Where were you when you realized the world was about to change? That a virus first reported on the other side of the globe would dramatically alter everyday life where you call home?
It’s been a year since the declaration of a national emergency in the United States because of the coronavirus pandemic — a long and strange year marked by shock, fear, upheaval, loss and frustration. The events we’ve individually and collectively experienced brought some together, while others were torn apart.
Families lost loved ones without the chance to say goodbye. Community members lost their incomes and watched their dreams pull apart at the seams. Young people lost activities and life milestones that cannot be recreated. Things most of us never even considered could be taken away or stopped suddenly were.
COVID-19 Anniversary Brainerd Dispatch Gallery
But despite the trauma and the undeniable change in trajectory this past year’s events sent the world and our communities on, hope prevails. We witnessed small businesses persevere, innovate and overcome. We saw the kindness of strangers shower those in need with nourishment along with financial and emotional support. Even in the most difficult of times, many of us still achieved personal victories. Perhaps with so many things stripped away, our focus on what matters most achieved greater clarity.
One year later, positive signs of a move toward whatever normal looks like after this continue to add up. More people have access to a vaccine and trends seem to be headed in the right direction. A look back at what brought us to this moment shows just how far we’ve come — from the frightening confusion of the early days to the march toward lives no longer dictated by an invisible force.
Throughout 2021, the Brainerd Dispatch in a series of stories will explore how COVID-19 impacted the Brainerd lakes area, including revisiting people, businesses and organizations profiled during the various stages of the pandemic.
Below is a timeline of notable local events from the year that changed us all.
Tuesday, March 17 — Lakes area bars and restaurants are open without any kind of restrictions for the last time before ever-evolving executive orders limit capacities, change hours of operation and impose other limitations through present day.
CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey.
1/53: Crosslake Fire Chief Chip Lohmiller receives the first dose of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Crow Wing County Public Health nurse Megan Adams Dec. 29, 2020, at the Crow Wing County Community Services Building. Crow Wing County emergency medical services responders were given the vaccinations to ensure they were safe on emergency calls. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
2/53: People carry signs supporting reasonable measures to control the spread of COVID-19 at Gregory Park before walking to the intersection of Washington and South Sixth streets for the "Rally for Safety, Science and Sanity" Jan. 3, 2021, in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
3/53: Pharmacists Jayme VanRisseghem (left) and Robert Wennerstrand talk about COVID-19 vaccinations Feb. 12, 2021, at GuidePoint Pharmacy in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
4/53: Pastor Mark Skinner (left) and Associate Pastor Sarah Marshall lead a prayer vigil for those affected by COVID-19 Dec. 16, 2020 at Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
5/53: People hold signs protesting Gov. Tim Walz's executive order closing down dine-in service in bars and restaurants along the County Highway 3 in front of Mission Tavern, Dec. 12, 2020, in Mission Township. (Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch)
6/53: Cars wait in line around the block as community volunteers distribute Thanksgiving meals from a tent in front of the American Legion Post 255, Nov. 26, 2020, in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd
7/53: Stylist Hannah Hall cleans a salon station May 28, 2020, at The Fine Line Salon and Spa in Brainerd in preparation of reopening. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
8/53: Shelley Kennedy, a seventh grade language arts teacher at Forestview Middle School in Baxter, works with a student Oct. 30, 2020. Friday was one of the last days of hybrid learning before all middle and high school students at Brainerd Public Schools transition to distance learning. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
9/53: Brainerd Warrior head football coach Jason Freed talks to his socially distanced players Sept. 22, 2020, on a practice field at Brainerd High School. Sports and other activities at the high school are on a two-week hiatus, due to a cluster of COVID-19 cases at the school. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
10/53: Brainerd High School teacher Dave Borash talks about his ordeal with COVID-19 after returning home Oct. 22, 2020, to his daughter Libby (center) and wife Amy. He was hospitalized with severe complications related to the disease caused by the coronavirus. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
11/53: Cars drive through the lanes outside the Essentia Health COVID-19 testing site Dec. 7, 2020, on Kingwood Street in north Brainerd. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
12/53: Garfield Elementary School Principal Jodi Kennedy welcomes fourth graders Latasija Robinson (left) and Zoey Potvin back to school Feb. 1, 2020. Third and fourth graders went back to in-person learning Monday after more than two months of distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
13/53: Election judge Debby Leonard talks with Rudy Tomson Aug. 11, 2020, before he votes in the primary at Crosby City Hall. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
14/53: St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School teachers wave to students and parents as they drive their cars past the school May 8, 2020, in Brainerd. The parade was arranged by the Parent Teachers Organization for Teacher Appreciation Week. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
15/53: Larry Johnson (left) waits for his dose of COVID-19 vaccine from Cuyuna Regional Medical Center registered nurse Peggy Forstner Jan. 27, 2020, during a drive-up vaccination clinic for patients 65 and older. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
16/53: Essentia Health St. Joseph's Baxter Clinic registered nurse Jessica Schwartz talks to a patient in the COVID-19 drive-thru clinic March 23, 2020, in the clinic's parking lot. Patients are required to complete an e-visit before coming for a test. A doctor will issue an order, which is presented at the tent. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
17/53: Jessica Noonkesser, operations manager at Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Baxter Clinic, March 20, 2020, explains how the COVID-19 drive-thru testing site will operate. The testing site is exclusively for those who fit the current Minnesota Department of Health testing criteria and have also first completed an e-visit. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
18/53: Mary Miller (left) dons protective gloves as she hands Forestview sixth grader Lauren Yeager her Chromebook March 19. 2020, Middle school students picked up devices for distance learning and other personal belongings at the school. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
19/53: Veteran Bob Hill is interviewed by Veterans Administration Brainerd clinic nurse Mackenzie Holloway March 17, 2020, in the parking lot of the clinic. All patients and visitors to the clinic were pre-screened before going into the facility. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
20/53: Baxter Cub Foods grocery manager Tom Arms (left) and owner Chris Quisberg talk about the high demand for toilet paper March 13, 2020, in front of the empty toilet paper shelves at the Baxter store. Since the first news of the coronavirus outbreak, retailers have seen a rush on toilet paper, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
21/53: Allie Jo Wasson (left) helps her friend Amber Pierson clean out her locker March 16, 2020 at Crosby-Ironton High School. Students were encouraged to clean out their lockers and expect to be away from school beginning March 18 until at least March 30. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
22/53: Alma Miller celebrates her 95th birthday April 29, 2020, at Good Samaritan Society-Woodland in Brainerd. Staff and residents honored the milestone inside the building while friends and family visited outside her window due to COVID-19 precautions. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
23/53: Balloons are released at the end of the Brainerd High School graduation parade May 22, 2020, at Brainerd International Raceway. The parade was a way for students and families to celebrate graduation amid coronavirus concerns. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
24/53: Signs throughout the Brainerd lakes area related to coronavirus send messages of encouragement, open or closed status, safety guidelines and even humor. Shown here is Crossing Arts Alliance (top left), Mickey's Subs & Pizzas (top center), Advantage PCA and Senior Care (top right), Pequot Lakes Community Library (center), PleasureLand RV (bottom left), Snow White Laundry (bottom center), Triangle Park (bottom right).
25/53: A photo collage from the past year illustrates how Brainerd Lakes area residents grappled with COVID-19 precautions. Top left: A hostess greets people as they arrive June 3, 2020, at Poncho & Lefty's in Baxter. Restaurants were allowed to open for outdoor dining on June 1. Top Right: People wear masks during Bean Hole Days July 15, 2020, in Pequot Lakes. Bottom left: Alma Miller celebrates her 95th birthday April 29, 2020, at Good Samaritan Society-Woodland in Brainerd. Staff and residents honored the milestone inside the building while friends and family visited outside her window due to COVID-19 precautions. Bottom right: Balloons are released at the end of the Brainerd High School graduation parade May 22, 2020, at Brainerd International Raceway. The parade was a way for students and families to celebrate graduation amid coronavirus concerns. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
26/53: Mike Gindorff's human biology class, wearing masks and sitting desks apart for social distancing, study their books Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, at Crosby-Ironton High School. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
27/53: A group of friends relaxes around a fire at an outdoor dining area set up outside Big Axe Brewing Company Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Nisswa. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
28/53: A flag advertises takeout/delivery options Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, at Sage on Laurel in Brainerd. Gyms, bars, restaurants and many other establishments faced a second round of restrictions on indoor services after an announcement by Gov. Tim Walz Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, in order to combat nationwide spikes of COVID-19. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
29/53: Brainerd City council candidates answer questions during a livestreamed forum Wednesday, Oct. 7, at The Woods Event Center. The audience was kept to a minimum as a caution against COVID-19. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
30/53: A hostess greets people as they arrive Wednesday, June 3, 2020, at Poncho & Lefty's in Baxter. Restaurants were allowed to open for outdoor dining on Monday, June 1, 2020. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
31/53: Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus talk with families in the First Western Bank and Trust drive-thru Friday, Nov. 27, 2020, during the Nisswa City of Lights celebration. The drive-thru was one of the COVID-19 precautions taken for the event. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
32/53: Tim Feekes holds a 14.25 inch tulibee he caught as Rachael Feekes takes his picture to enter into the virtual ice fishing contest Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021, on Hole-in-the-Day Bay for the Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza. Although the event took place all over Minnesota some anglers still chose Hole-in-the-Day Bay as their fishing spot. When a fish was caught two photos needed to be uploaded, a photo of the angler and their fish and a photo of the fish on a measuring board, to the FishDonkey app. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
33/53: Nadine Meyer as Little Red Riding Hood and Monte Meyer as the Big Bad Wolf hand out candy through a plastic pipe for part of the time Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, on Halloween during the touch-free drive-thru trick-or-treat event at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Baxter. Taking precautions because of the pandemic, the church had several candy stations set up where families could drive through to collect candy safely. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
34/53: Brainerd Community Theatre actors wearing face shields perform the play "Sh-Boom! Life Could Be A Dream" on an outdoor stage for a socially distanced crowd Wednesday, July 22, 2020, on the south lawn at Central Lakes College's Brainerd campus. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
35/53: A sign pronounces the Oscar Kristofferson Park closed Wednesday, April 15, 2020, in Baxter due to COVID-19 precautions. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
37/53: People wear masks during Bean Hole Days Wednesday, July 15, 2020 in Pequot Lakes. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
38/53: A sign declares people can pick up free kits to make fabric masks Thursday, March 26, 2020, from Cherrywood Hand Dyed Fabrics on College Road in Baxter. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
39/53: A sign of encouragement in downtown Brainerd from March, 25, 2020 near the start of the pandemic. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
40/53: The Brainerd City Council meets via WebEx Oct. 19, 2020, with some council and staff members testing out virtual backgrounds. Screenshot
41/53: Area kids kept busy with chalk drawings in April 2020 hopes of taking home a prize in a social distancing chalk contest hosted by Brainerd Community Action and the Brainerd Jaycees. Submitted photos
42/53: Susanna Torres sews masks at The Teehive April 2, 2020, in Baxter. The company has switched its production to making protective masks and gown after the COVID-19 outbreak. Several of the employees have been furloughed, with eight employees remaining to create masks for individuals and companies. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
43/53: Elisabeth Jenkins (left) gives hand sanitizer to Laura Beilke March 27, 2020, at the Five Rocks Distilling Co. in northeast Brainerd. The distillery pivoted to hand sanitizer when COVID-19 hit. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
44/53: Friends and family watch Lindsi Northenscold and Matthew Hall get married Saturday afternoon, May 23, 2020, from the parking lot of Christ Community Church in Nisswa. The unusual ceremony took place to follow social distancing guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
45/53: Crosby-Ironton graduates make their way along Highway 210 in Crosby May 23, 2020, for a parade after their graduation ceremony. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
46/53: The leaping deer statue along Highway 210 has a new accessory, a face mask to protect it from the coronavirus, seen here April 29, 2020, in Deerwood. The deer is no stranger to safety precautions as it is seen wearing blaze orange during hunting season. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
47/53: The Crosby serpent has followed the example of the Deerwood deer and is wearing a mask for coronavirus protection, seen here Saturday, May 23, at Crosby Memorial Park. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
48/53: Marie Kirsch, owner of Knotty Pine Bakery, explains the tools of cookie baking, such as this French rolling pin with rolling pin bands to keep consistent thickness of dough, during a Facebook live post March 21, 2020, at Knotty Pine Bakery in downtown Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
49/53: Funeral director Ashley Prentice (center) hands a basket for cards April 15, 2020, during an illustrative rehearsal of what the drive-thru visitation will be like at the Brenny Funeral Chapel in Baxter. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
50/53: Wrapping around the south and east side of the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse Nov. 2, 2020, early voters trickle into the east door of the building. On Monday afternoon the wait was approximately one hour. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
51/53: Misty Myers comforts her son Aiden's nerves on the first day of school at Baxter Elementary School Sept. 8, 2020. Aiden's older brother Logan helped him into school, as parents were not able to enter the building due to COVID-19 restrictions. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch.
52/53: Observing Ash Wednesday, Carole Bollig, wearing a mask, receives ashes on her forehead from Pastor Steve Benson, wearing both a mask and shield, at Zion Lutheran Church in Brainerd Feb. 17, 2021 marking the beginning of Lenten season in the Christian Church. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
53/53: Charles Young casts his vote Oct. 15, 2020, in downtown Brainerd. The drive-thru ballot drop began Oct. 14 and will be available 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday through Nov. 2. Election judges are staffed at the site in the county parking lot in front of the historic courthouse on Laurel Street. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
Data released by the Biden administration indicates as many as 42.3 million borrowers could have a total of $685 billion in student loans forgiven, assuming all eligible borrowers receive the full amount.