News and media outlets mentioned a virus spreading across China with images and videos of emergency rooms filled at capacity and infected individuals with ventilators. Never did anyone realize that the same fate would be for the United States on March 13, 2020.
The start of this upcoming national shutdown originated in Washington. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, in January 2020, a 35-year-old man headed to urgent care in Washington with symptoms of a cough and fever. He told health care workers that he had visited family in Wuhan, China and traveled back to Washington on Jan. 15, 2020. He saw a health alert from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the coronavirus outbreak in China. Due to his current symptoms, he decided to seek help from health care providers. The patient was diagnosed positive for SARS-COV-2, which would later be commonly known as COVID-19.
In Europe, COVID-19 cases were increasing rapidly. Shortly after, countries in Europe went into lockdown. Former President of the United States, Donald Trump, announced a ban on travel from Europe for 30 days due to the accelerating cases. Despite the travel restrictions, the cases in the U.S. began to multiply.
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic. Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, spoke out about the increasing number of COVID-19 cases.
“We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus,” Ghebreyesus said. “This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus, and we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time.”
On March 12, there were more than 2,000 cases in the U.S., and on Friday, March 13, Trump declared a national emergency to prevent a wider outbreak of COVID-19. That same Friday, District 204 along with other educational institutions such as Illinois State University and Northwestern University canceled in-person classes. The change to remote learning would soon be the new normal for students.
“Since I knew little information about the virus, I didn’t think much of it, and it never occurred to me how bad things would get all over the world,” junior Mary Anaya said.
With the cases in Illinois rising to 585 on March 20, Governor J.B. Pritzker announced a stay-at-home order until April 7. As more people were staying indoors, news outlets were updating the public every day with more information. The scenes in New York City showed a shortage of nurses, and hospital equipment was not enough for all the incoming patients. Nurses all across the U.S. were contacted to help in New York.
Throughout the summer of 2020, COVID-19 testing locations become more accessible. With the number of increasing positive cases, the COVID-19 vaccine became a priority to protect those who are more susceptible and exposed like healthcare workers and frontline workers.
On July 27, Moderna, a pharmaceutical and biotechnology company, was funded $472 million by the Trump administration to expand their vaccine trial to 30,000 participants. This brought the total investment to $955 million.
The news about a vaccine brought hope to all those who have been affected by the pandemic, such as healthcare workers, frontline workers, teachers, and more. The mental health of many was also at risk.
“I flew to San Diego by myself for two weeks to take a break from my home life,” Anaya said. “When I came back, my nightmare became reality. It turns out that I had the virus and spread it to my family, and it hit my dad the most.”
The pandemic had a different impact on everyone. In times of crisis, affected people like Anaya found her comfort in her family and friends.
“He suffered for over a month in the hospital until he passed away on Sept. 3,” Anaya said. “I lost one of my biggest supporters, a role model, so of course that has affected me, especially because I felt so responsible. It’ll affect me for the rest of my life. Thank God I had my family and friends to fall back on, or who knows where I would be today.”
On Nov. 19, Edward-Elmhurst Health held a virtual town hall meeting to update how its hospitals have dealt with the pandemic. Elmhurst Mayor, Steve Morley, acknowledged the months of restless work coming from healthcare workers.
“This is the new norm for them,” Morley said. “I do not know how they do it, but they are doing it and it is a testament to the support that they have. They may have COVID-19 fatigue, and you see that behind the curtains, but we don’t see it as patients.”
On Dec. 10, the FDA approved the first COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer, BioNTech, which allowed shipments to begin. Healthcare workers and those more susceptible to COVID-19 were vaccinated within days. A week after, on Dec. 17, the FDA endorsed the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and started shipments as well.
With the vaccine, individuals were more comfortable with leaving their homes as the Pfizer, BioNTech vaccine demonstrated to be 95% effective against COVID-19. Within the next few months, essential workers and teachers were vaccinated. The vaccination of teachers allowed schools to reopen for hybrid learning. Students were able to go back to in-person classes after a semester of full remote learning. On Jan. 25, 2021, District 204 began its return to school plan. Students who chose to come back to hybrid learning were instructed to follow all COVID-19 safety precautions.
The year introduced challenges to education as well as economical hardships. After almost a year of isolation from others, economic issues arose throughout the country.
President of the United States Joe Biden signed the COVID-19 relief bill which will help families who have struggled financially. On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that will fund vaccine distribution, $1,400 cash payments to Americans, and support for nutrition programs, health care, and pensions.
Since March 13, the country has experienced the drastic effects of the pandemic. The CDC continues to provide new information to the public every day and enforce safety guidelines to reduce transmission.
“If you don’t want to do it for you, do it for your family,” Anaya said. “I would never wish anyone to go through what I went through these past six months. Do not be selfish, think about others, and do your part to help stop the spread.”