One year since first U.S. COVID-19 case, La Crosse doctors reflect on healthcare journey

First U.S. COVID-19 case reported Jan. 20, 2020 sending communities into a new age in healthcare
Covid One Year In US

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – This week marks one year since Washington state reported the first COVID-19 case in the U.S. The nation reported nearly 24 million infections since and nearly 400,000 deaths.  La Crosse County passed 11,000 infections over the weekend.

America and the world embarked on the biggest healthcare journey in recent memory, one year ago this week.

“It’s been a grim year in many respects,” Dr. Paul Mueller said, regional vice president of Mayo Clinic Health System.

The pandemic reached La Crosse County within a couple of months. Infections spread slowly at first before expanding exponentially to communities close to home.

Mueller said the community took responsibility causing new hospitalizations to decline over the past few months.

“I think a lot of businesses have listened to the advice, have heeded it,” he said.

It wasn’t without a cost. Businesses shut down and people lost their jobs, money for their families.

“We appreciate the sacrifice that business owners have made over the past year to deal with the pandemic and to keep their customers safe,” Mueller said.

Nursing administrator Kim Noth said doctors and nurses sacrificed their home lives to care for sick lives.

“People were needing to home school their children, yet we needed the nurses to be here at work,” Noth said.

Nurses became family for patients taking their final breaths.

“We have a policy here of no patient dies alone,” Noth said.

A vaccine arrived on a deadline the first of its kind.

“The reaction was just pure joy,” Mueller said.

Children wrote nurses letters to say thank you for the past year.

“This is a card I received last week,” Mueller said. It says thank you for your support of the city.”

Simple gestures like thank you cards build positive foundations for people.

“That brightens up the day of our patients and our staff too,” Noth said.

Mueller said he receives thank you cards every week.

The world’s fight continues in 2021. Nonetheless, an anniversary can highlight how far we’ve come.

“Behaviors, I believe, changed. That’s why we are where we are today,” Mueller said.

Mueller said more students are applying for the healthcare field. Healthcare needs more young professionals. The vaccine may be here, but he said the distribution is the next test for communities around Wisconsin.