Two Years On, Impact of Covid-19 Continues to Be Felt

It was two years ago Sunday that HuntingtonNow.com first reported on the mysterious disease known then as coronavirus.

The first of what turned out to be the site’s more than 900 stories–and still counting–about the disease that came to be called Covid-19 was an interview with Dr. Andrew Patane, a Huntington physician. He urged caution and care: wash your hands, avoid sick people, wear a mask. Be smart. But also, don’t panic. And don’t blame takeout from a Chinese restaurant for a respiratory problem.

That was a moment of calm before the beginning of the deluge of news about schools, businesses, police, elected leaders, health officials, parents. Grocery stores were soon jammed with shoppers buying everything they could. A trip to a supermarket meant finding certain shelves–especially paper products, meat, pasta and prepared foods, cleaning products–wiped clean.

Those without sufficient money in their pocket or otherwise unable to contend with the crush went without. At one supermarket, a tiny, older woman stood helpless in an aisle, trying unsuccessfully to reach a higher shelf where one package of toilet paper remained, until someone in the crush of shoppers helped her.

Stores created special hours for older shoppers, after health officials determined that they were more vulnerable to the disease. Stores shifted to delivery from in-house shopping.

Schools announced special cleaning protocols and barriers.

One after another, districts began announcing what was supposed to be temporary closures that soon became shutdowns with no scheduled reopening. They also began supplying thousands of grab-and-go meals to students, and teaching remotely.

The Walt Whitman mall closed; businesses were ordered to reduce in-house staffs; some were ordered closed as non-essential. Downtown went dark; Traffic all but disappeared from Route 110. Suffolk police had  walked beats to make sure people weren’t gathering in large numbers.

People began dying.

Ordinary residents began to rise to the occasion as word came that Huntington Hospital workers were swamped by the sudden arrival of so many seriously ill people, and restaurants were financially squeezed by the shutdown.

The hospital began limiting visitors and non-essential services, halted its volunteer program and began screening some patients outside the building.

As masks became a suggestion and then a mandate, people around town first began getting used to wearing masks and modeled them, but soon others were sewing them to give to others who were without.

With many people out of work, food drives and donations popped up everywhere.

Then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo took to appearing on TV daily, sometimes more frequently, as questions about state tests, mandates, health issues, travel and the economic impact of the shutdown began rising.

So, too, began some of the opposition to the mandates.

As the epidemic wore on, some small business owners questioned why they had to close when larger national chain stores selling the same products were allowed to remain open. Parents complained about remote learning and whether their children were learning anything, and their inability to go to work when their kids were at home.

Vaccinations arrived in early 2021, with unofficial experts jumping in to help people book appointments as online systems sagged or left people confused. Eligibility swiftly expanded to younger and younger age groups. With the arrival of two Covid-19 variants, many limitations remained in place. But as the percentage of people receiving Covid-19 vaccinations rose, so too did the demand that the limitations be eased or eliminated.

Opponents went from calling Cuomo a Communist in 2020 because of his mandates to others calling his successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul,  an even more vile C word for continuing them.

The opposition to the mask mandate, particularly for children, continued Saturday in Greenlawn, with protesters demanding it be lifted.

 

Downtown after businesses were ordered to shut down.

 

Outside Huntington Hospital

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