Mass. marks two years since first confirmed COVID-19 case

BOSTON — We don’t know who he is, his exact age, the circumstances surrounding his infection — but two years ago today, February 1, 2020, a UMass Boston student made history by becoming the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Massachusetts.

We do know that he had just returned from Wuhan, China, believed to be the origin of the original ‘wild type’ coronavirus that came to be known as COVID-19.

“When we had this hit two years ago, we thought we’d be through this in a relatively short period of time,” said Eric Dickson, MD, MHCM, CEO and President of UMass Memorial Health in Worcester. “And certainly we didn’t think this would go on for two years.”

But it hasn’t just gone on at UMass Memorial. It’s lately gotten worse.

“We here at UMass Memorial just finished our third and worst surge yet of COVID patients,” Dickson said. “And it’s not exactly clear when all this will be over and behind us.”

Back when it was all before us -- on that first day in February 2020, state public health officials took a measured approach to informing the public, with the press release that day stating “The risk to the general public remains low and we continue to be confident we are in a good position to respond to this developing situation.”

Within a matter of weeks came evidence of the first community spread in Massachusetts in the Berkshires — and the state’s first super-spreader event at a Biogen conference in Boston.

To date, nearly 1.5 million cases of Covid-219 have been confirmed in Massachusetts since

February 1, 2020. Some 22,000 residents have died from COVID infections..

While Dickson expects COVID cases to fall through spring, he worries about a coming crisis in healthcare — as unmet patient needs clash up against a shortage of trained healthcare professionals, many of whom left during the pandemic.

“We have an increasing backlog of patients that have been on hold when we cancelled elective procedures and diagnostic studies. So we’re not only behind on today’s work, we’ve got yesterday’s and the day before,” Dickson said. “I think where you’re really going to feel the long-term impact are the people that had to care for the patients with the disease — especially when towards the end, you know, the public didn’t take this seriously.”

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