2020-12-18-VACCINES

Adrian Elliot, the medical director in the emergency department at Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington, is among the first group of eight to receive the COVID-19 vaccine Thursday at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, administered by registered nurse Nancy Keehnle. “It’s really difficult for us to see patients having this freight train of a virus run through their body, knowing what’s going to happen to them,” Elliot said. “It’ll be really nice to see less of that.”

I jumped into this job at the threshold of an unprecedented election, just as the nation was heading into its biggest COVID-19 surge yet. Covering those topics defined much of my early work. These were my favorite stories of the year: 

1. Health care workers who received the earliest vaccinations gave me a glimpse into their lives. Covering the county's first vaccinations was easily one of the most poignant moments of my year, and my colleague, Stephanie Zollshan, brought the moment to life with her photographs.

2. As President Trump fought to challenge the results of the 2020 election, with baseless claims of fraud, one Williams College math professor weighed in. He made claims about uncounted votes based on data that many in his field found absurd. His analysis gained national attention, but peers called it "irresponsible" and "naive." Then he walked it back... sort of.

3. Health leaders knew for quite some time that the vaccines were coming. But actually hearing Governor Baker say when they would arrive and who would go first was a different story, especially for county nursing homes.

4. Just after I started writing for The Eagle, an editor asked me to find a wide diversity of North County voters in one place. On a rainy night during a pandemic, I went looking for those voices and found them — in the North Adams Walmart. Paired with reporting from my colleague, Heather Bellow, these voices brought to light some of the real fears and hopes around the 2020 election.

5. As hospitals rushed to get their hands on ultracold freezers to store the Pfizer vaccine, Berkshire Health Systems got lucky. I wrote about a chance donation. And I got to answer the question: 'How cold is -70 degrees Celsius, really?'

Francesca Paris can be reached at fparis@berkshireeagle.com and 510-207-2535.

Francesca Paris covers North Adams for The Berkshire Eagle. A California native and Williams College alumna, she has worked at NPR in Washington, D.C. and WBUR in Boston, as a news reporter, producer and editor. Find her on Twitter at @fparises.