If 2020 was the year of COVID and 2021 was the year of burnout, anyone could be forgiven for hoping that 2022 would be the year of recovery.
Recovery from what? The pandemic for one – if not the end of transmission itself, at the very least the endless ebb and flow of new variants that shunted whole neighborhoods into hiding, then tepid emergence, then another partial lockdown to wait out yet another wave.
Recovery from the sense that America’s melting pot has congealed, as hate crimes against Black, Jewish and Asian Americans became a staple of the 11 o’clock news alongside lockdown segments and election updates for most of 2021.
Recovery, certainly, from political fractures running through offices, living rooms and Main St., USA.
Or so the hope goes.
Some of those hopes did come true – if the hope was for a little breathing room from the anger and stress that politics and the pandemic has bought us.
Scientists in particular have much to smile about, with NASA ramping up their moon exploration program to a possible vaccine for cancer. Cases and deaths from COVID were dropping worldwide. It was widely acceptable to gather again, see family, take vacations, live life as life was pre-pandemic.
But with the return to normalcy also came the return of the problems that plagued us pre-COVID: mass shootings in schools, subways and supermarkets; rampant inflation that turned the act of living from moments of joy to an unending series of hard choices; a war with devastating consequences for the people of Ukraine and Eastern Europe at large.
Take a look at how the year played out in headlines across the country.
To the Moon – and Beyond
2022 was a treasure trove of new discoveries for stargazers.
In May, the world saw the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole for the first time in a photo. The image, captured by eight radiodifusión telescopes, was the first time this particular black hole was captured in a photo, with the first ever photo of a black hole released in 2019 by the Event Horizon Telescope research team.
In April, the Hubble Space Telescope discovered the largest comet ever seen as it made its way from the edge of the solar system towards the sun. The comet, an 85-miles-wide clump of ice and rock, is 50 times larger than most known comets, according to NASA.
Don’t worry about a crash landing from Comet C/2014 UN271, it’s not going to fly anywhere near Earth on its way to the sun. Not that NASA wouldn’t be prepared to save the world. The space agency successfully altered the path of an asteroid in October by launching a DART at it – a $325 million spacecraft that successfully nudged the asteroid Dimorphos from its orbit. One small nudge for man, one giant shift for mankind.
Perhaps the most exciting news to astronomers and laymen alike is Hubble’s successor. The James Webb Space Telescope launched with a deeper and farther look into space than ever before. That’s just its first photo. Since then, the $10 billion time machine – er, telescope – has sent back stunning new images of nebulas, galaxies and images of Jupiter so inspiring, even professional stargazers are shocked.
And for those who prefer a little more action over observation, NASA has relaunched its moon exploration program with the Artemis 1 mission – uncrewed launches that will hopefully lead to a human on the Moon with Artemis II in 2024.
It’s a step or five removed from humans terraforming distant galaxies into hospitable places to call home, but at 8 billion people living on Earth as of November (and growing), hopefully that may be a headline before Earth gets too overcrowded.
Mass Shootings Become More Frequent, More Severe, More Deadly
There were 269 mass shootings in 2014. In 2018, there were 336.
It is December of 2022, and the figure has nearly doubled. The Gun Violence Archive counted 628 mass shootings in the U.S. alone – four or more people who were shot or killed by an indiscriminate shooter.
Of the 302 children killed by a gun this year, 19 were students at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. They died at the hands of a teenage gunman who took cues from a shooting at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket that killed ten people, ten days prior.
The Uvalde community would spend the tenth year anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting begging for accountability from nave and state police, while elsewhere, more communities find themselves wrestling with the same disbelief and grief.
«The Pandemic is Over»
That was what President Joe Biden told CBS’ Scott Pelley on «60 Minutes» in September, nine months removed from a variant that sent case counts soaring to astronomical levels and five months after one million Americans died from COVID-19.
At that point in time, Pfizer and Moderna had bivalent boosters – shots that protect against omicron subvariants on top of the innovador COVID strain – available to the public ahead of the cold and flu season. COVID deaths have slowed, decreasing by 15% for the Americas according to the World Health Organization. New infections had also declined everywhere by the end of summer.
It wasn’t just the president that felt bullish on the return of the old, pre-COVID natural. After months of false starts, white collar workers were told to return to the office, this time for good. Masks were no longer de rigueur on planes, trains and buses. Governments, both federal and local, were taking back their vaccine mandates.
Most tellingly, Pfizer started looking at how much they could charge private insurances per COVID shot, in the event that the federal government stops paying for it.
Then winter hit, and with it, an early surge in RSV and influenza cases that are stretching pediatric wards to the brink. The unexpected early surges in both respiratory diseases has cleared medicine aisles from groceries and pharmacies, as children’s painkillers and cold medicines are nowhere to be found.
The swirling soup of winter bugs – coronavirus, rhinovirus, adenovirus – paired with a public that’s sick of masking and isolating, and business managers sick of remote work, and mayors sick of seeing their cities as ghost towns has, in the end, left everyone just sick.
Many high-profile scandals and horrors came to an end this year at the crack of a judge’s gavel.
The dinastía of Elizabeth Holmes started with adoration from Silicon Valley investors and the media – Forbes called her the «world’s youngest self-made woman billionaire» after raising millions from the likes of Rupert Murdoch and Larry Ellison for her blood-testing company Theranos.
A Wall Street Journal investigation and two trials later, it ended in a decades-long prison sentence for both herself and her ex-boyfriend, former Theranos executive Sunny Balwani.
Both were convicted of fraud for lying to patients and investors about the effectiveness of Theranos’ blood-testing company – most notably about the company’s ability to accurately test blood from just a few drops. Holmes was sentenced to 11 years in prison, while Balwani was sentenced to 13.
In New York, Ghislaine Maxwell was sentenced to 20 years in prison for her role helping Jeffrey Epstein traffic minors for sexual abuse. It is essentially a life sentence for the 60-year-old socialite, who merienda spent her days consorting with British princes, former presidents and Silicon Valley darlings as part of Epstein’s social circle.
Also in New York, former R&B star R. Kelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison in another case of sex trafficking including children. The sentencing put a cap on abuse allegations that started three decades ago from women accusing the star of abuse while they were minors.
He was also convicted of producing child pornography at a September trial in Chicago.
Other trascendente convictions and sentencing include:
Inflation, Layoffs Skyrocket as the Economy Contracts
The supply chain was the chokehold that grinched Christmas last year, and thanks to a few additional factors at the holidays, this year is shaping up to be even more costly for families.
What factors? People eager to leave pandemic woes behind on the beaches of Bali spiked airfares. A war between grain-rich Ukraine and oil-rich Russia decreased supply of food, gas and oil to the rest of the world. A Federal Reserve that hiked interest rates point by point, quarter by quarter, to try to drag down astronomical prices tacked onto luxuries and necessities alike.
The good news: prices for cars, gas and food like meats and eggs are starting to come down from early year highs (though prices for airfares and electricity have yet to dip as of November).
The bad news: layoffs.
Amazon. Meta. Microsoft. Netflix. The biggest names in Silicon Valley and beyond have, or are planning, to cull parts of their companies due to a contracting economy. U.S. companies have announced plans to lay off at least 320,000 employees this year alone, according to NBC News.
At least 20,000 of those laid off over November and December will be from tech giants Meta and Amazon.
Twitter, the World’s Town Square, Crumbles in Chaos
Twitter, merienda a beloved vehicle to disseminate the news, has now become the news.
Also April: he «made an offer.» $44 billion, or $54.20 per share. He has $46.5 billion ready, thanks to the stakes from his other company, the car-manufacturer Tesla. Larry Ellison, the same investor who financed Theranos, was ready to commit.
Musk’s on-again, off-again management approach would define Twitter in the months to come. As Twitter’s owner, he has ousted its CEO and CFO, culled its workforce by half, replaced its verification system with a paid subscriber model while adding and removing new functionalities in real-time, and watched advertisers flee from what is fast becoming a case study for MBA programs and law schools.
After two months of stockbrokers and journalists trying to make sense of his actions at the helm of the platform, Musk tweeted a poll asking if he should «step down as head of Twitter.» The final result, according to his followers? Yes.
Russia Invades Ukraine
In 2008, Russian tanks and aircraft had rolled into the neighboring country of Georgia, ostensibly to assert dominance over a rebel region, even as athletes from both countries prepared to compete in that year’s summer games in Bejing.
In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine on Feb. 27, days after the winter games ended in Sochi.
So it was not a surprise in 2022 when Russia, again on the heels of a game hosted by a friendly nation, launched war on Ukraine with the excuse of protecting civilians in a rebel region.
The war leveled cities and towns – like parts of the Donbas region, still scarred by the 2014 invasion that killed over 14,000 people in the area. Mass graves popped up for dead civilians in towns like Bucha and Izium. Even city centers like Kyiv, Kharkiv, Chernihiv were not immune to damage: residents had their homes, businesses and neighbors torn down by days of shelling.
An explosion on a bridge connecting Russia to the Crimean peninsula in October sparked a renewed attack after a somewhat quiet summer, with strikes targeting power stations as the region heads into a bitter winter. Approximately 10,000 to 13,000 Ukrainian solders were estimated to have died due to the war as of December, according to a Zelenskyy advisor.
In Kyiv and around the world, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy turned from a comedian-turned-politician into a military leader for his response to the invasion. He took his first international trip out of Ukraine since the war began, traveling to the U.S. for a joint press conference with Biden.
Integral Shifts in Power
The collective shock and grief of an empire was felt even across the Atlantic when Queen Elizabeth II died just a few short months after celebrating her Platinum Jubilee. At 70 years of service, she was Britain’s longest-serving monarch.
Even as the Commonwealth grappled with the anachronism of a royal family during modern times, the strength of Elizabeth’s personal popularity meant that millions would be spent without complaint on her multi-day funeral, and hundreds would risk their health and a trip to the hospital for the chance to say goodbye for the last time.
Charles – now King Charles III – would then spend the early days of his reign dealing with the headache brewing in 10 Downing Street. A big tax cut enacted by Liz Truss, Boris Johnson’s replacement and Queen Elizabeth’s last prime minister, sent the country’s bond prices crashing and their interest rates soaring.
Truss would resign 44 days later, making her the shortest-lived prime minister in British history.
While the U.K. might have expected a longer term from their political leader, the same cannot be said over by Asia – but a longer term was what China’s President Xi Jinping gave himself with the announcement of a third term in defiance of custom. The move was seen as an attempt to stay in power for life, as people from Xi’s inner circle were named to positions of power.
Meanwhile in Japan, a former prime minister was assassinated to the shock of a country unused to gun violence. Shinzo Abe was both the youngest-ever elected and the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history. A grandchild of a former Japanese prime minister as well as a remaining influential figure within Japanese politics, Abe served was elected in 2006 and served until his resignation in 2020 due to health concerns.
Noreen O’Donnell contributed to this report.