AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – It’s been three years since Governor Brian Kemp declared a public health state of emergency in Georgia.

During his televised address on March 14th, 2020, there were 64 cases of COVID-19 in Georgia.

“I think looking in retrospect, there’s a lot to celebrate, there’s a lot that we got right particularly in Georgia, whether that is what we did at the Augusta University Health System or statewide,” said Dr. Phillip Coule, the Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of AU Health system.

As of March 8th of this year, the Georgia Department of Public Health said there has been more than 2.3 million confirmed cases in the state.

Over 100,000 are in Richmond and Columbia Counties.

“Our leadership very early on understood the pandemic and what the possibilities were, both on the university side and on the health system side,” Dr. Coule said. “And put the appropriate support behind being prepared very early on in the pandemic.”

However, some days were bleak.

“There were lots of days where we felt it would be the worst it ever got, only for the next day unfortunately to get worse,” he said. “So, the team responded incredibly well, we pulled together as a community.”

Some businesses in the area tell us they’re still seeing impacts from when the pandemic was at its peak.

“We could always use more staff, I think that’s been an ongoing issue for the past three years, and inflation affected us,” said Christina Moore, the district manager at The Pizza Joint. “It’s just been never ending, just pivoting and learning as we go and doing what’s best for us and the community.”

Dr. Coule credits vaccines for creating a turning point over the years.

“That certainly dramatically reduced the impact of this disease, particularly for those who are most vulnerable,” he said. “And also for healthcare providers who were literally risking their lives taking care of patients with COVID.”

But we’re not out of the woods yet.

“We’re still just kind of one mutation away from this thing coming back and becoming more severe, so no one should think that just because of some date on the calendar that this thing is just magically over,” Dr. Coule said.

However, we are making progress everyday.

“We’ve really moved toward that steps of this becoming an endemic disease and that is one that just exists in our society,” he said.

Dr. Coule also said that many people missed primary care checkups such as pap smears, colonoscopies, mammograms, and dental cleanings over the past three years, and it’s important to start keeping up with those again.