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Live coronavirus updates: NPR



Dr. Joseph Varon leans against a medical cart inside a coronavirus unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 6 in Houston.

David J. Phillip / AP


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David J. Phillip / AP

Dr. Joseph Varon leans against a medical cart inside a coronavirus unit at the United Memorial Medical Center on July 6 in Houston.

David J. Phillip / AP

“Last week was the deadliest week I’ve ever had in my hospital.”

The words of a Houston doctor treating COVID-19 patients illustrate the brutal reality that doctors in the United States currently face.

Joseph Varon is the Head of Critical Care at Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center. Harris County, home of Houston, has the fifth highest confirmed case of coronavirus in any district of the United States. More than 1,200 people died in the county.

“I signed more death certificates last week than in my entire life,” Varon Steve Inskeep cooked NPR Morning edition.

For the past four months, Varon had woken up at dawn every day and headed to the hospital, where he spent six to twelve hours in bikes before seeing new tickets. When he returns home, he sleeps no more than two hours a night. “I try to go to bed, but people call me nonstop,” he says.

Varon leads a large team of people who are exhausted and afraid.

“I have more than 300 doctors in our hospital and only three or four of us go to the COVID unit,” says Varon. “And I’m there most of the time. People are afraid they’re going to COVID units, and I can’t force them to come in.

Excerpts from his interview:

Is your unit ever on the verge of amazement?

Every day. I think it was crazy. The last few weeks have been stunned. I mean, I can have beds, but I don’t have staff. You know, my sisters are exhausted. They are tired. These are individuals who, say, work three times a week and stretch out to work six, seven times a week. I think they are physically and emotionally exhausted, because if you look at the last three weeks, in which we have the highest mortality rate, it’s scary and it takes you emotionally.

If the governor were to call you and say he really wanted to reopen schools, but he wanted to know if your hospital could handle it locally, about other cases, what would you tell him?

Absolutely not. There is no way our hospitals can handle this. Not only my hospital, nor any hospital could handle it, because it can be a really big increase. Just to give you an idea, one person can infect up to 52 people per hour. … You can get into a serious situation.

We have reported on a large number of health professionals who, in essence, claim that the national strategy against COVID has so far been a failure and that it is time for a change. Let’s go back to where we were in March, close everything and start over, It’s bad?

I mean, you can’t close a city, a state, a country without an educational component. You know, when we closed the city in April, the city was closed and everyone got a fever. And the day we open the city, everyone goes out, people go to the beach, people go to bars. They don’t care. I think they will fulfill it.

If you wanted to close a city, you would have to have an educational component that would have to be enforced. Forced Means: If I tell you to wear a mask, you will wear the mask. Because when you wear a mask, you don’t do it to protect yourself. You do this to protect the other person. To be honest, as Americans, we can do much better than what we do today.


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