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One year later: Arizona doctors, nurses reflect on the last year of COVID-19 pandemic

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Posted at 6:17 PM, Mar 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-11 20:58:29-05

PHOENIX — Some Arizona healthcare workers are paying tribute to the hard work and heartbreak of the past twelve months as the coronavirus pandemic officially hits the one-year mark.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a pandemic a year ago.

According to data from the Arizona Department of Health Services, the virus has killed 16,464 people across the state.

"We've come a long way in the past year," said Dr. Dan Quan, an emergency physician at several Valley hospitals.

"From something that we had no idea how it was going to affect people to something that has affected the whole world."

Dr. Quan reflected on the challenges brought by the pandemic.

"The toughest part for me is just trying to figure out who's sick, who's not, and then, really, trying to help somebody through that uncertainty period," Dr. Quan said. "Am I going to die?' Honestly, for me, I had to be honest and say, 'yeah, there's a high probability that you could die from this."

On Wednesday, Dignity Health hospitals across Arizona held a special observance that included candle lightings, a moment of silence, a wish tree, and prayer cards.

"We began to see really sick people that we had never seen...symptoms like that before," said Dignity Health Arizona Division President Linda Hunt, of the early days of the pandemic. "It started off, it looked like pneumonia, but then the rapidity in which their disease progressed was very alarming."

At Banner Health, the organization shared a pre-produced video with staff members for the one-year mark of the pandemic.

"I can very clearly remember getting that first phone call a year ago that we had a [coronavirus] patient in the community," said Banner Boswell Chief Medical Officer Dr. Scott Anderson. "I don't think any of us were prepared, really had no idea what to expect."

Dr. Anderson lauded the sacrifice made by healthcare workers and community members who have come together throughout the pandemic to battle the virus.

"We made a lot of mistakes along the way, there's no doubt about that," Dr. Anderson said. "But having great people around us, having dedicated team members has made all the difference and has saved thousands of lives."

Staff at the Abrazo Arrowhead Campus were treated to an ice cream social as a nod to their hard work and dedication throughout the pandemic.

According to state data, Arizona has seen 830,465 total positive coronavirus cases. The state went through multiples surges, and December and January saw some hospitals with ICU beds that were either running low or running out.

"One of the biggest challenges of my career," said Dr. Quan of the pandemic. "When do you anticipate having a pandemic in your career? I think it's just something that changes...your psyche but also changes your outlook on life."