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A lot happened this year. The COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 presidential election. This summer’s protests and a reckoning for racial justice. WFAE has been there reporting on everything from President Donald Trump’s impeachment in January to the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccines in December. Our staff of editors, producers and reporters selected some of the most important stories, Charlotte Talks shows and podcasts from the year.

Stories We'll Be Watching In 2021


In the list we made a year ago of stories we were going to keep an eye in 2020, we kind of dropped the ball. We didn't have a single mention of the coronavirus or protests against systemic racism. But in retrospect, who could have known what was to come?

On the heels of a very newsy 2020 that no one had any idea was on the horizon, we're preparing for more unexpected news to cover in 2021. There are bound to be more surprises, but here's a list of things we know we'll be keeping an eye on in the new year.

COVID-19 Vaccine: How Will It Be Distributed, And Who Will Get It When?

Nearly two-thirds of North Carolina counties are currently in the "red zone," meaning community spread of the coronavirus is uncontrolled. Most days in December, we've reached record highs in new COVID-19 cases identified, hospitalizations or deaths attributed to the disease — or all of the above.

Many of us are eagerly waiting for this to be a distant memory and to transition to the "post-pandemic" part in this timeline. The COVID-19 vaccine was produced in record time, and Pfizer and Moderna vaccines appear to have a high success rate with minimal side effects.

North Carolina's Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen said that people at the highest risk would be prioritized and said "it's going to be well into the spring" before vaccines are "widely available to folks."

Even then, will everyone take one when it's their turn?

Economic And Business Recovery From The Coronavirus Recession

From March 15 to Dec. 22., 1,383,569 people in North Carolina filed for unemployment after businesses had to shut their doors because of the pandemic — first, temporarily, and then permanently for many. Restaurants still can only serve at half-capacity.

Throughout the year, grants, loans, and other resources were available for people and businesses — but is that enough? How will 2021 look moving forward for small businesses and people facing unemployment? According to the National Bureau, we entered a recession back in February.

What will a full year of coronavirus restrictions do to businesses and the economy?

Achievement Gaps After A Year Of Virtual Learning

What damage has been done to students after a year (plus?) of virtual learning? How many were left behind because of a lack of digital capabilities or just because they fell through the cracks without constant in-person communication from teachers and other school officials?

Reports from across the country have shown more students earning F's this quarter. We've confirmed this trend in Mecklenburg and Gaston counties. Additionally, some households are facing language barriers and not having enough resources for digital learning.

Working From Home

Could we work from home ... forever? Since the coronavirus pandemic, many in the American workforce have gone virtual. Some employers have even seen an improvement in work productivity. Pets everywhere are thrilled at more face time and snuggles.

But it's not all rosy for everyone. Can we continue to juggle childcare and work simultaneously? Are people actually working too much now that there's no divide between work and home life?

And could working from home become the new normal for the average American?

The Biden Administration Transition

No matter what Donald Trump continues to tweet, on Jan. 20, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in as president and vice president.

There will be plenty of things to watch for in 2021 as they take office. The first days of the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic will be critical. But beyond that, will Biden's campaign promises be realized? He has talked of bringing the country together, rolling back many of Trump's policies on immigration, focusing on climate change and bringing the United States back into the Paris Climate Agreement.

Will Biden be able to accomplish any of his goals if Trump continues to insist that the election was fraudulent, and his hardline supporters refuse to acknowledge the results?

Census Results

The results from the 2020 census — showing the population count for each state — will impact the number of representatives and electoral votes North Carolina has.

But COVID-19’s impact worried many who believe that a full count could not be completed due to social distancing and restrictions. There has also been controversy over whether the end-of-the-year deadlines will provide an accurate population count.

Future Of Restaurants And The Arts

Restaurants across Charlotte dealt with reduced hours, capacity and staff during the pandemic. With more restrictions coming after an increase in cases, we will be watching how restaurants recover in 2021.

The arts community also felt the effects of COVID-19. We haven't had a live, indoor performance since March. Musicians ranging from local artists to national acts had to cancel shows, while dance and theater groups also lost money during the pandemic. How do they survive going forward?