COVID-19 in New York: 1 year of striking, painful developments

It was a Sunday night on March 1, 2020. The newsroom was relatively quiet with just a light crew of staff on the assignment desk. No one inside our office was wearing masks. Why should we? Phrases like "social distance" and "flatten the curve" had not yet registered in our vocabulary. The infection was close, but it hadn't arrived yet.

That would all change just minutes before our 10 p.m. newscast. The email came in from the New York Health Department: The city had its first case of the novel coronavirus.

Within the hour, my colleague Mac King and I were on the anchor desk discussing the few details released publicly. We were only sitting a few feet apart talking about the new case.

It is strange to see two people without masks sitting that close now. But back then… well, back then things were normal.

The first COVID-19 patient in New York City was a woman in her 30s who'd recently traveled to Iran. She was isolated at home. Health officials described her symptoms as mild.

By the next morning, the governor and mayor held a joint press conference. Everyone from the news crews and health officials were packed in. No masks.

ARCHIVE: Manhattan woman is first coronavirus case in New York [March 1, 2020]

The first wave crushed the tristate. The rest of the country would be next.

Among the hardest hit hospitals in our area was Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, New Jersey. The Bergen County town is not far from the George Washington Bridge.

President and CEO Michael Maron said that in the early days of the outbreak, everyone on his staff "rallied" and even "built tents" to help deal with the influx of patients. They also eventually created seven new intensive care units and to keep up with the waves of infections. They now have 300 so-called IsoPods.

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"A Fiberglass container over a patient, connected to a negative pressure tube to basically suck any virus in the air out," he said.

It's innovation in the face of the worst health crisis in modern history.

One year ago, 90,000 people around the world had come down with the virus. That number is now 114 million. About 3,000 people had died. The death toll is now 2.5 million.

COVID-19 in New York: 1 year later, a changed city and world

What those numbers do not reflect the millions of people still suffering from long-term symptoms. They are known as COVID long haulers. Diana Berrent is the founder of Survivor Corps, the largest grassroots group dedicated to helping people with long-term symptoms. Berrent has COVID-induced Glaucoma.

"I still have recurring headaches," she said. 

Berrent also said she recently had "COVID toes," which is swelling and discoloration in the toes, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. COVID toes can also cause blisters, itching, and pain. Some people develop painful raised bumps or areas of rough skin.

New York and New Jersey embrace arrival of Johnson & Johnson vaccine

She is hopeful the worst is behind us with positive recent news about vaccines. Her organization also launched the website to help people find antibodies treatment. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio is also looking back on the public health disaster. He said statewide lockdowns should have been declared sooner but he is also optimistic moving forward. The city vaccinated more than 300,000 people last week. The mayor wants to increase it soon to half a million people.