A year in review: COVID-19’s impact on the Valley


We look back at the COVID year that it was


YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Normally, we wouldn’t unveil the year’s top story until New Year’s Eve, after highlighting all the big stories of the past year. But this year’s top story is no big secret. It was COVID-19.

We look back at the COVID year that it was and Friday night, we will look at the rest of the stories and the Top 10 Stories of the Year.

The first time COVID-19 was mentioned on a WYTV newscast was February 25. Mahoning County Medical Director John Venglarcik said there were only 14 cases in the United States.

“We’re really not seeing a dramatic spread of this,” he said.

But on March 9, Ohio reported its first case. It’s also when we first heard of what was to come from Ohio Department of Health director and Youngstown native Dr. Amy Acton.

“People do need to know it won’t be life as normal in this country for a while, ” Acton said while trying to explain how the virus was going to impact our daily lives.

Two days later, as Warren reported the area’s first case and as items like toilet paper were being depleted, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine closed schools and banned large gatherings.

“We all have the attitude this is a crisis, and we have to get the job done,” he said.

On March 27, we interviewed our first person who survived COVID, Boardman’s Donnie Riccitelli.

“Thursday night and Friday night I was packed in ice,” Riccitelli explained about his treatment.

On April 1, we aired our first COVID obituary. Lawyer Mark Mangie died from the disease.

COVID-19 changed our way of life. Facial coverings were added to wardrobes and plexiglass to stores. We washed our hands, a lot, and were introduced to social distancing. There were long lines to be tested and to get food. Restaurants limited indoor dining and excelled at takeout. Our celebrations were drive-bys and our meetings virtual. We worked from home and out of cars.

Not everyone agreed with the restrictions. In late May, there was a protest along Route 224 in Boardman.

“I believe everyone can social distance and do everything without having them policed,” said a demonstrator.

People like Dr. Rachel Levine, Dr. James Kravec, and Ryan Tekac became the experts, while Governor DeWine’s briefings had people wondering what would come next.

On July 2, DeWine started a color coded map with Trumbull County in red.

“In addition to multiple outbreaks in congregate settings, Trumbull County also currently has an outbreak in a health care facility,” DeWine said.

By mid-September, school systems like Boardman were back in the classroom with students surrounded by plexiglass cubicles.

But by mid-November, deaths and hospitalizations were rising in Ohio and new cases were over 10,000 a day.

Youngstown State canceled most in-person classes after Thanksgiving break.

“A year from now we will be talking about the upcoming holiday party, but right now, no holiday parties,” YSU President Jim Tressel said while addressing students about the virus.

The year ended with all the area’s hospitals and some nursing homes getting their first doses of the COVID vaccine.

We honored health care workers with signs and military flyovers, and the class of 2020 with drive-in celebrations.

The Canfield Fair was limited to a Junior Fair only.

“It’s hard to get close to them (animals) with a mask on because it looks different to them,” said a 4-H fair participant.

And though the West Branch girls had their state semi-final canceled shortly after taking the floor, youth baseball and high school football found ways to continue.

Both the primary and general elections were held, and the tulips still sprouted at Fellows Riverside Gardens and the bluebells at Poland Woods.

In some ways, life in 2020 was the same but in many others, it was oh so much different.

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Mel Robbins Main Area Middle

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