The pandemic put a spotlight on the need for reliable Internet service in rural areas and for families facing financial struggles.

Santa Clara County Animal Services Center concept art.

Editorial is the opinion of Morgan Hill Life

In ancient Roman myth, Janus served as the god of beginnings and endings. He was usually depicted in ancient works of art as having two faces, one looking to the past and one to the future. With Janus as a deity representing the transition of time, it is appropriate the month of January is named for him, Jan. 1 serving as a passage from the old year to the new year. In honor of Janus, let us look back at the now ending year of 2020 and the just beginning year of 2021.

Who knew how quickly our lives would change when exactly one year ago, on Dec. 31, 2019, the media reported the news that Chinese authorities had alerted the World Health Organization of pneumonia cases in Wuhan City, in the Hubei province? The mystery disease soon came to be called COVID-19. The resulting pandemic has, as of Dec. 23, killed more than 1,727,468 people. More than 330,864 people have died in the United States, 615 of them in Santa Clara County. Morgan Hill has had 1,738 confirmed cases, more than 4 percent of the city’s population.

No doubt, the pandemic is the top story of 2020. This public health crisis damaged the quality of life here in the South Valley region in many ways for many people. It devastated the economy for certain business sectors such stores, restaurants and service industries. The ripple effect of the loss of jobs and decline in business revenue hit residents hard. It forced many to get meal supplies from food pantries such as St. Joseph’s Family Center and Cecelia’s Closet.

Schools closed their classrooms. Local families overnight transitioned to online learning through Zoom and other video-meeting technology. It was a difficult time of adjustment, especially for families without a reliable access to online technology.

The pandemic put a spotlight on the need for reliable Internet service in rural areas and for families facing financial struggles.

Many of our beloved South Valley cultural institutions and nonprofits faced challenges with COVID-19. Among them was the Poppy Jasper International Film Festival. It was set to welcome audiences in Morgan Hill and Gilroy the first week of April when the shelter-in-place orders closed it down. The South Valley Civic Theatre cancelled several shows, but found ways to entertain audiences through video performances on the Internet. The South Valley Symphony also cancelled concerts, but put on an online performance in November and December. The coronavirus forced the Learning and Loving Center nonprofit, which educated immigrant women in English language and other skills, to shut its doors, probably forever.

Looking toward the next 12 months we hope with cautious optimism that with new vaccines, by fall of 2021 life in the South Valley will start to return to “normal.” It takes time to build up a herd immunity with these inoculations — most likely at least six months or even an entire year, some experts say.

So we must prepare to see another year without major public gatherings, such as the Gilroy Garlic Festival and Morgan Hill’s Freedom Fest. Depending on the public health risks, the Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park might again not open this summer. In Morgan Hill, the popular Friday Night Music Series may very well be cancelled again if the threat from spreading the contagion proves too high.

Hopefully, we’ll see some happy news stories to report in these pages. We look forward to sharing with our readers in 2021 the grand opening of the Magical Bridge Playground now being constructed on the grounds of Community Park in Morgan Hill. This inclusive playground will serve as a fun and family-friendly place for all South Valley residents to enjoy for generations to come.

We’re certain other local news stories in 2021 will be political in nature. These include the ongoing scandal in the Santa Clara County Sheriff Department as Sheriff Laurie Smith and several of her staff face the District Attorney’s criminal investigation for allegedly providing concealed carry permits in exchange for 2018 election donations to Smith’s campaign, an illegal abuse of authority if it proves true. Another important story to follow is the fight by local leaders to make sure Measure B funding, money that voters intended to help cities repave roads and fill potholes, does not go instead to a BART-to-San Jose rail line as VTA proposed recently.

Who knew on Dec. 31, 2019 that the world would be turned upside down because of a microscopic germ? Who knows what news events the next 12 months have in store for us? Janus would tell us it’s a safe bet that we’ll certainly face triumphs and tragedies. On New Year’s Day, let us step into 2021 filled with an optimism for the future. Regardless of what may come, we will survive.