One year into the COVID-19 pandemic: More is now known about spread, treatment

No matter age or occupation, COVID-19 has changed just about every aspect of people’s lives
Published: Jan. 18, 2021 at 5:42 PM MST
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — This week marks one year since the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the US. Putting you first, we talked with local health officials about what we know now versus the early days.

No matter a person’s age or occupation, COVID-19 has changed just about every aspect of people’s lives.

Idaho resident and retiree Steve Dayley never thought he would have to wear a mask when running errands.

“I feel like I’ve been grounded, like a teenager... I’ll never get that year back, ‘cause when you get to be retired and over the age of 65, you never get that year back,” Dayley said.

And for special education teacher Wendy Wheelock, it’s not only changed her life, but also her students’ lives.

“I’m a special education teacher at Jerome High School, so it’s changed significantly,” Wheelock said. “The masking is difficult for the kids. I work with behavior kids, so masking is difficult for them, social distancing is difficult.”

Wheelock also said she’s seen straight-A students’ grades drop, as remote learning took place.

But there have been some good in the past year, as there’s a better understanding of how the virus spreads.

In the beginning, there were plenty of questions health officials couldn’t completely answer, explains Brianna Bodily with the South Central Public Health District.

“Things like, ‘Can I get COVID-19 from food? Can I get COVID from walking past another person if I don’t have contact with them? You know, if I walk past them in the grocery store?’” Bodily said.

Dr. Joshua Kern, vice president of medical affairs St. Luke’s Magic Valley, Jerome and Wood River expanded on that.

“We know a lot more about how the virus is spread,” Kern said. “Originally there was a lot of talk about wiping things down, and keeping surfaces clean, wiping down your Amazon packages before you brought them in the house, or I know my parents were letting their Amazon packages sit outside for 48 hours supposedly to make sure all the virus had died.”

We now know it’s spread primarily through droplets such as saliva and mucus, explained Bodily.

“So talking to you, if you and I were within three feet of each other and we’re talking to each other, we would likely be, this is so gross, but we would likely be just a little bit be spitting on each other,” Bodily said. “And when we do that, there’s a very high chance of contracting something the other person is carrying, especially a respiratory disease like COVID-19.”

Doctors also know how to better treat it. In the beginning, early intubation was the norm, Kern explained.

“But in our experience in the United States, early intubation did not seem to improve outcomes,” Kern said. “And so that’s one of the biggest questions is now if anything, we’re probably putting off intubation longer than we normally would. So we’re putting people on really high-flow oxygen instead of putting them on a breathing machine.”

And while those Zoom meetings and working from home may not go away just yet, the vaccines are a light at the end of the tunnel, Kern explained.

“The vaccine coming online, that will be the big game-changer to really put this behind us eventually,” he said.

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