CLEVELAND — As we bid farewell to 2020 and say hello to 2021, healthcare workers are pleading with Ohioans not to abandon COVID-19 precautions and prioritize slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus a New Year’s resolution.
“Now that Christmas and New Year's and Thanksgiving are over, as people say, ‘For January and February, now that all the holidays are over, I can go back to isolating,’” Dr. Amy Edwards said. “To keeping family at home.”
Rewind to this time last year.
“Difficult doesn't even begin to describe it. It was just a really trying time,” registered nurse Samantha Hanna said. “February, March, we had no idea what we were getting into.”
COVID-19 cases were already surging overseas before the virus made its documented arrival in the U.S.
“It was overwhelming the amount of patients that we were seeing. COVID and non-COVID patients, because there was a lack of accessibility for a lot of people when it came to healthcare,” Hanna said. “There was a lack of supplies and it was almost chaotic because it's not anything anyone had seen before.”
The virus has now claimed the lives of more than 346,000 Americans and nearly two million people worldwide.
“We're still very much deep in the woods. There are still lots of people that are dying. The vaccine is rolling out incredibly slowly,” Edwards said. “We're still right in the thick of it. I had to see patients with COVID today.”
Healthcare workers say just because we’ve turned the page to a new year doesn’t mean we’ve nearly closed the chapter on the pandemic.
“Everybody is tired and it's sad to continue to live a life where you don't get to do all the things that you want to do. But do you want to have that life right now? We have to make the sacrifices,” Hanna said. “We should still be social distancing. We need to continue to wear masks and if not for you, then for somebody else.”
Healthcare workers shared their experiences with the burnout effect the pandemic has created for front-line workers.
“There's been a few times that I would like dread going into work because I didn't know what I was going to encounter when I got there,” Hanna said. “It's not so much the burnout as it is the lack of staffing. There's just been a lot of people who have gotten sick themselves. Healthcare workers have had to call out.”
Edwards said the psychological effects of treating COVID-19 patients has claimed the lives of some of her colleagues.
“I know people who are quitting and who have quit who just didn't make it through the year,” Edwards said. “I unfortunately know people who ended their life, who committed suicide under the pressure of this year. It's been difficult.”
However, she said healthcare workers will continue to forge on through the duration of the pandemic.
“Healthcare workers are very much put-our-patients-first and put-society-first type of people. That's why we go into this field. We will work until we can't work anymore. That's not always a good thing,” Edwards said. “As long as people continue to get sick with COVID, we will stay here and we will work until we can't anymore.”
Despite COVID-19 cases surging globally and here at home, Edwards said there is hope in 2021.
“Let's flatten this curve. Let's get rid of this third wave,” Edwards said. “Let's not have a fourth wave. There is a vaccine coming, so there is an end in sight.”