’t forget.