Five months have passed with excruciating speed and pain in New York City. This post is a look back on the momentous period between February and June 2020 and an attempt to give visual expression to the relentless chronology of a city in crisis.
The month of February began with unease as Americans followed news of a novel coronavirus in China, but daily life was nearly normal in New York City. The Lunar New Year was celebrated in Chinatown as usual on February 8 and 9 with the traditional lion dancers, drummers, confetti, and a parade. The crowds on the sidewalks were noticeably thinner than in prior years, however. Restaurants had empty tables as some New Yorkers began avoiding Chinatown after watching media coverage of the coronavirus epidemic overwhelming Wuhan, China. It seemed so far away in a city most people had never heard of. Unknown at the time, the virus had already arrived in New York City from Europe and was spreading silently.
March 2020: Shutdown and quarantine
On March 1 the first case of coronavirus was reported in New York City when a medical researcher who returned from Iran on February 25 felt sick and went to the hospital. She isolated herself in her home. On March 3 the first person-to -person spread in New York State was confirmed in a man from New Rochelle who worked in midtown Manhattan. On March 9, there were 16 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New York City, marking the beginning of the exponential spread of the virus.
March 14: New York City reported its first death from Covid-19.
March 20: I began self-isolation after having been exposed to four people with Covid-19 infections. 43 deaths were reported in New York City on that day.
March 25: 88 Covid-19 deaths were reported in New York City. 13 of the deaths were in a single hospital, Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.
April 2020, the cruelest month.
I ended self-isolation on April 1. I went out on the streets again with a camera and began to document what I saw in my neighborhood within walking distance of my home. By that date, a total of 672 people had died in New York City as the virus continued to spread exponentially through the population.
On April 5, 594 coronavirus deaths were reported in New York City.
April 7: 590 coronavirus patients died in New York City.
April 12: 573 Covid-19 deaths in New York City.
April 16: 413 confirmed deaths due to Covid-19 in New York City
April 25: 264 confirmed Covid-19 deaths in New York City
May 2020: Spring weather, continued lockdown, the start of reopening.
May 9: Confirmed deaths from Covid fall below 100 for the first time since March 24.
May 16: 83 confirmed Covid-19 deaths in New York City.
May 31: 39 confirmed deaths due to Covid-19 in New York City
June 2020: Protests and pandemic
George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis on May 25. After video of his arrest and death became public, demonstrations and protests broke out across the country. Protests and vigils in every borough of New York City continued every day and night through the month of June. The protests began peacefully but some descended into violence and looting at night early in the month. Soon the city was shocked to see the violent actions of some members of the New York Police Department who were captured on video clubbing and pepper spraying peaceful protesters and arresting journalists. The roar of police helicopters hovering overhead became common as NYPD tracked rapidly moving groups of protesters and apparently photographed them in great detail using advanced software. You could tell where a march was taking place by watching the trajectory of the helicopters.
June 5: 26 confirmed deaths due to Covid-19 in New York City.
June 11: 20 confirmed deaths due to Covid-19 in New York City.
June 21: 28 confirmed deaths due to Covid-19 in New York City
June 30, 2020. Confirmed death total in New York City to date: 18,491
Probable deaths: 4,581
On June 30, the count of New Yorkers who have died of Covid-19 increased by 692, the new number reflecting city residents who died outside the city since the beginning of the pandemic.