2 years later: Area health experts talk lessons learned during the pandemic

Two years ago, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 virus a pandemic

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – It’s been two years: on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

According to Wild Labs Director Dr. A. Taylor Bright, though the virus is slowing moving to an “endemic” status, it continues to make an impact on our lives.

“After two years, we know what COVID-19 is, we know what the virus is, and it will become more of a flu-like disease as we as a society adapt to it,” said Dr. Bright.

He says we need to remember what we’ve learned over the past two years. According to Dr. Bright, the most important lesson we’ve learned is maintaining adequate infrastructure for health crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, both on the research side, but also from a public health perspective.

“We owe it to everyone who has struggled or lost someone in these last few years to not forget the lessons we’ve learned to keep ourselves safe in the future,” said Dr. Bright.

With the shock and uncertainty of the pandemic slowly waning, Woodford County Public Health Director Cassie Prather says there may be a slow return to normal. However, she adds that there’s still a possibility of a fourth surge.

“Historically with pandemics, we’ve had four surges and Omicron was our third. We hope we don’t have a fourth, but if history repeats itself we may have one. But we have therapeutics now and vaccines, and if you’re vaccinated and boosted, you’re less likely to be hospitalized and your symptoms will be less severe. We’re just not where we were a year or two years ago,” said Prather.

With every new COVID-19 variant, even highly transmissible ones, like Omicron’s BA.2 sub-variant, Dr. Bright says he feels confident we are now prepared to take it on.

“At this point it shouldn’t scare us in so far as we’ve seen other variants. Obviously, Delta and Omicron are predominant ones. If it is to arrive it will look like the ones we’ve seen in the past and we’ll respond similarly,” said Dr. Bright.

As people return to a sense of normalcy, University of Kentucky Research Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Matthew Southward says there may be new challenges, like increased social anxiety.

“You might expect for people who have been wearing masks more consistently during the pandemic, taking those masks off may feel awkward or being around a crowd may be more anxiety provoking at least for the next 6 to 12 months I’d imagine,” said Dr. Southward.

Dr. Southward says ultimately, it’s all about being patient with ourselves as we adjust back.

“I think we’ve all grown a little rusty in our social skills and interacting with one another. But we are such social creatures by nature that we are excited to jump back into our lives,” said Dr. Southward.

Kentucky saw its first case just a few days before the WHO’s announcement, on March 6, 2020.

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