FOX6 News asks, 'How have you changed amid the COVID-19 pandemic?'

The weather in the Milwaukee area wasn’t great on March 11, 2020. The high temperature was only 46 degrees -- and there was a rain, snow mix falling from the sky. Still, Wisconsin had reasons to be in a good mood.

The Bucks had the best record in the NBA, the Brewers were in spring training, and Milwaukee was looking forward to a busy summer that included the Democratic National Convention in July. But then we went from feeling bubbly to living in a bubble overnight.

There wasn’t a single person whose life wasn’t affected in some way whether it meant working from home or dealing with COVID-19 in some form.

How are you doing?

FOX6 News wanted to see how we were faring a year after our lives changed with the announcement that the whole world was dealing with a viral outbreak -- and things wouldn’t be normal for a while, if at all.

Outside Colectivo Coffee’s lakefront location this week, people soaked in the sunshine while working on their laptops or visiting with others. Some still wore masks. All seemed respectful of each other’s invisible six-foot radius.

"I tried to avoid it, but I got it," Cudahy’s Jim Mauch told FOX6. "I did well. But unfortunately, my mother-in-law died -- she got it also." 

It seems you don’t even have to say what "it" is anymore. It’s a reference to the coronavirus. Everyone FOX6 spoke to for this story with had or knew someone who had COVID-19.

Mauch, who loves to travel with his wife and daughter and photograph those trips, stopped traveling altogether -- and abided by the recommendations of health officials.  He cannot wait to travel again.

Milwaukee’s Shondrice Cross flipped through her phone to find the last social thing she did before most things "shut down" because of the virus. She found a picture taken at this time last year of her and some co-workers gathered around a table at breakfast. All are maskless -- as we didn’t yet know that would be recommended and eventually mandated.

"After breakfast, we went to the mall and then to an escape room," Cross said.

An escape room. Could there be a more perfect metaphor for the last twelve months?

Exactly how are we doing?

So how are we doing? That’s a mixed report. Polls show people are drinking more and depression rates have increased. Virtual learning has been tough on teachers, students and parents. Bars and restaurants are feeling the effects hard (which is one reason almost $29 billion was earmarked for them in the recently passed relief bill).

Despite it all, there is reason for hope.

"I’m optimistic what we will be better for it," said Dr. Stephen Saunders, the head of Marquette University’s psychology department. 

Dr. Stephen Saunders

Dr. Stephen Saunders

Saunders is well aware of the anxiety and depression the pandemic has caused. But he also said it’s crucial for all of us to have a positive outlook as we head into the second year.

"Look how fast we’ve come out with so many variations of vaccines. That’s never been done before," Saunders said.

Saunders also said we need to celebrate even the smallest of victories.

"I’m grateful how fast my drive to Marquette is every morning (because of people working from home). But I’m kind of looking forward to traffic jams again," Saunders said.

The one thing Saunders hopes to come from this is a sense of gratitude for the things we missed and will do again.

"If I could put one word on top of all of this, it’s gratitude. I think we need to take into the future a sense of gratitude. For friendships, for freedom, for being able to see someone’s entire face," Saunders said.

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Mixed in with that hope, Saunders said, is the need to realize that people still are and will continue to hurt because of all that has changed. He urges all of us to be on the lookout for that.

"We have to keep an eye out for those who are struggling behind. This has hit them hard and it’s remaining with them," Saunders said. "They need a little extra help, a little extra attention."

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