Nearly one year ago information was scarce and the emerging coronavirus captivated the attention of millions of people worldwide. The virus was originally detected in Wuhan City of China's Hubei Province before it quickly spread to nearby countries and eventually the world, classifying it as a full blown pandemic.
Riverside County's first case of coronavirus was reported on February 25. The county's department of public health notified the public that "A Riverside County resident who was a passenger on the Diamond Princess cruise ship [had] tested positive for coronavirus." That patient was treated at a Northern California hospital after having traveled on the 14-day cruise ship in Japan.
Less than one week after that, the first locally acquired coronavirus case was reported in Riverside County.
"A year ago it was terrifying to think about it, none of us knew what we were facing," said Rancho Mirage resident, Sherry Rhodes.
"It's unprecedented- is really the only word that I can find for it," said Riverside County Emergency Management Department Communications Specialist, Shane Reichardt.
Reichardt has been on the front lines of the county response since COVID-19 swept through the local community. One month prior to the county's first reported case, Reichardt was on the ground when a plane carrying nearly 200 people arrived at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside from Wuhan.
"We had less than 24 hours notice that that thing was going to land in our county and the information that we were seeing out of china was really limited so it was really hard to know what the true expectation was going to be, what the true impacts were going to be. A lot of apprehension but also a lot of focus on what do we need to do," said Reichardt.
Fast forward one year later and Riverside County's confirmed cases tops more than 280,000, with more than 3,600 deaths. The push for testing and vaccines has now become the focal point.
"I’ve never lived through a pandemic, and I have now and I never want to do it again," said Indian Wells resident, Andrew Erickson.
For many, the year was one of heartbreak.
"I lost my brother to COVID. I couldn’t go the the Bay Area to be with him so that’s devastating. That was my last relative," said Cathedral City resident, Carolyn Entelman.
Though the pandemic has forced people inside, and at times kept many out of work, there were lessons to be learned.
"I’ve learned that there are a lot of people out there who refuse to accept the fact that this is happening. I would love to see them go to the morgue and see all the dead people from COVID, and really realize that this is real," said Cathedral City resident, Paul Doyle.
"You have to be vigilant and you have to be knowledgeable of your surroundings and your situation, you can no longer just walk outside and not pay attention to what’s going on around you," said Rancho Mirage resident, Pete Wanek.
"I can’t remember to take this stupid mask with me. I leave it in the car, I have to turn around and go back and get it but I do wear it because I do want to be safe," said Erickson.
Many now hope that with the vaccine rollout, things will get better.
"You can’t just go give people a hug, you can’t shake a hand the way that you could before at least until we could get more people who are vaccinated, that’s really what I’m looking for is that return to normal," said Reichardt.