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COVID-19 overwhelming overworked frontline workers

Arizona's death toll taking a toll of frontline workers
Posted at 9:44 PM, Jul 10, 2020

Everyday, experts and journalists breakdown the COVID-19 numbers.

The number of hospital beds available. The number of Arizonans infected. The number that have died.

But the doctors, nurses and funeral directors on the frontlines see it firsthand.

In the faces of those dying alone in the ICU, and in the tears of the loved ones who have to bury them.

"I say it's all Covid, all the time," said Dr. Frank LoVecchio, who works at Valleywise hospitals in Phoenix.

LoVecchio spends his Friday night running around the packed emergency room.

"As far as I know, all the beds are full," he said. "They’re transferring people all over."

The main reason some beds become available is that patients pass away.

"With certainty today, there will be at least three people that will die from COVID," he said.

It is a reality that weighs on every man and woman on the frontlines of this pandemic, that has ravaged Arizona in June and July.

"Once you're kind of driving home and thinking about it, you're just like, 'Wow, that was a lot of death and dying that we saw,'" said LoVecchio.

Legacy Funeral Home in Mesa is feeling that same heaviness, as the next step in the tragic process.

"Every single day, the calendar is full, for at least three weeks out," said Jenelle Gamboa, a manager at Legacy.

"It's overwhelming," she said. "We are so busy, and the majority of these decedents have COVID-19."

While elderly people and those with underlying conditions are more at risk, both Gamboa and LoVecchio say they see every age, race and background in their patients.

"We have a young woman who is in her twenties, who was supposed to get married this summer and then they postponed the wedding until October," said Gamboa. "And then she just passed away because of COVID and we are burying her in her wedding dress."

"There are some families that we've taken care of where a few people have died in the family, and it just really sucks," said LoVecchio.

Right now though, frontline workers do not have the time to dwell on the trauma and tragedy they are witnessing every day. They just keep pushing forward, with no clear end in sight.

"I hope we are at our peak," said LoVecchio. "The impact on human lives is incredible."

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