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'Such a great victory': One year later, an update on Oregon's first COVID patient

Hector Calderon spent two months on a ventilator. For the doctors and nurses who fought to save him, it was an introduction to how brutal the novel virus could be.

Maggie Vespa

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Published: 5:39 PM PST February 25, 2021
Updated: 8:18 PM PST February 27, 2021

One year ago, life in Oregon was normal.

Kids went to school. Fans went to games. Masks weren’t a thing. That said, while none of us knew it, the virus that would soon upend our lives had arrived, and Oregon’s first patient was already feeling symptoms.

The announcement came on the evening of Friday, Feb. 28, 2020: Oregon had its first confirmed case of COVID-19. The patient, an adult, worked at a local school. Word of mouth and journalists’ inquiries soon revealed it to be Forest Hills Elementary in Lake Oswego. Hazmat crews scrubbed the halls, while doctors and nurses at Kaiser Permanente Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro grappled with the realization that a looming, global pandemic had indeed hit home.

With the first anniversary of that pivotal announcement set for Sunday, three of those Kaiser staff members sat down with KGW, remotely, to reflect on Hector Calderon’s case, what they learned from it and how their jobs and the health care industry have changed since.

Credit: Jan Sonnenmair, The Permanente Federation