Massachusetts coronavirus pandemic: One year later

One year ago today Massachusetts — and the world — sat on the brink of a growing coronavirus pandemic that would turn life upside down, changing the way society interacts, goes to work and handles public health.

“People in Massachusetts have been battling the coronavirus now for over a year. It’s been a year filled with tragedy and loss, dislocation, isolation and heartache. It’s also been filled with kindness, grace, perseverance and creativity,” Gov. Charlie Baker said, reflecting on the pandemic during a recent legislative oversight hearing.

On March 8, 2020, the state Department of Public Health reported 13 total confirmed cases of the coronavirus. It’s a number that would continue to balloon in the days, weeks and months ahead, straining hospitals and placing pressure on health-care professionals like never before.

Just two days later, Baker would declare a state of emergency over the growing outbreak, foreshadowing the close of schools and businesses to come and a year of hand-washing, mask-wearing, death, isolation and fear ahead.

By March 11, the World Health Organization would label the outbreak a full-blown pandemic.

Massachusetts would see its first death on March 20 — the first of many to come as the state’s oldest residents, especially those living in nursing homes, would fall vulnerable by the hundreds to the highly infectious disease.

One year later, Massachusetts has seen more than 559,000 coronavirus infections and tragically, more than 16,000 have died.

Today, there are more than 27,000 active infections in Massachusetts alone. Roughly 272,000 thousand workers are still jobless. At least 3,400 restaurants have closed or suspended operations, according to the Massachusetts Restaurant Association. Thousands of other small businesses continue to struggle.

But there is also hope.

Three vaccines — one of which was developed by Massachusetts company Moderna — are making their way into arms around the world and providing much-needed immunity to the pathogen that changed everything.

More than 1.4 million Massachusetts residents have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, state health data show.

Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, said despite the negatives, the coronavirus is not without its “silver linings.”

As chairman of a new legislative special committee on Reimagining Massachusetts: Post-Pandemic Resiliency, Hinds said lawmakers will tackle inequities in health care, wealth and other sectors of society laid bare by the pandemic.

Black and Latino residents have been particularly hard-hit, economically, and both in case numbers and deaths when compared to white residents.

“It’s often these big events that force us to take stock of where we are as a commonwealth — as a society — so we can seize the moment to address our key vulnerabilities and to make sure we’re creating greater opportunity for everyone,” Hinds said.

Key dates Massachusetts in COVID-19 response

Feb. 1: First case found in Massachusetts
March 10: Gov. Charlie Baker declares public health emergency
March 11: WHO officially declares COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic
March 12: Gov. Baker issues the first pandemic executive order, suspending open meeting law provisions
March 15: Gov. Baker cancels in-person school, initially for two weeks
March 20: First death in Massachusetts
March 23: Gov. Baker orders nonessential businesses to close

This is the first in an occasional series of articles examining the first full year of life under the coronavirus pandemic.

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