COVID-19 one year later: Revisiting a world on the precipice of a global pandemic

Coronavirus

(NewsNation Now) — Thursday marks one year since the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a global pandemic. On March 11, 2020, confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide stood at 125,000, and reported deaths stood at less than 5,000.

On that day, Italy closed shops and restaurants, locking down after 10,000 reported infections. The NBA suspended its season, and Tom Hanks, filming a movie in Australia, announced he was infected with the virus.

On that evening, then-President Donald Trump addressed the nation from the Oval Office, announcing restrictions on travel from Europe that set off a trans-Atlantic scramble. Airports flooded with unmasked crowds in the days that followed. Soon, they were empty. So many of the photographs feature unmasked faces, and to 2021 eyes it is jarring. 

And that, for much of the world, was just the beginning.

As of Wednesday, there have been more than 117 million confirmed coronavirus cases globally and more than 2.6 million people worldwide have died from the virus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. No one has been untouched by the virus.

Not the Michigan woman who awakened one morning, her wife dead by her side. Not the domestic worker in Mozambique, her livelihood threatened by the virus. Not the North Carolina mother who struggled to keep her business and her family going amid rising hate crimes against Asian Americans. Not the sixth-grader, exiled from the classroom in the blink of an eye.

“I expected to go back after that week,” said Darelyn Maldonado, now 12. “I didn’t think that it would take years.”

Roughly 10 million jobs were lost in the United States because of the pandemic and getting those jobs back is proven to be a struggle. Millions of jobs lost likely won’t come back — especially at employers that require face-to-face contact with consumers: Hotels, restaurants, retailers, entertainment venues.

Vaccines have provided a glimmer of hope in 2021 along with new long-awaited guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fully vaccinated Americans can now gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing, the CDC announced Tuesday.

The recommendations also say that vaccinated people can come together in the same way with people considered at low-risk for severe diseases, such as in the case of vaccinated grandparents visiting healthy children and grandchildren.

The guidance is designed to address a growing demand, as more adults have been getting vaccinated and wondering if it gives them greater freedom to visit family members, travel, or do other things like they did before the pandemic.

Even as vaccines increasingly promise a return to something close to normal life, emerging virus variants are a cause for concern.

Public health experts tracking the trajectory of more contagious virus variants have warned that lifting restrictions too soon could lead to another lethal wave of infections.

The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Wednesday the best estimate when enough people are immune to end the outbreak range between 70-85% of the population — a figure expected to be attained by late summer or early fall.

About 9.7% of the U.S. population, or 32 million people, have been fully inoculated with COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer Inc/ BioNTech SE, Moderna Inc and Johnson & Johnson, according to CDC data.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has warned of a potential for a fourth wave of cases in the U.S., saying, “We have the ability to stop that from happening if Americans continue to follow public health protocols, including masking, washing hands and social distancing.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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