The Perfect Enemy | Three years later, what did COVID teach us? - WDBJ
April 11, 2024

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) – Do you remember this time three years ago? It was around this time in 2020 we were becoming aware of the increasing threat of COVID-19. But much has changed in three years and our relationship with the virus is much different.

COVID is now endemic but doesn’t pose the same sort of threat as it once did. As a matter of fact, in the Roanoke City Alleghany Health District case counts are going down and hospitalizations are the lowest they’ve been since May of last year.

But Dr. Cynthia Morrow with the Roanoke City Alleghany Health District said Tuesday that while we’ve learned a lot, we can never let our guard down.

In three years, the Roanoke City Alleghany Health District logged more than 82,000 cases of COVID-19 and documented the more than 1,100 lives COVID took from the community.

But since 2020, Dr. Morrow says we’ve become much better prepared to respond to significant health threats.

“We now know how we can stand up testing sites, vaccination sites, how we can really leverage our community partners and our healthcare delivery systems,” she said.

She also credits the experts who mounted a rapid vaccine response, and the effective use of antiviral medicine and monoclonal antibody treatments. The pandemic, she said, forced public health systems to improve data collection and reporting. These are tools that will help them track things like chronic disease and substance use disorder.

“We have a data portal now that we didn’t have prior to the pandemic that is really going to, to help us serve our community better… when we’re not being reactive when we’re not dealing with imminent public health threat,” said Morrow.

COVID also pushed them to develop community partnerships that will continue to strengthen their ability to pivot to growing needs, such as the Hepatitis A outbreak.

Overall, Dr. Morrow said changes made during COVID have strengthened the agency.

And with federal funding on the way, Morrow sees an investment to better prepare for the future and whatever threats it may bring.

“With ARPA funding, with the American Rescue Plan Funding, we’re going to start a strategic planning process that’s going to build in sustainable ways to improve the way that we can serve our public,” Morrow said. “And that’s going to be lasting for generations.”

Dr. Morrow hopes the pandemic has show the community and our leaders the value of a robust public health system. She hopes there is continued support for that infrastructure so they can quickly response to the next big threat.