The Canadian Press
A year like no other: Americans shambled through it, doing the best they could under circumstances that were uneven at best — and sometimes downright punishing.
As they endured, here and there they pulled out their phones and did what so many people do these days: They snapped photos of the world around them.
Snapshots of 2020. We all have them. And behind some are the stories of an era of pandemic and polarization and progress and upheaval and daily life — the visual representations of the lives people experienced and the moments they captured.
Associated Press reporters went back to some of the people they interviewed during the news events of the past year and asked a straightforward question: What image on your phone’s camera roll tells YOUR story of 2020?
For the next three days, we are sharing some of their answers in photographs and words, adding new ones each day.
DALE TODD, IOWA
The Aug. 10 derecho that hammered Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with winds up to 140 mph severely damaged tens of thousands of homes and businesses and devastated the community’s tree canopy.
Much of the city of 130,000 people was without electricity for a week or longer. “It feels like we got kicked in the teeth pretty good,” city councillor Dale Todd says.
But Todd says the lack of power and air conditioning caused something “sort of magical” to happen: Once-distant neighbours came together to help as the city started a massive effort to clear debris.
Todd’s family and neighbours gathered every night for community meals, at first featuring meats that had to be used or would spoil. They talked about their days and looked at the stars from Todd’s backyard without distractions from cellphones or television.
In this photo, Todd’s wife, Sara, fixes the mask of their 21-year-old son, Adam, who has severe epilepsy. Todd calls the photo a reminder of the “powerful sense of community that evolved.”
“That is what is going to get us through this pandemic, through this next year with the economy,” he says, “and hopefully it can be a model for how we rebuild our politics and sense of democracy.”
— By Ryan Foley
RUTH CABALLERO, NEW YORK
When home health nurse Ruth Caballero looks at an April photo of her wearing her full kit of pandemic protective gear, she sees a feeling: “how scared I was.”
Covered in a surgical gown, face shield, plastic cap and two layers of masks and gloves, she was heading into a New York City apartment to see one of her first coronavirus patients, just released from a hospital.
“I remember putting all of that on and saying to myself, ‘Please, let me be able to be as effective medically to help this patient as much as I can. And please allow me to stay COVID-negative,’” recalls Caballero, who works for the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.
Moments later, Caballero came face-to-face with the ravages of COVID-19, meeting a tremendously weakened patient who asked: “Nurse, did they send me home to die?”
“No, they sent you home to live,” Caballero remembers saying. “And we’re going to fight this together.”
Caballero’s cellphone photo is a portrait, one of many, of New York City’s fearsome battle with the coronavirus. During an early April peak, it was blamed for over 750 deaths a day in the city alone. Still, Caballero glimpses more than those desperate times when she looks at that picture.
She also thinks of how different she felt two or three months later, as that first surge subsided, protective equipment shortages eased and she gained experience caring for coronavirus patients — and seeing them get better.
By then, “I looked forward to being able to provide them with nursing care,” says Caballero, who now has worked with more than 50 COVID-19 patients. “I’m not afraid,” she says. “Whatever I can do to help them recover, it is one of my greatest joys.”
— By Jennifer Peltz
LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA, NEW YORK
Lin-Manuel Miranda already wears plenty of hats: He’s a Broadway playwright and producer, singer, songwriter, actor, rapper and composer.
But at the beginning of 2020, he was set to add a new title to his resume: film director. Until the coronavirus pandemic changed his plans, that is. Netflix had to shut down production of his directorial debut, the musical drama “Tick, Tick… Boom!,” earlier this year after only eight days of shooting.
“We started back up again in September. We wrapped just before Thanksgiving. And I’m incredibly grateful and proud to say that we were able to finish filming with no one getting sick, no delays,” Miranda says.
With wild hair and eyes wide open, the entertainer — in a face mask and face shield — took a selfie on the New York set of the film, which stars Andrew Garfield and Vanessa Hudgens. It will be released next year.
“The picture you’re seeing is me at the end of the day of our most complicated musical sequence. … So that’s why my hair is literally standing straight out of pure exhaustion,” he says.
“We really kind of learned a new way of filmmaking,” says Miranda, who this year released the 2016 filmed version of his Broadway musical “Hamilton” on Disney+ as well as “We Are Freestyle Love Supreme,” the Hulu documentary highlighting his improv skills. “It was a lot on top of what is already a hard gig, but it also made finishing it all the sweeter.”
— By Mesfin Fekadu, AP music writer
ADAM RAMMEL, OHIO
Adam Rammel enjoyed seeing a full house at his brewpub, Brewfontaine, and had high hopes for his second location next door, the Syndicate. But for three months, from March 15 to June 5, the Bellefontaine, Ohio, restaurants were closed to indoor diners and limited to takeout and delivery. Rammel can’t shake the image of upside-down chairs on tables in an empty dining room.
Social distancing and customer anxiety have reduced the restaurants’ Friday and Saturday night crowds from an expected 130 people to 60 at best. With winter here, Rammel and his co-owners have given up on serving customers outdoors. Like other restaurateurs, he hopes the widespread availability of a coronavirus vaccine will bring back the crowds.
Asked how he’s been able to get through more than nine months of anxiety, Rammel said he’s been helped by “an amazing support system with partners, including my family. Trying to remain positive. And bourbon. Lots of bourbon.”
— By Joyce Rosenberg, AP business writer
The Associated Press
Consumer Confidence in US Improves on Outlook for Economy – BNN
U.S. consumer confidence rose in January as Americans grew more upbeat about the outlook for the economy and job market in light of further fiscal aid and the distribution of coronavirus vaccines.
The Conference Board’s index of sentiment increased to 89.3 from a revised 87.1 reading in December, according to a report on Tuesday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a reading of 89.
The gauge of expectations rose to a three-month high of 92.5, while a measure of sentiment about current conditions decreased to 84.4, the worst reading since May.
The overall improvement in sentiment follows last month’s passage of a US$900 billion aid package and coincides with a proposed US$1.9 trillion in additional stimulus. While the confidence index remains well below pre-pandemic levels as the health crisis prompts tighter restrictions on activity, a more widespread roll out of the vaccine and additional financial assistance could shore up sentiment.
“Consumers’ appraisal of present-day conditions weakened further in January, with COVID-19 still the major suppressor,” Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said in a statement. “Consumers’ expectations for the economy and jobs, however, advanced further, suggesting that consumers foresee conditions improving in the not-too-distant future.”
The number of Americans that said jobs were currently hard to get increased to the highest level since May, underscoring a rocky labor market. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was Jan. 14.
Still, the share of survey respondents who said better business conditions in the next six months increased to a three-month high of 33.7 per cent from 29.5 per cent. The share anticipating more jobs during that period climbed to 31.3 per cent, also the highest since October.
At the same time, a little more than two-thirds see their incomes remaining flat in the next six months, while the rest of respondents were about evenly split on whether their wages will rise or fall.
Respondents indicated they were more likely to make big purchases in the months ahead. The share expecting to buy a new car increased to 10.7 per cent from 9.8 per cent, and more said they intended to buy a home.
Taiwan economy seen growing 3.61% in fourth quarter on boost from exports: Reuters poll – The Guardian
TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s economy is expected to have expanded 3.61% year-on-year in the fourth quarter, a Reuters poll showed, as the export-dependent island continued to shake off the coronavirus jolt with a return of strong shipments and consumer confidence.
The trade-dependent economy grew 3.92% in the third quarter from a year earlier, in a solid rebound from a 0.58% contraction in the second quarter.
Taiwan, a key hub in the global technology supply chain for tech giants such as Apple Inc, is expected to have posted slightly slower gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 3.61% on year in October-December, according to the poll of 14 economists.
Predications varied widely from growth of 2.1% to as high as 6.83%.
Exports in 2020 rose 4.9% to $345.28 billion, a record high by value for a single year.
In December, Taiwan’s central bank revised up its growth outlook for this year.
It raised its 2020 forecast for GDP growth to 2.58% from 1.6% predicted in September, and projected 2021 growth at 3.68%, compared with 3.28% seen at its last quarterly meeting.
Taiwan’s exports have benefited from the work-and-study from home trend around the world, which has boosted demand for laptops, tablets and other electronics made with components supplied by firms like Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC).
Taiwan’s largest trading partner China registered faster-than-expected economic growth in the fourth quarter of last year, with GDP up 6.5% year-on-year.
Taiwan’s preliminary fourth-quarter figures will be released on Friday. Revised figures, including details and government forecasts, will be published about three weeks later.
(Poll compiled by Carol Lee; Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
New coronavirus variants pose major risk to the global economy, IMF warns – CTV News
The pandemic could slam the brakes on a global economic turnaround this year despite mass vaccination programs and unprecedented levels of stimulus, according to the International Monetary Fund.
The IMF expects the global economy to grow by 5.5% this year, it said on Tuesday, or 0.3 percentage points faster than its previous forecast in October. The upgrade reflects “expectations of a vaccine-powered strengthening of activity later in the year and additional policy support in a few large economies,” the group said. (The IMF estimates that the world economy shrank by 3.5% in 2020, its biggest peacetime contraction since the Great Depression.)
But it also warned that surging infections in late 2020, renewed lockdowns and logistical problems with vaccine distribution could hamstring growth. If new variants of the coronavirus also prove difficult to contain, global output this year would be 0.75% less than the IMF expects.
Looking further ahead, the IMF expects global growth to slow to 4.2% in 2022.
“Much now depends on the outcome of this race between a mutating virus and vaccines to end the pandemic, and on the ability of policies to provide effective support until that happens,” Gita Gopinath, chief economist of the IMF, said in a blog post.
Some countries will recover more quickly than others. China, which was the only major economy to grow in 2020, is forecast to achieve growth of 8.1% this year. The United States should emerge from its deep slump to expand by 5.1%, a pace that’s 2 percentage points faster than the IMF predicted in October.
The 19 countries that use the euro are expected to see growth of 4.2% in 2021. The United Kingdom, which endured a 10% contraction last year as it left the European Union and is now battling a new coronavirus variant, would rebound with relatively modest growth of 4.5%.
“The wide divergence reflects to an important extent differences across countries in behavioral and public health responses to infections, flexibility and adaptability of economic activity to low mobility, preexisting trends, and structural rigidities entering the crisis,” the IMF said.
The pandemic is causing “exceptional uncertainty,” according to the IMF.
“Although new restrictions following the surge in infections (particularly in Europe) suggest growth could be weaker than projected in early 2021, other factors pull the distribution of risks in the opposite direction,” the IMF said.
If the vaccine distribution and efficacy go smoothly, for example, output could exceed expectations by as much as 1% globally, with companies hiring and expanding capacity in anticipation of rising demand.
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