EDITORIAL: 2020 calamities offer opportunities for 2021 promises

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Less than a year after the new coronavirus was identified as the source of a possible pandemic, Jeanna Brewer, an RN at The Medical Center of Aurora, was the first to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, Dec. 16, 2020, at the hospital. TMCA received 375 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in their first delivery and expect 2100 doses of the Moderna vaccine this week.
File Photo by PHILIP B. POSTON/Sentinel Colorado

While 2020 will live in infamy and recurring nightmares for most Americans, the record year of bad news also yielded serious changes for the good — near and far.

Many want to overlook the most dismal consequence of the year: the death of more than 300,000 Americans due to the new coronavirus epidemic. The calamity overshadows everything else in a year that seemed to unfold into little else but grief.

Even from the pandemic tragedy, however, there’s good news. As the entire planet worked feverishly first to understand the new coronavirus, and then conquer it, medical and vaccine science surged ahead in a matter of months. New types of vaccines were invented, deployed, tested and produced at a rate unthinkable this time last year.

The benefits from this leap in technology and scientific coordination will benefit people for years to come.

More than anything, the pandemic has highlighted new strengths among the science community as well as apparent shortcomings. Focusing on both can result in making strides in all kinds of human maladies, and preparing the world for the next, inevitable global challenge.

The last four years under the Trump administration have seen an unparalleled attack on science, academia and fact-driven news. While a relatively small group of people in Colorado and across the nation are willing victims and perpetrators of disinformation campaigns, the vast majority of people have seen first-hand how dangerous ignorance and propaganda truly are.

As the nation steps out of the shadow of the pandemic and the Trump regime, there is a new opportunity to restore confidence in our government and institutions promoted by leaders beholden to facts, honesty, transparency and accountability.

The possibility of what we can do as a nation played out right here in Colorado during the past several months.

Gov. Jared Polis and state lawmakers pushed back against White House campaigns of disinformation and anti-science machinations. While we’ve sometimes disagreed with Polis about the speed and depth of the state’s response to the pandemic crisis, his office and those of state health officials have been extraordinarily transparent and public about how they have evaluated the crisis and responded to it.

Locally, the Tri-County Health Department has led the way in the state in candidly presenting complicated and controversial data and policies and making it understandable to the public. Local health officials have packaged impossibly complex and technical material that has guided the region’s response and helped everyone understand the critical importance of slowing the spread of a perilous new virus.

While the pandemic has been no less than catastrophic to hundreds of thousands of Coloradans, what local health officials have learned and developed during the past year can be crucial in improving all kinds of public health problems when the pandemic finally ends.

Clearly, the pandemic played a strategic role in how Aurora, the state and even the nation struggled with the Black Lives Matter evolution. The evidence and compelling arguments for fundamental change in police departments and workplaces across the nation have been in the public eye regularly for the past several years. The Elijah McClain death was the focus of a great deal of local media attention. Perhaps it was the combination of growing national angst from the pandemic and the graphic murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, but the result has been transformative.

For years, anti-racism and police reform advocates have tried to nudge along even paltry changes. This year, Colorado rocketed ahead, passing a meaningful, comprehensive package of police and criminal justice reforms. The measures work to ensure police focus on uprooting systemic racism from departments, and become accountable. In Aurora, the renewed focus on McClain’s death has turned the police department upside down. More than ever in the department’s history, the opportunity presented by leaders willing to end decades of intentional and unintentional mistreatment of people of color is real.

More promising than any other event during this dismal year, voters chose overwhelmingly to end President Trump’s term. The decisive vote will end palpable angst for hundreds of millions of Americans sickened by Trump’s delusional quackery and the dangerous sycophancy he’s extracted from endless Republicans.

A benefit from Trump’s electoral demise is the clear and unmistakable strength and endurance of the election system in Colorado and across the nation. It speaks to the resolve and integrity of thousands of election workers and officials that America not only held a free, fair and accountable election during a pandemic, but officials were able to prove the election’s accuracy and probity over and over during the past several weeks.

While 2020 has engulfed Aurora and the nation in tragedy and dismay, the challenges it brought can be impetus for memorable triumphs in 2021.

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