RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – March 11 marks the two-year anniversary since health officials announced the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 22,000 have died in North Carolina from the virus. Finally, cases and hospitalizations are falling but health care workers urge you not to let your guard down just yet.

Just two years ago, many people walked down the street without a mask, and without fear of catching a deadly virus.

Now two years later and the world has changed in many ways than one. However, so many people are still mourning those lost to the pandemic.

“I would say everybody has pandemic fatigue,” Dr. David Weber, medical professor for the School of Medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill.

He and Dr. Lisa Pickett, chief medical officer at Duke University Hospital said, we’ve made great progress.

“It is overwhelming to reflect on. It’s been such a giant two years and I’m grateful that we have this anniversary or moment to think as our numbers are down,” Pickett said.

But we still have a long way to go.

“The pandemic is not entirely over at the moment. We’re still seeing cases from many parts of the United States, from transmission rates, not hospitals admissions, remain in hot zones per the CDC,” Weber said.

Two weeks ago, Wake County made mask-wearing optional but health care officials wish they would have waited a little longer.

“I think I would have preferred that we waited for another 2 to 6 weeks until cases came down. Even further before we eliminated the mask mandates,” Weber shared.

Friday in North Carolina, COVID hospitalizations are less than 1,000 for the first time since July.