Pima County Health director gives emotional response when asked about pandemic

March 4, 2021 is the one-year anniversary of the first positive COVID-19 test in Pima County

WATCH: Dr. Cullen gives emotional response about pandemic

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Thursday marked a grim anniversary for all of Pima County.

One year ago today, a person who had just returned from international travel took a test for the coronavirus, and a few days later, on March 9, 2020, Pima County leaders hosted a news conference to announce the person’s result: positive.

Since then, more than 2,000 people in Pima County have died from COVID-19 and more than 110,000 have battled the virus.

It has been a long, hard year for many, including county health leaders.

During a conference call Thursday, March 4, 2021, Pima County Health Director Dr. Theresa Cullen explained what the last year means to her.

Fighting back tears, Cullen gave the following emotional response:

“Sorry, a lot of people have died. There has been a lot of suffering, a lot of distribution to businesses, to schools, to families. People haven’t been there to comfort their loved ones.

“It is a really difficult year. There’s time when I walk, I am sure this is true for all of you, to have spontaneous tears over the suffering. It’s a year-long of suffering.

“I think for me, that is where when I reflect on the past, that is what I see. I see a lot of suffering, a kind of an inadequate response initially.

“I think as we go forward I am optimistic that we are going to vaccinate our community. I am really optimistic about what COVID has brought to us in the government and health department sector.

“We have been able to extend a hand to the community and community members we may not have touched before, ones we may not have been able to develop trust from a community perspective.

“I think there is a beauty here. I know that seems like an enigma right, like how can there be beauty in this really tragic moment. But I think if we seize the moment and figure out how to go forward as a community committed to equality, justice and access. Ways to make sure this never happens again, ways that we can have a better response. At least we will end up in a better place.

“However, I can not mitigate the pain of what has happened in the community. I go back to that (saying) -- everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody. For many people, (it is simple) everybody knows somebody.

“Because it has been their family, their grandmother, their best friend who have passed or still suffering from the disease.

“Sorry, I got a little emotional there. I think it is important to note there (are) 110,000 people who got COVID. That is a big number.”

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