COVID-19: A Year in Review


Bethany Lee

On December 31, 2019, the Chinese government announced that they were treating dozens of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause in Wuhan, China. With little scientific understanding about where and how the virus evolved, researchers in China identified this as a novel coronavirus. With so much uncertainty among the American public and a lack of knowledge about the coronavirus, we never suspected that the virus would soon come to the forefront of our daily lives. We believed that the virus would be a problem limited to China, alone, and we did not even consider the reality of having our normal lives upended and restricted by state and government restrictions. 

As we continued to go about our daily lives with little to no concern about the coronavirus entering our country, we took minimal precautions to limit what seemed like a disease which was not uneasily transmissible through humans. Families and friends went on winter break sans COVID-19 of much concern and returned around the New Year to learn that China had reported its first death attributed to the virus. With such an unprecedented pandemic on the horizon, the United States and other countries scrambled to implement measures to combat the virus. Unfortunately, some of these measures were too little, too late, and by January 21, 2020, the first case of the coronavirus was reported in Washington. Nevertheless, Americans were still swayed by the notion that the virus could be easily contained. No one expected the altered state of living that was to come. 

As we all have seen for ourselves, COVID-19 started to make more and more headlines as time progressed. We started spiraling down and entering a reality that no one expected to escalate the way it did: Chinese authorities closed off Wuhan to the rest of China, the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency, the Trump administration restricted travel from China, and this was just the start. States started imposing stay-at-home orders, and only essential workers were permitted to leave their homes. Borders were shut, mandates were implemented, businesses were shuttered, Americans lost jobs, and economies experienced downturns and recessions for fear of what the virus had the potential to do. 

At this point, fear loomed in everyone’s minds and wreaked every corner of the globe. It felt as though there was no light at the end of the tunnel, and that we would be stuck in this unforeseen reality for as long as time permitted. Americans sought solace in a clear path forward, but no one had a definitive answer. 

The scientific community now has a much more informed understanding of the coronavirus. Had it been clear from the start who the vulnerable population was and how we should have responded to the outbreak, a number of these deaths potentially could have been prevented. However, it is important to recognize that no one had that foresight to predict a virus of this nature. We all experienced something unlike anything most of us have ever witnessed, and everyone struggled to remain clear-headed while trying to navigate the best path forward. To date, there have been over 117 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and almost 2.6 million deaths worldwide. These daunting numbers should serve as a constant reminder of our responsibility to keep others and ourselves safe by taking whatever precautions necessary to curb the spread. 

Over a year after the initial outbreak of the coronavirus, it is about time that we reflect on the past year and the challenges and triumphs that have been made by each and every one of us. First, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to spend more time with my family. It has made me more thankful for every moment I get to spend with them. Second, although communication with my friends and peers was made more difficult, it taught me the importance of reaching out and checking in on those who you care about, whether that be your best friend or acquaintance. I know to never take for granted the relationships and friendships I have, for each one of them plays an important role in my life. Finally, I learned that there is no excuse to halt your endeavors to serve the community. Do whatever it takes to make a positive impact as a way of giving back to the community and people around you that have sacrificed so much to get to the point where we are today.