Local photographer among first to document COVID-19 pandemic, first images taken at Lee Health

Reporter: Amy Oshier Writer: Melissa Montoya
Kinfay Moroti became one of the first photographers to document the pandemic in March of 2020. His images showed the public what it was like inside of the COVID-19 ward in Lee Health. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Looking at the pandemic through the lens.

A local photographer was one of the first to show the world what it was like inside of a COVID-19 ward.

In March of 2020, Kinfay Moroti was allowed access to the COVID-19 ward at Lee Health.

As a wave of uncertainly swept the globe, Moroti was sure of one thing: He wanted to document it. His images gave a personal glimpse into this very public health crisis.

“As it began to affect the local community and people in the community, I reached out to Lee Health and say, hey, you know, what if we capture these documentary moments?” Moroti said.

He was granted access. He may have been the first editorial photographer in the county to enter a COVID ward when Lee Health allowed him to step into their world.

“At the time, not a lot was known about COVID and a lot of hospital systems were unsure about, do we let media in … how much of our story do we share,” Moroti said.

Lee Health gave him carte blanche to shoot what he saw while preserving patient confidentiality while preserving history.

“They didn’t really dictate to me what I could or couldn’t shoot, they might explain to me what I’m seeing,” Moroti said.

One photo captures the moment a nurse in heavy protective gear threads cords underneath a door into the room of a very sick COVID-19 patient.

“They didn’t want to keep opening this door, because then that increases the chance for germs,” he said.

Moroti shares rights with the health system to use the images. He is considering a book so more people can see these snapshots in time.

“They may see a lot of tough things in those moments but I think when they stop looking at those moments, they’re going to say somebody tried to help them,” Moroti said.

The images are raw and real, including one of a hospital chaplain at the bed of a patient.

“He’s praying for her and then he’s trying to answer her questions,” Moroti said.

Moroti captured fear and bravery, life and death.

“His situation is extremely dire and that nurse’s touch is ‘I’m here, I’m by your side, if you make it or not, I’m still here,'” he said describing one of the images.

Moroti snapped thousands of photos, looking for the moments that would define a collective crisis. The pandemic, the work-in-progress, is his story of a lifetime.

“I’m a relationship person,” Moroti said. “Life is about relationships, and the efforts of the nurses and the doctors, as they are trying to have a life-saving relationship with a patient. That’s what I think my heart goes to first and then my eye follows.

“It could be very well one of the most meaningful sets of moments that I’ve captured in my career … It’s a really a meaningful experience filled with a lot of gratefulness.”

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