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Emergency Vaccine Can't Come Soon Enough as Weary Healthcare Workers Reach Tipping Point

12-03-2020
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Public health nurse performs a coronavirus test. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Public health nurse performs a coronavirus test. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The head of the Centers for Disease Control issued perhaps the most grim warning about COVID-19 so far on Wednesday. Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC director, predicted the pandemic will get worse in the next three months.

"December and January and February are going to be rough times. I actually believe they're going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation," he told a group of business people at an event hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce.

The reason – earlier COVID surges were regional. This time, rates in all parts of the country are rising.

The COVID Tracking Project reports more than 100,000 Americans are hospitalized with the virus and more than 2,700 have died from it in the past 24 hours. The numbers put the US rates ahead of the earlier pandemic peaks in the spring.

But the movement to vaccinate the country is moving ahead full-steam.

President Trump's Operation Warp Speed is expected to yield emergency authorization for the first vaccine by Dec. 15th. Pfizer plans to release 6.4 million doses that day with 12 million from Moderna possibly available a week later.

States across the country are preparing their vaccine storage facilities and planning just who will receive the vaccine first. 

The CDC is recommending that healthcare workers and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities be first in line.

Ultimately, however, state and local leaders will decide for their communities.

Concerns about the mental health of healthcare workers rose this week with the release of a new survey of 1,100 by Mental Health America (MHA), an advocacy group.

These caregivers reported that they're seriously stressed and stretched too thin. Eighty-six percent reported anxiety and three-fourths said they're exhausted, burned out and overwhelmed. 

MHA president Paul Gionfriddo said the country must take care of those on the front lines.

"With the skyrocketing number of COVID-19 cases, it is getting worse by the day, and healthcare workers aren't getting a reprieve," he said. 

Gionfriddo is calling for counseling services for these workers. "Once worry transforms to anxiety or depression, these things don't go away on their own."

Dr. Danny Holland, an assistant professor in Regent University's School of Psychology and Counseling and a licensed professional counselor, works with these providers and says many are at their tipping point.

"We all have a limited capacity for stress," he said. "It's like a container and that container has a maximum capacity and a lot of these workers have no capacity left."

Family members and friends can help by showing empathy and encouraging self-care for their loved ones in the trenches.

"These things can really do a lot to release some of the stress and increase resilience which is really critical in this season," Holland said.

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