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1A Across America: 2020 In Review

A woman walks through an almost-deserted Times Square in New York City. Why did New York and Seattle have such different responses to the pandemic?
A woman walks through an almost-deserted Times Square in New York City. Why did New York and Seattle have such different responses to the pandemic?

It might be hard to remember, but 2020 started off much differently than it ended. At the beginning of the year, the economy was booming and Congress was overseeing the impeachment of President Donald Trump. It was still unclear which of the nearly two dozen Democratic presidential hopefuls would emerge from primary season as the party’s presidential nominee. Then the pandemic hit the United States. People took to the streets after police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis to protest the treatment of Black Americans by police. The trajectory of everything changed.

As we look back on 2020, we’re highlighting some of the best reporting from our 1A Across Americaspecial project.   

The project is a collaboration with six public radio stations around the country designed to cover national news stories from outside major U.S. cities. 

Health Care

In January, we spoke with Tamara Pogue about skyrocketing healthcare prices. At the time, she was CEO of the Peak Health Alliance, a new non-profitin Summit County, Colorado, that negotiates directly with healthcare providers to reduce the prices they charge for their services.

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Tamara Pogue is the CEO of Peak Health Alliance, Colorado non-profit working to lower healthcare costs.

“When you have moms that are essentially deciding between health insurance so they can access breast cancer care and sending their kids to college, it is a problem,” Pogue said. “It is a crisis that I think anyone just can’t ignore.” Pogue said the community felt federal and state government officials also didn’t really care about Summit County’s specific health care struggle.

Business

In August, we spoke with business owners in the entertainment district of Old Town Wichita, Kansas. Without crowds from theater performances, sporting events and nightlife, many businesses in the area were at risk of closing. Jennifer MacDonald owns a wine cellar, and she didn’t qualify for government aid from the CARES Act. She told us she had to cut staff and work nearly every day.

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Jennifer MacDonald owns Jenny Dawn Cellars, a winery in Old Town Wichita

“I had to personally furlough staff and just keep the doors open by working every day. In five months, I’ve literally had five days off where I could just totally unplug,” McDonald said. McDonald also noted the personal sacrifice that’s been required to keep her business open.

The Election

We reported extensively on the 2020 presidential election this year. Once all the ballots were counted we followed up with some people we met along the way.

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Justin Smith voted for Joe Biden in 2020.

Justin Smith is a Democrat in Birmingham, Alabama who voted for President-elect Joe Biden. When we spoke to him, he told us he was upset that Democratic Senator Doug Jones of Alabama lost to Republican Tommy Tuberville. He’s also fearful of how divided the country appears.

“I don’t feel we had the blue wave we were all hoping and expecting for,” Smith said. “Now, the country is being taken through this crazy, disastrous period where we’re seeing all of our Constitutional norms challenged…that’s a lot to live through. And it really takes a toll on the mental space of so many people. This timeframe within these last few months have literally scared the daylight out of me.”

Jason Baskin is a city councilman in Austin, Minnesota who voted for President Trump in 2020. We spoke with him the day after the election. He wanted to see more bipartisanship in politics, similar to what many cities see in local government. But he worries politics might be getting more divided along urban-rural lines.

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Austin City Councilman Jay Baskin (left) and his father Greg.

“The big question mark moving forward is ‘was 2020 an aberration or the continuation of a trend?’ Do we look back on this [election] as wildly out of line from where the country is?” Baskin asked. “Or do we start to see the Republicans continue to consolidate their footprint in the rural area and the Democrats consolidate their footprint in the urban area —with the suburbs as the swing — as the new normal of politics moving forward?”

This reporting is part of 1A’s Across America collaboration with six public radio stations. 1A Across America is funded through a grant from The Corporation for Public Broadcasting. CPB is a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967 that is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting.

 

Copyright 2020 WAMU 88.5. To see more, visit WAMU 88.5.