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Director’s Reflections: One Year with COVID-19

Two weeks ago marked the anniversary of our first COVID-19 patient at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. About a year ago, we began to ‘COVIDify’ our inpatient units, we sent our workforce home to work, and embarked on an unprecedented reorganization of our clinical, research and educational missions.

Our clinicians, researchers, administration and staff quickly rose to the challenge, handling increased patient volumes while updating and adapting to new hospital policies—at times overnight. Everyone stepped up by picking up shifts, volunteering at testing and vaccination sites, sewing masks and checking in with each other as we faced one of the most stressful times in our lives. We didn’t let up after the first wave, and instead restocked, recouped the best we could and prepared for what we knew would be another wave right around the corner.

This preparation as well as the resilience and dedication of each and every one of you is what led to our success in battling this deadly virus—success that would save lives. Among all 1,331 JHH COVID discharges from April to December 2020, we experienced 111 (8.3 percent) deaths. Based on the severity of illness and comorbid conditions on presentation, Vizient modeling indicates that the average hospital would have experienced 199 (14.9 percent) deaths. Our observed to expected ratio of 0.56 was in the top 10 percent (8th best) of the 100 academic medical centers that contribute to Vizient. While this does not diminish the terrible loss of life and suffering, it does show that collectively we were able to make a difference during a time when many of us, individuals, couldn’t help but feel helpless.

It has been a difficult year to say the least, and it is important to acknowledge our losses. But I find it is more productive to focus on what we have gained. We’ve learned new skills (Zoom-related or otherwise), we’ve connected with each other while remaining physically apart, we’ve seen what we’re capable of—how strong we can be together. The pandemic forced us to prioritize core values and revalue simple pleasures. Our researchers pushed at the forefront of COVID-19 research to understand and combat the effects of the virus on diverse populations. Our educators made learning more accessible with online courses and Zoom classes. Our clinicians took to telemedicine, caring for patients from the comfort of their homes. The world looked to us for answers, and we gave them.

For more specific accomplishments across all JHM hospitals, read Reflecting on our Accomplishments Across Johns Hopkins Medicine During the Pandemic.

Mostly, we did what we do best—cared for patients at their most vulnerable, and gave hope to our surrounding communities. I am grateful to be part of such a spirited institution, but more importantly, I am grateful for all of you who are this department. Thank you for coming together when it felt like the world was falling apart.


Watch Reflections in Strength, Resilience and Hope: Responding Together in a Pandemic, which captures the collective strength, resilience and hope that has propelled us forward—together.


Kelsey Bennett

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