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Exhausted world looks back — and forward — after contagion year.

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Exhausted world looks back — and forward — after contagion year.
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Exhausted world looks back — and forward — after contagion year.

 

No one has been untouched.

Not the woman from Michigan who awoke one morning to find her wife dead by her side. Not the Mozambican domestic worker, whose life is threatened by the virus. Not the mother from North Carolina who struggled to keep her company and her family afloat in the face of rising anti-Asian hostility. Not the sixth-grader, who was kicked out of class in the blink of an eye.

It took place a year ago. Darelyn Maldonado, now 12, said, “I expected to go back after that week.” “I didn’t expect it to take so long.”

Few could have predicted the long path ahead or the many aspects in which they will suffer — millions of deaths and agonies, devastated societies, disrupted lives, and near-universal alienation and isolation — when the World Health Organization announced a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

A year later, some people are wishing for a return to normalcy, due to vaccinations that appeared to appear out of nowhere. Others live in environments where magic seems to be confined to the realms of the wealthy.

Simultaneously, people are reflecting on where they were when they first realized how dramatically their lives would change.

On March 11, 2020, there were 125,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and less than 5,000 recorded deaths. Today, 117 million people have been reported as contaminated, with more than 2.6 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.

After locking down in the face of 10,000 confirmed infections, Italy closed shops and restaurants on that day. The NBA’s season was halted, and Tom Hanks, who was making a film in Australia, revealed that he had been poisoned.

That evening, President Donald Trump delivered a speech from the Oval Office to the country, announcing travel restrictions from Europe that sparked a trans-Atlantic scramble. In the days that followed, airports were overwhelmed with unmasked passengers. They were soon depleted.

And for a large part of the planet, that was just the beginning.

Maggie Sedidi is hopeful today, thanks to her vaccination: “By next year, or maybe the year after, I really do hope that people will be able to resume normal life.”

However, it is a hard-won optimism. Sedidi, a 59-year-old nurse at Soweto’s Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital, the country’s and continent’s biggest, remembers being devastated when the first cases appeared there in March.

She also remembers being frightened when she first received COVID-19. Around the same time, her manager became ill and died.

South Africa has had by far the worst outbreak of the virus in Africa. More than 1.5 million confirmed cases have been recorded in the 60-million-strong nation, with more than 50,000 deaths.

“As you can imagine, I was terrified to death. Many of the signs were present in me. “Except dying,” she said, a survivor’s grim smile on her face. Her recuperation took a long time.

“I had chest tightness and shortness of breath. “It was six months long,” she said. “I had given up hope that it would ever go away.”

But she recovered and is now working in the surgical ward. Others haven’t been so fortunate. In the United States — the world’s most COVID-wracked country — 29 million have been infected, and 527,000 have died.

Latoria Glenn-Carr and her wife of six years, Tyeisha, were diagnosed at a hospital emergency room near their home outside Detroit on Oct. 29. They were sent home, despite Latoria’s protests.

Tyeisha, 43, died in bed next to her wife three days later.

“I woke up on Sunday, and I didn’t feel a pulse,” Glenn-Carr said.

One month later, COVID killed Glenn-Carr’s mother, too.

In quiet times, in prayer, Glenn-Carr thinks she should have pushed for the hospital to keep Tyeisha, or should have taken her to a different hospital. She is also angry at America’s political leaders — in particular, Trump, who she believes was more worried about the economy than people’s lives.

“If he was more empathetic to the issues and concerned about people, in general, he would have taken it more seriously,” she said. “And because of that, 500,000 people are dead.”

She joined a survivor’s group for people who lost loved ones to COVID. They meet weekly on Zoom, text each other and help with the grieving process. Glenn-Carr knows she will dread birthdays and Mother’s Days that will go uncelebrated.

“Nothing goes back to the way it was” she said.

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