December 23, 2020

Frontline workers soldier on in battle against COVID-19. The rest of us must do the same.

Source: Rockford Register Star


As a bedside nurse, Christina’s job has always been difficult, but since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been both intense and surreal.

Every day, at her hospital in Chicago, she experiences things most of us could never imagine. She sees terror in the eyes of patients as they’re intubated. Through layers of protective equipment, she holds their hands when they’re scared and alone, disconnected from their family. She watches as they grab the handrails of their hospital beds and fight to breathe, just to get enough oxygen to even talk with a loved one— and sometimes can’t even muster that. There’s nothing like it.

Christina made it through the first wave of the pandemic and days filled with the panic of not knowing if there would be enough personal protective equipment for her hospital. But now, as cases rise and hospital beds fill, that panic is back, and this time, there are no signs of slowing down.

Christina’s not alone. Frontline workers all across Illinois and the United States are facing similar challenges. COVID-19 doesn’t recognize geographic borders. It does not affect only cities or only rural areas. It is everywhere, with our Black and brown communities being hit especially hard, and the numbers are climbing at unprecedented rates.

Eleven months after the first case was reported in Illinois, our understanding of COVID-19 is much greater, but that understanding has come at a grave cost. We’ve lost more than 14,000 Illinoisans to this virus, and we’re going to lose more. My heart breaks for every family who has lost a loved one this year or who has otherwise been affected by the pandemic.

As COVID-19 rages in our communities, hospitals and ICUs all over the state are nearing — and even reaching — capacity. The nation’s frontline workers soldier on, despite workforce shortages and the continued struggle to get enough PPE and testing supplies. Our fellow Americans, including thousands of doctors, nurses, first responders, teachers, janitors and other essential workers, are all battling long hours, mental and physical health challenges and a feeling that they’ve been left to fight this battle alone.

But we can help them by following public health guidance and keeping this deadly virus from spreading even more. We owe at least that to these heroes.

This year has taken a horrible toll on our children, our parents and grandparents, our neighbors and friends. I know this year has been hard. I know what it’s like to be separated from family and to not know when you’ll see them again. The uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 means the coming weeks will look very different for many families, and is already devastating for people who have lost someone due to this disease.

But the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight. The first frontline workers are getting their first dose of a vaccine, and the general public will have access in a matter of months. This gives me hope, but it is too soon to go back to “normal.” Quite the opposite, now is the time to be most vigilant. The reality is that our individual choices and actions over the next few months will have life and death consequences for many Americans.

We need to do everything we can to protect ourselves, our families, our neighbors and our essential workers. It’s time to flatten the curve again, to keep our hospitals and health systems from being overwhelmed. We must ensure that there continue to be enough hospital beds, ventilators and staff available to treat every patient.

We know what we must do and what measures work. I am doing my part, and I implore each of you to do the same:  Cancel unnecessary travel. Stay home. Social distance. Wash your hands. And wear a mask.

We all had to make tough decisions for Thanksgiving, and we’re going to have to do so again for the upcoming holidays. After months of isolation, all we want is to hug our families and share a meal, but we must stay strong. A Zoom holiday party this year means we’ll all be here for those celebrations next year.

There is nothing more powerful than when we all work together to protect and care for one another. And I know we can. We must unify in our efforts to beat this virus. We owe it to our workers, our families and friends, our communities and ourselves to do the right thing.

By:  Senator Tammy Duckworth