A year later, and we’re still here.
This week marks one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
Many Americans began to realize this coronavirus thing was a pretty big deal when major conferences such as South by Southwest and the national Code for America summit were canceled. Local events started moving online or being postponed, too. At Technical.ly, we made the call on March 12, 2020, to cancel the planned NET/WORK DC hiring fair scheduled for the 24th.
These stories are among first in our archives to mention COVID-19, but in the next 12 months, we’d write the virus’ name hundreds of times. Here are some major themes we’ve covered since:
Offices emptied in mid-March, and most have remained so. Companies turned quickly to virtual happy hours and Zoom calls to keep workplace culture alive, while community groups made new use of online spaces. Coworking spaces had to figure out how to host strangers indoors for hours at a time, safely.
Growing awareness of the digital divide
With this shift to virtual, existing inequities were laid bare. Let’s let outgoing Byte Back CEO Elizabeth Lindsey’s op-ed headline speak for itself: “COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting the Black community. So is the digital divide — and it’s not a coincidence.”
As this reality set in, it brought a response: Within days of remote schooling beginning, Comcast began offering two months of free internet through its Internet Essentials program. That has since been extended. The telecomms giant has also doubled its download speed as of this month.
And D.C. government pledged to connect 25,000 student households to free internet access.
Small business support
Municipalities recognized the crushing need for financial resources for suddenly struggling local businesses.
Following federal legislation, the U.S. Small Business Administration launched the Paycheck Protection Program within weeks, distributing hundreds of billions of dollars in first-round loans. That program was re-upped in January and is still accepting applications through March 31.
Companies pivoted to meet new needs and embrace new business models and products. Some made tough layoffs, while some saw business expand. At least one promising startup shut down entirely because of the stresses of the pandemic, even after pivoting to meet it.
Social good efforts
And Gaithersburg, Maryland-based Novavax began developing a COVID-19 vaccine. Fast forward to this week, and it announced that a late-stage trial found it to be 96% effective against the original virus.
Thankfully, that’s some good news to end the year on.-30-