PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- It's been three years since the world changed with the declaration of a Covid-19 pandemic.
Travel was paralyzed, restaurants shut down, kids were sent home, and businesses shifted to remote work all while hospitals quickly filled up with coronavirus patients.
For many, it's still hard to believe.
"It was very, very uncertain in those first couple days," said Dennis Gatti of Maple Shade, NJ.
"Went to the food store right away. There was nothing on the shelves. Nothing," recalled Christine Rosenberg of Mount Laurel, NJ
On March 13, 2020, then-President Donald Trump declared the COVID-19 pandemic a nationwide emergency.
"I think there was a lot of conflicting information. Certainly, a lot of us were scared," said Dr. Erik DeLue, the chief medical officer for Virtua Health Marlton/Voorhees.
DeLue says the eventual development of both treatments and vaccines helped to turn the tide. Now he says each hospital location has about 15 patients with COVID and most of them have other illnesses or conditions.
"Initially it was just so tragic and horrible to see people who were otherwise often healthy be attacked by this disease because their immune system had never been exposed to anything like it previously," said DeLue.
According to the CDC, since the start of the pandemic, more than 1.1 million Americans have died from COVID, including more than 50,000 in Pennsylvania, 36,000 in New Jersey and 3,300 in Delaware.
Public Health experts like Perry Halkitis, Ph.D. from Rutgers University, say the pandemic has taught them many lessons about messaging and communicating, pointing out that COVID-19 is still an ongoing issue.
"Telling people the facts alone is not enough. We have to motivate them. We have to give them a reason to wear a mask. We have to give them a reason to get vaccinated," said Halkitis.
A challenge for public health officials continues to be vaccinations, especially boosters.
Halkitis is hopeful for a combined flu/COVID-19 vaccine for the fall to make the process more convenient.