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Vogt’s Notes: One year of COVID-19 - did anyone ever imagine the pandemic would last this long?

One year ago, our lives were turned upside down in one way or another in ways we never imagined.

Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

One year ago, my family made the agonizing decision to cancel my dad’s funeral in Chicago.

One year ago, the Crosslake St. Patrick’s Day Parade was canceled.

One year ago, Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus students returned from spring break to learn that schools across the state were closed.

One year ago, restaurants, bars and other businesses were ordered to shut their doors.


Volunteers with the Outreach Program of Brainerd Lakes stand ready to deliver walleye dinners from Ganley's Family Restaurant to cars in downtown Nisswa. Submitted Photo

COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus, wasn’t just affecting other parts of the world. It had arrived in Minnesota.

Fears ramped up across the state, prompting canceled event after canceled event to avoid people gathering together and potentially catching and spreading the virus.

All of our lives were turned upside down in some way or another, though it may have taken some of us a while to realize this.

My husband and I ventured to Crosslake on Saturday, March 14, 2020, to see what we could see. There was no parade, but establishments were packed full of green-clad people celebrating and having fun. We had a green beer or two at various places before meeting friends at Zorbaz on Gull for dinner.

It wasn’t until later that I fully realized the risks we probably took that day.

COVID-19 was real. Places were shutting down and I soon found myself working from home.


Isaak Anderson and daughter Olivia tackled a game of Simpsons Clue on the first day of social distancing. Submitted Photo

Did any of us really believe this virus would still be affecting our lives so drastically and our world so deeply a whole year later?

I certainly didn’t.

Have any of us truly comprehended all that has transpired in the past year?

It all started becoming reality in our area with the cancellation of the long-running and highly popular St. Patrick’s Day Parade & Celebration in Crosslake. The city council met two days before the event to declare it was still a go, then reconsidered a day later and canceled the parade just 24 hours before it was scheduled to be held.

Just days later, on Tuesday, March 17, our governor closed dine-in restaurants, bars and other businesses where people gathered. Those came to include salons and barbershops, entertainment venues, gyms and fitness studios, churches and museums among others. The closings were extended several times. Many businesses still aren’t allowed to be open at full capacity.

Words we’d never ever heard are now part of everyday conversations. “COVID-19.” “Coronavirus.” “Distance learning.” “Social distancing.” “Zoom.”

And masks - how many of us felt silly at first when we donned them, and how many of us now feel horrified when we almost walk into a public place without one?


These tables with various items and cheerful sign greets people on the corner of North Washington Avenue and Oriole Street in Pequot Lakes. Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal

Remember the stay-at-home orders that lasted March 27-May 18, in hopes of biding the state time to establish enough ICU beds and protective equipment at hospitals to be able to treat those with serious cases of COVID-19?

The Polar Plunge and the Miss Nisswa Scholarship Pageants were among the last events to be held as normal in 2020. After that, my 2020 calendar is filled with big X marks through events as other scholarship pageants, scholarship banquets, proms and the spring sports season were canceled or postponed.

Graduation ceremonies for the class of 2020 were held as an outdoor mobile drive-thru event in Pequot Lakes, outside in the school parking lot at Pine River-Backus and on Facebook Live at Crosslake Community School.

Summer events were canceled one by one, along with summer recreation and youth sports programs. People were advised to gather only in groups of 10 or less. We couldn’t visit loved ones at senior living facilities. We weren’t supposed to gather with people outside our immediate homes.

Cass County’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 occurred March 21, and Crow Wing County’s first confirmed case was March 31. City halls and public buildings, followed by numerous other businesses, closed to the public and people in all kinds of careers began working from home.


Kathy Royce and Carole Taylor do a craft at Whitefish at the Lakes in Crosslake. Submitted Photo

Virtual meetings became the norm on Zoom and other online platforms.

Maury Graham, 71, of Pequot Lakes, was Crow Wing County’s first reported death due to COVID-19. He died April 26, 2020.

The pandemic persisted into summer with most seasonal events canceled. Some were held in a modified way, including Fourth of July fireworks and Bean Hole Days in Pequot Lakes.

At the end of July came the controversial mandate to wear face masks in public places.

Then came the announcements that school districts could decide how to operate for the new school year, whether it be in-person, a return to distance learning or a hybrid of the two options. High school fall and winter sports continued in modified ways.

But by early to mid-November, all that changed at area schools because of school staffing shortages and surging COVID-19 cases in the area. Hospitalizations surged and people were strongly urged to cancel Thanksgiving, then Christmas gatherings.


Greta Hoefs, rural Pequot Lakes, stands near the window in her home where she and her mom, Angie Hoefs, hung hearts they'd cut out. Submitted Photo

We have high hopes for 2021, even though the year started in much the same way that 2020 ended. Crosslake is going green this weekend for St. Patrick’s Day, but the parade was canceled for the second year.

One year ago, COVID-19 changed our lives and our world.

There’s hope with COVID-19 vaccinations in full swing, but only time will tell when our new normal emerges in a world without COVID-19.

Nancy Vogt may be reached at 218-855-5877 or nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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