NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been felt around the globe.

More than 114 million cases have been reported worldwide, and 2.5 million deaths.

The United States has seen 28 million of those cases, and more than half a million people have died. That’s higher than American death tolls for World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam War combined.

In New York City, there are more than 600,000 confirmed cases, and nearly 25,000 deaths.

The city was one of the first hard hit in the country. From March to May, it was the epicenter of the virus.

As CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported, it was a devastating period that changed the city profoundly.

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The first COVID patient in the Tri-State Area was a 39-year-old health care worker who had recently returned from a trip overseas. She recovered at home.

Medical professionals and politicians had been preparing for that moment, but at the time, no one truly knew what was in store.

“We didn’t go to any places, cooked food at home and everything. It was very scary times,” Astoria resident Marianna Obushko told Cline-Thomas. “I don’t know how much more graphic we could be… Go past a hospital — a neighborhood hospital here, Mt. Sinai — and see the morgue tractor trailer.”

By the time the first reported case of the coronavirus was identified in March of 2020, the virus was already spreading, unknowingly, in the Tri-State Area.

“I already knew it was coming. I already bought masks. I told all of my American friends. Nobody wanted to believe me,” Astoria resident Joanne Wang said.

“We have told New Yorkers from the beginning: Get ready, here it comes, we’re all going to be able to deal with it together,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said on March 2, 2020.

A YEAR IN THE PANDEMIC: REMEMBRANCE & RESILIENCE

Calls for continuing life as usual while taking precautions lasted just days before schools, businesses and iconic landmarks were closed, except for what was deemed essential.

Weeks turned into months. Face coverings became the mandatory accessory, keeping our distance an urgent safety measure, and long standing inequities could no longer be denied.

“Since this thing happened, our job is totally down,” said Newark cab driver Prince Dwumfour.

The economic fallout was immediate. Unemployment claims soared, and lines at food pantries wrapped around city blocks.

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Meanwhile on the front lines of the fight, COVID cases exploded.

“It is like something out of the Twilight Zone. I don’t think anyone going through it will ever be the same,” one health care worker told CBS News.

Hospitals were overwhelmed, personal protective equipment in short supply, and families were left devastated.

So far, 69,000 total COVID-related deaths have been reported in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

COVID VACCINE

Still, in the midst of sorrow, there were glimmers of hope.

Patients celebrated being discharged after long battles in the hospital. Neighbors helped each other and rallied around their local businesses, like the Thirsty Koala restaurant in Astoria, Queens.

“We still sponsor meals to first responders and people in the emergency departments,” owner Katherine Fuchs said.

For those forced to pivot, Andy Engel, owner of the Manhattan Comedy School transition his classes to Zoom and found an even deeper purpose.

“People really need comedy now more than ever,” he said. “They became a place to laugh, make others laugh, connect with 20 new friends safely, and more importantly, it became therapy.”

The road to recovery has been marked with starts and stops. This year, has not been easy, but we made it.

There is hope, especially in the COVID vaccines. For many, the goal is not to go back to normal, but to create a new normal that implements everything we have learned during this difficult year.

Aundrea Cline-Thomas