March 11 is a milestone date when the World Health Organization officially announced the global COVID-19 pandemic two years ago.
“It was the beginning of a dramatic change in life, not just for me and my staff but for everyone,” said San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officer Dr. Penny Borenstein.
“People hoarded the grocery stores, bought everything off of the shelves if they needed it or not because they didn’t know if they were going to get any food,” recalled Tom Gore, Pismo Beach resident.
Signs pointed toward a potential global crisis prior to the March 11 announcement.
“We were already recognizing we were in a pandemic,” Dr. Borenstein said. “It was just a matter of getting to the number of countries and number of cases where the WHO felt comfortable declaring it as such.”
The date would lead to multiple responses to maintain safety before people were told to stay home.
“I can date exactly what happened around this time two years ago,” Borenstein remembered. “From the declaration of the pandemic, from the school closures on March 13th, from our first case on March 14th, our closure for St. Patrick’s Day that we announced on the 16th, the 18th is when we announced we were doing a shelter at home order.”
For some people, it would be their final meal and drink out.
“I was going to go over to a friend’s house to have corn beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day and everything was fresh and new about it,” Gore said.
“School was getting closed down, work told us that we’re done, and I got my last drink,” said Olivia Anguiano, San Luis Obispo visitor.
For others, it squashed hopes of travel plans for months.
“Me and my husband were on our way to Eureka, California but got locked down and I wasn’t able to make it,” said Barbara Chadwick, San Luis Obispo resident.
Two years later, Chadwick is seeing her friend on the same date for the first time since the pandemic.
“It’s the same time and it has been so long since I’ve gotten to see her,” said Deann Clark, Eureka resident.
San Luis Obispo County Public Health additionally warns that the pandemic is not over, and a spike in COVID-19 cases could change the outlook on safety protocols moving forward.