We lost more than 36,000 New Yorkers to COVID-19. Small businesses have been devastated by economic hardships, and thousands have been forced to close their doors. Even more people are experiencing homelessness and food insecurity due to the pandemic.
COVID positivity and hospitalization rates in New York City are rising to alarming levels, reminding many of the dark times in March and April when we heard the constant sirens of ambulances whizzing by.
Although these challenges will continue on in the new year, there is hope for a better 2021. COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have been approved and distributed to frontline health care workers, nursing home residents and long-term care facilities.
Last week, we watched in amazement as a Queens health care worker received the first vaccination. As the health commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said at the time, the moment represented a shot of hope.
Over the weekend, Congress sealed the deal on a $900 billion economic relief package that will provide $600 payments to most Americans, $300 in extra weekly unemployment benefits, $330 billion in small business relief, $90 billion in aid for states and municipalities, and even $4 billion to prevent the MTA from making drastic service cuts.
Like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez expressed at her virtual town hall meeting, the deal is not enough, particularly when it comes to helping the most vulnerable. But for the thousands of families struggling to get by, the relief is long overdue and badly needed.
Hopefully, under the new Biden-Harris administration, Washington will act with urgency to provide even more help to those who need it most.
While we suffered through tremendous loss and pain in 2020, we also saw communities come together. Whether it was the formation of mutual aid groups or the many efforts to support frontline workers, everyday people contributed with compassion and kindness.
It is with this hope that we enter 2021, a year when we can emerge from crisis as a better and more understanding society.