(KION) January 20, 2021 marks one year since the first coronavirus case was confirmed in the US and just a week later, the first confirmed case in California.
Since then, millions of Americans have contracted the virus and more than 300,000 have died from it.
“We are at such an interesting crossroads,” Dr. Martha Blum said as she reflected on the current state of the coronavirus pandemic. Blum is the Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.
Hospitals are now dealing with surging case numbers and dwindling ICU capacities about year after the pandemic all started, but the Central Coast is also at a point where the vaccine represents a sign of hope that an end may be in sight.
“Never, ever in human history or in scientific history have we gone from discovering a virus to having multiple, highly-effective and safe vaccines in a rapid period of time. It’s truly astounding,” Blum said.
Looking back, March 2020 marked California's first lock down, and we masked up for the first time.
Since then, businesses have been forced to limit services or temporarily
shut down. Some have closed for good, unable weather the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
The COVID death toll continues to climb across the state and has claimed more than 300 lives on the Central Coast. But each individual is more than a number; the families KION has spoken to over the past year are now left without parents, spouses and loved ones.
Business owner Frank Halayay died from COVID just weeks ago. He was the owner and head chef of Cozy Cup Cafe in Hollister since 1985.
His wife of about 20 years, Wendy Halayay, told KION the disease progressed rapidly.
“He went into the hospital and even at that point, I never thought I wasn’t going to get him back, because he was just such a fighter,” Wendy Halayay said. “He was a normal healthy man and within two weeks, he was gone.”
She said Frank will be remembered for his laugh, love of food and love of people.
A banner now stands in his honor outside the cafe with messages of support from those whose lives he impacted.
“We paid the ultimate price, we lost Frank. I lost my best friend, my
husband,” Wendy said. “You never know who its going to effect and it’s very devastating when it does effect your family so you have to take it seriously, take all the precautions.”
Health care workers continue to battle the virus on the front lines.
Since the pandemic began, researchers have found new treatments and doctors know more about how the virus spreads and ways to limit your exposure. But health experts warn, there is still more to learn.
“For all those people who are recovering from having COVID-19 that are having antibodies in their blood, how long are they going to be good? How long are they going to be protected? If you’ve been vaccinated, how long will the vaccine protect and last? And we really just don’t know. We need to wait for more time to elapse for us to have that information,” Blum said.
For now, health officials say they are focused on expanding vaccination
“As long as we can get as many people as possible vaccinated. There truly is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Blum said.
Offering wide spread vaccinations may be months away, but still a sign of
hope that the “new normal” might look a bit better this time next year.
KION’s Elisha Machado will have a special report looking back at how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go before the virus is contained on KION News at 5 p.m.