A day of reflection: 1 year later, UNC Health professionals look back at the pandemic


RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – One year ago, the first COVID-19 case was detected in North Carolina.

While the person was not hospitalized or treated at UNC Health, the hospital system has done a lot of heavy lifting through the course of the pandemic.

“The last year has been interesting, frightening at times,” said Dr. Wesley Burks, CEO of UNC Health.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty and relentless need to be flexible,” said Dr. Alexa Mieses-Malchuk with the UNC Department of Family Medicine.

“Overall, this has been a horrible year but there have been there have been these shining examples of what we can do,” expressed Dr. David Wohl, professor of Infectious Diseases.

UNC has conducted 250,000 COVID-19 tests, administered 200,000 vaccine doses and treated 1,700 hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

“[I’m] filled with a sense of purpose unlike any other time that i can imagine,” said Burks.

The scientific community made great strides since March 2020. Scientists went from testing in the lab to a vaccine jab in the arm in less than a year.

This comes as case counts and hospitalizations decline.

The start recently easing up COVID-19 restrictions and there are now three vaccines to fight the virus.

The experts warn we need cautious optimism as we move forward.

“This is very exciting but at the same time, this is not the time to start celebrating too much and start relaxing all the measures that have gotten us thus far,” said Mieses-Malchuk.

The last year also brought to the forefront long standing health inequity issues. Communities of color seeing higher rates of the virus but lower rates of vaccinations.

Higher death rates and the economic toll on marginalized populations have increased depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

“I’m optimistic moving forward the mental health toll of those suffering from trauma, i am deeply worried about our children, broadly. We cannot have a traumatized population of kids, ” said Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody, chair of the UNC Department of Psychiatry:

Looking ahead- the state is on alert for the impact of variants on vaccines and treatments.

“It does take a chink out of the armor. These are not the last variants we’ll see because viruses mutate and they change especially if we keep transmitting it,” said Dr. David Wohl, professor of infectious diseases at UNC.

UNC health continues to test, treat and vaccinate against COVID-19. As we move forward it’s healthcare workers who will help carry us to the finish line.

“All the heroes- here, there and everywhere have really contributed in really meaningful ways,” said Meltzer-Brody.

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