BUFFALO, N.Y. — It's been six months since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic and since then so much has changed.
In a briefing in March, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, "I know people wanna hear it's only gonna be a matter of weeks and then everything's going to be fine. I don't believe it's going to be a matter of weeks. I believe it is going to be a matter of months."
Here we are in September, with the pandemic, for many people, still impacting our interactions with others, our work and even our back to school season.
When asked about New York's progress, Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul responded in a statement saying in part:
"New York was hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the many sacrifices made by New Yorkers and through a science and data-based approach, we are now at 35 straight days with an infection rate below 1%," she said.
"We were the first state to mandate mask-wearing and implement an aggressive testing and contact tracing program, providing a playbook for the rest of the country to follow. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic and cannot afford to lose the progress we have made."
Dr. Thomas Russo, the chief of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo, said while it's been a long six months, COVID is not over yet.
"Best-case scenario: vaccination is what's gonna get us out of this mess," he said, "and hopefully if the vaccines that are being evaluated now look good, we'll be able to start vaccinating people in the early part of 2021."
Dr. Russo said here in Western New York, we've come a long way.
However, his concern is that with the colder weather approaching and fewer outdoor options for activities, we could see an increase in the infection rate.
"The critical message at this point is as difficult as it may seem for a lot of individuals, we still have to be rigorous and carry on with these public health measures for a while still," Dr. Russo said.
Looking ahead to what's next for Western New York, Hochul, who's leading the region's reopening effort, said in a statement:
"As we enter fall and the start of flu season, we need to be vigilant of a second wave. You’ve heard it before, but it’s just as important as ever: Wear a mask, physically distance, avoid large gatherings and get a flu shot," she said.
"We will continue to monitor the data, respond to regional increases, and rely on testing and contact tracing to keep New Yorkers safe. We are relying on all New Yorkers to continue working together, respect others and help prevent the spread of this deadly virus."
As for when life will return to normal in the United States, Dr. Anthony Fauci reportedly said that may not be until late 2021 even with a vaccine. Read more on that here.