The COVID-19 pandemic, also known as the coronavirus pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) became a global pandemic and threat to health worldwide with its first beginnings documented in 2019 and spreading worldwide in the beginning of 2020.
The outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30, 2020, and a pandemic on March 11, 2020.
Little did anyone at the time understand at its onset the effect it would have globally. What followed was a series of shortages in the health care arena including: personal protective equipment (PPE), shortages and threats of shortages of hospital beds, ICU beds, ventilators, and respiratory therapists.
In the United States and throughout the world, stay at home and shelter in place orders led to a shutdown of the economy and life as usual. Universities, businesses (other than those deemed essential), and a vast array of stores and service providers were forced to either close or conduct business in a virtual world.
Wearing masks and social distancing became the norm. Shortages of other goods occurred either due to hoarding, increased demand, or disruptions to the supply chain. These included shortages of meat, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and surgical masks.
Seamstresses were called to duty to sew cotton masks in lieu of the shortage of surgical masks to try and meet the demand for health care workers as well as other front-line and essential workers, and finally to anyone venturing out into public places.
What follows is how a virus first identified in Wuhan China, became a pandemic, a worldwide threat to the health and economic wellbeing of those around the world and how respiratory therapists responded as on the frontlines caring for those affected—becoming the “unsung heroes” of the pandemic crisis.