APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – Three years ago, former President Donald Trump declared a national emergency concerning COVID-19.

The World Health Organization first called COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

COVID-19 has killed over 1.1 million Americans according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. Over 16,0000 of the deaths have been Wisconsinites. Some of the most memorable images from early on in the pandemic were of healthcare workers caring for sick patients dressed from head to toe in PPE.

Many businesses throughout the country had to shut down permanently because of the pandemic. Others were able to make it through, although not without adversity.

Copper Rock Coffee Co. in downtown Appleton was one of the businesses that were able to survive the pandemic. General Manager Corbin Graper remembers the first months of the pandemic as a time of uncertainty. He said he shortened the hours at the coffee shop, but they remained open throughout the pandemic for pickup orders.

He also said he used government relief money to make sure that his employees got paid.

He said COVID-19 changed how they do things at the coffee shop.

“We’re much faster with some of the deficiencies we had prior to COVID, we realized that a drive-thru is something that a lot of people took to and we’re also grateful that we started using our QR ordering system at our booth,” said Graper.

Graper also said during the pandemic they made sure to sanitize more often than what they were doing prior to the pandemic. He also said he communicated regularly with food vendors who gave him the heads-up on impending shortages so that he could stock up on items and keep prices as low as possible for customers.

As the pandemic has waned, Graper said one of the greatest pleasures has been getting to see customers’ faces again.

“When you can only see above the mask and above the eyes, you don’t know how that customer’s day is going so that was tough for us,” said Graper. “So it was good to finally get past the masks.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic first became a reality in March 2020, many people thought that it would only temporarily change the way that they live.

“(Initially I thought that COVID-19 would last) Two weeks, my wife is going to be home from school she’s a teacher, let’s set up a temporary home office, let’s hunker down for a few weeks get some takeout and watch a bunch of Netflix,” said Appleton resident Connor O’Brien.

O’Brien said the pandemic has changed his outlook on life.

“Do the things we want to do,” said O’Brien. “I think it was a sort of a life is short moment, it was a big wakeup call to people that you never know what the future is going to be like.”