Sarah Stultz: How has the COVID pandemic changed you?

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, March 9, 2021

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Nose for News by Sarah Stultz

I’ve seen a lot of people post on social media in the last few days about their memories from a year ago. At that time in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was only just beginning, and we all had no idea what was right around the corner.

It was spring break time, people were squeezing in quick trips though the threat of the virus was looming over our shoulders, and businesses were up and running in full force.

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Who would have guessed that only a few weeks later we would have been under a stay-at-home order and that many businesses would have to close their doors to normal operations? We didn’t have a clue at that time what a stay-at-home order would entail and that we would soon have to shift our children to distance learning. Even face masks at that time were only something we only regularly saw in hospitals or on medical drama TV shows, not as a part of daily living.

On Wednesday, April 6, the Minnesota Department of Health reported Freeborn County had its first two confirmed COVID-19 cases, and the county’s first death came in May, though it was initially reported under another county. 

As the number of cases grew and the effects of the virus started to be felt globally, pretty much all aspects of life changed.

The effects were even felt here at the Tribune as we announced in mid-April that we would shift to printing two days a week instead of five.

Many of the beloved regular  events or activities that we love about summer were canceled — the fair, festivals, car shows, swimming. The list could go on and on.

We began seeing a shift to drive-in gatherings — everything from church services to the Albert Lea Teacher of the year ceremony. Other events or meetings shifted online via Zoom or other platforms.

While some of the things about life pre-COVID have returned, many still have not — and may not for some time.

It’s hard to think about all that we as a nation and as a worldwide family have experienced over the last year. Whether you’ve agreed with everything that has happened or how it was responded to, I think we all can agree that things will never be the same.

And in some ways that’s OK.

This pandemic has taught many valuable, life-changing lessons, and we must focus on what we’ve learned as we move forward.

This last year has reemphasized to me the value of each and every person, and how life often does not go the way we plan it. Though I have not personally known someone who has died because of COVID-19, I have known many that were affected. We must treasure the relationships we have today and look forward to the new friendships we can make tomorrow.

How has the pandemic changed you? I’d love to hear your insights. Send me an email at

Sarah Stultz is the managing editor of the Tribune. Her column appears every Wednesday.