It’s New Year’s Day, and that’s a global sigh of relief you’re hearing. A sigh that, today, humanity can look in the rear-view mirror and see the Terrible Year Just Past thankfully receding into the distance.
Good riddance, 2020. Welcome, 2021.
The arrival of a pristine new year won’t magically wipe away the world’s multiple challenges spawned during 2020’s infamous plague year, but this turning of the temporal page does offer something supremely important.
Let’s look at the coming months for the Midlands and extend wishes for a better, happier time.
Vaccinations. Our most powerful weapon in defeating COVID lies in the vaccines to be distributed in Nebraska and Iowa this year. By rolling up our sleeves, Midlanders can roll back the COVID threat. Let’s join together to achieve the needed herd immunity level that can restore stability and much-needed civic confidence. And, for the time being, we will all need to supplement that effort by continuing the familiar health practices such as regular hand washing, mask wearing and avoiding crowds.
Small businesses. It was frightening in 2020 to see how COVID laid such enormous burdens on Main Street businesses. As 2021 hopefully brings us needed relief, let’s all make a special effort to direct our dollars toward local businesses. Those local entrepreneurs and staff deserve such support. And their revival can restore all-important vitality to neighborhoods and communities.
Mental health. One needn’t be an expert in the field to understand that stress, frustration and fear in 2020 weighed heavily on the mental health of Midlanders, young and old. For many, those effects are expected to linger even with the lifting of the COVID threat. We all need to extend understanding and support to loved ones, friends and coworkers. Professional help is available, too. Let’s make 2021 a time of revival not only economically but emotionally.
Schools. We perhaps could fill today’s entire newspaper edition if we listed the countless ways in which the COVID crisis overloaded students, parents, teachers and school staff during 2020. A nightmarish time. The arrival of vaccination boosts the chances for a welcome eventual return to normal school times. It’s hard to exaggerate what relief that turnaround, when it arrives, will bring in the classroom and at home. A Midlands priority for 2021 must be boosting the well-being of the next generation.
Child welfare. A decade ago, Nebraska saw its child welfare system tumble into chaos when the state launched an ill-prepared switch to privatization of services. Now, the series of troubles afflicting St. Francis Ministries, which handles the cases in Douglas and Sarpy Counties, raises troubling questions about the provider’s financial condition as well as the process by which the Ricketts administration processes bids for state contracts. Nebraska officials must put child welfare services on solid footing this year. The stakes for these vulnerable boys and girls could not be higher.
Nebraska Legislature. State senators have huge obligations during the “long session” that begins Wednesday. Key issues include the two-year budget, tax policy, school funding and police issues. No ideological faction has a strong majority in the current Legislature, and it generally will be easy to mount vigorous filibusters. Lawmakers on the right and left must strive to make the process work productively, avoiding stalemate. Failure on the major state issues is not an option. Lawmakers, do your job responsibly.
Sports. Can we find some positives to look forward to on the sports front as the calendar turns? Surely so. Creighton Bluejays fans can hope to complete that NCAA Tournament run so rudely interrupted by 2020’s special brand of March Madness. Husker fans, with a volleyball season ahead, can keep in mind after another disappointing football season and a still-growing basketball program, that, indeed, the girls are the fairest in these parts.
A brand-new year beckons before the Midlands. Let’s strive together to put the recent pain behind us and make this a time of revival, fellowship and progress.