ONE year of COVID-19 anxiety

School classrooms look a lot different than they did before the pandemic. Here, Case Middle School students attend English class. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — We worried and were sickened. We were engrossed by numbers. We mourned and buried our dead. We emptied shelves. We were careful. We Zoomed.

We are sick of keeping our distance and wearing masks. We want “normalcy.”

Perhaps appropriately Sunday as Daylight Saving Time begins, there may be some proverbial light at the end of the tunnel as the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic arrives.

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COVID-19 and its transmission rate are still serious issues and virus variants have cropped up that could complicate our comeback. But locally, a steady stream of people have walked into clinics, doctors’ offices and drug stores to get vaccinated as we all hope for a shot at that elusive normalcy while we rejoice at what’s being put in our arms by teams of medical professionals.

One year ago, action was taken to limit the spread of the easily transmittable virus.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the world was dealing with a pandemic.

On March 22, all nonessential businesses statewide closed when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the “New York State on PAUSE” executive order.

The first COVID-19 case in New York state was announced March 1. The patient, a woman in her late 30s, contracted the virus while traveling in Iran. The case was confirmed at the state’s Wadsworth Lab in Albany.

The governor Tweeted: “There is no reason for undue anxiety — the general risk remains low in New York. We are diligently managing the situation and will continue to provide information as it becomes available.”

That information would consume us as everything in our lives changed.

The first COVID-19 case in Jefferson County was confirmed on March 17, 2020.

St. Lawrence County confirmed its first case on March 25.

Lewis County confirmed its first two cases on March 29.

Compared to this past winter, when new daily cases reached double digits in each county, the early days of the north country pandemic last year created just a handful of new cases each day. The tri-county’s spike began in late fall and continued into January and February.

As of Saturday, the three-county region had 201 virus-related deaths; 82 deaths in Jefferson, 92 in St. Lawrence and 27 in Lewis County.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported late Saturday afternoon that 530,693 people in the U.S. had died because of the virus.

Total virus cases were at 5,753 for Jefferson County, 6,460 recorded for St. Lawrence County and 1,843 total cases for Lewis County as of Saturday.

COVID-19 vaccines began rolling out in December. Now, the virus-related numbers reflect a positive direction.

As of Saturday, 13,200 people in Jefferson County completed the vaccine series. The county has a population of 111,755 and 22.8% of the county’s population has received at least one vaccine dose, according to the state’s Vaccine Tracker.

In St. Lawrence County, 19,831 people had completed the vaccine series. The county has a population of 108,047 and 29.7% of the population has received at least one vaccine dose.

In Lewis County, 3,229 residents had completed the vaccine series. The county has a population of 26,477 and 21.6% of the population has received at least one vaccine dose.

Statewide, 21.7% of residents had received at least one dose, and country-wide, that percentage Saturday was at 20.7%.

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After months of distressing news of what we shouldn’t do to prevent the spread of the virus, the CDC on Monday announced public health recommendations for fully vaccinated people.

Fully vaccinated people can, the CDC said:

n Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing

n Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.

n Refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic.

But there were also recommendations of what we should continue to do when fully vaccinated. They include:

n Take precautions in public like wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing.

n Wear masks, practice physical distancing and adhere to other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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