NEW YORK CITY – empty streets. Silence in the canyons of Manhattan. The apartments were hastily evacuated. New Yorkers huddled inside in fear. Overflowing mobile morgues sitting outside hospitals.
A reporter from Patch documented difficult scenes in the city this week before she and millions of other New Yorkers disappeared inside for weeks.
Another Patch reporter visited Manhattan on another Sunday – Easter April 11, 2020 – exiting Brooklyn on a Citi bike and onto a nearly empty Brooklyn Bridge.
Silence hung over the city.
Broadway and other avenues were almost free of cars. Times Square, normally packed with tourists, was hardly crowded.
As the reporter returned to Brooklyn, he walked past the Brooklyn Hospital Center, where a mobile mortuary stood outside. On that day, 713 New Yorkers lost their lives to the coronavirus, according to city data.
O’Brien was one of them – she scampered off to a rental in Massachusetts as the pandemic hit the city in mid-March 2020.
At the time, she lived on the Lower East Side, and the strangeness of the city’s empty, hollow silence was baffling.
“Because it was so quiet and strange, even at night,” she said.
Tony Saich, a Bushwick resident like O’Brien, also left town when the pandemic hit.
“I really didn’t want to be here,” he said.
Saich spent months at his family’s Bay Area home, locked inside. He returned to New York in September, when it seemed safer.
It wasn’t – he said Thursday he contracted COVID-19 “a few weeks ago,” days before he was about to get the shot.
But Saich, despite falling ill, still resisted the virus.
New York also seems to be this spring.
Overall, cases in the city are still spinning at nearly 3,000 per day, but they are lower than the roughly 5,000 during the pandemic’s worst week last year.
Deaths from COVID-19 still cause unnecessary grief to families in New York City, but there is less pain and suffering overall.
As of Tuesday, the city recorded 43 deaths – a fraction of last year’s peak.
There is another statistic besides the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths that New Yorkers are tracking – and one with inherent hope.
Vaccinations against the coronavirus in the city have only increased since they became available in December. Currently, nearly one in four New Yorkers is fully immunized against the virus.
The city is also on the verge of spending 5 million doses that have gone into guns.
Two of them went into the arm of Alex Williamson, a Carroll Gardens resident and reporter, who strolled the meadow in Prospect Park on a bright and hot Thursday afternoon,
She found it doubtful that she would have undertaken a similar venture a year ago during the pandemic. At the time, people didn’t even know the outside was safe, she noted.
Williamson said that after an objectively terrible year change was in sight.
“At this point it looks encouraging,” she said.
O’Brien had returned to New York in April 2020, when the dogwood and cherry trees were in full bloom. A year later, she feels a sense of hope blossoming.
She plans to go back to Broadway shows every week and be able to stand in a crowded bar and talk to a random person – things that once seemed too far away.
“It’s been amazing it’s been a year,” she said.