"The frustration is very real (...) we are all exhausted", declares bluntly the American doctor who exceptionally opened the doors of his intensive care unit to AFP.

After almost two years of epidemic in the United States, the most bereaved country in the world with 847,000 dead, "among those of us who have been here from the start, it is difficult to find someone enthusiastic who thinks that it was a positive experience that changed his life”, slice doctor Pope, who runs from one bed to another in his unit, the walls of which he has pushed several times since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

At the bedside of his patients, most of them unvaccinated, sometimes immunocompromised, here he inquires about the possible "pains" of a woman, there he asks a man if he "breathes" correctly and wants to hear him "cough" frankly.

A caregiver at the bedside of a Covid-19 patient in an intensive care unit at Hartford Hospital, Connecticut, January 18, 2022 Joseph Prezioso AFP

Monitoring the heart rate of an intubated patient, scrutinizing X-rays of another patient, Mr. Pope converses with his nurses and "(is) surprised, even now, to see so many unvaccinated people who still come here".

One of them replies that indeed their patients “are all unvaccinated”.

Difficult, suddenly, for the nursing staff of the Hartford hospital to keep their faith and enthusiasm for their profession intact: "No, I'm not going to continue to do that, it's exhausting. I hope that's it. is. I hope this is the last big wave," says Dr. Pope.

In any case, the number of new cases of Covid-19 was still falling on Wednesday in the United States, giving hope that the peak of the wave of the Omicron variant could have been crossed: the average number of new daily cases rises this week to around 700,000, compared to almost 800,000 last week, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC).

But the United States is still recording some 1,700 deaths a day and a record number of hospitalizations due to Covid-19, with nearly 160,000 patients occupying a bed.

A 35-year-old intubated patient suffering from Covid-19 in an intensive care unit at Hartford Hospital, Connecticut, January 18, 2022 Joseph Prezioso AFP

And like all caregivers battling Omicron, Dr Pope finds that "there are enough people catching it that even the small percentage of people who are really sick are beyond (the capacity of) our ERs".


© 2022 AFP