COLUMBIA, S.C. — The federal COVID-19 public health emergency officially ends at midnight. The change comes days after the World Health Organization ended its global health emergency regarding the virus
With the change, some frontline workers are reflecting on how the past few years have affected them and the medical field.
"It was a very scary moment," said USC Clinical Assistant Professor Dwayne Alleyne as he reflected on working in the hospital when COVID hit.
Alleyne and Jewel Scott, both nurses and with the University of South Carolina, say working on the front lines was high-stress, uncertain, and fearful.
"We were in PPE head to toe, gowns, mask, in you know 95-degree plus weather," Scott said. "I just remember the heat."
The long hours and uncertainty on a daily basis led to a roller coaster of emotions.
"There was a lot of appreciation for health care workers, a lot of people said thank you for what you do. People respected me because I was one of the few people that we, well, had to go to work," Alleyne said. "A lot of people were able to stay home but I had to go and so a lot of people said I'm proud of you and stay safe."
While trying to take care of others, they say they faced difficulty in their own families with loved ones passing away and missing out on family events.
"Some under-appreciated the amount of toll it took emotionally on people's mental health working through the pandemic, taking care of patients and seeing more people dying than we're accustomed to seeing in such a short amount of time," Scott said.
With research and mitigation efforts leading to fewer cases and less severity, the public health emergency has now ended. Now, the two feel called to pass on their knowledge to the next generation of nurses while also finding ways to make sure the shortage ends.
"We're seeing some of the effects now with the nursing shortage and thinking about what we need to do to prepare the next generation," Scott said. "Fortunately, we're here today at the Stand-up SC Program, which is really working to increase racial-ethnic diversity in the workforce, as well as preparing people to have those conversations on how to take care of yourself while being a nurse and taking care of others because that self-care piece is important."
If you have COVID symptoms, the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) says they are still offering free "take-home" COVID tests.