Two Years Later, A COVID Anniversary

The term “pandemic” has filled news headlines for the last two years, ever since our world entered an era riddled with fear and unprecedented experience. The COVID-19 pandemic, officially declared on Mar. 11, 2020, turned everyone’s life upside down.  

The pandemic began with event cancellations and was shortly followed by a worldwide lockdown. A seemingly-normal Friday in March was the last day that Lynbrook and many other school districts were open before shutting down for months, with businesses, restaurants, and stores to follow. Social distancing protocols were put into place after learning the virus could not be spread in a span of six feet. The lockdown was in effect for months with many consequences: many people developed mental and physical health issues, suicide rates rose significantly, jobs were lost, businesses struggled to stay open, and people were left alone in fear. 

“I will never forget the lockdown,” said freshman Gianni Buonavita. “The scariest part was there was no answer, and things just had to be taken day-by-day. I hated the feeling of being isolated and was overjoyed when it was over.”

At the conclusion of the lockdown, the world reopened slowly. People began to visit family and friends from a socially safe distance, businesses were able to reopen, and schools resumed learning for the 2020-2021 school year primarily online and with strict guidelines in place. When the number of COVID cases rose, smaller-scale shutdowns occurred, and masks were required inside almost everywhere. The pandemic lasted much longer than anticipated, leaving the world yearning for a return to normalcy.  

The race to create a COVID vaccine was competitive between pharmaceutical companies, and took months of laboratory testing. The heavily-funded research allowed for the creation of three vaccines, all made in record-breaking time. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson were the first companies to successfully develop a vaccine that would combat the virus and help end the pandemic.

The first vaccines were distributed slowly, to specific demographic groups, in early 2021. Once the various COVID-19 vaccines were approved by the CDC, they were distributed to many people in the spring of 2021. With more people getting vaccinated, indoor activities and small gatherings began to reoccur, cases began to drop, and the mask mandates were repealed in certain places for those who were vaccinated. 

In April 2021, all LHS students were allowed to return to in-person schooling. Hybrid and fully remote learning were still available options to those students who did not wish to return in-person, but the halls of LHS were filled with students after being empty for so long. The 2020-2021 school year concluded with all exams canceled, masks being worn in school, and the halls filled with students. 

 The 2021-2022 school year began without a remote learning option and only offered a fully in-person learning environment. Although the halls of LHS were filled with students, masks were worn full-time. The school year was set to be normal and all traditional LHS events would take place with everyone wearing masks. The sports season, and events like homecoming, the pep rally, and the winter concert took place. The world began to open even further with the return of concerts, Broadway shows, and travel. 

This sense of hope would be dashed after the virus began to mutate, and the Omicron variant surfaced in late 2021. This strain was deemed even more aggressive than its predecessor, and cases rose exponentially. Cancellations and shutdowns emerged for a second time, and the mask mandate was put back into effect, although restrictions were not as extreme due to the vaccine. 

As the cases of the Omicron variant receded, a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot was introduced, and it was highly recommended that everyone be boosted to increase immunity. Once again, the world began to reopen, and life began returning to a sense of normalcy. The number of COVID-19 cases began to drop, mandates were lifted, and the possibility of not having to wear a mask in school was increasing. 

In March 2022, after a long battle, the mask mandate was lifted in all New York public schools, including at LHS. Sophomore Elena McDonald described the feeling of not wearing a mask to school as liberating. 

“At first, it felt weird,” McDonald said. “I felt like something was missing after being so used to wearing a mask. I am so much happier in school since the mandate has been lifted, and I am so grateful that I could participate in my first normal Class Night.” 

Sophomore Grace Loiselle agreed. “I love that the whole school is finally reunited,” she said. “I hope we continue on this high note.” 

Concerts, games, proms, Broadway shows, and other occasions are on the horizon after being put on hold for so long. With mask mandates lifted, and the number of COVID-19 cases decreasing, it seems as if the pandemic is on its way out. While there is still so much unknown, and while COVID-19 has not been completely eradicated, a sense of normalcy is returning and the world remains hopeful.