A protective gurney was used in January 2020 to transport the Snohomish County man, 35, the first coronavirus case in the United States, to an isolated room at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Providence Regional Medical Center)

A protective gurney was used in January 2020 to transport the Snohomish County man, 35, the first coronavirus case in the United States, to an isolated room at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Providence Regional Medical Center)

It began with ‘Patient Zero’ one long year ago

Since then, everything changed. Here are five stories from the frontline of the COVID crisis.

On Jan. 21, 2020, it was announced to the world that the United States had its first case of a new mysterious virus.

The night before, after a battery of lab tests, a 35-year-old Snohomish County resident was placed in deep isolation in an Everett hospital. He’d fallen ill four days after returning from Wuhan, China.

He became known as “Patient Zero” after a fateful test came back positive from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

At the time, images of people sick and dying in China and a few other countries seemed so distant. There were less than a thousand cases of the mystery illness reported, hardly a pandemic.

Little did we know just how much the coronavirus would change our lives and take so many. Over 2 million people have died worldwide, the majority due to community spread.

The year of fear and danger continues to cast its stubborn pall.

As of Friday, 445 people have died from COVID-19 in the county, where 100 currently are hospitalized with the virus.

The nation’s first COVID patient was rolled in on a protective gurney at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. It was the first time a special room set up during the Ebola crisis of 2014 to 2016 was used in a real-life scenario. A robot with a stethoscope and microphone allowed him to speak remotely with the doctor.

The man was discharged two weeks later, then quarantined at home for two more weeks.

“Patient Zero” remains largely anonymous beyond the medical community that treated him.

“We checked with him a few months ago and he was doing well,” said Heather Thomas, a Snohomish Health District spokeswoman. “He still prefers not to be identified.”

By Feb. 21, the virus was confirmed in few dozen people scattered across the country.

By mid-March, the world as we knew it stopped.

Schools, salons, restaurants and fitness centers closed. Parents became teachers. Grocery store clerks became front-line workers.

It has been a dire balancing act of trying to make a living and to protect loved ones. Touchless and six-feet apart was the mandate. No hugging grandkids allowed.

People died, particularly the elderly.

“Here we go,” Sunrise View Convalescent Center and Retirement Villa administrator Diane Lopes remembers thinking on March 14 when two residents tested positive. “Here we go.”

Statewide, of the nearly 4,000 fatalities, 91% have been those 60 and older.

Deaths and hospitalizations have come in waves. At times the curve would flatten, only to surge anew. A single-day record 4,254 Americans died on Tuesday alone. The U.S. death toll stands at more than 400,000.

Today, as the one-year mark of “Patient Zero” approaches, the Herald profiles the Sunrise administrator and four others at the forefront of giving or receiving treatment and care.

Providence Intensive Care Unit nurse Sara Gering has been there for the final moments of many COVID-19 patients, and a Marysville area woman who spent 25 days on a ventilator in March and April came close to being one of them.

“They are my heroes,” Peggy Jahn, 62, said of the medical workers. “I am here because of them.”

Providence emergency department medical director Dr. Ryan Keay describes the chaotic year and the steep learning curve on how best to treat patients.

“COVID doesn’t play by the same rules as any other diseases we have dealt with,” hospital respiratory therapist Darryl Keffer said.

Even with vaccinations underway, there is no letup in sight.

The virus has infected some 26,000 people in Snohomish County and 23.5 million in the U.S. since last January.

And at Providence, the census of COVID patients last week hovered between 65 and 70 with another 20 patients awaiting lab results.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Students arriving off the bus get in line to score some waffles during a free pancake and waffle breakfast at Lowell Elementary School on Friday, May 26, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
800 free pancakes at Everett’s Lowell Elementary feed the masses

The annual breakfast was started to connect the community and the school, as well as to get people to interact.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring speaks at the groundbreaking event for the I-5/SR 529 Interchange project on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$123M project starting on Highway 529 interchange, I-5 HOV lane

A reader wondered why the highway had a lane closure despite not seeing work done. Crews were waiting on the weather.

Justin Bell was convicted earlier this month of first-degree assault for a December 2017 shooting outside a Value Village in Everett. (Caleb Hutton / Herald file)
Court: Snohomish County jurors’ opaque masks didn’t taint verdict

During the pandemic, Justin Bell, 32, went on trial for a shooting. Bell claims his right to an impartial jury was violated.

Gary Fontes uprights a tree that fell over in front of The Fontes Manor — a miniature handmade bed and breakfast — on Friday, May 12, 2023, at his home near Silver Lake in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s mini-Frank Lloyd Wright builds neighborhood of extra tiny homes

A tiny lighthouse, a spooky mansion and more: Gary Fontes’ miniature world of architectural wonders is one-twelfth the size of real life.

Will Steffener
Inslee appoints Steffener as Superior Court judge

Attorney Will Steffener will replace Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Janice Ellis, who is retiring in June.

News logo for use with stories about Mill Creek in Snohomish County, WA.
Police: Mill Creek man fatally stabbed wife amid financial woes

After quitting his job at Amazon, the man amassed about $50,000 in debt, triggering a discussion about finances, he told police.

Outside of the current Evergreen Recovery Centers' housing to treat opioid-dependent moms with their kids on Thursday, May 25, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
$8M in behavioral health grants to benefit children, youth, families

Snohomish County awarded one-time federal funding to five projects that will reach at least 440 new people each year.

Penelope Protheroe, President and Founder of Angel Resource Connection puts together a huge batch of rotini with meatballs and marinara before heading out to distribute the food and other supplies on Wednesday, May 17, 2023, around Everett, Washington. ARC uses the Lake Stevens Senior Center kitchen to cook up meals for people without homes. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
She feeds Everett’s homeless; ‘no sit’ ban makes her mission harder

Everett banned handing out food and water in city-designated zones: “They just want people to disappear … be somebody else’s problem.”

Ashley Morrison, left, and her mother Cindi Morrison. (Photo provided by Cindi Morrison)
Everett’s ‘Oldest Young Cat Lady’ legacy continues after death

On social media, Ashley Morrison, 31, formed a worldwide community to talk about cats and mental health. Her mom wants to keep it going.

Most Read