'Continue to fight the fight:' Houston nurses and doctors look back at COVID-19 one year later

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- COVID-19 has killed more than 43,000 Texans, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. The concern is there will be more deaths and hospitalizations after the state's mask order is lifted on Wednesday, March 10. Gov. Greg Abbott's decision to lift the mask order comes as health care workers have been fighting COVID-19 for an entire year.

March 4 marks the one-year anniversary of the first case in the Houston area.

WATCH: A year of pandemic: The events that unfolded... and unraveled
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ABC13's Brittaney Wilmore compiled a powerful look at the events that stopped, the businesses that shuttered and the records nobody wanted to achieve over the past year.

SEE ALSO: Texas' 7-day average of COVID-19 deaths per day is higher than in October, data shows

The year 2020 marked a lot of milestones, from the moment hospitals started to prepare for the virus to the transition over time of how to treat it.
"Thinking back to those early days and how we had such a tremendous lack of knowledge about this disease and how to treat it. We were learning on the fly. We were making educated guesses just based on up-to-the-minute observations and learnings," said Dr. David Callender, the president and CEO of Memorial Hermann.

Stephanice Stephen is the nurse manager of the Critical Care Unit at Memorial Hermann in The Woodlands Medical Center. She's been working with COVID-19 patients since the very beginning.

"Are there bad days? Yes, but like I say, you have a good cry. You come back and continue to fight the fight," said Stephen.

It has been a year of ups and downs. After cases spiked over the summer, hospitals had to surge by adding more beds to treat patients. There were some dark days - days that medical workers don't want to revisit.

While their knowledge and treatment have vastly improved, Callender is concerned that lifting the mask mandate could jeopardize some of that hard work.

SEE ALSO: Model projections for Texas show a worst-case scenario without mask mandate

"We're really worried about taking a step back, allowing more dangerous variants to develop and having to tolerate and put up with more death and more severe illness before we can get people vaccinated," said Callender.
Callender is asking people to help by continuing to practice social distancing and using masks, especially since a limited number of people are vaccinated.

Stephen is determined to continue to do whatever it takes to help those in need. She said what keeps her going is putting herself in the position of the patients and their families.

"What would I do? How would I feel? If that was me in the bed or if I was the caretaker, and that's what keeps me going and also what helps me to go home and put my head on the pillow is knowing I've done the best that I could," she said.

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