Coronavirus deeply affects schools, citizens in Columbia Heights


Photo by Kwot Anwey

The MedExpress Urgent Care clinic at the corner of 49th Avenue and Central Avenue is one of the only COVID-19 testing sites in Columbia Heights.

The year of 2020 will forever go down in the history books as the time period that changed everything. With the increase of social unrest, a dip in our economy and a high profile campaign for the next president, there have been many events that have affected us all. The most important matter of this year has been the COVID-19 pandemic: a virus that has written itself into the history of the world in just a few short months.

The virus started out as an epidemic in Wuhan, China and quickly progressed into a worldwide crisis. The world rapidly transformed itself as qurantines began in major cities, companies created equipment and masks to help out the public and governments received criticism about the way they handled the crisis.

But how has this pandemic changed life in a small Minneapolis suburb? In Columbia Heights, there have been over 750 cases of the coronavirus. Starting March 17, our city was put on lockdown, with the majority of public services and businesses being closed. Summer events such as The Lion’s Jamboree and the annual community picnic were canceled, while other events like National Night Out were rescheduled.  Life became quiet and repetitive for most of us, as we had nothing much to do or see. We joined the rest of the U.S. and watched trending shows and documentaries, such as “Tiger King”, or tried trends found on the internet like dancing or exercising. By June 8, most public spaces were opened again, but still with many restrictions.

A major part of lifeespecially for studentshas been the effects of the pandemic on schools. Columbia Heights Public Schools is a small district with five schools and about 3,100 students. Like many other districts in the state, school was closed in March and students were redirected to distance learning, consisting of Zoom meetings and online assignments until the school year ended. Parents, students, and staff waited all summer to hear what the new plan would be for the 2020-2021 school year. 

John Fry, the Columbia Heights Public Schools COVID-19 district coordinator, says that students have started the year in a modified hybrid phase, which means that students will be doing distance learning, with small select groups receiving instruction onsite. As the virus progresses, changes will be made to the 2020-2021 school year plan accordingly and with great consideration for all student needs. 

This decision was made based on CHPS family surveys, CHPS staff surveys, Anoka County and adjacent counties COVID-19 data, conferring with Anoka County Health officials, Columbia Heights-Hilltop 14-day infection rates, CHPS facilities and CHPS staffing capacity,” Fry said in response to how the plan was created.

As of now, and as COVID-19 continues to change, the district and the community are doing everything possible to stay safe. The latest numbers continue to show a slight rise in the number of cases, but no deaths, in Columbia Heights. There have been about 770 cases, and with a population of 20,427 people, Heights has the highest number of cases per 10,000 people in Anoka County out of 21 total cities, at 379.90. Everyone hopes the number of cases will stop rising, but for now all we can do is adjust our lives to be more safe for us and those around us.

With no cure approved and a new normal many are struggling to get used to, students and community members alike are staying on their toes as everyone waits and sees how this all plays out. This year will be one that no one will ever forget, including the residents of Columbia Heights, remembering all the lives lost due to COVID-19 around the globe and the way our world changed.