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Health experts reflect on COVID-19 pandemic, offer hope for the future

Published: Jan. 1, 2021 at 10:34 PM CST
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(WIFR) - COVID-19 consumed much of 2020 with masks and social distancing becoming the norm. Public health officials took center stage, guiding communities through the crisis.

“Wow I’m living what I read about in a book or what I’ve been training for or what I’ve always feared would happen at some point that we would deal with something on this scale. It has been the hardest and most rewarding experience of my career. It definitely has its ups and downs. I would say with great challenge and great stress can also come great learning,” Boone County Health Administrator Amanda Mehl says.

Mehl says not only has the pandemic taken a toll on her but the staff as well saying, “We’ve you know teared up with people over the phone. We’ve hung up the phone and balled after the fact because it is so hard to hear about the real human challenges.”

COVID-19 claimed the lives of more than 60 residents in Boone County, losses that will leave a lasting impact. Winnebago County Public Health Administrator Dr. Sandra Martell says, “These are families livelihoods these are families loved ones these are real people these aren’t just statistics. This isn’t just a bunch of numbers these are human beings.”

Martell says there is a light at the end of the tunnel and big hopes for a safe and healthy 2021 saying, “I want us to be back outside socializing along the riverfront, enjoying our restaurants and our food establishments. I want us socializing again. And I want to be able to visit our family members in our long term care facilities that have been isolated. I want our kids back in schools. Everyday I come in with a mission and I’m committed to this community to get us through this.””

Health leaders everywhere say they’re hopeful a vaccine will help end this pandemic. “Knowing that very soon we will begin to develop the herd immunity that we need in the community to keep a majority of our residents safe feels like one of the best nursing skills I can possibly be giving to Boone County and to the region is to be able to take care of so many people at the same time,” Mehl says.

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