RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) – Monday marked two years since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Virginia. On March 7, 2020, a Marine at Fort Belvoir tested positive for the virus. Since then, the Virginia Department of Health has recorded over 1.6 million cases and nearly 19,000 deaths.
“I think we’ve all done things that we never thought that we would or could do,” Richmond and Henrico Health District Nurse Sarah Widmer said.
It’s a bittersweet milestone for many healthcare workers reflecting on how far we’ve come with cases and hospitalizations now on the decline, but also remembering all the lives lost throughout the last two years. Also of note, the mass exodus of medical professionals now leaving their line of work due to burnout.
“If you think back to March and April 2020, around the state of Virginia and around the country, we had people applauding healthcare workers and signs going up saying ‘We support you,” Dr. Kyle Enfield, Director of UVA Medical ICU “Over time, for many reasons, that has dwindled.”
For Dr. Enfield, the intensified social turmoil and lack of trust in doctors are key stressors he grappled with two years later.
“People will come in and no longer take the recommendations of the doctors and the nurses who are caring for them,” he said. “I think that is one of the things that brings me a lot of sadness as we go into the second anniversary of COVID-19.”
Enfield says he reflects on the lives they couldn’t save and the sacrifices healthcare workers, like himself, have made. The impact hit him when he read an essay written by his son, who’s only in the 6th grade.
“It started out with ‘Have you ever lost someone or thought you lost someone because of COVID-19? Well, I have. Because I haven’t seen my father most of this year,’” Dr. Enfield said, reciting his son’s essay.
With a virus that mutates and adapts the way COVID-19 does, it is impossible to say for sure, but epidemiologists are hopeful.
“Many of the people that I talked to who are in epidemiology will say there will hopefully be a trend towards more mild diseases or more mild variants going forward,” Dr. Enfield said.
Widmer says it’s the mass vaccination effort that keeps her inspired as the pandemic trudges along.
“In my whole career, I have never seen or been part of something that is more powerful than giving vaccines to the communities because people are so grateful,” Widmer said.
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