RIPLEY, Ohio - An Ohio nursing home gathered residents and staff together to release balloons to mark one year since the COVID-19 pandemic changed their lives.
Video shared by the nursing home shows residents and staff at the Ohio Valley Manor gathered outside the facility — socially distanced — releasing colorful balloons into the air.
Winds carried the balloons high and away in a subtly cheerful memorial to how far the staff and residents have come since the onset of the pandemic more than a year ago. The nursing home also commemorated the anniversary with a mask-decorating contest and giveaways.
Freeze frame of nursing home staff and residents releasing balloons to commemorate one-year since start of COVID-19 pandemic. (Ohio Valley Manor via Storyful)
"We’re so proud of how our [Ohio Valley Manor] family has come together to overcome the challenges of the past 12 months," staff wrote on Facebook.
A little over a year into the pandemic, hopes are starting to lift as mass vaccination efforts gather major steam and COVID-19 deaths start to decline in the United States.
The White House said 27 million doses of both the one-shot and two-shot vaccines will be distributed next week, more than three times the number when President Joe Biden took office two months ago.
But despite the progress, health experts are still warning against premature reopenings and relaxed preventative health measures as cases remain stubbornly high.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, said Wednesday he isn’t ready to declare victory.
"I'm often asked, are we turning the corner?" Fauci said at a White House briefing. "My response is really more like we are at the corner. Whether or not we're going to be turning that corner still remains to be seen."
"I emphasize how we need to hang in there for just a little while longer," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday. That's because "the early data are really encouraging."
Nationwide, new cases and the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 have plummeted over the past two months, though Walensky remains concerned that such progress seemed to stall in the past couple of weeks. New cases are running at more than 53,000 a day on average, down from a peak of a quarter-million in early January.
That's uncomfortably close to levels seen during the COVID-19 wave of last summer.
President Joe Biden has pushed for states to make all adults eligible to be vaccinated by May 1. A least a half-dozen states, including Texas, Arizona and Georgia, are opening up vaccinations to everyone over 16. At least 20 other states have pledged to do so in the next few weeks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.