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Credit: WINK News

The pandemic: One year later

One year later and we’re still in a pandemic. More than one million people have tested positive in Florida since the pandemic began. Now, the focus has shifted to herd immunity and vaccinations.

Hospitals have made changes to help beat this virus.

Capie Pankow is a Registered Nurse in the Progressive Care Unit at HealthPark Medical Center. He used to start every workday with a cup of coffee. But since the pandemic began, her tradition has gone away.

“The cup of coffee doesn’t normally happen, just because we’re all masked up and I don’t want to be in a public space with a mask off and drinking coffee,” Pankow said.

Because of the safety barriers in place, he doesn’t recognize most of his newer colleagues.

“It is sometimes a little shock to the system because we don’t know what’s under there. We’ve never met them without a mask, Pankow said.

But, it goes deeper than that for Pankow and his patients. From masks and plastic shields to physical distancing and limits on visitors, the physical barriers are taking an emotional toll.

“Since their own family couldn’t physically be by their side, we stepped in to hold their hand and to talk to them as they peacefully transitioned,” he said.

Even the rooms look different now. Dr. Scott Nygaard and Chief Operating Officer of Lee Health.

“All of the things we’ve done are really done in the best interest of safety,” Nygaard said.

But, that doesn’t mean Lee Health leaders like Dr. Nygaard will be sad to see the barriers go.

“Anything that puts a barrier between us and the patient and being able to deliver care in a more personal way – we’d like to eventually eliminate them,” he said.

They are breaking down barriers and rebuilding connections.

Not all of Lee Health’s new innovations will go away once the pandemic begins. Dr. Nygaard says Lee Health can use this experience and ideas they’ve learned during this pandemic to give them a head start and guide them through the next one.

Reporter:Veronica Marshall
Writer:Drew Hill
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