Community members and hospitals reflect on 2 years of COVID-19

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Friday marks two years since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

This date marked the beginning of a lot of uncertainty for people around the world. Stay-at-home orders would soon follow, along with a major change in business models, virtual teaching and many questions about the new virus.

Local hospitals have faced many challenges since the start of the pandemic, such as a lack of PPE, overcrowded intensive care units, staffing shortages and a population of people unwilling to get vaccinated.

The past two years have been a whirlwind for healthcare workers at hospitals like University Health.

Chairman/CEO Charlie Shields said there was a significant lack of information about the virus early on.

“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 actually disinfect masks overnight so we can reuse them,” said Shields.

Shields said the two hospitals that are part of University Health have come a long way over the past two years.

“Our therapeutics are much better, obviously we have a vaccine that has made a huge difference in that regard, we’ve done 210,000 Covid-19 tests and nearly 140,000 vaccines,” Shields said.

University Health was the first Kansas City metro hospital to receive the COVID-19 vaccine as well as bring testing and vaccine to the community by partnering with churches, faith groups and community centers.

Currently, the number of COVID-19 patients in both hospitals is much lower than at the start of this year. There are 35 COVID-19 patients between the two hospitals, down from a high of nearly 180 in January.

Shields said the vast majority of patients did not have COVID-19 as their primary diagnosis for being in the hospital.

“Obviously we’re going in the right direction, and I think people feel very good about that,” Shields said.

Shields wanted to emphasize the importance of staying alert and accepting that the virus will be around for a while.

Many municipalities have removed mask mandates and other restrictions for now.

“If the next variant comes out and it looks like masking is appropriate, the sooner we get back to it and provide that protection, the sooner we’ll beat that next variant, that’s very important to remember,” Shields said.

Shields encourages anyone who has delayed care in the past two years to schedule it to avoid a bad health outcome. He also wants people to think about the healthcare workers who have remained on the front lines since the pandemic began.

“Remember how scary it was two years ago and how far we’ve come, and especially think about those healthcare workers who were in this very scary position two years ago and everything the work they’ve done over the past two years to get us through that,” Shields said.

For community members like 13-year-old Aidan Langton, the past two years have brought a challenge he never thought he’d tackle: virtual learning.

“I’ve always been a straight student, but when the pandemic started I started doing really badly at school because it was online and it was harder for me,” Langton said.

He is happy 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 science, I feel like it’s the most responsible thing for me, my family and my community to do,” Chris Langton said.

He said the pandemic meant spending more time at home with his family, but it also meant missing out on many things in Kansas City that he loves.

“The Big 12 tournament, the Royals, the Chiefs, going out there and sitting away from people and doing all that stuff, it just wasn’t the same thing,” Chris Langton said.

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