It was March 18, 2020 when township officials announced that the first Verona resident had tested positive for the novel coronavirus COVID-19. The same day, Verona’s public schools began what has become a year-long experiment in largely remote learning. One week later, there would be a COVID death that hit Verona hard: Chef Floyd Cardoz, who had lived here for almost two decades.
In the year since the coronavirus came to Verona, 840 people here have tested positive and 16 people have died. We don’t know all their names because many families were reticent to mention COVID in their obituaries. COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death in Verona in 2020.
There have been losses to COVID-19 beyond the deaths. The pandemic scrapped high school sports seasons and extracurricular activities. It turned birthday parties into drive-by parades and caused some Verona businesses to close. It sharply drove up operating costs for the Verona Police Department and Verona Rescue Squad, but the VRS continued to respond to health emergencies here, even as squads in neighboring towns closed down. The recent workshops on Verona’s municipal budget have made it clear that, despite federal aid, there will be belt tightening here this year.
And yet, there have been bright spots. Verona’s sidewalks and streets now see more walkers and bikers than in a very long time. The online services at Verona’s houses of worship are drawing more parishioners. The online meetings for the Town Council, Board of Education and other boards and commissions are regularly getting crowds that they almost never had in person. Some new businesses have opened, while others have used the pandemic as a time to remodel, and after many decades of opposition to outdoor dining, the town has allowed it to flourish. Verona’s real estate market boomed in 2020, as people sought to leave cramped apartments in Manhattan, Hoboken and Jersey City behind. The boom has continued into 2021, producing higher listing and selling prices.
COVID-19 isn’t done with Verona–or the world–just yet. We added 40 new positive cases in the last week alone. While we can hope that the pandemic’s toll will diminish, we wonder if we can preserve its gains. Will Verona residents continue to be freed from long commutes, and will they use that extra time to benefit Verona business activity and civic life? When the stresses of the pandemic are lifted, will we return to civil discussions about what we need to do to move Verona forward?
We can only hope.
Stories about COVID-19 filled more 20 pages on MyVeronaNJ. You can read all of them thanhere.