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UW Health reflects on Wisconsin's first COVID-19 case exactly one year ago

Posted at 5:23 PM, Jan 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-30 18:23:45-05

MILWAUKEE — Around this time exactly one year ago, the coronavirus pandemic made its way to Wisconsin. Now, staff members at UW Health in Madison are remembering that fateful day and the challenges they've faced along the way.

"What we held as our truth, was that this was coming," said Dr. Jeff Pothof Health Chief Quality & Safety Officer at UW Health.

On January 30, 2020, medical officials at UW Health in Madison got the call they had anxiously anticipated. A patient had walked through the hospital's emergency department exhibiting symptoms of the coronavirus.

"They said we don't have good news and I just remember such a sinking feeling in my chest," said Dr. Nasia Safda, Medical Director of Infection Control at UW Health.

A few days later, the patient's test came back positive confirming that COVID-19 had reached Wisconsin. It was the first case in the state, and only the 12th confirmed case in the country at the time.

"We knew that was bound to come, I just didn't think it was going to come so soon at the end of January. Once you sort of get over the initial shock of hearing the news then the whole team mobilized and tried to figure out all the things that needed to be done," said Dr. Safda.

In the last year, more than 900 patients have been hospitalized with COVID-19 at UW Health, and medical experts say it had been a learning curve as they discovered more qualities about the virus.

"If you look back to March you'll find me saying if you don't have symptoms you shouldn't wear a mask. In fact, maybe the mask puts you more at risk. Then we learned more. We learned that there was asymptomatic carriage and that you couldn't tell if you were sick or not," said Dr. Pothof

During a COIVD-19 update for Wisconsin, Governor Tony Evers and health officials announced that more than 530,000 people have tested positive for the virus. But now that the vaccine is here UW Health officials say they can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

"Our goal is to get all vaccines out in the hands of vaccinators as quickly as possible so that they can get it in the arms of patients as quickly as possible," said Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

"I think that is what's going to change the trajectory of this disease," said Dr. Safdar.

In the last year, a total of 941 patients have been hospitalized with COVID-19 at UW Health with a single-day high of 90 patients in their hospitals.

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