In driving through Manhattan a few weeks ago, that’s the only way I could possibly describe it.
Stores closed. Streets empty. Sounds of silence.
Even the crossroads of the world, Times Square, was desolate.
As a lifelong New Yorker, it felt like a dream.
A dream that has now lasted for nearly 2 months.
Since Sunday night on March 22, the entire state has been on lockdown. All schools and non-essential businesses have been closed. All parties and celebrations canceled.
Easter. Passover. Birthdays. Weddings. Graduations.
Life as we knew it postponed.
At first, it seemed like it was all for naught.
Reported cases continued to trend higher, hospitals were filling beyond capacity, and the daily death toll increased each day.
But amazingly, no one relented, least of all the heroes on the front lines who continued to fight to save lives.
And then, signs of hope emerged.
With incredible speed, the Army Corps of Engineers turned the Javitz Center into a 2,000-bed hospital. At the same time, the USNS Comfort (a Navy Hospital Ship) arrived in New York harbor. And with critical supplies dwindling, California, Oregon, and Washington sent ventilators to New York.
The message was clear: no American in need of medical assistance would go without care. We would help one another at all costs to make sure that was the case.
Thankfully, neither the additional hospital space nor the ventilators would be needed. The upward trend in the virus began to slowly reverse course in April, and has continued to do so unabated through today.
When I first wrote of the improvements on twitter, few could believe the tide was actually turning.
But as time went on, it became clear that something was indeed changing, and changing for the better.
That change has gained momentum over time. Since Easter Sunday, the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York has declined every single day. 35 days in a row.
The number of new positive cases has steadily declined even as testing has increased exponentially, with New York testing more residents per capita than almost anywhere in the world.
This is a tremendous feat for a state that has been hit harder than any other. While New York’s population is 5.9% of the US, its COVID-19 fatalities represent over 31% of the total deaths in the US.
Each of these deaths have a story behind them, and a family that is mourning a loss.
Which a reminder as to why we came together to not only flatten the curve, but crush it.
This past weekend, New York state began its long-awaited reopening, and now six upstate regions have begun their first phase. New York City and the surrounding suburbs remain shutdown, but hope is emerging that will end in the next few weeks.
Let’s save the debate over mistakes made and what could have been done differently for another time.
In the most densely populated city in America, we were able to turn the tide against this virus and save thousands of lives.
In a time where the wins have been few and far between, that’s something to be celebrated.
God bless New York and God bless America.
The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald