Watch The Pandemic: One Year Later In New York, a special report on how COVID-19 has impacted our communities, families, and businesses. The show will air at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 20, and Sunday, March 21.

There are many unanswered questions one year into the COVID-19 pandemic.

How long will we need to wear masks? When can we safely be surrounded by the people we love? Has our “normal” been changed forever, or can we expect to go back to life as we once knew it?

Since the outbreak began, more than 1.5 million New Yorkers have tested positive for COVID-19. But progress is being made and it’s giving people hope for the future.

As of March, around 10 million New Yorkers became eligible to receive a vaccine, and health leaders say about 3 million doses were administered. The process to vaccinate our state’s population of nearly 20 million is a massive undertaking. While critics say the process has been a slow one, there are signs that the pace is starting to pick up.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency approval to a third vaccine — Johnson & Johnson — which requires just one shot. The Biden administration expects vaccine doses to be available for all adult Americans by the end of May, two months earlier than expected.

“That’s progress. Important progress,” Biden said in a news conference this month.

What You Need To Know

  • The Biden Administration says there could be enough vaccines for all adults to be inoculated by the end of May

  • Experts say masks will likely be a mainstay well into 2022

  • Progress is being made, as infection rates decrease and some restrictions are easing around the state

In another sign of progress, infection rates have decreased steadily since the winter holidays. Still, one year later, life as we know it hasn’t really returned to the normal we once knew.

As it turns out, a lot of that depends on who is willing to make an effort.

“There’s still a portion of the population that doesn’t want to take the vaccine, and that is working against us,” Jeffrey Shaman, an infectious disease forecaster at Columbia University, said in a recent interview with Spectrum News.

Myths, misinformation, and maladministration are leading to hesitation surrounding the vaccine. Experts say people refusing to get vaccinated will result in this pandemic being drawn out even longer before herd immunity is achieved and the bulk of restrictions are lifted.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, was cautious when answering questions about whether life will ever go back to the way it was before the pandemic. He suggested wearing masks could be mainstay well into 2022, but remains optimistic.

“I think that we cannot become complacent, and we have to address the situation with the variant. But things should get better, particularly as more and more people get vaccinated. Hopefully by the time we enter 2022, we will have a degree of normality that will approximate the kind of normality we’re used to,” Fauci said in an interview with Spectrum News in February.

Planning for the future also means dealing with the past. Health experts predict the mental health implications of COVID-19 will likely linger, especially for children, long after the mass vaccinations end.

“We’re dealing with a lot of new stresses that none of us have ever seen and certainly, kids are not prepared for all the changes that they’re being exposed to and really don’t have a clue as to what to do next…keeping an open dialogue is enormously important,” clinical psychiatrist Dr. Rudy Nydegger said in an interview with Spectrum News.

The lasting physical impacts of COVID-19 will continue to be felt for years.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says people who experienced symptoms and worrisome side effects after getting sick with the coronavirus are still dealing with it. Mild issues, like fatigue and cough, to more severe cardiovascular and neurological issues, are known to linger after the virus appears to have run its course in an infected person.

Indoor residential gatherings in New York remain restricted to 10 people. But by the end of the month, state officials are expected to allow private outdoor gatherings for up to 25 people.

The state also plans to ease restrictions on mass social gatherings like weddings, allowing up to 150 people per event, with testing and masks still mandatory.

“I feel like it’s going to go in our favor, or it’s going to set us back," wedding photographer Tiffany Wayne told Spectrum News. "Because, really, it’s going to take one incident to happen and then it’s going to set us all back. So, I don’t know what to expect. I hope this will continue to move this forward.”

For the foreseeable future, mask wearing and social distancing are likely to continue as our normal. While there is hope for the future, experts say it’s going to take all of us to get there.