COLUMN — What has this year of COVID brought us?

Published 12:20 am Sunday, March 21, 2021

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In the course of the past year, we have seen our world turned upside down in the name of COVID.

As yet, we still do not understand everything that has been changed and the effects of those changes in our lives. Some things will return to normal, others it will take some time, and still others will never return to where we were a year ago.


For many of us, stopping congregations from worshiping together, Gov. Ralph Northam and many of his counterparts decided that our churches were not safe. Therefore, they ordered them closed. Even after churches took actions to make their churches safer, our governor instituted so many hurdles that few believed they should re-open. No one knows if this will have a negative impact for the long term. When churches were not there when we needed them most, how will people deal with this in the long term?


Many lost jobs in the days and weeks after the shutdowns. As the business world understood and reacted to the virus, their model for doing business changed. Some could work from home. In the long term, this might change the need for some office buildings. Some might well be converted into apartments and condos.

In the retail business world, the online retailers boomed as well as did the delivery companies that brought packages to homes. Because Governor Northam deemed that the big box stores such as Walmart, Home Depot, and such were essential, they were allowed to remain open. This was not true of small shops. They were deemed non-essential, losing the opportunity in many cases to operate and serve their customers. Many of these businesses, both retailers and restaurants, were forced to close or restrict their operations. Their employees lost jobs. Some of those local family businesses will be crippled for years as they toil to recover.

Many had to file for unemployment, some for the first time ever. This resulted in the Virginia Employment Commission being totally overwhelmed. Governor Northam took months and months to figure out how to ramp up to meet the challenge. This delayed state unemployment checks going to folks.

Federal Miscues

In the federal government’s effort to help citizens, they opened the spigot of cash that is being borrowed from our children and grandchildren to send checks to everyone helter-skelter. Checks were sent to folks with no effort to determine if they had been affected. Checks went to the unemployed with no consideration of what the states were sending them. In many cases, people were receiving more not to work than they would have by working. Currently, businesses are challenged to get the help they need because of this.


Sadly, the research is telling us what most common folks understood many months ago. Schools are an important part of life. We have seen most students lose more than a year of education. This hits hardest those who don’t have the tools or help at home to learn on their own. Some parents have had to deal with young people that have become recluses, retreating to playing solitary games. Not only do our schools provide a chance for kids to interact with their peers, they also provide meals, medical assistance, physical activity, and counseling. Most of our teachers are good and a positive influence on our young people, yet the unions have effectively fought to keep schools closed, particularly in big systems like Richmond and Fairfax. Some will decide that home schooling is a better alternative.

Mental Health

The number of attempted suicides and mental health issues has exploded. People are social beings. Without the opportunity to interact with others, it changes who we are. Our social skills decline.

Frank Ruff Jr. represents Charlotte in the state Senate. His email address is