A year of COVID-19: what we learned, what we can look forward to

OREGON- As we enter March, many people are looking back on the past year of living in a pandemic. It was one year ago yesterday that Oregon had its first case. County health officials say there is a lot we have to look forward to in the next year and even more to learn from the past 12 months.

“I think its perfectly legitimate for people to be optimistic again and imagining that next year is going to be quite different.”

With a number of vaccines now being shipped to Oregon, and a new vaccination timeline from the state, there seems to be more reason than ever to be feeling positive. Especially considering the challenges of the past year.

“Federal partners, state partners, public health, businesses. All these different entities have to play together and be inspired by a common goal,” says Jackson County Health Director Dr. Jim Shames say the obstacles of the pandemic have given organizations a chance to learn and collaborate.

“It’s allowed us to make use of the skills and talents that we all have and we’ve gotten a lot of good work done as a result of that,” he explained. He says it’s also changed the general perception of public health.

“Public health is not just this other thing in the background that gives you clean water. It’s an integral part of the health care system.”

For Valaree Lane with Klamath County Public Health, looking back over the past year feels bittersweet.

“Public health is never caught flat-footed as far as plans for communicable disease. And it would be March 7th when we announced our first case,” she said. She says the story of the pandemic isn’t just about how we end it, but the fallout from a year of stress and anxiety.

“I think the behavioral and mental health of everyone after being isolated is really a powerful thing to think about,” Lane said.

Dr. Shames says it’s also exposed the inequalities in health care systems.

“The people who cant just stay at home, join zoom meetings, have go to go to work. They are completely reliant on a benevolent work environment to keep them safe.”

Officials throughout the state recognize the hope that the vaccine roll out brings and even governor brown has anticipated to open vaccination to the public by the summer.

After a year of completely unexpected events, both county officials agree there’s reason for optimism.

“Who imagined we could make a highly effective safe vaccine in millions of doses in less than a year. That’s astounding,” Dr. Shames said.

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