The front lines of the pandemic and the strength of New York
Traditions as we knew them came to an abrupt halt before last year’s St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Streets that are usually filled with parades, people, and whistles have instead become eerily empty.
This was the last time we as New Yorkers knew “normal”. The last time before the virus changed our world.
What you need to know
- Heroes take many forms during this pandemic. A look back at the strength of New Yorkers during the COVID-19 crisis
- From the fronts in the hospitals to the lines in the grocery stores, New Yorkers do their part
- Some worked long hours to keep us safe while others said a socially distant hello to make someone smile during a difficult time
“You’re always within 6 feet of a person so we have to take really aggressive action,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said during an interview at the NY Capitol in March 2020.
In the midst of mandates and standstills, the hospitals filled up. Those on the front lines of our health system have reached their limits and have fought for every life they could.
“That’s why people go into medicine. People go into medicine because they want to take care of everyone anytime, anywhere, ”said Dr. David McKenna, President of Albany Medical Center, during a press conference outside the hospital in March 2020.
McKenna said the hospital was equipped for the worst. Meanwhile, thousands of doctors, nurses, specialists, rescue workers, and other first responders in our state have worked day and night to respond to the growing numbers of people who flock to hospitals. Every day it became clear early on that critical items like personal protective equipment and ventilators were getting thin. Soon after, the nurses at Albany Medical Center raised their concerns.
“You don’t send a soldier into battle without a weapon, and we think that’s happening to us,” said Hannah Mumford, a nurse at Albany Medical Center.
New York would hit 30,000 deaths in a single month, and those lingering waves would continue throughout the year and into the holidays. Hospitals like St. Joseph’s did as well as they could during the holiday season.
“I can’t be dishonest, it’s stressful. We are facing a time when we have all been through a lot. We’re trying to do our best and it’s difficult, ”said Philip Falcone, St. Joseph’s Hospital Chief Medical Officer.
The virus grabbed our neighbors, friends and families and claimed the lives of young and old.Angela Padula is a COVID-19 survivor in the capital region. She lost her fiancé to the virus. A young couple who went from planning a wedding to a widow planning a funeral.
“Do people want to go back to normal? If you get it you will never have a normal one, ”said Padula. “I’ll never have a normal one; My fiance’s family will never have a normal one. “
While our state’s health heroes put themselves at risk to save others. Lizzie Buchanan is a nurse from Troy who caught COVID working on the front lines. She continues to struggle against the effects of the virus long after she has recovered.
“We did everything we should and the virus still almost got me – it’s just a reminder that sometimes things happen,” Buchanan said.
Meanwhile, in New York’s grocery stores, the workers who allowed us to keep the fridges full were on the forefront. The definition of “essential worker” changed practically overnight.
“We face hundreds, if not thousands, of people every week. There is a risk associated with every single interaction we have,” said Foster Cooper, cashier at Green Star Food Co-Op.
When schools closed and classrooms turned into zoom calls, school staff worked to feed New York’s children who were dependent on school meals. Volunteers began delivering hundreds of thousands of meals to needy students across the state every day.
“I love to see their smile when they come and say thanks and how much it means to them,” said Yvette Boniello, a volunteer at Middletown’s Middies Meals on the Move.
With the closings and restrictions, small businesses and restaurants have struggled to keep their doors open. Waiters and other restaurant staff struggling to keep themselves busy. Even through the hardships, small business owners were still trying to look after their own.
“Many people in the restaurant community typically eat a meal or two a day at work. We wanted to make sure they could support themselves and their families,” said Dominick Purnomo, local restaurant owner and founder of the nonprofit. “Feed Albany”.
Companies of all kinds have done their best to achieve some normalcy in 2020.
“People really appreciate that we were able to stay open and follow the guidelines to keep everyone safe for our employees and customers. But it’s also a part of their lives that is still normal, ”said Tom Santurri, a Dunkin franchisee in Central New York.
While the food was restricted, people were still doing their best to support the local business with takeout and delivery. Some families even came to the plate to run the business while others were sick.
“It’s just so touching to see a community come together and help,” said Adel Cekic, who runs his family’s restaurant while his father battles COVID-19.
This year, shopping looked different during the holidays – when delivery drivers and postal workers tackled an overwhelming influx of packages and worked overtime to get to the door on time.
“People order dreams and opportunities, and that’s what we offer,” said Seth Siemucha, postmaster at the Niagara Falls post office.
And those charged with serving and protecting protected us and our communities as best they could from the virus.
“They are [the] first line of defense. You are our most important. The most important key right now is to keep her healthy and safe, ”said Craig Apple, Albany County Sheriff.
The bravest and best in the state were in defense. As more positive cases were found in the ranks, they meant longer hours and more shifts for the rest.
“That’s the risk of this job. It’s no different than going into a burning building, is it? You’re exposed to things, ”said Eric Wisher, president of the Troy Uniform Firefighters Association.
But during this time, first responders also spread cheers throughout the community and helped make the most of complete strangers. Car parades for birthdays, relatives or just to say help helped unite socially distant neighbors. Helped many by simply putting a smile on someone’s face or lifting the spirits of some lonely people.
“How can you get so many people out there to wish someone a happy birthday?” Asked 95-year-old WII veteran Fred Muscanell, who was surprised by a parade on his birthday.
Other neighbors used their talents to touch the lives of complete strangers. Steve Derrick had to paint to honor those who gave everything to help others who are sick.
“Being able to touch someone and make them feel good is all the reason you do,” said Derrick.
Heroes take many forms during this pandemic. It was an unprecedented year and the road to recovery has not been easy. But each person, big or small, has done their own part and shown the strength of New Yorkers.