Narrowing down the top five stories of the year is always a difficult task.
This year, that task proved especially laborious because it seemed as though all the major news of the year was, in some way, shape or form, all tied to the same subject.
For that very reason, that subject occupies the No. 1 spot on our list of the year’s top stories.
Of all the decisions ever made in the history of decisions, putting COVID-19 in the No. 1 spot on our list was, by leaps and bounds, the easiest.
The first mention of COVID-19 on a Beeville Bee-Picayune front page came in the Feb. 20 edition with a feature story about Sinton native Wally Trevino, who was in quarantine in Beijing.
“There’s no one on the streets. No one. Beijing’s big. There’s around 25 million people in the city and when you go out, nobody’s here,” Trevino said for that story, delivering some ominous foreshadowing of what would follow across the United States as the coronavirus pandemic gripped the nation and forced the closure of businesses, public facilities and schools.
Unemployment, which had been at record lows in the early part of 2020 according to numerous reports, skyrocketed as the booming economy plunged back to Great Recession-like lows.
By March, masks and social distancing had become the new normal.
Between that first mention of the virus in the Feb. 20 edition and the Aug. 6 edition (the first to have no coronavirus-related stories on the front page since that first mention), a span of 23 issues, 48 of the 102 stories that appeared on the front page featured COVID-19 as the primary topic.
In total, through our Dec. 24 edition last week, 58 front-page stories have been coronavirus-centric.
Numbers like that make it impossible not to put the story everyone is tired of hearing about in our top spot.
The topic figures to linger into 2021 as well as the pandemic rages on.
2. Texas Mile
Beeville was able to celebrate some good news in early October when it was announced that the Texas Mile would return to Chase Field for the first time since 2016.
The event’s return to the place it called home for five years comes in at No. 2 in our list of the top stories of 2020.
The Beeville Development Authority started off the 10th month of the year with the announcement that it had agreed to a deal with Jay and Shannon Matus to bring the popular racing event back to Chase Field.
The Texas Mile, which began in Goliad in 2003, had called Beeville home from 2011 through 2016 before a dispute with the BDA over liability insurance forced the Matuses to move the event to Victoria.
In early September, changes at the Victoria Regional Airport forced the Matuses to seek a new a venue, which prompted the move back to Beeville.
“Elated. You can use the word elated,” S. Matus said at the time about moving back to Beeville.
“As soon as people starting hearing that we were coming back ... they were like, ‘We’re so glad you’re coming back. Y’all are such an important part of this community.’”
The first event back in Beeville was held Oct. 30 through Nov. 1.
The next Texas Mile event is slated for March.
3. Garza East closure
The No. 3 story on our countdown comes from our Feb. 27 issue when it was formally announced that the Garza East Unit would be shuttered by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
The announcement came as a shock to employees as well as county and city leaders, none of whom were given advance notice of the closure.
“I just found out about an hour ago from a TDCJ public release,” then-Beeville City Manager Joe Montez said at the time.
The closure was announced via a news release sent out on Feb. 20 by Senator John Whitmire. The release also announced the closure of the Jester I Unit in Sugar Land.
At the time, the prison employed 442 people with the TDCJ announcing that it would transfer those employees to other units, including the Garza West and McConnell units, which are located adjacent to the shuttered unit.
4. Moreno steps down
The year wasn’t a week old when our No. 4 story in the countdown broke with Stephanie Moreno announcing that she was leaving the bench as the Beeville County Judge.
The A.C. Jones and Coastal Bend College alumna announced on Jan. 3 that she was resigning to become the executive director of the South Texas Energy and Economic Roundtable (STEER).
Moreno was just a year into her first full four-year term as the county judge when she made the announcement. She had initially been appointed to fill the vacancy left by the death of David Silvas in May 2015, then won a special election to remain on the bench for the final two years of that term.
“I feel like we have been able to accomplish so much,” Moreno said at the time. “Every year, I gave myself three goals to accomplish, and we have accomplished that and more.”
Local attorney Trace Morrill was appointed to county judge after Moreno’s exit. He then formally won the right to the remaining years in the term in November’s general election.
5. Computer viruses
Our countdown of the top stories of the year began with a virus, so it’s only fitting that it conclude with a virus as well.
Our No. 5 story is the computer viruses that hit both Coastal Bend College and Skidmore-Tynan ISD this year.
In February, the college announced a short closure of its campus as a result of what they called a “network disruption” at the time.
By early March, as the closure had stretched to weeks, and the fuzzy details of a hacking attempt started to come into focus as the college admitted that its computer systems had been attacked by a virus that crippled access to portions of the college’s data.
“It encrypts the data so you can’t open it until you get the key,” Dr. Justin Hoggard, the college’s president, said at the time.
The college was able to beat that virus, only to see the coronavirus ultimately shut down the campus and bring a premature end to the seasons for the school’s two spring sports teams.
Then, in September, Skidmore-Tynan ISD, just days after welcoming students back to campus for face-to-face learning, was hit with a ransomware attack.
“It wiped us out,” said Superintendent Richard Waterhouse at the time.
The attack led the district to cancel all classes, both in-person and online.
The district, like the college, was eventually able to clear the virus that caused the attack from its system with the help of the Texas Education Agency and the FBI.