NEW YORK — New Yorkers on Sunday were marking a year since they learned of the state's first fatalities from COVID-19, a fearful moment of reckoning that sent officials rushing to close businesses and schools.
New York City officials planned an evening ceremony to remember the approximately 30,000 city residents killed by the coronavirus since March 2020. The 7:45 p.m. event was set to stream on city websites and social media.
For many, those first fatalities brought home the reality that the pandemic was no longer some distant threat.
Scientists now believe the virus had been circulating silently in the New York City metropolitan area for weeks before officials announced the city's first positive test March 2.
The first death in the city happened March 11, though officials wouldn't learn of it until later. Broadway theaters and other large entertainment venues were ordered shut March 12. The mayor ordered schools closed March 15. Bars and restaurants followed. Schools shut statewide a few days later. On March 20, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he was barring gatherings of any size, for any reason, anywhere in the state.
During a 10-day stretch in April, New York City averaged 750 deaths per day.
The lockdowns and strict compliance with social distancing rules worked. By late spring, fatalities had plummeted and the region enjoyed some of the nation's lowest infection rates until a resurgence in the fall.
The death toll in the broader New York City metropolitan area, including its suburbs in Connecticut and New Jersey, now stands at more than 65,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.