VIDEO: It's been a year. So, when did you realize the world was going to change?

(Getty/tuachanwatthana)

It could've been when your kids' school announced plans to close.

It could've been the first time a patient with true COVID-19 exposure walked into the emergency department with flu-like symptoms.

At some point, everyone had a moment when the reality of the pandemic hit—when they finally grasped the drastic changes the world was about to undergo.

When Fierce Healthcare began considering when to mark the one-year anniversary of the global pandemic, it became clear the answer varied greatly by each individual’s experience.

For Mayo Clinic's John Halamka, M.D., who commuted weekly from his home in Boston to Rochester, Minnesota, it was after he got off a crowded flight on March 15, 2020, when he realized his routine travels would no longer be safe.

He showed up in the office and told his colleague he was on a Jet Blue flight with 186 college-age students.

Halamka said: "The chief medical officer looked at me and said, 'You know, that's sort of an interesting issue. You're in a thin metal tube with a bunch of 20-year-olds all doing spring break travel. This is probably not a great idea and probably the thing to do is to self-quarantine and probably begin this pattern of remote work until this situation is better understood.'" 

For Vituity's Gregg Miller, M.D., that moment of realization came during a shift in a Seattle emergency department.

He happened to get that hospital's first COVID-19-positive patient, a man who'd recently traveled in Asia and was showing symptoms after learning one of the people he'd been at a party with tested positive.

It was among the very first positive cases in the U.S. and only days after some of the first COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. had been reported at a hospital nearby. With knowledge about the virus still scant, anxiety in the emergency department spiked.

"People were really, really, really on edge," Miller said. "Finally, we discharged him, and you could feel like everyone settled down a little bit. But then it was like, 'Oh my gosh. What gate has been opened?'" 

Meanwhile, UnitedHealth Group's Deneen Vojta, M.D., was on spring break in Florida with her family as it became clear COVID-19 was going to hit the U.S. in a big way.

Vojta, executive vice president for research and development at UnitedHealth Group, said that as the Trump administration rolled out early travel bans at the beginning of 2020, she decided to cut the vacation short and plan her return to Minneapolis to get to work

"It was an interesting year. There were certainly a lot of learnings, and it was thrilling to see that we as a nation did try to come together, particularly as it relates to the scientific community, to get the job done," Vojta said. 

And for Providence health system's supply chief Brad Alexander, the impact of the pandemic hit as his children's schools canceled classes and his family began to juggle their schedules with work.

At the same time, his role took on a new sense of urgency as he scrambled to help the health system respond to nationwide challenges of critical supply shortages of personal protective equipment and ventilators. 

Among the projects he led was to help stand up a new way of evaluating the system’s supply chain needs and quickly responding. 

“We began to collaborate in a fundamentally different way with clinical leadership,” he said. “We forged a close relationship with the clinical analytics group on predictive modeling around disease incidents and the epidemic impact of COVID-19.”

Healthcare leaders, tell us your stories. Tweet us at @FierceHealth or find us on LinkedIn, and tell us about when you realized COVID-19 was going to make some major changes to life as we know it in the U.S.