Health care workers speak out as COVID-19 cases surge

Doctors and nurses are struggling to keep up with an overflow of patients.

November 25, 2020, 3:40 PM

Health care workers across the country are pleading with the public to follow COVID-19 guidelines as the nation struggles to contain another wave of the virus.

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 reached 260,000 on Wednesday, and almost every state in the U.S. is experiencing an increased rate of infection, according to Johns Hopkins University.

PHOTO: A medical staff member holds a hand of a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on Nov. 19, 2020, in Houston.
A medical staff member holds a hand of a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on Nov. 19, 2020, in Houston.
Go Nakamura/Getty Images

At the Pablo Pinto General Hospital in Mineral Wells, Texas, about 90 miles west of Dallas, doctors and nurses are "struggling to transfer patients to higher levels of care," the hospital's CEO, Ross Korkmas, wrote on a statement posted to Facebook Tuesday.

Both the intensive care unit and COVID-19 unit at the hospital are full, and more patients are currently admitted than ever before, making it difficult for patients in need to be transferred to higher levels of care, he said.

Korkmas called on the community to help slow the spread of the virus.

"Please help protect your neighbor, help protect your coworkers, help protect OUR community from the spread of a virus. Wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands and please limit gatherings," Korkmas wrote. "You are the front line to stop the spread and we need your help!"

Kenneth Remy, a doctor at the Missouri Baptist Medical Center and the Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, posted a video to Twitter last week showing what it's like for a patient who is about to be placed on a ventilator.

"This is what it looks like when you breathe 40 times a minute," he wrote. "I hope that the last moments of your life don’t look like this."

The city has seen record numbers of deaths and hospitalizations in the past 10 days, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Remy used the video as a teaching moment.

"This is serious," he said. "I beg you, please practice the precautions to reduce transmission of COVID disease so that we can effectively prevent disease for you and your loved ones."

PHOTO: Medical staff members prepare for an intubation procedure on a patient suffering in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center, Nov. 19, 2020, in Houston.
Medical staff members prepare for an intubation procedure on a patient suffering in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center, Nov. 19, 2020, in Houston.
Go Nakamura/Getty Images

Health care workers have been witnessing death and suffering for nearly nine months now, leaving them burned out and with low morale, Dan Meyer, a doctor at Maine Medical Center in Portland, told ABC Portland affiliate WMTW.

The difficulties are compounded as people continue to ignore public health measures, Meyer said.

"When you encounter those situations, it just makes it so much more difficult as a health care worker, and I really worry about what’s happening to health care workers in this country ... the challenge they face in burnout and wellness and gratitude goes a long way,” Meyer said.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci echoed those pleas, urging Americans to keep Thanksgiving celebrations as small as possible.

"A sacrifice now could save lives ... and make the future much brighter as we get through this," Fauci said on "Good Morning America" Wednesday.

PHOTO: Healthcare personnel prepare to rotate a patient who is on a ventilator inside a room for patients with COVID-19 at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, Nov. 20, 2020.
Healthcare personnel prepare to rotate a patient who is on a ventilator inside a room for patients with COVID-19 at a hospital in Hutchinson, Kansas, Nov. 20, 2020.
Callaghan O'Hare/Reuters

North Carolina Central University on Tuesday released results of a study that showed 77% of North Carolinians plan to spend Thanksgiving with people from outside their home. Hospitalizations in neighboring counties are up by 69%, ABC Durham, North Carolina, affiliate WTVD reported.

"It makes me extremely sad. I just worry about my own team, because my team now has to step up and work harder," Loc Culp, an ICU nurse manager at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, told WTVD.

PHOTO: Medical staff members prepare for an intubation procedure on a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center, Nov. 19, 2020, in Houston.
Medical staff members prepare for an intubation procedure on a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center, Nov. 19, 2020, in Houston.
Go Nakamura/Getty Images

The hospital's pulmonary and critical care division chief, Shannon Carson, warned that if health guidelines aren't followed on Thanksgiving, future holidays could be ruined as well.

"Don't make one day of warm family gathering turn into a Christmas in the intensive care unit," Carson said. "It's just not worth it."

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