Some SoCal officials reflect on COVID-19 pandemic 2 years after world-changing event began

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Two years ago, on March 11, 2020, one announcement changed people's lives forever. The world health organization declared a world wide pandemic.

"We were celebrating my mom's 80th birthday at that time," said Baldwin Park Mayor Pro Tem Daniel Damian.

Damian and his 42-year-old brother Tony organized the party together. But with an unknown virus at our doorstep, the uncertainty began.

"Do we hug? Do we not? Do we wear masks? Do we not?," Damian said. "You know, it was odd and we just didn't really know what to expect."

"We really had no idea what we were dealing with. We had no protection," said Dr. Nancy Gin, Regional Director of quality for Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

She recalls how quickly Los Angeles leapt into a lockdown.

The Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center would become the fourth most COVID-19 impacted hospital in the nation. Patients filled every bed.

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Starting Monday, many school districts throughout California will be ditching their mask mandates for students and teachers, but not L.A. Unified School District.

"It was just an exceptional period," said Gin. "We had converted nearly every usable space."

Surgical masks were in short supply. After finding medical grade material, the staff searched for people to make masks.

"Our leaders actually literally went to the garment district in downtown Los Angeles," she said.

Another type of protection for healthcare workers arrived in Dec. 2020. Within months, COVID-19 vaccines would be available to most adults.

Damian's brother Tony chose to hold off.

"When he got sick, you know, he regretted not getting the vaccine. He ended up in the hospital for two weeks with a COVID pneumonia, and that's what unfortunately ended his life," Damian said. "There's not one day that I don't think about my brother."

Tony died with the care of the hospital staff. The only ones able to comfort him due to COVID-19 protocols..

"The doctors and nurses, they had the compassion. They understood," Damian said.

"The teams came together in such a beautiful way to support the needs of patients everywhere. I will never ever forget that," Gin said.
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