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Coronavirus Live Updates: NPR



Dr. Joseph Varon is leaning on a medical cart in the coronavirus unit of the United Medical Memorial Center on July 6 in Houston.

David J. Phillip / AP


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David J. Phillip / AP

Dr. Joseph Varon is leaning on a medical cart in the coronavirus unit of the United Medical Memorial Center on July 6 in Houston.

David J. Phillip / AP

“At my hospital, last week was the deadliest week I’ve ever had.”

The words of a Houston doctor who treated patients with COVID-19 illustrate the brutal reality that many now face in the U.S. medical system.

Dr. Joseph Varon is the head of critical care at Houston Memorial Medical Center in Houston. Harris County, where Houston is located, has the fifth largest number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in any county in the United States. More than 1,200 people in the county have died.

“He signed more death certificates last week than most of my life,” Varon told Steve Inskeep of NPR Morning edition.

For the past four months, Varon has been waking up every day at dawn and heading to the hospital, where he spends six to twelve hours in rounds before seeing new admissions. When he gets home, he sleeps for a maximum of two hours a night. “I try to go to sleep, but people tell me non-stop,” he says.

Varon manages a large team of people who are exhausted and feared.

“I have over 300 doctors on our hospital staff and only three or four of us go into the COVID unit,” Varon says. “And I’m there most of the time. People are afraid to go into COVID units and I can’t force them to come in. That’s something I can’t do because there’s an intrinsic risk of working in a COVID unit. “.

Here are excerpts from his interview:

Is your unit about to be overwhelmed?

Every day. I mean, it’s been crazy. The last few weeks have been very overflowing. What I mean is that I may have the beds, but I don’t have the staff. You know, my nurses are exhausted. They are tired. These are individuals who normally, say, work three times a week and have been stretched to work six, seven times a week. I mean they’re drained physically and emotionally, because if you look at the last three weeks where we have our highest mortality rates, it’s scary and drains you emotionally.

If the governor called you and said he would really like to reopen schools, but wants to know if your hospital can manage it locally, the additional cases, what would you tell him?

Absolutely not. There is no way our hospitals can handle it. Not only my hospital, nor any hospital could cope with it, because it can mean a sharp increase. Just to give you an idea, an individual can infect up to 52 people per hour. … you can put yourself in a serious situation.

We were reporting on a large number of health experts who fundamentally argue that the national strategy against COVID so far has been a failure and that the time has come to do an excess. We went back to where we were in March, close it all and start all over again. Is it that bad?

I mean, you can’t close a city, a state, a country without an educational component. You know, when we closed the city in April, the city is closed and everyone has a cabin fever. And the day we open the city, everyone goes out on the street, people go to the beach, people go to bars. They don’t care. I mean, they fill it.

If you close the city, you will have to enforce an educational component that should be enforced. Required: means you are wearing a mask. Because when you wear a mask, you’re not doing it to protect yourself. He is doing it to protect the other person. To be honest with you, as Americans, we can do so much better than what we are currently doing.


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