The coronavirus hit the United States in January and was declared a global pandemic by March 11

By Jodi Guglielmi
September 20, 2020 09:43 PM
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Credit: ABC

Those on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic took center stage at the 2020 Emmy Awards.

Along with the usual actors and celebrities who are always on hand to pass out the Emmys, the showrunners tapped essential workers to present several awards during the ceremony on Sunday night.

U.S. history teacher Cindy Marcellin was the first frontline worker to take centerstage, announcing the nominees for outstanding performing actor in a comedy series.

"I'm teaching history, I'm living through history and when the pandemic started I thought, 'Hey I'll see my kids in a week or two,' " she said during the broadcast.

"And those weeks turned into months," she continued. "I can't wait to come back to work just to see their faces."

She also shared a message with her students, saying, "To my former and current students, I love you and miss you. And to the nominees for outstanding performing actor in a comedy series, I love y'all too. Good luck."

Later in the show, Tim Lloyd, a UPS worker from Alabama, presented the award for outstanding performance by a comedy actress.

Tim Lloyd
| Credit: ABC

"The love that I have received from my customers has been awesome, especially the one that had a mask made for me," Lloyd said. "It was hanging on the door when I delivered to him and it almost made me cry."

"Sometimes they pull up to my car and I'm thinking they're looking for a package, and they'll tell me, 'We're just coming to check on you,' " he said before adding, "I love bringing smiles to people's faces."

Jacinda Duran, the owner of Jacinda Lady Truck'n, is a "third generation lady trucker" who presented the award for outstanding supporting actress in a limited series or movie.

Tk
| Credit: ABC

"Especially during this pandemic, the community depends on us to continue bringing the needs," Duran said. "So let us truck drivers out here know that we're appreciated. A small pat on the back, or a thumbs up ... it goes a long way. Because we've continued going through this pandemic and we're going to keep going after."

Drs. Kevin and Karen Tsai
| Credit: ABC

And three doctors reminded Americans to wear masks, social distance and maintain their mental health during the pandemic — siblings Dr. Kevin and Karen Tsai, and Dr. Katie Duke, who had COVID-19.

"When the pandemic first hit, I woke up with body aches that were just crippling," Duke said. "I knew I had COVID. I felt so alone because my family can't see me, my friends can't see me, and I'm in an isolation room and I'm on oxygen and I'm getting steroids and I have COVID pneumonia. I was scared and I don't feel ashamed in admitting that. I was terrified!"

Dr. Katie Duke
| Credit: ABC

"So when I returned to work, I went back with a whole new set of eyes. I hope that moving forward we all are reminded how special life is."

Medical personnel, teachers, delivery drivers and grocery store workers are just some of the many essential workers who continued to work during the public health crisis.

COVID-19 first hit in the U.S. in January, and was declared a global pandemic on March 11. In the coming months, most of the country enforced a strict "stay at home" order for non-essential workers to help limit the spread of the highly contagious virus.

The rapid spread of the COVID-19 also forced the majority of TV series and film projects to shut down in March. Though some TV shows are getting back to filming while adhering to safety precautions, several shows with large casts have gone virtual.

The Emmy Awards ceremony was initially planned to take place with a live audience at the Microsoft Theatre in downtown Los Angeles, but it was moved to a virtual format on July 29.

"As ABC and the Television Academy continue to formulate plans for the Emmys telecast, producers have taken the proactive step of reaching out to some nominees now to inform them of our intent to deliver a live show that is both celebratory and safe. We look forward to sharing information with you in the weeks ahead, as we solidify our plans for TV’s biggest night," the Television Academy said in a statement at the time.

Host Jimmy Kimmel opened the show remotely from a stage inside the Staples Center, sans an audience or red carpet.

RELATED VIDEO: Jimmy Kimmel Jokes About Matt Damon, ‘Appearing Nude’ and How the 2020 Emmys Are Coming Together

"There's no audience," Kimmel told PEOPLE of adjusting to a virtual show. "As a comedian, getting no laughs is tough. That's the measure of whether something was funny. So the challenge is how to make it feel like not all the jokes are bombing."

The 72nd Emmy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, are airing live on ABC from 8-11 p.m. ET.

Catch People (the TV show!) Monday through Friday. Check your local listings for exact times or stream the show every day at 7 p.m. ET/ 4 p.m. PT at People.com and PeopleTV.com.