As the world celebrated another decade’s passing and fashioned its hopes for the new year on Dec. 31, 2019, the World Health Organization’s China Country Office was informed that a pneumonia case of unknown origin was detected in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province, China.
Over the next few months, the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, took a hold on China before spreading throughout the world. On March 11, the WHO characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic after 118,000 cases were reported in 114 countries, and 4,291 people died.
“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a media briefing that same day. “It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.”
By April 17, data from The New York Times showed the pandemic had sickened over 2.1 million people and killed over 144,400 people. In the U.S., at least 673,000 people across every state, Washington, D.C. and four U.S. territories had tested positive for the virus, and at least 30,000 patients with the virus had died. Infected numbers were only confirmed cases, and these cases and deaths were expected to rise.
Around the country, people practiced social distancing, staying at least six feet apart from each other. Panic-buying ensued as people saw other countries enter lockdown. According to the Department of Labor, nearly 22 million Americans filed for unemployment insurance between March 15 and April 11 as retail and other services closed or changed their operations.
“I speak often of the critical nature of our work to elevate the communities in which we live and our role as a lighthouse in our region,” WKU President Timothy Caboni said in a campus-wide email on March 11. “This responsibility includes leading in the face of adversity and doing the right thing, even when it calls for sacrifice.”
After an extended spring break, all classes went online for the rest of the semester. All in-person events were canceled. Students had to be sent home, and commencement ceremonies were postponed to an unknown future.
As the pandemic continued to loom, Talisman photographers set out in March to document its impact on Bowling Green and how people still manage to connect with each other in a time when surviving means staying apart.