It was more than just the falling rain keeping the mood somber Thursday in Morganton.
Nine COVID-19 patients have died in the last three days at Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge-Morganton, said Danette Brackett, a spokesperson for the hospital system.
Chae Moore, public information officer for the Burke County Health Department, confirmed with The News Herald that none of those deaths were included in the 17 deaths the department reported Wednesday.
“It’s so much death,” said Amanda Krause, a nurse leader at Carolinas HealthCare System Blue Ridge who works directly with COVID-19 patients. “It’s so many poor outcomes that’s replaying over and over and over, and it feels like no matter what we do, it’s never enough, when there is a chance that people could get vaccinated and not be in that situation, right? So that’s one of the most discouraging things is to know it didn’t have to be this way for you. It could’ve made a difference.”
When those patients die, staff don’t even have a chance to mourn before they have to walk into the room next door and try to comfort a patient and their family who are facing a similar outlook, Krause said.
Most of the time, Krause said there’s another COVID-19 patient who has been waiting on a bed to become available so they can be admitted and treated there.
“It’s devastating,” Krause said. “Day in and day out, these nurses are coming in and they’re spending so much time with these patients because of how sick they are. When the patients decompensate, it happens very quickly. So the nurse won’t be able to be in two rooms at the same time, so when she tries to go to another room, a lot of times, the patients have decompensated so quickly that the physicians are already telling them to call the family because they have a pretty grim outcome.”
Health care workers got into their field because they wanted to help people, Krause said, but no one could have anticipated a seemingly never-ending pandemic that would claim so many lives.
“What’s really challenging is to come in and every day, day in and day out, we’re seeing the same devastation, the same poor outcomes and it’s taking a toll,” Krause said. “And my fear as a nurse leader is I don’t know how to support the team and how to help them because they’re so distraught with the death and devastation that people are walking away from health care.”
But still, many continue to refuse vaccines. Only 51% of Burke County’s adult population is at least partially vaccinated, according to information from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
“I wish that they could walk a day in our shoes as health care workers,” Krause said. “It’s so sad to see the patients who are, with their dying breath, saying, ‘why didn’t I get vaccinated?’”
In her nine years of working at CHSBR, Krause said she’s never seen anything like the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Out of all the patients that I’ve touched, taken care of, held their hands while they were so sick, while they passed, called family members, out of all of those situations I can’t tell you one of them that was vaccinated,” she said.
She said she thinks part of the problem is that people turn to misinformation or misinterpret data about the vaccines.
“It’s hard when there’s so much misinformation that’s easily accessible,” Krause said. “I’m just begging people to check their sources and talk to physicians, look at the science and understand that the vaccines are efficacious, and they work, and we can actually help save lives.”