Channel 9 reflects: One year since COVID-19 declared pandemic

One year ago on Thursday, our world changed.

The NBA halted its season, Tom Hanks announced he had the coronavirus and the World Health Organization officially declared a pandemic.

>>At the time, we never could have imagined what the next year had in store but Channel 9 felt it was important to not only reflect back, but look ahead. Watch the video at the top of the page for a look at how far we’ve come.

‘Its been a struggle for a lot of us’

It’s been a year of incredible loss, isolation and exhausting work -- all of which can take a toll on mental health.

“Life is good even when its bad,” COVID survivor Risi Small said. “During the worst times you look for the good and if you look hard enough, you find it.”

Everyone lost something this year, whether it was a job, a loved one or a sense of normalcy.

“Surviving depression, anxiety. All of that comes to the surface during something like this,” Charlotte mother Renee Cacace said.

It can be overwhelming to think about the past year. Channel 9 spoke to Dr. Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea from Presbyterian Psychological Services who said people will likely be processing this for months to come.

“There will be some people that have posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms,” Frawley-O’Dea said. “Not sleeping, not being able to take pleasure in what they usually take pleasure in, having intrusive thoughts.

Frawley-O’Dea said this could especially be the case for healthcare workers. Presbyterian Psychological Services offers free and financially assisted therapy to healthcare workers and first responders.

Frawley-O’Dea said it is important to talk about it and also think about the lessons learned as priorities shifted over the past year.

Channel 9 spoke to people who are already doing that.

“Many families had lost that connection with one another,” Roy Henry said. “That gave us the opportunity to learn to bond together again and listen to one another.”

If you need help processing the past year, you can visit our Mental Health Resources page here.

[County-by-county guide: Here’s when, where you can get the COVID-19 vaccine]

A timeline of COVID-19 in North Carolina

On March 3, 2020, we learned of the first COVID-19 case in North Carolina. Gov. Roy Cooper made the announcement saying the person was exposed at a long-term care facility in Washington State before returning to Wake County.

Eight days later, the World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic.

On March 26, 2020, Mecklenburg County issued a stay-at-home order after reporting the county made up 25% of COVID-19 cases in the state at the time.

A few days later, Cooper issued his state-wide “Stay-at-Home” order, where gatherings were restricted to 10 people and you could only leave the house for things like food and medicine or exercise outside.

The order was extended through May 8, when it was modified as the state transitioned into the first phase of a three-phase plan to reopen the state. “Safer at Home Phase 2″ came just two weeks later.

In a summer surge, we reached 2,400 cases in a single day in July.

Cases remained steady through September when the state took a modest step forward into “Phase 2.5: Safer at Home.”

On Oct. 2, 2020, North Carolina transitioned into Phase 3 of Cooper’s reopening plan after the state’s coronavirus case numbers held steady but at higher-than-desired levels.

Throughout the fall, virus trends started moving in the wrong direction and eventually experienced a more intense surge around the holidays

On Nov. 12, 2020, the indoor-gathering limit was reduced to 10 people. Ahead of Thanksgiving, Cooper extended North Carolina’s Phase 3 Executive Order to Dec. 11 and tighten the statewide mask requirement.

On Dec. 8, 2020, Cooper unveiled a modified stay-at-home order that required the state’s roughly 10.5 million residents to remain off the streets between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. -- the first of such restrictions since Memorial Day.

On Dec. 14, 2020, a Charlotte doctor was first in the state to get the COVID-19 vaccine, bringing new hope to millions across the state.

With limited supply of vaccine doses and wide-spread hesitancy, COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continued to surge until reaching a peak in early January when the state reported more than 11,000 new positive COVID-19 cases in one day -- the highest since the start of the pandemic.

At the end of January, the modified stay-at-home order was extended through February. At that time, 630,000 people had received their first dose of the vaccine across the state and another 180,000 have received both first and second doses.

On Feb. 26, 2021, the state eased gathering and occupancy restrictions and end its 10 p.m. statewide curfew. It also allowed bars and taverns to offer indoor service for the first time since early into the coronavirus pandemic. The new order also allowed more fans at sporting events.

That order remains in effect until March 26.

As of Thursday -- which marked one year since the start of the pandemic -- more than 3 million vaccine doses have been administered in North Carolina with about 11% of the population fully vaccinated.

Over the course of the year, there have been more than 879,000 COVID-19 cases across North Carolina and more than 11,000 people have died.

Marking a year of loss and disruption, President Joe Biden used his first prime-time address since taking office to steer the nation toward a hungered-for sentiment -- hope -- in the “next phase” of the fight against the pandemic that has killed more than 529,000 Americans.

Biden’s challenge Thursday night was to honor the sacrifices made by Americans over the last year while encouraging them to remain vigilant despite “virus fatigue” and growing impatience to resume normal activities given the tantalizing promise of vaccines.