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Looking forward to a rebuilding year

The COVID-19 virus has killed nearly 50,000 people in the U.S. in just over two months. We still have eight months of 2020 to navigate.

No one knows how many people eventually will die from coronavirus or related complications. No one knows exactly what will save the rest of us — social distancing, masks, ventilators, nurses, doctors, first responders, neighbors, herd immunity, pharmaceutical breakthroughs, vaccines or just plain luck.

It’s difficult to keep a positive attitude with so many unknowns. But hope is what keeps us going. Hope and hard work.

Stay-at-home restrictions are keeping many Michiganders away from the workplace. But, in time, the opportunity to toil will return. For now, though, workers deemed non-essential and unable to work remotely have little to do but stay home and fret about health and finances.

When experts eventually decide it is safe to ease social distancing restrictions, things will begin sliding back toward some semblance of normal. The process likely will be gradual and stumbling — but “business as usual” will return to the world and to northern Michigan.

By the time normal arrives, however, there will be fewer of us here to pick up the pieces, despite the medical community’s heroic efforts.

And there will be fewer small businesses to employ us, because the lengthy economic shutdown is sure to result in some permanent closures.

Perhaps society as a whole can take to heart a lesson from the sports world.

Teams from public schools, universities and professional leagues have ups and downs. They rise on the strengths of players, coaches and community support. They decline when they lose talent or momentum or enthusiasm.

After a disappointing season, coaches talk about embarking on “a rebuilding year,î a year when they realize the team won’t win many games, won’t bring home the league trophy, won’t perform at the top of its game. But they utilize that period of time to work on fundamentals, to rebuild team spirit, to strive to once again become a powerhouse. It’s tough work without much immediate gratification.

Perhaps American society can do the same thing. This already is a year of disappointment for all of us, a year of despair for those who have lost loved ones.

But when infection rates decline and life can get back to something closer to what we’re used to, we’ll have a big job ahead of us. We’ll need to embark on a rebuilding year for our society and our economy.

It’ll be tough work over the long haul without much immediate gratification. But hope, spirit and hard work will bring us back to the top of our game.

— Traverse City Record-Eagle

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