Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

One Year Later: How a Global Pandemic Has Changed Our Lives and What Comes Next


One year ago today, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic. At that time, worldwide, over 4,600 people were confirmed dead as a result of COVID-19 and approximately 125,000 people were confirmed to be infected with the virus. In the organization’s message, the WHO proclaimed COVID-19 was a global pandemic and encouraged aggressive action from all nations to combat the virus. The world went into lockdown, with countries closing off borders, flights being grounded, and major cities enforcing stay-at-home orders. 

To date, there have been over 118.2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, with the global death toll reaching approximately 2.6 million this week. This coming Saturday, March 13, 2021, marks the one-year anniversary since the United States (US) declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a national emergency, two days after the WHO pandemic declaration.


Essential workers in fields ranging from trash collection, food services, transportation, and medicine have been working on the front lines since before the pandemic declaration. Dr. Angela Chen, an ER physician at The Mount Sinai Hospital and the first doctor to diagnose New York City’s first confirmed COVID-19 case on March 1, 2020, spoke with NPR on the COVID-19 wave that decimated the City. Frontline healthcare workers initially struggled to create wards dedicated for COVID-19 patients to control the spread of a then-unknown disease. “The amount of tragedy and death that we saw — nothing in my training prepared me for it,” Chen said.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization officially tweeted that COVID-19 is a global pandemic: Twitter.com

Government agencies were among the first to shut down at the onset of the pandemic. On March 12, 2020, The Associated Press (AP) reported Congress closed the US Capitol, House, and Senate office buildings to the public, with an initial reopening date of April 1, 2020. California was one of the first states to enact stay-at-home orders, with The New York Times reporting that Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties issued a three-week shelter-at-home order on March 16, 2020. California Governor Gavin Newsom called for the closure of restaurants and bars, and banned visits to hospitals and nursing homes unless in the case of severe circumstances, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered all nonessential businesses to close on March 20, 2020.

The US economy struggled, and still continues to struggle, under the burden of unemployment and recession. According to the International Monetary Fund, US residents out of work reached an annual rate of 8.9 percent. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) estimated COVID-19 resulted in a 60 percent decline in international tourism in 2020, with a potential to decline up to 80 percent when all of the data for 2020 were aggregated.

Veronica Benavides: Unsplash

NBC’s WKYC-3 in Cleveland, Ohio, provided a timeline of how sports and world events were canceled, starting on March 11, 2020, when a game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder was postponed halfway through the game after Jazz Center Rudy Gobert was revealed to have tested positive for the virus. The following day, the NHL announced a delay to the season, while college conferences throughout the US canceled NCAA basketball tournaments. By March 24, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) postponed the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan until July 23, 2021. Wimbledon had been scheduled for June 29 to July 12, 2020, but tournament organizers declared the event canceled for the duration of 2020 – the first cancelation for the event since World War II, according to The New York Times. While countries and states were placed in lockdown, there were still those who needed to continue their work, risking their health and safety in service to others. 

Today, the number of Americans who know someone deceased from COVID-19 is increasing. According to the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index, 34 percent, or roughly one-in-three Americans, knows someone who has died as a result of the virus. The past year has created unprecedented challenges for every industry, across every avenue of the US’ society, yet the medical community’s global efforts have helped to limit the spread of the virus and provide respite for long-term recovery.


Shortly after the 2021 new year, vaccination efforts increased across the US. As of today, approximately 18.8 percent of the US population has received their first dose of the vaccine, and 9.8 percent have gotten their second dose. According to the CDC, the three pharmaceutical companies with emergency use authorization (EUA) to produce the vaccine include Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Even more companies and vaccinations, such as AstraZeneca and Novavax, are going through late-stage trials to be approved for distribution. Daily infection rates in the US have been steadily trending downwards since mid-January of this year. 

Many individuals have started to look towards a brighter future, which may not be as far off as it seemed just last year. Today, President Biden signed a $1.9 trillion stimulus package into law, which will provide relief for thousands of Americans including much needed federal funding for schools and higher educational institutions; small businesses; tribal, state, and local governments; and more. 

The one-year anniversary of an unprecedented global event is a memorial to the lives that have been lost, tested, and derailed. The sacrifices and work by so many people on the front lines and behind the scenes is a testament to our nation’s strength. As we move forward, may we take the lessons learned to prepare and protect the world from ever experiencing a pandemic on this level again.

Joely Bertram is an Associate in the Preparedness Division working out of Hagerty’s office in Washington, D.C. 

Molly Harris  is an Associate at Hagerty who works within the Communication and Operations Teams.

Ruth Anne Holiday is a Managing Associate at Hagerty, supporting both the Preparedness and Recovery Divisions.

Sarah Herchenbach is a Marketing Associate at Hagerty and leads the Situational Status Blog Team.