Editorial: Goodbye, 2020. And good riddance.

The Virginian-Pilot & Daily Press Editorial Board, The Virginian-Pilot

We’re nearly there, done with one of the worst years in memory and ready to cast 2020 on the dustbin of history. And not a moment too soon.

Many folks were finished with 2020 in late March and early April, when the coronavirus prompted widespread restrictions on education, commerce and travel. They were certainly ready to skip ahead when the virus surged again in the fall, accelerated by pandemic fatigue, colder weather and the refusal in some corners to treat COVID-19 as the deadly disease it so obviously is.

If only cheering the start of 2021 and changing the calendar would mark an end to this crisis. If only we could begin anew, without the death, pain, misery and anxiety the virus inflicted on this country and our commonwealth.

Those will be the lasting memory of the year that was. And it would be tempting to allow those to obscure some of the small wonders and remarkable achievements we experienced this year and that are deserving of celebration.

Virginia began the year with tension. A new Democratic majority took hold of the General Assembly following the 2019 elections, prompting a vocal backlash that manifested itself in a massive pro-gun rally in Richmond in January.

So began one of the strangest legislative sessions Virginia has witnessed, one that saw lawmakers gather in a number of venues — both in person and online — to pass laws that promise to deliver sweeping change across the commonwealth, on issues as diverse as voting rights and access, climate change and environmental protection, LGBTQ equality, racial disparity and reconciliation, criminal justice reform and, yes, the aforementioned gun control measures.

Several of those issues came to the forefront of debate thanks to nationwide protests that followed the death of George Floyd during his arrest by Minneapolis police officers in May. The insistence that “Black lives matter” may be well understood in most communities, but making laws and institutions reflect that has been more complicated.

Still, Virginia’s legislature made progress, though it remains to be seen whether the bills that won General Assembly approval can deliver tangible progress. Like so many things that happened this year, only time will tell.

Indeed, we’ll have to wait to see how many of adjustments and changes caused by the virus will find their way into everyday life. Increased attention to hand-washing, better sanitizing of public spaces, seniors-only shopping hours … all of these are improvements that should continue when the pandemic wanes.

Appreciation for front-line workers should also remain. Not simply the health care professionals, hospital staff, first responders and everyone in the medical and public health sectors who battled COVID-19 so valiantly this year, but the grocery store clerks, farm and meat plant workers, truck drivers, postal workers and delivery people who made our lives sustainable and deserve our gratitude.

Not that all those people, working as bravely as they did for so many months, could prevent the joblessness, homelessness and hunger we’ve seen spike in 2020. We should salute everyone working in the public and private sector to address the staggering depth of need, here in Hampton Roads and across Virginia.

And as awful as this year has been, let’s not overlook the quiet moments of respite and peace stolen from the depths of despair.

A little extra time with family was not entirely bad. Some of us connected in new ways with old friends, just to check in and say hello. We helped our neighbors obtain supplies (Toilet paper! Yeast! Cleaning products!) and used our time at home to learn a hobby or hone a new skill.

On balance, though, this was a year we’d rather forget, something we may say every Dec. 31 but a sentiment that seems more real than ever this time.

So good riddance, 2020. We’re happy to see it leave at long last. May the year to come be everything that this one was not — full of joy, hope, happiness and prosperity for all.