The Year 2020: Essential workers keep the US running as others work, learn from home

The pandemic exposed economic disparities in the U.S. as essential workers were forced to leave home to stay afloat while others could work from home. Many kids were challenged with remote learning.
7:48 | 12/30/20

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Transcript for The Year 2020: Essential workers keep the US running as others work, learn from home
Within weeks, stopped in its tracks by the looming threat of a global pandemic. And with it, the worst economic crisis in decades. There was this immediate fear that gripped the U.S. Economy as covid took hold. People were scared to go out and shop. They were scared to go to restaurants. And it was a dead zone. Though investors Ed, it was main street small businesses that took the hardest hit. A lot of them are living the equivalent of paycheck to paycheck and this was suddenly like, a, everything has to stop. There's big companies that did well. People on main street, not so well. Small businesses, not doing restaurants, killed by this, gone. And with companies across the country shuttered, mass layoffs and sudden unemployment followed in its wake. Even before this pandemic started, life for amber Roberson was already precarious. We get food stamps and everything. So, now with me looking for work, it's getting at least ten times harder. For many Americans, this meant picking up work anyplace you could find it, and accepting all the risk that came with having to leave your home. I can be an Uber driver. I can be a delivery person. But then you're putting yourself at risk in a pandemic in a way that you wouldn't if you were able to stay home. Ering something and having it delivered to our homes, maybe never even connecting with the person delivering that package. Now we recognize they are essential. Hi, Rodney. Hi! Thank you. You're welcome. For those who could stay safely at home, 2020 quickly ushered in a surreal version of everyday life. If you had said to me, "Zoom calls, toilet paper and peloton are going to be the future of our country." I would have been like, what is happening? Have I been training for this my whole life by watching the apocalypse movies? Approximately 1 in 12 people on the planet will contract the disease. As covid-19 altered every aspect of our everyday lives, 2020 brought us an entirely new way of doing almost everything. Coronavirus looked at our lives in a way we had never looked at our lives and said, "I'm taking it all away, all of it's going." With no office to work from and schools closed across the country, homes became classrooms, parents became teachers and we all struggled to keep up with the pressure. My obsession was my hatred of zoom school. It is tht thin's ever happened. How did day one go? Is it too early for wine? I mean, I love my kids, but I can't be no teacher. I worked at a day care when was 15 one summer and I knew thing, two things. I never want to be a teacher and I almost not want kids, okay? I was the parent. I was the guidance counselor I was the career counselor. I was the cafeteria lady. I was the janitorial staff. Thank you for sharing! Despite efforts to bridge the gap, V learning exposed stark differences between students with the resources to weather the crisis and those who were getting left further behind. Of the 50 million public school students learning remotely due to the pa 15 to 16 million lack internet or devices to learn effectively, and 9 million don't have any access. I personally know a family that is paying $150 a month for internet access for four children to do online learning but they can't afford food. We can do better than that. Cut off from our support networks, the isol stress and anxiety that came with living with such uncertainty could be crippling. Mental health hotlines reported eight timesormal call volume last month. I lived with depression and I had major panic attacks, and then you take that and then you add a pandemic on top of it, honey, people are struggling. When this first happened, you didn't really even want to go outside your door. If you saw a neighbor, you kind of waved and you were nervous. It's changed our body language, the way that you just respond to someone. Oh, no, don't touch me. The longer the isolation dragged on, communities across the country found creative ways to be physically distant but socially connected. We kept our distance, but managed to find ways to mark the milestones that could pass us by. I think it was jean-paul sartre who said, "Hell is other people." It turns out heaven is other people. And that's what we miss, O people. But gathering in a dark theater or a stadium with thousands of others was quite out of the question. Anything with a studio audience, any theater, over. Any movies that we could see on a screen in a theater, over. Any live music performances, over. Whenever there waisis in the world, entertainment was always there for the people. For the first time, this pandemic stopped everyone. The lockdowns affected the theater business immediately. This is the first Christmas in New York City where the radio city rockettes won't be doing a Christmas spectacular, I think, since 1932. It's now official and it's a first in olympic higsry. The summer games postponed. But for many sports fans, the dramatic impact covid-19 would have on our lives didn't sink in until news came down from the NBA. Four members of the Brooklyn Kevin Durant tested positive for the coronavirus. It's just absolutely insane right now. Once the science told us that it wasn't safe to have a season and to have fans, we cut the season. It was right in the middle of a Mavs game. The game tonight has been postponed. You are all safe. And take your time in leaving the arena tonight. We started having the conversation of having a bubble and could we keep everybody safe if we placed a limited number of people from each team? I spent a few months in the NBA bubble and I was overwhelmed by the amount of organization it required. Essential workers were really putting their life on the line. We got to work and play in a super safe environment and walk around freely. Not a single player or coach caught coronavirus in the bubble. Portant as sports are to American culture, I think this year made us appreciate their place in our culture so much more when they were taken away. While many continue to struggle with the loneliness of 2020 -- -- some families found that when we were forced to isolate with one another, we enjoyed the quality time together we too often take for granted. I hope that people realize how lucky they are to have family and they wish they could have that Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner with those annoying relatives that tell bad jokes. The hidden story of the lockdown is the unbelievable joy that it brought to parents for their adult children to move back in. My son was just at that milestone of turning a year old when we were all told to stay at home. I saw his first steps. People can't wait to hug again. Maybe it was good that we had to distance ourselves from each other for a moment.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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