A year ago this week, The Verge
published our first story about the virus
. It was January 21. The first case had arrived in the US. We’d only heard of about 300 cases reported in China and six deaths.
We still knew there was a chance it could get bad. “It’s bringing back SARS flashbacks for me,” coronavirus expert Timothy Sheahan told Verge
reporter Nicole Wetsman at the time. The 2002 SARS outbreak taught researchers speed
, but was only a deadly teaser to the still-unnamed pandemic that was about to begin.
One year and almost 1,000 coronavirus-related articles later, we’ve passed more grim milestones than we ever should have. More than 97 million people have contracted the virus and 2.1 million people have died. In just one year, more people in the US have died than US soldiers did in four years in World War II.
There are moments where I stop and look back at the broken path behind us — potholed with incompetence
, and ignorance
. In my head, the milestones are rough and faded, and pass by in a blur — sun-stained photos hanging limply at roadside memorials. People that didn’t have to die, but who are nonetheless gone in a crash, in a silence, in a breath.
This week, we finally got a chance to slow down and remember them
. 400 lights lit up around the reflecting pool in Washington, DC. One for each of a thousand lives extinguished by the virus in the US.
The roll of the dead keeps growing. But in the creeping darkness, there’s also a growing feeling of hope. It was the nursing homes that terrified me eleven months ago. I remember that pit in my stomach in late February when I first saw the reports of an outbreak in a Washington state nursing home — one of the first known outbreaks in the US
. Even then, we knew that the people there were especially vulnerable to the virus, which thrives where people congregate and preys on people fighting other conditions.
Less than a year later, that same nursing home is fully vaccinated.