The words “coronavirus” or “COVID-19” appear in more than 700 articles across Tioga Publishing’s family of three newspapers. The first appearance was Feb. 13 article in the Free Press-Courier by reporter Josh Magnotta. In it, Secretary of Health Rachel Levine is quoted as saying the threat of the virus was low with only 11 cases in the Commonwealth.
That changed quickly. A month later, Gov. Tom Wolf closed the state with cases rising in the southeastern area, although Tioga County saw little spread.
Still, people rallied. Essential businesses shared the challenges of providing a safe environment and providing needed services, while other businesses deemed non-essential closed their doors. Some businesses closed while others have still not reopened or re-opened only to close again.
Schools closed, then transitioned to remote learning.
When the weather warmed, Tioga County moved from Red to Yellow and then Green phases as numbers remained low. The primary election, scheduled in April, was held in June.
Outdoor dining tables popped up outside restaurants around the county. Colorful tables, tents and umbrellas offered protection from the weather and the ability to socialize.
Events, including the Pennsylvania State Laurel Festival, Blossburg Coal Festival, Mansfield and Galeton’s Independence Day Celebration, Wellsboro’s Dickens of a Christmas and more were canceled. Yet, the Deane Center in Wellsboro hosted a series of weekly outdoor concerts to provide both musicians and audience members with a bright spot.
With one of the lowest numbers in the state, the county became a destination for visitors to spend time at the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, in state parks and campgrounds, ride and hike the Pine Creek Rail Trail and gaze at the stars. Some businesses were busier than ever. Others felt the impact and laid off employees.
Curbside pick-up became a new phrase. Masks became a fashion and political statement.
In-school classes resumed this fall only to move in and out of in-person and remote learning as COVID numbers spiked in the county. With the arrival of cold weather, case numbers rose quickly, reaching nearly 1,900 by the end of the year. The highest number of new cases in one day was Dec. 9 with 63 new cases. Since then, the numbers have slowly decreased and the transmission rate has also fallen from a high of 22% to around 15%.
Despite the arrival of two vaccines and possibly more, the impact of the pandemic will continue to be a news topic into the coming year.