Milwaukee County leaders reflect on 1-year COVID anniversary

NOW: Milwaukee County leaders reflect on 1-year COVID anniversary

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MILWAUKEE COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Thursday, March 11, marks one since COVID was declared a pandemic. Life has not been the same since. Family members have died, jobs have been lost and the entire country has battled the virus through wave after exhausting wave.

The Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Nkem Iroegbu said the medical community didn't know what to do about COVID one year ago.

There was so little information about the new virus. A year later though, he said we're close to waking up from this nightmare.

"A year ago we were looking at a tunnel that was all dark, and now we see a light at the end of the tunnel," said Iroegbu.

He said so much has changed in a year.

"We didn't really know what to make of some aspects of it, and there wasn't much to go on from the medical literature," said Iroegbu.

Hospital and public health leaders kept learning though, and now with more vaccines arriving, a sense of optimism has arrived.

"We're currently averaging 70 new cases per day and are now down to one death every two days," said Dr. Ben Weston with the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

He said those numbers are down from a thousand cases and nine deaths every day back in November. Vaccines are a key solution.

"The more people we can get vaccinated, the better our community will be," said Weston.

But the county and state have a long way to go to get to 80 percent of people vaccinated. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett believes federal money will help meet that burden.

"I'm pleased to announce the cavalry has arrived in the form of the federal American rescue plan," said Barrett.

When some Wisconsin counties get further ahead than others at vaccinating people, the state redistributes vaccine doses from them to counties that have fallen behind.

That's allowed Milwaukee County to start catching up.

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