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WIZM 2021 Review: Another year of life with COVID

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The first full year under the COVID-19 pandemic is ending in the Coulee Region, and the illness remained a cause of concern throughout 2021.

At the start of the year, about 60 people in La Crosse County had died from COVID, and the total has risen to about 140 now.

In January, area schools and colleges started bringing students back to the classroom, after months of remote learning.

La Crosse Schools Superintendent, Dr. Aaron Engel, said parents were very concerned about safety rules, including mask use and social distancing in classrooms.

Area schools also had spring football games to make up for cancelling contests the previous fall.

FILE – Protesters outside Gundersen Health System in La Crosse on Nov. 2, 2021.

Rules aimed at fighting the pandemic in the workplace led to some protests in the La Crosse area, as COVID remained a major news story during 2021.

One such protest involved Gundersen Health System declaring that workers who didn’t get a COVID-19 vaccine would be fired.

Roughly 1 percent of all Gundersen employees reported being fired for not being vaccinated by the Nov. 1 deadline.

Occasionally, there were also anti-mask protests at sites like Mormon Coulee Road and Highway 16 near Valley View Mall.

One such rally happened in April, to celebrate a court ruling striking down the Wisconsin mask mandate.

Some gather near Valley View Mall on Saturday, April 3, to celebrate the end of Wisconsin’s mask mandate earlier in the week,

During the year, public COVID testing sites began to shut down as the pandemic waned, only to re-emerge late in the year as variants took hold.

Also, 2021 will be remembered as a time when many traditions, like local festivals, came back. La Crosse’s concerts in the park, such as the Moon Tunes series, returned after a year off.

Riverfest and Irishfest returned in the summer, and Oktoberfest and the Maple Leaf Parade were back after skipping a year.

The pandemic also brought a surprise tourist attraction to La Crosse, when the state high school basketball tournaments moved championship games away from Madison and Oshkosh to the La Crosse Center.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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