1 year after 1st COVID death, New Yorkers show resilience in face of unimaginable loss

Coronavirus

NEW YORK CITY — Sunday marked one year since the first known COVID-19 death in New York was reported. 

The 82-year-old woman was hospitalized in critical condition at Wyckoff Heights Medical Center Emergency Room in Brooklyn on March 3, 2020 and died on March 13, 2020. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced her death the following day.

In the past 365 days, the virus has killed more than 39,000 residents statewide, although the true death toll is thought to be much higher given the lack of testing capabilities at the beginning of the pandemic.

Read more: Coronavirus continuing coverage

New Yorkers and officials across the state are honoring the solemn anniversary with online or socially distanced vigils, memorials and ceremonies.

In New York City, a virtual Day of Remembrance was planned for Sunday night. Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to take part in the ceremony, which will honor the approximately 30,000 city residents killed by the coronavirus.

The event, available via livestream on the city’s website and social media platforms, is set for 7:45 p.m.

For many in New York, the first fatalities brought home the reality that the pandemic was no longer some distant, foreign threat. 

Officials rushed to close businesses and schools. By early April, New York City was averaging 750 deaths per day.

Hundreds of families were forced to say goodbye to their loved ones via video conferencing, as hospitals could not allow next of kin to access rooms and risk exposure to the virus.

Read more: Faces of the Pandemic

Hospitals, morgues and funeral homes became overwhelmed by the staggering number of deaths. Freezer trucks were brought in to store bodies.

Stunned New Yorkers hunkered down in their homes as the surge of virus infections, hospitalizations and deaths overtook the city and state like a tsunami.

However, even in the face of anxiety and despair, there were glimmers of hope and resilience. 

New Yorkers stood at their windows at 7 p.m. daily and cheered for the front-line essential health care workers battling the virus in hospitals across the five boroughs. 

Out-of-work performers serenaded their neighbors, offering comfort in a time of uncertainty. 

Community fridges popped up in neighborhoods to help the staggering number of families and individuals who were unsure where their next meal would come from as unemployment numbers soared

Restaurant owners, faced with their own entrepreneurial uncertainty, turned their kitchens into food pantries to help their communities.

As New Yorkers reflect on a year of unimaginable loss and societal upheaval, a new source of hope has emerged as the United States ramps up distribution of three COVID-19 vaccines. 

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While demand far outstrips current supply, the state has managed to fully vaccinate over 2.2 million New Yorkers. 

President Joe Biden directed states to make all adults eligible for the vaccine by May 1, and outlined a plan to get the U.S. “closer to normal” by July 4.

APTOPIX Virus Outbreak New York
Sandra Lindsay, left, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, is inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by Dr. Michelle Chester, Monday, Dec. 14, 2020, in the Queens borough of New York. Lindsay was the first person in the country to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in a non-trial setting. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, Pool)

A year after the first COVID-19 deaths, New Yorkers have shown their ability to adapt

The renewal is evident in laughter wafting from outdoor dining sheds built on the streets in front of restaurants; in the parks filled with picnics, birthday gatherings and dance parties, despite the winter chill.

Businesses are welcoming customers back after putting up sheets of plastic to protect cashiers and laying tape on the floor to keep patrons socially distant.

The newly passed $1.9 trillion federal COVID relief package gives reason for hope, too, with city officials saying it will offer almost $6 billion in direct aid to New York, as well as money for public transportation systems and funding to help restaurants survive.

This story comprises reporting from The Associated Press.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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