- ILLUSTRATION BY RYAN WILLIAMSON
The last 12 months have been repeatedly called a “lost year” — with the pandemic having taken something from each of us to one degree or another.
For most people, the last year was about canceled vacations and sports seasons, the proliferation of remote work and online learning, and severe bouts of cabin fever. For some, though, the year took everything. The virus has had a tremendous mortal cost. As of this writing, the deaths of more than 1,100 people and counting in Monroe County have been attributed to the virus. For comparison sake, about 1,400 county residents die from heart disease each year.
Nationally, more than 500,000 lives have been lost to COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center, and the virus had killed almost 2.5 million people globally.
The pandemic, and the economic fallout around it, also ripped into people’s livelihoods. Roughly 22 million jobs were lost at one point in the last year, according to federal Labor Department data. The unemployment rate plunged to levels not seen since the Great Depression, a cruel setback considering that at the outset of the health crisis unemployment had been at a 50-year low. Only about half of those jobs have been recouped.
The blows kept coming. As people lost income, a potential housing crisis developed, prompting federal and state leaders to enact unprecedented foreclosure and eviction moratoriums.
Officials also suspended the collection of federally-owned student loans and zeroed out the interest rate on the debts. New York officials suspended the state’s collection of medical and student debts.
The virus may never be fully eradicated; Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House chief medical advisor and the nation’s most trusted voice on COVID-19, has said it’ll probably be endemic. That is, the virus will be ever-present like the common cold.
But the number of new COVID-19 cases are ebbing and every day more people are vaccinated, so the virus, it appears, will be under control soon enough.
Now it’s time to think about a post-pandemic future, and in doing so it would be wise to look back and consider what this global crisis has taught us. There are too many people with precarious jobs and too many of our neighbors who are one lost paycheck away from going hungry or a month away from losing the roofs over their heads.
The pandemic has shown that the country is working for too many people, particularly the vulnerable.
As we learn to live with COVID-19, let’s remember where we’ve been, and let’s be better.
Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.