COVID-19 Pandemic: A look back on a year that changed our lives

Coronavirus

(KSNT) – Exactly a year ago on March 7, 2020, Kansas reported its first positive COVID-19 case. A lot has happened since then as the pandemic rolled on throughout the past year.

First, it was just fear.

“No one should panic over this new virus or this confirmed case. Kansas still is considered at low risk for spread of the virus.”

Gov. Laura Kelly on March 7, 2020

Then, fear quickly turned into reality.

Days after the state reported the first coronavirus case in Kansas, it was a domino effect of events being canceled.

The Big 12 cut the basketball tournament in Kansas City short.

That same day, the NCAA announced it was canceling the remainder of all winter and spring sports.

The pandemic officially began and took on a life of its own. On March 12, Governor Laura Kelly announced the first COVID-19 death in the state.

Six days later, she ordered Kansans to stay at home.

“I know this is hard and I can’t tell you how much I wish it weren’t necessary,” she said. “But this is our window to ensure Kansas does not suffer the terrible fate of other hard hit states.”

People were encouraged to stay at home unless they had to get groceries or go to the doctor.

But the order turned into a political fight and after weeks, some people had enough. Protesters gathered around the statehouse for Operation Gridlock Topeka in defiance of the stay-at-home order.

And as Easter rolled around, Gov. Kelly issued an executive order limiting church gatherings to 10 people, which created a back-and-forth battle in the statehouse.

The governor sued the Legislative Coordinating Council after five of the top Republican lawmakers voted to reverse that order. The Supreme Court ended up ruling in her favor, allowing the executive order to stand.

Two Kansas churches still didn’t agree and took the mater to court. Calvary Baptist Church in Junction City and First Baptist Church in Dodge City also filed a federal lawsuit, saying the executive order violates the First Amendment, as well as the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act.

A federal judge ruled in their favor, which allowed them to temporarily have services without limits on how many people can gather.

Toward the end of April, she reached a deal with the churches. They agreed to extend a judge’s temporary restraining order preventing enforcement of the governor’s ban. The churches also agreed to comply with social distancing guidelines.

A week later, Gov. Kelly announced a plan to slowly reopen the state.

Starting May 4, 2020, groups of 10 could gather and masks were strongly encouraged. Places like bars, casinos, gyms and pools remained closed.

But some Republicans weren’t happy and quickly put an end to the governor’s decision and instead, left it up to each other state’s 105 counties to decide how they wanted to reopen.

The governor turned to making suggestions. Some counties followed, shutting down bars early and outlawing large gatherings.

Concerned about the steady increase in cases, she decided to release names and locations of active outbreaks across the state.

“By sharing where the outbreaks take place, Kansans will be better informed about the threat of COVID-19 in their schools and communities, and will be better prepared to contain and stop the spread of the virus.”

Governor Laura Kelly on Sept. 9, 2020

Cases continued to rise throughout the fall and in November, Stormont Vail in Topeka announced it had reached maximum capacity for COVID-19 patients.

Things seemed out of control and nearly 3,000 new cases every day, 40 new deaths a day and more than 50 new hospitalizations every day. And by mid-November, more and more counties agreed to follow the governor’s plea to require people to wear masks and social distance in public.

In December, Kansas partnered with GoGetTested.com, which offered information on free testing sites across the state.

We also started learning about the state’s plan to get Kansans vaccinated.

Photo from Jan. 7, 2021 of Kansas’ updated vaccination phases

Although we’re now a year into the pandemic, it’s important to highlight some of the good that came out of this, specifically how our community has came together to help people in need or just to make people smile.

In April, the owner of the Ramada Inn in Topeka started offering free rooms for healthcare workers.

And as teachers, parents and students navigated through online learning, one Topeka third grade teacher decided to mix things up and play a joke on her students.

“I love that we have that relationship with one another and I love that we can all laugh at a toot because it is funny no matter how old you are,” said third-grade teacher Emma Ginder.

And for the holidays, Downtown Topeka Inc. held its 25th annual Miracle on Kansas Avenue Christmas parade, but with a COVID-style twist.

It was a reverse parade, which meant floats stayed in place and people could drive by the floats in their own cars to avoid any mass gatherings.

While things may finally be looking up, we’re still in the pandemic believe it or not. And KSNT News will continue informing you and getting the answers you need to know, whether it comes to vaccines or getting your unemployment checks from the department of labor.

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