On this day last year, the first COVID-19 positive patient was seen at Cornerstone’s Kaplan Family Pavilion in Newburgh. Today, we observe a day of remembrance and reflection on the enormous challenges we faced as a Community Health Center and the remarkable work of those on the front lines who rose to meet them. Below is an open letter to the Cornerstone staff from Linda Muller, President & CEO of Cornerstone Family Healthcare, reflecting on the past 12 months. Together we are Cornerstone Strong.
One year ago today, March 11, 2020, the first COVID-19 positive patient in Orange County was seen at the Kaplan Family Pavilion. I remember that day like it was yesterday. A new patient came into our Urgent Care Center and he was very sick with severe flu like symptoms. We had no idea that he had COVID-19. From the moment I got the call about the virus and his positivity, I knew things would be different, but I had no idea just how much everything was going to change for so many of us.
Businesses shut down. Communities were on lock-down. Patients stopped coming to the health center. Our homes became remote offices and kitchens became classrooms for our children. Toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and PPE became extinct. And people started getting sick. Our patients…our neighbors…our family members…the images that had been filling our screens from across the world, were now taking place in front of our eyes.
Even on the darkest, scariest days—when there was little information to be had and so many unknowns about the virus—Cornerstone showed up. You showed up because of our mission. You showed up to care for our patients…who we would quickly find out were being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. You showed up because that’s what you do!
You worked long, sometimes grueling hours, decked out in full PPE. You worked under tents swabbing thousands of patients on some of the hottest and coldest days of the year. You learned how to be there for our patients via telemedicine. You were sympathetic to their fear of the unknown and helped to comfort patients with what information we had…even when you were scared.
And you supported each other on some of our most difficult days. When you were exhausted, mentally and physically. When you and your family members were sick with COVID-19. When we had to quarantine due to possible exposures. When the worst happened and we lost patients, friends and family members to this horrible virus. The Cornerstone family was there for each other, as we always have been.
Reflecting on all that has transpired over the last 12 months, I’m filled with a range of emotions:
My heart grieves for all those that were lost to this terrible virus…
I’m filled with pride for this organization and our ongoing commitment to our mission…
I’m grateful for all the smart, dedicated and compassionate individuals that choose Cornerstone as their place to provide care….
And I’m inspired by the work that you do each and every day and optimistic for our future.
Yes, we’re still talking about high case counts, new variants, vaccines, and the importance of wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing. But things are starting to get a little better. Patients are returning to the health center, vaccines are being distributed as quickly as we can get them, children are getting back to school, and businesses are starting to reopen.
There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not just the COVID-19 vaccine. The light is YOU.
Thank you for all that you do. I will be forever grateful and inspired by your courage under the most unprecedented circumstances. It is true, we are Cornerstone Strong!
With my warmest thanks and admiration,
Linda S. Muller, M.S.
President & CEO, Cornerstone Family Healthcare