The infection preventionists that make up my team and I had been monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak in China since December of 2019. What began as fascination quickly turned to terror as case numbers worldwide escalated, it was declared a pandemic, and the United States began to shut down. I recall being part of a mock-drill at my facility in early March that would follow a patient coming into our ED and then being admitted to the ICU. The day prior to the mock-drill an actual suspected COVID patient came to our ED. Luckily it went smoothly and the drill the following day also became a reflection on the prior day’s events.
Although COVID case numbers had skyrocketed worldwide it still seemed like a far away problem even after the first suspected case at our medical center. It did not help that at the time the message from experts was still “It’s no worse than the flu” and “Focus on influenza”. This was still the message at the time the NBA shut down and I expressed to my friends and family that it was a knee jerk reaction. I finally realized this was a disaster when it began to impact me more personally. I had planned to travel to California to go to Disneyland at the end of March 2020. The day Disneyland announced its closure felt like a stab from a knife as my long-awaited vacation was canceled. The last time Disney had closed was for September 11th and it dawned on me that this pandemic would also have grave consequences and change my world forever.
Reflecting on it I feel a little ashamed and foolish that it took something so personal for me to realize the gravity of the situation. In my defense it was not until a few weeks later as we learned more about the virus that I understood how much more dangerous than influenza it was. I am grateful that no one close to me has been a casualty of the pandemic and for our scientists rising to the challenge of creating a safe and effective vaccine. I’ve become a more knowledgeable infection preventionist as a result of persevering through the pandemic and as great as it will look on my resume one day, I hope to never have to witness another pandemic in my lifetime.
In closing (since I know you’re all dying to know) I still have not been able to reschedule my vacation though I am trying to stay optimistic that I will be able to visit southern California this November.