'You Cry at the Window Knowing There's Nothing You Can Do'
Staying home can be tough, but it's nothing like the nightmare our health care workers are experiencing. For thousands of brave men and women across country, their office is no longer a hospital or ER -- it's a combat zone. "You spend hours in your [patient's] room," nurse Claudia Griffith wrote in an emotional post to the outside world, "gowned up head-to-toe, sweating and not able to breathe. Then you realize... this is it. I can't save this patient anymore. You sit there and say your goodbyes while they pass without family or loved ones, because nobody is allowed in the hospital for everyone's safety. You are their only contact and hope." Nothing, she says soberly, can describe it.
Even when they have a chance to sleep, the exhausted staff can't. "My mind won't shut off," one New York City nurse tried to explain. She lays in bed and cries, her mind filled with the faces of patients she lost. The helplessness is brutal, Claudia admits. "You don't even know how this virus works, but you watch as it kills your patient." To anyone who hasn't seen the suffering, she insists, it's real. And she's pleading with the country to act like it is. Stay inside, Claudia begs, "as if your life depended on it."
Theirs already do. And if Americans can't bring themselves to isolate for their own sakes, then they should do it for the medical teams risking everything. "Take it seriously," Johns Hopkins's Dr. Martin Makary told listeners on "Washington Watch, "and take it seriously for the sake of our most vulnerable." Right now, "our number one at-risk group," he explained, "the number one profession who is mostly likely to get this infection is health care workers. And what you do in your day-to-day life will actually impact the health of [those] workers you've never met."
"Folks may be going outside right now, saying, 'It's a beautiful day... My kids are in the backyard playing. What's the big deal? I don't know anyone who's dying that I'm friends with.'" But the big deal, he said somberly, is that "we're gearing up for a tsunami that's going to hit with a massive impact..." With projections topping 200,000 casualties now, Dr. Makary thinks the government was right to limit people's movements through at the least the end of April. "We want our leaders to... give us spirit and hope. But the reality is, they are all closely following these numbers -- not only in the preview that we're seeing in some countries overseas like Spain, but also locally in New York City..."
The administration is doing the best it can to prepare for the worst. That's no easy task, Dr. Makary explained, even with all of the metrics and experts they have. Because "when that peak happens, talk to any doctor or nurse. It's going to be ugly. We are basically at full capacity in some U.S. hospitals with very little room to take care of people that come in from this point forward... We are on track right now to have hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions more cases."
So when can we expect that peak? "New York is about two weeks away," Martin believes. "The rest of the United States is probably three to five weeks away depending on where you live. Now, one of the big concerns that many of us have is that some parts of the country were sort of slow to recognize that this is a real threat. Some places immediately took dramatic steps and others [went about] life as usual... even up until recently." Those are the areas, experts believe, that may be hit hardest. Of course, a lot of things factor into that -- like public transit and congestion. But the cities that have been in denial will pay, Dr. Makary warns, "because this infection is seeded everywhere in the United States. We need to abandon the idea that it's somehow contained."
Fortunately, there are still things you and your church can do to help. First, take the stay-at-home orders seriously. If not for you, then for someone on the front lines of the coronavirus war. Then, check out the creative ways you can meet the needs of the people in your community. Take a page from Midland, Texas and organize a car prayer chain or fill a truck with food for the hungry. See how you can get involved (from a safe distance!) on our special webpage, FRC.org/church.