Everyone in the world has spent the year 2020 battling the coronavirus (COVID-19) in one way or another. The statistics: The World, Cases, 83.7 million; Deaths, 1.8 million. The U.S., 20.1 million and 347,248. Minnesota, 415,361 and 5,382.
The good news near the end of the year was a U.S. federal agency approving two anti-coronavirus vaccines, each of which has been tested at 95% effective: Pfizer-BioMTech and Moderna And the U.K. government recently has approved another vaccine, developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca whle China reportedly has developed another vaccine.
The U.S., however, has been experiencing difficulties in distributing the vaccines to the states, because the federal government does not have a national health system or a program or system for the states to decide on what groups of individuals will receive the vaccines first and how the vaccines will be administered to individuals. Another difficulty is the Pfizer vaccine needs to be kept at extremely low temperatures, which is impossible wherever special freezers are not available to store this vaccine. 
The New York Times editorial on December 31 harshly criticized the first two weeks of the vaccination campaign. “So far, things are going poorly. . . . Untold numbers of vaccine doses will expire before they can be injected into American arms, while communities around the country are reporting more corpses than their mortuaries can handle.. . . Of the 14 million vaccine doses that have been produced and delivered to hospitals and health departments across the country, just an estimated three million people have been vaccinated. The rest of the lifesaving doses, presumably, remain stored in deep freezers — where several million of them could well expire before they can be put to use.” The editorial continued:
- “That’s an astonishing failure — one that stands out in a year of astonishing failures. The situation is made grimmer by how familiar the underlying narrative is: Poor coordination at the federal level, combined with a lack of funding and support for state and local entities, has resulted in a string of avoidable missteps and needless delays. We have been here before, in other words. With testing. With shutdowns. With contact tracing. With genomic surveillance.”
- “The root problem is clear. Officials have long prioritized medicine (in this instance, developing the coronavirus vaccines) while neglecting public health (i.e., developing programs to vaccinate people). It’s much easier to get people excited about miracle shots, produced in record time, than about a dramatic expansion of cold storage, or establishment of vaccine clinics, or adequate training of doctors and nurses. But it takes all of these to stop a pandemic.”
Nevertheless, my wife and I are in general good health bolstered by being careful mask-wearers, avoiders of social gatherings and washing our hands after going out to buy groceries or downstairs in our condo building to take out recycling and compost and pick up the mail. In addition, we qualify for one of the groups that are supposed to be designated for early administration of the vaccine—those 75 years old and older. Therefore, we are not personally distressed by the current COVID and vaccine situation.
Therefore, we are grateful and hopeful that in 2021 the U.S. will significantly improve its distribution and administration of the vaccines, that we will obtain our vaccinations, that the economy will reopen and expand, thereby bringing many unemployed workers back to work and eliminating or dampening worries about being or becoming homeless.
We also have to admit it is frustrating to be unable to go out and spend time with family and friends, to go to concerts and plays and to eat at restaurants, many of which are going out of business. (A small caveat. the Minnesota Orchestra is recording concerts by smaller contingents in an empty Orchestra Hall that are telecast on Friday nights on public television in the state. The smaller orchestra and groups also play many works that are new and not in the usual repertoire. We have enjoyed those concerts. One of these pieces that I especially enjoyed was a rare percussion trio, and listening to the piece made me think of a friend, Jeffrey Gram, who was a music professor for percussion and now frequently plays drums and other percussion instruments at our church, Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian.)
One cannot forget that we were most pleased that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the U.S. presidential and vice presidential election in early November with the largest number of popular votes in U.S. history, 81,283,485, which was 7,059,741 more than those for Donald Trump and Mike Pence. The Electoral College was 306 to 232. Nevertheless, the country has been subjected to the unjustified outrage of Trump and some Republicans with ridiculous lawsuits challenging the results in some states, all scornfully dismissed, many by Trump-appointed federal judges. Next week, on January 6 there will be a joint session of the Congress to tabulate the results of the Electoral College, which some Republicans are planning to use to mount other ridiculous challenges, which should fail, thereby making it almost official for the January 20th inauguration of Biden and Harris. But even that important cause for celebration is subject to the risk of armed violence instigated by Trump supporters at the urging of Trump himself.
In the meantime, on January 5th the State of Georgia has an unusual election of two U.S. Senators. The incumbents are Republicans—Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. The Democratic challengers are Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. This election is enormously important. If both Democrats are elected, the Senate will be equally divided between the two parties and Vice President Harris as the presiding officer of that body will be able to break tie votes in favor of the Biden-Harris Administration. If, however, at least one of the Republican candidates is elected, the Republicans will maintain control of the Senate under the “leadership” of Senator Mitch McConnell (Rep., KY) and be able to thwart many of the Biden Administration measures. Even here, Trump is voicing unfounded claims that this Georgia election is ‘illegal and invalid.” Needless to say, the two of us are pulling for the Democratic candidates.
 Coronavirus World Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak, N.Y. Times (Jan. 1, 2021); Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count, N.Y. times (Jan. 1, 2021);Track Coronavirus Cases Important to You: Minnesota, N.Y, Times (Jan. 1, 2021).
 Thomas, LaFraniere, Weiland, Goodnough & Haberman, F.D.A. Clears Pfizer Vaccine, and Millions of Doses Will Be Shipped Right Away, N.Y. Times (Dec. 11, 2020); Grady, Goodnough & Weiland, F.D.A. Authorizes Moderna Vaccine, Adding Millions of Doses to U.S. Supply, N.Y. Times (Dec. 18, 2020); Mueller & Robbins, U.K. Authorizes Covid-19 Vaccine From Oxford and AstraZeneca., N.Y. Times (Dec. 30, 2020); Wu, AstraZeneca and Sinpharm clear regulatory hurdles in a week of vaccine milestones, N.Y. Times (Dec. 31, 2020).
 Stolberg & LaFraniere, Biden Promises 100 Million vaccine Shots in 100 Days, but Shortage Worries Rise, N.Y.Times (Dec. 8, 2020); Mohamed, Chokshi, Thomas, Goodnough, Hoffman & Kwal, Vaccine distribution is about to begin in the virus-ravaged U.S., N.Y. Times (Dec. 13, 2020); Calvan & Kunzelman, Race to vaccinate millions in US off to a slow, messy start, Assoc. Press (Dec. 31, 2020); Editorial, We Came All this Way to Let Vaccines Go Bad in the Freezer? N.Y. Times (Dec. 31, 2020); Hopkins & Camo-Flores, Covid-ap Vaccine’s Slow Rollout Could Portend More Problems, W.S.J. (Jan. 1, 2021).
 Assoc. Press, 2020 US election results; Barrett, Judge dismisses Gohmert lawsuit seeking to stymie Biden electoral college count, Wash. Post (Jan. 1, 2021); King, Fourteen days that will test our democracy, Wash. Post (Jan. 1, 2021); Fausset,Trump Calls Georgia Senate Races ‘Illegal and Invalid,’ N. Y. Times (Jan. 1, 2020); Mascaro & Jalonick (Assoc. Press), GOP torn over Trump’s Electoral College challenge, StarTribune (Jan. 2, 2021); Wright, The Plague Year, The New Yorker (Jan.4 & 11, 2021) (the caption of the lengthy article says it covers, “The mistakes and the struggles behind an American tragedy”)..
 E.g., Herndon & Fausset, Early Voting Numbers in Georgia Senate Races Put G.O.P. on Edge, N.Y. Times (Dec. 30, 2020); Latest Polls Of The Georgia Senate Runoffs, Wash. Post (Dec. 31, 2020); Philips, What you need to know about the Georgia Senate runoff elections, Wash. Post (Jan. 1, 2021).
2 thoughts on “Pandemic Journal (# 36): Perspectives on the Years 2020 and 2021”
The Percussion Trio # 1736A—1/3/21
This post referred to a percussion trio performed by members or the Minnesota Orchestra in a recent livestreamed concert. The brief note in the online program said it was “the volcanic and virtuosic first movement of Trio per Uno, three percussionists play dizzying, interlocking patterns on three bass drums, three sets of bongo drums and six Chinese gongs.” (https://minnesotaorchestra.org/tickets/calendar/program-notes/2386-spirit-and-soul)
The composer is Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic, a native of Serbia who completed his master’s degrees in composition, music theory and percussion at universities in Mannheim and Stuttgart, Germany, where he has resided since 1980. He tours extensively throughout Europe, and performs frequently in the USA, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Latin America, Russia and Scandinavian countries. (Zivkovic Biography, https://zivkovic.de/biography/.)
The Orchestra percussionists were Brian Mount, Jason Arkis and Kevin Watkins.
The whole November 6th concert, labeled “Spirit and Soul” is available online, https://mnorch.vhx.tv/on-demand-performances/videos/this-is-minnesota-orchestra-2.