If someone asked me to sum up the year 2020 with a single word, I’d opt for “traumatizing.” I selfishly want to say it put me through the ringer last year, but that would be unfair. Last year put all of us through the ringer.
However, as a reporter, I don’t have the option to turn it off or decide not to take part in the chaos. In fact, I went 111 days without a day off after state health officials announced the first diagnosed cases of COVID-19 on March 8.
2020 brought the worst of the worst, but somehow I narrowed it down to my top 20 most traumatizing moments as a newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa.
1. Because the COVID-19 rampage in meat processing plants isn’t bad enough, the managers at the Tyson facility in Waterloo had an office pool going on how many employees would get sick. This, as one fired manager stated, “was spontaneous fun and intended to boost morale.”
I hope you enjoy your pork chops tonight.
2. When asked during her Nov. 17 press conference why she waited until the state’s healthcare system buckled to order a mask mandate, Republican Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said because Iowans should wear a mask in case they work.
I’m still unsure why her administration continues to allow her to address the public.
3. The man at the board of education meeting shouting, “Y’ALL SHEEP,” and the Board of Education for allowing him to continue to do so as they were voting to pass a mask mandate.
4. Covering Governor Reynolds’ COVID-19 Economic Recovery Advisory Board. They were eight hours into a meeting when I caught myself wondering if anyone was going to mention the word “COVID” or acknowledge that it’s what our economy needs to recover from.
5. Reporting on the first COVID-19 death in the county. A 35 year old father of five.
6. The preschool closure after staff couldn’t contain an outbreak. Those kids defied a political virus when they transmitted COVID-19 and became hospitalized.
But hey, I’m sure it was their poor lifestyle choices and comorbidities. We all know how four-year-olds are. They totally slack at managing healthy life choices.
7. The Republican party.
8. All ten months of, “30 days to slow the spread.”
9. Governor Reynolds stating that, “Iowans will have to learn to live with it” immediately following her announcement on the state’s updated COVID-19 death count.
10. That one time a fleet of tractors fully engulfed in Trump flags blocked off the essential businesses in town while the drivers held up signs that read, “Trans lives don’t matter,” and “Bring back slavery.”
Side note — Iowa wasn’t a slave state, but whatever. Facts have little merit nowadays.
11. Interviewing Senator Joni Ernst who is on a mission to outlaw Planned Parenthood from the state in efforts to prevent abortion. Yeah, so how about the 4,488 Iowans killed by a deadly virus? Can you advocate to prevent that? Oh, wait. It’s too late.
Never mind that Planned Parenthood has a long list of healthcare services for women, 2020 made it crystal clear. The Iowa GOP is pro-birth and not pro-life.
12. The August 10, derecho. When my kids and I emerged from the tornado cellar, it was absolute destruction as far as we could see in every direction. This is when I started having panic attacks.
I’m still covering the devastating aftermath, and it’s almost February. To this day, hundreds of families who lost their homes are sleeping in tents.
The current weather forecast is 14 degrees with a two-day winter storm approaching rapidly. Although, this weather is an improvement from last week — when it snowed three times and the temperature was as low as -11 degrees. I desperately wish I could help every one of them, but I don’t have the means.
Eastern Iowa news media came together in efforts to spread the word across the nation that we needed federal help, but by then California was on fire and they left us to fend for ourselves.
13. The entire county, state and federal 2020 campaign season. This includes interacting with politicians and uneducated voters, the most horrid president in American history dominating every headline, super-spreader events, stop the steal and the Jan. 6 episode of Capitol Under Seize.
14. Any time I heard someone say, “Iowa nice.” 2020 taught me that’s a myth, not a true story.
15. When COVID-19 chewed up all 42 residents at the county nursing home, but only spit 6 back out.
16. Each time I’ve had a feature bumped because obituaries exceeded their two pages of space allotment, again.
17. That one and only time I wrote an Op-Ed piece.
Apparently “Parents and community members, those of us who want children in school, have fully unloaded all the responsibility onto administrators and educators while demanding the expectation that they must succeed. Because of our lack of accountability and responsibility, we have set them up to fail,” was the wrong thing to say.
The backlash from the redneck, ass-backward, Trump worshiping community was rather harsh. My family even received death threats.
No need to wash your hands, wear a mask, social distance, refrain from gathering or stay home when you’re sick, folks! Obviously, death to my family solves our pandemic problem.
18. I was so proud of my holiday cover story of a woman who erected a memorial tree in honor of her sister, who passed away from COVID-19 earlier in the year.
Until I saw her on the 6 o’clock news, unmasked and hugging and holding hands with random strangers who drove in from Michigan to pay their respects, because WTF?
19. Six straight months of protest from the anti-maskers and anti-vaccers counter protesting the medical board and hospital doctors. We have pro-Trump counter protesting the BLM Iowa Freedom Riders and the teacher’s union counter protesting the “open it all up” crowd. Full-blown riots included, so far resulting in wounded and dead Iowans and police officers.
Side note — Iowa never shutdown nor did we ever have a stay-at-home order. Even our schools are wide open. I have no clue why the “open it all up” crowd didn’t get that memo.
20. Every word out of former president Donald Trump’s mouth.