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Readers share the moment when they realized how serious the COVID-19 pandemic would be

One year after the first positive test in Rhode Island, we look back at the moments when we knew our lives had changed.

Central Falls, R.I., Mayor Maria Rivera sheds a tear as she talks about her community and the at risk population there at Central Falls High School in Central Falls, Rhode Island, on Feb. 13, 2021.
Central Falls, R.I., Mayor Maria Rivera sheds a tear as she talks about her community and the at risk population there at Central Falls High School in Central Falls, Rhode Island, on Feb. 13, 2021.JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

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Happy Monday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and I’m pumped to watch the Biggie documentary on Netflix. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.

ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 125,622 confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday, after adding 399 new cases. The overall daily test-positive rate was 2.1 percent, and the first-time positive rate was 18.8 percent. The state announced six more deaths, bringing the total to 2,502. There were 168 people in the hospital, and 75,007 residents had been fully vaccinated.


It has now been one year since we learned about the first positive COVID-19 test in Rhode Island, and life as we know it began to change.

As we think about the residents who have lost their lives over the last year, I asked Rhode Map readers to send in their memories of when they realized how serious the pandemic would be.

Here’s a collection of some of your most poignant stories.

⚓ When I had to watch my daughter’s wedding on FaceTime. – Ann Hamm

⚓ I had just returned to the office from paternity leave when Johnson & Wales made the wise decision to send students home for the remainder of the spring semester and equip staff to work from home. As if that wasn’t shocking enough, the recommendations from the Department of Health and our pediatrician to lock down and not allow anyone inside of our home, at a time when we were eager to share our baby girl with the world, told us that it would be some time before life would go back to normal. – Ryan Crowley


⚓ When the St. Patrick’s Day parades were all canceled. – Mary Lebeau

⚓ We realized things were going to be different when the NBA game we were watching got canceled due to a player having COVID. They had to evacuate the arena. Soon after all the major sports leagues went down and you knew things were serious. – Michael Fortin, Fall River

⚓ I am Italian, so the disastrous situation there hit (literally) very close to home and I was extremely worried about my family and my elderly parents. On a personal level, being an immigrant, the flight bans struck me with their significance quite early. Knowing that I couldn’t get in and out of the US and the EU easily meant scrambling to extend visas, cancel conferences, and more, and all of that was already happening when life in Rhode Island was still “normal.” I am optimistic, though, and look forward to a brighter future (fully aware of being lucky as I lost no one I love to the pandemic). – Giacomo Leoni, URI

⚓ I was living in North Conway, New Hampshire, coming to the end of an interim pastorate, when on March 14 at 9 p.m., our school district announced it was closing for two weeks out of an abundance of caution. The next morning, the congregation decided to suspend in-person worship for as long as the schools were closed, which quickly extended to the end of April and then through the end of the school year. – Rev. Dr. Ruth Shaver, Pawtucket


⚓ It was on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. I was at my mom’s assisted living facility. I was told to visit her quickly because they were shutting down visiting as we knew it. From that day on, her health deteriorated and she was never the same. Sadly, she died of COVID on Nov. 18. – Peggy Whaton

⚓ For me, it was Tom Hanks’ announcement that he and his wife tested positive in Australia. It was clinched when they announced the cancellation of the basketball game (wasn’t watching; heard on the TV news). I just knew we were in for it at that point. – Val Jarzombek, Providence

⚓ My office closed “for two weeks” almost a year ago. We saw some friends after work the day the closing got announced, and we all talked about all the fun things we’d do to pass two weeks of home time. Sometime that weekend, all my upcoming appointments started getting canceled, and my non-office-dwelling friends started getting laid off. I realized a two-week pause might not be what was really going down. – Katherine Sherman

⚓ Sometime in early February, our daughter in Seattle began emailing us about the nursing home deaths there caused by some kind of virus that maybe had originated in China. But my husband, a serious Red Sox fan, was determined to go to spring training in Fort Myers. However much our daughters and I tried to persuade him to stay home, he left on March 11. On March 12, spring training was canceled. On March 13, he flew back home. That’s when I decided this virus was not going away anytime soon. – Linda Lotridge Levin


⚓ There’s no question I got the sense the world was changing right before our eyes when they canceled the Big East Tournament and the Friars’ game with Butler. Walking around Penn Station like a zombie, trying to figure out what to do to get on a train to go home, I soon realized this was not a drill and that needed to get out of there. – I’m happy we’re progressing. – John Rooke

⚓ The Big East Tournament was one casualty, but cancellation of the A-10 at the Barclays Center was what really mattered. We were in New York City to watch the URI game when the message was sent out that the games were canceled. We were staying with our son in Hempstead, a hot spot, and he said, “get out of town.” The next thing we knew Gina was saying, “Knock it off!” – Rosemary and David Smith, Narragansett

⚓ I have been in AA for 36 years, all of a sudden there were no meetings, no masses at church, and my grandchildren didn’t have school, all huge changes in my life. – John, Coventry

⚓ Life changed dramatically for my husband and me on March 14th, 2020, at 1 p.m., when our two grown sons and a longtime girlfriend suddenly moved into our home in Jamestown. They had left their apartments and lives in Brooklyn amidst the mounting fears and horrible spike in hospitalizations and deaths in that city. They lived with us through September. We were lucky and stayed healthy. – Lisa Barsumian


⚓ The reality and uncertainty of the situation struck when we had to cancel scheduled events in the WaterFire Arts Center and postpone the WaterFire public art event season. We assembled the entire WaterFire team in the main hall of the WaterFire Arts Center to discuss the challenges ahead and confirm our commitment to continue to make relevant art for the community as long as possible and be poised to return downtown when health conditions permit. – Peter Mello

⚓ Last April, after the initial lockdown, I honestly thought we’d be out of the woods by summer. I don’t think I realized this would be a long-term change to the way we live until July or August. As I listened to scientists, I thought, “Oh, this is going to be with us for a long time.” Then I read a book on the 1918 flu and learned that it basically took Americans four years until they were very comfortable with large group gatherings. The fact that we are looking at vaccine rollout now after one year seems like evidence of progress in the grand scheme of things. – James Hazelwood, South Kingstown

⚓ I realized things would change forever when a policeman came to our door to tell us that out-of-staters had to quarantine for 14 days. – Marie Schappert

⚓ The reality of COVID-19 and its enormous impact hit me on March 12 last year when I was sitting in a meeting at work and my phone buzzed with the notification that the NHL had suspended the season. Sure, other sports had already done so, but I am a hockey fan since childhood. With the Bruins playing as well as they had been, the postseason looked bright. But then came that notification. And I knew everything was changing. – Bruce Drapeau, Denver

⚓ The first shock of it hit me when my workplace, the Arrigan Rehabilitation Center, abruptly shut down on March 16, 2020, to patients and contractor staff that Monday afternoon – leaving only us state workers. We were the skeletal crew there for the next four months. – Raffaela Kane


⚓ The US Senate is expected to vote to confirm Governor Gina Raimondo as President Joe Biden’s secretary of commerce on Tuesday, US Senator Jack Reed said Sunday. Read more.

⚓ A West African restaurant was evicted in Boston, but the owner, Sahr Josiah-Faeduwor, has been welcomed in Providence. Read more.

⚓ A year after the state’s new collection agency began pursuing $29 million in 20-year-old traffic fines, it has recouped a little more than $367,000 — about 1.26 percent of the delinquent debt. Read more.

⚓ This week’s Ocean State Innovators Q&A is with Maggie Bachenberg, founder and chief executive of Pointz, a new micromobility GPS app that navigates bike and scooter rides through cities safely. E-mail Alexa Gagosz with suggestions for this weekly interview. Read more.

⚓ Wickford makes the Globe’s list of best day-trip spots in the region. Read more.


Health: As Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker eases more pandemic restrictions on restaurants and other businesses starting Monday, public health experts warn that the moves could backfire, upending the state’s progress against COVID-19 and risking a new surge in cases. Read more.

Neighborhoods: My colleague Hanna Krueger looks at The Port neighborhood in Cambridge, which is home to two of the oldest public housing developments in the country but sits in the shadow of Moderna and Pfizer. Read more.

Environment: After the Trump administration slow-walked regulations to protect right whales that could harm the powerful lobster industry, the National Marine Fisheries Service is finally on the cusp of issuing the controversial new protections, which are drawing opposition from both the fishing industry and environmentalists. Read more.

Entertainment: Here’s who won at the Golden Globes last night. Read more.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

⚓ Incoming Governor Dan McKee and Warwick Mayor Frank Picozzi will tour a vaccination clinic at Warwick Veterans Memorial Middle School at 10 a.m.

⚓ US Representatives James Langevin and David Cicilline will hold a 1 p.m. press conference in Providence to highlight funding for cities and towns that is included in the COVID-19 relief package approved by the House.

⚓The US Senate is expected to vote on a cloture motion that would end debate on Governor Raimondo’s nomination to be Commerce secretary. That would clear the path for a vote on Raimondo on Tuesday.

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Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.