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Two years into the pandemic, local experts reflect on what we know now

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Posted at 5:33 PM, Mar 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-11 15:35:45-05

LANSING, Mich. — It was two years ago today that the first case of COVID-19 was identified in Michigan and since then the state has seen surges and lulls as we navigated the worst pandemic in living memory. But on Thursday, health experts said there's reason for hope. We've made incredible strides, increased our immunity and now we get to settle into a new normal, at least for now.

“It's incredible, it's been two years," said Dr. Paul Entler the vice president of quality and performance at Sparrow Hospital. "I was thinking about the floors in the hospital walking up there, it was just an eerie feeling that I never experienced in the 20 years in medicine. Just a calm like I can't even explain it.”

Entler has been on the front lines of Sparrow Hospital's COVID-19 response throughout the pandemic. He said the first time he experienced real hope in the middle of the crisis was when he got vaccinated.

“When I took my vaccine, watched others take vaccines, patients take vaccines and then start to see the decline again [that's when I felt hopeful,]" he said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic Michigan has seen more than 2 million cases and over 32,000 deaths. But behind those grim numbers there has also been incredible medical innovation.

“We're in a better place than we have been before, and in large part, that's because we have tools available to us now that we didn't have two years ago or even a year ago," said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian the chief medical executive within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Today we have access to safe and effective vaccines, medicines that help reduce the severity of the virus and reliable mitigation strategies. In other words, things are looking up, but that doesn't mean the virus is going away completely.

“When the national media has been talking about some of these things, it's really been portrayed as a straight line to the finish. Things are going to get better and then the pandemic will be over and we won't need to talk about COVID anymore and that's not really how we're seeing this," she said.

Instead, Bagdasarian said, we could continue to see less severe surges in the future and we might still have to change our behavior based on risk level.

“We are anticipating times when things are higher risk. We are anticipating surges in the future, she said. "It just means that things are more dependent on what’s happening locally, and it really means making choices that are best for ourselves and for family members.”

Looking back now with what we know, health officer Linda Vail with the Ingham County Health Department, said those early restrictions definitely saved lives.

"Oh, absolutely I think they saved lives and were effective. You know, it's unfortunate that there are a lot of people out there that don't think that and don't see that. But that's what public health is," she said.

Experts expect COVID will continue to be present in the U.S and we might even see surges. But two years in we have quadruple the tools to beat it.

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