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Birmingham-area doctors reflect on two years with COVID

Two years since pandemic began
Published: Mar. 11, 2022 at 7:30 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 12, 2022 at 4:56 AM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - COVID-19 was declared a pandemic two years ago, and as the country tries to move forward, local health experts are providing updates and a look back on the last two years of this pandemic.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been in this pandemic for two years.

One doctor said it feels more like dog years, while another doctor said the amount of information we’ve learned in the last two years has been like drinking from a fire hose.

But one thing is for sure, this pandemic has illuminated the strengths and weaknesses in our healthcare system.

Alabama announced its first confirmed case of coronavirus on Friday, March 13th, 2020.

The irony of the date not lost on many, but by the end of the day, five more cases were confirmed, foreshadowing the coming of a pandemic that would shut down the world.

“It was probably one of the scariest things to say am I making the right decision for our health care workers, for the people coming into this hospital, do we have medications to treat people with COVID-19, and initially we didn’t. We didn’t have Remdesivir probably closer to April or May. We only had supportive care,” explained UAB Healthcare Epidemiologist, Dr. Rachael Lee.

Health experts knew they would have to act quickly, but stopping the virus proved impossible, and despite efforts to be ready for a pandemic, nothing could have prepared them for what was to come.

“Some of the assumptions that we had just didn’t turn out to be true with COVID-19. Some of the things we didn’t quite anticipate, one of them was simply not having material supplies of certain things that we needed at the beginning. We did not have hand sanitizer, we didn’t have masks even for health care workers, the masks that were in our strategic national stockpile turned out to be out of date and were deteriorating,” said Jefferson County Health Officer, Dr. Mark Wilson.

There also weren’t enough ventilators in the early days of COVID.

Doctors said the pandemic shined a light on shortcomings within the health care system including the importance of an adequate supply chain and being less dependent on other countries for raw materials.

“COVID brought up a lot of other questions: what happens if your health care workers become sick, and how can you manage if you have a large robust surge of patients, and I think those lessons learned will stick with us for years to come,” Dr. Lee said.

To date, 18,832 Alabamians have died from COVID, and doctors believe that number would have been much higher if not for the vaccines.

Half of Alabama’s population remains unvaccinated, and doctors still recommend getting the shot saying things are definitely better, but we’re not out of the woods yet.

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