When many people look back, it’s possible 2020 will be remembered as the worst year of their lives.

Lost jobs. Financial worries. Canceled vacations. Families unable to gather for holidays. Illness, often without a perfect recovery. And largely unexpected deaths of loved ones, colleagues and neighbors.

Yes, 2020 will surely go into the history books as the worst year of the modern era.

It can only get better, right?

A popular Facebook meme posted by people all over the world in the past few weeks comically announces that we should stay up until midnight to make sure 2020 really goes away.

That’s a funny idea, and perhaps one that we might all embrace, to toast better times ahead.

But we must bring things back to reality and mention that 2021 promises more of the same. Another Facebook meme observes that 2021 can be interpreted as “2020 won.”

There is no specific end date for a health crisis that involves a potentially killer virus that may linger in the air and be passed by casual contact with a friend or stranger. Viral mutations coupled with regrettably widespread vaccination skepticism could make this pandemic drag out for far longer than the best-case scenario.

Unlike wars, where a surrender and troop withdrawal signal a reprieve from danger, there is no definitive end to a health emergency, especially one of this scale. Even disasters caused by bad weather, like the Great Coastal Gale which we endured in 2007, have a bright moment — in that case, literally, when the sun came out four days later and we realized the damaging winds had dropped. We thanked radio hams and power company linemen, among others, for their skills, then moved back to our normal lives.

But that isn’t going to happen with this crisis.

And that’s why as 2021 dawns, we cannot succumb to “covid fatigue.” Despite ramped-up public relations campaigns urging the wearing of masks, social distancing and limits on gatherings, too many people are spurning the warnings and trying to carry on as normal. Some are even intentionally flouting the regulations, in part because the Washington and Oregon governors implementing them are from a political party they don’t support.

It is almost redundant to mention that this is madness. We are all in this together. We must all play our part to protect ourselves and our neighbors. We cannot be selfish. The “rugged individualist” concept that we applauded when the West was opened up must surely be replaced by a new spirit of togetherness — neighbors uniting to battle a common enemy.

Clear back in March 2020, when awareness about the serious dangers covid-19 really began to spread, public health officials warned of a “second wave” of cases that would follow the initial bloom of illnesses.

We’re at that point.

This virus will not magically disappear as 2021 dawns. It may get worse.

So as we ring in the new year, let’s resolve to all continue to play our part in creating a safe environment in our home communities.

That means:

• Wearing masks;

• Washing hands;

• Social distancing;

• Minimizing gatherings;

• Getting vaccinated as soon as we can.

Of course, the virus is a continuing danger, despite the initial efforts to develop a remarkably quickly developed vaccine. Of course, the economy is in tatters, and our elected governments are offering only Band-Aid approaches and not providing genuine help to our devastated Main Streets.

But the biggest enemy in our society right now is impatience.

Those 10 letters spell doom, unless we are willing to accept it is true.

We cannot wave a magic wand and make it all go away. We must embrace that cliché which 1970s environmentalists brought into the mainstream: Think globally, act locally.

If we all do what we can, maybe this time next year — hopefully way sooner — we will be in better shape to celebrate a “victory” of a kind.

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