NEW YORK (Dagbladet): The pandemic year has been tragic, sad and frightening. Never before have we experienced that the whole world is suddenly paralyzed in this way. Everyday life has been turned upside down. Illness has hit hard. People’s livelihoods have disappeared. Many have been left in isolation full of fear and without the opportunity to meet friends and family. In few places was this truer than right here in New York.
Many predicted that this was the end of the world metropolis. It is not. In area after area, the city wakes up. People are coming back. But it will be a significantly changed city from the world metropolis that closed in March last year.
When the pandemic hit hard last spring, we suddenly ended up in the middle of the epicenter of the pandemic. The light was turned off in the city that never sleeps. The city closed. The usually busy streets of the world metropolis were deserted. In Central Park, a field hospital was set up. A giant, floating military hospital was located along the Hudson River. We, who lived here, were in practice tied to our – often very cramped – apartments. The silence in the deserted streets was mostly only broken by the sound of sirens, and the ceremony every day at 7 pm when people lined up in their windows to turn on pots to honor the health workers.
Every day we saw how the death toll just went up and up. The hospital in my neighborhood, and many others, had to set up refrigerated trailers outside to accommodate all the bodies. At worst, more people died daily in New York than the number who have died in Norway throughout the pandemic. As of now, about 50,000 people have died from corona in a state that has about four times more inhabitants than Norway.
Last spring, the then President of the United States, Donald Trump, also held daily press conferences in the White House with his corona experts. There he tried to underestimate the seriousness of the situation, or he tried to politicize scientific advice on, for example, wearing a face mask. Or he asked people in states with democratic governors to “liberate” themselves. Or he came up with crazy suggestions, like injecting bleach. In short, it felt like sitting in a country without proper leadership, while the reality around us fell apart and the situation only got worse and worse.
This is how it continued month after month. While Norway and other countries experienced a summer that seemed far more normal than we could dream of, we continued to live in an extreme state of emergency. The situation was partially interrupted early in the summer when the United States exploded in Black Lives Matter demonstrations and riots. But apart from the daily walks outdoors, we mostly sat at home.
Autumn continued through the same track. Trump lost the presidential election, but the chaos continued. In January came the worst wave of infection so far and a deadly attack on Congress. The winter became terribly dark and cold.
The turning point
Then finally came the turning point. Joe Biden took over as president. The distribution of vaccines was dramatically stepped up and a gigantic economic rescue package was adopted.
In recent months, it feels like the pandemic has slowly let go of the stranglehold on New York. There are still strict restrictions, but they are loosening. Gradually, people start filling the streets again, eating at restaurants and going to the cinema, museum or concert (under significant restrictions). After a year in a completely unreal state of emergency, it feels like a huge progress when we can finally meet friends again.
For the United States’ largest city and cultural capital, a year without visitors has left deep traces. But now this is also about to change. Broadway hopes to open in a few months. Occupancy at the city’s hotels rose to 61.5 percent in mid-March. This is a significant increase from 38 percent in January. But at the same time far below 87 percent, which was the case before the pandemic, writes the New York Post.
Vaccines seem to be the key to reopening. A massive device in both New York and other US states now sticks around 2.8 million doses in the arms of Americans every day. This week, New York opened for vaccination of anyone over the age of 30, and next week, anyone over the age of 16 will qualify for the vaccine.
In New York, the lights are now partially turned on again. But everything is not just joy and mirth. Infection rates are still high and increasing. There are problems with making the vaccine available to somewhat vulnerable populations. Many have moved from the city. If you walk down almost any street in central areas, you will see empty shop premises for rent. Many famous and beloved restaurants have passed the doll. What will happen to the huge skyscrapers in Manhattan in the future is a big question mark. The companies that previously rented offices there have learned that it is much cheaper to let their workers work from home or elsewhere, reports the New York Times.
Look to Norway
For large parts of the last year, I have seen Norway, where there have been far fewer restrictions and the situation seemed far more under control. But lately, the situation has turned upside down. Norway now lives with strict restrictions, a slow vaccination process and a more unpredictable situation.
Recently I had the opportunity to get the vaccine myself. After all we’ve been through this year, it’s been a pretty emotional session.
New York has experienced unimaginable losses. Many here in the city know someone who has died, or we have friends who have lost loved ones. There has been despair, sadness, fear and confusion. The pandemic is by no means over, but finally it feels like we are on our way back to life and better times.
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