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‘Most people you talk to have not seen this in their lifetime'| Frontline worker reflects on last 9 months of coronavirus fight

Dr. Sujata Ambardar shares how workers are preparing for a possible second wave of the coronavirus.

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. — Looking back on this past year, no one could have guessed how hard we would be hit by the coronavirus. Frontline workers have been working around the clock to keep our community safe during the pandemic.

With COVID cases rising around the nation, we checked in to see how experts are handling the surge locally.

Dr. Sujata Ambardar is an infectious disease doctor who started working with INOVA Health Systems more than 20 years ago.

“In some ways, we are in a much better place now. We have a much greater understanding of PPE and we have good protocols for what happens when you see a patient,” said Ambardar.

Ambardar works with the hospital’s COVID-19 task force, a group which started preparing for the pandemic long before the first COVID case hit the DMV area.

“Everybody was very anxious about the spread of the disease. Clearly it was much more infectious than the flu,” said Ambardar.

Ambardar said everything from staffing to resources had to be readjusted. “The pediatric part of the hospital had very few patients so a lot of the pediatric nurses were seeing adult patients. Everything from staffing and resources in this building was readjusted,” said Ambardar.

They added multiple COVID units in the hospital. Also, they added 200 bedrooms with negative air pressure to help protect the patients and the staff.

“That was one of the things you had to do to take care of patients. They had to be in a negative air pressure room so they had to refurbish hundreds of rooms at Fairfax,” said Ambardar.

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We interviewed Ambardar back in February, before there was a single COVID case in our area. Nine months later, our interview looks very different as we talk virtually by Zoom.

“We didn’t have any cases in Virginia at that time and certainly in Fairfax we did not but we were anticipating the potential and we had started the COVID task force meetings at that time,” said Ambardar.

Like many of us, the pandemic has impacted Ambardar not just professionally, but personally. “We are all in the same boat in a way because while I’m a physician, I’m also a mom,” said Ambardar.

“Making sure you yourself stay safe was a primary concern I had too. It’s not possible to take care of patients if you yourself don’t stay healthy,” said Ambardar.

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