It has now been over a year since March 2020, when the World Health Organization determined that the growing spread of COVID-19 would be officially characterized as a global pandemic. The year that followed challenged humanity with a public health crisis on a scale that few could even imagine, with far-reaching social and economic impacts still being felt across the globe. And yet, this past year also brought out the best in many of us, with medical professionals diligently fighting the pandemic on the front lines and researchers collaborating to progress our global recovery. Owing to the relentless work of researchers making breakthroughs in vaccine research, it appears that the long road to recovery has finally begun.
As of this article's publishing in April 2021, the United States is currently administering over 2.4 million shots per day from its arsenal of three FDA-authorized vaccines developed by pharma giants Pfizer (in collaboration with German biotech company BioNTech), Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. According to the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker, over 187 million doses have been administered since vaccine distribution began in the US on December 14th, with approximately 35.9% of the US population having received at least one dose. It is important to note that both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s offerings require two doses for full efficacy, while Johnson & Johnson’s functions as a single-dose vaccine. With mitigation and recovery efforts well underway, let's take a look back at the past year to see how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the world, and shaped what we now understand to be a “new normal”.
Flashback to March 2020
While the SARS-CoV-2 virus had already been in the US for some months undetected, confirmed cases began to jump at an exponential rate during March of last year. Still, relatively little was understood about the virus and the COVID-19 disease that it caused. Across the country, states began issuing stay-at-home orders and shut down all non-essential businesses, gatherings, and travel. In response to the spread of the virus, ABclonal began developing several recombinant SARS-CoV-2 antigens based on spike and N-protein targets. As a dedicated supplier of research reagents prior to the outbreak, our role at that point was clear: to continue delivering the highest quality COVID-related research products and to help advance the scientific community’s understanding of the disease. Researchers knew that, in order to properly fight COVID-19, it was necessary to first learn the virus and its pathogenesis. By the middle of March, we had begun activity assay testing on recombinant SARS-CoV-2 proteins, and started delivery of validated antigens to researchers by the end of the month.
Our Contribution to Testing Efforts
As COVID-19 spread continued to spread, the need for testing and diagnostics grew. The average person had some access to antibody (serology) testing or diagnostics PCR testing (for more info about the difference between the two, click here). From March 2020 onward, the team at ABclonal committed themselves to supplying necessary reagents to researchers, government agencies, clinicians, and companies worldwide throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, we supplied a wide range of COVID-19 related reagents including recombinant antigens, antibodies, ELISAs, and more. As we continued through the summer months of the pandemic, ABclonal operated as normal while closely following local and federal guidelines to deliver researchers and clinicians the reagents they need in a timely, yet safe manner.
A Year in Review: What Happened and What Have We Learned?
Needless to say, 2020 was a different, yet eventful year in which COVID-19 had far-reaching effects. This includes lower carbon emission rates, due to a decrease in fossil fuel usage triggered by COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions. Global greenhouse emissions declined by roughly 2.4 billion tons, representing a 7% decrease from 2019 and also the largest year-to-year decline on record. Here in the US, we experienced the largest decrease in carbon emissions at 12%. Although we’re likely to see a rebound by the end of 2021 as pandemic recovery efforts progress, prior pandemic restrictions caused a noticeable acceleration in the decrease of coal use in electricity production and oil in transportation. This decrease will present an opportunity for additional government actions to stimulate economic recovery, and to continue incentivizing clean energy and transportation.
Additionally, we’ve seen during this past year that frontline and essential workers are garnering recognition for their tireless efforts in fighting the pandemic, as well as producing and delivering the necessary goods and services. These individuals span many industries and occupations, including but not limited to healthcare workers, researchers, delivery drivers, and grocery store staff. Another positive comes from public health initiatives encouraging better hand hygiene in the form of increased hand washing and sanitizing as critical prevention measures.
In response to lockdowns and social distancing restrictions, we've also seen increased use of video conferencing technology to keep us connected on both a personal and professional level. The shift to a virtual lifestyle, using video calling platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, conveniently connects us to our office life, as well as our friends and family. Working from home took on a whole new meaning as well, as we settled into what has now been a year of being away from our offices.
A view we've likely all become familiar with, as we've made the shift to a work from home environment.
Other Notable Events
- Bong Joon Ho made history as the first Korean to win the Best Director Oscar.
- A record number of Americans turned out to vote in our national election.
- Fauci says Santa Claus is immune to COVID-19.
- John Krasinski made good news go viral with his YouTube series Some Good News.
- Drive-in movie theatres made a comeback
- Gamestop stock and other previously failing stocks reached record highs.
- People went outside more! Between park visits, bike rides, and hikes—socially-distanced outdoor activities drove people to venture outside, to and enjoy nature and the great outdoors.
- Tesla donates hundreds of ventilators to New York, distributed to hospitals in NYC and across New York state.
- Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, used the team's plane to bring back 1.2 million N95 masks from China to help ease PPE shortages.
For further reading, be sure to check out our curated list of blogs and resources here that we've been able to compile over the course of a year under COVID-19.