MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A year since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency room staffers at Memorial Regional Hospital will tell you that a regular day is anything but regular.

Randy Alfonso, Director of Nursing, Emergency Services at Memorial Healthcare System, said “Early on when the first patients were coming in we did not know, we did not know what was going to happen. Did not know how sick the patients were going to be.”

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Medical personnel knew what COVID was, but not how to handle it, how to treat it, or how to protect staff. That was the daunting unknown.

Dr.Randy Katz, head of emergency services at Memorial Regional Hospital, said “There was a fear factor not knowing if you were going to make it home without putting an infectious disease into your family.”

Gradually, as more was learned, treatments explored, procedures refined, routines established.

“We had to come in one day and put up our first tent. We went through several, then we went to a bigger tent; to both tents, then to the one behind me,” said Alfonso.

Screening worked.

What was learned is not every COVID victim had to be hospitalized, some could self-monitor at home.

Only the sickest went to the ER and were admitted. Staff rotation and staffing were adjusted to meet the impact.

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“I have been doing this for 20 years and there is definitely nothing, that I have been involved with whether it was mass causality, that has presented this much of a challenge over time and dramatically impacted all phases of health care,” Katz said.

The emergency room staff, the treating physicians worked on saving lives day after day.

Early on, equipped with personal protective gear and armed with the latest treatment procedures they did everything they could.

“They were afraid they were going to go home and give this to someone they loved. Yet again, they would come in every day with a smile on their faces and get ready to take care of people. Very brave about the whole thing,” Alfonso said.

Tearing down one of the tents, more of the population being vaccinated, progress against the pandemic.

With emergency room COVID admissions down, doctors at Memorial Healthcare say, ‘don’t let down your guard.’

“This is what we do every day but COVID-19 has really uncovered what we do and the selflessness we practice medicine with. Sometimes putting our own lives at risk to save someone else. We do it all the time,” said Katz.

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Doctors say they foresee the population wearing masks for a long time and that COVID is a disease we will need to learn to live with.