As Haliburton County marks the one-year anniversary of this global pandemic, it seemed fitting to reflect on the year that was and ponder what the remainder of 2021 may hold.

In many ways, COVID-19 has highlighted the very best, and very worst, of the Highlands.

The best?

Living in a rural setting has insulated the County from the worst of this pandemic. It is astounding to think that we have had only one death that can somehow be attributed to it.

The fact there have been only 51 cases to date, three hospitalizations, and no new cases for about a month is something to be celebrated.

It may be due to our geographic isolation, versus the City of Kawartha Lakes and Northumberland County. It might be attributable to people following public health guidelines. It could be just luck. Whatever the reason, we remain grateful.

Parts of our economy have flourished. We have seen the real estate and building industries take off. People have fled, and continue to flee, the GTA to buy or build locally. New builds and renovations have kept the tradespeople of the County busy and it’s been reflected in the sales at some retail stores, particularly hardware. We’ve also seen garden centres flourish.

We have also seen social service agencies – and the general public – respond to those most in need. Whether SIRCH and its frozen meals or food banks, the community has endeavoured to ensure no one goes hungry. There have been clothing drives, the 4Cs Lily Ann, the Thrift Warehouse and church-based organizations to make sure no one is without clothing. The YWCA Peterborough-Haliburton makes sure women and children at risk, who reach out, have shelter. And organizations such as Places for People and the KLH Housing Corporation continue to work towards affordable housing targets. On the mental health side of the ledger, agencies have stepped up to the plate.

While the economy has sustained some major hits – thanks to two lengthy lockdowns – the business community has been resilient. We have not seen many businesses close. They have somehow held on. Supports from upper levels of government have helped, including the millions of dollars the Haliburton County Development Corporation has been able to dish out.

The worst?

Probably the discord between full-time and seasonal residents. Fear can be ugly and divisive. The vitriol appears to have died down. With spring here and cottagers to arrive again en masse from May, we would hope a peaceful co-existence can return.

One only has to peek at social media to see how the stress has caused some people to lash out. As a community, we have been less tolerant. We have been more judgmental. We have been selfish.

Looking to the remainder of 2021, we are now hearing that every one of us who wants should be vaccinated by June 20. It is hard to know how our summer will look. Already some major events have been cancelled for a second year. We anticipate an abnormal summer, though not as peculiar as the summer of 2020. The fall should bring a return to normalcy.

Much has been learned. The Highlands has shown itself to be a wonderful place to ride out a pandemic (Internet and cell challenges not withstanding). We’ll never take for granted our lakes, rocks, trees and wide-open spaces again. We’ll heal and hopefully be a kinder and more gentle community as we close this remarkable chapter in all of our lives.

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