This week marks the first anniversary of UConn Health’s fight against COVID-19. After a year of fear and fortitude, isolation and strength, tragedy and triumph, the doctors, nurses and essential workers of UConn Health remain vigilant in their battle against this deadly virus.
On March 14, 2020, UConn Health began caring for its first coronavirus patient. Over the course of the year, UConn Health has treated more than 800 COVID-19 patients, documented more than 400 employee infections and distributed more than 26,000 shots.
Dr. David Banach serves as UConn Health’s epidemiologist and is the head of their infection prevention program. He expressed deep appreciation and gratitude for UConn Health’s staff during this challenging year.
“I personally am very proud of everyone who stepped up regardless of what their role is, and I think the public needs to know that it was such a tremendous effort by so many individuals who were working tirelessly, doing extra shifts. I don’t know if the public has a full appreciation of what went into it and how thankful we should all be for our frontline workers during the pandemic and UConn Health Specifically,” Dr. Banach said.
Dr. Banach explained how the coronavirus’s initial surge in the spring of 2020 was emotionally difficult for health care workers.
“The spring was traumatic … we saw a very rapid influx of very sick patients including many of whom who died. So I think there’s some trauma associated with that and there’s going to be some recovery needed for the frontline healthcare workers who were taking care of these patients. I think the healing process is starting but it will take time to recover,” Dr. Banach said. “As difficult as it was, it definitely fostered a sense of community. Everyone who was working, no matter what your job was, you knew that we were in this together.”
“The spring was traumatic … we saw a very rapid influx of very sick patients including many of whom who died. So I think there’s some trauma associated with that and there’s going to be some recovery needed for the frontline healthcare workers who were taking care of these patients. I think the healing process is starting but it will take time to recover,”Dr. David Banach, epidemiologist at UConn Health
Dr. Banach also said how the coronavirus highlighted the importance of health care and community collaboration. He emphasized while the end is in sight, the battle is far from over.
“This kind of experience brought health care providers and the public together in a unique kind of way and showed how we’re kind of dependent on each other,” Dr. Banach said. “Our healthcare facilities were tested and pushed to the brink, I think that the public efforts to social distance, wear masks and now get vaccinated, is really what’s needed to prevent that from occurring again.”
Look back on the key moments in UConn Health’s fight against COVID-19 …
March 14, 2020: The first COVID-19 patient arrives at UConn John Dempsey Hospital, less than a week after Governor Ned Lamont announced that the first Connecticut resident had tested positive for the virus. Since that day, UConn Health has cared for over 800 coronavirus patients, 109 of whom did not survive.
“The number of cases announced today reinforces for us what we knew was already going to happen: this virus is spreading and it is here in Connecticut,” Lamont said in a March 14 press release, as the total number of coronavirus cases in the state rose to 20.
March 23, 2020: UConn Health opens its drive-thru testing center, which has led to the collection of over 30,000 test samples.
“During disasters like this, I really believe it brings out the best in people and this is certainly a case where so many people were willing to do whatever was need to make it work,” Deb Abromaitis, UConn Health’s director of the Office of Accreditation and Regulatory Affairs, said in a press release from UConn Today. “It’s been an unbelievable multidisciplinary effort … Every day another area steps up … It has just been one great thing after another from our people.”
March 24, 2020: Amid a national shortage, UConn Health puts out the call for personal protective equipment, and UConn Nation answers. As the university transitioned to online learning, professors sent their unused lab supplies to the frontlines, and the UConn Bookstore donated unpurchased medical equipment, like disposable scrubs and splash goggles. A team of doctors, engineers and researchers developed a method to 3D print much-needed supplies. The Chinese Baptist Church of Greater Hartford donated nearly 33,000 masks. Countless other community members donated food, water, coffee and more to UConn Health staff.
“Even though distance separates us, in the end, we’re all one UConn, which is why we felt the need to donate PPE to the staff at UConn Health,” School of Engineering Dean Kazem Kazerounian said to UConn Today. “Those medical professionals are on the frontline of this pandemic, and the least we can do is supply them with the supplies necessary to keep them safe.”
April 13, 2020: Anticipating a surge in coronavirus hospitalizations, the National Guard converts UConn health office spaces to hospital rooms.
April 14, 2020: UConn begins its program to treat critically-ill coronavirus patients with antibody-rich convalescent plasma from UConn Health employees who have recovered from the virus.
Late April 2020: The number of coronavirus inpatients surges to more than 50.
Oct. 31, 2020: The first surge of COVID-19 ends. 135 UConn Health employees tested positive during the first surge, which started in April.
Dec. 15, 2020: UConn Health receives first doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Nearly 40 staff members receive their vaccination on the first day of distribution. So far, the hospital has administered nearly 15,600 first-doses and 10,700 second-does of the vaccine.
“This is a historic moment for UConn Health,” UConn Health CEO Dr. Andy Agwunobi said in a press release for UConn Today. “We consider this the point of which we start to turn the corner and we are able to protect all of our health care workers so that we can start to spread these vaccines out to others in the community and start to get back to normality.”
Today: The fight against COVID-19 continues. In the current second surge of the virus, 266 more UConn Health employees have tested positive. As of March 10, 2021, UConn John Dempsey Hospital was treating five coronavirus patients.