Newsmakers of the year: Navigating despite an ongoing COVID battle

AP Photo Medical Assistant Keona Shepard holds up the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine as she prepares to administer it at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center during the mass coronavirus vaccination in New Orleans.

As bad as 2020 turned out to be, 2021 is ending in the same fashion: growing COVID-19 cases throughout the nation during a holiday season. When reflecting back on our newsmakers of the month for the year, a lot of the topics were associated with the virus.

Here is a quick recap on another year:

¯ JANUARY — Elected officials locally are not visionaries. Instead, they are protecting a system that has been in place for far too long — two cities, 27 towns and 13 villages. “Bluntly put: government is not here to help its residents. It best functions when helping itself by fortifying what it has — no matter what the cost to those it serves. Many residents here like to blame outsiders, especially those in Albany and Washington, for the problems right in our own back yard. What they forget is how stubborn they themselves are.”

¯ FEBRUARY — Small battles are likely the best for municipal officials to fight. This way, they do not have to make important decisions. “(A Fredonia) code enforcement officer thought it was proper to reprimand residents to shovel the walkways in front of their home. When asked about the village sidewalk plow — purchased by taxpayer dollars — the response was insulting. They use that only if there is enough staff available.”

¯ MARCH — A sign critical of President Joe Biden led to a discussion over First Amendment rights. Today, however, there is a much more snarkier attitude than in the past when it comes to those who either agree — or disagree. “Besides the sign with the finger, the other sign on Porter Road makes fun of the current commander-in-chief for his age. The sign has a caricature of Biden with the words ‘Silver Alert.’ America would have never characterized President Ronald Reagan in that sort of manner in the 1980s. We may not have agreed with his policies, but we respected his leadership and his standing in office.

¯ APRIL — Fredonia’s unstable water system is a win for town customers when it comes to lower rates. “Pomfret’s leverage came from the 20 days in September (2020) where Fredonia users were told they could not drink the water. In addition, the north county water district — though not as established — has a much better record for delivering water to users.”

¯ MAY — In less than a year at the helm, State University of New York President Stephen Kolison is made strides. “Kolison, who was hired in the midst of a global pandemic, has certainly faced a number of challenges since his arrival last August. That being said, he appears to be a pillar of stability in some uncertain times.”

¯ JUNE — A welcome sign of summer comes with enthusiasm as normalcy returns as vaccination rates increase. “Strangely, it was many national venues that began to show the U.S. that we could gather again. In April, the Texas Rangers’ home opener welcomed 40,000 fans. More recently, Buffalo’s Sahlen Field that is currently hosting the Toronto Blue Jays will expand capacity.”

¯ JULY — Dunkirk Common Council’s planned investment in a Little League scoreboard struck a sour note, considering the Community Development Block Grant funding is supposed to go to project that help the neediest in the region. “There was only one way to describe it: politics by council members whose agenda does not mirror the serious problems facing Dunkirk. Look around downtown? Is a new scoreboard going to revitalize the city?”

¯ AUGUST — Our first indication the virus will not go away comes from area colleges, which mandate students must be vaccinated to return to campus. “With a little more than 50% of residents here fully vaccinated and high positivity rates noted within the last week, masks are likely to become common part of our everyday apparel when going out. County Executive PJ Wendel has said he will not make it a mandate, but that is not the case with the educational sector.”

¯ SEPTEMBER — With the return of in-person learning, more youth are exposed to the virus. “Since the beginning of the month, those 19 and younger have seen an increase of 314 cases — more than 18% — since the first day of school. This has led to a major hassle for some parents and many families who may be listed as close contact.”

¯ OCTOBER — A dysfunctional Fredonia Village Board needed to do something to keep meetings in check. It decided to limit the discussion by the public. “Most governments — and schools — do set limits on speaking times for members in the audience. It makes sense, especially for Fredonia, where meetings and workshops have almost no discipline. Some sessions drag on for an hour to two hours.”

¯ NOVEMBER — As the holiday season arrives, suring virus cases come with it. It is, an unfortunate, way of life. “In short, like the flu, COVID is not going away. Last week, the Centers for Disease Control gave its blessing to booster shots, which is one more way to prevent the spread and reduce the effects of the illness.”


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