One year ago today, the BNP Paribas Open was cancelled.
It was one of the first major events to be cancelled in the country, and the announcement rocked the Coachella valley.
The news came just after officials confirmed the first COVID-19 case in the area, and at that time, very little was known about the virus.
“In the beginning, the concept was if you got sick you had a chance of not surviving. Now we know that if you get sick there’s a great chance you’re going to survive, and there’s a small chance you might not even know you have it,” said Dr. Anil Perumbeti with Eisenhower Health.
Five days after the tournament was cancelled, Riverside County schools were ordered to close, and several businesses were shuttered.
The county then entered one of the strictest lock downs in the country, and hospitals tried to keep up with demand.
“It was unprecedented. I don’t think any doctor within the last 100 years has seen anything like this,” said Dr. Perumbeti.
Cases and deaths continued to increase steadily during the summer surge, but those numbers declined as restrictions were added.
Then, the holidays brought a second major spike, and later on in January, case levels reached an extreme peak.
Since then, the cases have been on a downward slide.
“It’s pretty amazing right now. The numbers have gone down a significant amount. I think the hard part is as long as we’re seeing any new cases that means there’s still virus that’s spreading,” said Dr. Perumbeti.
As cases remain low, the valley is beginning to reopen, and experts are now worried about a drop in testing numbers.
“Testing matters. It helps us identify where the disease is and where it isn’t. It helps us show where outbreaks are so that we can isolate those individuals who are sick and quarantine close contacts,” said Brooke Federico, a spokesperson for Riverside County Health.
Even as vaccination efforts continue, Dr. Perumbeti is worried the one year anniversary of COVID in the Coachella Valley may soon be met with a fourth surge.
“If these new variants have some ability to break through the vaccines, we will see another peak. Hopefully it’s nowhere near this last one, but it’s a definite possibility,” said Dr. Perumbeti.