2020 – The Pandemic Year

December 30th, 2020

We returned home to New York from Florida in late January 2020. I was optimistic about a new year filled with travel plans & trips, visiting family, going to concerts & the theater, exercising, and enjoying my 74th year.

Now, at the end of the year, the best thing I can say about the last twelve months is: “We survived 2020!” Since I’ve been grounded and unable to travel, I decided to publish my story of the most awful year we have experienced since the Pandemic of 1918, the Depression, and World Wars.

February 2020: Our lives were relatively normal through most of the cold dark month of February in New York: walks in the neighborhood, doctor’s appointments, food shopping, eating in restaurants, reading, visiting family and friends. However, reports of a new “Corona Virus” – Covid 19 began to circulate.

March 2020: I had dinner with a friend at my favorite Japanese restaurant, Hajime, in Harrison, NY on March 3rd. “Hajime” means ‘beginning’ in English. I didn’t know that it would be the last time I would be able to eat in a restaurant for the entire year. Also this month, one of my French cousins traveled to San Francisco with her singing group and returned home with Covid 19. Fortunately, after many weeks of sickness at her home, she recovered.

The first case of Covid-19 virus in New York State was confirmed on March 3rd in the city of New Rochelle about 30 miles from our house in Westchester County. Afterwards, everything began to change. The shutdowns began…..

Businesses and schools began to close. Supermarkets had special early-hours for senior citizens, because the elderly population was more vulnerable to the virus. People lined up to buy groceries everywhere. Because there was so much uncertainty and fear of “the unknown,” stores ran out of paper products, sugar, flour, meat, milk, bottled water and other staples as people stocked up with emergency supplies. My local Stop ‘n’ Shop:

Broadway went ‘dark’ in New York City and there were severe restrictions on the number of people in any group. The daily Covid death count reached 800 in the city.

April 2020: The days became longer and spring slowly unfolded. Everything shut down: only “essential” businesses were allowed to open: food stores and gas stations. All other businesses, schools, libraries, restaurants, movie theaters, etc. closed in an effort to contain the virus.

We were were given a “Stay at Home” order and asked to wear masks, wash hands frequently, socially distance, and limit contact with other people.

Governor Cuomo gave daily briefings on television informing viewers about the spread of the virus, number of hospitalizations, and deaths in New York City, across the state, and globally. The number of cases of Covid soared out of control all across Europe.

The City became a quiet ‘ghost town’ with very little traffic and few people:

People everywhere in our New York region tried to socially distance:

Meanwhile, here in suburban Westchester County, spring flowers began to bloom in their natural annual progression despite the raging virus.

Governor Cuomo demonstrated strong leadership in his daily briefings:

May 2020 Covid hospitalizations and deaths increased to alarming levels. There wasn’t enough protective gear or masks for hospital emergency workers, doctors or nurses; hospital beds and intensive care units filled rapidly. New York City had the highest number of cases in the country. “Seniors” continued to stay home…..

New York City remained closed – all businesses, museums, restaurants. We were advised to stay home and wear masks outside and socially distance.

In the middle of all this, with the warming temperatures of spring, a family of red squirrels moved into our basement! We called a wildlife expert who set live-traps and eventually removed a mother squirrel and five babies…..

Governor Cuomo continued to encourage New Yorkers to “do the right thing” and he imposed strict rules for businesses and schools. With diligence, our numbers of hospitalizations and deaths slowly decreased.

We learned about the Pandemic of 1918. Experts made comparisons to our current Covid-19 epidemic and most New Yorkers attempted to learn from it.

Unfortunately, guided by the lack of leadership of the federal government and the deplorable example of the current president, the Covid-19 virus began to spread rapidly across the country.

Experts in the medical field spoke out daily. You would have thought that the rest of the country would have learned from our New York example, BUT they didn’t…..

Meanwhile, most New Yorkers remained vigilant and many people, especially seniors, continued to stay home to protect ourselves and others. With strict practices, we began to be successful to defeat the deadly virus.

June 2020: We rolled into a new month and New York State continued its fight against Covid-19. Schools were closed and struggled to institute “virtual learning.” Stores, restaurants, bars, were shuttered. Businesses were still closed with more fortunate employees working from home. Millions of people lost their jobs.

As New York State seemed to slowly win the battle against the virus, Covid continued to spread rapidly across the country. The U.S. president rejected scientists’ advice and the warnings of medical advisors. He was not capable of learning from our New York experience with Covid-19. He continued to deny the existence of the pandemic and advised states to “open” businesses and schools. He cared more about money than people’s lives.

Tensions across the country ran high. On May 25th, George Floyd, an innocent black man, was killed by police officers in Minneapolis, setting off a national wave of civil protests and highlighting the serious need for police reforms.

Young people in my town organized a demonstration to support justice and equality for black Americans. Despite the real fears of contracting Covid-19, many hundreds of local people turned out to march across town.

Governor Cuomo continued his daily briefings and demonstrated solid leadership during these incredibly challenging times. He remained strong in the battle against Covid-19 and supported peaceful protests. By mid-June the number of Covid positive cases decreased in New York and the state began the slow process of “re-opening.”

The weather improved: warm sunny days and life began to look hopeful.

Unfortunately, the rest of the United States did not learn from New York’s experience and with no federal or national plan or guidelines to deal with the raging pandemic, Covid-19 continued to rapidly creep across the country.

The global pandemic of Covid-19 continued to spread across Europe and Asia causing many nations to go on country-wide lockdowns. Italy, especially, suffered severely with countless deaths and overcrowded hospitals.

During New York’s gradual re-opening, residents continued to wear masks, socially distance, and limit indoor activities. Restaurants moved to outdoor dining and take-out. Supermarkets had limited early hours for seniors. Libraries instituted outside pickups. Children and adults stayed home and resorted to virtual Zoom classes.

On the positive side, we all enjoyed beautiful spring weather. Because I live in suburban Westchester, I walked at least two miles every day alone.

By the end of June, New Yorkers were proud of our accomplishments; we had “beat the virus!” We waited for the rest of the country to get on board.

July 2020: We had never dreamed that we would be in confinement for such a long period of time. I watched TV news, read the NYTimes, listened to Gov. Cuomo’s daily briefings, walked the neighborhood, and kept busy. As retirees, we counted our blessings, enjoyed our beautiful natural surroundings, tried to be “positive,” stayed home, and stayed healthy.

New York numbers of Covid deaths and hospitalizations decreased as the virus continued to spread across the United States. Foreign countries instituted severe lockdowns. But the U.S. president continued to deny the virus. He ignored advice from scientists and the national health community. He encouraged states to remain “open.”

NY State Governor Cuomo pushed for increased testing and instituted travel bans from contaminated states. He also mandated masks and social distancing. I watched in horror as the Covid-19 virus cases spread to other states and the number of people who died from the virus increased every day.

Time slowly marched on. I enjoyed beautiful warm weather and bright sunny days. I continued walking every day, planted flowers in the garden, kept busy, and we tried to stay healthy and sane…..

The Mayor of New York City joined other protestors outside Trump Towers in Manhattan. They painted the words: “Black Lives Matter” on 5th Avenue to challenge the president’s obvious racism toward Black Americans.

Air planes were empty; travel was restricted. People around the globe tried to socially distance to stop the spread of the virus. Cities around the world tried to disinfect:

Neighbors posted signs outside their homes thanking all the essential workers for their work to risk their lives everyday during these awful times. Hospital workers endured incredible hardships and many became sick and died.

We continued to try to stay healthy by walking around my neighborhood and in FDR State Park. Northern Westchester County is hilly with many lakes and reservoirs which are part of the NYC water supply system. It’s really a beautiful place to live. And it’s easy to “socially distance.”

Summer flowers were in bloom everywhere and brought a sense of joy. One day, I saw a “wake” of Black Vultures on the grass near my home. Yes, that’s what a group of vultures is called. Creepy. But perhaps appropriate for the huge number of Covid deaths.

August 2020: Summer was in full bloom. It seemed as if the flowers and trees were more beautiful this year. The beauty of the flowers defied the bleakness of the pandemic! New York State continued to do reasonably well with Covid so Governor Cuomo began to slowly open businesses. Unfortunately, the virus was still spreading through the rest of the country.

Early in the month, a huge hurricane named Isaias roared up the eastern coast with strong winds and caused extensive damage to several states. Some trees in my neighborhood were uprooted or blown down.

We drove to the city to have a masked distance visit with my son, Chris, and my Aunt Lillian for her 97th birthday. It was wonderful to see them but very sad that we couldn’t spend more time together and celebrate her amazing milestone birthday in a special place or in some more festive way.

Traffic was very light and many restaurants had expanded out to the parking lanes. People wore masks and suspiciously eyed each other.

I watched national news reports sadly to see the pandemic continue to spread. New York was doing reasonably well. States with Republican governors followed the president’s lead to keep businesses open and not wear masks.

I continued to walk every day in FDR State Park or around my neighborhood for exercise and to admire the beauty of summer in Northern Westchester.

Mask laws were instituted across all the countries in Europe and Asia.

The U. S. election race was heating up. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were gaining many voters in a growing number of states. I am so fortunate to live in a Democratic state!

Our condominium complex began to replace roofs and the construction project provided a much needed diversion from politics and the overwhelming pressure of Covid news. Warm summer days were good!

My neighbor grew beautiful hibiscus plants and yummy grape tomatoes on the deck. Yes, she shared her bounty.

Another tropical storm threatened the U.S. as the Covid numbers climbed steadily.

Cardboard cutouts representing people filled in empty stadiums and arenas. We took a drive to Brewster, NY and stopped at the famous Red Rooster Drive-In for take-out.

September: I could never have predicted that we would spend most of 2020 at home trying to avoid people and crowds to protect ourselves from the Corona virus. Yet, here we were: wearing masks, staying away from family, isolated from friends, communicating by phone, texts, and email……

New York beat Covid BUT the rest of the country was being stupid!

We continued to shop at supermarkets during early “senior” hours when the store was devoid of people. We followed Dr. Fauci’s advice to wear masks out to the few places we dared to go.

Information about the virus continued to change as doctors and scientists learned more about it, but the numbers of positive cases and deaths continued to rise. I sewed more batik double-cloth masks for family and friends.

Photos below: empty parking lots; walking on neighborhood trailways; socially-distanced outdoor events at the local library; roof replacements; and a fun visit to out-door markets, especially FarmEats pasture-raised meats.

Incredible, but several major storms were brewing in the Atlantic!

People worked from home and avoided New York City so there was was much less traffic on the avenues.

I visited the New York Botanical Garden for a special exhibit. However, I did not go into the beautiful glass conservatory because of Covid-19. I explored the magnificent grounds, the beautiful Rose Garden, and the old-growth eastern-woodlands forest – the only one left in New York City. I love the Garden!

Covid-positive cases rose steadily without federal leadership or guidance. The nation and the world viewed the bully in the White House during a “debate.” He blustered and boasted and demonstrated his ignorance and lack of knowledge.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away September 18th. It was a sad day for all of us….

October: Last year, we had booked a long Mediterranean Cruise from mid-October to mid-November. We had planned to spend a week exploring Lisbon, Portugal before boarding the ship and another week visiting Barcelona after the cruise. The ship would have visited Morocco and Gibraltar before sailing east to Montenegro, Dubrovnik, and Venice, stopping at the islands of Malta, Corfu Greece, Sicily, Corsica, and Santorini. Of course, we canceled. But it’s very hard not to think of what could have been and how much fun we could have had…..

We stayed in confinement like all the other seniors we knew to protect ourselves. Covid-19 continued to spread across the country and the world. Fall crept in with cooler days and nights. The first frost of the season began to turn the leaves to golden orange and red.

Roofers continued to pound away and put new roofs on more of the buildings. They took advantage of the beautiful crisp cool days.

Everyone in the neighborhood put out many more Halloween decorations than years past to add cheer and happiness and joy to the community for everyone!

Mother Nature demonstrated her power by hurling more powerful storms at North America. We buzzed through the alphabet of storm-names and began calling them by the Greek alphabet.

Trump, who still denied the Covid pandemic and refused to wear a mask, contracted Covid-19 and was immediately treated with Remdesivir, the Regeneron Antibody Cocktail. The virus also spread throughout the White House!

The first presidential “debate” had taken place and showed Trump to be a loud, obnoxious, crude, inconsiderate, and rude bully. Biden held his own and demonstrated that he was a gentleman and “presidential.” A few weeks later, Kamila Harris and Mike Pence met for a V.P Debate.

Senator Harris demonstrated intelligence and knowledge of national and international affairs. Her response to questions was excellent. She seemed gracious and caring. Dull Pence exhibited his usual boring ignorant qualities of being a “yes-man” too long and just spouted memorized script-lines, even with a fly on his coifed hair!

I walked the trails and around my neighborhood as the temperatures cooled and the leaves changed colors all around me.

Instead of leading the country out of the pandemic and talking of Covid-19, Trump continued to cast doubt on the upcoming election and claimed “voter fraud.” I wondered what he would say about crooked politics if he won???

I visited the New York Botanical Garden and strolled among the outdoor flowerbeds. It’s such a beautiful refuge in the middle of the Bronx.

Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations leveled off in New York State but continued to soar and spread across the rest of the United States. Seems like a broken record. If we only had good leadership things would be different!!

The roofers finally finished their work in our circle and packed up their stuff and drove off. We’re happy! We have a brand new roof for the winter! The days got shorter, the nights cooler; the leaves became more beautiful.

Pharmaceutical companies worked furiously on vaccines to stop Covid-19. Various governments and officials talked about who should be vaccinated first.

Believe it our not, Christmas decorations began to appear in all the stores!!

Walking in FDR State Park is especially lovely as the sun sets over the lake. One night I went to hear “Scary Halloween Stories for Adults” at the local library. It was an outdoor event, so I wore a heavy coat & hat and took a folding chair. The audiences’ chairs were ‘socially distanced’ from one another.

Early voting in New York State was held from October 24 to November 1st. Unlike Election Day, we could vote at any polling place in our county. Every day, the lines at all the polling places were very long because people wanted to get their votes in and not wait for Election Day. Everyone expected a record number of voters this year.

Joe Biden was predicted to win the election, but the polls were wrong in 2016, so who knows? Several regions across the country were declared “Battleground States.”

We ultimately chose a rainy day to vote, because we thought perhaps less people would be out and the line might be shorter. We drove to Somers, NY and stood under umbrellas in a light drizzle and waited about 20 minutes. We finally cast our votes for president! We smiled at the Biden/Harris sign someone had left in their car window which was parked along the line.

The fall season was rapidly changing into winter as the air became chillier.

The Covid-19 virus the was ravaging U. S. and the current administration continued to do nothing except deny its existence. How many Americans have to die before Republicans will do something???

Most of Europe was on severe lockdowns: everything was closed; streets were empty; people were required to stay home; many people have died.

November: We waited for Election Day as early voting counts and election surveys were announced. Incredibly, the polls showed it would be a close election. Even before Election Day, Trump was crying “voter fraud.” What would he say about crooked elections if he won? What a sore loser!!

Finally, it was Election Day, November 7, perhaps the most important in our lifetimes.

Some businesses in the city boarded up their windows because they were afraid of riots in the aftermath of the results. What a very sad statement of the condition of our country at this time. Instigated by a bully.

Joe Biden was predicted to be the winner of the presidential election by popular vote. Hilary Clinton had won the popular vote in 2016 but not the Electoral College. We hoped Biden would have enough states to carry the E.C.

The press had said the country might not know who won until the next day or longer, but the results poured in and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were declared winners by the day after Election Day!! They won the general election and garnered a sizable number of Electoral College votes!! People celebrated out in the streets in every state!!!

Trump proved himself to be a real ‘sore loser’ and a very ‘poor sport’ by not conceding and cried “election fraud.”

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris delivered heartfelt acceptance speeches with their families outdoors in Delaware.

Almost the entire world is breathing a sigh of relief, as if a huge weight has been lifted off all of our shoulders. News outlets across the globe showed people celebrating the Biden/Harris victory. My French cousins sent the following:

Unfortunately, we were losing the battle with Covid-19 as the numbers of sick and hospitalized people soared across the country and the world. The United States reached 250,000 deaths from the virus. A quarter of a million people died, perhaps unnecessarily. We could only imagine what the situation might have been if we had had a rational president who believed in science and followed the guidelines of the experts in the medical field.

Our weather was changing quickly and moving from fall to winter. The nights were becoming frosty; winds were stronger and colder; trees were less colorful as their leaves carpeted the earth.

One big storm after another raced across the Atlantic and battered the American coastline.

It was nearing the end of the farmer’s markets with an abundance of apples & cider and root vegetables.

There were few people at beautiful Croton Point Park on the Hudson River:

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was completely a virtual television event. Streets along Broadway and around 34th Street were closed and people were barred from attending. The parade route just circled the giant department store.

Covid Cases & Deaths Increased

Most of the countries in Europe were in “Lockdowns.” As these news photos show, France was essentially closed.

December 2020: The days became shorter and colder temperatures blew in from the north. Covid 19 relentlessly continued to rage across the United States and around the world. Last January we thought it was going to be a temporary condition, a short-lived epidemic. But now, everyone acknowledges that we’re living a full-scale major pandemic.

I watched the world close down. Everything is closed. Discontinued. Shuttered. Diminished. Stopped. Terminated. The media spoke about “The New Normal” as most people tried to adjust to “quarantines” and “confinements.”

Even Patience and Fortitude, the lions who guard the NY Public Library, wore their anti-Covid-19 hospital masks.

No leaves around the pond near my house!

The best and most promising news was that Pfizer’s vaccine was approved by the FDA and would be administered to hospital workers. After that, it would be given to elderly and sick people. At our age, we would be next in line.

The Christmas tree was installed at Rockefeller Center.

The holiday season arrived quietly and we tried to make the best of it with a virtual Christmas celebration.

After this horrible year of fear, sickness, deaths, isolation, quarantines, and incredible uncertainty, all I can say is “Good Riddance 2020!!!”

Comments are closed.