Photos: living in the shadow of a COVID-19 laden spring

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a woman descends into shadowy subway system and an uncertain future.
Photo by Dean Moses

The COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest global health crisis in over a century. As such, analysis of the details and statistics surrounding the virus have inundated our daily lives for a year now. However, for many New Yorkers there is nothing that showcases life with the novel coronavirus more than the scenes of those first few months. From the empty streets of a comatose city and the closure of public playgrounds to the lines of newly masked individuals waiting their turn to enter local supermarkets, amNewYork Metro looks back at images exemplifying the human experience during that historic Spring.

On Feb. 13th, the Mayor and other elected officials joined the Flushing Chinese Business Association to dine at Royal Queen restaurant inside the New World Mall, located at 136-20 Roosevelt Ave. Photo by Dean Moses 

In February, just as the winter’s frost began to fade the destructive power of the virus had already been well documented, albeit at that time it was still a faraway threat. In an attempt to quell the rumbling fears brewing around the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio visited Flushing, Queens where he enjoyed lunch. This effort to alleviate rising tensions may have been well intended but ultimately proved to be unfounded as COVID-19 reached New York less than one month later.

In early February Asian Americans started to experience racial attacks, incidents of individuals spraying  Lysol on innocent bystanders and then mocked and targeted for wearing masks before it became advised by the CDC. Photo by Dean Moses

On March 1st, the first case of the dreaded virus was reported in New York City. Soon thereafter hospitals swiftly became over encumbered with patients. Reports of families leaving loved ones at the doorsteps of medical centers before speeding away quickly became headline news as cases skyrocketed day by day, doubling overnight.

Here, staff at NYU Langone Brooklyn Medical Center prepares for patients. Photo by Todd Maisel
Mayor Bill de Blasio held a round table meeting on March 2, 2020 with government officials as a dry run on handling an outbreak of the coronavirus in New York City. Photo by Todd Maisel

As political leaders made a game plan, so did hospitals in New York City. Regulations and safety measures were increased, splitting emergency rooms between patients with COVID-19 symptoms and those with other ailments. Medical staff at various hospitals pre-screened patients prior to entering their facilities. 

Medical staff at NYU Langone Brooklyn in Sunset Park were ready to triage patients at the walk-in emergency room. Photo by Todd Maisel

While city workers scrambled to deal with the ramifications of the pandemic, New Yorkers came to terms with a very different, bleaker, city.  Unemployment rates rose as many business were forced to close, Governor Cuomo announced a state moratorium on residential and commercial evictions on March 20, 2020 so that tenants could not be evicted during the health crises (In June, the Tenant Safe Harbor Act was signed), and then the food insecurity crisis began to be a widespread issue.   

Even at the beginning of the pandemic food access was a problem for many low-income neighborhoods. This woman receives a bag of vegetables from City Harvest in the Bronx in mid-March. Photo by Todd Maisel 
Before the citywide lockdown was officially mandated, many New Yorkers could see which way the wind was blowing. Lines formed outside of electronic businesses like Best Buy, many people rushing to purchase equipment they could use during quarantine. Photo by Dean Moses

Schools played a game of hot potato, closing and opening several times as Mayor Bill de Blasio, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and now former NYC Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza debated on a citywide plan for students.  Churches were closed, stores shuttered their doors, and some businesses either remained open for a limited amount of time or only provided curbside service.  Parks remained closed for children, and all were asked to self-quarantine. 

Following the first deaths stemming from COVID-19 on March 14th, Manhattan and the surrounding boroughs were placed into lockdown on March 20th. The effects of this executive order are still being felt today due to the closure of all non-essential businesses, including religious institutions. Photo by Dean Moses
The countless sounds of emergency service vehicles echoed throughout the day and night, as the street remained barren. Photo by Dean Moses

The streets became an empty abyss, seeing only those who were foraging for food at near-empty grocery stores with lines going down several street blocks.

New York City is known for its continuously changing landscape, since the early 19th century the city has expanded both outwards and upwards, leaving the sight of construction work commonplace. Still, the scale in which every non-essential business was forced to closed left many stunned, like this elderly lady in Sunnyside, Queens. Photo by Dean Moses
Parks were closed until further notice. Photo by Dean Moses
NYC Parks Department held mask distributions during the pandemic. Photo by Dean Moses
Various drive through COVID-19 testing sites were implemented throughout the city. On March 19, the new coronavirus testing site opened in Staten Island where several hundred people were tested. Photo by  Todd Maisel

To help reduce and monitor the spread of COVID-19, several drive-through testing sites were erected throughout the city. CDC guidelines were continuously stressed by both health and elected officials, stating to maintain six feet apart, wear masks, and religiously wash your hands. For some, the quarantine meant months without seeing grandparents and other loved ones, while other couples attempted to keep some semblance of normalcy by wearing gloves as they held hands.     

With the majority of New Yorkers quarantining, the city became a ghost town of metal shutters and empty streets for the rest of the month. There we some who attempted to maintain human touch, even through plastic gloves. Photo by Dean Moses

In April, the lockdown message was starting to reach the ears of the city. With storefronts closed and no reason to leave home save for food, parking lots remained empty. Public transport also became nearly non-existent. Train hours and MTA personnel were significantly reduced and the homeless were pushed out from sleeping within stations overnight.


Rattling train cars often transported nothing but empty air beneath a sleeping city. This is the Rockaway Parkway bound L train. Photo by Dean Moses
Bus fares were no longer taken, as many MTA drivers feared for their lives and barricaded the front entrance only allowing passengers in through the rear. This is a photograph of the B82 Bus in Brooklyn on March 21, 2020. Photo by Dean Moses

On March 24, emergency services were given strict regulations to protect themselves from contracting the coronavirus while treating patients. Medical personnel were instructed to wear masks, gloves, face shields, and disposable surgical gowns when treating a patient. Firefighters and police were told not to be inside or near emergency services if they were treating a patient that had COVID-19 symptoms.

EMS crews remove a woman from her building after she became ill. They didn’t believe she had coronavirus, but took no chances. Photo by Todd Maisel
First responders donned gowns and masks when treating those in need.  Photo by Todd Maisel

During this time, the appreciation for healthcare and essential workers were unprecedented. New Yorkers found their own unique ways of thanking those who spent every single day risking their lives.  From clapping, banging drums, and even jogging with the Star-Spangled banner, city dwellers made their appreciation known loudly and proudly. 

A mother and son bang on drums in Stuyvesant Town to thank those striving to save lives. Photo by Dean Moses
An elderly man plays a bagpipe in honor of  the life-savers. Photo by Dean Moses 
A jogger runs along the FDR drive proudly brandishing the nation’s flag with the words thank you written across it. Photo by Dean Moses 
The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds flew over hospitals throughout the city to honor health care professionals for their work with COVID-19 patients. Here, they are seen from Brooklyn Hospital. Photo by Todd Maisel