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Coronavirus

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Essential workers in the nation's capital share their coronavirus anxieties
Healthcare professionals, grocery store clerks, truck drivers, cleaners and postal workers in the Washington area share their thoughts on working in a pandemic.
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/USA-PORTRAITS
RTX7X5FJ
September 22, 2020
Mairi Breen Rothman, CNM, DM. Certified Nurse-Midwife. Director, M.A.M.A.S., Inc. in Takoma Park, Maryland:...
Takoma Park, UNITED STATES
Essential workers portrait series
Mairi Breen Rothman, CNM, DM. Certified Nurse-Midwife. Director, M.A.M.A.S., Inc. in Takoma Park, Maryland: "Well, It feels different because I am, on one level, arming myself for battle against a pandemic wearing protective gear, being mindful of social distancing and ways I can avoid personal contact, etc. but the truth is we have always been mindful of infection control and universal precautions so this is not as big an adjustment as it could be. While it does feel weird to be attending births in a spacesuit, I find that when the birth is approaching, the birthing person and I both forget to notice what we're wearing, and the emotional distance that I feared would come with full PPE does not happen. In the end, we are still connected, a midwife attending an amazing person who is producing a brand new human being, and all the struggle, courage, pain, beauty and awe that this miracle entails."

REUTERS/Leah Millis
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/USA-PORTRAITS
RTX7X5DX
September 22, 2020
Garrett Harris, staff at grocery store, in Washington: "Exhausted, like I'm walking into a sacrificial...
Washington, UNITED STATES
Essential workers portrait series
Garrett Harris, staff at grocery store, in Washington: "Exhausted, like I'm walking into a sacrificial conveyor belt where working class lives are the commodity/product, branded, packaged for sale to the highest bidder. Many never even make it to the end of the line."

REUTERS/Leah Millis
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/USA-PORTRAITS
RTX7X5MO
September 22, 2020
Registered nurse Annie Rigelhaupt (L), clinical nurse Zoe Bendixen (C) and registered nurse Melody Jones...
Washington, UNITED STATES
Essential workers portrait series
Registered nurse Annie Rigelhaupt (L), clinical nurse Zoe Bendixen (C) and registered nurse Melody Jones in Washington.

Annie Rigelhaupt: "Going into work, I actually feel an overwhelming sense of guilt and confusion these days. I'm 18 weeks pregnant so I'm a nurse that is considered exempt from working on COVID units. That places me instead on the 'clean ICU' with other pregnant and many immunocompromised nurses. However I still pass through my home unit ICU to access my locker, clock in and clock out, which is a COVID ICU. There, I get a glimpse of the exhaustion and desperation of my old team and coworkers. It makes me feel helpless and extremely guilty that I get to continue my work life, job duties and pay in much the same way it was pre-coronavirus. It feels extremely unfair. I see the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual toll this virus is taking on my coworkers. I see how their workload has doubled, even tripled, not to mention the risks and loss they are exposed to. Equally, I feel frustrated and confused, as even on the 'clean unit' us pregnant and immunocompromised nurses are still working side by side with transporters, doctors, respiratory therapists, patient care techs and others nurses that are moving between COVID and non-COVID units. As you may imagine, cleaning, turning, restraining, intubating, coding patients, etc does not allow for any distancing. So in many ways it feels to me that I could and should be more help to my team on a COVID unit simply because I am barely protected where I'm currently working, and don't even know my status (as the hospital does not offer testing) or even if I've already been exposed if I have immunity. My doctor however does not advise me to work outside of the clean unit, which makes me feel helpless."

Zoe Bendixen: "I feel apprehensive going into work, about whether I'll have the equipment and PPE necessary to do my job, about the potential bad outcomes for the pregnant people and newborns I take care of, about people not following stay at home, distancing guidelines."

Melody Jones: "These days, going into work you have mixed feelings, you know you have to do what you've been trained and educated to do as a nurse, but yet it's scary because of lack of PPE in some hospitals, risk of being exposed to coronavirus, wondering if you will contract it and expose friends and family. I say a prayer every day before work and hope I am protected and can continue to help our patients."

REUTERS/Leah Millis
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/USA-PORTRAITS
RTX7X5D0
September 22, 2020
Alberta Tapia, hospital cleaning staff in COVID-19 units in Tysons Corner, Virginia. Translated from...
Tysons Corner, UNITED STATES
Essential workers portrait series
Alberta Tapia, hospital cleaning staff in COVID-19 units in Tysons Corner, Virginia. Translated from Spanish: "We are asking for help for our work during difficult times with COVID-19. We are requesting special uniforms for the cleaning crew. In this way they can clean and disinfect the patient rooms with COVID-19. We would also like to ask for an acknowledgment of payment for risking our lives and the lives of our families in these difficult times."

REUTERS/Leah Millis
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/USA-PORTRAITS
RTX7X5DB
September 22, 2020
Greg Anderson poses for a portrait in his truck in Washington: "It is very alarming. There's a lot of...
Washington, UNITED STATES
Essential workers portrait series
Greg Anderson poses for a portrait in his truck in Washington: "It is very alarming. There's a lot of issues involved with COVID-19. Myself, I've been to California, New York, Texas. I've been in every hot zone there is and it's very alarming to think that you could take it back to your family or a loved one. It's scary. I believe the president did the right thing by getting people home and getting out of it til it passes by. But it's very scary, you know, I have children, the other guys that drive trucks have children... All my life I never dreamed that I would see something like this happen in the United States at this time. It's a different feeling. There's a worry there that wasn't there before, a kind of a stress level of walking into a truck stop, not knowing who touched the door knob in front of you, who is standing beside you to the left or the right."

REUTERS/Leah Millis
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/USA-PORTRAITS
RTX7X5DJ
September 22, 2020
Audrey Neff, clinical social worker in pediatrics, in Washington: "It's been challenging, but I'm glad...
Washington, UNITED STATES
Essential workers portrait series
Audrey Neff, clinical social worker in pediatrics, in Washington: "It's been challenging, but I'm glad we've been able to find new ways to help our families. Despite everything going on, I've worked to help people access needed resources which has required some creativity during the pandemic. But I feel fortunate to work with people whose highest priority has always been providing access to care for those who need it most, regardless of the circumstances."

REUTERS/Leah Millis
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/USA-PORTRAITS
RTX7X5CQ
September 22, 2020
Emergency nurse Britta Brennan and Arvind Suguness, MD, Pulmonary, Sleep and Critical Care, pose for...
Washington, UNITED STATES
Essential workers portrait series
Emergency nurse Britta Brennan and Arvind Suguness, MD, Pulmonary, Sleep and Critical Care, pose for a portrait in Washington.

Britta Brennan: "There are hardly words to describe what healthcare professionals are going through at this time. I recently described it as the feeling you get when you walk under a busy bridge. You know this bridge is sturdy, you've walked under it before, no logical part of your brain thinks anything bad will happen. Yet part of you has a moment of panic - what if this bridge collapses while I'm under it? The thought is fleeting and you continue on. That is how I feel when I walk into the room of a critically ill COVID-positive patient. The strangest thing about the practice of medicine in a pandemic is how the disease robs patients of their individuality. In the intensive care unit, patients are often rendered unconscious to allow the ventilator to breathe for them, and so those of us who work in these units often grasp at the small details of each patient to remind ourselves that they have a life beyond this illness: the color their nails are painted when they arrive, the way their hair is arranged or, if we're lucky, the stories their loved ones tell us about them."

Arvind Suguness: "All of this is more difficult in a pandemic. At height of the surge in Washington, D.C., when entire intensive care units were filled with patients suffering from an identical disease, it became difficult to recall the particulars of each individual's story. With patients turned face down to help oxygen get into their blood, I would often go days without seeing a person's face. And without family able to visit until their loved ones were approaching death, I often knew little about who the people I cared for were before they were sick...This pandemic will be a touchstone event for my generation of medical professionals. Many years from now, when our nation has hopefully learned many lessons from the senseless loss of hundreds of thousands of lives, medical professionals will continue to recall the many ways in which we and our patients were failed by our government. We will remember the strangeness of these times and will hope that we never have to experience them again."

REUTERS/Leah Millis
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/USA-PORTRAITS
RTX7X5E3
September 22, 2020
Nguyen "Jimmy" Minh, staff of the U.S. Postal Service for 20 years, in Washington: "I feel good, I feel...
Washington, UNITED STATES
Essential workers portrait series
Nguyen "Jimmy" Minh, staff of the U.S. Postal Service for 20 years, in Washington: "I feel good, I feel comfortable, because we sanitize everything."

REUTERS/Leah Millis
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/USA-PORTRAITS
RTX7X5CX
September 22, 2020
Devon Pagerly, registered nurse, in Washington: "I feel uneasy at times. Policies are rapidly changing...
Washington, UNITED STATES
Essential workers portrait series
Devon Pagerly, registered nurse, in Washington: "I feel uneasy at times. Policies are rapidly changing as we learn more about how to protect ourselves and others so it's often hard to keep up while also performing our daily jobs. I never know what type of patient assignment I'll be given and what resources I'll have or be required to reuse on my shift. The most difficult part, aside from the fear of putting myself or my loved ones in danger, is the uncertainty and lack of security I feel at work, which before this pandemic never existed."

REUTERS/Leah Millis
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/USA-PORTRAITS
RTX7X5D6
September 22, 2020
Nyah Foster, security guard, in Washington. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Washington, UNITED STATES
Essential workers portrait series
Nyah Foster, security guard, in Washington. REUTERS/Leah Millis
HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/USA-PORTRAITS
RTX7X5DK
September 22, 2020
Dr Daniel Yohannes, pharmacy manager, at a Walgreens store in Washington. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Washington, UNITED STATES
Essential workers portrait series
Dr Daniel Yohannes, pharmacy manager, at a Walgreens store in Washington. REUTERS/Leah Millis
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