A Houston Doctor On His Hospital's 'Deadliest Week' So Far

Dr. Joseph Varon, chief of critical care at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, says his staff is overworked, exhausted and emotionally drained.

8/1/2020 8:08:00 AM

Harris County, where Houston sits, has the fifth-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases of any U.S. county. 'I signed more death certificates last week than in my entire life almost all put together,” one doctor says.

Dr. Joseph Varon, chief of critical care at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, says his staff is overworked, exhausted and emotionally drained.

in the county have died."I signed more death certificates last week than in my entire life almost all put together," Varon tells NPR's Steve Inskeep onMorning Edition.For the last four months, Varon has been waking up at dawn every day and heading to the hospital, where he spends between six and 12 hours on rounds before seeing new admissions. When he gets home, he sleeps at most two hours a night."I try to go to sleep, but people call me nonstop," he says.

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Varon manages a large team of people who are both exhausted and afraid."I have over 300 doctors in the staff at our hospital and only three or four of us go into the COVID unit," Varon says."And I am there most of the time. People are afraid of going into COVID units, and I cannot force them to go in. That's one thing that I cannot do because there is an intrinsic risk of working in a COVID unit."

Here are excerpts of his interview:Is your unit ever on the verge of being overwhelmed?Every day.I mean, it's been crazy. The last few weeks have been way overwhelmed. What I mean by that is that I may have the beds, but I don't have the staff. You know, my nurses are exhausted. They're tired. These are individuals that normally, let's say, work three times per week, and they have been stretching themselves to work six, seven times a week. I mean, they're both physically and emotionally drained, because if you look at the last three weeks where we have our highest mortality rates, it's scary and it drains you emotionally.

If the governor were to call you up and say he'd really like to reopen schools, but he wants to know if your hospital can handle it locally, the extra cases, what would you tell him?Absolutely not. There is no way that our hospitals could handle it. Not only my hospital, no hospital could handle it, because it can be a really large surge. Just to give you an idea, one individual can infect up to 52 persons per hour. ... You can get yourself into a serious situation.

We were reporting on a large number of health experts who are essentially arguing that the national strategy against COVID up to now has been a failure and that it's time for a do-over. Let's go back to where we were in March,shut everything down and start all over again

. Is it that bad?I mean, you cannot shut down a city, a state, a country without an educational component. You know, when we closed the city in April, the city is closed and then everybody gets cabin fever. And the day that we open the city, everybody goes out, people go to the beach, people go to bars. They don't care. I mean, they fill it up.

If you were going to close the city, you would have to have an educational component that would have to be enforced. Enforced means: If I'm telling you to wear a mask, you are going to wear a mask. Because when you wear a mask, you are not doing it to protect yourself. You are doing it to protect the other person. To be honest with you, as Americans, we can do much better than what we're doing at the present time.

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Emphasising the experience of an individual shilouldnt be extrapolated to every person. Although that is the clear media, inference... Damn. I live in Montgomery County right next to Harris County. Yet we still have a 98% survival rate and a low death rate... CoronavirusDeaths HarrisCountyTX After all those people protesting

Considering we are the 4th largest city and probably the third highest population of you count all of Harris county. That’s is not surprising. We also have the largest medical center in the world. This infuriates me to read this, while the president is playing golf. 💔 Meanwhile, back at the ranch... So what was going on in Houston 4-6 weeks ago around the middle of June?

TrumpHasNoPlan TrumpVirusDeathToll156K TrumpGolfsAmericansDie AbbottFailedTexas Abbott is totally to blame by tying the hands of local officials who were effectively controlling the spread. He was doing the bidding of the monster in the Oval. What gets me is, the rest of the country saw NY and NJ obliterated by Covid19 in March thru May, and still blew off warnings. It’s exponentially tragic. It didn’t have to be this bad.

RachelK1979 Losing patients , is very depressing. 7 years I worked for an internist. I hated it every time a funeral home showed up with a folder, and a death certificate for Dr to sign. I loved my patients. Cannot imagine what it’s like now. 💔 Well dont worry im sure Texas will make it BIGGER. /wtaf

First this Republican asshole from Texas suggested sacrificing your parents and grandparents for the economy. Now they're coming for your kids to sacrifice so that the president can be re-elected. We must pray for our healers stamina and esp their safety. It must be a hoax. Obviously. Of course Trump would prefer the election delayed. We've seen Presidents dethroned for Hurricane damage. Did any president get on TV predicting a Polar Vortex will just disappear? Was a Democrat hoax? Would destroy Southern Alabama? No sir-see.

people are having huge parties - ignoring the ‘no more then ten’ gathering rule - and NO MASKS at all. same people who making demands of their employers for safe working environments. disgusting. Your constant reminder that Cases≠Deaths. In fact, exposure to a virus is the necessary component to developing immunity to it. The lie that we have to eradicate it is nothing more than an excuse for ever larger government intrusion. Seasonal flu comes and goes.

Think of the trauma this doc is experiencing. It’s like he is in a MASH unit. Yet because 1/2 of Americans’ heads are in the sand this is a hoax to them 😢 Gosh, it’s almost like masks help and the pandemic is real. Almost 20% black population... only abt 30% white. Wonder if there's a correlation The covid epidemic is the epidemic of movement conservatism. The beginning of the end for both must come in November. Vote a straight Democratic ticket. No Republicans. No third parties. Biden2020

So very sad.... My friends father died in hospital with Covid but they put congestive heart failure as cause is that normal? 💔 NAChristakis Italy tried to warn people JimBonz Sadly, it’s only getting worse with no end in sight. Part of your job sir? What does politics have to do with this virus or any death rate? Democrat or Republican is no defense against this pandemic.

NAChristakis 5th highest of cases in the 3rd largest county in US. Tragic but not surprising. Proud moments in Texas Republican history. Right? 😥 Only because Gov. Abbot prevented Harris County from making mitigating factors for COVID19 mandatory. Since we're talking about Dr. Varone ... He also said he uses HCQ on every patient and it has been successful in over 300 cases, and he would take it himself. Seems like you would have included that part.

GovAbbottResign YouAreKillingUs Cc JohnCornyn And he's not wearing a mask, lol We know Texas is a swing state. The riots and the fact you can actually visit and talk to actual people that work in the hospitals kind of ruins the narrative. Sorry about that. People don’t want to wear a mask. Earlier when this virus was not fully understood some thought it wouldn’t help but they have since corrected that because of science. Folks can’t comprehend that, so they are mad. Frowning face.

The ignorance in these replies is overwhelming. Let me make this abundantly clear: It isn't a hoax. Wash your hands. It isn't a hoax. Wear a mask. It isn't a hoax. Social distance. It isn't a hoax. Stop killing yourselves and others. WEAR. A. MASK. My heart can't anymore... GovAbbott SenTedCruz JohnCornyn ICYMI

I know NM is trying to help with beds, but can other states do the same or better? This hoax os out if hand. smh I don't believe that. Illegals Try to beat nuevo yorko

'I cannot save everybody': Houston doctor fights newest COVID-19 surgeThe scene inside United Memorial Medical Center in Houston has become all too familiar: overwhelmed medical staff fighting to curb the wave of COVID-19 patients that come through the hospital’s doors every day. Just remember, everything is BIGGER in Texas! You should review your footage for possible HIPAA violations. I can see patients’ names on the board behind the doc. It seems to pass the SMELL test... WearAmask! DontSniffGSDs👌🏻

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'The Good Doctor' Halts Production Ramp Up in Vancouver Due to Testing IssuesTheGoodDoctor has halted its production ramp up in Vancouver, British Columbia due to concerns about COVID-19 testing for cast and crew I guess the doc aint so good ... sorry i'll show myself out So sad, but I guess all the shows are doing this. Thank God for Netflix in the meantime. ⚡⚡⚡⚡⚡ AGNEZMOFUCKINBOYFRIEND AGNEZMOIsBack AGNEZMO

Anderson Cooper: Like A Man Possessed, Trump Keeps Praising 'Demon Sex' DoctorTrump's had plenty of time to research the doctor he's amplifying while claiming to know nothing about her, the CNN host said. Surrounded by abject stupidity of the media im with trump and pity the fools that can't understand it and maybe one day you may appreciate him when he no longer around to save your hides from yourselves.. Misinformation is killing people and spreading the VIRUS. Trump should show some REAL LEADERSHIP and follow the health experts instead of some 'crackpot' doctor! He constantly shows he is a 'Virus-doubter' and it makes it that much harder to make progress to contain the VIRUS!

Seth Meyers mocks Trump's approval of 'demon sperm' doctor'Cool, so Trump won't listen to the renowned infectious disease expert who actually works for him, but he loves the demon sperm lady.'

Seth Meyers mocks Trump's approval of 'demon sperm' doctor'Cool, so Trump won't listen to the renowned infectious disease expert who actually works for him, but he loves the demon sperm lady.' Meanwhile, his hair is shaping up nicely for the lead of the Da Vinci Code reboot OmG, Seth Meyers..haven't heard about him in a long long time..thought he was out of the business. And all you guys dumped on a black woman----- LIBERAL RACISM!!!!