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Well, it’s official. Things at my little rural hospital, and in my office practice, are every bit as bad as they were back in December/January. Every bed in our ICU is full; we’re averaging at least one COVID death per day. Every floor bed is full. We are now boarding patients in the ER again because there’s nowhere to put them. One of the large waiting rooms is a de-facto COVID holding area for people waiting to get into the ER.

Yesterday morning I spent an hour on the phone calling patients to inform them their COVID test was positive, and what they need to do. More phone calls all night from terrified people.

I got called in this morning about 6:30 am because one of my COVID patients in the ICU developed a dangerous rapid heart rhythm. Got things slowed down a bit but he’s not out of the woods, and his respiratory status is still dire. And there are six more patients just like him in the ICU.

We are seeing breakthrough infections; one of the ICU patients was fully vaccinated; but the overwhelming majority of folks getting sick have not been vaccinated.

Our Northern Appalachian county has yet to crack the 60% mark for fully vaccinated status for adults. The next county over is stuck at 48%. So there really isn’t any reason for optimism right now. Things are going to get worse before (if?) they get better.

Every single day in my office practice I try to persuade folks to get vaccinated. A few more accept every day. And every day I get swaggering, ignorant push-back from Trump supporters spouting the latest lies from Tucker Carlson, the latest racist rant that it’s all because of those immigrants from Mexico.

One of my partners has had enough. He started here the same month I did back in the 1980s, but he’s done. He is retiring. I can’t blame him. Fortunately we have hired a new young doc to fill the gap; she’s had a trial  by fire, caring for COVID patients as a senior resident while pregnant.

I can’t say enough about the nurses at our little hospital. Their shifts are brutal, spending 12 hours in full protective garb caring for desperately ill and terrified COVID patients. I have eyes and hands on the patients every day, but they’re wading into the fire for hours at a time.

My thoughts about the Republican neofascists who have brought us to this point with their vile lies about vaccines, their despicable sabotage of basic infection control measures, their de-funding of public health for a generation….are too dark to voice. I’m an atheist and a humanist; but this is one of those times when the belief in an afterlife might be comforting. I so want to believe there will be some kind of justice for the people who enabled this plague killing my patients.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.

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