ballot counting Wednesday

County workers and volunteers count mail-in ballots for the second day inside the Lancaster County Convention Center Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. Not even vote-counting was the same in 2020: Those doing the counting had to mask up because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

THE ISSUE

In the Dec. 27 Sunday LNP | LancasterOnline Perspective section, we are publishing the wishes of Lancaster County folks who are active in the community and their reflections on the uniquely horrible year that has been 2020. The LNP | LancasterOnline Editorial Board has some wishes and thoughts of its own.

We thought it would be instructive to look back to what we wished for last December, before all hell broke loose and long-term wishes were set aside in favor of day-to-day survival amid a devastating pandemic.

As we noted then, some of our wishes were perennial: for “elected officials to follow state Right-to-Know and open meetings laws. For state lawmakers to consider trimming the bloated Pennsylvania General Assembly.

And some were the same ones we had for 2019 — for instance, “for state lawmakers to broker some relief for senior citizens being crushed by the weight of property taxes. And for the full implementation of the bipartisan fair funding formula for all school districts.” Neither of those happened.

We also wished in vain for the state Legislature “to agree to reform the redistricting process via an independent citizens commission that would diminish partisan gerrymandering.” And for national and state leaders to “act with urgency to counteract human-made climate change.”

We wished for commonsense, widely supported gun regulation, like expanded background checks.

And for Congressman Lloyd Smucker to heed requests from local businesses and Church World Service in Lancaster that he lend his support to the Guaranteed Refugee Admission Ceiling Enhancement Act. The GRACE Act sought to set an annual mandatory minimum of 95,000 refugees who could be welcomed to the United States. Smucker did not lend his support; the legislation went nowhere; and a shamefully scant 11,814 refugees were resettled in the U.S. this year, according to the latest numbers.

From another universe

We also hoped — and this one is almost adorable in its naivete — that the presidential election year somehow would unfold “without the expected ugliness and rancor.”

Not only did ugliness and rancor abound, but they continue, as the president and many of his allies push the baseless narrative that the election was rigged and riddled with fraud. This claim has been rejected by the courts, by numerous elections officials — many of them Republicans — and by President Donald Trump’s own former election cybersecurity chief.

Our wish list for 2020 seems as if it was from another universe, given what the year would end up delivering: the sorrow of so many lives lost to COVID-19; a crushing end to the dreams of too many small business owners; the terrible police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the protests that followed; the undeniable evidence that systemic racism continues to beset our local, state and federal institutions, including health care; the grievous threats to our democracy; a spring and fall in which we struggled over the safest approach to public education, while also worrying that too many young learners were falling irreparably behind.

But hope, as they say, springs eternal.

So we’ll continue to hope that the state General Assembly addresses the needs of senior citizens and Pennsylvanians in need. We’ll even continue to hope that someday state lawmakers find the courage to admit that the nation’s largest full-time Legislature either needs to give taxpayers more for their money or reduce its own size — or preferably both.

We’ll continue to hope that someday truth and integrity once again will matter in public life.

And we’ll hope that everyone reading this stays healthy in the new year.

We’ll offer more specific pandemic-related hopes in a future editorial. For now, we must address just one other wish from last year’s list.

On the precipice

Last December, we hoped that parents heeded the medical knowledge of their children’s doctors and got their kids vaccinated against diseases such as measles and chicken pox.

This wish takes on even more urgency now. Critical childhood immunizations dropped off this year by as much as 26%, as families delayed or avoided receiving routine medical care, according to a Blue Cross Blue Shield Association report released in November. That report estimated that 9 million childhood vaccine doses could be missed by this year’s end.

“The U.S. is on the precipice of a severe immunization crisis among children,” said Dr. Vincent Nelson, that association’s chief medical officer, in a news release. “The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly interrupted adherence to vaccination schedules, and the possibility that preventable diseases, like polio, could become a threat to public health once again is particularly concerning.”

That’s an understatement, given that we’re already struggling to get through the COVID-19 crisis. The resurgence of a vaccine-preventable disease would further tax health care providers and harm families who already have been through the wringer this year.

This was the message imparted by Dr. Pia Fenimore in her “Ask the Pediatrician” column in the Dec. 13 Sunday LNP | LancasterOnline: “It is especially important that children receive their routine vaccines such as measles, tetanus and pertussis. The current outbreak of COVID-19 stands as a living testament to what a widespread effect infectious disease can have on our health, safety and economy.”

She noted that pediatric “health care providers have gotten incredibly good at safely vaccinating children despite the pandemic,” so parents need not worry about getting in-person medical care for their kids.

“If your child is behind in their immunizations, please reach out to your health care provider today to arrange for catch up,” Fenimore wrote. “And if you do not have health insurance for your child, they can be vaccinated for free at multiple places around the county. For more info, call the state Department of Health at 877-PAHEALTH (877-724-3258).”

As Fenimore observed — as we have all observed — an infectious disease like COVID-19 can turn communities and countries upside down. Fortunately, a vaccine against that infectious disease can restore stability. So, please, ensure that your children’s vaccinations are up to date.

And resolve to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to you. (Right now, health care workers are rightly at the front of the line.)

Dr. Anthony Fauci leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which had a key role in developing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have been shown to be highly effective in preventing novel coronavirus infection; both have been authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use.

Last Tuesday, Fauci rolled up his left shirtsleeve and received his first dose of the Moderna vaccine.

“I feel extreme confidence in the safety and the efficacy of this vaccine and I want to encourage everyone who has the opportunity to get vaccinated so that we can have a veil of protection over this country, that would end this pandemic,” Fauci said.

After the painful year we’ve had, a “veil of protection” is exactly what this nation needs. It is our most imperative wish.

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