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Stormont Vail remembers lives lost to COVID-19 one year after first positive case



TOPEKA, Kan. – Wednesday marked a somber milestone in the local fight against COVID-19.

It has been exactly one year since Stormont Vail saw its first positive test result for the virus.

The sound of bells echoed throughout the grounds Wednesday to remember the 203 lives lost at the hospital since the first case.

“This year has been it’s been really difficult it’s been a challenge,” Stormont’s CEO Dr. Robert Kenagy said in a memorial service on the campus.

“Been full of challenges if we really had no precedent, no playbook, no plan for ahead of time and he seemed to be much longer than a year that it has been.”

Shawnee Co. Health Officer Dr. Erin Locke, who spent the early days of the pandemic as a physician in Jackson Co. thought of the patients she treated.

“Today, for me, it’s about remembering them and remembering how much they meant to me and the loss of them for myself of course but also more for their families and friends and also a reminder of why we’ve been doing the work that we’ve been doing here in the county,” she said.

“We don’t want to lose any more of our family and our friends are community members and so that the vaccine and all the work that’s going into it is to keep people safe and in so that’s keeping us going.”

Mayor Michelle De La Isla, who recently recovered from the virus, said the day was difficult to get through.

“I think it’s important for our community to never forget and days like today are a great reminder of how far we’ve come but how important it is that we still keep our eye on the fact that the virus is still here,” she said.

“We should still be protecting ourselves that we should be all wearing our mass that we should be keeping our six-foot distance and doing everything we can so that we don’t lose more lies in our community.”

Dr. Kevin Dishman, Stormont’s Chief Medical Officer said Wednesday served as a chance to look ahead to the next phase of the fight against the virus.

“We are a team we depend on each other, we hold each other up, we celebrate together, we cry together and this was really about remembering those we’ve lost in remembering our need to stand together and celebrate the lives of everyone involved in the last year.”