ALABAMA (WHNT) — On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Today, News 19 spoke with two doctors about the early days of the pandemic, and where we are now.

Dr. Mark Wilson, a health officer for the Jefferson County Health Department, stated, “we’ve just all been through a lot.”

News 19 asked him to describe what the early part of the pandemic felt like.

“It really felt like there was a fire in the house, and we had to very quickly put it out, and then you know, within days there were other fires and there were other houses on fire,” Wilson stated. “It was just all going on at once and it was just very, very intense.”

Dr. Rachael Lee, an Epidemiologist at UAB Healthcare, said at the beginning it was hard to know where to start. She said an initial challenge was figuring out how to protect healthcare workers on the front lines.

“Should we implement universal masks for our healthcare workers? The answer was yes, but then the second question becomes, how are we going to get those masks?” she said.

At the beginning, finding supplies was a challenge. Dr. Wilson said the U.S. had prepared for something like a pandemic, but the preparation was lacking.

“We didn’t have hand sanitizer, we didn’t have masks, even for healthcare workers,” Wilson stated. “The masks that were in our strategic national stockpile were deteriorating.”

Once cases started appearing in Alabama, health officials hoped to get ahead of the spread.

“At that time we were really hoping, that we could, you know, maybe not stop it, but do much better than we did,” said Dr. Wilson.

The United States has come a long way since the early days of the pandemic. There are now vaccines and boosters available, as well as medications to offer treatment; however, Dr. Lee warns, “we still have a lot to learn.”