Apparently, COVID-19 is never going away.
As such, the novel coronavirus disease that first reared its head in 2020 stuck around to continue headlining the news in Seguin and Guadalupe County in 2021.
COVID-19 continued to show in the news in 2021 the way it had a year earlier, tragically and with numerous deaths, including one of Seguin’s fire responders.
In April, word spread that Seguin Firefighter/Paramedic Roger Dean died at the age of 31 after a lengthy battle with the disease.
Members of the department, Seguin City Manager Steve Parker and others drove to Houston to retrieve Dean’s body and return him to Seguin. An honor guard escorted Dean from his hospital room to Seguin in an ambulance and stayed with him until the funeral.
After initially testing positive for COVID-19, Dean seemed to recover but fell ill again, which led to his hospitalization with pneumonia. Things worsened and he awaited a possible double lung transplant, but months went by and the disease did its worst.
Dean was laid to rest after a funeral procession that included an honor guard, a pipes and drum corps and other pageantry benefiting a fallen civil servant.
Vaccines Become Available
As infections continued to mount in the early parts of the year, there was hope on the horizon: vaccines. Shots were available promising help against spread and contraction of the disease, and within the first week of the year, Seguin’s fire and police chiefs had received their first vaccine doses.
“I was skeptical and apprehensive just like everybody else with this being a new vaccine,” Seguin Fire Chief Dale Skinner said after getting his first Moderna vaccine shot Jan. 6. “But the more research I conducted and the better understanding I had of the vaccine itself and that the side effects were very minimal, that helped me make the decision.”
Seguin Police Chief Terry Nichols said he thought it important to take the lead and be an example to others on vaccination.
Vaccine, Food Distribution Lines Stretch
Early on, vaccines were made available to select demographics including first responders, healthcare workers, aged individuals and members of the community with underlying health issues.
As federal and state agencies delivered doses to communities, locals began pitching in, working long hours to help administer shots.
Countywide, the pandemic affected so much, including residents’ access to food. Local and area organizations and entities pitched in to work with governments and people to help.
Food was a necessity for which residents received assistance attaining. Mega-food distribution sites in Seguin, Schertz and elsewhere in Guadalupe County were very well attended.
Volunteers helped man vaccine clinics and food distribution events with tremendously long lines that offered hundreds upon hundreds of shots or pounds of food to recipients. They also offered hope of a sooner return to some semblance of normalcy.
Jobs Go Unfilled
Perhaps none held more hope than business owners. All sorts of industries were rocked by the pandemic, and in different forms.
Service industry businesses, for instance, saw their customers shy away due to fear of exposure in large crowds. Factories and manufacturers were hit with employees taking off days because they were infected with the virus or feared being infected.
Other businesses also suffered, here and across the country.
Before the middle of the year, government restrictions had all but vanished allowing business managers to open up shop and COVID’s death-grip on the economy began to loosen as people headed back outside — and inside establishments they previously avoided.
Unemployment and jobless numbers in the county and region improved. This area outperformed many other counties in the state as well as the national averages.
But it just wasn’t enough for everyone as local entrepreneurs noticed another problem. They couldn’t — and in many cases still can’t — find enough employees to fill shifts.
Some companies figured out novel ways to attract staff such as using cash signing bonuses and other perks, but job openings still numbered in the hundreds.
Gov. Greg Abbott sought to help by discontinuing increased unemployment payments related to the pandemic in June thinking the move would solve the problem.
Following the governor’s announcement, the area’s jobless rate continued to decline yet some jobs still sit unfilled.