The Houston Intensive Care Unit (ICU) physician, who treats coronavirus patients for more than 250 consecutive days, becomes viral due to simple compassion.
Dr. Joseph Varon, chief of staff at United Memorial Medical Center, was arrested while working in the intensive care unit on Thanksgiving Day and hugging a COVID-19 man.
In a photo dressed in personal protective equipment (PEE) taken by a photographer with Getty, Varon embraces a man whose face is hidden from the camera and his head is nestled in the curvature of Varon’s arm. One of the patient’s arms is apparently wrapped around Varon and hugs back.
“He was very sad because he’s in a room where he doesn’t know anyone,” Varon told “Good Morning America” about the viral moment. “We arrive dressed like astronauts, and although I usually have the picture to know who I am when I go to them, it’s very frustrating for the patients and it was very emotional.”
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Varon, who heads the hospital’s COVID-19 unit, said he hugged the unidentified man, “as I heard [his emotion]. “
Varon also told “Good Morning America” about his tiring days in the hospital as the photo was taken the 252nd day after he was treated for coronavirus patients. The days are often 16 hours, he said, and a few nights he does not return home. Even if he can, “I get a million phone calls in the middle of the night.”
“We’re frustrated because we see people coming in very, very sick, and when you ask them,‘ How did you get there? [COVID-19]? they basically tell you that they didn’t follow the things we asked them to: don’t have social distance, don’t wear a mask, don’t go to big gatherings, ”he said. And then only death came to us. “
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The photo was taken when the United States has so far recorded more than 13,500,000 cases, and Johns Hopkins University estimates that all deaths will approach 270,000 on Tuesday morning.
The U.S. reported a new record high in coronavirus-related hospital care last weekend, with the COVID Tracking Project estimating that about 90,481 people were hospitalized for Thanksgiving at Thanksgiving, an increase of 522 from the previous day.
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Health officials across the country have warned of a surge in post-Thanksgiving deadly virus cases, with the nation’s chief infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, “almost sure there will be an uptick” for holiday travel.
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In fact, despite health officials calling for restrictions on holiday travel, an estimated 1,070,967 people passed through the Department of Transportation Safety (TSA) checkpoints this year on the day before Thanksgiving, the highest level since March. (However, estimates were still lower than in previous years on the same day.)
“We’re exhausted. We’re tired,” Varon continued, talking about his medical staff. “I have nurses [who] they cry in the middle of the day because they keep getting sick and there are few nurses that can help us. “
Fox News Alexandria Hein contributed to this report.