That was the distressing note sounded Sunday by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who warned that this “is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives.”
In New York, we’ve grown accustomed to the steady drumbeat of bad COVID-19 news -- to the rising number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths, hundreds of them, every day. Hearing that it’s going to get worse is incredibly disheartening. And if you’re wondering when things will get better, well, you’re not alone.
Thankfully, there is some good news.
There are signs that the social distancing we’ve been practicing for the past month is having an impact.
Over the past few days, the total number of new hospitalizations, ICU admissions and daily intubations in New York have decreased, while deaths from COVID-19 have plateaued. Discharges are going up.
On Friday, the number of deaths peaked at 630, but on both Sunday and Monday fewer than 600 deaths were reported. The number of people hospitalized ticked up, from 16,479 to 16,837, a 2 percent increase. After a long stretch when the number hospitalized with coronavirus grew by 20 percent to 30 percent a day, this represents significant progress.
Don’t break out the champagne yet, though -- we have a long way to go before the state’s COVID-19 outbreak is under control.
The number of deaths and hospitalizations in New York are still high, which means the state’s hospital system and healthcare workers are under a great deal of stress.
And it’s still early -- we don’t know whether current trends will continue.
Even a slight rise in deaths will feel like a major step backward, and cause for despair.
That said, I’m optimistic.
After weeks of trending in the wrong direction, the numbers are finally trending in the right direction.
If they continue to do so, it will be a sign that the state’s decision to close schools and non-essential businesses, cancel events and urge people to stay home was the right one -- that these extreme measures have started to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of COVID-19.
Like everyone, I’m impatient for life to return to normal.
I’m tired of seeing the grim numbers of COVID-related deaths and hospitalizations. I’m tired of social distancing. I’m tired of worrying about how and where coronavirus is spreading through the country, state and local community.
Knowing that we might be making progress in our fight against COVID-19 gives me hope.
It also makes me think the sacrifices we’re making have been worth it.
Those sacrifices will continue for some time: On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that non-essential businesses and schools would remain closed through the end of the month, and warned New Yorkers against becoming complacent.
I don’t feel complacent, though I do take comfort in the state’s improving COVID-19 numbers.
We might be in for a hard, sad month.
But there are already reasons to believe things might be getting better.