Grim but unwavering: Notes from the COVID-19 epicenter

I live in New York City, the COVID-19 epicenter of the U.S. There are long lines for the few open supermarkets, the parks are closed and the nursing homes in New York are now mandated to accept COVID residents from local hospitals.

I’m in touch with psychologist colleagues from around the area. Some facilities have personal protective equipment for their staff regardless of whether or not they have known COVID cases; others are less prepared and less open with their staff about the coronavirus, increasing the anxiety level of their team members.

I was relieved to see the McKnight’s headline last week, “Trump wants masks on all nursing home workers, temperature checks for all, and separate COVID-19 units.” Finally, I thought to myself. Perhaps facilities in other parts of the country will be spared what we’re going through in New York, where the regulations trailed the virus and 1 in 4 facilities have COVID residents as of last week’s reports. It is, in a word, grim.

To get through, I’m trying to focus on being of service, when I can focus at all.

I’ve been issued an N95 mask and a face shield, and I receive a daily surgical mask. I purchased a cane that folds out into a seat so I can maintain a safe distance from my residents and avoid sitting on anything in their rooms. I put my phone in a plastic pouch that hangs from my neck, for easy access and easy cleaning. I obsessively sanitize my hands. At the end of the day, I wipe down anything reusable.

Despite my frightening garb, my patients are happy to see me. “I’ve been waiting for you!” one man exclaimed. “I have to talk to you.”

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Grim but unwavering: Notes from the COVID-19 epicenter

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