NEW YORK (PIX11) — Tuesday marks two years since the first known case of COVID-19 was identified and announced in New York City. A Manhattan woman in her 30s contracted the virus after traveling to Iran. By early April, New York had become the epicenter of the new and terrifying coronavirus pandemic.
Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former Mayor Bill de Blasio warned residents of what was at stake, but no one foresaw the true toll the virus would take.
“Prepare for the worst hope for the best, we have mobilized for emergencies before and we’ll do it again,” Cuomo had said during a news conference.
COVID continued to quickly spread across the state and the country as hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and toilet paper flew off the shelves. Hospitals became overwhelmed, businesses closed and students went from learning in classrooms to living rooms. The city was on lockdown, loved ones were lost, and New Yorkers clapped to show their support for their health care heroes.
By early fall 2020, another surge of cases hit New York City. The virus and its new variants continued to transform the way New Yorkers lived their lives, from dining outdoors and meetings on Zoom to increased testing, quarantine, and discourse over potential life-saving vaccines.
Then in December 2020, hope turned into history when the state welcomed its first batch of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Health care and other essential workers were first to get the vaccine, followed by the nation’s most vulnerable populations. After several months, the vaccine was available to anyone over 18 years old who wanted one — and officials offered everything from concert tickets and museum admission to cash and full-ride scholarships to state colleges to convince people to get vaccinated.
As the virus continued to mutate, New Yorkers adapted to — or protested — changing COVID-19 health and safety measures. In 2021, state and city leaders rolled out vaccine mandates, businesses reopened, students returned to classrooms, and the arts and entertainment saw a revival.
The recent omicron surge reminded New Yorkers the virus has not gone away, but there are new medical and scientific tools that can lessen the potential for severe illness and death. Now, as long as case numbers remain low, Mayor Eric Adams plans to eliminate school mask mandates and vaccine requirements as one of the nation’s first epicenters of the pandemic turns a new page.