They’re having to make brutal decisions, like when to pull patients off ventilators, and where to allocate precious resources. They have to think twice about once-ordinary treatment regimens: Using aerosolized medications to treat asthma or wheezing could help spread the virus through the air. These health workers must take time away from their families, and they can’t even see all of their patients. One doctor in Los Angeles, who travels to his clients’ homes, had to tell an 84-year-old patient he sees monthly that he could no longer enter the man’s house, lest he bring the virus with him. That’s even with strict sanitization practices in place: This doctor wipes his car clean between patients; another puts all of his clothes in the wash and masks in the oven when he returns home, and then showers, a decontamination process that takes up to 45 minutes. Still others opt to shower at their workplaces.
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It’s taking a personal toll on them, too: Some people say they can’t sleep, and even when they do, they have Covid-19 nightmares. Yet still they persist, support each other, take pride in their ability to help others in their communities, and steel themselves for what could be an even more punishing second wave of Covid-19 come winter.
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