A Year Later: From Tragedy to Hope

A year ago we did not even know how to write the name of the virus.

It first appeared in the northern suburbs of New York, in New Rochelle. A lawyer had contracted the virus and it soon spread to many members of his community.

After a short while, it was all over the region. Hospitals were full. But the doctors did not know how to treat their patients. They had never seen this virus before.

We were amazed to learn that the hospitals did not have masks. Or respirators. It was madness.

And the virus just continued to spread.

New York, the most dynamic city in the world, with the best hospitals, was unable to protect itself. People were ‘losing it.’ They could not believe what they were seeing.

It was not long before the government’s orders followed. The city was sealed and we entered a lockdown. We all stayed in our homes. Except for the essential and frontline workers. But, in some respects, we are all essential. We are needed by our families. We need to work. To pay our expenses.

A year has passed since then. I know, it seems like a lot longer.

We were much younger then.

And what do we remember?

We remember the sick. The dead. The political controversies, whether we should wear masks or not.

We remember agonizing over when they would discover a cure, a vaccine. So that we could be saved.

It will take years, many years, experts told us, to develop a vaccine. It is not a simple thing. No vaccine has ever been discovered and tested in less than a few years.

We all became experts. Some of us agreed with Fauci – our new friend – and others with our expatriate new friend, Ioannidis.

Some sided with Trump and others with the scientists. Chaos. The worst pandemic in a century, since 1918, widened the deepening political divide.

The months passed. The cases, and the deaths, increased.

They exceeded the awful number of 500,000. As many the total dead from World War I and World War II and the Vietnam War combined.

And they continue to this day.

On December 11, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) quickly approved the Pfizer vaccine (an unusually fast turn-around), noting that it "promises to change the course of the pandemic in the United States."

Triumph. Our community felt extra pride given the fact that the president of Pfizer was a fellow Greek expatriate, Dr. Albert Bourla, from Thessaloniki.

Last week, President Biden announced that the pharmaceutical companies Merck – which does not have its own vaccine – and Johnson & Johnson would work together to increase production of the J&J vaccine. A highly unusual agreement between competitors.

After that, Biden said, there will be enough vaccines for all Americans to be vaccinated by the end of May. Two months earlier than expected.

So, it seems that this summer we will go swimming in our homeland. So long as the Europeans are vaccinated…


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