COVID 1 Year Later: NYC Once The Epicenter Of U.S. Outbreak

CBS2's Aundrea Cline-Thomas offers a glimpse of the pandemic's deadly impact on the five boroughs.

Video Transcript

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: The first known COVID patient in our area was a 39-year-old health care worker who had recently returned from a trip overseas. She recovered at home. Medical professionals and politicians were prepared for that moment, but no one truly knew at the time what was in store.

- We didn't go to any places, cooked food at home, and everything. I mean, it was very scary. So I'm definitely--

- --beginning, we knew, like, very little information. You know, like, the [INAUDIBLE] was not even available.

- I don't know how much more graphic you could be than to, you know, go past the neighborhood hospital here, Mount Sinai, and see the morgue tractor-trailer.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: By the time the first reported case of the coronavirus was identified in March of 2020--

- I already knew that it was coming. I already bought mask. All my family-- I tell all my American friends. Nobody wanted to believe me.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: The virus was already spreading, unknowingly, in the tri-state area.

- We have told New Yorkers from the beginning, get ready. Here it comes. We're going to all be able to deal with it together.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: Calls for continuing life as usual while taking precautions lasted just days before schools, businesses, and iconic landmarks were closed, except for what was deemed essential. Weeks turned into months. Face coverings became the mandatory accessory. Keeping our distance, an urgent safety measure. And longstanding inequities could no longer be denied.

- Since this thing happened, our job is totally down.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: The economic fallout was immediate. Unemployment claims soared, and lines at food pantries wrapped around city blocks. Meanwhile, on the front lines of the fight--

- This like something out of "The Twilight Zone," and I don't think any of us going through it'll ever be the same.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: COVID cases exploded. Hospitals were overwhelmed. Personal protective equipment in short supply. And families were left devastated. So far, 69,000 total COVID-related deaths have been reported in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

- I was in shock. Like, a lot of people died.

- It's difficult. I've lost family-- a family member who was an EMT.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: Still, in the midst of sorrow, glimmers of hope.

[APPLAUSE]

Patients celebrated being discharged after long battles in the hospital. Neighbors helped each other and rallied around their local businesses, like the Thirsty Koala restaurant in Astoria, Queens.

- We still sponsor meals to first responders, and to, you know, people in the emergency departments. Without the community, without our regulars, without their support, you know, and their steadfastness-- don't worry. We're going to get through this. We're here for you.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: For those forced to pivot--

- People really need comedy, now more than ever.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: Andy Engel, owner of the Manhattan Comedy School, transitioned his classes to Zoom--

- OK. You need to say that.

- I feel like that's embarrassing.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: --and found an even deeper purpose.

They became a place to laugh, make others laugh, connect with 20 new friends safely, and more importantly, became therapy.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: The road to recovery has been marked with starts and stops.

- Just putting one foot in front of the other, which is a cliche, but it's true, has been helpful.

AUNDREA CLINE-THOMAS: This year has not been easy, but we made it. There is hope, especially in the COVID vaccines. Many people say they don't want to just go back to normal, but create a new normal that implements everything we've learned during this difficult year. Aundrea Cline-Thomas, CBS 2 News.