Health & Fitness

'This Unending Tragedy': Nurse Spills Pain Of Lonely Death Watch

Latest U.S. coronavirus news: Democrats call Trump's stimulus bluff; California surpasses 2 million cases; hospitalizations hit record.

Thousands of white memorial flags planted last fall near the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington, D.C., show the monumental U.S. death toll from the coronavirus illness, which stood at more than 326,000 on Thursday.
Thousands of white memorial flags planted last fall near the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington, D.C., show the monumental U.S. death toll from the coronavirus illness, which stood at more than 326,000 on Thursday. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

ACROSS AMERICA — Gerry Connolly has a lot of hate, but it's born of love for the patients he cares for at a West Islip, New York, hospital.

The Babylon, New York, intensive care nurse hates donning his isolation gear and setting up FaceTime sessions so families can see loved ones one last time as they die from the coronavirus illness, then hearing the sound of their sobbing at the sight of "the gaping and disfigured rictus of mortal illness" on their loved ones.

He hates what the virus, which has killed another 26,000 people in the week since the United States death toll passed 300,000, does to relatively healthy people.

Nurses like Connolly regularly deal with death — it's a conscious career choice — but he spilled out his emotions surrounding the "unending tragedy" of the coronavirus illness in a Facebook post, writing:

"I hate that these people, before Covid, were relatively healthy, so when their lungs no longer really work — or their blood stops working — they will linger on the doorstep of death, on maximum life support — at the outer limit of modern medicine — before finally passing away — utterly alone —in a hospital room."

He hates the fickle nature of the disease. For some, COVID-19 is a death sentence preceded by suffering; for others, it's a brief hospital stay, if that.

And he really hates "that there are people in this world who have the audacity to suggest that their feelings about freedom (to not wear a mask, wusses) is somehow remotely relevant to this unending tragedy."

Connolly, who has witnessed the terrible toll of the disease at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, told Patch's Jacqueline Sweet he was inspired to make the post to inform others.

"Nobody outside of nursing had to witness the slow and gruesome progression of this disease," he said. "Nobody else [except] nurses can attest to the experience of trying to connect these poor families with their dying loved ones."

The Latest

After President Donald Trump made demands that could torpedo a $900 billion stimulus measure that included $600 direct payments to Americans, Democrats in Congress decided to call his bluff on Thursday with legislation that would increase payments to $2,000.

It didn't take long for Republicans to block the proposal.

But the GOP also took it a step further, countering with a motion to force their own changes to foreign policy spending, according to The New York Times.

The moves came after Trump posted a video to his Twitter account on Tuesday night, assailing the legislation and threatening to not sign it. He railed against a range of provisions in the bill, telling lawmakers to "get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation and to send me a suitable bill."

He also called on lawmakers to increase direct payments for most Americans from $600 to $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for couples.

The back-and-forth in Washington comes amid a Christmas Eve when more people are being hospitalized with the coronavirus than at any other point during the pandemic. According to the Covid Tracking Project, 119,463 people were hospitalized with coronavirus-related illnesses as of Wednesday.

Meanwhile, California this week became the first state to surpass 2 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to multiple reports. The milestone comes about six weeks after the state hit 1 million cases.

Meanwhile, a glimmer of positive news came out Wednesday. A couple of new studies indicate that people who had COVID-19 could be protected for up to six months and perhaps longer from reinfection.

Dr. Ned Sharpless, the director of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, said research shows that people with antibodies from natural infections were "at much lower risk ... on the order of the same kind of protection you'd get from an effective vaccine" of getting the virus again.

"It's very, very rare" to get reinfected, he said.

As vaccinations are distributed across the country, the Trump administration on Wednesday announced a new deal with Pfizer to purchase an additional 100 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement that the latest deal can give people confidence "that we will have enough supply to vaccinate every American who wants it by June 2021."

The government also has the option to acquire up to an additional 400 million doses.

Newest Numbers

At least 3,379 deaths and 225,775 new cases were reported in the United States on Wednesday, according to a Washington Post database. The Post's reporting shows new daily cases have fallen 0.2 percent, new daily deaths are up 4.2 percent and COVID-19-related hospitalizations are up 4.7 percent.

As of Thursday, 47 states and Puerto Rico remained above the positive testing rate recommended by the World Health Organization to safely reopen. To safely reopen, the WHO recommends states remain at 5 percent or lower for at least 14 days. Currently, only Hawaii, Alaska, Vermont and Washington, D.C. are under that threshold.

As of Thursday morning, the United States had reported more than 18.46 million cases and more than 326,490 deaths from COVID-19-related illnesses, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Stay up to date on the latest coronavirus news via The New York Times or Washington Post.

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