THE YEAR OF COVID: Bright spots and low points in the pandemic

Finnegan Ackerbauer of Johnstown is all smiles after creating an illustration for the 518 Rainbow Hunt, a literal bright spot in the pandemic.
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Finnegan Ackerbauer of Johnstown is all smiles after creating an illustration for the 518 Rainbow Hunt, a literal bright spot in the pandemic.

Many things went wrong during the COVID crisis — it wouldn’t be a crisis if nothing had gone wrong.

But many things went right, as well.

In no particular order of significance, here’s a sampling of pandemic highlights and lowlights in the Capital Region and New York state.

  • Millions of New Yorkers lose their jobs as the state puts the economy on pause; to date, just over 5 million initial jobless claims have been filed during the pandemic.
  • State Department of Labor intake systems initially are overwhelmed by massive demand; many newly unemployed people are unable to submit claims.
  • Drive-through food distribution events proliferate, providing much-needed (and socially distanced) help to people suddenly without income.
  • The Capital Region economy rebounds considerably but not completely, with unemployment dropping from 12.6% in April to 5.3% in December; this compares with 3.3% and 3.7% in April and December 2019.
  • Strong control measures by the state or a natural cycle of the COVID virus (or both) lead to New York enjoying a remarkable comeback in late spring, summer and early autumn; infection rates plunge even as many other states struggle with their own surges.
  • Carelessness by the populace or a natural cycle of the COVID virus (or both) lead to a major resurgence of the virus in New York in late autumn and early winter; this time, the impact is felt more heavily upstate.
  • A rainbow hunt begins on Facebook in Scotia amid the depths of the first-surge lockdown; #518rainbow goes viral (in a good way) as colorful renditions become ubiquitous across the region and beyond.
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo gains a national audience with a series of daily briefings that provide a sense of crisis leadership sometimes lacking at the federal level.
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo is hailed and excoriated for leadership that is either brilliant, imperious, successful, a failure, too late, too strong, exactly strong enough, or just plain wrong, depending on who’s talking.
  • Nursing homes become ground zero in the pandemic, which mainly kills the elderly; more than 15,000 die in New York eldercare facilities.
  • With lessons learned from high death tolls in the early surge, some nursing homes remain COVID-free in the second surge.
  • Despite lessons learned, some nursing homes that were COVID-free for most of 2020 suffer a terrible death toll in late 2020 and early 2021.
  • No large baby boom results from couples being locked down together in the spring, but many families grow nonetheless — with COVID kittens and pandemic puppies.
  • Instead of (or in addition to) making babies or adopting pets, some couples begin fighting; domestic violence reports surge statewide.
  • Health care workers are in an odd position: many are laid off because nonessential medical care is all but halted, many others work long hours at high risk caring for COVID patients. Restaurants and organizations donate meals to hospitals to feed these front-line heroes.
  • The pandemic poses an existential threat to restaurants and other eateries; a few close for good, others go into hibernation, but many adapt and survive the year with takeout, delivery and outdoor dining.
  • All the vacations and restaurant meals that aren’t being purchased leave lots of discretionary funds in some people’s pockets; a surge of lifestyle and recreational spending is seen, including boats, bikes, home appliances and swimming pools.
  • The first doses of vaccine are pumped into New Yorkers’ shoulders in mid-December, the start of a massive campaign that could end the pandemic.
  • Shortages of vaccine from the federal government and a fragmented delivery system in New York cause widespread anger and frustration; by late February, federal data show New York 38th among the 50 states in doses administered per-capita.

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Categories: News, Schenectady County

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