WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - 2020 was a year for the history books.
What started as a routine year quickly became something no one could have prepared for.
March began, and the world was turned upside down.
“When I talk about the most drastic action we can take, this is the most drastic action we can take,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said back in March, when he asked businesses to keep 100% of their workforce at home.
Businesses and restaurants closed. People lost their jobs.
“As a hairdresser, if I’m not standing behind this chair, and working on somebody, I’m not making any money,” said Scherry Gilbert, a hairdresser at Alice Andrew Salon in Watertown.
With schools closed, officials scrambled to find ways to feed students who rely on school lunches every day.
“I’ve been here 20 years, and obviously I’ve never gone through this before. But we do what we need to do,” said Anne Remington, a cafeteria manager at Alexandria Central School.
Slowly, the community learned to lean on one another for support, and masks.
“It started out small, just for hospitals and emergency personnel. But then it started spiraling,” said Katrina Brown of the Free Mask Mission. “The snowball got bigger and bigger and bigger.”
But it didn’t stop there. Thousands of pounds of food were distributed throughout the entire north country.
The summer brought warmer weather, but north country traditions like county fairs were done away with for the first time in hundreds of years.
“I’m as sad as anybody. It’s a dark day,” say Lewis County Fair President, Doug Hanno.
Then, fall began. And that means back to school.
Teaching looked a bit different heading into the school year, and schools went back and forth between remote learning and in-person instruction, depending on positive cases.
Many students made their living rooms, their classrooms.
As winter drew closer, health officials warned of a second wave, which came full force in the north country.
One outbreak stemmed from a baptism at a church in Lewis County.
“Big events are a very selfish idea right now. Very selfish,” said Lewis County Manager, Ryan Piche.
Cases spiked at nursing homes.
“I really have never seen anything like this,” said Stacey Cannizzo, who works at United Helpers in Ogdensburg. “The speed that it moves through the population is just profound.”
With the start of the holiday season, Governor Cuomo introduced new restrictions. But some local law officials chose not to enforce them.
“I don’t think there should be law enforcement involved in trying to tell people to quarter in their own homes and not to have holidays,” said Lewis County Sheriff Mike Carpinelli.
County departments came together to help overwhelmed county health departments with contact tracing, and testing became a top priority.
“The more you test, is the quicker you isolate all these cases, and that slows the spread down,” said Jefferson County Legislature Chair, Scott Gray.
The end of 2020 gave a glimmer of hope, with the highly anticipated COVID-19 vaccines.
The first doctor in St. Lawrence County was given his first dose just a few weeks ago. More health care workers were given theirs, too.
“Honored to be able to take part in what I think is a very important effort and something that should help signify the beginning, and I emphasize the beginning, of the end of this pandemic,” said Dr. Andrew Williams, St. Lawrence County Board of Health president.
But with that, there’s still a long way to go.
“We have to get the vaccine message across, said Dr. Michael Seidman, Chief of Medicine at Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center. “The first shot isn’t your passport to business as usual.”
While many people won’t get the vaccine for a few more months, it’s the beginning of a final chapter we’d all like to see closed.