2020 in Sacramento – Observations and commentary on 2020, the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you had to describe 2020 using one word, what would that one word be? My choice – “surreal”.
SacramentoRevealed.com – All Things Sacramento (from a personal perspective)
2020 in Sacramento
A New Year
2020 in Sacramento started on a high note. The City was on a roll, truly coming into its own.
In late 2019, the Major Soccer League made the long-awaited announcement that Sacramento Republic FC will be joining the MLS. A new state-of-the-art stadium in the Railyards is in the works.
The Memorial Auditorium had recently been beautifully updated, and both the Sacramento Convention Center and the Community Center Theatre were undergoing major expansions.
New restaurants were opening, the economy was humming, unemployment was low, and Sacramentans were overall feeling good about the future of the City.
2020 in Sacramento – COVID-19 Pandemic/Multiple COVID-19 Surges/On-and Off Lockdowns
In early 2020, the U.S. the news media started reporting on COVID-19 overseas. It soon became clear that the situation there was serious.
It did not take long before COVID-19 appeared in the U.S. We all watched in horror as medical facilities in New York City were overwhelmed with patients suffering and dying from COVID-19.
Governor Newsom ordered a state of emergency in early March, and a mandatory stay-at-home order in mid-March, in an effort to stop the spread of the highly contagious respiratory disease.
Testing afterwards revealed that California’s first COVID-19 case actually occurred in January, followed by the first COVID-19 death in February.
Wear a mask, keep a six feet distance from non-household members, wash your hands often, and avoid crowds became the mantra of the day.
I hunkered down at home during the months of March and April, limiting myself to a weekly visit to the grocery store. Walking my dog Mickey got me out of the house and into the fresh air on a regular basis.
In the early days of the pandemic people stocked up on essentials, leaving Sacramento stores with many empty shelves. Items such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, etc. were next to impossible to find.
I had chosen not to go out of my way to stock up on anything, because I am after all a household of one. I also had what I thought was a large package of TP in a closet. When I double-checked, however, it was a package of paper towels. I put TP on my shopping list and every time I was in a store I checked on availability. It was quite some time, and just in the nick of time, before I scored!
Who would have thought buying a package of TP would become a reason to rejoice?
2020 in Sacramento – Pandemic-Related Unemployment and Economic Recession
The COVID-19 pandemic and shutdowns wreaked havoc on local businesses and their employees. Some of the businesses that closed their doors upon order of the Governor closed for good. Workers were furloughed or let go. Non-profits, the service industry (restaurants, salons, etc.) and the arts were among the hardest hit.
The loss of employment plunged many Sacramento families over the edge, unable to pay their mortgage/rent or for basic necessities. Other families are just barely making ends meet. With schools closed, many parents have had no choice but to leave the workforce to care for their children.
And then there are the Sacramento homeless. Despite heroic efforts by the City and non-profits to place individuals and families in temporary and/or permanent housing, I have not witnessed a noticeable reduction in the number of homeless on the streets.
The Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, in a letter acknowledging a donation, shared that pre-COVID-19 they were feeding over 150,000 seniors, families and individuals per month. Post-COVID-19 the number being served has grown exponentially to over 300,000. Half of that number are reportedly utilizing the services of the Sacramento Food Bank for the first time.
The River City Food Bank and other smaller non-profits trying to meet urgent community needs tell the same story.
Sacramentans who have the means have stepped up to the plate. For example, the Sacramento Region Community Foundation announced that the May 7, 2020, 24-hour funding drive, the Big Day of Giving, raised a record-breaking $12 million for over 600 area non-profits. And that was just the one day. Still, the need is great and will continue to be for some time.
Retired, and no longer dependent on a paycheck, I am one of the lucky ones. If the COVID-19 pandemic had emerged when I was counting every penny as a divorced mother of a young child it would have been a much different story.
Starting in May, I periodically ordered “take-out” to help support local restaurants. Plus, truth be told, I was getting tired of my own cooking!
Several times during the summer months, when the air quality and/or heat was not an issue, I enjoyed dining in my backyard with a few friends who were being equally diligent. We social distanced while enjoying trying “take-out” from several newly opened restaurants. I did not look forward to the weather changing as I knew that would be the end to these occasional get-togethers.
See related blog post: 2020 Annual Restaurant Review Recap
As it has for million of others, Zoom played an important role for me during 2020 in Sacramento. Zoom not only allowed me to “see” friends and family, but also to take Renaissance Society classes, and “attend” theatre and musical performances, as well as art and museum exhibitions.
See related blog posts: Wayne Thiebaud Birthday Celebration; Festival of New American Music; Dirty Cello Concert; Crocker Virtual Exhibition Opening; Stella & Ian Duo Virtual Concert; Virtual New Play Brunch and Virtual New Play Brunch II; Perfect Vocal Harmony Groups – Folk & Folk Rock; Ron Tochterman New Play Reading; 2020 Sac Open Studios; Re-Imagine Series at B Street Theatre; Crocker Art Auction; Shelly Burns Virtual Concert
2020 in Sacramento – Civil Unrest/Protests/Destruction and Looting
The widely viewed video of the May murder of George Floyd, by a white police officer in Minneapolis, was a real wake-up call for many – me included.
Floyd’s death and those of other black men and women at the hands of police led to multiple protests in Minneapolis and throughout the country – and world for that matter. Marchers protested police brutality – and more. Simmering unrest about systemic racial and economic inequality came to a boil.
Here in Sacramento, like other cities and towns across the nation, peaceful protests in the streets at times turned violent. Public buildings and businesses were defaced, windows were broken, and looting occurred. Numerous buildings in Downtown and Midtown Sacramento were boarded up to prevent further damage.
It appears that a criminal element used the Sacramento protests on more than one occasion as a cover for criminal activity. Small businesses in Downtown and Midtown Sacramento were particularly hard hit. This was, of course, on top of the ordered closures and losses these businesses were already suffering as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I wish I could say that the “criminal element” were out-of-towners, but reportedly the majority of those few who were arrested were locals.
2020 in Sacramento – Thunder and Lightning/Wildfires and Ash/Multi-Day Heat Waves
In mid-August Californians were jolted awake by a massive thunder and lightning storm. The loud thunder claps and multiple lightning strikes seemed to go on forever.
I lay in bed concerned about lightning striking the huge old sycamore tree in my backyard, and watching flash after flash of bright light through my closed blinds.
The storm ignited over 9,000 fires up and down the State. In more than one instance smaller fires joined to become large and hugely destructive fires. The fires raged on for months despite heroic efforts. In the end over 4 million acres of forest lands were destroyed. Additionally, over 10,000 structures were lost, thousands of families were displaced, and 31 were confirmed dead.
In Sacramento, ash and smoke from the fires blanketed the region day after day. The deeper the orange of the sun or moon, the worse the air quality. For a period of time air quality in Sacramento alternated between “unhealthy” and “hazardous”. N95 masks were in great demand.
Living in an old and drafty house, the smoke made its way indoors despite closed windows and doors. Waking up first thing in the morning smelling smoke while lying in bed is most unpleasant.
Even more unpleasant was the arrival of several multi-day heat waves, one occurring during the worst of the fires. In mid-August Sacramento experienced the longest and hottest heat wave on record – eight days in a row of 100+ degrees. As I recall, we hit 112 degrees at one point. Making things even more miserable was the lack of the Delta Breeze to cool things off at night.
Turning on the air conditioner was out of the question. The last thing I wanted to do was draw additional smoke into the house. Instead, I settled on occasionally circulating the already smoky indoor air. I also went online and ordered an air purifier, something I had promised myself I was going to do during the previous wildfire season.
From time to time the winds shifted and the sky temporarily turned blue – a very welcome reprieve especially when combined with a light breeze.
In September, during the Labor Day weekend, the Sacramento region was again was hit with a multi-day heat wave, combined with rolling blackouts and power shut-offs. Luckily, as a City resident, I receive electrical power from the Sacramento Municipal Utility District as opposed to Pacific Gas & Electric. Power shutoffs were not an issue.
Welcome news came on Christmas Day when local media reported that, after four months, California’s largest single fire – the Creek Fire – was 100% contained. Something to be thankful for.
2020 in Sacramento saw a shakeup in the membership of the Sacramento City Council.
In March the first openly gay member of the City Council, who had served his district since 2012, was defeated. His successor was sworn into office in December.
Two other City Council seats were subject to a runoff in November. One of the seats was open due to a retirement. In the other runoff race, the incumbent was again defeated. It is not often that incumbents are defeated in Sacramento.
Sacramentans will be watching the three new members of the City Council closely. There are many important issues that need to be addressed including homelessness, low-income housing, and helping small businesses recover.
Local Initiative Measures
Also on the ballot in November were two contentious local measures, both of which generated a lot of attention.
Measure A, the so-called “Strong Mayor” initiative, backed by Mayor Steinberg, was defeated 57% to 42%.
See related blog post: Sacramento Strong Mayor Initiative
Measure C, which sought to put in place stronger rent control provisions than had been recently adopted by the City Council, lost by a ever larger margin – 60% to 39%.
Divisive Presidential Election
The presidential election dominated the airwaves for most of the year. I am really glad is over – but is it really? I fear not.
The President, who must always be the focus of attention, ramped up his tweeting game with a vengeance pre-election. And, he has not slacked off post-election as he continues to declare that he won the election – despite all evidence to the contrary.
The President has been, from the start, of the belief that he is above the law. His actions during his tenure have proved to me that he has no regard for the U.S. Constitution, the rule of law, or the U.S. election system. These are, of course, the foundation of our democracy.
He is the first (and I hope last) President to openly seek to disenfranchise thousands upon thousands of voters, and to subvert the peaceful transfer of power – another hallmark of our democracy.
Many individuals in and out of the Administration have, over these four long years, attempted to explain why the President does what he does. I personally find the Mayo Clinic definition of “narcissistic personality disorder” instructive.
Of course, to accurately describe the man additional descriptive terms are necessary. As an example, one trait that immediately comes to mind is the never-ending utterance of so-called “facts” that are anything but. His demonizing of the fact-checking press and others who seek to set the record straight has been non-stop since he took office.
Record High Turnout/A Nation Divided
The voters turned out in force for the November 2020 election. In Sacramento County, 82.57% of registered voters cast their ballots, 61% for Biden/Harris v. 36% for the current President/Vice-President.
Nationally, President-Elect Biden won the popular vote 81,009,468 (or 51.33%) to 74,111,419 (or 46.96) The final electoral vote count was 306 v. 232.
While President-Elect Biden won the popular vote by 6,898,049 votes, I was shocked that after four years of bumbling mismanagement and chaos over 74 million Americans voted for the President. These numbers really brought home to me the fact that we truly are a nation divided.
A good friend, a life-long Republican, has been disgusted with the Republican Party as it has stood on the sidelines, thus enabling the President. Additionally, she was incensed that the Republican Party chose to bolster their election prospects over putting country first. The end result – she has changed her voter registration from Republican to Independent.
Further, she surprised me by vowing to never again vote for a Republican – at any level of government. She explained that she could never be sure that a member of the Republican Party was not a covert member of “the cult”.
I had not thought of it in those terms – but I understand what she means.
In the aftermath of the election, demonstrations are again taking place on a regular basis at the State Capitol and nearby streets. This time, the demonstrators are opponents of the election result and/or far-right neo-fascists.
The demonstrations have attracted counter-protesters, and the Sacramento police have struggled to keep far-right neo-fascists separate from supporters of the President-Elect and/or far-left members of Antifa. Regrettably, both violence and vandalism have occurred.
In the final tally, Sacramento County recorded 259,405 votes for the President. I have also read that recent polling results show that the majority of Americans who voted for the President believe his claims of election fraud.
On Thanksgiving Day I made a traditional dinner, but with a turkey breast instead of the whole bird and only a few side dishes. It was, after all, just me and myself. Phone calls with family and friends was the highlight of the day.
In early December I put a wreath on my door and decorated my Christmas tree. I noticed that many of my neighbors were also decorating their homes and outdoor spaces earlier than usual. I think we were all looking for some Christmas cheer.
On Christmas Day I spoke to friends and family, made a nice meal, and later that evening settled on the couch with a glass of wine and my dog Mickey. I had gifted myself with a new book – and the plan for the evening was to crack it open.
I again reflected on how lucky I am as he and I cuddled.
2020 in Sacramento – Winter Surge
In mid-December the Sacramento Bee, which has been extensively covering all things related to the pandemic, reported that 1 in 18 (now 1 in 16) people living within the city limits have tested positive for COVID-19. It was time for me to hunker down again, as in actuality the numbers of infected individuals is sure to be higher.
Governor Newsom in December again ordered a shutdown, one that included the majority of Californians. In California, shutdowns are now tied to regional availability of ICU beds and critical care staff. Hospitals throughout the state are struggling with a shortage of both.
The feared winter COVID-19 surge had become reality, with the numbers of Californians testing positive and dying skyrocketing. Much of the surge in Sacramento and elsewhere is blamed on pandemic-fatigue and multi-family holiday gatherings held indoors despite the pleas of health officials.
Get-togethers during Thanksgiving are believed to be a major cause of the December surge, and similar get-togethers over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays is expected to lead to a “surge upon surge” in 2021. Not the most auspicious way to start a new year.
On Christmas morning the Sacramento Bee reported that California had passed 2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 the evening before.
Any statistics relating to the COVID-19 pandemic are just a snapshot of a moment in time. The numbers cited in the Sacramento Bee the morning of December 30 are:
- 247.2M Tested
- 19,515,528 Confirmed
- 338,656 Deaths
- 32.4 million Tested
- 2,187,221 Confirmed
- 24,526 Deaths
- 63,898 Confirmed
- 833 Deaths
Two COVID-19 vaccines have been approved to date and other approvals will follow in 2021. Vaccine shipments are currently being distributed around the nation and other parts of the world.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel – but it will be some time before we can let our guard down. Distribution and inoculation is a massive undertaking – one that will occur in stages. In the meantime, I will be wearing a mask, maintaining a social distance from non-household members, etc. until medical experts say otherwise.
My reaction to reports and/or polls of fellow citizens who refuse to wear masks and do not intend to be vaccinated is one of great consternation. Certain people cannot wear masks or have medical reasons why they cannot be vaccinated. Whatever happened to sacrifice for the common good? For that matter, whatever happened to patriotism?
Hopefully sometime in mid-to-late 2021 our country can return to some semblance of normal, but that will only occur when the COVID-19 virus dies out for lack of victims.
The Next President
President-Elect Biden is a man of integrity. He and Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris, and the experienced team they are assembling, will need to hit the ground running to start repairing the damage done to date, both nationally and internationally. The challenges are monumental – ending the pandemic, addressing national security threats, reviving the economy – the list goes on. Also of paramount importance is the building of coalitions that will allow the nation to move forward. In my mind, this includes gaining an understanding of those 74 million Americans who voted for the President.
Only time will tell if the Republican Party and the Republicans in Congress will hinder or help President-Elect Biden and Vice-President Elect Harris as they attempt to heal and “unite America”, as well as tackle the myriad of problems facing the nation. Will patriotism or self-interest prevail? One can always hope for the best.
One Last Word
I have managed to keep my account of 2020 in Sacramento at slightly north of 3,000 words, but it was not easy. The dark side of social media was one topic, among others, that had to drop by the wayside. As I was unable to write 2020 in Sacramento – Year in Review without delving into the political realm, I will not be accepting comments.
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