Transporting country’s first COVID patient one year ago, ‘we had no idea what we were about to walk through’

A year ago in Snohomish County, emergency crews were faced with a challenge they’d never before tackled: How to transport the first COVID patient the entire country to the hospital. 

So little was known about the virus on Jan. 20, 2020, and even less about how to protect crews in close contact. 

"I thought about it a lot over the last several days, knowing that this day was coming up and just thinking back over all that has transpired in that year," said Deputy Chief Scott Dorsey with Snohomish Regional Fire and Rescue. Dorsey helped coordinate the transport of the Snohomish County man who was the first in the U.S. to knowingly contract the novel coronavirus after traveling to Wuhan, China. 

"I remember just thinking about standing in that patient's driveway, and now thinking about the impact that the world has experienced as a result of this disease. Just kind of makes you stop and reflect a little bit," Dorsey said.

Planning that transport, Dorsey said they used a group that specialized in hazmat and wore protective equipment as if they were responding to a hazmat incident. He said they also used a specialized device called an ISO pod, which he said they realized was probably "overkill."

Dorsey recalled that after they successfully brought the patient to the hospital in Everett, they stood around in the parking lot reviewing the day. 

"We all said to each other, ‘Well what happens if this thing gets much larger, because we have one ISO pod," he said. "Standing here a year later and looking back, you just think, holy smokes, we had no idea what we were about to walk through and we still are walking through."