Imagine waking up completely disoriented … unsure of what time it is, which day it is, and where the hell it is you’re supposed to be. Your pantry is bare, there’s no toilet paper in the bathroom, you’re uncertain where you parked your car (because you haven’t left the house in a week), and your email inbox for work as well as your text message inbox on your phone are as empty as the Ansley Mall parking lot on Christmas. This, friends, is our new reality … thanks to COVID-19.

COVID-19 is the infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus. It’s been the most impactful, antagonistic burden in our lives lately (and more so in just the last couple of weeks).

It’s caused the shutdown of businesses, schools, and operations globally and has wreaked havoc on the Peach State, as hospital beds are at full capacity and the death toll rises exponentially.

According to ProPublica, Atlanta has 12,800 hospital beds, but 74% of them are already occupied (leaving only 3,340 beds open), and only 1,620 of those beds are in ICUs.

With the recent Shelter-in-Place order enacted by Governor Kemp on April 3, most of us are at home in complete wonderment of what’s happening and what’s to come in the near future.

And then there’s the health care industry, questioning, “what in the heck is going on?” and “when the hell is it all gonna come to a head?”

“It’s mayhem,” says Cedric Berenguer, an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse, when asked about the current situation at work. “And it’s supposed to get even worse over the next couple of weeks.”

Doctors and nurses across the U.S. are reportedly keeping their heads down to weather the storm, despite shortages of supplies, equipment, and coworkers.

Registered Nurse Amy Burt from Kennestone Hospital tries to remain optimistic regardless of what the statistics predict about this pandemic. “They’re saying that a rise in the number of positive cases is coming,” she says. “Sixty-five percent of our anesthesia staff has been furloughed. They’ve anticipated it may change soon because they’ll need my coworkers to man the ventilators (Georgia is currently in possession of only 1,600 ventilators), but we don’t really know what will happen at this point.”

While the battle against COVID-19 rages on, the health care arena is among the hardest hit industries right now, because of the continuous challenges each professional is met with from day to day.

“We are basically working 12-hour days, seven days a week,” says paramedic Matt Dewar. “I’m doing what I can to keep myself healthy as well as prevent contamination. I’m taking extra vitamins like C and D, and am also using essential oils like Thieves. I think everything is going to peak in about a month. Crazy, huh?”

In other departments of health care, however, the outlook is a bit grimmer. Workers are facing tremendous fatigue, and even more are falling victim to the virus.

“Today they handed out N95 masks to all employees,” ultrasound technologist Lindsey Carpenter says. “But just one to each of us, though.”

“It’s so contagious,” says Dr. Jeff Collier, owner of MateSafe and ATL Live Well. “The elderly and the immune compromised aren’t the only ones contracting this illness. I’ve seen perfectly healthy people come down with COVID-19 as well.”

The coronavirus is also affecting doctors and other providers. Dr. T. Douglas Gurley and his staff were hit hard by the virus. In a letter to his patients, he addressed his own condition and the fate of his practice:

“Last week I had to stop being Dr. Gurley and became a patient. Being on the front lines of healthcare, several of our staff and I were infected with COVID-19. I have been severely ill, but have started to turn the corner … We are in business and not going away. I’m sorry for the confusion, distress and disappointment caused by my earlier notice that our medical practice would be closing. I express sincere sympathy to everyone that has contracted COVID-19. I personally understand how serious this infection can be. It was very scary for me at times, even though I am a doctor … No one will be reporting back to work until they are fully recovered. We are complying with all CDC protocols to protect our patients, staff and the public. As I previously informed you, I was infected. I am recovering and will return back to work when I have been cleared to do so.”

To date (April 4 at noon), there are more than 6,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Georgia and more than 200 reported deaths. The numbers continue to climb as hospitals and health care workers do their best to test or treat patients in those flooding emergency rooms, as well as urgent care offices statewide.

From April 3 to April 13, the entire state of Georgia is on mandatory lockdown in attempts to help “flatten the curve.”

Governor Brian Kemp’s Shelter-In-Place order encourages people to stay at home whenever they can. Kemp says he’s worried about the peak of the health care crisis, which could still be three weeks away, and he’s also asking people to hang tough and hunker down until the crisis passes.

“We need to keep chopping hard, keep working hard, grinding away every day. The next thing we know, we’re going to look up and it’s going to be the first part of May and hopefully we’ll be on the other side of this thing and we can be on the road to recovery,” Kemp said.

In an effort to keep businesses thriving during this trying time, the OUT Georgia Business Alliance (OGBA) has launched a COVID-19 special directory complete with a comprehensive list of services available during this time. For more details, visit: outgeorgia.org

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