Kaiser officials, COVID survivor reflect on 2 years of pandemic

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Friday marks two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, almost a million people have died in the country, and thousands have been affected by the virus.

"The pandemic, it nearly took my life," recalled Mark Wallace, a COVID-19 survivor.

In May of 2020, the Dinuba pastor was Fresno's first Kaiser Permanente COVID-19 patient treated on a ventilator to go home -- after 24 days.

"I never want anyone to go through what I went through," Wallace said.

He knows he's one of the lucky ones as thousands of COVID patients didn't return home to their loved ones.

"They were losing people left and right," said Wallace, remembering his time spent in the hospital.

While the pandemic has taken so much the past two years, Kaiser Permanente officials said there are things to celebrate.

"We've increased vaccination rates through mass vaccination hubs, pop-up clinics in our communities," said Dr. Stephen Parodi, Kaiser's Coronavirus response clinical lead. "Enlisting trusted messengers, faith-based partners to deliver culturally competent relevant information that resonates with people."

Moving into an endemic stage -- meaning the disease is predictable and staying around -- Dr. Parodi said vaccination efforts must continue.

In addition, everyone should prepare for other surges and new variants.

"At some periods of time, we'll be at a low level, and hopefully, the masks can come off," he said. "At some other points in time, we may have higher levels, and then we got to put the masks back on."

According to Dr. Parodi, there are ways to manage COVID moving forward.

"I would not be surprised if COVID-19 vaccinations become part of either a near-term or long-term annual vaccination," he said.

With COVID here to stay, Dr. Parodi and Wallace encourage people to protect themselves and those around them.

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