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David Greene

The Black Lives Matter movement became an international phenomenon in 2020. As protesters took to the streets in cities across the U.S. in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, Minn., so did demonstrators in other countries — all with a similar message: Black lives matter.

"There is a George Floyd in every country," South Africa-based journalist Lynsey Chutel tells NPR's David Greene during a recent roundtable interview.

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From the outset, 2020 has been a roller coaster for R&B singer PJ Morton. It began in January when he won a Grammy and lost one of his heroes, basketball star Kobe Bryant.

"Of course, it's amazing to win a Grammy, but there was a dark cloud," Morton says. "So for me, even before the pandemic, it kind of started as a weird year."

The Morning Edition Song Project, in which musicians compose an original song about the COVID-19 era, returns this week with multi-genre singer-songwriter Thao Nguyen, leader of the band Thao & the Get Down Stay Down. Early this September, the San Francisco-based musician stepped onto her porch to find polluted air and falling ash — the fallout of the wildfires raging on the West Coast.

A dramatic upswing in COVID-19 cases and positivity rates in El Paso, Texas, has led officials to ask residents to stay at home for two weeks and to impose a mandatory countywide curfew.

Dr. Ogechika Alozie, chief medical officer of the Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso, told NPR's Morning Edition that as you walk through the intensive care unit "it hits you just how surreal and how strange this is."

It took Wisconsin more than seven months to reach 100,000 coronavirus cases. On Monday, just five weeks later, it reached 200,000.

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It's been a brutal year for Americans.

The relentless spread of COVID-19, the ensuing economic crisis and the reckoning around social injustice has made this a year like none other.

NPR wanted to know how these cataclysmic, consequential events have affected American families and how those experiences might shape their political choices in the upcoming presidential election.

The pandemic, a bad economy, police killings and a fight for racial equality: It's a lot of take in. For some, music has been a way to cope and try to make sense of it all and that is the premise behind the Morning Edition Song Project, in which we asked musicians to write and perform an original song about this moment.

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More than 100,000 Americans have now died from COVID-19.

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U.S. officials are publicly debating whether and how to open schools this fall. The testimony of Dr. Anthony Fauci is to be careful. Conditions around September will be far from ideal.

(SOUNDBITE OF SENATE HEARING)

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Is it time for states to reopen their economies? President Trump really wants it to happen. But the question is whether or not it's safe.

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People around the world are reporting that birds are much louder these days.

But Sue Anne Zollinger, an ornithologist from Manchester Metropolitan University, cautions: Don't believe everything you hear.

With the decrease in traffic, there's less noise pollution. That means birds have less noise to compete with, she says. (Scroll down to the end of this story to listen for yourself.)

Many Americans are spending a lot more time with their partners these days.

And some of those relationships are being tested by the inevitable "pressure-cooker" moments that come with weeks of being confined to the home in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

"What we're seeing is that there's a clash between the terrible anxiety about catching the virus and having to stay sequestered 24/7," says relationship therapist Julie Gottman.

So if a relationship is already on the rocks that anxiety, Gottman says, "has nowhere to go but towards the partner."

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