KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Friday marks two years since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.
The date marked the beginning of a lot of uncertainty for people all over the world. Stay-at-home orders would soon follow, as well as a major shift in business models, virtual schooling and many questions about the new virus.
Local hospitals have faced numerous challenges since the start of the pandemic, such as a lack of PPE, crowded ICUs, staffing shortages and a population of people not willing to get vaccinated.
The last two years have been a whirlwind for health care workers at hospitals like University Health.
President/CEO Charlie Shields said there was a significant lack of information about the virus at the very start.
"We didn't know how transmissible it was, we didn't know how to treat it, we didn't have the supplies we needed, we were actually disinfecting masks overnight so we could re-use them," Shields said.
Shields said the two hospitals part of University Health have come a long way in the last two years.
"Our therapeutics are much better, we obviously have a vaccine that has made a tremendous difference in this, we've done 210,000 Covid-19 tests, and almost 140,000 vaccines," Shields said.
University Health was the first hospital in the Kansas City metro to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as well as take testing and the vaccine out into the community by partnering with churches, faith groups and community centers.
Currently, COVID-19 patient numbers at both hospitals are much lower than earlier this year. There are 35 COVID-19 patients between the two hospitals, which is down from a high of close to 180 in January.
Shields said the vast majority of patients do not have COVID-19 as their primary diagnosis for being in the hospital.
"Obviously we are headed in the right direction, and I think people feel very good about that," Shields said.
Shields wanted to stress the importance of staying vigilant and accepting that the virus will be around for some time.
Many municipalities have done away with mask mandates and other restrictions for the time being.
"If the next variant comes out and it looks like masking is appropriate, the faster we get back into that and provide that protection the faster we will beat that next variant, that's very important to remember," Shields said.
Shields is encouraging anyone who has delayed care over the last two years to get it scheduled to prevent a bad health outcome. He also wants people to think of the health care workers that have stayed on the front lines since the pandemic began.
"Remember how scary this was two years ago and how far we have come, and particularly think of those health care workers that were in that very scary position two years ago and all the work they have done in the last two years to get us past this," Shields said.
For community members like 13-year-old Aidan Langton, the last two years brought about a challenge he never thought he'd face: virtual learning.
"I've always been a straight A student, but when the pandemic started I started doing really bad in school because it was online and it was harder that way for me," Langton said.
He's glad to be back in school now and said he continues to wear his mask in public and has also received a COVID-19 vaccine like his father, Chris Langton.
"I trust the science, I feel like that is the most responsible thing to do for myself, my family and for my community," Chris Langton said.
He said the pandemic has meant spending more time at home with his family, but it also meant missing out on many things in Kansas City he loves.
"The Big 12 Tournament, the Royals, the Chiefs, going out there and sitting apart from people and doing all that it just wasn't the same," Chris Langton said.
We want to hear from you on what resources Kansas City families might benefit from to help us all through the pandemic. If you have five minutes, feel free to fill out this survey to help guide our coverage: KSHB COVID Survey.