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COVID-19 1 year later

Once it pulled the plug on sports, entertainment and travel, the coronavirus pandemic was free to dominate the news cycle. And dominate it did.

Apart from a hotly contested presidential election, an insurrection at the Capitol and a summer of Black Lives Matter rallies protesting police violence, the lion’s share of media stories over the past 12 months have dealt with COVID-19 and its impacts. Looking back through the pages of this newspaper, the coronavirus evolves quickly from vague threat to economic and social juggernaut.

On March 5 of last year, a cruise ship was anchored off Lahaina and Front Street was crawling with tourists. A week later, Maui Airports District Manager Marvin Moniz was showing off new hand sanitizing stations at Kahului Airport and runs on toilet paper were leaving grocery shelves empty. On March 13, we covered our last Maui Interscholastic League sporting event, a boys volleyball match between Hana and Seabury Hall at Erdman Athletic Center. There has not been a league-sanctioned high school competition since.

Aerial photos of a colossal traffic jam of rental cars surrounding Kahului Airport in the April 1 edition conveyed the magnitude of the blossoming pandemic’s impact. More than 20,000 vehicles jammed former sugar cane fields, parking lots and the sides of roads. The airport itself was a ghost town as the last remaining tourists flew home and almost no one arrived to replace them. That was the day we also started seeing Maui police officers patrolling beaches to enforce a ban on sitting and sunbathing. Plexiglas shields began popping up at banks and grocery stores.

Does anyone remember the quaint notion that if everyone stayed home for two weeks the crisis would be over? Prior to the pandemic, it would have been strange to see people wearing facemasks in public. Now it is strange to see people not properly wearing them.

We have all had to learn and adjust on the fly. That goes double for our government leaders. Juggling a barrage of constantly evolving guidelines, Hawaii officials chartered a cautious path. The hit to our economy may last for years, but playing it safe saved lives and prevented our health care systems from being overwhelmed.

Maui County has had 2,625 confirmed cases. We mourn the 35 people in the county who died due to COVID-19. A recent spike in infection numbers says we are not out of the woods.

On Dec. 23, health care workers at Maui Memorial Medical Center were the first in the county to receive vaccines. After battling supply issues at the start, Hawaii is now one of the nation’s leaders in getting shots into arms.

We’re all ready to see the pandemic knocked off the front page. The best way to make that happen is to get vaccinated, wear your mask and follow COVID-19 protocols. The end is in sight.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.

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