Wednesday marks one year since Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. COVID-19 had arrived, accompanied by fear and uncertainty. What followed might have been difficult for some to imagine.

As a result of Baker's declaration, schools were closed, as were most businesses. While private and parochial schools have since re-opened, most public schools in Massachusetts have not. Most still operate remotely or through a hybrid arrangement.

Most businesses have re-opened, but restrictions remain in place on crowd size, social distancing, and the wearing of masks is still mandatory. Many businesses will never re-open, and their workers left to find new opportunities. Many of them remain idle still while collecting expanded unemployment benefits.

A number of seemingly bizarre decisions were made at the local level in communities throughout the Commonwealth. Parks were closed, and children were told to remain indoors. Basketball hoops were removed from playgrounds and yellow crime scene tape prevented the use of swings and other playthings.

More frightening, local government officials prevented residents from attending church services and set limits on the number of visitors residents could invite to their private homes. Funerals and weddings were canceled and senior living and nursing home residents were forced to live in isolation. Doctor appointments were canceled as were elective surgeries. Alcoholism, drug addiction, and suicide rates soared.

Among the things that alarmed me most about the first year of the emergency declaration was the willingness of many people to surrender their basic human rights to the government. Even the right to challenge the established view of the pandemic was met with scorn by the established and social media.

On a more positive note, we've seen the development and distribution of several vaccines during this first year since the state of emergency was declared. This brings an end to this crisis closer by the day.

It has been an interesting and historic year, the likes of which I hope never to experience again. It's a year I hope we've all learned many lessons from.

Here's to better days ahead.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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