Cases Rise Once Again in Florence
Two more cases of COVID-19 have been reported for the Florence area as the count grows to 86. The numbers came in early yesterday morning and a new report is expected out today. Florence has seen almost daily increases over the past two weeks and many days have been multiple cases. Lane County continues to have its struggles containing the virus with the majority of cases originating along the I-5 corridor in Eugene/Springfield. Lane County is reporting 5 more hospitalizations for a total of 42 and 4 of those cases have been transported to the Intensive Care Unit. Even with the increase in local cases the state is reporting an overall drop in new cases citing a 22% decrease from the previous week marking the 3rd consecutive week with a decline. Positive test rates, hospitalizations and reported deaths have also declined.
2020 Year in Review
It was the Biggest Story of 2020. The coronavirus that originated in WuHan China made its way around the globe and affected every country. The US was majorly impacted with approximately 20 million people being infected and almost 400 thousand deaths. From Coast to coast the virus forced local state, county and city governments to react. Initially schools were closed and some businesses were shuttered as the virus took hold on communities, but numbers began to subside in the early summer months, but some warned about a resurgence like the one that occurred during the Spanish Flu Outbreak in 1918. And that is exactly what happened. As many communities planned for at least a partial return of students to the classroom, numbers began to rise quickly and new cases were followed by an increase in deaths related to COVID-19. Pharmaceutical companies rushed to give the public hope with the development of several vaccines and by year’s end two companies had been approved for distribution in the U.S. with a third company approved in Great Brittain. Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were distributed throughout the U.S. and vaccines were first administered on December 14th. the Astra-Zeneca vaccine is still awaiting FDA approval and will not likely receive that until possibly April. Moderna and Pfizer are US companies though Pfizer merged with GlaxoSmithKline, a british pharmaceutical company in 2018.
Another big story for 2020 was the economic impact the coronavirus had on the economy. Here in Florence many businesses had to scale back and some even close for a while as state and county officials struggled to deal with the ever changing landscape of the coronavirus. Restaurants had to close, then reopen, then close again as did businesses like Coastal Fitness which remains closed to this day. PPP loans were administered which helped some small businesses cope with the lack of revenue streams but not all who applied were able to get a loan. Agencies like Siuslaw Outreach Services saw major increases in need across the area and used grant money to not only help people with utility bills, but to keep them in their homes. Results of the pandemic also saw increases in domestic violence in the Florence area, partly as a result of families being stuck at home with increased financial difficulties. Towards the end of the year several restaurants that were forced to close to indoor dining decided to defy state regulations and open for indoor business, hoping to stem the loses of 2020.
City Council Tensions
It was also an election year, and Florence had its share of controversy. Council members Joshua Greene and Ron Preisler decided not to run again for city council after tensions ran high over several issues from previous election controversies, the Public Arts Committee, Global Warming Statements, and disagreements on how committee members were chosen. Mayor Joe Henry won another term for mayor in a close race with businesswoman Jo Beaudreau and two new members will be introduced on Monday as councilperson elect Sally Wantz and Bill Meyer are sworn in.
Distance Learning Woes
As mentioned earlier, school closings had a big impact on the local community as educators rushed to put in a distance learning program to help students stay on track. Some policies were eased at the end of the 2020 school year allowing seniors who were currently on course to graduate to do so early and those who were struggling were given a greater leeway to finish courses. At the time, no one could predict how long or to what degree the impact coronavirus would have on schools as was noted in late March by School Superintendent Andy Grzeskowiak.
“Right now we’re actually in a pretty good shape, we got out supplemental educational packets before Spring Break and we have our second wave ready to go out, which is good cause that help us with kind of where we are in terms of state guidance which came out late last night, which says get ready for distance learning.”
At the time hopes were high that school may be able to return in late April or early May. Mapleton Schools suffered many of the same ills even though enrollment was less than that of Siuslaw. Internet issues continue to plague distance learning, but head roads are being made.