Nurses warn of ‘catastrophic death and suffering’ amid COVID-19

Consuelo Vargas, a nurse in Chicago, is brought to tears during a web conference discussing the coronavirus's impact on hospitals.

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A group of nurses from around the country held a virtual news conference Monday amid concerns there could be more catastrophic death and suffering if the country doesn’t correct its course.

The Florida Department of Health has reported more than 8,000 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, bringing the state’s total to more than 950,000 with 18,383 deaths. Nationally, about 12.6 million people have contracted the virus and more than a quarter of a million have died.

A hot mess

Marissa Lee, a nurse at Osceola Regional Medical Center and vice-president of the union National Nurses United said things are particularly bad in Florida.

“Florida is a hot mess,” Lee said. “My hospital is a hot mess. As you know, Florida is wide open with no restrictions of any kind. We have already had many COVDI patients and, yes, those numbers are exponentially increasing.”

Consuelo Vargas, an ER nurse in Chicago, said mixed messaging since the pandemic’s start has caused indifference and misinformation. That’s led to her hospital being overrun with COVID cases. She said nurses aren’t given adequate PPE and hospitals are running out of room. Staff is doing all they can to keep up.

“I don’t know how much longer we are gonna be able to hold this. We need everyone to wear a mask. It has to happen,” Vargas pleaded through tears. “When you come into the ER, it is too late to wear a mask. And what it shows is there’s a lack of leadership. Because when people are given mixed messages they don’t know what to do. And so they do nothing.”

Moral distress

Nurses aren’t burnt out, Lee said. They are concerned over the danger created by opening the economy to sacrifice a healthy populace.

“What I cannot handle is the idea that I could be infecting my family by taking care of COVID workers,” Lee said. “It’s called moral distress. This is caused by profit-driven hospitals (and) employers.”

One for 10

Nurses say they’ve been warning of the exact scenario the country is in since January. The pandemic is killing patients and health care workers at alarming rates. Thousands of doctors and nurses are among its victims.

With the holidays ahead, a time traditionally full of large gatherings and increased travel, health experts have urged caution. They’ve asked for people to stay home.

Vargas said it’s time to prioritize.

“Are you willing to give up one holiday season for 10 more?” Vargas said. “Think of everything you want to accomplish in your life. The places you want to go. The things you want to do. The people you want to spend time with. Are you willing to give all that up? That’s what you need to ask yourself.”

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