Forsyth County commemorated the end of the official COVID-19 public health emergency at a press conference Thursday.
The event was in effect a live oral history of the crisis as told by the people who were on the frontlines.
Public Health Communicable Disease Nurse Supervisor Maura Trimble was among them. In February of 2020, she began checking in on county residents who had recently traveled to China, asking them to monitor for any symptoms. She said that went on for several weeks without incident. Then in early March, things changed.
“I made a call to a new traveler, and I said 'Are you having any symptoms?' And they say yes. And I was like, 'Oh, I haven't had that answer before,'" she said. "So that particular call then created a lot more calls.”
Trimble says at the time, they had three COVID tests available for all 358,000 county residents. Today, there’s a free COVID test vending machine at the front door of the health department.
All officials devoted the lion’s share of their speeches to gratitude — for the volunteers who unwrapped Band-Aids at vaccination sites, for the business owner who offered up his shopping plaza to increase testing for the hard-hit Hispanic community, and for the nurses who sometimes sacrificed their own health to care for those most in need.
And they took time to honor the residents who lost their lives to the virus.
“These are not just numbers. These are people and we recognize that. We see the names, we read the obituaries, we know that they are loved members of this community and that they had loved ones. Well, today marks the end of the public health emergency declaration. It's just one more day without your loved ones. And you have our collective hearts.”
Nearly 1,000 Forsyth County residents have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began.