COVID, crime and cicadas: A look back at some of the most notable DC-area news stories of 2021 – WTOP – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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<h3/>COVID déjà vu </p>
<p>2021 — the second year of the coronavirus pandemic — began with optimism. Widespread vaccinations instilled a cautious hope that the long COVID-19 nightmare might finally be ending.</p>
<p>There were promising pictures of elders getting vaccinated and nursing homes reopening to visitors and families for the first time in a year.</p>
<p>As eligibility for the vaccines quickly expanded, in various phases and stages, there were some bumps in the road. Huge demand for the shots led to a mad scramble for vaccine appointments likened to the “<a href=Hunger Games,” the dystopian novel series. Self-proclaimed “vaccine hunters” scoured websites and online sign-ups to snag hard-to-come-by appointments for less digitally savvy family members, friends or even complete strangers.

Still, people rolled their sleeves up by the thousands across the D.C. area: Large-scale mass vaccination sites sprung up at Metro stations, college campuses, fairgrounds, stadiums and amusement parks.

At the end of May, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a major change to coronavirus recommendations: Fully vaccinated people were advised they could drop the masks and skip social distancing — two of the most visible signs of the response to the pandemic.

But the long-hoped-for “hot vax summer” seemed to fizzle when the delta variant, a new strain of the virus, reared its head in late summer, prompting D.C. and several Maryland counties to bring back indoor mask mandates they had jettisoned earlier.

Another potential setback appeared on the horizon around Thanksgiving, with the emergency of the omicron variant, first detected in South Africa and believed to be rapidly spreading around the globe. Maryland reported its first three cases of the omicron variant in early December in the Baltimore area. Virginia and D.C. soon followed suit.

Amid a steep rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, including disruptive outbreaks in some schools, some events were canceled and some schools pivoted back to virtual instruction.

Vaccination overwhelmingly reduces the risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death, and D.C.-area officials greeted the arrival of both variants with more urgent calls for people to get vaccinated — and for millions of already-vaccinated Americans to get booster doses.

In other words, 2021 is ending much the way it began: A fair amount of concern, at least some hope the future brings better tidings — and a lot of people rolling up their sleeves to get shots.

” src=”https://wtop.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/121621_mass-vax.jpg”> 1/10

140th in line, Eugene Chirkov of Bethesda, Maryland, finds a sliver of shade from a traffic cone while waiting in line with people without appointments outside the mass coronavirus vaccination site at Hagerstown Premium Outlets on April 07, 2021, in Hagerstown, Maryland. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

COVID déjà vu

2021 — the second year of the coronavirus pandemic — began with optimism. Widespread vaccinations instilled a cautious hope that the long COVID-19 nightmare might finally be ending.

There were promising pictures of elders getting vaccinated and nursing homes reopening to visitors and families for the first time in a year.

As eligibility for the vaccines quickly expanded, in various phases and stages, there were some bumps in the road. Huge demand for the shots led to a mad scramble for vaccine appointments likened to the “Hunger Games,” the dystopian novel series. Self-proclaimed “vaccine hunters” scoured websites and online sign-ups to snag hard-to-come-by appointments for less digitally savvy family members, friends or even complete strangers.

Still, people rolled their sleeves up by the thousands across the D.C. area: Large-scale mass vaccination sites sprung up at Metro stations, college campuses, fairgrounds, stadiums and amusement parks.

At the end of May, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a major change to coronavirus recommendations: Fully vaccinated people were advised they could drop the masks and skip social distancing — two of the most visible signs of the response to the pandemic.

But the long-hoped-for “hot vax summer” seemed to fizzle when the delta variant, a new strain of the virus, reared its head in late summer, prompting D.C. and several Maryland counties to bring back indoor mask mandates they had jettisoned earlier.

Another potential setback appeared on the horizon around Thanksgiving, with the emergency of the omicron variant, first detected in South Africa and believed to be rapidly spreading around the globe. Maryland reported its first three cases of the omicron variant in early December in the Baltimore area. Virginia and D.C. soon followed suit.

Amid a steep rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, including disruptive outbreaks in some schools, some events were canceled and some schools pivoted back to virtual instruction.

Vaccination overwhelmingly reduces the risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death, and D.C.-area officials greeted the arrival of both variants with more urgent calls for people to get vaccinated — and for millions of already-vaccinated Americans to get booster doses.

In other words, 2021 is ending much the way it began: A fair amount of concern, at least some hope the future brings better tidings — and a lot of people rolling up their sleeves to get shots.



<h3/>Insurrection </p>
<p>It was the day lawmakers gathered at the Capitol to certify the results of the 2020 election, usually a fairly arcane procedural step in the American electoral system mainly watched by CSPAN junkies.</p>
<p>This year, there was an insurrection that threatened the core institutions of our government.</p>
<p>In the weeks after his 2020 election loss, there were a series of rowdy gatherings in D.C. by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, including one <a href=in which a church’s Black Lives Matter was torn down and burned in the street. On Jan. 6, supporters of the president gathered in D.C. for a speech by Trump, then flocked to the Capitol grounds. There they broke through windows and doors, violently clashed with U.S. Capitol Police and D.C. police officers and sent lawmakers, and Vice President Mike Pence, running for cover.

Read WTOP’s original report from that day

By the end of the day, thousands of National Guard troops were patrolling the Capitol grounds, and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had declared a public emergency and a citywide curfew, ordering people to stay off the streets.

Four rallygoers died in the melee. Some 150 police officers were injured; Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick died several hours later after suffering two strokes. Four other officers died by suicide in the days and months afterward.

To this day there remain unanswered questions about the official response to the violence by the U.S. Capitol Police, the Defense Department and the Trump administration. Meanwhile, the prosecution of Capitol rioters ground on throughout the year and a House committee zeroed in on key Trump White House players’ role in the riot.

In response to the violence, massive fencing went up around the Capitol, turning nearby neighborhoods into something akin to a fortress and making the citadel of democracy, according to one Capitol Hill elementary school student, like a prison.

Some suggested permanent fencing around the Capitol. But D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton fought the move to wall off the People’s House.

“We need to put that terrible day behind us,” Norton said. “You can’t do it as long as this fencing is up to remind people that they can’t get into the Capitol.”

The Jan. 6 riot also thrust calls for statehood for the District back into the national conversation.

Bowser testified at a closely watched U.S. Senate committee hearing on D.C. statehood — only the second Senate hearing ever on the matter — to press the case for D.C. as the 51st state.

But progress remained elusive. While governors in other states control their own National Guards, the president controls D.C’s National Guard. A provision to hand over control of the Guard to the D.C. mayor, also championed by Norton, passed the House earlier this year — the first time either chamber of Congress had ever done so. But in the end, the measure was stripped out in later versions of


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