It’s been roughly one year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Every city, state, and family has their own way of commemorating the anniversary of the global health crisis, and the worst may be over.
On Thursday, March 11th, 2021, President Joe Biden will address the American people as he reflecting on this historic occasion. Specifically, the day marks the one-year anniversary since the World Health Organization declared the global pandemic. That same day, former President Trump gave a press conference announcing that he would halt travel to and from Europe and that he was “marshaling the full power of the federal government” to confront the growing crisis.
So, one year later, where are we, and where do we go from here?
The anniversary is giving everyone a chance to reflect on the last twelve months. People are sharing #TheMoment, currently trending on social media, when they realized their lives would never be the same.
From shutdowns and canceled plans to empty shelves at the grocery store, the stories feel familiar and eerily recent. Others are using the opportunity to remember the last “normal” experience they shared with friends and family.
As Susan Goold, MD, MHSA, MA, FACP wrote on Twitter, “Saw patient with fever, shortness of breath, cough. Paged infectious disease for permission to test for COVID, at that time limited to those with recent travel from China. “We know it’s in the community now,” I said. Allowed to swab for flu, hold for COVID test if flu (-).”
Survivors like Marissa Tirona recall the series of events that led to their hospitalization. “On 3/6, our daughter’s school sent an email abt a possible move to remote learning. On 3/8, my office closed down due to Covid-19 exposure. I worried abt my family’s safety. 9 days later I went into the ICU where I fought for my life for 49 days. #TheMoment,” Tirona wrote.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
Health experts across the U.S. are slowly reaching consensus: the worst of the pandemic may be over.
The vaccination rate is increasing, while the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continues to decline. On Saturday alone, 2.9 million Americans were vaccinated, showing just how far we’ve come since the end of December.
However, around 60,000 people are still getting infected with the virus and hundreds are dying every single day. New variants pose a threat as well. And it’s likely that tens of thousands of Americans will pass away in the months and weeks to come.
But health experts like Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown School of Public Health, remain cautiously optimistic as long as people don’t let down their guard too soon.
“There’s only one way to stop this, which is to stop infections. And the best way to do that is to kind of keep things under control, like not let up on social restrictions, and vaccinate like crazy. And if we do that, we will be in a very different place in two months. Maybe even sooner than two months,” Dr. Jha told the Brown Daily Herald.
If we want the worst to be over, people still need to wear masks and avoid large crowds to keep the variants from spreading until the bulk of the population can get vaccinated. Another possible caveat is that the national vaccination program needs to hit its mark.
As of now, President Biden plans to have enough doses for every adult in the U.S. by the end of May. A large percentage of the population already has some immunity from the virus. According to the latest vaccination statistics, 93.7 million doses have been administered in the USA. Worldwide, 319 million doses have been administered across 118 countries.
As Dr. Fauci recently told NPR, “If all goes well, if we stick by the public health measures, if we effectively vaccinate, I think we are looking at a brighter future over the next several months. That’s entirely conceivable and probably likely.”
Experts believe summer 2021 will be much better than last year, but not quite the return to normal many of us are hoping for. We should see more people traveling, sporting events, weddings, and summer camps.
In the fall, virtual learning will likely be a thing of the past, but kids will likely still have to wear face masks. The available COVID-19 vaccines have only been approved for those ages 16 and above. Dr. Fauci predicts vaccines for kids as young as first-graders could get approved by September, and some young children won’t get the vaccine until late 2021 or early 2022.
Fauci adds, “It is conceivable and probably likely by the time we get to the fall, late fall, early winter, by the end of this year, that we will have a gradual but very noticeable and important return to some form of normality, maybe almost exactly like we were before.”
There’s a possibility that the virus could surge again in certain hotspots due to new variants. We could also see a seasonal wave of infections in the winter. The population may have to get vaccinated again if the virus mutates in the years to come, but the worst may be over.
There’s so much we still don’t understand about the pandemic and all the damage it caused. It’s not clear what life will look when we all emerge from our homes. The last 12 months may forever change the way we travel, learn, and interact with each other. From race relations to caring for the elderly, nothing may ever be the same again.